Karl August Eckhardt

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Karl August Eckhardt

Karl August Eckhardt (born March 5, 1901 in Witzenhausen ; † January 29, 1979 there ) was a German lawyer , university professor , SS-Sturmbannführer and legal historian .


Before 1933

Eckhardt was the eldest son of the judiciary, lawyer and notary Wilhelm Eckhardt . After graduating from high school, he studied law from 1919. In the spring of 1920 he joined the Marburg student corps, which was used in the Kapp Putsch in Thuringia for acts of violence against the communists. Then he attended a Reichswehr course. Nevertheless, on November 25, 1922, at the age of 21, he was able to complete his studies after six semesters with the legal traineeship and a month later with the doctorate to Dr. Graduated from the law on Die Witzenhausen Schwabenspiegel manuscript at the University of Marburg . As early as 1919 he was a member of the dueling fraternity Corps Teutonia Marburg become. Eckhardt was also an active member of the Nerother Wandervogel .

After completing his legal traineeship in Kassel and working as the city ​​archivist and syndic of a paper mill in Witzenhausen, Eckhardt studied German and history at the University of Göttingen . He completed his habilitation in 1924 in Göttingen with the work Der Deutschenspiegel , its history and its relationship to the Schwabenspiegel , then became a private lecturer for German legal history and from 1925 also for civil law in Göttingen. In 1928 he was able to accept a position at the University of Kiel , in 1930 at the Berlin School of Management and in 1932 at the University of Bonn . In Bonn he was one of the founders of the NSKK local group after the National Socialists came to power .

In National Socialism

Eckhardt joined the SA in May 1931 and the NSDAP on March 1, 1932, and the SS in October 1933 . He taught at short notice from 1933 to March 21, 1934 at the University of Kiel and exerted a great influence on the staffing and content of the Kiel School , a group of National Socialist legal scholars . On January 1, 1935, Eckhardt was assigned to the personal staff of the Reichsführer SS as Untersturmführer . From 1935 Eckhardt also belonged to the security service of the Reichsführer SS (SD). Here he worked in the department of the constitutional lawyer Reinhard Höhn .

From October 1934 to June 1936 Eckhardt was the main consultant for law, state, politics, economics and history in the university department of the Reich Ministry of Science under Bernhard Rust . Here he participated in the persecution of Jewish lawyers. For example, Eckhardt brought about the retirement of several professors from the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Berlin , who had been held to be of “Jewish” descent and who had been forcibly transferred from Berlin to Frankfurt. In doing so, the Jewish professors were forced to “submit their own applications for exemption”. After that, Eckhardt was initially responsible for filling new chairs that had become vacant through the dismissal and expulsion of Jewish university lecturers. From October 1934 he was also responsible for redesigning the law and economics courses. Together with the constitutional lawyer Ernst Rudolf Huber , he worked out guidelines on the study of law . As a clerk, he also drafted the “Guidelines for the Unification of University Administration”, which came into force on May 1, 1935 and which changed the constitution of German universities. His successor as the main speaker was Wilhelm Engel , who, however, lost this office again in 1937 at Eckhardt's instigation. On behalf of Hans Frank , Eckhardt worked with Paul Ritterbusch , Georg Dahm , Wolfgang Siebert and Höhn to develop new guidelines for judges for the application of National Socialist law, which he presented to the public in January 1936.

Together with Walter Hinz , Eckhardt also worked out an organizational plan for Rust for the establishment of a “Reich Institute for Historical Research” that encompasses the entire study of history. The Reich Institute for Older German History and the Reich Institute for the History of the New Germany emerged from the plans . Eckhardt had been chosen to be president of the former and was aiming for a leadership position in the Monumenta Germaniae Historica , but got into a power struggle with the historian Walter Frank . Eckhardt had resolutely opposed Frank's appointment as president of the other Reichsinstitut, which was nevertheless made in July 1935 by Hitler. In return, Frank got Arthur Rosenberg to protest against Eckhardt's appeal, and denounced Eckhardt himself as economically liberal. Eckhardt then left the Monumenta Germaniae Historica . Despite the advocacy of Höhn, Reinhard Heydrich and Heinrich Himmler , who wanted Eckhardt to be the General Director of the Prussian State Archives, Hitler finally decided against Eckhardt in May 1937 because of allegedly inadequate attitudes to the "Jewish question". Hitler was referring to an obituary that Eckhardt had written in 1934 for his Jewish predecessor in Kiel, Max Pappenheim .

Eckhardt kept in close contact with Himmler. He left the Church in 1934 and became one of the first members of the German Faith Movement . In 1935 he became SS-Untersturmführer , 1936 SS-Obersturmführer and 1938 SS-Sturmbannführer . In 1935 he was on the personal staff of Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler . Eckhardt worked for many years in the SS Ahnenerbe. On May 22, 1935, he made a contribution to the SS central organ, Das Schwarze Korps , in which he called for the death penalty for homosexuals : “Unnatural fornication is worthy of death”. In 1936 he formulated: "The judge has no right to examine decisions by the Führer that are in the form of a law or an ordinance." At the turn of the year 1935/36 he wrote to Himmler: "... I thank you again for letting me belong to this order [of the SS] and serve you, my Reichsführer. ”In 1941, together with Wilhelm Stuckart and Werner Best, he published a commemorative publication for Himmler on his 40th birthday.

Eckhardt was appointed professor for Middle History at the University of Berlin in 1935 . In the summer of 1936 he moved to the Faculty of Law as professor for Germanic law and family law. From 1936 to 1938 he was solely responsible for the publisher of the journal Deutsche Rechtswwissenschaft , the mouthpiece for spreading the ideas of the Kiel School .

In 1937 Eckhardt returned to Bonn to the chair for Germanic legal history . At the same time he was director of the German Law Institute of the Reichsführer SS and a member of the Academy for German Law .

In September 1939 Eckhardt was drafted into the Wehrmacht . He became platoon leader of a rifle company in the Gdansk district - West Prussia . In 1940 he was again dean of his faculty in Bonn. In the summer of 1940 he gave lectures at the University of Prague . In April 1941 he became a soldier again and worked in the Abwehr control center in Paris as an evaluator for military and political questions. At the end of 1944 he was transferred to the Reichsführer SS in Kamenz . In 1945 he was taken prisoner of war for two years by the United States and France .

After the Second World War

In May 1945 Eckhardt was removed from his post as a university professor by the Allies . In his denazification process , the SS-Sturmbannführer stated in 1947: "I was completely unaware that the SS as such took part in the persecution of the Jews, and even organized them [... and] that the concentration camps had a different purpose than labor camps for anti-social elements and being a habitual criminal. Eckhardt had success with it and was classified as a follower. He was not allowed to return to the university and he was retired early in October 1948. This was not replaced by an emeritus in 1966. Eckhardt moved to Witzenhausen in 1950, where he was City archivist and director of the Historical Institute of Werraland .

From 1943 to 1979 he was able to continue his pre-war work at the Monumenta Germaniae Historica (MGH) in Munich . Eckhardt's scientific work - editions, monographs, essays, manual articles, etc. - total almost 30,000 printed pages; He published more than two thirds of it after the Second World War.

Eckhardt was also involved again in the German youth movement. He founded a castle academy at Ludwigstein Castle and achieved recognition of the "Bilstein Circle" led by him as a full order in the Nerother Bund .

Eckhardt's writings The Study of Law and The Study of Economics (both published in 1935 in the series Der deutsche Staat der Gegenwart by the Hamburg Hanseatic Publishing Company) were placed on the list of literature to be segregated in the Soviet occupation zone .


Eckhardt is the father of Wilhelm A. Eckhardt , who headed the Hessian State Archives in Marburg between 1981 and 1994, and of Albrecht Eckhardt , who headed the Lower Saxony State Archives in Oldenburg from 1981 to 2002. Karl August Eckhardt had been with the historian through his sister Anneliese since 1930 Günther Franz related by marriage.



  • The Witzenhausen Schwabenspiegel manuscript Buchdruckerei C. Trautvetter, Witzenhausen 1922, OCLC 17956072 (inaugural dissertation Marburg, 1922, 36 pages).
  • The Deutschenspiegel , its history and its relationship to the Schwabenspiegel , Böhlau, Weimar 1924, OCLC 264660519 (habilitation thesis Universität Göttingen 1924, 88 pages).


Individual evidence

  1. Kösener Corpslisten 1960, 102 , 1116.
  2. ^ Ralf Frassek: Eckhardt, Karl August (1901–1979) In: Albrecht Cordes, Heiner Lück, Dieter Werkmüler, Ruth Schmidt-Wiegand (eds.): Concise dictionary on German legal history. 2. Completely revised and expanded edition, Volume 1, Erich Schmidt Verlag, Berlin 2008, Sp. 1179–1180.
  3. a b Ernst Klee : The dictionary of persons on the Third Reich . Frankfurt am Main 2007, p. 125.
  4. Jörn Eckert: What was the "Kiel School" . In: Franz Jürgen Säcker (Hrsg.): Law and jurisprudence in National Socialism - lecture series of the law faculty of the Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel . Baden-Baden 1992, pp. 37-70, here: p. 50.
  5. Anna-Maria Countess von Lösch: The naked spirit. The law faculty of the Berlin University in upheaval in 1933 . Tübingen 1999, ISBN 3-16-147245-4 , pp. 195f.
  6. Ewald Grothe : Between history and law. German constitutional historiography 1900-1970 , Oldenbourg, Munich 2005 (= Ordnungssysteme , 16), pp. 195–200.
  7. Wolf-Ingo Seidelmann: Prof. Dr. Günther Franz: "I was a National Socialist out of conviction". In: Wolfgang Proske (Hrsg.): Perpetrators, helpers, free riders Volume 10 - Nazi victims from the Stuttgart region. Gerstetten 2019, pp. 151–181, here: p. 159.
  8. Jörn Eckert: What was the "Kiel School". In: Franz Jürgen Säcker (Hrsg.): Law and legal theory in National Socialism. Baden-Baden 1992, pp. 37-70, here: p. 59.
  9. Bernd Rüthers: Degenerate Law. Legal teachings and crown lawyers in the Third Reich . Munich 1994, p. 48 ff.
  10. Wolf-Ingo Seidelmann: Prof. Dr. Günther Franz: "I was a National Socialist out of conviction". In: Wolfgang Proske (Hrsg.): Perpetrators, helpers, free riders Volume 10 - Nazi victims from the Stuttgart region. Gerstetten 2019, pp. 151-181, here: p. 159.
  11. http://www.polunbi.de/bibliothek/1946-nslit-e.html
  12. Wolf-Ingo Seidelmann: Prof. Dr. Günther Franz: "I was a National Socialist out of conviction". In: Wolfgang Proske (Hrsg.): Perpetrators, helpers, free riders Volume 10 - Nazi victims from the Stuttgart region. Gerstetten 2019, pp. 151-181, here: p. 159.
  13. https://www.lagis-hessen.de/pnd/118681575