Karl von Rotteck

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Karl von Rotteck
Signature Karl von Rotteck.PNG
Karl von Rotteck, image on the Hambach cloth

Karl Wenzeslaus Rodeckher von Rotteck (born July 18, 1775 in Freiburg im Breisgau ; † November 26, 1840 there ) was a German political scientist , historian and liberal politician .


Youth and Education (1775–1797)

When Karl Wenzeslaus Rodeckher (the family was raised to the hereditary nobility until 1789 and renamed as Rodeckher of Rotteck) on July 18, 1775 in front Austrian was born in Freiburg, ruled in the distant Vienna Emperor Joseph II. After the disastrous Seven Years' War it was a time of social upswing, in which, as a contemporary reported, "... at least some German princes ... vie for the revival of art industry, in the encouragement of agriculture, in the improvement of the state economy: countries like Baden, like Dessau are true Gardens of God, planted by royal hands. "

After finishing school, Rotteck studied at the Albertina in Freiburg, where he also attended the lectures by Johann Georg Jacobi . In 1797 he obtained his doctorate from the law faculty there.

Professorship in Freiburg

In the following year, after his successful application for the chair, he became professor of general world history and in this position experienced the turmoil of the Napoleonic era. In 1807 he was a founding member of a reading society in Freiburg, which was later called the Museum Society. At its tenth anniversary, he hopefully noticed that society was repairing citizens to become acquainted with the spiritual phenomena of the time more easily and more quickly, and to awaken and cultivate public opinion that was also effective in wider circles - under the protection of a liberal one Principal Government.

Karl von Rotteck's general history , title of the 1848 edition

Post-Napoleonic period

After Napoleon's fall, Rotteck's hope was initially directed towards a restoration of Habsburg rule in Breisgau. When Emperor Franz I met the Russian Tsar Alexander I and the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III in Freiburg in the winter of 1813 . met, Rotteck described his observations in a leaflet: “This afternoon our city was made happy by the most pleasant arrival of his Imperial Majesty ... at the reception of the most humane prince: only a free outpouring of the full stream of love ... Just like the good father of lovers Children, this is how Emperor Franz was received by his former subjects. In the thousands that streamed towards him, only one sensation, only one soul. The incessant high life! filled the air and drowned out the festive sound of the bells; Men and women, children and old people cried, strangers embraced like friends, strangers became brothers! - From the gate ... through the long Kaiserstraße ... - just a crowd of cheering people, swaying in the street and huddled in the windows ... His Majesty, on horseback, with grace and visible emotion, repeatedly greeted the crowd. ”Soon, however, Rotteck had to recognize that the Hofburg was no longer interested in the distant areas on the Rhine. At the Congress of Vienna, Austria sought to round off its areas in the east and south.

Baden constitution

When the whereabouts of the Breisgau under Baden rule had finally been decided, Rotteck saw the chance of liberalization and consequently worked on the Baden constitution of 1818, because he considered the permission of such frankness to be one of the most excellent, indeed for me the most precious of the benefits of the people Baden's enlightened government . On the other hand, for him the return to the Habsburg rule he had previously advocated now meant a relapse into an authoritarian state à la Metternich . So he vehemently defended the constitution he helped to create against revisionists loyal to the Habsburg castle in Breisgau: “We received a permanent constitution, a political life as a people ... We were Baden-Badeners, Durlachers, Breisgauers, Palatine, Nellenburgers, Fürstenbergers, we were Freiburgers, Constanceers , Mannheimer: we were not a people of Baden. From now on we are one people, have a collective will and a recognized collective interest, i.e. H. a total life and a total right. Only now are we entering history with our own role. ”Rotteck became an important source of inspiration for“ Baden liberalism ”.

In the same year Rotteck also received the professorship for natural law and political science. He successfully published a general story for thinking history lovers . In contrast, his textbook on the law of reason and political science in four volumes , published in 1830, was less popular .

Election to the MP

In the first Baden state elections in 1818, Rotteck was elected as a representative of the University of Freiburg in the first chamber of the Baden Council of Estates . He made no secret of his liberal ideas. The Baden government soon made him feel its displeasure and in later elections did everything in its power to ensure that Rotteck no longer came into the state parliament. However, massive electoral influence and manipulation led to popular protests. In 1830, Rotteck had himself set up in several electoral districts to secure his election to the second chamber of the Baden state parliament and finally represented the constituency of Kenzingen - Endingen , in which, in his opinion, the moods of the majority of the population with his views on most likely matched.

The Jewish debates of 1831/33

Symbolic: The Karl von Rotteck monument in front of the university turned its back on the square of the Old Synagogue

The Edict of the Constitution of 1809 had considerably improved the situation of the Jews in Baden. In 1815 all protection funds were canceled; but only three years later, the introduction of the Baden constitution restricted Jews' right to stand for election and their access to civil service. In the Jewish debates of the Baden state parliament of 1831 and 1833, civic equality was discussed again. In the state parliament debate on June 3, 1831, Rotteck emphatically opposed any restriction of the legal equality guaranteed to Jews by the constitution and law (freedom of person, right of property, inheritance, trade), but he resigned both in 1831 and 1833 as a Spokesman for a majority who rejected the full emancipation of the Jews . This should be made dependent on the moving of the Sabbath, the repeal of the dietary laws , the renunciation of the Hebrew and the purification of the Talmud of "subversive tendencies". In 1833 Carl Theodor Welcker made another attempt to enforce civil equality for Jews in Baden; However, he failed not least because of the resistance of his Freiburg colleague Rotteck. Although the Jewish debates of 1831 and 1833 did not change the existing legal situation, in 1833 nine deputies spoke out in favor of immediate Jewish emancipation.

Rotteck's point of view

Rotteck himself abhorred any kind of orthodoxy . In his opinion, it opposed the Enlightenment and its liberal ideas. This led to his view that Jews are not responsible citizens. In the Jewish debates of the Baden Second Chamber, he made it clear that the emancipation of the Jews need by no means be a central demand of liberal politics, but that it actually stands in the way of this politics. The reservations about the Jewish “nation” were firmly anchored in Rotteck's political worldview. As early as 1815, in his General World History, he attested to Judaism that it had outlived itself. According to Rotteck, the defeat against the Romans is mainly due to the “blind zeal” and “dead forms” of the Jews. He described the persecution of Jews in the Middle Ages as extremely horrific events in a dark epoch, but they were due to "injustice, evil usury and greed". When Karl Steinacker wanted to see the immediate bourgeois emancipation of the Jews realized in the fifth volume of the State Lexicon in 1837 , Rotteck expressly distanced himself from this demand in an afterthought. Rotteck's actions were based on the conviction that reason creates a unified and civilized human being. At the time of Rotteck, the emancipation of Jews was considered unpopular in large parts of the population. As a liberal, Rotteck was primarily a representative of the middle class, so many prejudices were also economically motivated. A petition against the freedom of movement of Jews from Freiburg, which had been “free of Jews” since 1424, said: “We will become a Jewish nest.”

Use for the Badische Hauptbahn

On July 31, 1835, Rotteck expressed himself very benevolently in the Baden state parliament, presumably influenced by the example of the Belgian state railway , about the establishment of the Baden main railway as a state railway . In a further debate, in which it was about the explicit naming of cities to be connected in the railway law to be submitted, he also advocated direct line routing for the railway near Freiburg.

Liberal confession and dismissal

At the Badenweiler Festival on Whit Monday 1832, Rotteck clearly acknowledged a liberal federalism on the German question: “I don't want unity other than with freedom, and I would rather freedom without unity than unity without freedom. I do not want a unity under the wings of the Prussian or Austrian eagle ... According to history, a confederation of states is more suitable for preserving freedom than the undivided mass of a large empire. ”The reaction of the Baden government promptly followed Rotteck's early retirement and the ban on his magazine Der Freisinnige .

Mayoral election in Freiburg, old age, family

The house where Karl von Rotteck lived and died in Freiburg, Rathausgasse 33
Rotteck's grave in the old cemetery in Freiburg

But Rotteck did not give up yet. Carried by a wave of popularity, he won the Freiburg mayoral election of 1833 with an overwhelming majority. Then the laconic news from the government hit like a bomb: “After plowed collegial consultation, one finds oneself weighed, the one who cares about the retired. Councilor and Professor Dr. Karl von Rotteck's election as mayor of this city in Freiburg failed to confirm how this is happening. ”When rumors circulated that Karlsruhe would take action against this decision in the event of an opposition from Freiburg, Karl von Rotteck renounced to prevent damage to the city. to his office. In his place, his nephew Joseph von Rotteck was elected mayor.

Instead of on the political stage, Rotteck tried to represent his liberal ideas and views at the club level. Together with like-minded people such as constitutional lawyer Karl Theodor Welker , he founded the Freiburg civil reading society Harmonie in 1835. The old reading society of 1807 (now renamed Museum), of which he was a co-founder, had paid less attention to politics in the years of political repression and press censorship and was increasingly concerned about the sociability of its members.

In the last years of his life, Rotteck was mainly active in science. From 1834 he published a 15-volume state encyclopedia together with the Freiburg lawyer Carl Theodor Welcker , but did not live to see its completion. The work was an important compendium of pre-March liberalism.

Karl von Rotteck was a member of the Freemason lodge Zur noble Aussicht in Freiburg im Breisgau. In 1817 he became a corresponding member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences .

The Rotteckring, which runs past the university, is named after him, as is a Freiburg grammar school . In front of the law faculty there was a monument dedicated to him , which was removed at the end of 2015 due to the renovation of the Old Synagogue square. It is to be set up again at a different location around 2025. There is also a Rotteckring in Kenzingen .

His son Karl , born in 1806 , also pursued a legal career, but had to emigrate in 1850 after the failure of the Baden Revolution .

Literary work

Rotteck, who had been professor of general world history in Freiburg since 1798, published a general history from 1812 to 1816 in nine volumes from the beginning of historical knowledge to our times . It was shortened to four volumes as General World History for All Estates (1830 to 1834) and made available to the general public in 1846. Rotteck met contemporary taste with his world history. The work was a bestseller in historical literature in the 19th century.


Von Rotteck later expanded his formulation, "the citizen as a born defender of his fatherland", which he had already proclaimed in 1816, to include the demand that "the soldier must not cease to be a citizen" - a sentence that 150 years later is repeated 150 years later in the form of citizens in uniform has been recorded.

Differentiation of the Rotteck picture

To this day, Rotteck's outstanding role as a pioneer of liberalism is repeatedly emphasized; however, there are contradictions in his works and practical actions. This not only applies to his clichéd image of the Jews; He was also opposed to political participation by women. Rotteck's motives for his position on the Jewish question are complex, but they have nothing to do with racial anti-Semitism. Rotteck was shaped by his time, his actions in relation to the Jewish question should be understood in the context of the current trend. Rotteck's lifetime achievement, however, is undisputed. After the end of the Second World War, Theodor Heuss , among others, referred to him as a political historian whose history served to form political will.

Discussion about the "Carl von Rotteck Medal"

In November 2001 the Freiburg municipal council decided to introduce a “Carl von Rotteck Medal” on the proposal of Mayor Rolf Böhme (SPD). The award below the honorary citizenship should be bestowed for outstanding service to the common good. Thereupon resistance quickly arose, as Rotteck had spoken out against citizenship rights for Jews. After a statement by the former head of the Südwestfunk studio, Wolfgang Heidenreich, in the Badische Zeitung, the dispute soon developed into a dispute between historians and journalists. In addition to numerous historians, including Hermann Klenner , the University of Freiburg also expressly advocated the introduction of the Rotteck Medal. In the municipal council meeting on November 13, 2001, Böhme distanced himself from Rotteck's anti-Semitic position, but held on to the introduction of the medal. The only bearer of the medal was the former social mayor of Freiburg, Hansjörg Seeh. Since 2010, the award has been made with a medal that is no longer named after Rotteck, but after Gertrud Luckner . The new rules of honor were presented on November 18, 2010.



  • General history from the beginning of historical knowledge to our times. Freiburg 1812–1827, numerous new editions, from 1846 in post-processing by Karl Heinrich Hermes .
  • Textbook of the law of reason and the political sciences. 4 volumes.
  • Dr. Carl von Rotteck's collected and postponed writings. With biography and correspondence. 5 volumes, ed. by Hermann von Rotteck, Pforzheim 1841–1843; Reprint: Gruber, Dillenburg 2006, ISBN 3-89753-185-2 .
  • With Carl Theodor Welcker : Staats-Lexikon. Encyclopedia of Political Science , 1834–1843, two further editions and one reprint.
  • Illustrations on general world history. From C. v. Rotteck, Becker and others. Westermann, Braunschweig 1841–1843 ( digitized edition of the University and State Library Düsseldorf ).
  • General world history for all classes, from the earliest times to the year 1840, based on his larger work, edited and edited by Dr. Karl v. Rotteck, Hofrath and Professor in Freiburg . Five volumes. Printed by and published by Scheible, Rieger & Sattler, Stuttgart 1846 (newer editions, which were continued after Rotteck's death, in six volumes, e.g. the 7th edition under the modified title ... from the earliest times to 1860 ... , continued by Wilhelm Zimmermann , in the Rieger'schen Verlagsbuchhandlung, Stuttgart 1860).
  • About estates and representative bodies. Texts on the constitutional discussion in the Vormärz (= Haufe series of publications on basic legal research. Volume 11). Ed. U. with an appendix by Rainer Schöttle. Haufe, Freiburg / Br. u. a. 1997.


  • Joachim Faller: Freedom, Christianity and the course of world history in Karl von Rotteck. In: Church history - regional history - history of piety. Festschrift for Barbara Henze. Re-Di-Roma-Verlag, Remscheid 2008, ISBN 978-3-940450-57-9 , pp. 65-82.
  • Manfred Friedrich:  Rotteck, Karl Wenceslaus Rodeckher von. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 22, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-428-11203-2 , pp. 138-140 ( digitized version ).
  • Helmut Gembries: Karl von Rotteck and the Hambach Festival. In: Yearbook of the Hambach Society. 14, 2006, pp. 95-109.
  • Gerhard Göhler : Republicanism and civic virtue in German early liberalism: Karl von Rotteck. In: Michael Th. Greven (Ed.): Citizenship and Criticism. Festschrift for Udo Bermbach on his 60th birthday. Nomos, Baden-Baden 1998, pp. 123-149.
  • Ewald Grothe , Hans-Peter Becht (eds.): Karl von Rotteck and Karl Theodor Welcker. Liberal professors, politicians and publicists (=  understanding of the state. Volume 108). Nomos, Baden-Baden 2018, ISBN 978-3-8487-4551-7 .
  • Hermann Kopf: Karl von Rotteck - Between Revolution and Restoration. Rombach, Freiburg 1980, ISBN 3-7930-0356-6 .
  • Adolf J. Schmid : If only the base survived ... Rotteck had to make way for Berthold Schwarz in Freiburg. A farce from the time of the 48/49 revolution. In: Badische Heimat. Issue 3, 1998, ISSN  0930-7001 , p. 355 ff.
  • Rainer Schöttle : Political Theories of Southern German Liberalism in the Vormärz. Studies on Rotteck, Welcker, Pfizer, Murhard (=  Nomos-Universitätsschriften - Politik. Volume 49). Nomos, Baden-Baden 1994, ISBN 3-7890-3192-5 .
  • Rüdiger von Treskow: Illustrious defender of human rights! - The correspondence of Karl von Rotteck.
  • Jürgen Voss : Karl von Rotteck and the French Revolution. In: Roger Dufraisse (ed.): Revolution and counter-revolution 1789-1830. For intellectual debates in France and Germany. Oldenbourg, Munich 1991, pp. 157-177.
  • Friedrich von WeechRotteck, Karl Wenzeslaus Rodecker von . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 29, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1889, pp. 385-389.
  • Christian Würtz: Karl von Rotteck as an author and politician. In: Journal for the history of the Upper Rhine . 157, 2009, pp. 343-356.

Individual evidence

  1. Georg Schmidt: History of the old empire. C. H. Beck, Munich 1999.
  2. Heiko Haumann : We were all a little bit anti-Semitic. In: Swiss History Journal . Volume 55, 2005.
  3. Rüdiger von Treskow: Illustrious Defender of Human Rights. P. 161.
  4. Karl von Rotteck: General history from the beginning of historical knowledge up to our times, Volume 3, p. 58.
  5. ^ Karl von Rotteck: Staats-Lexikon. Encyclopedia of Political Science, Volume 5, p. 52.
  6. Heinrich Schwendemann: February 22, 1424 - The Jews are expelled from the city. Lecture series Auf Jahr und Tag, Freiburg's History in the Middle Ages, 2013.
  7. ^ Albert Kuntzemüller : The Baden railways 1840-1940 . Self-published by the Geographic Institutes of the Universities of Freiburg i. Br. And Heidelberg, Freiburg im Breisgau 1940, p. 10.
  8. Negotiations of the Assembly of Estates of the Grand Duchy of Baden / Extraordinary State Parliament / Minutes of the Second Chamber / 1838. P. 261.
  9. ^ Heinrich August Winkler: The long way to the west . C. H. Beck, Munich 2000.
  10. ^ Oskar Haffner: From the beginnings of public political life in Freiburg. In: Journal of the Society for the Promotion of History, Antiquity and Folklore  36, 1920, p. 115.
  11. Simone Höhl: Freiburg: Carl vacates his place on Rotteckring. In: Badische Zeitung. December 2, 2015, accessed May 17, 2016 .
  12. Fabian Vögtle: Rotteck bust will remain in a university depot until 2025. In: Badische Zeitung. January 21, 2019, accessed January 22, 2019 .
  13. Wolfgang Heidenreich: Carl and Moses. In: Badische Zeitung. December 15, 2001.
  14. Wolfgang Hug: Connoisseurs or ignoramuses? In: Badische Zeitung. January 9, 2002.
  15. Rolf Böhme: Introduction of the Carl von Rotteck Medal ( Memento of the original from April 22, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.rolfboehme.de archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. .
  16. ^ Uwe Mauch: New rules of honor of the city of Freiburg .

Web links

Wikisource: Karl von Rotteck  - Sources and full texts
Commons : Karl von Rotteck  - Collection of images, videos and audio files