Theodor Eschenburg

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Theodor Rudolf Georg Eschenburg (born October 24, 1904 in Kiel , † July 10, 1999 in Tübingen ) was a German political scientist , constitutional lawyer and the first professor of political science in Germany at the Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen .


Youth and education

Eschenburg was a grandson of Lübeck's mayor Johann Georg Eschenburg and grew up as the son of naval officer Theodor Eschenburg in a wealthy patrician family . He studied economics and history at the Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen and the Berlin Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität . Since 1924 he was a member of the Germania Tübingen fraternity .

Membership in political parties

After completing his studies, he became an employee of the long-standing Reich Foreign Minister and DVP boss Gustav Stresemann , who had written a foreword to his dissertation. At that time he also joined the DVP. When this moved significantly to the right under the new chairman Ernst Scholz after Stresemann's death , Eschenburg left the DVP in the summer of 1930 and joined with other younger party members such as Josef Winschuh the German State Party , which arose shortly before from the merger of the DDP with the Young German Order was. In the elections in September 1930 he ran unsuccessfully as a candidate for the German State Party for the Reichstag. He was also a member of the German Men's Club , an influential association of high-ranking conservative personalities.

time of the nationalsocialism

Membership in the SS

On June 30, 1933, Eschenburg joined the NSDAP (SS) Schutzstaffel as a candidate and became an SS man on March 6, 1934. He justified this self-critically in his memoirs with his opportunism at the time . The fact that he resigned three months later, as he also wrote, was not part of his SS core role, which the political scientist Hannah Bethke later examined. Michael Naumann considers this statement by Eschenburg to be implausible.

Association work in the haberdashery industry

From July 1, 1933, when cooperation with Jews in other circles was no longer opportune, the historian Eschenburg joined a partnership as an equal partner of the Jewish lawyer Berthold Cohn, which from then on became the Dr. Eschenburg & Dr. Cohn - management of business associations and was active in the haberdashery industry. It was a well-known business office that had previously been the Dr. Michel & Dr. Cohn had traded. The Jewish co-owner Erwin Michel was interned and abused by the SA for several days in a police barracks after the NSDAP came to power. After his release, he immediately decided to emigrate to France. At that time, Cohn himself fell under the temporary exemption of the frontline fighter privilege in the prosecution of Jewish lawyers and was able to continue working as a lawyer for the time being.

The office looked after over twenty smaller associations, such as the Association of the German Linen Button Industry , the Association of Mother-of-Pearl Button Manufacturers , the Zipper Manufacturers and others. "It settled disputes among the companies, monitored prices, discounts, patent rights and collected outstanding claims because the customers we looked after - small and medium-sized companies - did not have a specialized administration." Eschenburg initially acted as the "Aryan flagship" of this law firm. Because his partner Cohn, as a Jew, was increasingly harassed by the National Socialists, he emigrated to the USA in 1936 and Eschenburg continued the office alone.

Participation in aryanizations

Due to a publication by Rainer Eisfeld in 2011, it became known that Eschenburg, as head of several examination offices within the Reichsgruppe Industrie , was involved in the " Aryanization " of a Berlin plastics factory at the end of 1938 (after the November pogroms ) , the majority of which belonged to the Jewish entrepreneur Wilhelm Fischbein. The files are incomplete and can be assessed differently. When Fischbein tried to relocate his company to England, Eschenburg warned the Reich Ministry of Economics about the possible departure, but only three days later he recommended the opposite: Fischbein should receive a passport and be allowed to leave. Eschenburg's biographer Udo Wengst sees this change of opinion as proof that Eschenburg wanted to protect whalebone.

In 2014, Rainer Eisfeld presented a documentation with new finds, from which it emerges that after the annexation of Austria in 1938 , Eschenburg also participated in the Aryanization of two Viennese Jewish companies: Eschenburg was in the spring of 1938 with the “de-Judgment” of the Viennese companies Auerhahn and Blaskopf deals. At his suggestion, the Reich Ministry of Economics was recommended to liquidate the zip fastener company Auerhahn and to “maintain and de-Jew” the company Blaskopf. The expropriated owner Max Blaskopf was deported four years later together with his wife to Theresienstadt , where the two probably died in 1943.

After the Second World War

After the Second World War he became a refugee commissioner for the state of Württemberg-Hohenzollern . From 1947 to 1951 he was Deputy Minister of the Interior of Württemberg-Hohenzollern, managing director of industrial associations, 1951 State Councilor and honorary professor for political science . In 1952 he became professor of political science at the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen - despite the lack of a habilitation . There he became the founding director of the Institute for Political Science. From 1961 to 1963 he was the rector of this university. 1973 Eschenburg retired.

Eschenburg has been one of the best experts on German domestic politics since the 1950s. Was his writing important for the rule of associations? from 1955. From 1957 to 1970 he worked as a political columnist for the weekly newspaper Die Zeit , for which he remained active well into old age; the contributions are freely accessible in their archive.

On June 22, 1967, the state parliament of Baden-Württemberg elected Eschenburg with 66 votes with four abstentions and one vote for another person as judge at the state court for the state of Baden-Württemberg in the group of members who are not qualified to judge.

Eschenburg was co-editor of the quarterly journal for contemporary history when it placed the so-called "Lösener report" in 1961, which Bernhard Lösener had written in 1950 with the intention of absolving himself and Hans Globke of any kind of involvement in the Nuremberg race laws and thus in the final solution . Eschenburg himself explicitly stood behind Globke and his attitude towards National Socialism , also with the intention of standing up to the GDR in the Globke affair.

In March 1989 Eschenburg (now 85) was retired from the Presidium of the Goethe Institute .

He found his final resting place, next to his wife Erika, in the Tübingen mountain cemetery .


Eschenburg debate

The so-called Eschenburg debate, a heated and protracted argument about Eschenburg's role in National Socialism, began in 2011 after Rainer Eisfeld's publication on Eschenburg's involvement in the "Aryanization case of Fischbein" ( see above ).

The Eschenburg debate centered in particular on the question of whether the Theodor Eschenburg Prize should be renamed, with which the German Association for Political Science (DVPW) had honored the life's work of political scientists every three years since 2003. The previous winners were Gerhard Lehmbruch (2003), Helga Haftendorn (2006), Wilhelm Hennis (2009) and Claus Offe (2012). The DVPW commissioned an expert opinion. The expert opinion prepared by Hannah Bethke called for the award to be renamed. At the DVPW congress in September 2012, the future handling of the Theodor Eschenburg Prize was discussed. The 2012 award winner, Claus Offe, also spoke out in favor of a renaming in his acceptance speech. In addition to the documented “entanglements”, he cited the institution-friendly, uncritical attitude of Eschenburg towards the developments in West Germany after 1945, which he did not consider exemplary for the subject, as well as Eschenburg's inability to accept something like self-criticism even after several decades as reasons to raise his role in the Third Reich (for example in his memoirs).

In an open letter on October 15, 2013, over 100 political scientists, including some former DVPW chairmen and the two Theodor Eschenburg award winners Helga Haftendorn and Gerhard Lehmbruch, asked the DVPW board to keep the award name. On October 25, 2013, immediately before the decision, the former Minister of State for Culture Michael Naumann also advocated retention in a newspaper article entitled “A case of opportunism with undisputed lifetime achievement”.

The board of directors and advisory board of the DVPW decided unanimously on October 26, 2013 not to award the award any more because it could no longer fulfill its "integrating function". At the same time, it was "expressly not linked to a final assessment of Theodor Eschenburg's behavior during the Nazi era and afterwards". The decision and, above all, its substantive justification again triggered protests. The decision was heavily criticized in the FAZ, as well as by various specialist representatives. Sibylle Krause-Burger , who had studied with Eschenburg in the 1950s, defended Eschenburg as a “guardian of democracy” who did not deserve the “posthumous circumcision of his honor”. The former DVPW chairmen Gerhard Lehmbruch, Christine Landfried and Jürgen W. Falter resigned from the association shortly before or after the decision. Christine Landfried rated the decision as "an embarrassment for the DVPW and a coward to boot". Negative judgments about a person's behavior must be based on “conclusive evidence”, which has not yet been available. Thus a fundamental scientific rule has been violated. Claus Offe, on the other hand, stuck to his position that Eschenburg was no longer “above scientific, moral and political objections” because his involvement in the Nazi regime “seems to have been proven”. Eschenburg is therefore no longer suitable as a namesake for a high-ranking science award, especially since there are unproblematic alternatives, such as Ernst Fraenkel as the namesake or the renunciation of a person.

Hans Woller and Jürgen Zarusky, editor-in-chief and deputy editor-in-chief of the Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte , wrote in 2013 about Eschenburg's behavior in the "Aryanization case of Fischbein" : Rande, but definitely proactive and assiduous with ... The evidence presented by Rainer Eisfeld and Hannah Bethke speaks a clear language here. "The Institute for Contemporary History came to the assessment in 2014:" Eschenburg proves to be an example of a conservative non-National Socialist ('state conservative' , in his words), who, although he maintained personal contact with Jews, diligently put himself at the service of the racist regime. ”In the case of Max Blaskopf's Austrian company,“ he seems to have been involved in the 'de-Jewification' beyond any bureaucratic measure to be “, judged Willi Winkler i n the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Eisfeld himself said: “I find it dismaying that he was apparently with a certain assiduity in the matter. In a letter to the Reich Ministry of Economics from 1939, for example, he reaffirmed his advice to liquidate the Auerhahn company. ”In contrast, Eschenburg's biographer Udo Wengst says:“ I cannot see any particular zeal on the part of Eschenburg. ”Wengst also warns that one should go along Be careful when judging because the sources are very sketchy despite Eisfeld's discoveries.


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Web links

To the Eschenburg debate

Videos of the Institute for Scientific Film :

Individual evidence

  1. Studentenkurier , issue 3/1999, p. 24.
  2. Christof Brauers: The FDP in Hamburg 1945 to 1953 , Munich 2007, p. 74, footnote 106.
  3. a b Michael Naumann: A case of opportunism with undisputed life achievement . In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . October 25, 2013, p. 39 ( ).
  4. ^ A b c Hans-Joachim Lang : Eschenburg, the Third Reich and the Jews. Was he anti-Semite? Sympathetic to the National Socialists? In: Schwäbisches Tagblatt . January 23, 2013 ( ).
  5. ^ Rainer Eisfeld: Theodor Eschenburg: "By the way, he forgot to mention ..." A study on the continuity problem in political science . In: Zeitschrift für Geschichtswwissenschaft , vol. 59 (2011), no . 1, pp. 27-44, ISSN  0044-2828 . See reprint of the text at
  6. a b c "He was not one of the brave" Discussion between Rainer Eisfeld and Udo Wengst,, November 20, 2014.
  7. ^ Rainer Eisfeld: Theodor Eschenburg and the robbery of Jewish assets 1938/39 , in: Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte (VfZ) 4, 2014.
  8. ^ Willi Winkler: Political scientist Theodor Eschenburg: Decay of a legend . In: Süddeutsche Zeitung , October 17, 2014.
  9. Corporatism and lobbyism 50 years ago and today. Theodor Eschenburg's "Rule of Associations?" In: Zeithistorische Forschungen , Issue 2/2005.
  10. ^ Keyword: Theodor Eschenburg .
  11. Protocols of the Baden-Württemberg State Parliament, 4th electoral period, p. 5345 .
  12. a b c Willi Winkler: The Chinese of pain . In: Süddeutsche Zeitung , October 29, 2014, p. 11.
  13. Dönhoff: Joke, underlined with sadness . In: Die Zeit , March 17, 1989.
  14. List of medal recipients 1975–2019. (PDF; 180 kB) State Ministry of Baden-Württemberg, p. 1 , accessed on June 12, 2019 .
  15. ^ Documentation of the Eschenburg debate website of the DVPW .
  16. Cf. Felix W. Wurm: Chronicle of the Theodor Eschenburg Prize and the controversy surrounding the prize name , November 15, 2013 (PDF).
  17. Hannah Bethke: Theodor Eschenburg in the Nazi era. Expert opinion on behalf of the Board of Directors and Advisory Board of DVPW , September 3, 2012.
  18. German political scientists distance themselves from the "father" of their science. Press release by the PR agency Raschke & Partners, September 27, 2012.
  19. Speech Claus Offe occasion of awarding the Theodor Eschenburg Prize 2012. In: Political Quarterly , No. 4, 2012, pp 601-606.
  20. Open letter to the board of the German Association for Political Science on the dispute over the Theodor Eschenburg Prize (PDF; 17 kB), accessed on November 4, 2013.
  21. DVPW press release of October 27, 2013, accessed on October 28, 2013 (PDF; 56 kB).
  22. ^ Jürgen Kaube: Theodor Eschenburg Prize: Eyewash . In: FAZ , October 28, 2013.
  23. Sibylle Krause-Burger: How to overturn a monument . In: Stuttgarter Zeitung , November 13, 2012.
  24. ^ Resigned because of a dispute over Eschenburg . In: Der Tagesspiegel , October 30, 2013.
  25. a b Dispute over Theodor Eschenburg: The Nazi past divides the political scientists Der Tagesspiegel , October 30, 2013.
  26. Hans Woller, Jürgen Zarusky: The "Theodor Eschenburg Case" and the Institute for Contemporary History . In: VfZ , 4/2013, p. 556 f.
  27. Summary of the VfZ October issue 2014 Institute for Contemporary History.