Wolfgang Abendroth

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Wolfgang Walter Arnulf Abendroth (born May 2, 1906 in Elberfeld , † September 15, 1985 in Frankfurt am Main ) was a socialist German political scientist and legal scholar .


Weimar Republic

Wolfgang Abendroth was born as the son of the middle school teacher Alfred Abendroth and his wife Ida nee. Dambach born in Elberfeld. He first attended the Helmholtz-Gymnasium , later the Realgymnasium Musterschule in Frankfurt am Main and studied law and economics at the Universities of Tübingen , Münster and Frankfurt am Main , where he passed the first state examination in law in 1930 "completely satisfactory", and a grade examination with lawyers . From 1930 to 1933 he worked as a court trainee in Hechingen .

As the son of staunch Social Democrats, Abendroth was active in the proletarian youth movement at an early age . In November 1920 he became a member of the Communist Youth Association (KJVD), later also of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD); he also joined the Red Aid . At the same time he was active in the German Freethinkers Association and, as a member of the federal management of the Federation of Free Socialist Youth, was responsible for the Marxist upbringing of some of the groups associated with it that had emerged from the youth movement. After he was expelled from the KPD because he had criticized the course of the KPD and the social fascism thesis associated with it, he joined the Communist Party opposition in 1928 .

Resistance in the Third Reich

After the seizure of power of the Nazis Abendroth more legal work was prohibited. From 1933 he was politically active in various illegal resistance organizations (Communist Party opposition, Red Aid, New Beginning , etc.). In 1935 he received his doctorate summa cum laude with a dissertation on international law at the law faculty of the University of Bern . His dissertation , The international legal position of B and C mandates , was published by the Marcus publishing house in Breslau at the end of 1936 , but shortly afterwards it was confiscated by the Gestapo . In October 1936 he managed to get a traineeship in a Berlin bank , but in February 1937 he was arrested by the Gestapo and sentenced on November 30, 1937 by the Kassel Higher Regional Court to four years in prison for high treason , which he served in Luckau .

After his release in June 1941, Abendroth moved to his parents in Potsdam-Babelsberg and initially worked as an auditing assistant for the accountant and tax advisor Erhard Oewerdieck and then as a business lawyer at a foreign trade company in Berlin. Immediately after his release, he met the student Lisa Hörmeyer through one of her fellow students, whom he in turn knew from the Socialist Student Union (SSB) and the Free Socialist Youth .

A marriage with Lisa Hörmeyer could not take place, because at the beginning of 1943 he was drafted as a "probation soldier" to the Penal Division 999 . Deployed in Greece on the island of Limnos , he worked there with the Greek resistance and deserted to the Greek resistance organization ELAS in 1944 . The possibility of leaving Bulgaria under the influence of the Red Army was not an option for Abendroth. In October 1944 he was transferred to Egypt as a British prisoner of war .

In the prison camp in the Egyptian desert, he began political training with labor lawyer Herbert Komm with the aim of training cadres and preparing them for administrative work that would come after the defeat of the Nazi regime . Later Abendroth was through the help of his friends Georg Schwarzenberger and Richard Lowenthal into reeducation camps Wilton Park Training Center delivered, "which seems appropriate to prisoners of war on their return to Germany and participation in the construction of in the democracy were prepared." With Löwenthal he discussed the prospects for the labor movement in Germany against the background of the Labor Party's election victory in July 1945. One result of these discussions was Löwenthal's programmatic publication Jenseits des Kapitalismus , which appeared in Nuremberg in 1946 under the pseudonym Paul Sering . Abendroth joined the SPD in autumn 1946 .

Political scientist and legal scholar in post-war Germany

At the end of November 1946 he was released from captivity and first tried to gain a foothold in Marburg as a lawyer. In the same year he married Lisa Hörmeyer. They had three children together: Elisabeth (* 1947), Barbara (* 1949) and Ulrich (* 1952). Since he was still missing the second state examination , he decided, on the advice of Georg-August Zinn , a companion from student days and the newly appointed Hessian Minister of Justice, to take the missing examination in the Soviet Occupation Zone (SBZ). Equipped by Zinn with an unofficial letter of recommendation for Eugen Schiffer , the head of the judiciary administration of the SBZ, Abendroth returned to Potsdam .

In January 1947, Abendroth became a judge at the district court Potsdam ordered, where he also at the service of the Ministry of Justice of Brandenburg came in from April 1 as a Councilor . After an assessor examination, he was employed by the judicial administration of the Soviet occupation zone as a senior judicial councilor in summer 1947 . In September 1947 he was appointed lecturer at the law and political science faculty of the Martin Luther University in Halle-Wittenberg . At the end of 1947 he was appointed to the University of Leipzig and appointed professor of international law with effect from April 1, 1948 . In October 1948 he received a professorship for public law from the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena , but this also only lasted a few months.

Since Abendroth was officially registered in West Berlin , he did not automatically become a member of the SED after the forced unification of the SPD and KPD . Instead, he remained an illegal member of the Social Democrats and kept covert contact with the East Office of the SPD , headed by Stephan Thomas . Against the background of the repression against those Social Democrats who refused to join the SED, he moved to the western occupation zones and negotiated through his friend Herbert Komm, who worked as a lawyer in Berlin, with the Lower Saxony Minister of Education, Adolf Grimme, about one Appointment to the newly founded university for work, politics and economics in Wilhelmshaven- Rüstersiel. When a courier from the East Office was exposed, Abendroth was forced to flee the Soviet occupation zone in December 1948. Together with his wife and daughter, he moved to Bremen to live with his in-laws.

In Bremen he justified his resignation in writing to the Thuringian minister of education, Marie Torhorst , with a copy to Hilde Benjamin . Abendroth spoke out against the emerging development of the bloc system, but promised not to allow himself to be instrumentalized against socialism in the East, since he would remain a socialist despite the abandonment of his activities.

On December 21, 1948, Abendroth was appointed full professor for public law and politics at the University of Labor, Politics and Economics in Wilhelmshaven. In the following year he was elected a full member of the State Court of Bremen . On November 15, 1950, again with the help of Zinn (now Prime Minister of Hesse), he received a professorship for scientific policy at the Philosophical Faculty of the Philipps University in Marburg, and stayed at this university until his retirement in 1972. During this period the Forsthoff-Abendroth controversy between him and Ernst Forsthoff about the importance of the welfare state in the Basic Law . From 1959 to 1963 he was also a member of the State Court of Hesse .

Abendroth developed comprehensive ideas for the democratization of the university . His activities were primarily aimed at establishing political science at universities as an independent discipline with the right to habilitation , for example through the establishment of a professional association, the German Association for Political Science . In terms of personnel issues in particular, he tried to prevent partisans and sympathizers of the Nazi regime and instead put democratic scientists in position. Abendroth left no stone unturned in bringing exiles and resistance fighters such as Karl Korsch , Herbert Marcuse or Leo Kofler into the discussion when filling chairs. When political education for students was to be promoted in the 1960s and the school subject social studies was established, Abendroth had a greater influence on teacher training.

Abendroth's most important publications include The German Trade Unions (1954), Bureaucratic Administrative State and Social Democracy (1955), Rise and Crisis of German Social Democracy (1964), Social History of the European Workers' Movement (1965), Economy, Society and Democracy in the Federal Republic (1965) ) and The Basic Law . An Introduction to His Political Problems (1966). In addition, he published numerous smaller articles in anthologies, magazines and newspapers.

At Abendroth, two important scientific studies were carried out on the changing public :

The study by Peter von Oertzens on the council movement in the November Revolution was significantly influenced by Abendroth.

Abendroth was always controversial as a scientist and because of his political statements in the Federal Republic, since Marxism was considered incompatible with parliamentary democracy during the Cold War years . For him, however, fundamental rights based on the rule of law were always a prerequisite for the realization of a socialist society, and at the same time he could only imagine socialism in connection with the further development of human rights and civil liberties. Abendroth had good relations with the Socialist German Student Union (SDS), the student organization of the SPD, even after the SPD no longer committed itself to Marxism and broke off all ties with its previous student organization. Wolfgang Abendroth had endeavored with his draft for the Godesberg program , written on the initiative of the Hamburg Bundestag member Peter Blachstein , to oblige the party to maintain basic Marxist positions. Thereupon he and several other professors were asked by the party executive to give up their support of the SDS. He refused.

In November 1961, the SPD party executive published a resolution that membership in the SDS and / or in the Socialist Supporters' Society founded to support the SDS is "incompatible with membership in the Social Democratic Party of Germany". She then expelled Abendroth from the party in December 1961 . Abendroth announced that, together with the Berlin political scientist Ossip K. Flechtheim and other social democratic university professors, he would prove in court that authoritarian tendencies in the SPD that contradict the Basic Law were increasing.

Abendroth was one of the founders of the Socialist League . He served as the first chairman of the executive board of that organization. Together with Ernst Bloch , Ossip K. Flechtheim and Erich Kästner , he was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Campaign for Democracy and Disarmament - Easter March at the end of the sixties . Furthermore, as a member of the initiative committee of defense lawyers in political criminal matters, headed by Walter Ammann, he campaigned for the repeal of the KPD ban and the re-admission of a communist party in the Federal Republic. After the establishment of the DKP , he belonged to the Scientific Advisory Board of the DKP's own Institute for Marxist Studies and Research (IMSF) based in Frankfurt am Main, together with other representatives of the so-called Marburg School and DKP-related scientists from other cities in Germany . In 1967, Abendroth was a member of the Russell Tribunal established by the English philosopher Bertrand Russell to investigate war crimes in Vietnam.

Abendroth's grave in the main cemetery in Frankfurt

Abendroth is considered one of the most important proponents of the student rebellion of the 1960s , although he never agreed with the revolutionary aspirations of an (intellectual) minority. His hopes were always aimed at revolutionizing the labor movement . The “ Association of Democratic Scientists ”, which he co-founded as a reaction to the Marburg Manifesto, was therefore intended to protect individual freedom of research from social attacks.

After his retirement he taught at the Academy of Labor in Frankfurt am Main. At times he was on the board of the Association of German Constitutional Law Teachers . Abendroth was one of the founding members of the Martin Niemöller Foundation that was established in 1974.

Voices about Wolfgang Abendroth

"Partisan Professor in the Land of Followers"


Abendroth Bridge in Marburg (2017)

In December 2007, the WAsG association decided to continue under the name "Wolfgang Abendroth Foundation Society". The association disbanded in 2015.

In Wuppertal there is a Wolfgang-Abendroth-Strasse, in Marburg there is a Wolfgang-Abendroth-Brücke.

Marburg School

Group of Abendroth students who did their doctorate in the 1960s with Wolfgang Abendroth, among other things, on organizations of the workers' movement during the Weimar Republic :


  • The binding of Germany as a whole under international law through treaties of its state fragments. From: Present problems of international law and legal philosophy. Pp. 145-164. Edited by DS Constantopoulos and Hans Wehberg , Hamburg 1953.
  • The German trade unions. Way of democratic integration. Rothe, Heidelberg 1955 (= small writings on political education; H. 5/6 series of the IG. Chemie-Papier-Keramik ).
  • With Herbert Sultan : Bureaucratic administrative state and social democracy. North German publishing house Goedel, Hanover, Frankfurt / M. 1955 (= Goedelbuch 130).
  • Rise and Crisis of German Social Democracy. Misappropriation of a political party due to the tendency of institutions to adapt to a given power structure. Voice publishing house, Mainz 1964 (= answer 9 ).
  • Social history of the European labor movement. Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1965 = edition Suhrkamp 106.
  • Gerda Zorn : city ​​in resistance. With a foreword by Wolfgang Abendroth, Röderberg Verlag, Frankfurt / M. 1965.
  • With Eugen Kogon , Helmut Ridder , Heinrich Hannover , Jürgen Seifert : The total emergency state. The fateful provision? Emergency laws - creeping coup? Voice publishing house, Frankfurt am Main 1965 ( small answer series ).
  • Constitution. Introduction to his political problems. Neske, Pfullingen 1966 (= politics in our time 3 ).
  • Antagonistic society and political democracy. Essays on political sociology. Luchterhand, Neuwied 1968 (= sociological texts 47 ).
  • Wolfgang Abendroth. A life in the labor movement. Conversations. Recorded and edited. by Barbara Dietrich and Joachim Perels . Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1976 (= edition Suhrkamp 820). Autobiographical interview tape
  • with others: How fascism arises and is prevented. Röderberg, Frankfurt / M.
  • Introduction to the history of the labor movement. Volume 1. From the beginning to 1933. Edited by Heinz-Gerd Hofschen. Diestel Verlag, Heilbronn 1985 ISBN 3-929348-08-X .
  • Collected Writings Volume 1 (1926–1948). Offizin, Hannover 2006, ISBN 3-930345-49-8 (born), ISBN 3-930345-49-8 (carton)
  • Collected Writings Volume 2 (1949–1955). Offizin, Hannover 2008, ISBN 978-3-930345-56-4 (born), ISBN 978-3-930345-57-1 (carton)
  • Collected Writings Volume 3 (1956–1963). Offizin, Hannover 2013, ISBN 978-3-930345-68-7 (born), ISBN 978-3-930345-66-3 (carton)


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. On Abendroth in the Nazi era and his later confrontation with fascism cf. Gregor Kritidis: Wolfgang Abendroth and his examination of the Nazi regime , in: Work - Movement - History , Issue III / 2016, pp. 47–64.
  2. Lisa Abendroth (* February 27, 1917; † February 4, 2012), PhD historian DNB
  3. ^ Conference report October 13, 2007
  4. The full letter can be found in his Gesammelte Schriften , Volume 1 (1926–1948). Letter with explanations from Lisa Abendroth : Die Flucht (Sozialismus 2/1990) as PDF online: http://www.platzdasch.homepage.t-online.de/download/wolfgang_abendroth-flucht.pdf
  5. cf. Gregor Kritidis: Wolfgang Abendroth and his examination of the Nazi regime , in: Work - Movement - History , Issue III / 2016, pp. 47–64.
  6. Michael Buckmiller: The rediscovery of the council democracy. Peter von Oertzens conception of a socialist council democracy and the paradigm shift in the evaluation of the November revolution, in: Loccumer Initiative Kritischer Wissenschaft (Ed.), On the function of the left intellectual - today. In memoriam Peter von Oertzen (= Critical Interventions Vol. 10), Hanover 2009, pp. 21–44. ISBN 978-3-930345-67-0 .
  7. spiegel.de December 13, 1961: Geist und Macht
  8. ^ "Left Think-Tank" , Junge Welt , December 10, 2007