Wolfgang Kunkel

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Wolfgang Kunkel (born November 20, 1902 in Fürth im Odenwald ; † May 8, 1981 in Munich ) was a German lawyer and legal historian. He is one of the world's outstanding representatives of the science of Roman law and Roman legal history after the Second World War. His honorable and inappropriate behavior during the Nazi era deserves special mention.


Kunkel studied law and classical studies in Frankfurt am Main and Gießen . He received his doctorate from Ernst Levy (1881–1968) in Freiburg im Breisgau in 1924 and habilitated there two years later, also with Ernst Levy . In 1928 he became an associate professor for Roman law in Freiburg im Breisgau. In the following year he was offered a full professorship in Göttingen . There he worked in particular with the classical philologists Eduard Fraenkel , Hermann Fränkel and Kurt Latte , all of whom were ousted from their offices by the National Socialists after 1933 because of their Jewish origin. In 1936 Kunkel moved to Bonn , 1943 to Heidelberg University ; He was only able to take up his professorship there in 1946.

At the beginning of the National Socialist era, Kunkel protested against the treatment of Jewish university teachers and turned to the Prussian minister of education, among others. Unlike other professors, he did not distance himself from his Jewish teacher Ernst Levy , but kept in touch with him by letters even during the Nazi era. His predecessor, Eberhard Friedrich Bruck, who was dismissed by the National Socialists, campaigned for his appointment to Bonn in 1936 . During the war, Kunkel was drafted and served as a judge- martial from 1943 to 1945 . In 1946 he wrote that he had never made a decision for which he could not fully answer to his legal conscience. According to Fritz Sturm , as an armed forces judge he was able to “prevent many injustices”.

In 1947/48 Kunkel was also rector of the university in Heidelberg. From 1956 until his retirement in 1970 he taught at the University of Munich . There he founded the Leopold Wenger Institute for Legal History . He was a member of several academies of science and has received numerous honorary doctorates.

Kunkel was considered a successful academic teacher and had a large number of students, including Werner Flume , Heinrich Honsell , Dieter Simon , Uwe Wesel and Sven Erik Wunner .


Kunkel devoted himself primarily to the research of ancient Roman law. In doing so, he applied methods of historical science and classical philology to legal issues. His most famous publications include:

  • The Roman jurists. Origin and social position . Unchanged reprint of the 2nd edition from 1967. Cologne a. a. 2001, ISBN 3-412-15000-2 (originally published under the title Origin and Social Status of Roman Jurists ).
  • with Roland Wittmann : State order and state practice of the Roman Republic. Second part. The magistrate . Munich 1995, ISBN 3-406-33827-5 (by Wittmann completed edition of the work left unfinished by Kunkel).
  • with Martin Schermaier : Roman legal history . Cologne u. a. 2001, ISBN 3-8252-2225-X (revision of the textbook by Schermaier founded by Kunkel).
  • with Heinrich Honsell , Theo Mayer-Maly , Walter Selb : Römisches Recht . 4th edition. Berlin u. a. 1987, ISBN 3-540-16866-4 (current edition of the textbook written by many editors, but largely influenced by Kunkel).


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. See Dorothee Mußgnug (eds.): Ernst Levy and Wolfgang Kunkel. Correspondence 1922–1968. Winter, Heidelberg 2005, ISBN 3-8253-5031-2 .
  2. Helmut Coing : In memoriam Wolfgang Kunkel †. In: Journal of the Savigny Foundation for Legal History . Romance Department. Volume 98, 1981, pp. III-XVI (V).
  3. Fritz Sturm : Wolfgang Kunkel to the memory. In: Bullettino dell'Istituto di Diritto Romano. Volume 25/26, 1984, pp. 17-35 (p. 29).