Correspondence between Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde and Carl Schmitt – Culture

The first letter is still approximate. Ernst-Wolfgang Buckenforde and his older brother Werner politely ask if they can “visit the esteemed professor at Plettenberg during these semester breaks” – after reading Constitutional Teaching, questions remain. But the following message does indicate a spiritual and political agreement: in particular, one asks what guiding principles “may be derived from the sometimes contradictory fundamental political decisions of the Bonn Basic Law”. Behind the constitution and its rules there is a “concrete system” that you first have to understand if you want to interpret the articles of the constitution – Plettenberg should have liked that right away.

Through these two news stories from 1953, the correspondence published by Reinhard Meiring between thinker and later Federal Constitutional Judge Ernst-Wolfgang Buckenforde and constitutional lawyer and former “Third Reich Crown Advocate” Karl Schmidt opens an insight into the friendly relationship that lasted until his death in 1985 Schmitz does not rupture. The bond between the two was already well known. This has been frankly confirmed by Buckenforde, who died three years ago, in numerous dedications, writings, and interviews. But how exactly did you have to imagine the manner of dealing? As a mutual intellectual discussion? As a teacher-student relationship? As just adopting individual terms? This fine print of the letters now reveals an astonishing rhetorical consensus that, in the light of someone who has defended the legitimacy of the Federal Republic unparalleled, also needs an explanation.

One notes how Böckenförde’s later positions are referred to – and how closely coordinated they are with Schmitt

After two letters from the Böckenförde brothers, the meeting takes place in Plettenberg. The interpretation of the relationship with Schmidt is subject to the condition that most of the ideas were certainly exchanged personally – there are sometimes hints about this in the correspondence, but most remain in the “Sauerland silence”. Ernst Wolfgang Buckenforde later thanked Schmidt for his suggestions on the problem of expropriation in the social constitutional state, and soon invited Schmidt to give a lecture on the subject before law students in Münster, Schmidt, who during the expropriation had every opportunity to restore the lost chair, as he liked to catch him. The slightest hint of professional criticism – a 17th-century historical legal source speaks of “politics,” where “police” should be according to Schmidt – is confronted by the young Buckenforde in the same letter with a long list of new constitutional publication using the principles of the educator. Reassure that you are somehow on the same side.

“But discussing such basic questions is no longer common today, probably because people don’t like analyzing the shaky floor they’re standing on.” Ernst Wolfgang Buckenforde.

(Photo: Rolf Hyde/Image Alliance/DPA)

One notes how Böckenförde’s later positions are referred to – and how closely she coordinates with Schmitt. In 1972, Böckenförde would emphasize “the distinction between state and society as a condition of individual freedom”, considering the broad welfare state activity not only possible but also the promotion of freedom. In 1957 he informed Schmidt of his ideas about how a ‘welfare state’ could easily be transformed into a full-fledged state in Hitler’s sense ‘if this distinction is ignored. The idea is the same, even if compared to Schmidt the connotation remains pessimistic.’ Bukenforde’s qualified work, in particular his first legal treatise , but also the second Munich Historical Dissertation and Qualification Thesis, as is now evident, written in close collaboration with Schmidt. The questions, methodology, source selection, structure, and even individual chapters were extensively tested in Plettenberg’s laboratory, both in writing and in person.

What kind of faculty is expressed here? The actual academic teachers at Böckenförde differ: he earned his Ph.D. and learned his legal and historical tools from Hans Julius Wolff in Münster and Franz Schnabel in Munich – what connected him next to Schmidt? In correspondence, the reader repeatedly encounters carefully scattered notes that promise an answer to this question. For example, a letter from Böckenförde from May 1955: First there is a short presentation – then a critical note of culture: “But discussion of such fundamental questions is no longer common today, perhaps because one does not like to analyze the shaky floor on which one stands.” Or a letter from April 1958: “You have to be careful, especially when you are young, not to fall in any direction and indulge in it and then lose sight of the hard facts.”

Plettenberg’s “The Old Man Who Knew” is Buckenforde’s ticket to the position of distinguished observer

Over the past three decades, a number of satirical phrasing has been made about “some gentlemen” and “our lawyers who choke on the “divisive action of science and expert opinions”—in stark contrast to those few who “really have a hand over time” alone before the absolute others. who “cannot keep up.” This shows that the relationship between Böckenförde and Schmitt does not lie in mere personal friendship or scientific inspiration, and certainly not at the level of common political positions. The “old man who knows everything” by Plettenberg is Bockenforde ticket to the position of a superior intellectual observer in which the course of the world can be understood and commented in a way that remains closed from the average academic and the general public.

E  Nomos Verlag, Baden-Baden 2022. 871 pages, €169.

Reinhard Meiring (Editor): Carl Schmidt, Ernst Wolfgang Buckenforde – What a Good Fate, Correspondence 1953-1984. Nomos Verlag, Baden-Baden 2022. 871 pages, €169.

This explains why there aren’t any major differences between the correspondents—not even when Bukenforde takes a different intellectual and political path: In 1958, Buckenforde reported the authoritarian state theorist and the Führer’s democracy on the idea ‘whether individual democracy and the welfare state are the necessary final stages of those principles that arose And from it this same country was founded.” A year later, Schmidt excitedly told about the divisive philosophy of his second secret academic mentor, the Monster philosopher Joachim Ritter, who was able to think of “concrete orders” and still assert human rights: “Professor Ritter described the modern state as an opportunity!” Consider: For Schmidt, “split” was the primary evil of modernity, which he blamed on Jews for a number of anti-Semitic passages. These stark differences hardly leave any deep trace in the official friendly correspondence back and forth.

Instead – as well as a number of literary references and correspondence – dominate shared assertions about the significance of world events: on the correct position of Lorenz von Stein in nineteenth-century liberalism, on Adenauer’s election campaign of 1957, and on the French constitutional crisis – ‘now we have’ the state of emergency and war Eligibility ‘in France’ – until the student uprisings of 1968, which finally prompted Buckenforde to switch from Heidelberg to a chair in Bielefeld. Schmidt, constantly feeling persecuted and suspicious of others, is constantly pessimistic, sometimes apologizing: “Your plan to write the book” Institutions des Staatsrechts der FRG “is very risky. Industrial society has no institutions; fabricated remnants of earlier institutions, which are still these The “state” is alive from it, it is repudiated and publicly desecrated. Böckenförde adopts the culturally critical tone compared to Schmidt, but he always cautiously hints at optimism: “Or could you see the situation differently and perhaps hope more?”

“Your attitude toward the Jews, if I may say so, remains a mystery to me.”

In this way, the correspondence is highly worth reading, as the only two observers of world history frequently produce insights that also enlighten later. Not to mention the wonderful aphorisms – “Bonn is not Weimar. Maybe you weren’t even a Bonn. Anyway, you have to go to Karlsruhe to find out what a Bonn is.”

Message exchange is also worth reading for what it doesn’t contain. Böckenförde deals with Schmidt’s direct anti-Semitism only once: “If I may say so, your attitude toward the Jews is still a mystery to me; but it is not my responsibility to ask you any questions about it.” The late-born, who later interpreted “the persecution of German Jews as a betrayal of the public,” made content of this comment. He later made it clear to the public that he would not have the right to make Schmidt a “post-judicial action”. Focusing on what is critical to “historical reality” helps eliminate even the smallest demands for justification from the outset: Schmidt sent an article from 1936 with the noting that “time-bound statements need not prevent you from extracting basic constitutional history from them.” Here, too, National Socialist syllables are explicitly intended. Böckenförde appears to be following the reading instructions.

The relationship between Schmitt and Böckenförde continued to move within these coordinates, even after Böckenförde was a student. Even after he became a full professor long ago at Heidelberg, the disparity in speech form between “Dear Dear Professor” (who no longer holds a chair) and “Dear Ernst Wolfgang” persisted. The high quantitative point of correspondence was passed in the 1970s – Buckenforde was widely involved in the scientific discipline, later a federal constitutional judge, Schmidt was nearing his 80th birthday, he could hardly travel or make phone calls, and the messages became more and more murky.

If you work your way through the comprehensive material, you can almost see how important Schmidt’s withdrawal away from the critically scrutinized academic and journalist world was—despite the primary encouragement he met publicly with the Federal Republic. Perhaps in this distant mental attitude, which from there also certainly allowed, a common ground must be sought, linking the theorist of free and modern democracy with the “enemy of the rule of law” to the end and inextricably.

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