Schmitt, Carl

Schmitt, Carl
   lawyer and political theorist; played a men-acing, behind-the-scenes role in the waning months of the Republic. Born to a lower-middle-class Catholic* home in the predominantly Protestant* town of Plettenberg in Westphalia, he was committed to Catholicism throughout his life (half of his articles in the 1920s appeared in Catholic periodicals). Legal studies led to a doctorate (1911) and his Habilitation (1916) from Strassburg in the related fields of state and administrative law, national law, and state theory. He entered the Prussian civil service* in 1910 and worked for several years as a junior barrister and law clerk (a back injury precluded service in World War I). In 1916 he became a Privatdozent at Strassburg, but lost the appointment when Alsace-Lorraine* reverted to France. In September 1919 Moritz Julius Bonn* brought him to Munich's Handelshochschule. Appointed professor of public law at Greifswald in 1921, he moved after one semester to Bonn. In 1928 he became the Hugo Preuss* Professor of Law at Berlin's* Handelshochschule.Heas-sumed a professorship at Cologne in January 1933, but returned to Berlin after passage of Hitler's* Enabling Act* to become a Prussian Staatsrat, a member of the NSDAP and the Academy of German Law, a leader in the League of German Jurists, and Professor of Public Law at the university. In June 1934 Hans Frank* appointed him publisher of the Deutsche Juristen-Zeitung. Deni-grated in 1936 by the SS Security Service (SD) for prior republicanism, he was soon forced from his offices. Resigning his Berlin professorship in 1945 and retiring to Plettenberg, he lived until his ninety-seventh year.
   Schmitt possessed an uncommon intellect that manifested itself in numerous legal publications (e.g., Politische Romantik, 1919; Die Diktatur, 1921; Poli-tische Theologie, 1922; and Legalitat und Legitimität, 1932). He influenced sev-eral events between 1929 and 1936. His ideology was antibourgeois, antiliberal, antidemocratic, and inherently authoritarian; it was not antimodern or irrational (he was a cultural enthusiast whose friends included Hugo Ball,* Robert Musil,* and Ernst Jünger*). Animated by natural law, he argued that the essence of politics is the opposition between friend and enemy; this supersedes all cultural or economic considerations. Nations, he argued, naturally prepare for war; even in periods of peace they organize in opposition to potential enemies. He was hostile to optimistic liberalism because it deified such abstract notions as uni-versalism and humanity, thereby corrupting political life by denying opposition. A qualified Vernunftrepublikaner,* he was intrigued by Article 48 of the Con-stitution*; already in 1921 he theorized that it could be used to destroy the Republic. While he remained politically independent throughout the Weimar era, his veneration of force and will and his distrust of democracy were tailored to the radical Right. Gaining the attention of Johannes Popitz* and Kurt von Schlei-cher* in 1929, he became an advisor to President Hindenburg* and helped frame the Presidential Cabinet.* But his influence was most profound in the summer of 1932 when he prepared the legal defense for Franz von Papen's* Preus-senschlag (Prussian coup). He was drafting a revised constitution when Hitler became Chancellor.
   REFERENCES:Bendersky, Carl Schmitt; Benz and Graml, Biographisches Lexikon; Ingo Müller, Hitler's Justice; Jerry Muller, Other God; Orlow, Weimar Prussia, 1925-1933; Wurgaft, Activists.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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