Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

The Alchemy of Occupation: Karl Loewenstein and the Legal Reconstruction of Nazi Germany, 1945–1946


In August 1945, Karl Loewenstein began work as senior expert advisor to the Legal Division of American Military Government (AMG) in Berlin. An eminent German-born and educated political scientist and jurisprudent, Loewenstein had come to assist in the “democratization” of his homeland's Nazified law and legal institutions. It was soon obvious, however, that in its crucial first phase the American legal mission in Germany was in disarray. The development and implementation of American law reform policy was being undercut by ill-prepared leadership, poor planning, and the scarcity of learning about German laws, lawyers, and legal history. By Loewenstein's reckoning, many American officers had been “set to work on problems of which they have not the slightest idea and very little professional qualification.” Critical law reform initiatives had been based upon expedient “over-simplifications” of Nazism and its eradication. By January 1946, his initial misgivings having given way to mordant despair, Loewenstein concluded that the American program for the democratization of the German legal system was irrevocably “lost,” a “failure which stinks to high heaven.” This article sets forth the theoretical and observational bases of Loewenstein's assessment and evaluates its cogency.

Corresponding author
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

James K. Pollock , Besatzung und Staatsaufbau nach 1945: Occupation Diary and Private Correspondence 1945-1948 (Munchen: Oldenbourg Verlag, 1994)

“Roundtable Discussion,” in Kielmansegg , Mewes and Glaser–Schmidt , eds., Hannah Arendt and Leo Strauss: German Emigres and American Political Thought after World War II (Cambridge, Mass: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 171–82

Peter M.R. Stirk , Twentieth-Century German Political Thought (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006)

Loewenstein , “An International Bill of Human Rights,” Current History 9 (1950): 273

Peter Irons , New Deal Lawyers (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982), 234–48

Steven P. Remy , The Heidelberg Myth: The Nazification and Denazification of a German University (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002)

Frei , Adenauer's Germany and the Nazi Past: The Politics of Amnesty and Integration (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002), 306

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Law and History Review
  • ISSN: 0738-2480
  • EISSN: 1939-9022
  • URL: /core/journals/law-and-history-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 2
Total number of PDF views: 18 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 162 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 30th May 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.