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.
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