Chapter 30: German law
Restricted access

German emigré author Sebastian Haffner relates a conversation with Wickham Steed that took place in 1941. Steed, by then the doyen of English political journalism, had previously been The Times’s Germany correspondent for many years. How was it possible, the two men wondered, that Germany had descended so quickly and without any considerable resistance into a state of base collective criminality? To Haffner’s surprise, the elderly gentleman pointed to the German Civil Code, the famous ‘Bürgerliche Gesetzbuch’ (BGB). Haffner, who was a lawyer by training and had passed the two German ‘State Examinations’ before his flight to England, had learned to respectfully approach the Civil Code as the consummation of legal thought – its very cathedral. Yet Steed insisted: to him, the BGB was the most eloquent expression of the blasphemous attempt to confine justice to a golden cage of perfectly crafted mechanical rules. Over time, these rules – positive law, as such – began to be mistaken for justice, and any real sense of equity and justice had been suffocated.

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

Access options

Get access to the full article by using one of the access options below.

Other access options

Redeem Token

Institutional Login

Log in with Open Athens, Shibboleth, or your institutional credentials

Login via Institutional Access

Personal login

Log in with your Elgar Online account

Login with you Elgar account
Edited by Jan M. Smits
Encyclopedia