|| Toward a Biography
Adolf Moritz Steinschneider (1894-1944)
Lawyer, political figure, emigrant, victim of Nazi Terror
Until his flight from Germany in February 1933, civil and criminal lawyer Adolf-Moritz
Steinschneider was a well known figure in the public life of Frankfurt-on-Main.
Regarding his role in the social and political struggles of the Weimar
Republic, a letter he wrote on Jan. 2, 1935, from his Swiss exile to his
former colleague, Dr. Bloch, provides particularly relevant information.
"As a lawyer in Frankfurt-on-Main, I had a criminal practice of a
distinctly political nature, and fairly broad in scope. Once Hitler seized
power, as a Jew and a leftist, although I was not committed to any political
party, I was - as you know -particularly vulnerable to the persecutions
of his gangs and snipers, moreso even than many outspoken political figures
and controversial public officials. And beyond that, I had had, in the
course of numerous trials, violent confrontations with those who are now
the dignitaries of the Reich, such as the current Mayor of Frankfurt,
Krebs; Sprenger, who was the former State Attorney General of Hesse and
is now the Reichs Governor their; the former Judicial Secretary and Reichs
Commissioner for Austria, Haidt; former correspondent for the provincial
papers in Wiesbaden, now the chief of personnel for the Ministry of Justice
Freisler, formerly a lawyer in Kassel, etc., etc.
"Luckily I was warned just in time by a memb
er of the judicial police, a member of the SPD (Socialist Party of Germany),
and was able, with absolutely no means, without a passport, and what's
more without any assistance, to flee Germany."
Reconstructing the legal cases mentioned in this letter constitutes an
essential starting point for research on the life and accomplishments
of this politically-engaged jurist; the task is to add this long unwritten
chapter in the history of Hessian justice during the waning days of the
Weimar Republic, in which Steinschneider's opponents were high-level National
Socialists such as Jakob Springer, Roland Freisler or Friedrich Krebs.
It is, at the same time, important to clarify, casting the light of a
new day on the events and political struggles which took place in Frankfurt-on-Main
during the years leading up to the year 1933.
For Steinschneider's life in exile, from 1933 until his murder in 1944,
his papers, rescued by his daughter Marie-Louise Steinschneider and scarcely
opened before now, are available to researchers. The interpretation and
evaluation of these extraordinary, dense writings, rich with associations,
allow for the discovery of Steinschneider through his letters, his notes,
sketches and essays, make him of the most significant chroniclers of exile.
Born in Berlin in 1894, eldest son of a liberal Jewish family (his grandfather
was the famous Judaic scholar Moritz Steinschneider),Adolf M. Steinschneider
had his first active contacts with politics at the end of the First World
War. His participation in the Spartacist uprising in Berlin earned him
ten months in jail. During that and succeeding periods, his legal work
always had a political background. In the domain of private life, beginning
in the 1920's, when traditional family structures were widely questioned,
he began intensive research into new lifestyles. His spacious offices
located on the Untermainkai in Frankfurt became a community where socialist
friends, such as his friend Rosa Luxemburg, Paul Frölich and Josef
Lang (known as "Jola") stayed.
On the agenda of this field of social research are the quest for non-dogmatic
socialism, subjects such as sexual liberation, relations between the sexes,
or the critiques from both the left and from the right of totalitarian
movements. Outsiders, among whom is the historian of psychology Adrien
Turel, played a rôle in this milieu as important as that of the
social theoretician Karl Korsch or the young communist Wolfgang Abendroth.
During these years, Steinschneider was associated with the Arbeitsgemeinschaft
für biogenetische Psychologie ("Working Group for Biogenetic
Pscychology"), a circle centered around Arthur Schinnagel, a Berlin
With respect to Steinschneider the lawyer, we can here draw a relatively
concise portrait, because there exists documentation from the period,
for at least one great legal case. Steinschneider conducted the trial
defense against the spectacular prosecution of Friedrich Wiechmann of
Frankfurt, who had murdered his family. In the Frankfurt city archives,
numerous supplementary documents regarding this case are to be found.
After Steinschneider's escape from persecution to Switzerland on 28th
February 1933, his offices and his apartment in Frankfurt were ravaged
by SA Storm Troopers. In June, 1935, his right to political asylum in
Switzerland was revoked because of his political activity. Thereafter
he would live in France. His financial circumstances never ceased to be
extremely precarious for Steinschneider, given that he could not practice
his profession as a jurist either in Switzerland or in France, and his
efforts to establish himself as a businessman or manual worker all failed.
Despite his permanent penury, Steinschneider undertook a new beginning
in thought and writing: he composed numerous essays and sketches on the
subject sketches on the subject of the political situation, on anti-Semitism,
on the totalitarian aspects of fascism and socialism, on the psychology
and sociology of the sexes. In addition, he wrote a whole series of literary
texts. Until his murder, Steinschneider labored on his magnum opus, Menschheit
und Polarität: einer sozial-anthropologish rundierten Reflexion sur
Genesus und Überwindung des faschistischen, totalitären Gewaltmenschen.
["Humanism and Polarity: a Socio-anthropological Reflextion on Genesis
and the Abolition of Fascist and Totalitarian Agents of Violence."]
"Democratic, socialist Marxist, pacifist ideologies" -as he
states iin the central thesis opening the work-"have proven themselves
too weak to defy the latter" [i.e., fascist ideas.]"
And in a letter to his brother Gustave, 4th December, 1937, he provides,
within the framework of the criticism launched against Marxism, the lefinition
of a central aspect of his study, saying,
"that the state did not represent merely-as Engeles believed-a simple
relationship between two classes, one [of the two] dominant, the other
dominated, but rather it consists as well of a variable relationship between
the sexes and probably between the generations as well."
Steinschneider's experiences and his reflections, may easily be seen today
e.g., in the context of scientific gender studies. According to Steinschneider,
the results of his study should serving the following purpose:
"to inspire and construct after the war, a social
order that gives its due to war fatigue, the aspiration for peace, the
need for justice, faith and leisure, felt by the nations and the masses,
a social order that restores their will to live and elevates their joie
In addition to these cornerstones of Steinschneider's intellectual portrait,
his correspondence, unique for its genre, are the second, central and
historical significant part of his literary legacy. The first mention
must be given to his letters to his brother Gustav, who had emigrated
in 1933 to Palestine, letters which Adolf-Moritz Steinschneider had conceived
of as a chronicle of his exile and a journal of ideas. The next highest
place must be given the letters written for his children Marie-Louise
and Stefan, very affectional letters, and on an equal aesthetic plane.
(His son Stefan had left Germany for Switzerland in 1933, but it was not
until April, 1938 that Steinschneider's companion Eva Reichwein decided
to emigrate from Frankfurt to Paris with their daughter Marie-Louise.
has always been for me an experiential
research laboratory, especially for studying the most important contradictions."
Although Steinschneider, in a letter to his brother, portrays with this
image his observations, his thought process, and strategy for survival,
it would not be misguided to suggest that fidelity is the essential motif
of the letters, for one one must let life be extinguished, or the chain
of life be severed, even when everything appears to be in vain and hopeless.
And now the image of earlier dream voyages emerges--
"as the shuttle travels back and forth aross
the web, pulling the thread over, under and through"-
Gradually, in his autobiographical texts, Steinschneider paints "this
tiny image of my life" in the Night of "great" world events.
From the research laboratory, others continue to receive news, observations,
encouragement, consolation, humor, ideas, memories and dreams, whether
he is in one of the many fleeting hotel rooms, in the streets of Paris,
or an internment camp.
The vast correspondence carried on with political figures, historians
and writers mirrors the role played by Steinschneider in preparation for
and the discussions carried on during the emigration to Zurich and then
to Paris. In 1937, Steinschneider - with the writer Anselm Rust - founded
the Assistance Fund for German Refugee Scientists and Persons of Letters,
an organization on which hardly any research has been done. For purposes
of investigating this subject andmany others, Steinschneider's writings
whose scientific value is important not only for his biographie, but in
other contexts related to research
The declaration of war against Germany in September 1939 for Steinschneider,
as for most foreign citizens in France, meant internment in concentration
and labor camps. After the fall of France, due to the invasion of German
troops, Steinschneider managed in June 1940 to flee by tortuous routes
to the Midi the South of France. Under the Vichy Regime, he had still
been obliged to engage in forced labor, before he was furloughed in the
summer of 1942 for health reasons, and he could again live with his companion
and daughter in the small town of Bellac near Limoges. After two relatively
peaceful years, Steinschneider, attempting to hide from the SS troups
who were approaching, was captured and murdered near Bellac on the 11th
1. Texts by A.M. Steinschneider
Bruno Fürst, Magnus Hirschfeld, Walther Riese and Adolf Moritz Steinschneider:
Der Fall Wiechmann. Zur Psychologie und Soziologie des Familienmordes.
(Stuttgart: Püttmann) 1928. (Schriften zur Psychologie und Soziologie
von Sexualität und Verbrechen hg. von Hertha u. Walther Riese Bd.
Eine statistische Arbeit Steinschneiders mit dem Titel Strukturelle Veränderungen
in der jüdischen Bevölkerung Deutschlands seit April 1933 erschien
1937 anonym in der vom Jüdischen Weltkongress publiziertend Broschüre:
Der wirtschaftliche Vernichtungskampf gegen die Juden im Dritten Reich.
Dargestellt von der ökonomischen Abteilung des Jüdischen Weltkongresses.
Paris - Genéve - New York 1937
2. Secondary Literature
Bislang sind noch keine einschlägigen wissenschaftlichen Arbeiten
zu Steinschneider zu verzeichnen. 1988 hat zuerst Dr. Eckart Grünewald
auf den Nachlass Steinschneiders hingewiesen:
Eckart Grünewald: "Auswertung eines einzigartigen Briefnachlasses
- Adolf Moritz Steinschneider." In: Exil: Forschung, Erkenntnisse,
Ergebnisse. VIII. Jg. (1988), Heft 2
Steinschneiders Kooperation mit der Roten Hilfe behandelt das biographische
Erika u. Josef Schwarz, Heinz-Jürgen Schneider: Die Rechtsanwälte
der Roten Hilfe: Deutschlands politische Strafverteidiger in der Weimarer
Republik. (Bonn: Pahl-Rugenstein) 2002.
Bekannt wurden uns bislang zwei Memoirenwerke, in denen Steinschneider
Wolfgang Abendroth: Ein Leben in der Arbeiterbewegung. Gespräche,
aufgezeichnet und herausgegeben von B. Dietrich und J. Perls. Frankfurt
a. M. (Suhrkamp) 1976 (zu Steinschneider S. 92 u. 101)
Adrien Turel: Bilanz eines erfolglosen Lebens. Autobiographie. Zürich-Hamburg
(Edition Nautilus) 1989. (zu Steinschneider S. 56ff, 217ff u. 245ff)
Die Erfahrungen von Steinschneiders Vater Max Steinschneider mit dem Antisemiten
und Mentor Hitlers Dietrich Eckart behandelt der Bericht:
Friedrich Paul Heller: "Judenfeinde im Suff2. In: Blick nach rechts,
15. Juli 1999
Der Hessische Rundfunk sendete im Jahre 2000 ein von Ute Steinbicker und
Hans Schmitt verfasstes Radiofeature über A.M. Steinschneider.
[Translated from the German by David M. Fishlow, Washington
DC, USA, a distant relative of Steinschneider's mother Léopoldine,