Schmitt, Grewe and the Third Reich: The Legacy of Nazi Lawyers for Contemporary Debate

Wednesday, 4 December 2013, 4:00pm - 6:00pm, IWM library
“He who invokes humanity wants to cheat.” So runs the famous phrase from Carl Schmitt’s 1927 Concept of the Political. Schmitt, one of the 20th century’s greatest antiliberal thinkers, and legal theorist of the Nazi state, also supplied a theoretical justification for Nazi conquest of Eastern Europe in the 1930s with his concept of “Grossraum.” A young lawyer in the Nazi foreign office in the late ‘30s, and early ‘40s, Wilhelm Grewe shared this Schmittian worldview but after 1945 rose through the ranks to become one of West Germany’s leading diplomats and a noted historian of international law. How do we make sense of the career of Wilhelm Grewe? To what extent was the mainstream of foreign policy realism in the postwar Atlantic world influenced by Nazi international lawyers like Schmitt and Grewe?

Matthew Specter is Associate Professor of History at Central Connecticut State University and IWM Visiting Fellow

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