English summary of the publication

In order to practice as a lawyer in Austria, it was necessary not only to have gained a doctorate in law, completed several years of practical training and passed the bar exam, but also to be registered in the lawyers‘ roll. A lawyer’s right to represent parties covered all courts and administrative authorities of the Empire and, later, of the Republic of Austria, for all judicial and extra-judicial, all public and private matters.

From 1849 onwards, the legal profession was organized autonomously through bar associations in each province (in 1938: seven provinces including the largest province consisting of Vienna, Lower Austria and Burgenland).

Women were only allowed to study law from 1918/19 onwards and in 1928; Marianne Beth became the first woman to be entered into the lawyer’s roll of the Vienna Bar Association.

The explanation for the high number of „Jewish“* lawyers dates back to the monarchy. From the mid-19th century onwards, it was usual for Jewish businessmen to send their sons to university - preferably to study medicine or law - in order to further their social advancement. Moreover, being a member of the Jewish religion was, at the time, a de facto barrier to a career in the civil service. This meant that in 1893, for example, nearly 58% of the lawyers in Vienna were “Jewish”.

Anti-Semitism faced by Jews in Vienna was given a boost in 1895 through the electoral success of the Christian Social Party under Karl Lueger, and anti-Jewish feeling intensified further after the First World War.

However, no explicitly anti-Semitic laws were passed during either this period or during the period of Austro-fascism which followed the dissolution of parliament in March 1933.

The total number of lawyers rose considerably after 1918 (from 2,231 in 1918 to 3,072 in 1937) and Jews continued to account for a high percentage: in 1936 the proportion in Vienna was 62%. As a consequence, there were demands from anti-Semitic quarters for a strict quota on “Jews” at the Bar. Given the dire economic situation in the legal profession since the end of the war, this would have led to a welcome reduction in the number of lawyers, especially since recruitment freezes in the civil service and personnel cutbacks in banking and industry, particularly since the world economic crises, meant that many non-Jewish jurists were rushing to join the Bar. Alongside this “overcrowding of the profession”, lawyers were faced with a general decline in business, the regular un-collectability of fees, the steadily increasing number of legal aid cases, new laws reducing lawyer’s fees, and barrack-room lawyers, etc. Jewish lawyers were worse hit by the poor economic situation - especially outside of the larger cities - because of frequent boycotts encouraged by the increasing number of National Socialist supporters.

The first government intervention in lawyers’ right to practice came after the Schutzbund (Defense League) uprising in February 1934. The justice minister could now disbar lawyers on the grounds of certain anti-government actions, in particular activities linked to the now legal political parties (Social Democratic Party, Communist Party, and National Socialist Party). Moreover, several lawyers were imprisoned in “internment camps” and at the end of March 1934. The government further encroached on the autonomy of the bar associations by revoking the mandates held by all social democratic committee members. After the corporative constitution was adopted in 1934, the bar associations were occupied with absorption of the legal profession into one of the seven Berufsstände (Corporate Groups) set out by the constitution, each of which was required to send representatives to the Bundeswirtschaftsrat (Federal Economic Affairs Council) and the Bundeskulturrat (Federal Cultural Council), which were advisory bodies, and to the Bundestag (Federal Parliament) as the decision making legislative body. It was proposed that lawyers should be integrated into the corporate group of the “Free Professions”, although only the loosest possible affiliation was demanded on the part of the lawyers, who wished to retain their status and organizational structure. In 1935, however, the government intervened dramatically in the organization of the legal profession by revoking all mandates held by members of legal professional organizations, abolishing free election and appointing new functionaries itself. In Vienna these measures showed obvious anti-Semitic tendencies, since of the twelve Jewish lawyers on the committee, only two were re-appointed, and this did not include the Zionist Siegfried Kantor who had been elected president of the Vienna Bar Association in 1932.

At the time of the “Anschluss” of Austria to the German Reich in March 1938, the Vienna Bar Association had 2,541 members, but by the end of 1938 only 771.

In fact, 1,804 persecuted people were struck off the lawyers’ roll of the bar association for Vienna, Lower Austria and Burgenland during the Nazi era, the majority at the end of 1938 because they were classed as Jews by the Nuremberg Race Laws. A further 110 lawyers were struck off the lawyers’ roll of the other Austrian Bar Associations. Of the twenty-five female lawyers listed in 1938, twenty suffered persecution during the Nazi era and could not longer practice their profession. Due to a lack of conclusive sources, the total number of members in the Austrian Bar Associations at the time of the “Anschluss” can only be estimated, but is thought to be around 3,100 members.

388 former Austrian lawyers were deported from 1938 onwards. This number includes both those who died in concentration and extermination camps and those who survived to experience liberation in 1945. Only 13 former lawyers survived these deportations; of these only six had been persecuted as Jews.

A relatively high number of lawyers who emigrated (874), at least 249, returned to Austria after 1945, though 23 subsequently re-emigrated. The reasons for returning were often linked to the difficulty of starting a new professional life in exile, but also stemmed from the wish to participate in the building of a new democratic Austria based on a functioning legal state.

This shortcut of the ENGLISH SUMMARY of the Book “Advokaten 1938” has been translated by Mrs. Joanna White (Doktorandin am Institut für Zeitgeschichte, Universität Wien).

* The inverted commas here indicate that many of these lawyers no longer actively practiced the Jewish faith, but were still considered as Jewish by contemporaries and specifically by the respective laws under the Nazi era.