Adolf Moritz Steinschneider Archiv

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Adolf Moritz Steinschneider

Biographical data

Berlin 1894 - 1925

Adolf Moritz Steinschneider was born in Berlin on June 20, 1894, the eldest son of attorney and jurist Max Steinschneider and his wife Léopoldine, née Fischlowitz. His grandfather was the well known Judaic scholar Moritz Steinschneider (1816-1907). His father Max Steinschneider was involved with the founding of consumer and producer cooperatives, and was one of the founders of the German League for Human Rights. In 1899 and 1900, respectively, his brothers Gustav and Karl came into the world.

Max Steinschneide, Léopoldine, née Fischlowitz, Adolf Moritz

After a sheltered childhood in the Döberitz residential area developed by his father, and his studies at the French Gymnasium in Berlin, Steinschneider studied law and business administration in Berlin and Munich. Around 1915, he became acquainted with Adrien Turel.

In 1917, Steinschneider was called up for military service, first stationed in Krossen. A year later, he was transferred to the press archive of the Foreign Office in Berlin. In 1918-19, Steinschneider played an active rôle in the Revolution on the side of the Spartacists. After the collapse of the Spartacist rebellion in January 1919, he was sentenced to a term in prison, which he served from June 1919 until March 1920 in the Plötzensee prison in Berlin.

After release from prison, he underwent training in the Berlin Kammergericht court and the law firm of Max Tucholski and Felix Wolff, sitting for the examination for admission to the bar in 1923.

During the early 1920´s, he participated, together with Adrien Turel and his brother Gustav in the meetings of the Working Group for Biogenetic Psychology, a circle of young intellectuals and artists centered on the Berlin psychologist Arthur Schinnagel.

Frankfurt-on-the-Main 1926-1933

In 1926, after a brief stint practicing law in the firm of Dr. Seckel in Celle, Steinschneider began his own practice in Frankfurt (at Untermain Quais, 20), where after dealing with several cases involving "squabbles among various political and financial swindlers, proletarians, divorces, alimony and artists' fees," he opted to have no more to do "with litigation."

In 1927, Steinschneider's children Marie-Louise and Stefan were born: the daughter, Marie Louise on June 7 to Eva Hillman Reichwein, who at that point was still legally married to the educator Adolf Reichwein); and the son Stefan, on Sept. 18, to Frieda Kaetzler. Frieda Kaetzler and Steinschneider were probably married in 1926. The marriage ended in divorce after the birth of the son, but his relations with Frieda Kaetzler remained friendly thereafter.

In 1928, Steinschneider's markedly political defense of the murderer Friedrich Wiechmann aroused wide-ranging notoriety, resulting in social difficultiesfor his wife and his three children. The course of the spectacular trial, in which the sexual researcher Magnus Hirschfeld testified, is documented in the first volume of Schriften zur Psychologie und Sociologie von Sexualität und Verbrechen. [Studies in the Psychology and Sociology of Sexuality and Criminal Law] (Stuttgart: 1928.)

From about 1927, until 1930, Adrien Turel lived in Steinschneiders spacious law office and living quarters at Untermain Quais, 20. Using this address, and with Steinschneider's support, Turel published in 1928 the pamphlet Keinen Gott als nur de Menschheit: Enfügung de Diagonalkategorie des Werdens in das Sein und in die Arbeit [No God, Only Humankind: Inserting Diagonal Categories into Becoming in Existence and Work (sic).]

Steinschneider's political sympathies lay on the left, although he was a member of no political party. He appeared frequently in Frankfurt in the context of political trials as a speaker on behalf of the Communist Party, but his political home was rather with the Socialist Workers Party (SAP for its German initials), which upon the merger in 1931 of leftist opposition groupings became the German Socialist Party (SPD).

Among Steinschneiders friends and acquaintances figured, among others, Paul Froelich, Joseph ("Jola") Lang, Arthur Rosenberg, Karl Korsch and Wolfgag Abendroth. Steinschneider appeared also as the attorney for the Rote Hilfe ("Red Aid"), for the German Peace Association, and the German League for the Rights of Man. He was also the legal representative of the Soviet commercial mission in Germany.

In the last years of the Weimar Republic, there were numerous cases in which Steinschneider represented the whole of the Social Democratic and Communist left.

In the struggle against the gathering storm of National Socialism and its growing acceptance in widening bourgeois circles, he became a frequent target for smears. In his several political trials he faced off against National Socialist Workers Party members Friedrich Kirebs, Jakob Sprenger and Roland Freisler.

Switzerland and France 1933-1944

A few days after the Reichstag fire of Feb. 27, 1933, Steinschnier fled-having been warned by some police officers-"head over heels" to Switzerland. His office and living quarters at Untermain Quais were sealed by SA Troops. Swiss immigration authorities tolerated emigrants living in Zürich under the asylum laws, but denied them nevertheless the right to work and to engage in political activity. Eva Reichwein and Friederike Kaetzler followed Steinschneider with both children to Switzerland. Eva Reichwein soon returned, in the summer of 1934, to familiar ground with her daughter Marie-Louise, going back to Frankfurt. Brothers Karl and Gustav emigrated to Palestine.

First attempts at publishing activity

Steinschneider obtained some financial assistance from, among others, Serge Turel, the brother of his friend Adrien Turel. He distanced himself from Turel because of the latter's ambiguous attitude toward National Socialism. Steinschnieder took an interest in political organizing and discussions, maintaining contact with, among others, the physician and anarchist Fritz Brupbacher and the publisher Emil Oprecht.

February 1935, intestinal surgery.

In March, 1935, Steinschneider sent his stage play New Dreamplay to Friedrich Wolf (New York), as well as to the producers Lindtberg (Zürich and Tel Aviv) and Burjan (Prague). He considered emigrating to Palestine. In June, 1935, the Swiss immigation authorities used a trip of Steinschneider's to Paris as an occasion for withdrawing the prominent exile's residence permit.

Steinschneider, once again in Paris without any income, was dependent on the financial assistance of his brothers Karl and Gustav, living in Palestine. His efforts as a legal consultant, as a factory worker or as a salesmen to make a living, were either fruitless or had only brief success.

Steinschneider wrote numerous pieces on politics and social criticism. His extensive letters to his brother Gustav in Palestine were seen in the Chronik des Exils und Ideentagebuch [Chronicle of Exile and Journal of Ideas]. In 1937, together with the writer Anselm Ruest and the lawyer Afred Apfel, he founded the Entr'aide des savants et gens de lettres allemand réfugiés [Society for the Support of German Refugee Scholars, Artists and Writers.] He took part in the cultural and political life of the German emigré community in Paris. Debate with Georg Berhard. - Co-author of the pamphlet, published in early 1937 by the World Jewish Congress, Die wirtschafliche Vernichtunsgkampf gegen die Juden im Dritten Reich ["The Economic Extermination Campaign against the Jews in the Third Reich"]. In April, 1933 Steinschneider pens the article Strukturelle Veränderungen in der jüdischen Bevölkerung Deutschlands ["Structural Changes in the Jewish Community of Germany"].

Because of the ever-growing threat of the Jewish policy of Germany, Eva Reichwein and her daughter Marie-Louise join Steinschneider in Paris. The family´s economic conditions gradually become tolerable as Eva Reichwein's manual skills enable her to find work.

After the British and French declarations of war on Germany on September 3, 1939, Steinschneider, as a German citizen, is interned in various camps, among them Villberbon near Blois (in the Loire), later at Montmorillon. Eva and Marie-Louis must leave Paris, and set out on the search for Steinschneider (after a stay in Angers), finally in Blois.

After the invastion of France by German troops in June, 1941, the family fled by separate routes to the southern part of the country. Eva and Marie-Louise finally arrived in Bellac, near Limoges; Steinschneider was interned by the Vichy Government in various camps, among them Mauriac, and was forced to render labor service at hard labor. Becoming gravely ill, he was first hospitalized in Clermont-Ferrand, then in a camp for those incapable of labor, and in the Summer of 1942, he was released in Bellac.

There followed two hopeful years of exile under modest living conditions in Bellac. In 1942, Adolf and Eva were married. Devoting his time to work on his book Menschheit und Polarität ["Humanity and Polarity"], Steinschneider awaited the end of the war and a return to his home, where he would be able to join in the rebuilding of a democratic Germany.

On June 10, 1944, the "Das Reich" battalion of the SS perpetrated the massacre at Oradour-on-Glane. The following day, June 11, 1944, the SS troops targeted the small town of Bellac, 40 kilometers away. In his attempt to get away from Bellac, Steinschneider was overtaken by SS troops and together with his friend Hans Lauterbach was dragged out and murdered. The exact locations of his death and his burial remain unknown to this day.

[Translated from the German by David M. Fishlow, Washington DC, USA, a distant relative of Steinschneider's mother Léopoldine, née Fischlowitz.]