It’s an historic day in the world of German law following the announcement that the Beck Verlag, a prominent legal publisher, is renaming one of its most well-known titles, the Palandt Civil Code Commentary.
I spoke and wrote briefly on this topic in my presentation and paper at Yale Law Library’s legal citation symposium this past spring. The subject of my work was a comparison of German and American legal secondary sources; however, as the English-language literature explaining the phenomenon of German legal commentaries is sparse, I thought it would be helpful to offer a brief look at the history and role of the commentary in German legal bibliography.
My paper, which can be downloaded at https://works.bepress.com/jennifer_allison/88/, includes an explanation of the controversy surrounding the Palandt in footnote #33.
According to the #palandtumbennen (#renamepalandt) movement, “After the National Socialists took over power in 1933, Otto Liebmann became the target of evergrowing anti-semitic repression. Due to rising pressure, he felt coerced to sell his publishing company to Mr. Heinrich Beck (the father of today’s company owner).” (https://palandtumbenennen.de/english-version/) Then, Beck renamed Liebmann’s Civil Code commentary after Otto Palandt, a prominent lawyer whose role in the National Socialist regime was to ensure that new lawyers understood and followed the Third Reich’s legal ideology.
In recent years, in response to this injustice, the #palandtumbennen (#renamepalandt) movement, has gained significant traction in legal circles. Beck, however, had refused to change the Palandt‘s name back to that of its original author, or to anything else.
According to reports in the German media, that changed this week.
The headline of the July 27 article on the topic in the Munich daily Süddeutsche Zeitung put it plainly: “Verlag beendet Ehrung von Nazis” (“Publisher Ends its Honoring of Nazis”).
As the article points out, because it’s basically required to have the Palandt on the shelf anywhere that legal research in Germany is done, “prominent National Socialists are still very present in German courts in the year 2021.” According the article, Beck has decided to rename this important work after Christian Grüneberg, a judge on the Federal Court of Justice who is also the commentary’s current coordinating editor.
The article also reports that Beck is renaming its Schönfelder statutory compilation as well. The Schönfelder is a small red looseleaf binder containing the major codes and statutes, and it is so prominent and necessary to the study of law that basically every law student in Germany has it on their person at all times. Because its namesake was also a lawyer in the Nazi regime, this compilation will now be named after Mathias Habersack, a civil law professor at the law faculty of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich.
A hearty “vielen Dank” to the Beck Verlag for doing the right thing.
(Of course, the new honorees are both men, as are nearly all of those for whom German commentaries are named, but one step at a time…)