The Ph.D. Program in History

at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York

Non-GC Events

Irit Bloch on “Anti-Semitism and the Weimar Judiciary through the Case of the Magdeburg Affair:

Wednesday, January 20, 12:30 p.m., Kovno Room

Center for Jewish History 

 15 W 16th Street NY, NY

Anti-Semitism and the Weimar Judiciary through the Case of the Magdeburg Affair: Towards a Solution to the Judiciary Political Bias Paradox

Presentation by Irit Bloch

Historians agree that the Weimar Republic’s legal system demonstrated a clear political tendency favoring the right over the left, and that Weimar judges undermined and contributed to the downfall of democracy and the Republic. Still, discussions of the history of the judiciary in Weimar raise both historical and historiographical problems. The historical problem presents an unsolved paradox: Judges who were bound to a code of law and to a certain set of legal practices (including the rule of law) circumvented laws and produced judgments in accordance with their ideological positions while still abiding by the law or, at least in most cases, seeming to do so. The second problem relates to historians’ explanations of these political legal decisions. Most historiographical explanations rest on judges’ political convictions and social background as well as their disloyalty to the Republic. In effect, the historiography explains the judges’ motivations to produce slanted judgments but does not explain how these decisions were actually made.


This paper will address both these problems through the case of the Magdeburg Affair in which a Jewish man was accused of a murder he did not commit. The actual perpetrator, a retired soldier and a right-wing sympathizer, was known to the police and the judges in charge of the investigation yet they failed to connect him with the murder. This paper will discuss the ways these judges bent and circumvented the law which led to a near indictment of an innocent man; and how this affair fits into the general historiography of the Weimar legal system and anti-Semitism in the legal system.


Irit Bloch, a doctoral candidate in European and Jewish History at the Graduate Center, CUNY and a 2014-15 Dr. Sophie Bookhalter Graduate Research Fellow at the Center for Jewish History, will deliver the seminar. A formal response will be offered by Nitzan Lebovic, Assistant Professor of History at Lehigh University.


This event is intended for an academic audience; space is limited.
Please RSVP to Chris Barthel at or 212.294.8324

Center for Jewish History  |  |  15 W 16th Street NY, NY 10011  |   Tel: 212.294.8301