The University of Wisconsin Press

Law / European History / Holocaust / Judaica / German Studies


Carl Schmitt and the Jews
The "Jewish Question," the Holocaust,
and German Legal Theory

Raphael Gross
Translated by Joel Golb
Foreword by Peter C. Caldwell

George L. Mosse Series in Modern European Cultural and Intellectual History

A conclusive reexamination of antisemitism in the life and work of controversial German legal and political theorist Carl Schmitt

German jurist and legal theorist Carl Schmitt (1888–1985) significantly influenced Western political and legal thinking in the last century, yet his life and work have also stirred considerable controversy. While his ideas have been used and diffused by prominent philosophers on both the left and the right, such as Jürgen Habermas and Leo Strauss, his Nazi-era past, especially his active efforts to remove Jewish influence from German law, has cast a cloud over his life and oeuvre. Still, his many supporters have generally been successful in claiming that Schmitt's was an "antisemitism of opportunity," a temporary affectation to gain favor with the Nazis.

In Carl Schmitt and the Jews, available in English for the first time, historian Raphael Gross vigorously repudiates this "opportunism thesis." Through a reading of Schmitt's corpus, some of which became available only after his death, Gross highlights the importance of the "Jewish Question" on the breadth of Schmitt's work. According to Gross, Schmitt's antisemitism was at the core of his work—before, during, and after the Nazi era. His influential polarities of "friend and foe," "law and nomos," "behemoth and Leviathan," and "Katechon and Antichrist" emerge from a conceptual template in which "the Jew" is defined as adversary, undermining the Christian order with secularization. The presence of this template at the heart of Schmitt's work, Gross contends, calls for a major reassessment of Schmitt's role within contemporary cultural and legal theory.

"No one interested in Carl Schmitt can afford to ignore Raphael Gross's powerful discussion of how intimately linked were Schmitt's anti-Semitism and his political theory. Gross persuasively argues that Schmitt's post-1 933 writings on the "Jewish" origins of universalism and positivism had a central importance for both Nazi aims and his work as a whole. A new afterword demonstrates that Gross's work has elicited a broad discussion and inserts his own moral and intellectual voice into contemporary debates."—Anson Rabinbach, Princeton University

"Gross's study not only documents, analyzes, and highlights Schmitt's anti-Semitism, but also demonstrates in great and nuanced detail how his anti-Jewish attitudes permeated the very structure and grounds of Schmitt's thought and categories."—Steven E. Aschheim, Hebrew University, Jerusalem

George L. Mosse logo
George L. Mosse Series in Modern European Cultural and Intellectual History

Raphael Gross is director of the Leo Baeck Institute in London, director of the Jewish Museum in Frankfurt, and reader in history at the University of Sussex. Joel Golb is an independent editor and literary historian. He lives in Berlin.

The translation of this work was supported by a grant from the Goethe-Institute

Media & bookseller inquiries regarding review copies, events, and interviews can be directed to the publicity department at or (608) 263-0734. (If you want to examine a book for possible course use, please see our Course Books page. If you want to examine a book for possible rights licensing, please see Rights & Permissions.)

the cover of Gross's book is black, with red type, and an old photo.

July 2007

LC: 2006031771 JC
344 pp.  6 x 9

Book icon
Cloth $45.00 s
ISBN 978-0-299-22240-6
Shopping cart ADD TO CART


Home | Books | Journals | Events | Textbooks | Authors | Related | Search | Order | Contact

If you have trouble accessing any page in this web site, contact our Web manager.

Updated July 20, 2011

© 2011, The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System