The beginning of the end of German Jewry


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24 July 1933

Letter informing the judge Franz Bunzel of his forced retirement

The Hamburg judge Franz Bunzel (1896–1973) had an exemplary career. The son of a merchant, he grew in a wealthy family in Eppendorf, Hamburg, and, after completing high school, studied law in Leipzig. He interrupted his studies for two years in order to serve in the First World War and in 1918 received the Hanseatic Cross for distinguished military service. He then resumed his law studies in Leipzig, graduating with honors in 1920. In 1923 he swore an oath on the constitution, and after working for three years as a public prosecutor in the Hamburg justice department he embarked on a career in the civil service as a judge at the State Court.

But in July 1933 his career came to an abrupt end. Around 15 percent of the judges in Hamburg were Jewish and like many other Jews Bunzel fell victim to the ideological alignment (Gleichschaltung) of the civil service as dictated by the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service. On 24 July he received a letter from the justice department informing him that he was being retired as of November that year. The letter also suggested that he take leave until that time. Although Bunzel had served in the First World War, he was unable to claim the exemption granted to other frontline soldiers. As a result, he was also not allowed to work as a lawyer.

Nevertheless, thanks to his legal knowledge and the commercial training he had received during his clerkship at his father‘s company, Bunzel was able to find new employment with a private bank. However, in 1936 the bank‘s Jewish owner was forced to cease operations and emigrated. Bunzel oversaw the liquidation of the business, a process that dragged on until 1938. At this time his pension as a judge was being paid into a special account to which he had no access. Seeing no future for himself in Germany, Bunzel immigrated to the United States via the Netherlands with his fiancée, Annelise Münden.

Franziska Bogdanov

Categorie(s): frontline soldiers | Hamburg | lawyers | occupational ban
Letter from the Hamburg Justice Department to the judge Franz Bunzel informing him of his forced retirement, Hamburg, 24 July 1933
Gift of Annelise B. Bunzel