Wolfgang Abendroth

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Wolfgang Abendroth
Wolfgang Abendroth's grave

Wolfgang Abendroth (2 May 1906 – 15 September 1985) was a socialist German jurist and political scientist. He was born in Elberfeld, now a part of Wuppertal in North Rhine-Westphalia. Abendroth was an important contributor to the constitutional foundation of postwar West Germany. He briefly held a professorship in law in East Germany. As he was opposed to Stalinism, he left for West Germany, where he was appointed professor in political science at Marburg in 1950. Abendroth also served as a senior judge in the state court of Hesse.

In the late 1950s, at the University of Marburg, Abendroth oversaw the habilitation in political science of major German philosopher, sociologist, and political theorist Jürgen Habermas. Habermas dedicated his habilitation work, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society, to Abendroth, in particular because Habermas valued Abendroth's role in re-founding postwar West Germany as a liberal constitutional state and in engaging in vigorous public debate in the spirit of the ideal Habermas laid out in his first major study.[1]

Personal history from birth to end of World War II[edit]

According to the biography [2] provided by the German Resistance Memorial Center:

"Abendroth was born in Elberfeld in 1906 and grew up in a family of Social Democrats. His father was a teacher. He joined the Young Communist League of Germany (KJVD) at the age of 14. As a result of his agitation for a united front of Social Democrats and Communists, he was expelled from the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) in 1928. In 1933, he lost his job as a junior lawyer for political reasons, and went on to provide legal advice for many opponents of the regime. Following his first arrest, Abendroth emigrated to Switzerland, where he gained his PhD. After acting as a courier for some time, he decided to return to Berlin in 1935. There, he was an active member of the resistance until he was imprisoned for several years in 1937. Forcibly drafted into one of the 999th Division’s “probation units” in February 1943, he soon deserted to the Greek partisan Greek People's Liberation Army (ELAS). He was taken prisoner by the British, and carried out political education for opponents of the regime in prisoner of war camps in Egypt".

According to a brief biography included in his book 'A Short History of the European Working Class'[3] Abendroth was imprisoned by the British in 1944 and "after being held, with other German anti-fascists, in British internment camps, he returned to Germany in 1946 where he taught at the universities of Leipzig and Jena".

Personal history after World War II[edit]

In 2017 approximately 100,000 pages of documents were leaked to the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) with information related to the activities of Reinhard Gehlen (1902-1979), the post-World War II former head of the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) and the CIA-affiliated anti-Communist Gehlen Organisation (1946–56). According to the leaked documents Reinhard Gehlen, a prominent Nazi before the war, authorized the conduct of physical surveillance of Prof. Wolfgang Abendroth:

"[t]he archive material includes a carefully composed dossier on the lawyer and political scientist Wolfgang Abendroth, who was banned from working as a legal trainee in 1933 due to his socialist leanings. A few years later, Abendroth was sent into a punishment battalion of the Wehrmacht active in the war in Greece. He deserted from the Army and joined the Greek resistance movement. After the war, he commenced teaching as a lecturer at the University of Leipzig. This was sufficient to place him in the first ranks of Reinhard Gehlen’s list of “enemies of the state.” Abendroth was surrounded by Gehlen’s agents, who diligently sent their observations and notes to Gehlen, all of which are found in the 100,000 files of his private archive"[4].


  1. ^ Peter Uwe Hohendahl, "Jürgen Habermas: 'The Public Sphere' (1964)," trans. Patricia Russian, New German Critique 3 (Autumn 1974), p. 45-8.
  2. ^ "German Resistance Memorial Center - Biographie". www.gdw-berlin.de. Retrieved 2019-11-15.
  3. ^ Abendroth, W. (1972), A short history of the European working class, London: NLB
  4. ^ https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/12/27/germ-d27.html