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A Bone for the Nazis

In response to:

The Enemy of Liberalism from the May 15, 1997 issue

To the Editors:

In my attempt to offer a condensed summary of the 1932 constitutional court case (Preussen contra Reich) in which Carl Schmitt was involved [“The Enemy of Liberalism,” NYR, May 15], I stated that the appointment of a Reich commissar for the state of Prussia was “an attempt to block the Nazis from coming to power there.” This is incorrect. President Hindenburg’s appointment of Reich Chancellor von Papen to this post was explicitly directed at the Social Democratic coalition in Prussia, and thus was a bone tossed to the Nazis. However, it was also part of a more elaborate strategy devised by the defense minister von Schleicher to stem Hitler’s rise by appearing decisive against the left, which is what Imeant to suggest. For a detailed account of the case see David Dyzenhaus’s recent article, “Legal Theory in the Collapse of Weimar: Contemporary Lessons?” in American Political Science Review (March 1997), which also contains a more nuanced account of the court’s final—and rather contradictory—decision. I am grateful to Professor Dyzenhaus and Professor Fritz Stern for pointing out this error.

Mark Lilla
New York City

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