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Ernst Eduard Hirsch

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Ernst Eduard Hirsch (1902-1985) came to Turkey in 1933 after being dismissed from the University of Frankfurt am Main and declining an offer from the University of Amsterdam, which probably saved him from Nazi persecution when Germany invaded Holland. He was the youngest émigré professor at the University of Istanbul. Hirsch quickly learned Turkish and soon wrote books in the language. He was a great teacher of commercial law from 1933 to 1943. In 1943 he moved to the Law Faculty in Ankara where he became interested in the philosophy of law. He taught legal philosophy and legal sociology in addition to commercial and maritime law. At the same time he worked as an advisor to the Ministry of Justice. His appreciable influence was made on public policy and legal structure of the country, especially on the modernization and westernization of the commercial code. As a well-known authority on all aspects of commercial law he wrote numerous books and articles Some of his publications are: Hirsch, Ernst E.: Rezeption als sozialer Prozess: Erläutert am Beispiel der Türkei; Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1981. "Vom schweizerischen Gesetz zum türkischen Recht, in: ZSR 1976, Vol. I. pp.. 223- 248. „Vier Phasen im Ablauf eines zeitgenössischen Rezep¬tionsprozess“, in ZvglRWiss, 69, 1968.pp. 182 ff. „Die Rezeption fremden Rechts als sozialer Prozess“, in Festgabe für Friedrich Bülow, Berlin, 1960. pp. 121 ff. and in Recht im sozialen Ordnungsgefüge, Berlin, 1966, pp. 89 ff. “Die Einflüsse und Wirkungen ausländisches Rechts auf das heutige türkische Recht,” in ZHR 116, 1954, pp. 201 ff. Rezeption als sozialer Prozess. Erläutert am Beispiel der Türkei. Berlin: Duncker & Humbolt, 1981; “Vom schweizerischen Gesetz zum türkischen Recht,” in ZSR 1976, Vol. I, pp. 223-248; “Die Rezeption des schweizerischen Rechts in der Türkei.” Reports of the Conference of International Committee of Comparative Law in Istanbul, September 1955; “Das schweizerische Zivilgesetzbuch in der Türkei,” in SJZ, 50, 1954, pp. 337 ff; “Bericht über die türkische Gesetzgebung türkische Gesetzgebung, 1935,” in Legislazione Internazionale, IV, p.55; “Bericht über die türkische Gesetzgebung 1936-37,” in Legislazione Internazionale, VI, p. 155; “Bericht über die türkische Gesetzgebung, Jahr 1938,” in Legislazione Internazionale, VII, p. 20; Die Verfassung der türkischen Republik. Frankfurt a.M., 1966. E.E.Hirsch, Anılarım: Kayzer Dönemi, Weimar Cumhuriyeti, Atatürk Ülkesi. Translated by Fatma Suphi, Ankara: Tübitak Popüler Bilim Kitapları, 8th printing, 2000. The original title in German is Aus des Kaisers Zeiten durch Weimarer Republik ins Land Atatürks, Eine Umzeitgemasse Autobiographie. 1982.

At the time the Law Faculty in Ankara was not allotted funds for foreign professors, hence there was the danger that Hirsch would be unemployed thereby losing the residence permit. Moreover he had also refused to have his German passport renewed, for he refused the letter (J) stamped on his passport indicating that he was Jewish. Although with the help of Phillip Schwartz he (and a few other émigrés) had a Czech passport it was a debatable question whether the Turkish Government would recognize a passport of a government that was in exile in London. Turkish citizenship solved two problems in one coup, employment and citizenship. See: Ernst E. Hirsch, Anılarım, op.cit, p.305 and submitted a series of reports and memoranda to the government. Sadly, none of these have survived. He was well respected in government circles, since his opinion was sought repeatedly. He took his responsibilities quite seriously and in a short time considered Turkey as his fatherland.

Hirsch was granted Turkish citizenship in 1943 and stayed in the country until 1952 when he went to the Free University of Berlin. His memoirs were first published in Germany in 1982 but later his students and assistants decided that the book should be available in Turkish. It is a very detailed story of his life both in Germany and Turkey. The first two chapters are devoted to his life in Germany until 1933 when at the age of 31 he left for Turkey. In these chapters he writes about his family, education at home and at school, the “golden 1920s,” Jewish life and customs of the period. Chapter III is about his first impressions of Turkey, the “birth pains of the University of Istanbul,” his private life and the social life of émigré scientists in Istanbul, including his work and courses at the Law Faculty, and his relations with students and colleagues. In the second part of this chapter he reflects on his years in Ankara, his application for and acceptance of citizenship, his invitation to occupy the post at the Law Faculty in Ankara once he became a citizen. When Hirsch went to the Free University in Berlin, his intention was to teach there temporarily. However, he remained in Germany and was twice appointed Chancellor of that university.

Hirsch’s profound influence on Turkey is depicted clearly in his memoirs. Well-known Turkish personalities – Türkân Rado, Bülent Davran and Hıfzı Veldet – were his collaborators. Professor Ünal Tekinalp, a retired law professor who refers to him as his mentor recalled:

Hirsch is known in Turkey as a scholar of commercial law. However, he also has another sided as a law sociologist. Hirsch gained fame outside of Germany with this second personality after 1950. His works have made echoes in other European countries, Japan and the United States. It can even be said that as of the 1950s this second side of his surpassed his fame as a leader in the field of commercial law.

This article is based on Andic, F and Reisman, A. (2007) “Migration and transfer of knowledge: Refugees from nazism and Turkish legal reform.” Forum historiae iuris. Also Also available on SSRN at For additional reading on Ernst Eduard Hirsch's Turkish exile see Arnold Reisman TURKEY'S MODERNIZATION: Refugees from Nazism and Ataturk's Vision

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