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Prof. Dr. jur. Kurt Ferdinand Lothar Perels
© Enge Zeit

Kurt Perels * 1878

Edmund-Siemers-Allee 1 (Hauptgebäude Universität Hamburg) (Eimsbüttel, Rotherbaum)

JG. 1878


further stumbling stones in Edmund-Siemers-Allee 1 (Hauptgebäude Universität Hamburg):
Raphael Broches, Ernst Delbanco, Friedrich Geussenhainer, Hedwig Klein, Agathe Lasch, Gerhard Lassar, Hans Konrad Leipelt, Reinhold Meyer, Martha Muchow, Margaretha Rothe

Kurt Ferdinand Lothar Perels, born 3/9/1878, flight to death on 9/10/1933
Gustav-Freytag-Strasse 7/Edmund-Siemers-Allee 1

Kurt Perels came from a well-educated middle-class family and was born in Berlin as the son of Ferdinand Perels and his wife Anna, née Volkmar. His father had Jewish parents but converted to Christianity early in his life. His wife Anna was also Christian, so their children Kurt, Friederike, Leopold and Ernst were educated in the Christian faith.

Ferdinand Perels was a Geheimer Admiralitätsrat, a high-ranking civil servant in the Reich Admiralty and professor of International Law of the Seas at the University of Berlin. His sons Kurt and Leopold followed his example; Ernst, his youngest son, studied history and became a respected medievalist at the University of Berlin.

After graduating from the high school Joachimsthalsches Gymnasium, Kurt Perels studied law in Kiel, Heidelberg and Berlin. In 1899, he became an articled clerk and a year later earned his doctorate with a thesis on Streitigkeiten Deutscher Bundesstaaten aufgrund des Art. 76 der Reichsverfassung ("Disputes between German Federal States Based on Art. 76 of the Reich Constitution”). After completing his studies, Kurt Perels practiced in court and worked for the Ältesten der Kaufmannschaft (the "Elders of the Merchants”) in Berlin.

He received his state doctorate from Albert Hänel in Kiel. In 1908, Kurt Perels was appointed Professor in Greifswald. Only a year later, he came to Hamburg to succeed Richard Thoma as head of the Colonial Institute, where he had the Chair for Public Law and managed the setting up of the Library of Public Law. Perels was one of the first full professors of the newly created Faculty of Law of the University of Hamburg and its first dean, having played a substantial part in its founding, influencing the design of its legal form and its structure. In 1922, he additionally took the office of a Councilor at the Hamburg High Court, thus automatically becoming a member of the High Administrative Court of Hamburg. Kurt Perels held his offices as judge and professor until his death. Besides his professional duties, he had been a member of the Patriotic Society since 1912.
After the death of Perels’ common-law spouse in 1926, the professor grew more and more lonely, and his colleagues noticed that he was also mentally off-color. Perels’ life changed radically in summer of 1933. Intrinsically, he would not have feared political persecution, as he was died-in-the-wool nationalist, a devoted Prussian and monarchist. But after the Nazis’ rise to power, he had to present an Ariernachweis, a document attesting there were no Jews in his ancestry.

The "Law for the Restoration of Professional Civil Service” of April 7th, 1933 prescribed that civil servants unable to prove their "Aryan” descent were to be forcibly retired. Kurt Perels was a baptized Christian, but in the questionnaire, he had to enter his father’s Jewish parents, fully aware of the fact that this would cost him his office. Only the intercession of his colleagues might gain him a slight respite. Leaving Germany does not seem to have been an option for him.
Losing his office and his repute severely affected his conservative and Prussian beliefs. This is apparent in Perels’ letter to Albrecht Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, the head of the Institute for Foreign Politics of August 25th, 1933: "Dear Herr Mendelssohn, our Dean today gave me a notification that moved and depressed like hardly anything I experienced in my sixty semesters as an academic teacher. I tried to encounter you at the Kleine Rechtshaus, but you had just left. But I at least want to tell you by this letter that, whatever decision may result, nothing of all that will be lost that I gained in the many years of you and me working together.”
Two weeks later, on September 10th, 1933, Kurt Perels committed suicide at the age of 56. The cremation took place on September 14th at the new crematory of the Ohlsdorf Cemetery. The Rector of the University, the professors present in Hamburg, student representatives and many members of the intellectual elite took part in the funeral. Four students in Stahlhelm uniforms stood wake. Prof Dr. Bonn, a peer of Perels’, delivered the eulogy. Shortly after, the newspapers reported that Kurt Perels had died after a long illness.

A staunch anti-Semite was appointed as his successor. Ernst Forsthoff was a disciple of Carl Schmitt and had gained renown in 1933 with his book Der Totale Staat ("The Total State”). However, Perels’ students kept him in fond memory for his enduring paternal support and thoughtful mentoring. When he considered them talented, strong of character and motivated, he supported them not just pedagogically and scientifically, but also materially. Numerous later legal scientists thus owed their careers mainly to Kurt Perels.

Not just Kurt Perels, but also members of his family suffered from the persecution by the Nazi regime. As Kurt’s nephew Friedrich-Justus had been involved in the attempt to assassinate Hitler on July 20th, 1944, his brother Ernst Perels, Friedrich-Justus’ father, was taken into clan custody and detained at the Flossenbürg concentration camp. He was liberated by allied troops in May 1945, but died of the effects of abuse shortly after.

Translated by Peter Hubschmid
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: February 2018
© Carmen Smiatacz

Quellen: 4; 5; 8; Bottin/Nicolaysen: Enge Zeit, S. 46; Krause/Huber/Fischer: Hochschulalltag im "Dritten Reich", Bd. 2, S. 870; Lebensbilder hamburgischer Rechtslehrer, S. 69ff.; Schicksal jüdischer Juristen in Hamburg im Dritten Reich, S. 29ff.; Roß: Der Ausschluss der jüdischen Mitglieder, S. 35f.; StaHH ZAS, A 765, Perels, Prof. Dr. jur. Kurt.
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