Law Office of Dr. Herbert Ruscheweyh

The Australhaus building of 1904 housed the law offices of lawyer and Social Democratic politician Dr. Herbert Ruscheweyh, a declared opponent of the National Socialists, who served as chairman of the Hamburg parliament until 1933. He defended numerous victims of political persecution.Dr. Herbert Ruscheweyh (1892-1965), a member of the governing board of the Hamburg bar association since 1928, was one of the most famous lawyers in town. Together with Dr. Max Eichholz and Dr. Ernst Häckermann he maintained a law office in the Australhaus at what was then Königstrasse 7/9 and is now Poststrasse 17/19.
In 1927 Ruscheweyh ran for and won a seat in the Hamburg parliament on behalf of the Social Democratic Party. He served as chairman of the parliament from November 1931 to March 1933. As such it was incumbent on him to swear in the new city government led by the National Socialists on 8 March 1933. Ruscheweyh demanded that the rule of law be upheld and resisted the increasingly tyrannical tendencies exhibited by the National Socialists. For example, in his capacity as chairman of the local parliament he demanded to be informed about the circumstances surrounding the detention of several communist members of the local parliament.
Following his removal from office and the banning of the Social Democratic Party by the National Socialists, he defended victims of political persecution before the higher regional court. In 1934 his admission to this court was revoked by the National Socialists. Max Eichholz, his partner in his law office and a member of the Hamburg parliament for the German Democratic Party (DDP) was persecuted for being Jewish and eventually perished. During the years of National Socialist rule, Ruscheweyh kept in touch with his political friends and was privy to the preparations of the attempt on Hitler’s life on 20 July 1944. He was one of the many people arrested after the failed attempt and was kept prisoner in the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp from 22 August to 18 September.

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Immediately after the country’s liberation by the allied forces he joined the effort to re-establish democracy. In his capacity as the last democratically elected chairman of the Hamburg parliament, he opened the parliament appointed by the British military government. However, he did not return to politics but devoted all his energy to the creation of a democratic legal system. Having been elected as chairman of the local bar association, he was appointed vice-chairman of the higher regional court on 2 January 1946; nine months later he became chairman of the court.
From 1948 to 1951 Ruscheweyh served as President of the Superior German Court for the Unified Economic Area in Cologne. He contributed to the drafting of the 1952 Hamburg constitution and became the first president of the Hamburg Constitutional Court. His reputation as a lawyer spread far beyond the borders of Hamburg. In recognition of his services, he was awarded the Grand Cross of the Federal Order of Merit with star and ribbon in 1961.