Jews Have No Redress Against Antisemitic Libels Because They Are Collective Community but Steelhelm

Dr. Theodor Wolft, the editor-in-chief of the “Berliner Tageblatt”, recently drew attention to a number of decisions by German courts of law, particularly by the Reichsgericht, the Supreme Court sitting in Leipzig, to the effect that Jews being a collective community cannot bring an action for libel against antisemitic newspapers or agitators, even when the allegations are of a most serious character, causing incitement among the population and likely to lead to violent anti-Jewish outbreaks. Dr. Wolf quoted in this connection a leaflet which was being circulated in large quantities in Witten and Hirschberg; in Silesia, alleging that Jews were systematically corrupting Christian girls, and spreading venereal disease among them as part of a calculated plot to exterminate the Christian population.

The Jews are told that they cannot bring a libel action because they are a collective community, but the Nationalist Steelhelm Brigade, which numbers about a million members, twice the number of the entire Jewish population of Germany, has brought libel actions and its right to do so has been upheld by the German courts, Advocate Dr. Max Hirschberg now writes in the “Berliner Tageblatt”.

A Munich newspaper for which I was briefed, he writes, published a report at the time of the Steelhelm Conference in Munich that a wreath which had been deposited at the War Memorial outside the Army Museum by the Republican Organisation, the Banner of the Republic, had been removed by the Steelhelm. Colonel von Lenz, the leader of the Bavarian Steelhelm, thereupon brought an action for libel against the paper, on the ground that as a member of the Steelhelm he had been insulted by this allegation brought against his Organisation. The Supreme Court, in finding in his favour, ruled that it was not necessary to prove that the libel had been made against the particular individual bringing the action, since as a member of the Steelhelm he was included in any reference to the collective group of persons making up the Steelhelm, and he could bring his libel action, therefore, even if he was not expressly mentioned by name.

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