The Mysterious Meeting between Carl Schmitt and Josef Redlich

In 1934, Carl Schmitt, then the crown jurist of the Third Reich, wrote in an essay titled National Socialist Legal Thought about “[a] conversation with a world-famous, world travelled, experienced scholar of more than seventy years of age from the United States [which] belongs to the major experiences and encounters which led me as a jurist to National Socialism.” Schmitt never disclosed the identity of the scholar whom he met. Based on Schmitt’s diaries, I reveal that the scholar was Josef Redlich. Born to a Jewish family in 1869, Redlich was the Fairchild Professor of Comparative Public Law at Harvard Law School at the time he met Schmitt in 1931. Based on an analysis of the 1934 essay and various other materials written both by Schmitt and Redlich, I offer three possible explanations for why Schmitt viewed his encounter with Redlich as so influential on his road to National Socialism.