FRITZ PRINGSHEIM (1882–1967)
Fritz Robert Pringsheim, patriot and legal scholar, came of a leading German Jewish family
but greatly admired certain features of English life. Forced to leave Germany in 1939 he lived
wholly or partly in Oxford for nearly twenty years. He returned to the Albert-Ludwig University at Freiburg im Breisgau, from which he had been dismissed in 1935, for a few weeks inthe dark days of 1946. There, seeing a glimmer of hope at a time when hardly anyone else
did, he at once set about infusing a new generation of students with a spirit of intellectual rigour and civic responsibility. Committed to this mission, he shuttled between Oxford and
Freiburg for twelve years, returning permanently to Germany in 1958. Drawing on the intellectual and moral resources ofJewish, German and English culture, he fostered the reeducation of Freiburg students, and the rebuilding of the faculty of law and government and
indeed of the university as a whole.
I. FAMILY BACKGROUND
The Pringsheim family was wealthy and distinguished. It became prominent in the eighteenth
century, in the time of Mendel ben Chaim Pringsheim, who with his brother belonged to the
Jewishcommunity in the Principality of Oels, in lower Silesia. Under Frederick the Great of
Prussia, who reigned from 1740 to1786, Jews had an opportunity to flourish. From about
1753 Mendel leased the Schlossbrau-Urbars at Bierutów (then Bernstadt) . He built up the
family fortune from brewing and brandy making. In the next century his descendant Alfred
Pringsheim the eminent Munich mathematician(1850–1941), was a leading intellectual and
authority on Wagner. In 1905 Alfred’s beautiful and accomplished daughter Katya married
Thomas Mann. To the same generation belonged Ernst Pringsheim of Wroclav (then Breslau)
a well-known physicist, (1859–1917), one of Max Planck’s immediate predecessors in the
study of radiation.
Fritz Pringsheim was Alfred’s cousin. His grandfather on his father’s sidewas a factory proprietor and landowner. His father Hugo, born at Opole (then Oppeln) is described as a Rittergutsbesitzer: the occupant of what in England would be called a manorial estate.
was situated at Hünern, about 8 km. north of the then Breslau in Silesia. Hugo also owned a
town house in Breslau where the family lived in winter. His father was enterprising and loved
theoutdoors: hunting, riding and gardens. Fritz’s grandfather on his mother’s side was Julius
The main sources used, apart from Pringsheim’s own works, are G.G. Archi, (1967) 33 SDHI 593-600;
F.Wieacker, ‘Fritz Pringsheim zum Gedächtnis’, (1968) 85 ZSS 602-611; ‘Ricordo di Fritz Pringsheim’, (1967)
13 Labeo 430-1; Elmar Bund, ‘Fritz Pringsheim(1882–1967) Ein Grosser der Romanistik’; Deutsche Juristen
Jüdischer Herkunft (ed. H. Heinrichs, H. Franzki, K. Schmalz, M. Stolleis 1993) 733-744; Idem, ‘Pringsheim,
Fritz, Jurist’, Badische Biographien Neue Folge Band I (ed. B. Ottnad 1982 ) 221-3; Rechts- und Staatswissenschaftlichen Fakultät der Universität Freiburg, Ansprachen am 20. Januar 1958 zur Feier des 75. Geburtstags
Prof. Dr. Dr.Fritz Pringsheim (= Ansprachen); H.J.Wolff, ‘In memoriam Fritz Pringsheim’, (1967) 18 IVRA
134-7; R.Feenstra ‘In memoriam Fritz Pringsheim, 1882–1967’, (1968) 36 TR 627-8; MS files of the Academic
Assistance Council/Society for the Protection of Science and Learning/Council for Assisting Refugee Academics, Box 272/1, 1935 to 1951 (for access to which I am indebted to the Council and to itsExecutive Secretary,
John Akker); Files of the Albert Ludwig Universität, Freiburg im Breisgau ‘Gebäude und Grundstücke’; ‘Studiengelegentheiten’; ‘F.Pringsheim’; W.Felgentraeger, address at Gedenkfeier für Fritz Pringsheim, 1 Dec. 1967;
minutes of the Governing Body of Merton College, Oxford; personal recollection. I am grateful to Okko Behrends, Gerhard Dannemann, Roger Highfield, Peter Pulzer,...
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