GHDI logo

Emil Lehmann’s Petition to Improve the Legal Rights of Jews in Saxony (November 25, 1869)

Emil Lehmann (1829-1898) was a Dresden lawyer and the first Jew to be elected (in 1865) to Dresden’s municipal council. From 1875 to 1881, he also held a seat in the lower house of the Saxon state parliament as a member of the Progressive Party. The son of a Dresden merchant, Lehmann attended the Jewish Community School and then, from 1842-1848, the Kreuzschule in Dresden. In 1848, he moved to Leipzig, where he studied jurisprudence until 1851. He returned to Dresden thereafter and practiced law from 1863 onwards, at which point he also turned his attention to the struggle for Jewish rights. He was elected head of Dresden’s Jewish community [Gemeinde] in February 1869. A proponent of Jewish assimilation, Lehmann had already contributed substantially to the (formal) emancipation of the Jews in Saxony on December 3, 1868 – that is, before passage of the Law on Religious Freedom by the North German Reichstag (July 3, 1869). Later, he supported the founding of the Central Association of German Citizens of the Jewish Faith in 1893. Lehmann’s lot in the Kingdom of Saxony was not an easy one, for at the time Saxony was home to some of Imperial Germany’s most rabid antisemites. Lehmann was heavily engaged in the pro- and anti-Jewish pamphlet literature that flourished in the years 1878-1882. Initially, his writings displayed argumentative brilliance, but in later years they were marked by increasing bitterness – and with good reason. In 1883, Lehmann lost his seat in Dresden’s city council at the hands of a coalition of antisemitic “Reformers” and Conservatives. In the following petition, Lehmann uses his legal experience to fashion a damning indictment of Saxony’s continuing legal discrimination against the Jews. The devil is in the details. Lehmann’s concluding lines summarize what the Saxon parliament must do to remove these discriminatory laws and practices.

print version     return to document list previous document      next document

page 1 of 8

The Legal Situation of Jews in Saxony.

(Petition to the Landtag of the Kingdom of Saxony for the repeal of regulations conflicting with § 33 of the Constitutional Charter. – Dresden, November 25, 1869)

On the basis of Item II of the law of December 3, 1868, according to which § 33 of the Constitutional Charter now reads: “The enjoyment of civic and political rights is independent of religious confession. Religious confession must not detract from civic and political rights” – the principle of religious freedom attained constitutional status in the Kingdom of Saxony, just as it went on to do [throughout German territory] through the federal law of July 3, 1869.

Nonetheless, in some respects the legislation of our fatherland [the Kingdom of Saxony] and its legal practices still do not everywhere conform to this constitutional principle. And if the respectfully undersigned feels pressed (initially from his confessional standpoint as an Israelite) to point out these instances, which appear to him in need of remedying, then he is not only following a dictate of duty in the interest of his co-religionists; rather, he is also hoping to contribute to the cause of religious freedom in general.


The decree issued on August 12, 1869, concerning the effects of equality for religious denominations in civic and political terms [Law and Administration Gazette from 1869, p. 239] orders that, “to eliminate doubts and misunderstandings that have arisen regarding the retroactive effect of the regulation under Item II of the law cited above from December 3, 1868, and the federal law of July 3, 1869, on the regulations at the state [Land] level,” the following are invalidated:

a) the law and decree of August 16, 1838, aside from an exception in § 2 regarding names,
b) the decree of May 6, 1839, concerning the residence of foreign Jews in Dresden and Leipzig,
c) § 13 of the law of July 2, 1852,
d) a passage in the first clause and the entire second clause in § 41 of the Municipal Code, whereas (§ 2) “what shall be left in place in the future is the regulation, to be controlled by authorities to the present extent, that any Jew living in Saxony must go by a certain inherited last name and a first name that must be preserved without alteration and used in legal dealings of any sort.”

first page < previous   |   next > last page