Hans Kelsen and the Elegance of the Austrian Constitution
In 2020 the Austrian constitution celebrates its 100th anniversary. Praised by the Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen for its ‘elegance and beauty,’ its contents are not well enough known, and the devotion to the constitution that in countries such as the USA is rare in Austria.
The important role played by the legal expert Hans Kelsen in drafting the constitution also needs to be emphasized. Born in Prague in 1881, he grew up in Vienna in a German-speaking Jewish family. His father, a chandelier manufacturer, designed the lighting for Viennese synagogues. After the collapse of the monarchy, Kelsen was commissioned by State Chancellor Karl Renner to help draft a federal constitution for the young republic. He developed what became known as the Austrian model for constitutional jurisdiction, which was emulated by countries throughout the world.
Kelsen, who was a professor at the University of Vienna from 1918 to 1930, became internationally renowned in particular for his contributions to legal and political theory. In the increasingly anti-Semitic climate of the times, his innovative ideas made him lots of enemies. He left Vienna in 1930 and after various stops in Europe ultimately emigrated in 1940 to the USA, where he lived until his death in 1973. He is regarded today as one of the most important legal scholars of the twentieth century.
On the 100th anniversary of the Austrian constitution, the exhibition pays tribute to its architect and presents his life and work. It also invites you to take a closer look at the constitution and the surprising insights and realizations it reveals.
Curator: Adina Seeger
Exhibition design: Capitale Wien
The graphic novel Hans Kelsen – A Graphic Novel with drawings and texts by Pia Plankensteiner and published by the Jewish Museum Vienna is being brought out by Verlag MANZ to accompany the exhibition. Buy now at Gottfried & Söhne!
With support from:
Photo © Provided by and used with permission of Anne Feder Lee, Ph.D, granddaughter of Hans Kelsen; Hans Kelsen-Institut