Research Unit Law

»We accuse« –

The History of Jewish Indictment in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

Calls for indictment as a form of active response to exclusion, inequality, and processes of violent oppression, brought forward mainly on behalf of the collective, play a major role in modern Jewish history in Europe. Through the reconstruction of various forms of articulation of such legal charges by Jewish actors and organizations (for example in response to accusations of ritual murder, pogroms, antisemitic hostility, or in the struggle for the enforcement of collective rights and recognition), the limits and possibilities of Jewish political activity in the diaspora can be expressed at different levels. The interweaving of a cultural and legal historical perspective makes it possible to decipher the historical development of indictments as a process of secularization and modernization that refers to weighty moments of the Jewish strife for belonging and self-determination under conditions of a differentiating society in Europe. In a narrower sense, such a history of forms of indictment stands for the general development of modern Jewish legal participation since the nineteenth century, forms of Jewish representation in international law, and transformations in the exercise of law in light of the changing relationship to state sovereignty.