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Hermann Heller (1891–1933)

Author of Teoria del Estado

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Hermann Heller was born to a Jewish family in Teschen, Austrian Silesia (present-day Cieszyn, Poland). During World War I, he interrupted his legal studies to volunteer for the army and served in an Austro-Hungarian artillery regiment. Under the Weimar Republic, he was active in the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and participated in building socialist youth movements. In 1920, he participated in the armed resistance to the Kapp Putsch, an attempted coup to overthrow the Republic. The following year, he married Gertrud Falke, a dancer, with whom he had three children. In 1928, he had a liaison with Elisabeth Langgässer, a writer, which produced a daughter, Cordelia. Heller became a well-known political thinker and was especially interested in constitutional law questions. He taught at the universities of Berlin, Kiel, Leipzig, and Frankfurt and published numerous works in legal philosophy, including Sozialismus und Nation (1925), Die Souveränität (1927), and Europa und der Faschismus (1929). He recognized the dangers of Nazism in Germany and opposed the federal takeover of Prussia in 1932 as unconstitutional. In late 1932, he accepted an invitation for a lecture tour in England, but it was too dangerous for him to return to Germany when the Nazis took power in 1933. He accepted a chair at the University of Madrid, intending to go on to the University of Chicago, which had also offered him a position. He was writing Staatslehre (Theory of the State), his magnum opus, when he died suddenly at age 42 of a heart condition he had acquired in World War I. The manuscript was sufficiently complete to be published in 1934 in The Netherlands. His collected works in a three volume edition were first published in the 1990s.
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