An Ethos of Restitution: Walter Schwarz and the Gloss

by Laura Petersen

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Winner, Zipporah B. Wiseman Prize for Scholarship on Law, Literature, and Justice (2021)

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Berlin, 1950s. Newly arrived back in Germany after escaping from the NS regime, a Jewish lawyer called Dr Walter Schwarz settles in Berlin. He opens a law practice assisting clients who are making private restitution claims. But Schwarz is not only a lawyer; he is a passionate writer: a jurist. This paper focuses on his writings in the professional journal of restitution, which are in the form of “glosses.” Generally appearing in the margins alongside neutrally worded case notes, these glosses are short, rhetorical commentaries, which often take literary forms. Schwarz uses the gloss, literally situated in the margins of law, as a genre which can return a human dimension to what became a rigid and bureaucratic process. Through his performative language and attention towards the conduct of legal practice, I argue Schwarz’s glosses offer a different ethos of restitution in the aftermath.

About the author:

Laura Petersen is a PhD Candidate at the Institute for International Law and the Humanities at the Melbourne Law School (Australia). Her research interests are cross-disciplinary, integrating approaches to jurisprudence with literature and visual art. “An Ethos of Restitution” reflects research undertaken in Berlin for her PhD thesis, which focuses on legal, literary, and artistic practices of restitution in post-Holocaust Germany. She earned a Masters at the Freie Universität Berlin and her MA thesis (in German) considered the role of metafictional narratives in Holocaust memory. Laura is a qualified lawyer in Australia and currently vice-president of the Law, Literature and Humanities Association of Australasia.

Project & Publications Type: Rapoport Center Working Paper Series