Hugo Sinzheimer

Hugo Sinzheimer Institute

Hugo Sinzheimer

Hugo Sinzheimer was a German lawyer & legal scientist, sometimes called ‘father of labour law’. He grounded his plea for the relative autonomy of ‘labour law’ as a field of law on the peculiar character of the legal relations regarding ‘dependant’ labour. He has been an important founding father of the law on collective agreements and works councils. Not only in Europe, but as far as Japan and Southern Korea his works have had a profound impact on collective labour law. 


Hugo Daniël Sinzheimer is born April 12th 1875 in Worms in the family of Jewish clothing manufacturer Leopold Sinzheimer. After completing studies in law and in economics he gets his PhD in 1901 in Heidelberg and establishes himself in 1903 as a practising lawyer in Frankfurt. Besides he publishes regularly on labour law matters and acts as an advisor to German unions. Politically he is a social democrat, active in local politics. After the collapse of the German Empire he is even for some time chief of the city police (Polizeipräsident) of the town of Frankfurt. As a member of the parliament of the Weimar Republic he is actively involved in the construction of the Weimar constitution, which contains rights regarding freedom of coalition and employee participation. He is co-founder of the Frankfurt Akademie der Arbeit, an education centre for workers.

Scientific career

From 1920 till 1933 he is honorary professor of labour law and sociology of law at the University of  Frankfurt. In 1933 the national-socialists deprive him of his professorship and arrest him. Being released after some time, he flees first to Saarland (then under protection of the League of Nations), and then to Amsterdam. Public law professor George van den Bergh, with whom Sinzheimer is familiar due to common holidays in the seaside resort of Noordwijk aan Zee, takes care of him In Amsterdam and arranges for a professorship of sociology of law (the first one in The Netherlands) at the University of Amsterdam. As soon as July 14th 1933 the city council agrees to this professorship which is being co-financed by Dutch unions. November 6th 1933 Sinzheimer has his inaugural lecture; 1936 he obtains a second professorship in Leiden.

Since 1993 the Hugo Sinzheimer Institute of the University of Amsterdam carries his name. In Frankfurt am Main (Germany) has been founded in 2010 another HSI: the Hugo Sinzheimer Institut für Arbeitsrecht .

Persecuted by the Nazis

During German occupation Sinzheimer is arrested twice, the second time, in August 1942, he escapes transport to the German camps only because the Jewish Council (Joodsche Raad) is allowed to select ten Jews to be excepted from transport; Sinzheimer and his wife Paula belong to them. He survives the war at different places of hiding in Amsterdam, Haarlem and Bloemendaal, yet dies September 1945 of a brain heamorrhage, a day before his planned valedictory speech at the reopening University of Amsterdam and before word could reach him that all his children had survived the German camps.


A selection from the numerous publications of Sinzheimer:

  • Lohn und Aufrechnung. Diss. Heidelberg, Berlin 1902.
  • Der korporative Arbeitsnormenvertrag. 2 delen: Leipzig 1907/1908.
  • Ein Arbeitstarifgesetz: die Idee der sozialen Selbstbestimmung im Recht. München/Leipzig 1916.
  • Grundzüge des Arbeitsrechts. Jena 1921.
  • Das Problem des Menschen im Recht. Oratie Amsterdam, Groningen 1933.
  • Theorie der Gesetzgebung: die Idee der Evolution im Recht. Posthumous: Haarlem 1949.

An almost complete bibliography is to be found in the Gesammelte Aufsätze und Reden, edited by Otto Kahn-Freund and Thilo Ramm: Hugo Sinzheimer: Arbeitsrecht und Rechtssoziologie, Frankfurt: Europäische Verlagsanstalt, 2 vol.s, 1976, volume 2, p. 323-341.



Published by  Hugo Sinzheimer Institute

20 August 2016