People - 08.12.2016 - 00:00 

HSG honoured penal reformer and art lover Eduard Naegeli

The HSG honoured Prof. Dr. Eduard Naegeli at a commemoration ceremony. The art connoisseur and jurist would have been 110 years old on 8 December. He championed a modern penal system and art on the campus.

9 December 2016. The invitation to the commemoration ceremony had been issued by Cantonal Security and Justice Minister Fredy Fässler and Vice-President Prof. Dr. Lukas Gschwend. The programme included four lectures which paid tribute, from different perspectives, to the achievements of the HSG professor, who died in 1977 aged 71.

Versatile personality

Fredy Fässler gave the welcoming address on behalf of the St.Gallen Cantonal Government. He had not known Eduard Naegeli personally but Naegeli’s ideas about a modern penal reform had fascinated him as a young law student. He described Naegeli, who had been born in St.Gallen, as "an extremely versatile and committed personality". After reading law in Munich, Berlin and Zurich, he had habilitated at the then St.Gallen Graduate School and occupied the Chair of the Code of Obligations and Commercial Law from 1944 to 1976.

"His interests and activities soon spread beyond the limits of his actual specialist field," emphasised the Cantonal Minister. Thus he had organised a lecture cycle entitled "New World View" at the HSG from 1950 to 1952, which attracted attention far beyond the national borders and during which Nobel Prize Winners and other international names from academia and culture had exchanged ideas.

Champion of penal reform

Prof. Dr. Peter Nobel had experienced the professor as a teacher at the HSG. He said that Naegeli had been a highly understanding and sensitive teacher. In his address, Nobel shed light on Eduard Naegeli’s commitment to penal reform. Since the 1960s, his interests increasingly focused on the then avant-garde issue of penal reform, which soon turned into an affair of the heart for him. He succeeded in inspiring young people for the concerns of a modern penal system and a trail-blazing juvenile criminal law. The working group on penal reform that he initiated, the Foundation for International Penal Reform and the Centre for Rehabilitation Planning, organised numerous events and published internationally recognised publications on this issue.

Eduard Naegeli had radically challenged criminal law, underlined Prof. Dr. Martin Kilias. "At a time when criminal law had largely ossified into routine in Europe, such an approach had a refreshing effect." Naegeli had argued that every society needed scapegoats. By locking up the criminals, a society reinforced its cohesion. The goal of his theory was resocialisation, which should have been achieved by means of social education and group therapy. In his book Das Böse und das Strafrecht – Evil and Criminal Law – he pleaded for focusing, not on punishment, but on measures for the safeguard of society, reintegration and making amends for the consequences of a criminal act.

Sponsor of the arts

Art historian Elisabeth Keller-Schweizer declared herself an admirer of Eduard Naegeli, who had influenced her understanding of the arts. She reminded the audience that it had been thanks to his expert collection activities that the University of St.Gallen was able to decorate its new building on the Rosenberg with a choice collection of modern art in 1963. Naegeli realised the great vision of integrating art and architecture together with the architect Walter Förderer. His ideas did not find favour across the board: some indignant citizens demanded that the people should be protected from this art project. Jean Arp’s Tree of Bowls, for instance, was branded an "obscene piece of workmanship", and the St.Gallen Cantonal Government was called upon to prohibit the integration of such works into the Graduate School facilities. Today, the University counts itself lucky to own works by artists like Miró, Giacometti, Calder, Richter and Tàpies.

Culturally and artistically interested as he was, Eduard Naegeli also did a great deal outside the Graduate School: from 1954 to 1970, he chaired the St.Gallen Art Association, and from 1965 until his death in 1977, he was the President of the Swiss Art Society. In the 1950s, he set up the "St.Gallen New Music" association and was the programme director of the local cinema club for years.

Polymath and humanist

Jochi Weil-Goldstein was involved in the working group for penal reform for five years. He had asked his boss once what the most difficult thing for him as a jurist. "The gap between actual jurisdiction and human justice," Naegeli had said. Polymath Eduard Naegeli had become a great role model for him. "He was able to give rise to great things." In his closing words, Lukas Gschwend, Professor of History of Law, Sociology of Law and Criminal Law also paid homage to Eduard Naegeli as a personality with a role model character. The humanist had done integrative work well beyond the boundaries of his discipline. This way of working was exemplary.

Photo: Prof. Dr. Eduard Naegeli, correspondence with Alberto Giacometti

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