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Leopold von Meerscheidt-Hüllessem

Hüllessem, coming from a militaristic, noble Prussian family, joined the Berlin police in 1873 following several years of service in the military – in which he was not involved in the Franco-Prussia War of 1870. He worked his way into the political and criminal police departments, until he was appointed Head of Berlin’s Criminal Department in 1889. He supervised experiments with the Bertillon method in Berlin’s Moabit prison between 1888 and 1894, but decided to abandon the methods. Nevertheless, the following year, he visited Bertillon in Paris to study his methods personally, in more detail. Resultantly, he introduced the methods in Prussia, and established Berlin as central police authority. Alongside Ludwig von Windheim and Graf Pückler (Chief of the Criminal Police), he initiated the Berlin Conference for the introduction of the Bertillon system throughout the German Empire (14 ad 15 June 1897). Other than German representatives, attendees arrived from Austria-Hungary, Romania and the Netherlands. Among other things, blueprints for the creation of direct communication lines between (to be established) national police authorities were discussed, to improve transnational police cooperation. Most of all, Berlin was appointed Central Bureau for anthropometry for the German Empire. Before officially establishing this Central Bureau, Hüllessem undertook four study trips in 1898: together with Windheim to The Netherlands (Rotterdam and Amsterdam) and Hamburg; with Pückler to Austria-Hungary (Vienna and Budapest); to Paris; to London; and Brussels and again the Netherlands (The Hague). Following trips to London by Windheim and Hüllessem, the latter created German Anarchist Albums, containing photographs and additional details on the most dangerous anarchists, and actively exchanged such intelligence with Rotterdam, Dresden and Hamburg. On 21 December 1900 Hüllessem committed suicide, probably due to financial difficulties and lawsuits on fraud. Hüllessem is nevertheless remembered as major, farsighted detective making his mark with numerous professionalizing efforts, such as the introduction of, other than the Bertillon system, the ‘rosa Listen’ for the persecution of homosexuals (although under his command, the Berlin police was very tolerant towards homosexuals, and cooperated with the Wissenschaftlich-humanitären Komitee (WhK), the world’s first organization for homosexuals. Furthermore, he introduced in Berlin police hounds, the Berlin river police, and armoring police servants. He has been dubbed as one of the most influential police officials of late nineteenth century Germany.

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