5 Minutes with: Prof. Thomas Rönnau

Dr. Rönnau, professor of criminal law, on his fascination with criminal law and why he is the only one at the Law School with a folding bed.

Research & Faculty |

Professor Dr. Thomas Rönnau is Professor of Criminal Law, Commercial Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure Law at the Chair of Criminal Law I Bucerius Law School. In the video "5 minutes with" he explains what criminal law has to do with philosophy, what are his current interests and what he especially appreciates about his job.

Prof. Thomas Rönnau has been teaching at Bucerius Law School since 2000, making him one of the five founding professors. However, his path to teaching law was by no means preordained. After graduating from high school, he received a variety of brochures and considered entering professions such as fish farming and even becoming a tax advisor – fortunately for us, he ultimately decided against the fish and in favor of law!



Prof. Rönnau is particularly fascinated by the fundamental nature of criminal law. When is someone guilty? What is freedom of will? Can humans truly act free of will? Why do we punish? "You always have one foot in philosophy with these questions," he says. In essence, it is often a question of where the so-called permissible risk ends and how one can separate socially harmful behavior from behavior that is still socially adequate.




An issue that particularly concerns him at the moment is that of usury. At the beginning of the pandemic, the Corona crisis led to an explosion of prices. Prof. Rönnau has just written an essay on whether this is usury in the sense of the criminal code. What is fascinating for him here is that this issue borders on the subject of political economics, and he was able to discuss questions on this topic together with Prof. Dr. Hans-Bernd Schäfer (Affiliate Professor at Bucerius Law School).

Prof. Rönnau also enjoys the great freedom that comes with his work at the Law School. Even as a research assistant, it was clear to him that this freedom of thought would be particularly important to him in his professional life. Especially concerning the field of criminal law, he says, there are relatively concise rules that you can really "play" with. "You can build up buildings of thought and test whether they stand up when you push against them" is how he paraphrases his work.



Prof. Rönnau has now been at the Law School for 22 years and has held countless discussions with numerous students, sometimes late at night outside of class in the cold. "We have students who are ambitious, inquisitive, they want something!" That's why he enjoys talking to them not only about current subject matters, but also about politics. New people bring new ideas, and at 61 years old, he says, it's his way of staying young by constantly inspiring new discourse.



In the video series: "5 minutes with" we introduce our professors. What kind of chair do they hold and what are their main areas of work? In addition, we are just as interested in what kind of people our professors are. Who is behind the position? What particularly fascinates them about the university and about Hamburg? We answer all this and much more in "5 minutes with". Click here for all episodes:




Prof. Rönnau lives in a small village outside of Lüneburg and admits himself how attached he is to Lower Saxony and small town life. When he comes to Hamburg, (besides for work at the university) he enjoys the city's rich cultural offerings - the Elbphilharmonie (Hamburg’s new concert house), theater or Schmidts Tivoli. But: if an event or dinner party turns into a late evening, he can spend the night at the law school on his folding bed, which was purchased especially for him!



Emma Schimmel