The Law in Nazi Germany: Ideology, Opportunism, and the Perversion of Justice.
Regarding the terror that took place during the Third Reich, were Gentian officials merely following orders? In a similar vein, were German lawyers and judges simply following the law? In April 2009, the University of Vermont hosted its fifth Miller Symposium (symposia established to honour the legacy of Holocaust Scholar, Raul Hilberg), which focused on German law during the Nazi regime. The Law in Nazi Germany: Ideology, Opportunism, and the Perversion of Justice offers five essays presented at the symposium and case studies of two Nazi lawyers. This collection of essays, authored by an exceptional group of scholars, offers detailed insight into a topic often overlooked when studying the Nazi era--from the law and its adjudicators to specific lawyers and judges during and after the Nazi period.
The editors introduce the essays by noting a significant work of the Nazi era. In 1941, German lawyer Ernst Frankel published The Dual State, in which he described the "Normative State" and "Prerogative State" of the Nazi legal system. Steinweis and Rachlin explain these "states" to clarify how laws in Nazi Germany developed. The "Normative State" involved a transformation of traditional German laws and courts with an infusion of Nazi laws and procedures, whereas the "Prerogative State" gave way to arbitrary Nazi practice.
Konrad Jarausch, prolific German historian, opens the book with "The Conundrum of Complicity." Similar to many vocations in Nazi society, German lawyers fell into a spectrum of categories--from "passive facilitators" to "killing professionals." Using his father as an example, Jarausch notes the "war youth generation" longed to prove itself. Coming into their own in a weakened Weimar Republic, these lawyers and judges looked for opportunities to show their usefulness to the German state.
Case studies offer the reader an inside look at what individuals were doing and thinking. Hans-Christian Jasch, a German lawyer and Government Councilor in the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, investigates Nazi lawyer Wilhelm
Stuckart. Stuckart, a well-educated member of the "war youth generation," grew from a legal advisor to the Nazis in the late 1920s into one who defended the "Final Solution" of the Jews. Co-editor and American lawyer and scholar, Robert D. Rachlin, examines Roland Freisler, head of the Nazi People's Court between 1942 and 1945. Called "raging Roland," Hitler looked to Freisler to mete out justice following the July 1944 attempt on the Fuhrer's life. Freisler is a good example of the "Prerogative State." Just as in the Inquisition of the Middle Ages or the Witches' trials of the early Modem Age, the accused were not offered the opportunity to defend themselves. Stuckart and Freisler found their niche in the Nazi regime and apparently had little problem applying the adjusted Nazi laws.
In his essay, "Guilt, Shame, Anger, Indignation," Raphael Gross, a prolific Holocaust scholar, argues that the Nazi regime based its law on moral and ethical values deemed righteous by the Nazi leadership. The laws were consistent with Nazi ideology. A newly unified Germany in 1871 went from a longtime monarchy to a short Republic to a dictatorship. Changing laws reflected the political and cultural leadership--laws regarding churches, childrearing, education, and of course, the Jews.
The "Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service" of April 7, 1933 excluded a number of Jewish citizens from state service. Jewish lawyers were among the first targets. As time passed, Jewish lawyers (like Jewish doctors) could serve only their fellow Jews. Douglas Morris, legal historian, discusses the final purge of Jewish lawyers in 1938. He notes that the Nazis had to balance the "Normative State" with the "Prerogative State" to ensure social order in the long ran. Thus, the regime did not eliminate all Jewish lawyers until Hitler began to make his geographic moves, ultimately leading to Nazi plans for a utopian society and control of the world. Morris offers an interesting look into the life of Jewish lawyers in Germany between 1933 and 1938.
The final two essays consider the post-Nazi Era. Following the IMT Nuremberg Trial of 1945-1946, Nazi attorneys and judges had their turn in Nuremberg in the "Justice Case." Charged with "crimes against humanity," these men of law defended themselves by noting the Fiihrerprinzip. The word of Hitler, the ultimate "leader," was final. These lawyers and judges followed Hitler's orders and the law. Law scholar Harry Reicher considers the case studies of two Jewish men whom German judges sentenced to death. Reicher looks at the jurists involved with these cases, noting their explanations, arguments, and defenses. Jurist Oswald Rothaug in the Katzenberger case asserted, "I applied the laws of my country" (p. 150). Once the trials were over, German institutions had to rebuild infrastructure. In his essay, Kenneth Ledford, Professor of Law and History, offers a short history of German judges from 1871. Here, he notes how the changing cultural climate affected the judicial system. With the end of the Nazi era and the culmination of the Cold War, many practicing German judges and lawyers had to come to terms with what they and their country's judiciary system had done.
The Law in Nazi Germany: Ideology, Opportunism, and the Perversion of Justice offers not only an excellent collection of essays but also significant documents in the appendices: from "The Enabling Act" to excerpts from famous Nazi cases. The only weakness in this much-needed tome is that I wanted more. This collection of essays would be a great addition to a graduate class within German history, Holocaust Studies, or Law.
West Chester University of Pennsylvania
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|Publication:||Canadian Journal of History|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2014|
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