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Nazism, War and GenocideNew Perspectives on the History of the Third Reich$
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Neil Gregor

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780859897457

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9780859897457.001.0001

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‘Soldiers of the Home Front’

‘Soldiers of the Home Front’

Jurists and Legal Terror during the Second World War

Chapter:
(p.75) 5 ‘Soldiers of the Home Front’
Source:
Nazism, War and Genocide
Author(s):

Nikolaus Wachsmann

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.5949/liverpool/9780859897457.003.0005

This chapter examines the role of the judicial system in the administration of terror in Nazi Germany during World War II. It argues that the ‘legal’ terror administered by the conventional judiciary was central to Nazi penal policy throughout the period. It discusses the expansion and implementation of the terror apparatus, as well as its effects on different categories of victims, including foreigners and the Germans themselves. The chapter shows how the judiciary's need to prove its reliability in the face of Adolf Hitler's criticisms resulted in the radicalisation of sentencing. It also considers the establishment of a flying courts martial that signalled the final abandonment of anything which might be regarded as due legal process. This intensified the terror campaign. Finally, it suggests that other judges who were anticipating the collapse of the Third Reich sought to distance themselves from the regime and avoided harsh sentencing. As a result, harsher directives from the top did not, in practice, necessarily increase terror on the ground.

Keywords:   terror apparatus, World War II, judiciary, penal policy, Adolf Hitler, sentencing, flying courts martial, judges, Third Reich, Nazi Germany

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