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10 Judicial Terror    

Since its founding, the National Socialist German Workers Party has fought against the rule of law. The National Socialist takeover also represents a victory of authoritarian criminal law over liberal criminal law. The creation of Special Courts (Sondergerichte) in 1933 and the ”People’s Court” (Volksgerichtshof) in 1934 are important milestones.

With Roland Freisler’s appointment as president of the ”People’s Court” in 1942, the trials have lost their last semblance of legitimate legal proceedings. Freisler humiliates and ridicules the defendants. The wording of statues is systematically incorrectly interpreted; death sentences are ”justified” on grounds presented on less than two pages of text. The ”People’s Court” commits judicial murders.

After 1938 all criminal acts and after 1939 all minor offenses as well can be prosecuted before the Special Courts. These courts consist of three professional judges, and the verdict they hand down is the first and final stage of appeal.

Wartime criminal law allows the death penalty for nearly every criminal act. Most important are sections 2 and 4 of the ordinance on ”antisocial parasites,” which allowed the death penalty for acts committed during a blackout or while ”exploiting wartime conditions.” The Special Courts interpret wartime criminal law so liberally that even petty criminals, first-time offenders, and infrequent offenders are sentenced to death in large numbers.

According to section 1 of the ordinance on ”antisocial parasites,” ”looters” who commit thefts during or after air raids must be sentenced to death. Each Special Court forms what are known as ”looter” tribunals in 1942. These tribunals convene after severe air raids and hand down death sentences in summary proceedings, and the executions that take place immediately after the raids are announced on red posters as a deterrent. The defendants have no opportunity to prove their innocence or otherwise defend themselves.

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