German Official: Nazi History a Warning against Legal Excess

St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), October 11, 2016 | Go to article overview

German Official: Nazi History a Warning against Legal Excess


BERLIN * A new study highlighting the extent to which former Nazis protected each other from prosecution in postwar West Germany should serve as a warning to the legal profession, the country's justice minister said Monday.

The study details how thousands of Germans who committed crimes during the Third Reich were protected by former Nazi party members holding key positions in the postwar legal system.

Researchers found that more than half of all senior officials in the Justice Ministry in the 1950s and 1960s were ex-Nazis who through inaction or intentional sabotage systematically protected fellow former members of Adolf Hitler's National Socialist party from prosecution and shaped West Germany's legal code for decades.

Some had been prosecutors and judges during the Nazi era and were apparently recruited for their legal expertise after the war.

Presenting the study in Berlin, Justice Minister Heiko Maas said it illustrated the importance of teaching even jurists to resist injustice, as many of those concerned appeared to have seen no contradiction between their role meting out harsh sentences on behalf of Hitler's regime and then working within the post-war democratic system.

Among them were Eduard Dreher, a Nazi-era prosecutor who sought the death sentence for petty criminals, and Max Merten, who was involved in the deportation of Jews from occupied Greece during the war.

While U.S. authorities tried 16 Nazi-era jurists and lawyers in 1947, convicting most of them, West Germany was reluctant to do the same. …

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