History

Study Notes

The Nazis and the Legal System

Level:
GCSE
Board:
AQA, Edexcel, OCR

The Nazis sought to control Germany at every level and whilst the use of terror was abundant in Germany, if the Nazis controlled the legal system, they realised they could fake charges against opponents and have them tried in a court of law. This would bring some legitimacy to their cause. However, as the Nazis controlled the court system this would have undermined the legitimacy that they sought.

Hitler, when taking power in Germany, created the National Socialist League for the Maintenance of the Law. This was a similar group to those set up in other professions where by the members subscribed to the Nazi ideas and were expected to act accordingly. Hitler and the Nazis made all judges join the group and removed any they found undesirable. Judges in Nazi Germany were then told that if there was a conflict between the Nazi Party and Law, the Nazi Party should always win as their needs and reasons for something were more important than any others.

As well as controlling the judges, the Nazis also sort to control the law courts. The first step was to remove the trial by jury. Trial by jury may have returned verdicts which displeased the Nazis so they left the decisions about innocence up to the Judges who were all members of the National Socialist League for the Maintenance of the Law.

Hitler also created a new ‘People’s Court’ which would decide cases about Treason. The court had hand picked judges and met in secret. Hitler sometimes overrode sentences given by judges if he felt like it. This method of trial had no appeal, meaning once the sentence was handed down, there was no way back.

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