Study reveals how long it took Germany to rid its justice system of Nazis — Analysis

An official inquiry has found that Germany’s justice system was staffed with former Nazis for decades after the Second World War, At one point, three out of four top officials at the prosecutor’s office were former party members.

The 600-page report, which was released on Thursday by Friedrich Kiessling (history) and Christoph Safferling (jurisprudence), covers the Cold War period from the 1950s to 1974. The work was commissioned by the federal prosecutor’s office. 

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Over 50% of W. Germany’s senior justice ministry officials in 1950-70s were ex-Nazis – govt report

The researchers found that, at one point during the 1950s, roughly three in four top officials in the federal prosecutor’s office had been members of the Nazi Party. Ex-members and supporters of Nazism were not allowed to be in the majority of those in charge of that office until 1972. The judicial system was finally rid of them until 1992.

“There was no break, let alone a conscious break, with the Nazi past,”Researchers spoke of their findings. 

Presenting the inquiry’s findings, state secretary at the justice ministry Margaretha Sudhof said the country has “long remained blind”ex-Nazis occupying senior positions in the government after the Second World War.

“On the face of it they were highly competent lawyers… but that came against the backdrop of the death sentences and race laws in which they were involved,”Sudhof shared his thoughts. 

In a statement about the study’s publication, Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht saidShe was very happy “the fact that the Federal Prosecutor’s Office is also grappling with its troubled past and is shedding more light on its own Nazi entanglements in the post-war period.”

The federal prosecutor’s office is Germany’s highest prosecutorial authority, responsible for pursuing those who violate international law and commit alleged crimes relating to state security. 

The latest study follows an earlier report published in 2016, which stated that in 1957 – more than a decade after the war had ended – 77% of senior officials in the justice ministry were former Nazis. Heiko Maas (then-Justice Minister) stated at that time that “Nazi-era lawyers went on to cover up old injustice rather than to uncover it, and thereby created new injustice.”

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