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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, January 2, 1999
By 
Tom Munro "tomfrombrunswick" (Melbourne, Victoria Australia) - See all my reviews
This book is written in a slightly dry way and is probably meant for an audience of lawyers. It is however written with passion and fire.
The German Judiciary, prior to the First World War, had been a servant of the monarchy. Muller describes how between the wars, the judiciary was hostile to the Weimar Republic, and gave very light sentences to right-wing groups who were charged with treason, following attempts to overthrow the democratic government.
After the Nazi party took power the courts became the willing servants of the regime. Muller notes that all but a tiny percentage of Judges and prosecutors had joined the Nazi party. The removal of Jews and former communists from the German bar and courts was accomplished without a whimper of protest. In fact German bar associations supported such moves by making it an ethical crime to practice with a Jew.
With the promulgation of laws aimed at removing the civil rights of Jews and protecting the German race, the courts bent over backwoods to increase the scope and effectiveness of such laws. Muller quotes countless examples. One case relates to the court's approach to dealing with "Jews" convicted of having sexual relations with "Germans". The existing laws allowed only for a term of imprisonment is such cases. However, courts on their own initiative, would use provisions which allowed the death penalty to apply to repeat offenders to condemn Jews and Poles who had sex with Germans. Muller quotes one example of a young man who was unaware that he was in fact Jewish. He had a number of liaisons and it came to light that his birth records showed that his grand parents were "Israelites". The court hearing the matter decided that as he had a number of relations he should be sentenced to death. Muller quotes a number of case where the courts were criticized by the Nazi party itself for being overtly harsh. The language of the Judges was filled with the invective of anti-Semitism and the racism of the time.
After the war, some Judges tried to excuse their behavior by suggesting that if they had failed to co-operate with the government they would have faced serious consequences. Muller in fact examined the record of all Judges and found one who refused to impose the Nazi laws. He was simply retired. Muller has convincingly argued that the members of the German Judicial System were enthusiastic supporters of National Socialism.
The book is enthralling reading and is strong evidence for the proposition that what happened in Germany was not because of the Nazi Party, but a coalition of the parties of the right, who had a common perception of the world. The Judges indeed were some of Hitler's willing executioners.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally, An Objective And Complex Look Into The Procedures And Statutes Of Nazi Germany, July 9, 2005
This review is from: Hitler's Justice: The Courts of the Third Reich (Hardcover)
Due to my interest in the history of Europe in the first half of the last century, I have read quite a number of the standard histories through the second world war. As an attorney, I have also had a keen interest in legal theory over this same period of time. As to Germany, from the mid-1920's through the end of the war, I have generally run into two types of approaches on legal theory, both generally comprising a chapter or two of a larger history. Usually, the author either explained how judges had been "entangled" in the system and gave an almost sympathetic view of their position under the regime. These authors had the tendency to distinguish the more notorious judges from the judges in the lower courts. The other approach has generally cited a few outrageous rulings of courts during the period and leave the analysis at that. Muller has broken through these shallow approaches and finally given the insight into the courts that one would need to understand what conduct brought a citizen into the courts, what precisely happened to the citizen in the court and dynamic between the courts, law professors and the party in this context.

Muller cites to a breath-taking number of primary sources. I can only wonder how he could find the time to digest all those case records and case decisions. Indeed, I can't imagine how he found them. Regardless, as an attorney, I found his analysis totally objective and somewhat frightening.

As to legal theory, he is the first author I have run across who even tries to explain the transition of German constitutional law from the level directly tied to the age of the enlightenment in Europe to the Nazi regime. He sets out the evolution of the theories of leading law professors, the making and interpretation of statutory law and finally the impact of the utter breakdown of procedural due process to change the law concerned with human rights into a system concerned only with political self-survival of the state. He does not simply state who feel into what category on issues. He takes the arguments from the primary source material and sets out the actual decisions, theories and writings to support his conclusions.

One extraordinary part of Muller's analysis comes in the latter chapters. I had never read anything with any type of detail on this particularly issue, but through the use of primary sources, Muller cuts right into it. He addresses the impact of the Nazi legal system on German law after 1945. As an attorney, I found the analysis astonishing. The argument he lays out, and I cannot find anyway to disagree with, establishs that the large number of Nazi judges stayed in place and actually retired from the system long after the war. More importantly, many of the legal professors who helped develop the legal theories that enabled the crimes against humanity of the Nazi regime kept their positions and continued to teach their theories regarding such things as criminal law and procedure and constitutional law. The impact of the latter is profound in that these professors have taught a whole new generation of lawyers and judges who are in place today. I can only guess, but I have the gut feeling that this must have something to do with the current surge in far right-wing political activities in Germany over the last decade.

In summary, Muller gives an even analysis on an extraordinarily complex subject. He draws conclusions throughout, but explains precisely what he bases them on, so the reader can still draw his or her own conclusions. Again, I am most impressed with the primary source material that he has put together. In my humble opinion, this would be a satisfying book for anyone with an interest in history of the period or in legal theory. Muller manages to put forward the best elements of an historian and an attorney in his writing of this book. Believe me, that is a rare feat.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars when the rule of law dies, October 10, 2005
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How the German legal profession abandoned the rule of law, notably in the special tribunals (Special Courts and People's Courts) in Weimar and Nazi Germany. Muller notes that this trend pre-dated Hitler, that the laws enabling it were in the name of national security, that it followed the replacement of liberal with conservative judges over several decades, pre-Hitler, and that the judges had come to accept public affairs as a "friend or foe" paradigm with no room for loyal opposition.

1933 and post-9/11 are not identical, of course. The 1933 Reichstag Fire Decree suspended numerous civil-liberty sections of the republic's constitution itself, and for all citizens of the republic, while the current U.S. military tribunals simply remove a class of enemy combatants from normal criminal or military jurisdiction. However, the Weimar courts had created courts of special jurisdiction, and types of national-security offenses, long before 1933. Hitler merely took this trend, and the state-necessity doctrine, to its next logical level, and Mr. Muller is very good at putting this in its context. The injustices pre- and post-dated Hitler.

U.S. readers should remember that the German legal system had considerable differences with Anglo-American jurisprudence, with the latter's greater reliance on precedential case law, neutral judges, and independent defense counsel. Still, here we see how a once-proud legal system turned rule of law into a blood-stained rule of force, dressed in legal robes. A valuable, if chilling, work.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pretty amazing book, February 5, 2009
By 
Alex (Pasadena, CA, United States) - See all my reviews
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The shocking part about the book is not what it tells us about the justice system in Germany during Hitler's reign. That much was to be expected, although the explanations and examples Müller gives are highly enlightening. The truly shocking part is the aftermath--the whitewashing of the guilty lawyers, prosecutors and judges after the war. I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about the Holocaust, but this was all news to me. Pretty amazing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An overwhelming indictment, March 30, 2008
By 
Sevile (Philadelphia, PA) - See all my reviews
This book is a heavily researched piece of scholarship. Its biggest defect is its sensational sounding (and misleading) title. The Library Journal reviewer above probably read only the overleaf. While there are anecdotes in the book, the book is not anecdotal. The author appears to have read through hundreds if not thousands of law cases.
This book is an overwhelming endictment of the German judiciary, not just during WWII, but in the periods before and after it as well. It shows how the horror of that period had some of its roots in the German judiciary.
The book documents how during the Weimar period before world war II the Judiciary undermined the democratic government, supported the Nazis and helped bring them to power. One memorable anecdote occurs during the trial following The Nazi's beer hall putsch. German law required that, as an Austrian, Hitler be deported. However the court declined to order this, declaring that "Hitler is more German than the Germans" (or something similar). This is just one anecdote, but the chapter on the Weimar period covers the major instances of violence and insubordination during this period, and shows a persistent partisanship of the judiciary in support of the Nazis.
During the Nazi period, the author shows the courts helped strengthen Nazi rule. Here the author lays a number of myths to rest. One interesting chapter is on the Bundestag fire. The author shows how the courts acted in a pandering and biased way during the trial, and also acted to make the the Nazi government's appearance palatable to the rest of the international community. This is a far different exposition of this event than has appeared in German history books, where the courts are portrayed as acting heroically in the defense of justice.
Another chapter that overturns myths is the chapter on Resistance from the Bench. Judicial historians have long claimed that the judiciary resisted the Nazis despite great peril. But the truth
is that only one judge resisted. And the result was that after ten years of being a nuisance, he received early retirement (The story of the legal academics is identical. One professor from 600 refused an oath of loyalty to the Nazi government, and ended up with early retirement).
For Americans, the most disappointing revelations in the book may be in the final section, about the aftermath of the war. It turns out that the allies denazification program lasted no more than a few months. At that point, in spite of their own directives, the allies began permitting former nazis to serve in the judiciary. Within a few years they had given up on all restrictions against former nazis. So the judiciary was ended up being staffed by the same people after the war as during it. A vantage point from which they were able to hinder and prevent the prosecution of nazi criminals and fictionalize history to remove nazi period crimes from it. Once again there are some memorable (and hard to believe) anecdotes, e. g. West Germany passed a law in the 50's requiring Nazis be awarded civil service jobs, let concentration camp guards go free and awarded them state pensions.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's Not They Say, It's What They Do, November 19, 2003
By 
Kenneth R. Kahn (Baltimore, Maryland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Hitler's Justice: The Courts of the Third Reich (Hardcover)
In reading and considering the implications of "Hitler's Justice" one can easily rationalize this tale of a judiciary gone mad when unleashed from the bounds and restictions of the rule of law, precedents, morality and human rational thought.
There is the obvious injustice on the individual level as documented by the author. Then, as in any corrupt system, there is the human cost to those who daily carry out such injustice and stretch credulity to justify the exercise. A major theme of the book is the ease with which judges adopted to Nazi jurisprudence. Those who objected could simply retire, knowing that someone who supported the twisted and perverted system would simply take their place and carry out the wishes of the Nazis, as outlined.
It is the ease to which German judges adopted and carried out Nazi justice that surprises and shocks. Yet, one should seriously consider that judges worldwide, no matter the system of government that is in place, carry out, and support, that system of government. Indeed, many prosecutors regard judges as a second prosecutor. With ease, judges commit injustices daily rationalizing them using some form of convuluted logic to deny obvious justice.
The historical analogies originating with the Reichstag fire through 9-11 to the USA Patriot Act leave a chilling trail that should strike terror, even more than a "terrorist," that an America, and an American government using that terror, can render more damage than any possible terrorist. An American government that sees "terrorism" as an opportunity to strike down the basic freedoms, beginning with those deemed outlaws, and ending with all Americans, is a logical extension of what happened under the Third Reich. Even more chilling is the existence of a willing judiciary to enforce that law.
The author outlines in well documented detail the types of laws,and their implications, which led the German judiciary to freely give up their independence. Are American judges any less willing to abide by the wishes of the current administration?
Muller has written an important, frightening insightful tale of how and why a judiciary can be corrupted. It is a must read to gain an important historical perspective on the current American hysteria over "terrorism."
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5.0 out of 5 stars A thought provoking book and incidentally an excellent companion to a recent novel by Schirach "The Collini Case", December 17, 2013
By 
Chris Hugill (University Of Northumbria, School of Law) - See all my reviews
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A fascinating read for general readers and also those interested in either history, ethics and the law.

The author analyses with numerous examples ( which bring the book to life) the conservative attitudes of the German judiciary after the First World War, how this helped the National Socialist cause and hampered any sustained attempt to make certain lawyers accountable.

As an English common lawyer I find it very difficult to give a convincing answer to the question "what would you have done?". Based on what has happened in some countries with common law systems I doubt given the unique circumstances in Germany our judges and lawyers could have prevented a determined government with extreme views from ultimately getting its own way.

I would strongly recommend the superb novel written by Ferdinand von Schirach The Collini Case to those interested in this subject matter.
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4.0 out of 5 stars One of the few sources on the role of the judiciary in the rise of the Nazis and their actions to secure their power, August 14, 2014
By 
S. A. Mears (Jefferson City, MO USA) - See all my reviews
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One of the few sources available on this topic. Writing is very dense and requires concentration, but is worth the effort.
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0 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hitler's Domestic Partners in Injustice, January 4, 2004
By 
Michael N. Ryan (Bel AIr, Maryland USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Hitler's Justice: The Courts of the Third Reich (Hardcover)
Somehow, I have this feeling that this book just gives us the tip of th awful iceberg.
One need only remember the United States Supreme Court Justice William Brennan's Rule of Five. That the word of Five Justice's on the United States Supreme Court can over ride the express written word of all the Founding Fathers and all the American People. To know that what happened in Germany is not unique to any specific land.
However what really shocks me is not all the innocewnt blood the German Judiciary helped spill. Being involved with every aspect of the Nazi state. They were even represented at the Wannsee conference. What really shocks is is that after the war all the nazi judges lawyers and Law professors got their jobs back. Not one was executed by the allies, despite all that blood. And then they covered for the murderers. Many times revictimizing the victims of nazi persecution or genocide.
If this book proves anything it is that in any country an independent judiciary is a hungry fox with a key to the Chicken coop. And should be done away with.
One need only look at this country, whose courts in the past few years have systematicly through 'Evolving' Standards (LIE)begun replacing the Bill of Rights of our Founding Fathers with a Liberal Bill of Lies. With 'Cruel and Unusual Punishment' they try to abolish or restrict the Death Penalty for murderers. 'Seperation of Church and State' which is not in this country's constitution but that of the SOviet Union's, they have launched a culture war on the values of this country. The Second Ammendment they ignore. With Campain Finance 'reform' they deliberately allow the very people outside the political establishment to be gagged abridging the first ammendment rights they demand be respected for pornographers. I could go on.
This book is a must read.
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Hitler's Justice: The Courts of the Third Reich
Hitler's Justice: The Courts of the Third Reich by Ingo Müller (Hardcover - Feb. 1991)
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