Conflicting loyalties : the Supreme Court in Weimar and Nazi Germany 1918-1945 / by William Frederick Meinecke.
The Supreme Court's personnel and structure remained largely unchanged from 1918 until 1945. Both the Weimar Republic and the Nazi regime confronted the problem of ensuring the loyalty of the Supreme Court, but with different degrees of success. Supreme Court judges regarded Weimar democracy as a threat to their role in society and their view of law. In the 1920's, and especially from 1928 to 1933, the Supreme Court hoped for the restoration of an authoritarian state. They viewed the Nazi dictatorship in 1933 with cautious optimism. Supreme Court judges were driven by ideology. Their conception of law and their role in German society and the judiciary explains their conflicting loyalties. Supreme Court judges detested parliament, and in particular the role Social Democrats, Communists and Democrats played in determining state policy and were convinced that they would subvert the judiciary. Supreme Court judges welcomed Hitler in 1933 because they rejoiced in the end of democracy and of the threat “leftists” posed to judicial independence and the Law. But they were also concerned about possible Nazi reforms. In Weimar, state officials could be anti-Communist and even anti-Democratic and still serve the Republic, but they could not be overtly anti-Nazi and remain in office in the Third Reich. Unlike Weimar, the Nazi state had the determination to impose its own vision of law on the Supreme Court. Hitler established an atmosphere of insecurity for judges, designed to influence court decisions. When faced with demands from the Nazi party, they almost invariably cooperated, especially since the Reich ministry of justice urged cooperation. Supreme Court justices implemented the purge of judges and applied Nazi racial ideology in court. With the beginning of the war, Hitler utilized the reliability of the Supreme Court to tighten state control over judicial decisions, despite the court's reticence to accept overt state direction. But, the Supreme Court was more willing to impose death sentences than lower courts. Hitler moved therefore to impose state direction in 1942. Subsequently, the Supreme Court became less important in the administration of justice, as Hitler came to rely on the Peoples' High Court.
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