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Judicial Independence and the Tragic Consequences that Arose in Nazi Germany from a Lack Thereof
AuthorYeager, Stephen Michael
AdvisorRichardson, James T.
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This dissertation discusses the topics of judicial independence and judicial accountability using the federal and state court systems of the United States as major examples since much of the work on judicial independence derives from the American experience. I define judicial independence by addressing the inquiries of independence for whom, independence from whom, independence from what, and independence for what purpose. Conditions that foster or supplant judicial independence are then summarized to facilitate their application to the case of Nazi Germany and its judicial system. It is next proffered and considered that upon Adolf Hitler's usurpation of power within Nazi Germany judicial independence was abruptly and purposefully dispatched through the passage on March 23, 1933, of the Enabling Act, or The Law for the Recovery of People and Reich from Suffering. In his speech to the Reichstag advocating the acceptance of this law, Hitler was forthright, honest, and provided an omen of what was to subsequently transpire relative to judicial independence in the Third Reich when he stated, "The security of tenure of the judges on the one side must correspond on the other with an elasticity for the benefit of the community when reaching judgments. The centre of legal concern is not the individual but the Volk." Hitler had obtained unlimited power in a constitutional manner and therefore whatever he did was legal in the juridical sense, but the rule of law was completely preempted and no longer prevailed within Germany. No judicial system could resist and continue to function in a constitutional manner once Hitler had been granted dictatorial powers. The creation of the Volksgerichtshof or People's Court on April 24, 1934, and its ensuing operation epitomized a belief in the law to the detriment of justice, sanctioning the National Socialist regime to pervert justice to accommodate their particular purposes. This paper concludes with a discussion of some individuals who chose to resist the barbarism and inhumanity of Nazi tyranny and how they were dealt with by the judicial system in Germany. These individuals were convinced that Hitler and his minions were ruining Germany, once known as the land of "thinkers and poets," and had to be stopped before total destruction occurred, recognizing they were being ruled by criminals who had no regard for human life. The individual in the resistance attempted to show that there was indeed "another Germany," that not all inhabitants of Germany were hateful, arrogant, and uncultured. However, their actions culminated in "show trials" before the wholly dependent People's Court, resulting in clear demonstrations of how Germany's judiciary had lost all semblance of independence, and were therefore complacent in what transpired during that dark period of German history.