Conditions at KL Hohstein 1933-1935

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Post by David Thompson » 29 Jan 2004 18:38

Thanks for the information, Luca.

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Post by walterkaschner » 30 Jan 2004 02:14

David Thompson,

I had not noticed this thread previously, probably because I was out of the country at around that time. In any event, I join Michael Mills in thanking you sincerely for publishing the above documents relating to the charges brought against some 23 of the Hohstein KZ guards for brutality.

One thing is, however, not entirely clear to me, and that is whether or not the defendants were ultimately pardoned or had their sentences further commuted by Hitler. I assume from the Document 786 PS of November 29, 1935 that such was the case, but it is not absolutely crystal clear to me from the documents that this was the ultimate outcome - although it certainly was in the case of Oberregierungsrat Vogel. Do you have any further information in this regard?

If my assumption of the pardoning of the Hohstein KZ guards is correct, and I think it probably is, then I heartily agree with Mr. Mills that the documents are quite significant, although with a substantially different thrust than Mr. Mills sees in them.

Mr. Mills wrote:
They show that the German Government, even senior National Socialists like the Minister for Justice, Gürtner, did not approve of such irregular actions by the camp guards, regarded them as against the law, and prosecuted them.
In the first place, Dr. Franz Guertner, the Reich's Minister for Justice, was not a "senior National Socialist". According to my information he was never even a member of the Nazi Party. He was an ardent member of the Deutschnationale Volkspartei (DNV), and a fervent supporter of Franz von Papen, who, when Chancellor, appointed Guenter to the post of Minister of Justice in 1932. Although not a Nazi, Guertner continued on as Minister of Justice under Hitler until his death in 1941, probably because as Bavarian Minister of Justice in 1924 he helped arrange for a very lenient sentence for Hitler in the outcome of his trial for the Munich Putsch.

Although Guertner was sympathetic to many of Hitler's views and goals, including the early laws against the Jews, he was appalled by the excesses of the SA and SS and was apparently torn between the desire to resign and the hope that by remaining in office he could in some way mitigate or counteract against what he saw as the dark side of the Nazi government. And, I must say, I think his was a basically decent (except for his anti-semitism) but extremely weak character. His subordinates were ardent Nazis, and I have the impression the Dr. Guertner was more or less of a figurehead during his Ministry.

In the second place, the documentation seems to me to be significant in demonstrating that from the very beginning of Hitler's régime, despite the remonstrances of others sympathetic to certain of his basic goals, Hitler's basic approach was to ignore or overrule long standing principles of legality and decency, and to approve, condone and even encourage acts of unfettered and scandalous brutality by his cohorts.

I grant, as Mr. Mills states, that:
The reasons given for the prosecution are quite telling; they draw a distinction between acts of violence perpetrated for political reasons, ie because a camp guard felt driven to punish a prisoner for something that the prisoner, or the political party he belonged to, had done, and those perpetrated out of a personal sadistic desire to inflict harm. In the former case, the violent act was considered justified, even if irregular, while in the latter case it was considered unworthy of a National Socialist and deserving of punishment.
but the fact is, if my assumption is correct, that even this reasoning of the prosecution, although to my mind bordering upon, or exceeding, the barbaric, was overruled by the higher authority of Hitler himself, which in effect proclaimed the message that there was absolutely no limit to be imposed upon the brutality displayed by his supporters against his enemies, and that considerations of legality or humanity were simply not to be an issue under his régime.

Regards, and thanks again for providing this enlightening material, Kaschner

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Post by David Thompson » 30 Jan 2004 02:56

Walter -- I had the same "take" on the documents as you had. I'll look through my Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression set to see if I can find out any more information on this matter.

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