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CHAPTER 1 A SUBJECT FOR JURISPRUDENCE FROM THE ULM EINSATZGRUPPEN TRIAL TO THE CREATION OF THE LUDWIGSBURG CENTRAL OFFICE, 1956–1960 You say that what the Nazis did cannot be comprehended as “crime”—I’m not altogether comfortable with your view, because a guilt that goes beyond all criminal guilt inevitably takes on a streak of “greatness”—of satanic greatness—which is, for me, as inappropriate for the Nazis as all the talk about the “demonic” element in Hitler and so forth. . . . It seems to me that we have to see things in their total banality . . . because that’s what truly characterizes them. Bacteria can cause epidemics that wipe out nations, but they remain merely bacteria. . . . [A] Shakespeare would never be able to give adequate form to this material—his instinctive aesthetic sense would lead to falsification of it—and that’s why he couldn’t attempt it. There is no idea and no essence here. Nazi crime is properly a subject for psychology and sociology, for psychopathology and jurisprudence only. —Karl Jaspers, letter to Hannah Arendt, October 19, 1946 Bernd Fischer-Schweder was an angry man. He had lost his appeal for reinstatement in his job as director of a refugee camp in the Ulm district of Wilhelmsburg , from which he had been dismissed when newly arrived refugees in 1955 recognized him as the ex–SS officer and former police director in Memel (Lithuania), Bernhard Fischer-Schweder. Like many compromised former Nazis , he had adopted an alias after 1945 and concealed his dubious wartime activities . His failure to mention them when he applied for the job in 1953 led to his removal from state employment after his true identity became known. Now he had lost not only his job but also his appeal with the labor court. FischerSchweder dashed off a letter to his local newspaper, complaining that he, a A Subject for Jurisprudence 24 “friend of the Jews and Poles,” had suffered a grievous injustice. Instead of winning him the sympathy to overturn this grave injustice, his letter was read by a Stuttgart rabbi, Felix Bloch, originally from Lithuania, who recognized him as chief of a special commando operating on the German-Lithuanian border in the summer of 1941 involved in mass shootings of Jewish civilians. On September 12, 1955, Bloch filed a “criminal report” (Strafanzeige) with the Ulm prosecutor’s office against Fischer-Schweder.1 After an incriminating interrogation in June 1956, Fischer-Schweder was arrested on suspicion of participating in the shooting of at least five thousand Jews. In April 1957, other alleged participants in the mass murder were arrested . The Stuttgart Solicitor General, Erich Nellmann, appointed his colleague , Erwin Schüle, as the lead prosecutor. Schüle’s biography would seem an odd match with the role to which he was now assigned. Born in 1913, he studied law at the University of Tübingen in the late years of the Weimar Republic —a university notable for its anti-Weimar and anti-Semitic coloration. In Tübingen, Schüle joined the SA, where he made the acquaintance of, among others, Martin Sandberger, future commander of Einsatzkommando 1a and a defendant in the 1948 US Einsatzgruppen trial in which the American National Military Tribunal sentenced him to death for massacring Jews in Estonia .2 In 1937, Schüle joined the Nazi Party. He served as a soldier on both the Western and Eastern fronts, a service that ended when he fell into Soviet captivity. Sentenced to death by a Soviet military court in 1949, Schüle was subsequently pardoned and released. During his captivity, Schüle twice visited Auschwitz-Birkenau along with other German POWs, but he dismissed the camp as Soviet propaganda. Not until his own investigations into the charges against Fischer-Schweder did he have a road-to-Damascus experience about Nazi crimes.3 The investigations (and later trial) centered on mass shootings conducted along the East Prussian–Lithuanian border during the German invasion of the Soviet Union. The institutional framework within which the shootings took place was an agreement between the SS and German Army from late March 1941, calling for the liquidation of the “Jewish-Bolshevik intelligentsia” by “special commandos of the Security Police” (that is, the Einsatzgruppen and their subsidiary units, Einsatzkommandos and Sonderkommandos). In Tilsit, Lithuania, congeries of Sonderkommandos, police battalions, and Lithuanian auxiliaries acting under this general mandate shot military-aged Jewish men; by mid-August 1941, Jewish women and children were added. By late 1941, roughly 130,000...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781621900702
Related ISBN
9781621900498
MARC Record
OCLC
883663767
Pages
328
Launched on MUSE
2014-08-06
Language
English
Open Access
No
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