Abstract

Abstract:

Between 1939 and 1945, the highest Wehrmacht court—the Reichskriegsgericht (RKG)— condemned hundreds of Jehovah’s Witness conscientious objectors to death. Though the law permitted lesser sentences, in the majority of cases judges opted for capital punishment. Debate about their motivations persists. Were they Nazi ideologues? Did Nazi laws constrain their judgements? Or do other factors explain their decisions? This examination of the legal reasoning of RKG jurists suggests that the judges held to a totalizing military value system that aligned with Nazi thinking, but did not derive from it. As opposed to civilian courts such as the Volksgerichte, military priorities guided the RKG. Sentences in both court systems were, however, similar for Witnesses who remained dedicated to their beliefs, as courts meted out the harshest sentences possible.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1476-7937
Print ISSN
8756-6583
Pages
pp. 351-372
Launched on MUSE
2020-02-14
Open Access
No
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