Non-Germans—particularly "displaced persons"—were routinely blamed for crime in occupied western Germany. The Allied and German fixation on foreign gangs, violent criminals, and organized crime syndicates is well documented in contemporary reports, observations, and the press. An abundance of such data has long shaped provocative historical narratives of foreign-perpetrated criminality ranging from extensive disorder through to near uncontrolled anarchy. Such accounts complement assertions of a broader and more generalized crime wave. Over the last 30 years, however, a literature has emerged that casts doubt on the actual extent of lawlessness during the occupation of the west and, in turn, on the level non-German participation in crime. It may be that extensive reporting of non-German criminality at the time reflected the preexisting bigotries of Germans and the Allies, which when combined with anxieties about social and societal integrity became focused on the most marginalized groups in postwar society. This process of "group criminalization" is common and can have different motivations. Regardless of its cause, it was clearly evident in postwar western Germany and we hypothesized that it should have created harsher outcomes for non-German versus German criminal defendants when facing the Allied criminal justice system, such as greater rates of conviction and harsher punishments. This hypothesis was tested using newly collected military government court data from 1945 to 1946. Contrary to expectations, we found a more subtle bias against non-Germans than expected, which we argue reveals important characteristics about the US and British military government criminal justice system.


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pp. 641-666
Launched on MUSE
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