December 18, 2011
BOOK OF THE WEEK: WEEK FIFTY-ONE, 2011
Ian Kershaw, The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler's Germany, 1944-1945 (New York: The Penguin Press, 2011) ("With this recognition, the signs of disintegration within the civilian population and among ordinary soldiers started to mount. The regime responded in characteristic fashion: by hugely stepping up repression at home." "Of course, repression had been an intrinsic part of the Nazi regime from the outset. The legal profession had fully collaborated in the escalating persecution and responded at every stage to the extra-legal violence of the police and the party's organization by intensifying its own repression. But the repression of the pre-war years, omnipresent through it was, had concentrated on 'outsider' groups. The regime's social and political control rested ultimately on the general acknowledgement by Germans that it would act ruthlessly against those who stood in its way or were deemed in some way or another to be its enemies. As long as the repression was aimed at 'outsiders' and 'undesirables', however, it was accepted, even welcomed, by the majority of the population. And as long as individuals who did not belong to a politically or racially targeted group conformed or did not have the misfortune to be deemed an 'inferior' in some way, to be excluded from the 'people's community'. they were not likely to fall into the clutches of the Gestapo."  "As the losses at the front mounted alarmingly and the pressures on the civilian population within Germany grew commensurately during the course of 1944, the regime became ever more sensitive to signs of dissent Even so, criticism of the regime widened, as the authorities' own monitoring services plainly indicated." Id. at 207-208. "Bormann's guidelines . . . give clear enough indication that the new courts had little to do with conventional justice. They were, in fact, no more than a facade for increasingly arbitrary and wild terror, 'instruments of destruction in legal drapery'. Death sentences were scarcely more than a formality , all the more so since the judges were themselves under pressure to show their loyalty. Around 6,000-7,000 death sentences are known to have been handed out by the summary courts martial, though in countless other cases the executioners did not even wait for the farce of a quasi-judicial sentence. The summary justice became even more arbitrary and unconstrained after 9 March, when their reach was extended by Hitler's decree creating the 'flying court martial' (fliegendes Standericht). The courts travelled around Germany dealing with those accused of undermining the war effort in whatever way, and wasting no time before reaching their verdict -- usually sentence of death, meted out by the senior officer presiding over the court, and without any appeal. By then, all semblance of centralized control over judicial action was visibly disintegrating, and authorized lawlessness and criminality in the name of upholding the struggle of the German people were becoming rampant as the last phrase of the regime was entered." Id. at 225. Also, see James J. Sheehan, "State of Deception," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 10/23/2011,).