Cover image for The law under the swastika : studies on legal history in Nazi Germany
The law under the swastika : studies on legal history in Nazi Germany
Stolleis, Michael, 1941-
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Studien zur Rechtsgeschichte des Nationalsozialismus. English
Publication Information:
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1998.
Physical Description:
xvi, 263 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


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KK190 .S7613 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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In the Law under the Swastika, Michael Stolleis examines the evolution of legal history, theory, and practice in Nazi Germany, paying close attention to its impact on the Federal Republic and on the German legal profession. Until the late 1960s, historians of the Nazi judicial system were mostly judges and administrators from the Nazi era. According to Stolleis, they were reluctant to investigate this legal history and maintained the ideal that law could not be affected by politics. Michael Stolleis is part of a younger generation and is determined to honestly confront the past in hopes of preventing the same injustices from happening in the future.

Stolleis studies a wide range of legal fields--constitutional, judicial, agrarian, administrative, civil, and business--arguing that all types of law were affected by the political realities of National Socialism. Moreover, he shows that legal traditions were not relinquished immediately with the onset of a new regime. For the first time we can see clearly the continuities between the Nazi period and the postwar period. The law under National Socialism did not make a complete break with the law during the Weimar Republic, nor did the law of the Federal Republic nullify all of the laws under National Socialism. Through a rich and subtle investigation, Stolleis shows how the legal profession and the political regime both reacted to the conditions of the period and molded the judicial system accordingly.

Breaking the conspiracy of silence held by the justices in the postwar period, Stolleis stresses the importance of researching Nazi law in order to confront ethical problems in today's legal profession.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

When Hitler came to power in 1933 he and his fellow Nazis proclaimed that Germany was still a Rechtstaat, a country under the rule of law. The great strength of Stolleis's work is not just that it shows how justice gave way to terror, but that it demonstrates how German judges and lawyers participated in this process. The beginning was innocuous: legal theorists announced that Roman law was dead and that German law, with its idea of the primacy of Gemeinschaft (or community), had triumphed. Much worse was to follow, and as one racial law succeeded another and as the courts surrendered jurisdiction to the Gestapo, German judges and lawyers constructed arguments to defend what was happening. Their principal assertion was that there was a realm of political decision making that was beyond the domain of law. When Germany surrendered to the Allies in 1945, not one German judge was punished for participating in the perversion of justice during the Third Reich. Stolleis deserves unqualified praise for the way in which he brings balanced and scholarly judgment to bear in this groundbreaking study. General readers; upper-division undergraduates and above. S. Bailey Knox College

Table of Contents

Historical Introduction
General Introduction
1 Biases and Value Judgments in the Study of National Socialist Legal History
2 Legal History during the Nazi Period: Outlines of a Scholarly Field
3 Was there "Progress in Legal History" during the Nazi Period?
4 Community and National Community (Volksgemeinschaft): Reflections on Legal Terminology under National Socialism
5 In the Belly of the Beast: Constitutional Legal Theory (Staatsrechtslehre) under National Socialism
6 The Science of Administrative Law under National Socialism
7 The "Revival of Administrative Studies" (Verwaltungslehre) under National Socialism
8 Administrative Jurisdiction under National Socialism
9 "Harsh but Just": Military Justice in the Service of National Socialism
10 The White Rose and Its Judges
11 The Legal System and Judicial Policy in Germany, 1945-1949
12 Theodor Maunz: The Life of a Professor of Constitutional Law