chapter  9
22 Pages

From Informal Justice to Formal Injustice: The Decriminalization of Political Murder in Weimar and Nazi Germany

Following the murders of Nazi Storm Troop (SA) leader Ernst Rdhm, former Nazi party organizer Gregor Strasser, former Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher, and dozens of others in the so-called ‘Blood Purge’ of June 30-July 1, 1934, the Nazi leadership quickly moved to legitimize its actions. Despite the lack of resistance by the victims, the regime asserted that it had been acting in self-defence to pre-empt what it asserted was a coup plot against Hitler’s rule. Immediately after the conclusion of the purge, the cabinet approved the following law: ‘The measures taken on 30 June and 1 and 2 July to suppress the acts of high treason are legal, being necessary for the self-defence of the State.’1 Less than two weeks later, Chancellor Adolf Hitler, speaking about the affair before the Reichstag, declared himself ‘Supreme Judge of the German People’. Legal theorists sympathetic to the Nazi cause approved this rationalization. Among them was Carl Schmitt, who wrote in the German Law Journal that the purge was a ‘true execution of justice. It was not carried out under the administration of justice, but was itself the highest justice.’ Schmitt further spoke of ‘the jurisprudence of the Ftihrer’.2