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Crime and Criminal Justice in Modern Germany

Crime and Criminal Justice in Modern Germany

Edited by Richard F. Wetzell
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    Crime and Criminal Justice in Modern Germany
    Book Description:

    The history of criminal justice in modern Germany has become a vibrant field of research, as demonstrated in this volume. Following an introductory survey, the twelve chapters examine major topics in the history of crime and criminal justice from Imperial Germany, through the Weimar and Nazi eras, to the early postwar years. These topics include case studies of criminal trials, the development of juvenile justice, and the efforts to reform the penal code, criminal procedure, and the prison system. The collection also reveals that the history of criminal justice has much to contribute to other areas of historical inquiry: it explores the changing relationship of criminal justice to psychiatry and social welfare, analyzes representations of crime and criminal justice in the media and literature, and uses the lens of criminal justice to illuminate German social history, gender history, and the history of sexuality.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-247-8
    Subjects: History, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction. Crime and Criminal Justice in Modern Germany
    (pp. 1-28)
    Richard F. Wetzell

    Historians of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Germany have been relative latecomers to the history of crime and criminal justice. In both modern British and French historiography, crime and criminal justice have been major topics of research since the 1970s: in France, research in this area was pioneered by Michel Foucault, in Britain, by E. P. Thompson and other social historians.¹ In the field of German history, the significance of this subject was first recognized by historians of the early modern era, who developed a rich literature on this topic over the last twenty-five years.² Historical research on crime and criminal justice...

  2. Part I. Criminal Justice in Imperial Germany

    • Chapter 1 Justice is Blind: Crowds, Irrationality, and Criminal Law in the Late Kaiserreich
      (pp. 31-55)
      Benjamin Carter Hett

      Early in 1901, a Berlin lawyer named Ludwig Flatau published a surprising pamphlet. The surprise did not lie in the title—“More Protection for the Administration of Justice!”³—as commentators of all political stripes had been questioning the practical independence of Germany’s courts for years. Nor was there anything surprising or novel about some of Flatau’s social prejudices, directed toward eastern Europeans and eastern Germans (among whom “the level of cultivation closely approaches the Slavic regions of Austria”);⁴ against women; and indeed, against the “the broad masses” anywhere, whose chances of ever acquiring “enlightenment” were “the slimmest imaginable.”⁵ No, the...

    • Chapter 2 Punishment on the Path to Socialism: Socialist Perspectives on Crime and Criminal Justice before World War I
      (pp. 56-85)
      Andreas Fleiter

      August Bebel, co-founder and recognized leader of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in Imperial Germany, had a clear idea about the fate of crime under socialism. In his best-selling bookDie Frau und der Sozialismus(Woman and Socialism), published in 1879, he wrote:

      Neither political nor common crimes will be known in the future. Thieves will have disappeared, because private property will have disappeared, and in the new society everyone will be able to satisfy his wants easily and conveniently by work. Nor will there be tramps and vagabonds, for they are the product of a society founded on private...

    • Chapter 3 Reforming Women’s Prisons in Imperial Germany
      (pp. 86-112)
      Sandra Leukel

      Beginning in the late 1860s, Germany witnessed a growing interest in the issues of female criminality and women’s penal institutions.¹ Between 1871 and 1914, the number of publications devoted to this subject substantially increased. The standard works of criminology, then gradually establishing itself as a science, usually devoted separate chapters to female criminality, even though these did not occupy a central position. By the turn of the century, however, an increasing number of publications focused exclusively on female criminality and the treatment of women in penal institutions. This increasing interest cannot be explained by a rise in female criminality. On...

  3. Part II. Penal Reform in the Weimar Republic

    • Chapter 4 Between Reform and Repression: Imprisonment in Weimar Germany
      (pp. 115-136)
      Nikolaus Wachsmann

      The prison, at least as we know it today, is a rather recent invention. It was only in the course of the late eighteenth and nineteenth century that institutions designated solely for locking up criminal offenders, dominated by rigid discipline and hidden from the gaze of the public, became key means of punishment in the Western world. This birth (or, more accurately, rebirth) of the prison has caught the eye of historians and social scientists and has been the subject of several celebrated studies dealing with France, Britain, and the United States, among other states.¹The focus on the late eighteenth...

    • Chapter 5 The Medicalization of Wilhelmine and Weimar Juvenile Justice Reconsidered
      (pp. 137-157)
      Gabriel N. Finder

      This statement by Herbert Francke, Weimar Germany’s preeminent juvenile court judge, gives a picture of the development of juvenile justice that is quite different from Foucault’s image of the insidious corrosion of law by a medicalized version of discipline and from the abiding historiographical inclination to locate the repressive turn in German criminal justice after 1933 in its Wilhelmine and Weimar prehistory. This chapter will argue that Francke’s assessment is a useful corrective that has a great deal of validity. First and foremost, historians should be careful not to overemphasize the mantra of the Wilhelmine and Weimar German juvenile justice...

    • Chapter 6 Welfare and Justice: The Battle over Gerichtshilfe in the Weimar Republic
      (pp. 158-182)
      Warren Rosenblum

      Soziale Gerichtshilfewas a pivotal institution in Weimar visions of criminal policy reform. Started in Bielefeld by a coalition of reformers,Gerichtshilfewas a vehicle for introducing social knowledge and technologies into criminal justice. UnderGerichtshilfe, welfare auxiliaries known as “court assistants” (Gerichtshelfer) produced a “comprehensive portrait” of accused offenders and their milieux. Their sources included interviews with the accused and his or her family, friends, employers, teachers, and clergy. The court assistants might also examine records and files from welfare associations, government agencies, and perhaps medical and psychological examinations. This material was then distilled into a social diagnosis and...

  4. Part III. Constructions of Crime in the Weimar Courts, Media, and Literature

    • Chapter 7 Prostitutes, Respectable Women, and Women from “Outside”: The Carl Grossmann Sexual Murder Case in Postwar Berlin
      (pp. 185-206)
      Sace Elder

      Few of Weimar Germany’s notorious criminals epitomize the sexual and moral decadence often associated with the period better than the “sexual murderer” Karl (who went by Carl) Friedrich Wilhelm Grossmann. Known popularly as the Blue Beard or the Beast of the Silesian train station district of Berlin, Grossmann won infamy in August 1921, when he was discovered in his one-room apartment in one of the poorest of Berlin’s proletarian districts, standing blood-soaked over the lifeless body of young Marie Nitsche. After many weeks of interrogation, Grossmann admitted to the murders of two other women. Officials, however, became convinced that he...

    • Chapter 8. Class, Youth, and Sexuality in the Construction of the Lustmörder: The 1928 Murder Trial of Karl Hussmann
      (pp. 207-225)
      Eva Bischoff and Daniel Siemens

      In the early morning of 23 March 1928, two workers who were on their way to their shift discovered a body in front of the house at Schultenstrasse 11 in Gladbeck, a small town in the northern part of the industrial district of the Ruhr.¹ The men woke the physician Dr. Lutter, who lived close by. Dr. Lutter, after realizing that the person in question was beyond his help, went to his friend Adolf Daube, headmaster [Rektor] of the localLutherschule, a protestant primary school, who lived at Schultenstrasse 11, and called the police. When Lutter and Daube stepped out...

    • Chapter 9 Crime and Literature in the Weimar Republic and Beyond: Telling the Tale of the Poisoners Ella Klein and Margarete Nebbe
      (pp. 226-244)
      Todd Herzog

      At the end of Don DeLillo’s novelLibra, a fictional account of the case of Lee Harvey Oswald and the Kennedy assassination, Oswald’s mother Marguerite testifies in court about her son, explaining why she cannot offer a straightforward account of the events leading up to the assassination:

      Your honor, I cannot state the truth of this case with a simple yes and no. I have to tell a story. . . . There are stories within stories, judge. . . . I intend to research this case and present my findings. But I cannot pin it down to a simple...

  5. Part IV. Criminal Justice in Nazi and Postwar Germany

    • Chapter 10 Serious Juvenile Crime in Nazi Germany
      (pp. 247-269)
      Robert G. Waite

      With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, German law enforcement professionals grew increasingly concerned that the patterns of World War I and some prewar trends in juvenile delinquency would intensify and that they might witness an overall rise in all types of crime, from minor property offenses to serious and violent crime. Indeed, after the outbreak of the war, police and court officials from a number of communities observed significant jumps in the incidence of crime.¹ Political leaders shared these concerns, and as early as 1 February 1940, Hermann Göring called a meeting to discuss the challenges facing...

    • Chapter 11 Criminal Law after National Socialism: The Renaissance of Natural Law and the Beginnings of Penal Reform in West Germany
      (pp. 270-301)
      Petra Gödecke

      The effort to achieve a comprehensive revision of the penal code had occupied German professors and practitioners of criminal law since theKaiserreich.¹ But the penal reform movement and the official reform commissions, which continued all the way up to the Nazi regime’s penal reform commission under Justice Minister Franz Gürtner, remained unsuccessful. This chapter investigates when penal reform reappeared on the agenda of German criminal law professors after 1945 and what shape this new penal reform discourse took. The early postwar phase of the reform discourse had little influence on the comprehensive penal reform that was eventually passed in...

    • Chapter 12 Repressive Rehabilitation: Crime, Morality, and Delinquency in Berlin-Brandenburg, 1945–1958
      (pp. 302-326)
      Jennifer V. Evans

      In an April 1958 memorandum, an unknown author outlined the current state of youth criminal policy in the German Democratic Republic. “Unlike in West Germany,” the author wrote, “in the GDR, delinquency is no longer the product of war and fascism as it was in the years after 1945.” Implicitly connected to the evils of capitalism, juvenile delinquency was less of a problem in East Germany due to the social character of the workers-and-farmers state. Contemporary cases of youth endangerment and criminality owed their existence not to the structure of state socialism, the author suggested, but to the unequal application...