Ex-Judge Hoffmann, former head of the Magdeburg circuit of judges, who was dismissed in February 1929, for the part he played in securing the conviction on a charge of murder of Dr. Rudolph Haas, a director of the Haas Iron Foundry Works in Magdeburg, one of the largest industrial enterprises in Magdeburg, knowing that the murder had been committed by a man named Schroeder, who had confessed to it, and was executed for the crime, has been appointed Chief Justice of the three Berlin judicial districts, which the present Prussian Government has unified.
On his dismissal four years ago, Judge Hoffmann established himself in Magdeburg as an advocate representing the anti-Semitic industrial organizations in the city.
By a tragic coincidence, Dr. Rudolph Haas, who has been living for some time in Prague, where he has represented his firm, has just died there, it is learned.
It was in the early part of 1926 that Dr. Haas, one of the leading industrialists in Magdeburg, and at the same time one of the leaders of the Democratic movement in the city, who had in that capacity come into frequent conflict with the anti-Semitic reactionary forces there, among whom Judge Hoffmann was a prominent figure, was arrested on a charge of having murdered in June 1925 a bookkeeper named Helling employed by his firm. He was sentenced to death by Judge Hoffmann, but the Berlin police authorities, directed by Dr. Bernhard Weiss, then Berlin police vice-president, were not convinced by the evidence, and Berlin detectives were sent down to investigate the case. Afterwards, when Haas’ innocence was proved, Dr. Weiss went into the witness box and swore that it was not true, as Judge Hoffmann had alleged, that he had set the Berlin detective force in motion only because Haas was a fellow-Jew. His advisers had reported to him that there seemed serious gaps and discrepancies in the evidence against Haas, and he had considered the investigations necessary in the interests of justice.
MURDERER VISITED IN CELL
It finally came out that Schroeder, the real murderer, an ex-soldier and a man active in Nationalist circles, who had killed Helling for ordinary motives of robbery, had been traced by the Magdeburg police soon after the murder, but had been visited in his cell by several of the judges, including Judge Hoffmann, who had told him that if he would say that Haas had hired him to kill Helling, because as the bookkeeper he knew too much about the frauds of the firm (none were discovered) so that an anti-Semitic outcry could be stirred up in Magdeburg, he would be allowed to go free.
Schroeder, who afterwards confessed to this, said in his confession that he had never seen Haas in his life until he had been confronted with him and charged him, according to his instructions, with hiring him to kill Helling. He said that he had been supplied with a lot of information about Haas and his affairs to bolster up his accusation.
The case was for a long time the sensation of Germany, and was generally described as “Germany’s Dreyfus Affair.”
A diary which Dr. Haas kept while he was in prison (about nine months) revealed that he had known all the time that there was a plot against his life, and he had given up all hope of the charge against him being disproved. The time he spent in prison waiting for the expected death sentence to be carried out, was infinitely worse, he wrote, than the time he spent under fire in the first line German trenches during the war.