Menu JTA Search

German Supreme Court Rejects Duress’ Defense of Gestapo Officials

SIGN UP FOR THE JTA DAILY BRIEFING

The Federal Supreme Court, West Germany’s highest tribunal, today knocked down the doctrine that Nazis guilty of brutality under the Hitler regime had “acted under duress. “

In a Supreme Court decision seen here as establishing a highly significant precedent, the court ordered the retrial of two ex-members of the Gestapo who were shown leniency at a trial at Wiesbaden, two years ago, when a lower court accepted their pleas of “duress.”

In the Wiesbaden trial, one of the men, ex-Gestapo officer Heinrich Lorenz, was acquitted. The second, Waldemar Eisfeld, received a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence. Both were accused of aiding the deportation of elderly Jews from Wiesbaden during World War II. Rejecting their claims of duress, the High Court maintained that “duress: could be claimed only if the individual’s own life had been in danger.” The court held that the Gestapo was a “terror organization” aiming at quashing anti-Nazi resistance, and that Gestapo officers engaging in brutality were “solely responsible for their acts. “

NEXT STORY