German Supreme Court Rejects Duress’ Defense of Gestapo Officials
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German Supreme Court Rejects Duress’ Defense of Gestapo Officials

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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. “

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