The legal system

The Nazis swept away many of the freedoms that Germans had enjoyed under the Weimar Republic. The Nazi’s control of the legal system made opposition to the regime very difficult.

  • Judges had to swear an oath of loyalty to Hitler and were expected always to act in the interests of the Nazi state.
  • All lawyers had to join the Nazi Lawyers' Association, which meant they could be controlled.
  • The role of defence lawyers in criminal trials was weakened.
  • Some trials were staged as publicity stunts.
  • “People’s Courts” were set up in 1934 to try those accused of “crimes against the state”.
  • Standard punishments for crime were abolished, so local prosecutors could decide what penalties to impose on those found guilty.
  • The number of crimes that carried the death penalty increased from three to 46.
  • “Protective custody” was introduced for those who might commit a crime. This meant people could be arrested and interned even if they had not broken the law.

These changes meant the legal system was no longer fair. People lost many of their civil rights.