Tasks and Goals
The judiciary and National Socialism - two terms which still have nothing in common in the eyes of many. But still: The findings of legal history of the last decades impressively show that the judiciary in the years 1933-1945 was an integral, active component of the NS injustice regime, yes even occasionally ran ahead of this regime with tough, extensive interpretation of law and sentencing practices.
Bearing this role of the judiciary in the Third Reich and the responsibility which results from this for today's judiciary in a constitutional state in mind, the Documentation and Research Office "The Judiciary and National Socialism" was set up in 1988 in Recklinghausen at the Justizakademie (Legal Academy) of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia - Gustav-Heinemann-Haus - as a central further education facility for all members of the judiciary. The Justizakademie seemed an ideal location for such an institution to give the approx. 10,000 annual conference guests from all sectors of the judiciary the opportunity to deal with the subject of "The Judiciary and National Socialism" in different ways.
As link between historical research and legal practise the Documentation and Research Office has been promoting contemporary historical research for nearly 20 years, not only about the role of the judiciary in the period of national socialism but also about the development of the judiciary after 1945 in the two German states, as well as the effects of the mostly failed denazification of the judiciary and jurisprudence on today's judiciary and jurisprudence. It sees itself as contact partner for scientists who would like to conduct research in the realm of judicial history, but also encourages colleagues working in practice to do their own independent research, which is supported in various different ways.
Events and Projects
Every year the Documentation Office organises conferences, which bring together members of the judiciary and researchers from all areas of contemporary history. The conference "NS-Euthanasia" was held in 2005, in 2006 there were two symposia, one on the Nuremberg trials, as well as on the subject of "The Judiciary and Genetic Health" - an aspect of national socialist injustice which has long been brushed under the carpet. In 2007 the conference "The Judiciary and Terrorism" will deal with the challenges of new forms of global criminality for a democratic and free judiciary in a constitutional state. With these events it promotes the interdisciplinary scientific exchange between practitioners of law, historians and other professions.
The Documentation Office imparts knowledge and arouses awareness for problems through regular further training sessions for members of the judiciary, as for example this year under the title of "The players did not drop out of the sky..." - which deals with continuity of the elite before and after 1945. In regular lectures and further training sessions it sensitises in particular job starters to the dangers of a takeover and self-homogenization of the judiciary by a totalitarian regime.
It looks after the exhibition "Justiz im Nationalsozialismus" ("The Judiciary during the National Socialist Era") which presents the history of the judiciary during the Third Reich and its effects up to the nineteen eighties and makes it a critical subject. The exhibition is shown in the Justizakademie and thus reaches thousands of people working in the judiciary year after year. It is also lent to courts in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia as a temporary exhibition. Local history of the judiciary is researched and documented with a local section for these temporary exhibitions. This means that each year another piece of the judiciary history in North Rhine-Westphalia is researched, documented, rescued from oblivion and made accessible to the public.
Last but not least, the Documentation Office also looks after the publication series "Juristische Zeitgeschichte NRW" (Legal contemporary history of NRW) published by the Ministry of Justice of the state of NRW. This presents outstanding individual publications in the area of contemporary history and conference volumes for the individual events. With all this input the Documentation Office guarantees a high standard of contemporary history publications.
High standard contemporary historical research can only be conducted in collaboration with other research institutes and universities. The Documentation Office therefore cooperates with various educational, commemorative and research institutions, including
- the Institut für juristische Zeitgeschichte der Fern-Universität (Institute of legal contemporary history of the Correspondence University) Hagen,
- the historical site Villa ten Hompel of the city of Münster
- the Mahn- und Gedenkstätte (memorial and commemorative site) of the city of Düsseldorf
- the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität (Westphalian Wilhelms-University) Münster, chair Prof. Thamer
- the Institut für Deutsche und Rheinische Rechtsgeschichte der Rheinischen Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität
(Institute for German and Rhenish legal history of the Rhenish Friedrich-Wilhelms-University) Bonn, Prof. Schmoeckel
- the meeting place Alte Synagoge (Old Synagogue) Wuppertal, Dr. Schrader.
Other contact partners are departments or offices such as, for example, the central offices for the pursuit of national socialist violent crimes at the public prosecutor's offices in Dortmund and Cologne, but also individuals within and outside of the justice system who are provided a forum for publishing their research contributions in the publication series "Juristische Zeitgeschichte" (Legal Contemporary History). Outstanding theses on the subjects of legal contemporary history can also be published in the series to support young scientists.
For further information (site in German)
- Publication series "Juristische Zeitgeschichte" (Legal contemporary History)
- Interdisciplinary symposia and conferences
The Documentation Office always looks forward to your interest, questions and ideas about the issues provided on this page and pages of other research institutions. If you require support for research in North Rhine-Westphalian archives, we would be pleased to help within the scope of our means. Please contact the
Dokumentations- und Forschungsstelle at the Justizakademie of the Land North Rhine-Westphalia,
Fax: 02361 481 - 141