Online Module: The Holocaust and Fundamental Rights

Doc 4: The case of Marcus Luftglas

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Sacrificing the independence of the courts - correcting judgements.


  • Nazism 1919-1945. A documentary reader. Ed. by J. Noakes and G. Pridham. – Repr. Exeter: Univ. of Exeter Pr. Vol. 04. The German home front in World War II. – 1998, pp. 141/142.

With the beginning of the war, Hitler intervened to ‘correct’ sentences passed by the courts considered inadequate, ordering the offenders to be transferred to the SS and shot in the nearest concentration camp. Between 1 September 1939 and 20 January 1940, at least eighteen such executions had taken place, half before sentence had been passed by the courts and half after. By 20 October 1942 there had been at least thirty cases of Germans having their sentences 'corrected' in this way and even more Poles.

Typically, Hitler would have his attention drawn to some press report of a case by his adjutant, Julius Schaub, usually in response to prompting from an outside source, and then would 'blow his top' and, often without seeing the case papers, would order the execution of the offender(s) involved.

An example is the case of a Jewish merchant from Kattowitz in Silesia, who had been convicted of hoarding a large quantity of eggs:

Reich Minister and Head of the Reich Chancellery [Lammers] to State Secretary Schlegelberger, Acting Minister of Justice 25 October 1941:

"The Führer has been shown the enclosed press cutting concerning the sentencing of the Jew, Markus Luftgas [!], to 2 ½ year's imprisonment by the Special Court at Bielitz.
The Führer desires that Luftgas should be sentenced to death. I would be obliged if you would make the necessary arrangements as soon as possible and report to the Führer through me on the measures you have taken."

Lammers to SS Gruppenführer Julius Schaub, Hitler's adjutant:

"On receiving your letter of 22 October 1941 I contacted the Reich Minister of Justice and requested him to make the necessary arrangements."

Schlegelberger to Lammers, 29 October 1941:

"On receiving the Führer command passed on to me by the Minister of State and Head of the Chancellery, I handed over the Jew, Markus Luftgas [!], who was sentenced by the Special Court at Kattowitz to 2 ½ years' imprisonment, to the Secret State Police for execution."


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