Raging Right Wing Republican

For those of us who are politically informed, and therefore Republican.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Origins of Germany's Abolition of the Death Penalty

The Washington Post reports on the dubious origins of Germany's abolition of the death penalty.

This sign of the moral superiority of Europeans over Americans has its origins in the mission of Nazi sympathizers who wished to save the lives of their fellow war criminals on trial at Nuremburg:
Far from intending to repudiate the barbarism of Hitler, the author of Article 102 wanted to make a statement about the supposed excesses of Allied victors' justice.

The International War Crimes Tribunal at Nuremberg sentenced 11 top Nazis to death, all of whom were hanged in November 1946 except for Hermann Goering, who committed suicide. The Western Allies hanged or shot dozens of lesser-known war criminals - including 284 at a U.S. Army prison in Landsberg between November 1945 and June 1951. Though SS men who had supervised death camps and massacred Jews were among the condemned, many Germans bristled at victors' justice. "The longer the executions went on," reports a town history on the Landsberg Civic Association's Web site, "the louder became the voices demanding an end to them. There was a broad political alliance in favor of clemency efforts." . . .

It was not until a meeting of a special subcommittee on Dec. 6 that a single delegate, Hans-Christoph Seebohm, surprised everyone by proposing to get rid of the death penalty. Seebohm, who ran various industrial enterprises under the Nazis, led the tiny, far-right German Party - which also advocated using "German Reich" instead of "Federal Republic." Addressing the council, Seebohm equated executions "in the period before 1945 and in the period since 1945." As British historian Richard J. Evans notes in "Rituals of Retribution: Capital Punishment in Germany, 1600-1987," the rightist politician was "thinking above all of the execution of war criminals, to which he and his party were bitterly opposed. Preventing Nazi war criminals from being sentenced to death would certainly help the German Party in its search for voters on the far right."
The article also mentions how the far right's opposition gave the Social Democrats cover to oppose it too.

The rest is history. The WaPo article concludes:
When U.S. troops captured Saddam Hussein in December 2003, Germany's Social Democratic chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, had wide backing in declaring: "I am against the death penalty, and that goes for everyone - even a dictator, like Saddam Hussein, who treated other people in the cruelest way." Schroeder was remaining true to his society's postwar traditions - truer, perhaps, than he realized.


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