I know for sure that repressions in the USSR at thirties had been en masse illegal in the sense that the laws existed at that period of time there's no word about, say, executing people without any judgement - and there have been thousands of such executions.

Today I've realized that I don't know almost nothing about the legal grounds of mass killings of jews, gypsies, homosexuals and other oppressed social groups.

There's an article on Nuremberg Laws in wikipedia. As far as I understand, jews were deprived of citizenship and there were described some actions prohibited for non-citizens - for example, one can not "display the Reich and national flag or the national colors". Breaches of these rules were punished by imprisonment.

But what for the things that had actually happened? Did there existed laws on, say, sending children to concentration camps? Had the procedure of mass execution formulated, stated or regulated by any legislative act? If such acts existed, had the Parliament voted for them?

  • 2
    You know the most executions in the USSR were in fact following some judgment albeit by bodies of doubtful legality. Still the convictions had to cite the existing articles of the criminal code in each case. This was not the case with Germany where sometimes people acquitted but the court, were taken to concentration camps as a "preventive measure".
    – Anixx
    Nov 3, 2013 at 2:04
  • @Anixx, " albeit by bodies of doubtful legality" - that is exactly what I'm talking about
    – shabunc
    Nov 3, 2013 at 8:42
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    You ask, had the Parliament voted for them. Actually the Enabling Act gave the cabinet, i.e. Hitler the right to issue any laws they wanted.
    – Anixx
    Nov 4, 2013 at 8:14

1 Answer 1


It seems that the Nazis employed a wide range of various legal tricks and arguments to prosecute their enemies and victims. These include:

  • Preventive measures due to various extraordinary legislation. These were used mostly against their political enemies, such as Communists.

  • Protective custody. A person was forced to sign a request to be imprisoned "voluntarily" because their life was in danger when free. The Nazis first created the danger and then required people to ask themselves be imprisoned, otherwise the police said they could not guarantee the protection.

  • According the law, Jews who left Germany for another place of living ceased being German subjects. Nazis employed this law when they mobilized Jews for labor service outside Germany during the war. Upon crossing the German border their property was confiscated and they were no longer considered subjects of the state.

  • Prosecuting stateless Jews. Some Jews who lived outside Germany could not prove their citizenship of the respective countries, especially in rural areas. Upon German occupation, such Jews were summarily executed because no country recognized them as their citizens. At the same time Jews who could prove their citizenship were spared for a while.

  • Issuing amnesty orders to the SS. Hitler signed a large number of amnesty orders to the SS personnel who were involved in the atrocities. So that even if they committed crimes according the current law, they were spared of any responsibilities.

In all, a German Jew who managed to remain legally in Germany for the duration of the war, would be most likely spared of the hostilities. The most difficult thing for him would be to avoid conscription to the labor service, which was a disguise for transporting Jews to concentration camps and gettos outside Germany.

In memoirs some German Jews who managed to remain legally in Germany for the duration of the war, recall that many police officers were pointedly polite with them when seeing they were Jews.

In general, the policy of the concentration camps in the occupied territory definitely contradicted the Hague convention of 1907, to which Germany was a signatory.

  • 1
    Interesting, but doesn't answer the question. Nov 3, 2013 at 7:26

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