The death of Roland Freisler, the fanatically screaming Nazi judge

The death of Roland Freisler, the fanatically screaming Nazi judge
The death of Roland Freisler, the fanatically screaming Nazi judge
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…For many of the conspirators, the assassination had a more pragmatic goal: to save Germany from the catastrophic defeat wrought by Hitler’s increasingly irrational conduct of the war. In the following days, Hitler ordered a large-scale manhunt for the conspirators, which lasted several months. In August 1944, some of the arrested perpetrators of the failed assassination attempt were brought before Freisler for punishment. Hitler ordered that those found guilty be “hanged like cattle”. The court proceedings were filmed to be shown to the German public in cinemas, depicting how Freisler conducted his trial; he often alternated analytical interrogations of the defendants with sudden verbal outbursts, during which he even shouted insults at the defendants from the bench. At one point, Freisler yelled at Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben, who was struggling to keep his pants on after being deliberately given an old, oversized garment without a belt: “You dirty old man, why do you keep playing with your pants?” However, the defendants never lost their dignity. Erwin von Witzleben’s final words to Freisler are said to have been: “You can hand us over to the executioner. In three months, the indignant and distressed people will hold you accountable and drag you alive through the streets with mud.” Caesar von Hofacker, a leading figure in the French resistance, interrupted Freisler after being interrupted several times himself by saying, “Now be quiet, Mr. Freisler! Because today it’s my head. It’ll be your head in a year!” As Freisler sarcastically described the impending death of General Erich Fellgiebel, Fellgiebel told Freisler, “Hurry up, Mr. President, or you’ll be hanged before we are.” When Count Ulrich-Wilhelm Schwerin von Schwanenfeld, crippled by the conditions of his imprisonment, was brought to court without a belt or tie, he also tried to preserve his dignity. He stated that his opposition to Hitler was due to “many murders in Germany and abroad”. He was constantly interrupted by an enraged Freisler, who eventually yelled at him, “You really are disgusting trash!”. In the end, more than 7,000 people were arrested. Of these, 4,980, including von Witzleben, von Hofacker, Count Schwerin von Schwanenfeld and General Fellgiebel, were executed, often on flimsy evidence. Some executions were carried out within two hours of the verdict. Justice finally caught up with Freisler in February 1945. There are two conflicting accounts of the circumstances of Freisler’s death. On the morning of February 3, 1945, Freisler was presiding over the Saturday session of the People’s Court when Berlin was attacked by American Air Force bombers. Government and Nazi buildings were hit, including the Reich Chancellery, the Gestapo headquarters, the Party Chancellery and the People’s Court. When Freisler heard the air raid sirens, he hastily adjourned the court proceedings and ordered the prisoners to be taken before him to the air raid shelter, but he himself remained to collect the files before leaving. At 11:08 a bomb hit the courthouse, causing a partial interior collapse, and while Freisler was busy with his papers, a brick pillar came loose. The column crashed down on Freisler, who was crushed and killed on the spot. A large part of the courtroom also fell on Freisler’s body as a result of the column collapse. Under the rubble, Freisler’s crushed and crumpled remains were found, still clutching the files he had left behind. Another version, however, stated that Freisler, then 51, was killed by a fragment of a bomb as he tried to escape from the court yard to an air raid shelter. He then bled to death on the pavement outside the People’s Court in Berlin. Luise von Benda, the wife of General Alfred Jodl, recounted more than 25 years later that she was working at the hospital in Lützow when Freisler’s body was brought. Looking at Freisler’s body, one of the hospital workers remarked, “This is God’s judgment.” No one else has commented. Freisler’s body was then buried in his wife’s family grave in Berlin. His name is not on the tombstone.

The article is in Czech

Tags: death Roland Freisler fanatically screaming Nazi judge

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