Roland Freisler: The Infamous Nazi Judge Coming to a Show-Trial Near You | Adam Garrie
The phrase “never again” is often associated with the teaching of the plethora of atrocities committed by Hitler’s Nazi regime. One figure whose evil was such that even many loyal Nazis feared and hated him, was the notorious judge Roland Freisler. Freisler’s name is almost lost to history, even among those who frequently read about the 1930s and 1940s. And yet, his name ought to be widely remembered by anyone who fears that the lamps of freedom are dimming across Britain and the rest of the English-speaking world.
Freisler’s life was forever changed when he was captured by the Russians on the eastern front of the Great War. But whilst his capture was not particularly unusual, the circumstances thereafter were both strange and remarkable. After Russia’s October Revolution, the prison in which Freisler was housed was taken over by the Bolsheviks. Having already passed the time learning to speak Russian (and becoming fluent during his time in prison), he developed a fondness for his new Bolshevik captors. It was said that whilst in prison, Freisler began reading the works of Marx, Lenin and other Communists and was even given a position of high status by his captors within the prison walls.
Although Freisler rejected the frequent accusations that he was once a communist, he later attended the infamous Moscow show trials over which Andrey Vyshinsky presided. Vyshinsky was not a jurist in the way that one would think of such a position in a free country. Vyshinsky’s histrionics existed as a means of frightening would be dissidents whilst the fate of the accused was already a foregone conclusion.
After Hitler came to power in Germany, Roland Freisler moved quickly up the ranks of the Nazi court system. He reached the zenith of his terrifying power when in 1942, he was appointed to lead the People’s Court. The People’s Court was home to show trials of those who had run afoul of the regime. The most infamous of the many infamous show trials staged in the People’s Court was that of the 20 July Plotters who had attempted to kill Hitler in 1944.
The high military ranks of the Plotters could not save them from the wrath of Freisler. Film of the show trial reveals Freisler as a man possessed by some demonic force as he literally screams abuse at the prisoners standing before him in the ill-fitting and filthy clothes. These clothes were provided to the accused in order to make once admired men appear weak and disdainful to the public.
Just like the show trials of the Stalin era in the USSR, Freisler’s People’s Court made a mockery of the very word ‘justice’. The accused knew full well that a brutal execution awaited just as soon as Freisler’s dramatic screams put sufficient fear into those watching the elaborately staged proceedings. Most of these executions took place within hours of the conclusion of these show trials.
But what lessons can Freisler’s life (ended when an allied bomb was dropped on the court room) teach us beyond reminding us of the horrors of the Hitler Reich? The answer is quite a frightening one.
To understand how Freisler’s court was the antithesis of the British conception and application of justice, one must focus on the things that were conspicuously absent in Germany’s People’s Court. There was no presumption of innocence, no due process, no ability of the accused to defend themselves, no right of appeal, no guarantee of an apolitical and ideology free trial, no right to a jury trial, no chance to exonerate one’s self by highlighting supportive legal precedent of the past.
In short, Freisler’s court was one where those who ran afoul of the regime not only faced certain execution, but prior to this, they also faced a very public humiliation for “crimes” that in many cases involved merely speaking freely in criticising the Hitler regime.
As communist rioters continue to fill the streets of the Western World with blood and vandalism, it becomes critical to realise that so-called “cancel culture” has deeply sinister roots in both the Soviet and Nazi systems. Already, free speech, the presumption of innocence and the right to appeal (to common sense if not to a court) has been shockingly abolished by the red gangs of the “woke cancel culture”. Even without formally controlling a single court in Britain or in the United States, the “woke” brigades are managing to destroy the lives of entirely innocent people for the “crime” of exercising the ancient right to speak freely and to engage in free artistic expression.
The goal of groups like Black Lives Matter is to abolish the police and inexorably change the justice system. One need only add 1 + 1 to understand that if such extremists were to form their own police and take over the courts, one could be “cancelled” in the way in which they were under the whip hand of “judges” like Roland Freisler and his effective mentor Andrey Vyshinsky.
German society was remarkably free and just prior to the arrival of the Hitler Reich. The fact that in a few short years, German courts went from being fair and transparent to being run by the likes of Freisler, makes it clear that the “can’t happen here” argument is as hollow as it is dangerous.
Indeed, if not for the likes of Sir Winston Churchill, a Freisler like character could have well appeared in a broken, beaten and defeated Britain. Is it therefore any wonder that those following in the footsteps of Freisler seek to destroy statues honouring Sir Winston Churchill?
Photo by Jim Forest on Flickr.