|I see another hero judge on the
other side of the Atlantic, in Nazi Germany. Almost alone among the
judges of the Third Reich, he stubbornly clings to the notion that justice
matters more than career advancement. His name is Dr. Lothar Kreyssig,
a judge at the Court of Guardianship in the town of Brandenburg, on the
Since his appointment in 1928, Kreyssig's superiors considered him to be a good judge--until he began a series of minor insubordinations such as slipping out of a ceremony in his court when a bust of Hitler was unveiled, publicly protesting the suspension of three judges who failed to follow the interpretation of "Aryan laws" favored by Nazi authorities, and referring to Nazi church policies as "injustice masquerading in the form of law."
Reassigned to the Petty Court in Brandenburg, Kreyssig continued to be a thorn in the Nazi side. When the judge discovered that inmates at a local mental hospital were secretly being removed and killed, Kreyssig sent a letter of complaint to the president of the Prussian Supreme Court in which he complained about the "terrible doctrine" that "placed beyond the reach of law" concentration camps and mental institutions.
||Officials at the Reich Ministry
of Justice summoned Kreyssig in an effort to straighten out his thinking
on matters of civil liberties. It didn't work. Kreyssig
returned to Brandenburg to issue injunctions to several hospitals prohibiting
them from transferring wards of his court without his permission.
The final straw for the Reich Ministry came when Kreyssig brought criminal
charges before the public prosecutor against a Nazi party leader who headed
the regime's euthanasia program, "T4."
When efforts to persuade Kreyssig that the euthanasia program was "the will of the Fuhrer" and that the Fuhrer was "the fount of law" in the Third Reich failed, Justice Minister Franz Gurtner demanded that Kreyssig withdraw his injunctions against the hospitals. Kreyssig refused. Gurtner accepted instead Kreyssig's early retirement. A criminal investigation was opened against Kreyssig, but closed without prosecution.
In his book, Hitler's Justice: The Courts of the Third Reich, Ingo Muller writes of the courageous judge of Brandenburg: "No matter how hard one searches for stout-hearted men among the judges of the Third Reich, for judges who refused to serve the regime from the bench, there remains a grand total of one: Dr. Lothar Kreyssig."