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Franz Schlegelberger
Franz Schlegelberger.JPG
Schlegelberger (aged 71) at the Nuremberg Judges' Trial
Reich Minister of Justice
In office
30 January 1941 – 20 August 1942
President Adolf Hitler (as Führer)
Chancellor Adolf Hitler
Preceded by Franz Gürtner
Succeeded by Otto Georg Thierack
Personal details
Born (1876-10-23)23 October 1876
Königsberg, Province of East Prussia, German Empire
Died 14 December 1970(1970-12-14) (aged 94)
Flensburg, Schleswig-Holstein, West Germany
Nationality German
Political party Nazi

Louis Rudolph Franz Schlegelberger (23 October 1876 – 14 December 1970) was State Secretary in the German Reich Ministry of Justice (RMJ) who served as Justice Minister during the Third Reich. He was the highest-ranking defendant at the Judges' Trial in Nuremberg.

Early life

Schlegelberger was born into a Protestant salesman's family in Königsberg. He graduated from the University of Königsberg – or according to documents from his trial the University of Leipzig — in 1899 attaining the degree of Doctor of Law. In 1901 Schlegelberger passed the state law examination and became a court Assessor at the Königsberg local court. In 1904 he became a judge at the State Court in Lyck (now Ełk). In early May 1908, he went to the Berlin State Court and in the same year was appointed assistant judge at the Berlin Court of Appeals (Kammergericht). In 1914 he was appointed to the Kammergericht Council (Kammergerichtsrat) in Berlin, where he stayed until 1918.

On 1 April 1918 Schlegelberger became an associate at the Reich Justice Office. On 1 October of that year, he was appointed to the Secret Government Court and Executive Council. In 1927, he was appointed as Ministerial Director in the RMJ. Schlegelberger had been teaching in the Faculty of Law at the University of Berlin as an honorary professor since 1922. On 10 October 1931 Schlegelberger was appointed State Secretary in the Reich Ministry of Justice under Justice Minister Franz Gürtner and kept this job until Gürtner's death in 1941. He was also made a member of the Academy for German Law and was the chairman of its Committee for Water Rights. On 30 January 1938 Schlegelberger joined the Nazi Party on Adolf Hitler's orders.

In the Nazi Party

Bundesarchiv Bild 183-J03166, Berlin, Amtsübernahme Dr. Thierack
A meeting of four Nazis who bore much of the responsibility for allowing the legal system of Germany to be taken over by Nazi ideology. Franz Schlegelberger is second from left. On the far left in this image is Roland Freisler. Otto Thierack is the second from the right, and Curt Rothenberger is on the far right.

Among Schlegelberger's many works in this time was a bill for the introduction of a new national currency which was supposed to end the hyperinflation to which the Reichsmark was prone. After Franz Gürtner's death in 1941, Schlegelberger became provisional Reich Minister of Justice for the years 1941 and 1942, followed then by Otto Thierack. During his time in office the number of death sentences rose sharply. He authored the bills such as the so-called Poland Penal Law Provision (Polenstrafrechtsverordnung) under which Poles were executed for tearing down German posters.

Upon his retirement from the position on 20 August 1942, Hitler gave Schlegelberger an endowment of RM 100,000; in 1944, Hitler allowed him to buy an estate with the money, something that only agricultural experts were entitled to under the rules in force at the time. This would later weigh against him at Nuremberg, for it showed that Hitler thought highly of Schlegelberger.

After the war

At the Nuremberg Judges' Trial Schlegelberger was one of the main accused. He was sentenced to life in prison for conspiracy to perpetrate war crimes and crimes against humanity.

At the end of the 1945–1947 trials Schlegelberger was sentenced to life in 1947, although in 1950 the 74-year-old Schlegelberger was released owing to incapacity. For years afterward, he drew a monthly pension of DM 2,894 (for comparison, the average monthly income in Germany at that time was DM 535). Schlegelberger then lived in Flensburg until his death on 14 December 1970.

See also

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