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sion42

Andrew,

I may add I think this is not the complete picture.
As German history in general does not begin in 1933, such is the case also with the history of the German penal system and views on captal punishment.

As far as I know, the first German constitution of 1849 - a hundred years before the Grundgesetz - abolished in § 139 the death penalty (except in certain cases of Martial Law or Law of the Sea). Even after the fall of the revolution and its constitution, several German states abolished the death penalty nonetheless.

After the German unification 1867/1871 under Prussian auspices it was the new uniform penal code (Reichsstrafgesetzbuch, RStGB), which introduced the death penalty for murder. Opposition to the death penalty was nonetheless always persistent.

Its abolition in the 1919 Weimarer Reichsverfassung was only hindered by the political realities of the troubled republic, as were the numerous attempts to include such a ban afterwards.
One aspect of the discussion during Weimar years was that sentencing was not impartial: There are strong suggestions that right-wing political murderers got lighter sentences as opposed to the more often executed left-wing political murderers.

While the Nazis were ideologically very strong supporters of a very expanded death penalty, the manner they carried it out is also important:
Before their rule, the usual method of execution was decapitation, considered the most humane.
Under Nazi rule, political prisoners were instead often hanged, which was perceived as harsh and barbaric, much more so of course the practice of hanging resistance members with piano wire from meat hooks als in Plötzensee.

The 1849 Constitution is in many respects the model after which the Grundgesetz was formed, sometimes even to the exact wording. So it came natural to abolish capital punishment, even more so, because the political landscape differed very much from Weimar 30 years ago.

The Allied "de-nazification" grew ever more unpopular, as particular the American way of carrying it out was perceived as "hanging the little ones and let the big ones free".
Sidenote: The Allied practice of hanging had for many a very bad taste to it, as mentioned above...

There is a hundred year's history of German constitutional bans on capital punishment before 1949 that is not even mentioned in the articles.
I do think matters are a lot more subtle than "Germans don't like the death penalty to spare the Nazi bigwicks from their served punishments".

Regards,

sion42

renke

Thank you very much for the article - very interesting and absolutly new for me (Gnade der späten Geburt....)

Greetings, Renke

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