The Poetic Death of Hitler’s Executioner

Viewed as the personification of Nazi domestic law, Roland Freisler was a judge who is infamous for his aggressive personality, humiliation of defendants, and frequent sentencing with the death penalty. He helped adapt the racial ideology of the Nazis into practical law, introduced the death penalty for juveniles, attended the Wannsee Conference which set the Holocaust in motion, and punished several members of the White Rose resistance group as well as perpetrators of the July 20 plot.

On the morning of 3 February 1945, Freisler was conducting a Saturday session of the People’s Court when American bombers attacked Berlin. Hearing the air raid sirens, Freisler hastily adjourned the court and ordered that the prisoners before him be taken to an air raid shelter, but stayed behind to gather files before leaving. A hit on the court-building caused a partial internal collapse, with Freisler being crushed by a masonry column and killed while still in the courtroom. Among the files was that of Fabian von Schlabrendorff, a 20 July Plot member who was on trial that day and was facing execution. Freisler’s body was found beneath the rubble still clutching the files he had stopped to retrieve. A differing account stated that Freisler “was killed by a bomb fragment while trying to escape from his law court to the air-raid shelter,” and “bled to death on the pavement outside the People’s Court at Bellevuestrasse 15 in Berlin”. Fabian von Schlabrendorff was “standing near Freisler when the latter met his end”

When is body was taken to a hospital, a worker commented, “It is God’s verdict.”

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