Freisler, Roland, born 30-10-1893 in Celle, Niedersachsen, the son of an engineer, saw active service during World War I. He was an officer cadet in 1914, and by 1915 he was a Lieutenant and won the Iron Cross of both classes. In October 1915, after fighting and being wounded at the western front, he was captured by Russian troops, becoming a prisoner of war. While imprisoned in Russia, Freisler learned Russian, and after the Russian Revolution of 1917, he is said to have developed an interest in Marxism. Freisler himself rejected all accusations that he had even tentatively approached the hated enemy, but he could never fully escape the stigma of being a bolshie.
He returned to Germany in 1920 to study law at the University of Jena, becoming a Doctor of Law in 1922, In 1928, he married Marion Russegger
on 28-03-1928 and had two sons, Harald and Roland. Marion died old age 86, on 21-01-1997, in Berlin, Dahlem. Even though the Nazis declared themselves arch-enemies of Marxism, Freisler joined the Nazi Party in July 1925. During this period, he served as defense counsel for members of the nascent Party who got into trouble with the law. He was also a delegate to the Prussian Landtag, or state legislature, and later he became a member of the Reichstag. In February 1933, Freisler was appointed department head in the Prussian Ministry of Justice. In October 1939, Freisler introduced the concept of ‘precocious juvenile criminal’ in the “Juvenile Felons Decree”. This decree “provided the legal basis for imposing the death penalty and penitentiary terms on juveniles for the first time in German legal history”. In the period 1933 through 1945, the courts sentenced at least 72 German juveniles to death, among them 16-year-old Helmuth Hübener,
found guilty of high treason for distributing anti-war leaflets in 1942. one of the youngest opponents of the Third Reich to be sentenced to death by the Volksgerichtshof and executed. The “Decree against National Parasites”, September 1939, introduced the term perpetrator type, which was used in combination with another Nazi term, parasite,
The adoption of racial biological terminology portrayed juvenile criminality as parasitic, implying the need for harsher sentences. Freisler justified the new measures in the following manner: “In times of war, breach of loyalty and baseness cannot find any leniency and must be met with the full force of the law.”
Freisler represented the latter at the Wannsee Conference,
20-01-1942, where he with Reinhard Heydrich
and SS Obersturmführer, Adolf Eichmann, Erich Neumann
who stood in for Minister Dr. Franz Schlegelberger
, and SS Gruppenführer Heinrich Müller,
as regarding the detailed plans of the Final Solution, the murder of all European Jews. (see Simon Wiesenthal
) (see Anne Frank
). Freisler’s mastery of legal texts, mental agility and overwhelming verbal force combined well with strict adherence to the party line and the corresponding ideology, so that he became the most feared judge and the personification of the Nazis’ “blood justice”. Despite his undisputed legal competence, he was never appointed to cabinet. Probably because of an attribute to two factors, firstly, Roland Freisler was regarded as a lone fighter and had no influential patron, secondly, he was compromised by his brother Oswald’s actions. Oswald Freisler, though also a Nazi, appeared as the defense counsel in politically significant trials which the Nazis sought to use for propaganda purposes. Oswald even wore his Nazi Party badge in court, which confused the Party’s role in these trials. Propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels accordingly reproved Roland Freisler and reported the incident to Hitler, who, for his part, decreed the immediate exclusion of Oswald Freisler from the party. Oswald committed suicide on 04-03-1939, age 43. Freisler’s mastery of legal texts, mental agility and overwhelming verbal force combined well with strict adherence to the party line and the corresponding ideology, so that he became the most feared judge and the personification of the Nazis’ “blood justice”. Joseph Goebbels
(did you know
) was the only Nazi leader well disposed towards Freisler. At a round-table discussion in the Führer’s headquarters, with also Franz Schlegelberger, Otto Georg Thierack
, suicide, age 57 on 22-11-1946 in Sennelajes and Curt Rothenberger a German jurist and leading figure in the Nazi Party who imposed Nazi ideology on the legal system of Germany. When in 1959 his role during the war was again publicized, Rothenberger
committed suicide, age 63 on 01-09-1959 in Hamburg.
the Minister of Propaganda proposed his name for the post of Reich Justice Minister, Adolf Hitler’s
(did you know
) dismissive retort was: “That old Bolshevik? No! Freisler was known for humiliating defendants and shouting at them. He was known to be an admirer of Andrei Vyshinsky,
the chief prosecutor of the Soviet purge trials, and reportedly copied his demeanor.
The Great Purge was a series of repressive measures in the Soviet Union in the late 1930s and Vyshinsky died age 70, on 22-11-1954, in New York. Vyshinsky married Kara Mikhailova and had a daughter named Zinaida Andreyevna Vyshinskaya (born 1909). A number of the trials for defendants in the 20 July Plot before the People’s Court were filmed and recorded with a camera hidden in the Nazi flag
. In the 1944 trial against Ulrich Wilhelm Graf Schwerin von Schwanenfeld
for example. He also condemned the resistance people Hans and Sophie Scholl,
brother and sister, to death, they were killed on the quillotine in Munich. Freisler would also oversee the second trial of White Rose members weeks later. The defendants included Willi Graf
, Alexander Schmorell
, Professor Kurt Huber
and various others who had aided in the efforts of “The White Rose”. Again, there was shouting and screaming from the bench with little time for defense. Freisler triumphantly watched as Huber’s defense attorney stood during proceedings, cried “Heil Hitler!” and asked, as a loyal German, to be released from the case. Freisler obliged. Before the trial was over, the judge attempted to strip the dignity of each of the three principal defendants. Alex was called a traitor for his allegiance to his motherland, Russia. Willi said little. Professor Huber had carefully prepared a statement which he read aloud, although he was frequently interrupted. Freisler told Huber, a proud German, “I don’t know any Professor Huber or any Doctor Huber. I know the defendant Huber. He doesn’t have the right to be a German.” Alex, Willi and Professor Huber were each condemned to die. Freisler headed the 1943 proceedings against the members of the White Rose resistance group, and ordered many of its members to be executed by Fallbeil, a shorter German version of the French quillotine
Death and burial ground of Freisler, Roland.
Ronald Freisler was killed, at the age of 51, when on his way to the shelter he returned to the “People’s Court” building
, as he forgot some papers. An almost direct hit on the building caused him to be struck down by a beam in his own courtroom in Berlin, on 03-02-1945. His body was reportedly found crushed beneath a fallen masonry column, clutching the files that he had tried to retrieve. Among those files was that of Fabian von Schlabrendorff
, a 20 July Plot member who was on trial that day and was facing execution. Schlabrendorff survived and died age 73 on 03-09-1980. Fabian von Schlabrendorff was “standing near his judge when the latter met his end. The American air raid was led by Lieutenant Colonel, Robert “Rosie” Rosenthal, Jewish future Nuremberg prosecutor, who died age 89, in 2007.
Freisler was always a very frustrated man because of Hitler’s refusal to meet him personal, and all his gram and punishing, came over his victims. A foreign correspondent reported, “Apparently nobody regretted his death.” Luise Jodl,
then the wife of Generaloberst der Wehrmacht, Alfred Jodl
, recounted more than 25 years later that she had been working at the Luetzow Hospital when Freisler’s body was brought in, and that a worker commented, “It is God’s verdict.” According to Mrs. Jodl, “Not one person said a word in reply.” Freisler was denied an honorable state funeral by Hitler himself, instead, Freisler was anonymously buried in the family grave of his wife Marion “Minnie” Russegger age 86 and her parents, on the cemetery of Dahlem in Berlin, but his name is not inscripted in the gravestone. Marion Russegger was born 10-02-1910 in Hamburg, the daughter of Bernhard Adolf Cajetan Russegger, a merchant in Hamburg and Bremen, and Cornelia Pirscher. On 24-03-1928, she married Roland Freisler, who was a lawyer and city councillor of the Nazi Party in Kassel at the time. They had two sons, Harald and Roland, and both were baptized. In his will, dated 01-10-1944, Freisler had decreed that the two houses belonged to his wife.
Cemetery and grave location of Freisler, Roland.
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