• Germany's news in English

Minister seeks to rid laws of 'Nazi language'

Emma Anderson · 31 Jul 2015, 15:30

Published: 31 Jul 2015 15:30 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

After the end of Nazi domination 70 years ago Germany reformed its laws and legal systems to erase the repressive rules established by Hitler’s administration and to prevent any similar movements from coming to power in the future.

But some of the smaller legal details first penned by Nazi officials still remain today. In particular, the criminal code descriptions of murder and manslaughter were written in 1941 by Nazi lawyer Roland Freisler, and parts of the original text still remain today.

The code on murder states that “a murderer is someone who kills another person because of bloodlust, sexual gratification from killing, greed, or otherwise base motives.”

The description of manslaughter states that “someone who kills a person, without being a murderer, will be punished as a manslaughterer”.

German daily Die Welt pointed out that these descriptions define a person who commits a crime as an essentially criminal person, as being at their core a murderer, rather than simply describing the criminal action by itself like in other sections of the code.

For example, the section describing assault states that “a person who physically mistreats or impairs the health of another person will be punished with up to five years in prison or with a fine”.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas wants to reform these codes so that they no longer reflect the ideas of the Nazis, Die Welt reported on Thursday.

Germany needs “modern laws that are free of the language of the Nazis,” Maas said, according to Die Welt.

The murder and manslaughter codes were updated after the Nazi era to replace the original death penalty sentence for murder with life in prison. Still, some argue that the blanket typology of murderers in the code may impact trials and not leave room for flexibility.

A commission of experts wrote a 900-page recommendation paper on revisions to the code about a month ago, expressing the need for a reform that more directly describes the criminal act rather than the perpetrator’s character.

“There is prevailing agreement that the legislature should replace the terminology used in the laws regarding death-related crimes to describe a perpetrator’s typology with language linked to the criminal action,” the recommendation paper stated.

Courts have softened the life in prison sentence in certain cases, such as when a woman has been abused for years by a spouse and feels she has no other option but to kill him.

Maas has received support for his plans from both the German Bar Association and the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

But the reforms face difficulty in being realized because they were not included in the German Parliament coalition agreement among the governing parties.

Members of the conservative sister parties the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Christian Social Union (CSU) have said the changes are not a priority given other issues facing the country.


For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Emma Anderson (emma.anderson@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Today's headlines
Long-vanished German car brand joins electric race
Photo: DPA

Cars bearing the stamp of once-defunct manufacturer Borgward will once again roll off an assembly line in north Germany from 2018, the firm said Wednesday.

Eurowings cabin crew union to strike all day Thursday
Photo: DPA.

UPDATE: A union representing cabin crews on Lufthansa's budget airline Eurowings has announced that strikes will last all day Thursday as ongoing contract negotiations continue to falter.

Hesse hopes to set example by building Iraqi orphanages
Refugee children in northern Iraq. Photo: DPA

The wealthy central German state of Hesse has set aside €1 million to build a school, family homes and an orphanage in northern Iraq, in an effort to help refugees there.

The Local List
10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
David Hasselhoff. Photo: DPA

Whether it be efficiency, humourlessness or a love of a certain Baywatch star, there are many cliches stuck in the heads of foreigners about Germany. But how true are they?

Fake Germanwings victim relative convicted in Cologne
A torn piece of metal at the crash site in 2015. Photo: DPA

A German court on Wednesday gave a woman a year's suspended jail sentence for posing as the cousin of a victim in last year's Germanwings plane crash and obtaining compensation offered by the airline.

Couple accused of torturing, murdering women go on trial
The so-called 'house of horrors' in Höxter where the couple allegedly tortured and killed women. Photo: DPA.

A couple accused of luring women to their village home with personal ads started trial on Wednesday over charges that they tortured and killed at least two of their victims.

After July attacks, govt drafts new video surveillance law
Photo: DPA

The Interior Ministry is drafting a law which will enable public spaces to be filmed for surveillance purposes as a reaction to deadly attacks in July, according to a newspaper report.

Merkel: murky internet giants distort perception of reality
Angela Merkel. Photo: DPA.

Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Tuesday for internet giants to make public their closely-guarded algorithms, claiming that they are not giving people diverse enough information.

Pegida leader 'paid court costs with group's money'
Pegida leader Lutz Bachmann. Photo: DPA.

The leader of the anti-Islam movement reportedly used money from Pegida's coffers to pay for two personal court cases, German media reported this week.

Anger as Berlin scraps Turkey concert on Armenia genocide
The Dresden Symphony Orchestra. Photo: DPA

Germany's foreign ministry Tuesday scrapped a planned symphony performance on the Armenian "genocide" in its Istanbul consulate, sparking accusations that it was caving in to Turkish pressure.

10 ways German completely messes up your English
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd