Amnesty and the Statute of Limitations

Shortly after the end of the Nuremburg Trials, political, church and other societal circles began advocating for a comprehensive amnesty for convicted NS offenders. This was likely designed to "balance out" the conduct of the Allies against broad sections of the population, which was felt to be too harsh and too one-sided. As a result, with the approval of John McCloy, U.S. High Commissioner, almost all convicted persons had been pardoned by 1958. The subject of the research is the role played by the FMJ in this amnesty.

The statute of limitations as a form of creating legal certainty under the rule of law was debated in several waves, both in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. Especially in situations of massive criminality fostered by the State, imposing the statute of limitations is often considered to be unjust. In Germany, the openly debated issue of the statute of limitations was thwarted by a "back-door" (after the fact) imposition of the statute of limitations [kalte Verjährung]. The Introductory Act to the Act on Regulatory Offices of 10 May 1968 served to lower the overall criminal liability for aiding and abetting; this, in conjunction with the decisions of the German judiciary regarding aiders and abettors of national socialist crimes of violence, resulted in the statute of limitations being imposed retroactively for such acts of aiding and abetting. It has thus far not been clarified historically whether and to what extent this was a conscious course of action - including on the part of the FMJ and its Criminal Law Directorate General II.

Initial research results of the IAC study may be found in the article (in German only) by Christoph Safferling, "...dass es sich empfieht generell tabula rasa zu machen," in: Die Rosenburg, edited by Manfred Görtemaker und Christoph Safferling, Göttingen 2013. and: Christoph Safferling, "Die Arbeit der Unabhängigen Wissenschaftlichen Kommission beim BMJ zur Aufarbeitung der NS Vergangenheit - Zwischenbericht," in: Die Verantwortung von Juristen, edited by the IAC, Berlin 2013.