Past events

Tuesday, 21 October 2014: Fourth Rosenburg Symposium at the Federal Court of Justice, Karlsruhe

The Fourth Rosenburg Symposium of the Independent Academic Commission at the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection for the Critical Study of the National Socialist Past took place on 21 October 2014. The convention venue this time was the foyer of the Federal Court of Justice library in Karlsruhe. The speakers included Christian Lange, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Justice and for Consumer Protection and Member of the German Bundestag, Professor Christoph Safferling, Commission Member, and Professor Herbert Landau, Judge at the Federal Constitutional Court. The participants in the panel discussion included Romani Rose of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, Professor Erardo Rautenberg, Public Prosecutor of Land Brandenburg, Professor Henning Radtke, Judge at the Federal Court of Justice and Professor Manfred Görtemaker, Commission Member. The event was moderated by Dr. Ursula Knapp.

Monday, 17 November 2014, Panel Discussion on "The Rosenburg Files: The West German Ministry of Justice after 1949 and the Nazi Past”, Washington D.C.

The IAC-FMJ was pleased to present and discuss the subjects, working methods and theories of the “Rosenburg Project” abroad for the first time on 17 November 2014. The event began with a panel discussion on "The Rosenburg Files: The West German Ministry of Justice after 1949 and the Nazi Past” at the German Historical Institute in Washington D.C.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014: "The Rosenburg Files - A Study of the Involvement of Former Nazi Party Members in the German Justice Ministry post World War II”, New York

The following Wednesday, Professor Görtemaker and Professor Safferling together with Federal Minister Heiko Maas were guests at an event hosted by the Leo Baeck Institute New York entitled "The Rosenburg Files - A Study of the Involvement of Former Nazi Party Members in the German Justice Ministry post World War II”.

The IAC-FMJ meets the Commission’s New Sub-commissioners in Marburg

Professor Christoph Safferling (Marburg) and Professor Manfred Görtemaker (Potsdam) welcomed the new Sub-commissioners of the Independent Academic Commission at the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection for the Critical Study of the National Socialist Past on Monday, 7 April 2014 in Marburg.

Professor Eva Schumann (Göttingen), Professor Jan Thiessen (Tübingen) and Professor Martin Will (Wiesbaden) joined the research team. As appointees of the Commission, the legal historians had already been supporting studies of personnel and technical continuities for some time, particularly in the fields of Civil Law, Business Law and Constitutional Law. Thus, the three new members of the research team, together with Professor Safferling (Criminal Law) also cover all four specialist departments of the Federal Ministry of Justice as it was at the period under examination. A meeting took place at the invitation of Professor Safferling to exchange views on the status of file evaluations and conspicuous issues.

Pictured on the photo are Professor Will, Professor Safferling, Professor Thiessen and Professor Görtemaker (from left to right) during the discussion at the International Research and Documentation Centre for War Crimes Trials. Unfortunately, Professor Schumann was unable to attend.

More Pupils Take Part in the Discussion with the Commission and the Ministry

On 28 May 2014, pupils again engaged in a discussion of the work of the Independent Academic Commission at the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection with members of the Commission and Federal Minister Heiko Maas. This time, higher-grade students of Ida Ehre School in Hamburg were invited to take part by the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection. Ida Ehre School has been involved in critical study of its own National Socialist past for a number of years. This involved pupils interviewing contemporary witnesses and organising readings and memorial events. As part of this remembrance work, two classes are now taking part in the “Rosenburg Project“ for the critical study of the National Socialist past of the Federal Ministry of Justice.

Pictured on the photo are pupils at Ida Ehre School with Federal Minister Maas, Commission Member Professor Christoph Safferling and Niels Annen, Member of the German Bundestag.

Pupils Discuss National Socialist Past at the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection

36 pupils of a basic history course and of the politics specialisation course at the Theodor Heuss Grammar School in Wolfenbüttel travelled to Berlin on 10 December 2013 at the invitation of the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection to take part in a discussion organised especially for them on the subject of “The Federal Ministry of Justice and the National Socialist Past”.

"The Rosenburg" at the Frankfurt Book Fair

On Sunday, 13 October 2013, the Commission was invited to attend the Frankfurt Book Fair. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung had issued invitations to attend a panel discussion on the subject of “The Rosenburg. The Federal Ministry of Justice and the National Socialist Past“, an initial status report published by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

In talks with the then Federal Minister of Justice, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, and with the book’s co-editor Professor Christoph Safferling, FAZ editor Reinhard Müller referred to the Commission’s work and the significance of the status report for the role of the judiciary in the Federal Republic of Germany today.

Before the discussion, Carola Müller, Managing Director of the publishing house, held talks with the Minister and representatives of the Ministry and the Commission.

The Commission in Discussion - On 10 and 11 October 2013, the Second Round of Contemporary Witness Talks Took Place at the Federal Office of Justice in Bonn.

To supplement the research done on the basis of personnel and case files, the “frame of mind and atmosphere prevailing at the Rosenburg”, the Ministry’s first premises, is of interest to the Commission.

How did people interact with each other at the Ministry? How was the work done? Was the past ever a topic of discussion? In order to obtain answers to these and other questions, the Commission interviewed members of Ministry staff who served at the Rosenburg between 1950 and 1973.

Pictured on the photo are former Federal Minster Professor Horst Ehmke (centre) with Professor Safferling (on the left) and Professor Görtemaker (on the right) after the discussion.

Commission Welcomed by the Haus der Geschichte in Bonn

Professor Görtemaker and Professor Safferling were invited to come to the Haus der Geschichte in Bonn (HdG) to report on the progress of their work during a panel discussion moderated by Professor Hans Walter Hütter, Director of the HdG, on 10 October 2013. The Commission members engaged in discussion with Bonn international law specialist Professor Hillgruber and answered questions from the audience.

Panel Discussion on 8 July 2013 at the Institute of Contemporary History (IfZ), Munich

A report in German by Kristina Milz is to be found here with the kind permission of the Institute of Contemporary History.

In a keynote speech, Dr. Jürgen Zarusky of the Institute of Contemporary History questioned the interpretation that the Federal Republic of Germany had undergone the change of system after the collapse of the “Third Reich“ in an apparently “trouble-free” way. He said that research has meanwhile disproved the old theory that obedience to the law based on strict legal positivism made lawyers in the Nazi state “defenceless” and thus the question of the significance of personnel continuity was thus of great current relevance. Federal Minister of Justice Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger took a decisive stand to oppose criticism of the project aired by the media: the aim of the project was not merely to supplement existing knowledge of the role of the Ministry within the Nazi state. She said that there were still many unanswered questions, particularly concerning the way in which this past was dealt with in the Federal Republic of Germany, for example, what effects personnel continuity had on specific legislative work, for example regarding family policy or the question of the statute of limitations.

Professor Andreas Wirsching, Director of the Munich Institute of Contemporary History, who moderated the panel discussion, referred to the different interpretations in the scholarly literature, in which the image of the Federal Ministry of Justice in the young Federal Republic of Germany fluctuated considerably between that of a professional elite in a new function and that of a bunch of “dreadful jurists“. Professor Manfred Görtemaker, who co-chairs the Historians’ Commission with Professor Christoph Safferling, underlined that a black-and-white view of this issue did not do justice to the situation. The results to date allow the conclusion to be drawn that a much more differentiated picture has to be drawn, and thus that the two approaches are not necessarily mutually exclusive: it is possible to find individual cases to support both interpretations. It is too early to make an overall assessment. Safferling responded to the question of whether part of the mentality of the “Third Reich” had been retained in the post-war era by saying that in spite of the denazification process, there had been a reform backlog in criminal law in the post-war period. An approach had been taken on the basis of the legal system of the Weimar Republic before 1933 and decisions had been justified by reference to it.

Zarusky commented critically on the German treatment of the past in the post-war period that a democratic new beginning in the form of a pact to remain silent could not function. Professor Abi Pitum, Jewish Chairman of the Society for Christian-Jewish Cooperation in Munich and member of the Directorate of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, in contrast, called the widespread failure to talk about the crimes after 1945 as a “means of carrying on with one’s life”; his main focus was on the victims’ perspective.

The ensuing discussion with the audience included comments by former Federal Minister of Justice Hans-Jochen Vogel. He encouraged researchers to be cautious about making moral judgments and argued for a similar project to engage in critical study of the history of the Bundestag, which was involved in the key legislative processes. He also announced his respect for the current office holder for the fact that the decision had been taken to go ahead with the project. Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger underlined that in comparison with earlier decades, the aim now was not to make any personnel changes, but to gain a realistic image of the Federal Ministry of Justice. No-one was any longer in the situation of having to justify themselves.

Book presentation on 10 June 2013 in Berlin

How did the German ministries and public authorities deal with the National Socialist Past in the post-war era? The book presented in Berlin on 10 June 2013, which provides a status report on the research carried out to date on the National Socialist past of the German post-war judiciary, in particular of the Federal Ministry of Justice, focuses on the question of how the Federal Ministry of Justice dealt with the repercussions of the “Third Reich”. It examined not only aspects relating to the Ministry’s staff, for example its criteria and requirements for employment and promotion, but also addressed central issues of judicial policy, including constitutional developments after 1948/49, the passing of legislation in the “Third  Reich“ and in the Federal Republic of Germany, as well as the way in which crimes committed by the judiciary during the Nazi era were dealt with under post-war criminal law. The collection of essays was presented by the editors at a joint event with Federal Minister of Justice Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger. The climax of the event was a moving speech by Dr. h.c. Ralph Giordano, which is available for download below.

Speech by Dr. h.c. Ralph Giordano

Click here to download.

Productive meeting of the various Commissions as part of the "Critical Examiners' Conference" sponsored by the IAC on 8 May in Berlin

Upon invitation of the Independent Academic Commission, a total of nine commissions of various ministries and top-level federal authorities met for a one-day symposium at the European Academy in Berlin. This unprecedented meeting of academics allowed them to get to know and inform one another of their approach to their tasks, methods and difficulties encountered by the individual Commissions.

It became clear in that process that the diverse nature of the various working groups is illustrated not only in their size and financial situation, but primarily also in their respective mission. This ranges from the compilation of a comprehensive history of the institutions in the entire 20th century to a concentration on personnel and substantive continuity following 1949.

The workshop, which lasted into the afternoon and concluded with a podium discussion, was found to be useful and informative; as such, this exchange among academics will be continued in the future.

In her lecture, Federal Minister of Justice Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger emphasised the necessity of networking. She said that this did not involve a "race between competing historical commissions," but rather that, in the face of the significance for the entire State of critically examining the NS dictatorship, it was important to "keep our eye on the overall picture." In his commentary, guest speaker Professor Wolffsohn emphasised again - although stating the obvious - the importance of seeking the truth and openly engaging in an examination of history.

In addition to the IAC-FMJ as the organiser, representatives of commissions from the following authorities participated: Foreign Office, Federal Ministry of Finance, Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, Federal Intelligence Service/Federal Chancellery, Federal Criminal Police Office, Federal Office for Protection of the Constitution/Federal Ministry of the Interior.