Central European History Society 10
The panel sets itself to problematize the apparently limited impact the potential legal liability had on the mid- and lower-rank participants in the Holocaust. In doing so, the panelists intend to move beyond the macrohistorical examination of the strategies employed by the genocidal regimes in striving to attain the “Final Solution.” The panelists propose to examine legal consciousness of mid - and lower-level perpetrators who were citizens of the Axis powers. By relying on such sources as post-war investigative and trials files of perpetrators, their diaries and interviews, the presenters will examine whether and to what extent they were aware of the criminality of their actions and reflected in real time on their potential punishability. The panelists will also explore cultural and psychological contexts that obscured or weakened the impact of such awareness. Besides more usual factors, such stresses of war, ideological fanaticism or personal and institutional loyalties, the impact of various extra-legal “instructions” that might have been perceived as upending the law are of particular interest. Another area of exploration constitute the role l’ésprit des corps prevalent in various bodies such as the army and police played in conditioning their members to the application of illegal violence. And finally, the preceding history of unpunished lawless violence on the parts of government agents against political enemies as a lesson in sui generis “practical” as opposed to “formal” governance will attract attention. The discussion is likely to proceed along the lines of comparative history of legal cultures and practices of axis power.