Apostates of the Rechtsstaat: Jurisprudence between Weimar Democracy and Nazi Dictatorship Open Access

Takavarasha, Matthew (Spring 2022)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/sx61dn58t?locale=en


This thesis examines select events between 1932 and 1935, the period spanning the end of the Weimar Republic and the consolidation of Nazi Germany. It is not concerned with explaining the well-documented outcomes of the Nazi rise to power, but instead questions how representatives of the legal profession twisted existing constitutional and legal concepts to serve their own interests or the ideological mission of the Nazi regime.


The contextual framework for this project is a series of contemporary constitutional debates and ex post facto legal justifications. From this, I argue that lawyers and legal theorists loyal to the Nazi regime twisted existing concepts to overthrow Weimar democracy and install Nazi dictatorship. Consequently, the Nazi legal system reflected to an extent an attempt to continue the Weimar legal system as a way of legitimising the Nazi dictatorship. However, scholarship after the war overlooks this facet of the legal system, instead focusing on the extrajudicial violence of the regime, as it believes that the system was so corrupt that it did not reflect the law at all. This approach ultimately prevents a more holistic understanding of the most infamous regime in modern European history.

Table of Contents

Introduction                                                                                                                             1

Chapter I: The Preußenschlag and the Crisis of Constitutional Democracy              9

Chapter II: The Nuremberg Laws and the ‘Racialisation’ of the Rechtsstaat             23

Chapter III: The Hart-Fuller Debate and Jurisprudence After Nazi Germany            38

Epilogue: Coda - Democracy in Retreat?                                                                            51

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