Seminar: The Judiciary and the Penal System under the Nazis and Current Human Rights Issues Relating to the Treatment of Inmates

Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial, Centre for Historical Studies


Two-day seminar (6-7 hours each day)


This seminar was designed for groups who are interested not only in the processes of legal persecution and the penal system under the Nazis, but also in current human rights issues relating to the conditions of detention and the penal system today.


On the first day, after an introduction to the history of Neuengamme concentration camp, we begin by looking at what authorities were responsible for persecution under the Nazis. We explore the cooperation between the judiciary, the penal system and the police that was based on a division of labour and discuss the steps taken against political opponents, so-called community aliens (Gemeinschaftsfremde) and alleged criminals. We look at the biographies, personal accounts and files of prisoners as a starting point for exploring the practice of transferring inmates from the Fuhlsbüttel prison facilities in Hamburg to the Neuengamme concentration camp, and we discuss the conduct of judiciary officials. We compare the penal system procedures under the Nazis with the situation in the penal system today and discuss how much room for manoeuvre judiciary officials had then compared to now.


We begin the second day by looking at the perpetrators and the trials brought against them after the war. This serves as a backdrop for us to elaborate on the international community’s reaction to Nazi crimes by ratifying the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Genocide Convention, while also discussing which instruments were introduced in Europe for the protection of prisoners. Drawing on excerpts from reports of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), we discuss actual examples from Germany. Additional possible topics include how the grounds of the former concentration camp were used in the penal system until 2006.



Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial, Centre for Historical Studies

Jean-Dolidier-Weg 75

21039 Hamburg

Phone: +49 40 – 4 28 13 522