Eras Journal – Geerling, W: Abstract

Abstract of Geerling, W. “Protecting the National Community From Juvenile Delinquency: Nazification of Juvenile Criminal Law in the Third Reich”.

This article examines the Nazification of juvenile criminal law during the Third Reich. The overall aim of reform to juvenile criminal law in this period was to reduce protection afforded to juveniles under prevailing laws and to bring juvenile criminal codes into line with National Socialist ideology. Reform was dominated by three key ideological considerations: racial-eugenic theories, protection of the national community and juvenile delinquency.

Juveniles who opposed the Nazi regime or who were classified as racial/biological outsiders were subject to increasingly harsher forms of Nazi persecution and ultimate exclusion from the national community. In the pre-war period, change was limited. Reform was largely theoretical and driven by racial-biological considerations, as reflected in the adoption of new Nazi-specific legal terms such as ‘parasite’, ‘asocial’ and ‘perpetrator type’. During the war, change was radical and rapid. New decrees provided the legal basis for the death penalty and penitentiary terms against juveniles and subsequent laws introduced Nazi specific measures such as juvenile detention and indefinite sentences to combat the rising tide of juvenile delinquency.

Juveniles were stripped of all protection before the law, thus exposing more juveniles to trial before the law as adults. The series of laws passed between 1939 through 1945 were a response to the prevalent fear of juvenile delinquency and indicative of an ideological transformation of the law.