Hitler’s Prisons: Legal Terror in Nazi Germany
Yale University Press £30
In this superb book, one of the most important to appear on the Third Reich in many years, Nikolaus Wachsmann examines the little-known world of the German prison system under the Nazi regime. His analysis centres on the fate of the thousands of prisoners in German state penitentiaries. Despite widespread interest in the persecutions meted out by the Nazi regime, historians have been slow to examine the fate of the ‘asocials’, ‘incorrigibles’ and ‘community aliens’ who occupied the prison system, in part because convicted felons (especially those found guilty of crimes still punishable today) are ill-fitted for the role of ‘innocent victim’ that underpins most persecution studies. Yet their fate is important, not only because crimes committed against criminals are still crimes, but also because prison policy provides an ideal vantage point from which to examine the relationship between the Nazi dictatorship and the inherited structures of the German ‘normative state’.
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