Central Office of the State Justice Administrations for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes

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The Central Office of the State Justice Administrations for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes (German : Zentrale Stelle der Landesjustizverwaltungen zur Aufklärung nationalsozialistischer Verbrechen or German : Zentrale Stelle or German : Z Commission) is Germany's main agency responsible for investigating war crimes during Nazi rule. The commission possesses the largest collection of files, documentation and materials concerning criminal activities during Nazi rule. The Central Office is located in Ludwigsburg.

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol in Italy, the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.

Germany Federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe

Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north, and the Alps, Lake Constance and the High Rhine to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.

War crime Serious violation of the laws of war

A war crime is an act that constitutes a serious violation of the laws of war that gives rise to individual criminal responsibility. Examples of war crimes include intentionally killing civilians or prisoners, torturing, destroying civilian property, taking hostages, performing a perfidy, raping, using child soldiers, pillaging, declaring that no quarter will be given, and seriously violating the principles of distinction and proportionality, and military necessity.

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Background

Prior to the foundation of West Germany in 1949, Nazi war crimes were investigated by Allied authorities that governed Germany, famously with the Nuremberg Trials. After 1949, the duties of investigation were transferred to the police authorities of the new state. However, after the Ulm Einsatzkommando trial in 1958 of Gestapo and SS officers responsible for crimes along the German-Lithuanian front at the beginning of German's invasion of Soviet Union in 1941, German authorities decided that a large number of Nazi crimes that had occurred outside Germany itself had remained uninvestigated. [1]

West Germany Federal Republic of Germany in the years 1949–1990

West Germany was the informal name for what was officially the Federal Republic of Germany, a country in Central Europe, in the period between its formation on 23 May 1949 and German reunification on 3 October 1990. During this Cold War period, the western portion of Germany was part of the Western bloc. The Federal Republic was created during the Allied occupation of Germany after World War II, established from eleven states formed in the three Allied zones of occupation held by the United States, the United Kingdom and France. Its (provisional) capital was the city of Bonn. The Cold War era West Germany is sometimes retrospectively historically designated the "Bonn Republic".

The Ulm Einsatzkommando trial (1958) was the first major trial of Nazi crimes under West German law. Ten suspects, former members of the Einsatzkommando Tilsit, were charged for their involvement in war crimes committed in Lithuania in 1941. All were convicted as accessories to mass murder and sentenced to various terms in prison, the chief perpetrators being held to be those from whom the orders had come down.

Gestapo official secret police of Nazi Germany

The Geheime Staatspolizei, abbreviated Gestapo, was the official secret police of Nazi Germany and German-occupied Europe.

Creation and functions

To this end, the justice ministries of German states formed the Central Office of the State Justice Administrations for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes in December 1958. [1] Initially, the office was restricted to investigating crimes that occurred outside Germany and only those committed against civilians (distinct from those occurring during wartime operations). Subsequent changes in law and the statute of limitations have empowered the Central Office to investigate all war crimes without limitations in time or extent. [1] The Central Office uses systematic research to investigate and assemble groups of connected crimes. Charged with completing preliminary investigation, the Central Office transfers the charge of full investigation to the official police and state justice ministries. State prosecutors are required to inform the Central Office of important investigative results and the final judicial conclusions. [1]

A statute of limitations is a law passed by a legislative body in a common law system to set the maximum time after an event within which legal proceedings may be initiated.

The Central Office investigates almost all categories of crimes – those perpetrated by the SS, German military and police units, the Gestapo as well as concentration camps for Jews and other targeted communities (Auschwitz, Majdanek, Kulmhof, Belzec, Treblinka and Sobibor), the "Euthanasia" testing on humans, systematic crimes on prisoners of war (Kommissarerlaß – "superintendents' permission") as well as the role of the highest state and political offices and their employees in the planning and execution of crimes. [1] Since its formation, the Central Office has helped track down and prosecute almost 7,000 Nazi criminals and collaborated with the agencies of other nations to track down war criminals. [2] [3]

Belzec extermination camp German extermination camp in occupied Poland during World War II

Belzec (pronounced [ˈbɛu̯ʐɛt͡s] was a Nazi German extermination camp built by the SS for the purpose of implementing the secretive Operation Reinhard, the plan to eradicate Polish Jewry, a key part of the "Final Solution" which entailed the murder of some 6 million Jews in the Holocaust. The camp operated from 17 March 1942 to the end of June 1943. It was situated about 0.5 km south of the local railroad station of Bełżec, in the new Distrikt Lublin of the semi-colonial General Government territory of German-occupied Poland. The burning of exhumed corpses on five open-air grids and bone crushing continued until March 1943.

Sobibor extermination camp German extermination camp located near Sobibór, Poland in World War II

Sobibor was a Nazi German extermination camp built and operated by the SS during World War II near the railway station of Sobibór near Włodawa within the semi-colonial territory of General Government in occupied Poland.

Euthanasia is the practice of intentionally ending a life to relieve pain and suffering.

In 2013, after the successful initial prosecution of John Demjanjuk, Kurt Shrimm announced that the office would be seeking prosecutions of another 50 low level concentration camp staff. According to Der Spiegel it is unlikely that more than two of the cases will be prosecuted. [4]

John Demjanjuk Soviet soldier accused of World War II war crimes and retired auto worker

John Demjanjuk was a retired Ukrainian-American auto worker, a former soldier in the Soviet Red Army, and a POW during the Second World War.

<i>Der Spiegel</i> German weekly news magazine based in Hamburg

Der Spiegel is a German weekly news magazine published in Hamburg. With a weekly circulation of 840,000 copies, it is the largest such publication in Europe.

Archives

The Central Office has amassed a vast collection of documents, records and files detailing the crimes, including the "Röhm Putsch", the "Reichskristallnacht", single executions of foreign workers by the Gestapo, etc. Evidence can be found for practically all of the scenes and series of crimes. [1] Excerpts (copies and microfiche films) from archive material both in and outside Germany can be found, especially from Eastern European archives. Most of this unique documentation has been transferred since April, 2000 to the National Archive, Ludwigsburg branch. [1] The branch is instructed to preserve and keep the documents accessible for historical research and other interested parties entitled to the information. As a part of this the National Archive could participate in the institution of the research unit of the University of Stuttgart in Ludwigsburg. [1]

Night of the Long Knives purge that took place in Nazi Germany from June 30 to July 2, 1934

The Night of the Long Knives, or the Röhm Purge, also called Operation Hummingbird, was a purge that took place in Nazi Germany from June 30 to July 2, 1934, when Adolf Hitler, urged on by Hermann Göring and Heinrich Himmler, ordered a series of political extrajudicial executions intended to consolidate his hold on power in Germany, as well as to alleviate the concerns of the German military about the role of Ernst Röhm and the Sturmabteilung (SA), the Nazis' own mass paramilitary organization. Nazi propaganda presented the murders as a preventive measure against an alleged imminent coup by the SA under Röhm – the so-called Röhm Putsch.

<i>Kristallnacht</i> Pogrom against Jews throughout Nazi Germany on 9–10 November 1938

Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, was a pogrom against Jews carried out by SA paramilitary forces and civilians throughout Nazi Germany on 9–10 November 1938. The German authorities looked on without intervening. The name Kristallnacht comes from the shards of broken glass that littered the streets after the windows of Jewish-owned stores, buildings and synagogues were smashed.

The University of Stuttgart is a university located in Stuttgart, Germany. It was founded in 1829 and is organized into 10 faculties.

See also

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