A rumour was enough to be sentenced to death.

Leo

It is strange how you can come across some stories. I was actually doing some research on the fate of the pets of Jews during the Holocaust, when a picture came up of Leo Katzenberger. What drew my attention to the picture was the fact that Leo looked a lot like one of my Uncles who was also called Leo, now my uncle wasn’t a particularly nice man, where Leo Katzenberger by all accounts was a good neighbor and a good man. But why his picture came up in the place I don’t know.perhaps it is because of his last name.

The story of Leo is a disturbing one and although I don’t like drawing parallels with the Holocaust and current state of affairs, I can’t but help seeing some similarities. The holocaust did not happen overnight ,it was a gradual process, Conditions were created without being properly challenged,conditions which eventually resulted in mass destruction of innocent human lives. It only takes a rumour nowadays to get a person convicted, but today the courts are set in social media, People might not realize it but the Holocaust started by slowly picking on people, making false accusation creating the perfect situations to single out scapegoats.

The Katzenberg tral is a chilling example of what can happen.

Leo Katzenberger was a well known  Jewish businessman in Nuremberg he was the owner of a wholesale shoe business and a number of stores throughout the south Germany, he was also  a leading figure in the Nuremberg Jewish community. Early 1932, he rented out  an apartment and a small storefront in his building at 19 Spittlertorgraben to Irene Seiler, a  daughter of a non-Jewish friend. Although Katzenberger’s business was ‘Aryanized’in 1938, he was still fairly comfortable and still kept his own building and rent space to Seiler.

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In March 1942, Katzenberger, aged  76 at the time , and Seiler, who was 30, were accused of having a sexual affair and  were  arrested on charges of racial defilement (Rassenschande).

Both Katzenberger and  Seiler,stated that their friendship was platonic and claimed the relationship between them was more that of a father and daughter, and the only “evidence” was the testimony of a single witness who had seen him leaving her apartment.The investigating judge concluded there was too little evidence to proceed with the case.However the case had come to  the attention of Oswald Rothaug, a judge known for his severity and fanatic support of the Nazi party, Rothaug arranged for the case to be brought to him.

Rothaug

Rothaug knew the trial would create massive publicity and there turned out to be great public interest in the proceedings. The courthouse  was full both trial days. In what was a deliberately set up show trial, Rothaug made remarks about Katzenberger  like “syphilitic Jew” and an “agent of world Jewry.”

Given the fact the trial only last 2 days it was clear there was only going to be 1 outcome. Katzenberger was sentenced to death for race defilement .The usual sentence for this ‘ crime’ would have been a term of imprisonment of several years. But, the Volkschädlingsgesetz, a wartime law, which allowed  the death penalty because it was claimed that Katzenberger used the wartime black outs to visit Seiler.

Irene Seiler was found guilty of perjury for denying an affair had taken place and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment

Leo Katzenberger was killed by guillotine at Stadelheim Prison in Munich on 2 June 1942.

But Even among some Nazi officials, the very weak evidence used  and grounds on which Katzenberger had been sentenced to death caused some discomfort.

 

 

 

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Sources

https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/katzenberger-case-march-13-1942

March 18: On Trial for “Racial Defilement”

The executioner who escaped execution.

Johann-Reichhart

The name Johann Reichhart might not be one synonymous with Nazi Germany but his ruthless killing streak made him one of the most feared members of the regime.

Reichhart was born into a line of German executioners dating back eight generations. He got his start as a judicial executioner in 1928.

Johann Reichhart took 3,165 lives during his time as Germany’s chief executioner. Ironically, after the collapse of the Third Reich , he would hang some of those he once served, Nazi war criminals, on behalf of the victorious Allies.

The beheadings of Sophie Scholl, her brother Hans and a third member of The White Rose, their student resistance group, were among 2,873 executions he carried out in the Second World War.

 

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His career in killing began in earnest with the execution by guillotine of Rupert Fischer and Andreas Hutterer for murder.

The administration promised him 150 Goldmarks for each execution, and announced: ‘From April 1, 1924, Reichhart takes over the execution of all death sentences coming in the Free State of Bavaria to the execution by beheading with the guillotine.

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A lull in executions forced Reichhart to become a green grocer in neighbouring Holland but he was back in action after Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 and soon became a vital clog in the Nazi killing machine.

Despite the enormous workload he was asked to complete, Reichhart was very strict in his execution protocol, wearing the traditional German executioners’ attire of black coat, white shirt and gloves, black bow-tie and top-hat. His work took him to many parts of occupied Europe including Poland and Austria. His record for the most executions in one day was 32. He was so determined to be punctual at all his “appointments” he asked the transport ministry if he could be spared speeding tickets. His request was denied.

Reichhart immersed himself in his role and even invented a device called the ‘double detective tongs’ that kept prisoners pinned down without the need to tie them with rope.

The metal clamp held the prisoner beneath the guillotine instead of rope meaning execution time was reduced to four seconds flat.

Cruelly, the Nazis even charged the families of those they had imprisoned and beheaded. For every day that a prisoner was held, a fee of 1.50 Reichsmarks was charged. The executions cost 300 Reichsmarks.

300Even the 12 pfennig cost of posting the invoice was demanded back by the Nazi state.

Married dad-of-three Reichhart had gained such notoriety that his children were taunted at school with chants such as ‘headcutter, headcutter, your dad’s a headcutter!’

The reputation of their father even drove one of his sons to suicide.

Following VE Day, Reichhart, who was a member of the Nazi Party, was arrested and imprisoned in Landsberg Prison for the purposes of de-nazification but not tried for carrying out his duty of judicial executioner.

Reichhart had to justify himself at a de-Nazification court, where he said: “I have carried out death sentences in the firm conviction that I should serve the state with my work, and to comply with lawfully enacted laws. I never doubted the legality of what I was doing.”

He was subsequently employed by the Occupation Authorities until the end of May 1946 to help execute 156 Nazi war criminals at Landsberg am Lech by hanging.John_C._Woods_holding_a_noose

He cooperated with Allied chief executioner Master Sergeant John C. Woods

 

in the preparations for further executions of those found guilty and sentenced to death at the Nuremberg Trials,but refused to carry out any further executions himself following two cases of mistaken identity.

 

One of the reasons he ended up working for the Allies was that there were not a lot of people prepared to do that kind of thing.’

Reichhart ended his days alone and lonely, first breeding dogs and making perfume, and later being looked after in a care home near Munich, where he died in 1972

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The last public execution by Guillotine.

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Eugen Weidmann (February 5, 1908 – June 17, 1939) was a German criminal who was executed by guillotine in France, the last public execution in that country

On June 17, 1939, Weidmann was beheaded outside the prison Saint-Pierre in Versailles. The “hysterical behaviour” by spectators was so scandalous that French president Albert Lebrun immediately banned all future public executions. Unknown to authorities, film of the execution was shot from a private apartment adjacent to the prison. British actor Christopher Lee – who was 17 at the time – witnessed the event.

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He would later go on to play headsman Charles-Henri Sanson in a French TV drama about the French Revolution, in which his character made prolific use of the device.

Beginning with the botched kidnapping of an American tourist, the inspiring dancer Jean de Koven, Eugène Weidmann murdered two women and four men in the Paris area in 1937. His other victims included a woman lured by the false offer of a position as a governess; a chauffeur; a publicity agent; a real estate broker; and a man Weidmann had met as an inmate in a German prison. On the surface, his crimes seemed in most cases to have had a profit motive, but they generally brought him very small winnings. Born in Frankfurt-am-Main in 1908, Weidmann early showed himself to be an incorrigible criminal. He had been sent to a juvenile detention facility and then served prison terms for theft and burglary in Canada and Germany prior to his arrival in Paris in 1937.

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Last public execution by guillotine, France, 1939 2

After a sensational and much-covered trial, Weidmann was sentenced to death. On the morning of June 17, 1939, Weidmann was taken out in front of the Prison Saint-Pierre, where a guillotine and a clamoring, whistling crowd awaited him. Among the attendees was future acting legend Christopher Lee, then 17 years old. Weidmann was placed into the guillotine, and France’s chief executioner Jules-Henri Desfourneaux let the blade fall without delay.

Last public execution by guillotine, France, 1939 3

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Rather then react with solemn observance, the crowd behaved rowdily, using handkerchiefs to dab up Weidmann’s blood as souvenirs. Paris-Soir denounced the crowd as “disgusting”, “unruly”, “jostling, clamoring, whistling”. The unruly crowd delayed the execution beyond the usual twilight hour of dawn, enabling clear photographs and one short film to be taken.

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After the event the authorities finally came to believe that “far from serving as a deterrent and having salutary effects on the crowds” the public execution “promoted baser instincts of human nature and encouraged general rowdiness and bad behavior”. The “hysterical behavior” by spectators was so scandalous that French president Albert Lebrun immediately banned all future public executions.

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Last public execution by guillotine, France, 1939 4

Guillotine was the only mean of execution that the French republic had ever known, the device was in service from 1792 to 1977. For almost 200 years the guillotine executed tens of thousands of culprits (or not) without ever failing to deliver a quick and painless death.

Last public execution by guillotine, France, 1939 1

While it is easy to see the guillotine as barbaric, it is actually a lot less gruesome than it looks. Capital punishment was very common in pre-revolutionary France. For nobles, the typical method of execution was beheading; for commoners, it was usually hanging, but less common and crueler sentences were also practiced. When Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin proposed the new method of execution to the National Assembly, it was meant to be more humane than previous capital punishments and also to be an equal method of death for all criminals regardless of rank.

Compared to many forms of capital punishment practiced to this day, the guillotine remains one of the best if we are judging based on pain and “cleanness”. In fact, the guillotine was developed with the idea of creating the most humane way to execute people. The condemned don’t feel pain, death is almost instantaneous and there are very few ways for things to be botched. The head of the victim remains alive for about 10-13 seconds, depending on the glucose and blood levels in his brain at the time. However, the head is believed to be more than likely knocked unconscious by the force of the blow and blood loss.

The Execution of Marie Antoinette

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This day 225 years ago the last Queen of France was executed.

Born in Vienna, Austria, in 1755, Marie Antoinette married the future French king Louis XVI when she was just 15 years old.

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The young couple soon came to symbolize all of the excesses of the reviled French monarchy, and Marie Antoinette herself became the target of a great deal of vicious gossip. After the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, the royal family was forced to live under the supervision of revolutionary authorities. In 1793, the king was executed; then, Marie Antoinette was arrested and tried for trumped-up crimes against the French republic. She was convicted and sent to the guillotine on October 16, 1793.

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Marie Antoinette was tried by the Revolutionary Tribunal on 14 October 1793.

Some historians believe the outcome of the trial had been decided in advance by the Committee of Public Safety around the time the Carnation Plot was uncovered. She and her lawyers were given less than one day to prepare her defense. Among the accusations, many previously published in the libelles, were: orchestrating orgies in Versailles, sending millions of livres of treasury money to Austria, planning the massacre of the “gardes françaises” (National Guards) in 1792,declaring her son to be the new king of France, and—by her son Louis Charles himself (pushed by radical elements who controlled him)—of incest. This last accusation drew an emotional response from Marie Antoinette, who refused to respond to this charge and, instead, called on all mothers present in the room: their reaction brought her comfort since these women were not sympathetic to her.

Early on 16 October, Marie Antoinette was declared guilty of the three main charges against her: depletion of the national treasury, conspiracy against the internal and external security of the State, intelligence with the enemy, this one alone being enough to condemn her to death.At worst, she and her lawyers had expected life imprisonment. In the hours left to her, she composed a letter to her sister-in-law, Madame Élisabeth, affirming her clear conscience, her Catholic faith, and her love and concern for her children.

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The letter did not reach Élisabeth.Preparing for her execution, she had to change clothes in front of her guards. She put on a plain white dress, white being the color worn by widowed queens of France. Her hair was shorn, her hands bound painfully behind her back and she was leashed with a rope. Unlike her husband, who had been taken to his execution in a carriage, she had to sit in an open cart. In the hour-long trip from the Conciergerie via the rue Saint-Honoré thoroughfare to the guillotine erected Place de la Révolution, (present-day Place de la Concorde), she maintained her composure, despite the insults of the jeering crowd calling herAutrichienne (Autri referring to her Austrian ethnicity, while chienne in French is a female dog: bitch). Some in the crowd remained silent.For her final confession, a constitutional priest was assigned to her. He sat by her in the cart, and she ignored him all the way to the scaffold.

Marie Antoinette was guillotined at 12:15 p.m. on 16 October 1793. Her last words were “Pardon me, sir, I meant not to do it”, to Henri Sanson the executioner, whose foot she had accidentally stepped on after climbing to the scaffold.

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Her body was thrown into an unmarked grave in the Madeleine cemetery located close by, rue d’Anjou. Because of saturation, the cemetery was closed the following year, on 25 March 1794.

Both Marie Antoinette’s and Louis XVI’s bodies were exhumed on 18 January 1815, during the Bourbon Restoration, when the comte de Provence had ascended the newly reestablished throne as Louis XVIII, King of France and Navarre. Christian burial of the royal remains took place three days later, on 21 January, in the necropolis of French kings at the Basilica of St Denis.

Long after her death, Marie Antoinette remains a major historical figure linked with conservatism, the Catholic Church, wealth, and fashion. She has been the subject of a quantity of books, films and other forms of media. Politically engaged authors have deemed her the quintessential representative of class conflict, western aristocracy and absolutism. Some of her contemporaries, such as Jefferson, attributed to her the start of the French Revolution. For others, Marie Antoinette was a victim of her family ambition and the general situation in France. However, even her critics have recognized her qualities as a mother and her courage in dying.

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