Birthday: October 30, 1893
Died At Age: 51
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Born Country: Germany
Born in: Celle, Germany
Famous as: Judge
Spouse/Ex-: Marion Freisler
father: Julius Freisler
mother: Charlotte Auguste Florentine Schwerdtfeger
siblings: Oswald Freisler
children: Harald Freisler, Roland Freisler
Died on: February 3, 1945
place of death: Berlin, Germany
education: University of Jena
Roland Freisler was a German Nazi jurist, politician, and judge. He served as the state secretary of the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection from the mid-930s to early 1940s, and later as president of the People's Court until 1945. As a jurist, he was best known for influencing the Nazification of Germany's legal system. Born in Celle, Lower Saxony, to an engineer cum teacher, Freisler grew up alongside a younger brother. The outbreak of World War I in 1914 forced him to abandon his law education and take the role of an officer cadet in the German Imperial Army. By 1915, Freisler was a lieutenant and was taken a prisoner of war by Russian forces the same year. He returned to Germany in 1919 and completed his law studies at the prestigious University of Jena, eventually qualifying as a Doctor of Law. A well-regarded speaker, Freisler rose quickly through the ranks and was subsequently appointed to head the Ministry of Justice. He became infamous for his hostile attitude and humiliation of defendants. He also used to give frequent death sentences. In February 1945, Freisler died in the courtroom in Berlin during an allied bomb attack, at the age of 51.
Childhood & Early Life
Roland Freisler was born on October 30, 1893, in Celle, Lower Saxony, German Empire, to Julius Freisler and Charlotte Auguste Florentine Schwerdtfeger. He had a younger brother named Oswald who also became a lawyer.
He enrolled at a law school from where he had to drop out upon the outbreak of World War I.
Continue Reading Below
You May Like
Career During World War I
In 1914, during the commencement of World War I, Roland Freisler was listed as an officer cadet in the German Imperial Army.
He was soon promoted to the rank of lieutenant and was honored with the Iron Cross, both 1st and 2nd classes, for heroism in action.
In 1915, he was taken a prisoner of war by Russian forces. Between 1917 and 1918, Freisler served as a ‘Commissar’ and organized food supplies in the war camp.
Post-War Legal Career
In 1919, Freisler returned to Germany and attended the University of Jena. After earning his Doctor of Law in 1922, he served as a solicitor in Kassel.
In 1925, he joined the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP). He was initially chosen to the Prussian Landtag and later joined the Reichstag as the party transitioned from a street fighting movement into a sincere political party.
In 1933, after Adolf Hitler took over the German state, Freisler became the director of the Prussian Ministry of Justice. Between 1933 and 1934, he served the Prussian Ministry of Justice as secretary of state.
From 1934 to 1942, he worked for the Reich Ministry of Justice. On 20 August 1942, he succeeded Otto Georg Thierack as president of the People's Court.
During his tenure, the number of death penalties rose sharply. Between 1942 and 1945, Freisler handed out over 5,000 death sentences out of which 2,600 were decreed through the First Senate which he controlled.
Contribution to the Nazification of the Law
Freisler, who was a committed National Socialist ideologist, published a paper titled "Die rassebiologische Aufgabe bei der Neugestaltung des Jugendstrafrechts” ("The racial-biological task involved in the reform of juvenile criminal law") in which he argued that racially-degenerate, foreign, incurable or extremely defective juveniles should be segregated from the "Germans and racially valuable” and sent to juvenile centers.
Continue Reading Below
He strongly advocated the formulation of laws to punish Rassenschande (the Nazi term for sexual affairs between "inferior races" and "Aryans"). He wanted such affairs to be categorized as "racial treason”.
Inspired from the racist laws in USA, Freisler targeted Jewish people in Germany. He argued that if the American laws could segregate black people, similarly German laws could target the Jews even if a precise legal definition couldn’t be assigned to the term ‘Jew’.
In 1933, he published a pamphlet through which he called for the legal ban of "mixed-blood" sexual relations.
In 1939, Freisler presented the idea of 'precocious juvenile criminal' in the Juvenile Felons Decree which, in turn, provided the authorized grant of death penalties to juveniles for the first time ever in the history of German law.
During this time, he also introduced the term “perpetrator type” in his legal "Decree against National Parasites," which was often used alongside the National Socialist ideological term, “parasite.”
In 1943, Roland Freisler ordered the execution of numerous members of the University of Munich’s White Rose resistance group. He commanded the beheading of the members by the guillotine.
In August 1944, he handed out punishment to some of the arrested offenders involved in the failed assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler, including Field Marshal Erwin von Witzleben. The proceedings that were filmed showed his aggressive personality and harsh attitude toward Witzleben.
Family & Personal Life
Roland Freisler married Marion Russegger in March 1928. They had two sons, Harald and Roland.
Roland Freislers Death in the Courtroom
On 3 February 1945, the United States Army Air Forces bombers attacked the courtroom in Berlin where Roland Freisler was conducting a session of the People's Court.
He hastily adjourned the court after hearing the air-raid sirens and ordered the authorities to take the prisoners to an air-raid shelter.
Freisler himself stayed behind to gather files and was eventually killed in in the courtroom after being crushed by a masonry column. According to some sources, his dead body was found still clutching the files.
Another version of his death report states that he died after being attacked by a British bomb that came through the courtroom’s ceiling while he was trying two ladies, who eventually survived the explosion.