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Criminal Justice, Coercion and Consent in Totalitarian Society: The Case of National Socialist Germany

NCJ Number
British Journal of Criminology Volume: 51 Issue: 3 Dated: May 2011 Pages: 599-614
Eric A. Johnson
Date Published
May 2011
16 pages
This article employs an unprecedented combination of different types of empirical evidence to determine which view best characterizes the support for the Nazi movement during the Third Reich.
Scholars and layman alike have long assumed that the Nazi regime kept the German people in line by employing heavy doses of coercion involving arbitrary justice and lethal repression meted out by dreaded organizations of the Nazi criminal justice system such as the Gestapo and so-called Special Courts. Between the late 1980s and early 2000s, this view was challenged by a number of scholars who gained access to and analyzed previously unavailable archival evidence and who became convinced that the Nazis did not rule primarily through coercion; rather, the Nazi regime was popular with most Germans who gave the regime their voluntary consent. Most recently, however, new proponents of the original view of Nazi support based more on coercion than consent have become popular again. The main types of evidence employed are quantitative analyses of thousands of archival files generated by policing and court bodies in three Rhineland cities and thousands of written questionnaires involving Jewish and non-Jewish German people who had resided in cities and smaller communities across the Third Reich. (Published Abstract)