Translation of the German article: “Der lange Atem eines Nazi-Gesetzes“, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, 14 June 2003.


The Long Arm of the (Nazi) Law in Modern Germany


A court in Nuremberg sentenced an integration helper, because he had helped Jewish immigrants.


“Goetz Bockmann lives isolated in a tiny apartment that he cannot afford to heat during the winter. The depressive, 56-year-old unemployed journalist seldom uses his telephone (because he would have to pay for each call). Under these conditions, the two week jail sentence that a judge in Nuremberg wants to impose in lieu of an unpaid fine could hardly make Bockman’s life worse. However, he does not want to go to prison, though he must pay the 460 Euros ($525) he still owes the court. The fine was levied against him for acting and speaking as an advocate on the side of recent Jewish immigrants dealing with the authorities in today’s Germany.”


"From the viewpoint of judges and public prosecutors, Bockmann was guilty of becoming ‘commercially involved in the legal affairs of other persons’ something normally allowed only to lawyers. In the summer of 2000, as manager of a Nuremberg organization to assist foreigners in adjusting to German society, Bockmann objected to the way officials in the Nuremberg social services department were treating Jewish refugees from Chechnya who went to them seeking help. These refugees had reported incidents of harassment to Bockmann. In two cases, urgently needed medical certificates were deliberately delayed until the day before they were due to expire".


“A Jewish university instructor from Grozny remembers a remark that an employee of the government social services department once made: that the instructor should in fact let her son, who is seriously ill with asthma, simply die. Then he would no longer be a financial burden. Bodo Neeck, deputy director of the social services department in Nuremberg denied that such a comment had ever been uttered, while rejecting any and all accusations of improper behaviour. Bockmann, however, reported the comment to the city authorities. In doing so, he would harm only himself.“


“The Nuremberg public prosecutors did not conduct an investigation of the employees of the Social Services Office whom Bockmann had accused. Instead, they carried out a very thorough investigation of Bockmann. In November 2001 Judge Klaas Werner sentenced him to be fined DM 900 for offering legal counsel without official approval. Because of Bockman’s financial situation - the unemployed journalist today lives on 480 euros of state aid a month - he was allowed to pay the fine in instalments. This he refused to do. The journalist sees himself as the victim of a law that updates the legal traditions of the Third Reich, and he told Judge Werner this quite clearly. The law covering legal counselling was passed in December 1935 in the wake of the Nuremberg laws on race. Regulations on how these laws were to be applied dealt with Jewish lawyers and judges who had been forced out of office on racial grounds. The regulations made it impossible for them to give legal assistance to those in their community suffering under state persecution. The regulations were repealed in 1945. The law, however, remained.”


“Bockman received assistance and support from one of the most stubborn critics of the German justice system. Helmut Kramer, former judge of the Higher Regional Court in Braunschweig, has, in retirement, fought for the posthumous rescindment of death sentences carried out under the Nazis and done pro bono work defending conscientious objectors. On the one hand, he was decorated for his efforts by the German government, which awarded him the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic. On the other hand, he was fined for those efforts, because he violated German laws against providing unauthorized legal counsel.”


Kramer deplores the pigheadedness of the justice system in Nuremberg, which he blames for making serious legal errors. He says that no argument could dissuade the public prosecutors or judges from issuing an arrest warrant for Bockmann, who is seriously ill. Kramer also later condemned the fine that Bockmann was originally allowed to pay - and had begun to pay - in instalments. Kramer stated that the regional court had advised Bockmann that he should economize, in order to pay the full amount (on a government relief income of 480 euros - $550 - a month). Kramer blamed his fellow judge for ‘a belief in his own infallibility’ insofar as he had obviously not wasted a moment’s thought on the fact that he had passed sentence on Bockmann for giving legal advice to Jewish refugees and had based that sentence on, of all things, a law with anti-Semitic origins. Kramer paid the rest of Bockmann’s fine out of his own pocket.” (Peter Schmitt, “Der lange Atem eines Nazi-Gesetzes“, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, 14 June 2003)


PS: This case is now a complaint at the European Court of Human rights, filed 13. November 2002. (No. 40901/02. A translation to French is available from Dr. Kramer). The Law of Legal Advice is challenged by a constitutional complaint of 6. April 2000. The result 1 BvR 737/00 of 29. July 2004 is that judges are now allowed to give altruistic legal advice.

Copy: EU Council, EU Commission, EU Parliament, EU Ombudsman, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, OHCHR-UNOG G/SO 215/51 GERM ES

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