Oswald Rothaug was born in 1897. He was an up-and-coming judge of Nazi Germany when, in 1942, the case of 68-year old Lehman Israel "Leo" Katzenberger came before him.
Katzenberger, a Nuremberg Jewish businessman, was suspected of a relationship with his tenant Irene Seiler, a German woman, an "Aryan".
In fact, the investigation showed that Leo Katzenberger had a relationship with Seiler but it was one of debtor and creditor: Katzenberger had lent Ms Seiler some money.
According to the judgment of the Court against him in his subsequent war crimes trial, Rothaug:
"... passed the final law examination in 1922 and the State examination for the higher administration of justice in 1925.
"In December 1925 he began his career as a jurist, first as an assistant to an attorney in Ansbach and later as assistant judge at various courts. In 1927 he became Public Prosecutor in Hof in charge of criminal cases. From 1929 to 1933 he officiated as Counsellor at the Local Court in Nuernberg. In June 1933 he became Senior Public Prosecutor in the Public Prosecution in Nuernberg. Here he was the official in charge of general criminal cases, assistant of the chief public prosecutor handling examination of suspensions of proceedings and of petitions for pardon. From November to April 1937 he officiated as Counsellor of the District Court in Schweinfurt. He was legal advisor in the Civil and Penal Chamber and at the Court of Assizes, as well as Chairman of the lay assessor’s court from April 1937 to May 1943 he was Director of the District Court in Nuernberg, except for a period in August and September of 1939 when he was in the Wehrmacht. During this time he was Chairman of the Court of Assizes, of a penal chamber, and of the special court."
Circa 1942, Nazism had firmly permeated the German statute book. The 1935 Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor prohibited "racial pollution", the relationship for which Katzenberger stood trial on March 13, 1942.
Rothaug, a proud member of the Lawyer's League, was excited about drawing this assignment. So clear was he in his biais that he sent tickets to the Nazi hierarchy to attend the trial. Some attended including the Inspector General for the Reich, a Mr. Oexle.
Katzengerer never had a chance.
Katzenberger and Ms Seiler denied the charges but Rothaug wasn't going to let evidence interfere with Nazi justice.
An eyewitness materialized and Katzenberger had been seen leaving the woman's house after dark. This opened the door to a death penalty, which wartime law held out as the sentence when a crime had been committed during blackout hours.
From Rothaug's judgment:
"[T]he national community is in need of increased legal protection from all crimes attempting to destroy or undermine its inner cohesion.... The visits by Katzenberger to Seiler under the protection of the blackout served at least the purpose of keeping relations going. It does not matter whether during these visits extra-marital sexual relations took place or whether they only conversed.... The Jew's racial pollution amounts to a grave attack on the purity of German blood, the object of the attack being the body of a German woman.... the political life of the German people under National Socialism is based on the community. One fundamental factor of the life of the national community is race. If a Jew commits racial pollution with a German woman, this amounts to polluting the German race and, by polluting a German woman, to a grave attack on the purity of German blood. The need for protection is particularly strong."
Rothaug sentenced Katzenberger to the guillotine and the sentence was caried out on June 2, 1942.
Rothaug got him come-uppance when he was arrested at war's end and hauled before the International Military Tribunal sitting in his hometown and charged with war crimes. The IMT concluded as to Rothaug's:
"... virulent hostility towards (Poles and Jews).
"The evidence establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that Katzenberger was condemned and executed because he was a Jew.... (His) execution was in conformity with the policy of the Nazi State of persecution, torture, and extermination of these races.... Rothaug was the knowing and willing instrument in that program of persecution and extermination.
"His acts were more terrible in that those who might have hoped for a last refuge in the institutions of justice found these institutions turned against them and a part of the program of terror and oppression.
"By his manner and methods he made his court an instrumentality of terror and won the fear and hatred of the population. From the evidence of his closest associates as well as his victims, we find that Oswald Rothaug represented in Germany the personification of the secret Nazi intrigue and cruelty. He was and is a sadistic and evil man. Under any civilized judicial system he could have been impeached and removed from office or convicted of malfeasance in office on account of the scheming malevolence with which he administered injustice."
The International WarMilitary Tribnal, sitting at Nuremberg on 1947, gave Oswald Rothaug a life sentence. But shown mercy he never gave Leo Katzenberger, Rothaug was released in 1956 and died a free man in 1967.
- Duhaime, Lloyd, Eberhardt Schoengarth: Nazi Lawyer, May He Rot in Hell
- Duhaime, Lloyd, Otto Thierack (Nazi Germany), biography
- Duhaime, Lloyd, Pierre Laval (France), biography
- Duhaime, Lloyd, Their Jewishness
- Duhaime, Lloyd, The Law's Hall of Shame
- Duhaime, Lloyd, Nazi Law: Prelude to Holocaust, 1933-1943
- United States of America v. Alstötter et al., 3 T.W.C. 1, 6 L.R.T.W.C. 1 and at 14 A.D.I.L. 278 (1948)