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  • Print publication year: 2017
  • Online publication date: October 2018

Chapter 8 - Ideologisation of Criminology in the Third Reich and the Soviet Union



The history of criminology in the twentieth century is marked very much by its extreme ideologisation in the two totalitarian police states that dominated Europe during that century, namely the Third Reich and the Soviet Union. However, most introductions to criminology, entirely wrongly, have ignored its evolution under those regimes. But to understand how the far-reaching Americanisation of criminology took place in Western Europe aft er the Second World War, one needs to have some understanding of the demise of criminology under those dictatorships.

The demise of the rather successful German criminology was the consequence of its extreme ideologisation during the Third Reich. In particular, its ruin created a vacuum that aft er the Second World War was in many European countries largely filled by the type of criminology that had developed in the meantime through the reception of European criminology in the United States.

The criminology that had developed in Russia, and later in the Soviet Union, obviously could not fulfil that role. This is not only because it was historically not very highly developed, and thus had little or no appeal to scientists in other countries, but also because aft er the Second World War it remained a totally ideologised activity, with the Cold War making it even less attractive for Western researchers than was already the case.


During our discussion of the development of criminology in the Weimar Republic, it was pointed out that not only criminology itself but also the criminal justice system – or at least the police and prison system – fell increasingly under the spell of a type of Kriminalbiologie that was indebted to eugenics and that was considered useful in preserving the purity of the (German) race. Our explanation of its development also devoted the required attention to the view of the crux of the crime problem – das Verbrechertum – that had become rooted within the Kriminalpolizei and the views of Heindl on combatting that problem by means of the lifelong internment of dangerous professional criminals.

The present chapter will first consider how, aft er the Nazis’ seizure of power in 1933, high-ranking Nazi police chiefs almost immediately and systematically linked Kriminalbiologie and Kriminalpolizei with one another to decisively shape their party's policy on crime.

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