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5 - Confirming Culpability, 1935–1943

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 October 2021

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Summary

The image of Gestapo officers relying on threats and violence is a myth. Informants were for investigating opinionmakers and torture was for networks of organized resistance. Routine procedure was different with lone critics. The Gestapo knew that denouncers could abuse the system. The return to formal prosecution also demanded proof of both an offence and subversive motive. An “impeccable conviction” required corroborating witnesses to establish subversive attitudes and either confirm a single public offence or a broader pattern. As a result, the Gestapo used conversational techniques to gauge the reliability of witnesses and suspects as officers gathered information from their social circle. Behaviour during questioning, discrepancies, connections between witnesses, and personal quarrels were all evaluated. Political background, severity of the statement, and publicness of an offence dictated how widely the net was cast. However, laying out evidence and offering clemency ultimately secured far more confessions than violence. The result was a two-track system of routine police work according to the demands of formal justice subject to cancellation under specific criteria.

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Enemies of the People
Hitler's Critics and the Gestapo
, pp. 118 - 145
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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