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2 - Criminalizing Conversation, 1933–1934

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 October 2021

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Summary

The policing of opinion transitioned from camps to courts during the first years of the Third Reich. The criminalization of criticism traced to the Reichstag Fire. Emergency decrees permitted arbitrary detention for suppressing a communist uprising and criminalized “disinformation.” Loose regulation quickly expanded enforcement from Marxist organizations and publicly supporting revolution to include private expressions of dissent by “chronic complainers and grumblers.” Mounting skepticism about this protracted state of emergency led to accusations of lawlessness from Hitler’s conservative partners by 1934. Policymakers responded by reining in protective custody and rewriting treason statutes to prosecute communist sedition through the courts. The disinformation decree was also rewritten to cover criticizing the regime. Stricter regulation brought the focus back to organized communist resistance, but the rewritten laws left the door open to policing private opinion in society at large. By 1935, the policing of criticism had settled into routine practices and formal processes under a newly expanded Law against Malicious Gossip governing the private conversations of Germans.

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Enemies of the People
Hitler's Critics and the Gestapo
, pp. 57 - 73
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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