Political resistance to National Socialism was defined by the judicial system of the “Third Reich” as high treason. Indictments and verdicts of cases brought before the various central courts are therefore an important source of information on the history of the German resistance. The database combines indictments and cases brought before the Reichsgericht, Volksgerichtshof, Reichskriegsgericht, and trails against Austrians in Vienna and Graz. Additionally, the database contains the political writing and letters of Carl Friedrich Goerdeler.
Further information on the three sources:
Widerstand als “Hochverrat” 1933 –1945. Die Verfahren gegen deutsche Reichsangehörige vor dem Reichsgericht, dem Volksgerichtshof und dem Reichskriegsgericht (Resistance as “High Treason” 1933–1945. Court Proceedings Against German Citizens Before the Reichsgericht, the Volksgerichtshof and the Reichskriegsgericht)
Political resistance to National Socialism was defined by the judicial system of the “Third Reich” as high treason. Indictments and verdicts of cases brought before the various central courts – Reichsgericht (1933 to 1934), Volksgerichtshof (1934 to 1945) and Reichskriegsgericht (1936 to 1944) – are therefore an important source of information on the history of the German resistance. They mirror the social and political spectrum of the movement in its entire breadth and variety. The files provide detailed reports on resistance activities, shed light on the structure of opposition groups and often contain, in full or in generous excerpts, resistance writings that are impossible to obtain elsewhere. The Institute for Contemporary History (IfZ) examined the indictments and verdicts from some 2,500 trials against approximately 7,500 citizens of the German Reich. They include the trials of members of the groups “Weiße Rose” and “Edelweißpiraten,” the “Hübner-Gruppe” and other youth groups that joined forces, of the Kreisauer Kreis and the Goerdeler-Kreis, of the communist resistance groups led by Anton Saefkow and Herbert Baum, and of the members of the “Rote Kapelle” organized by Arvid Harnack and Harro Schulze-Boysen, to name but a few of the more well-known groups.
Widerstand und Verfolgung in Österreich 1938 bis 1945. Die Verfahren vor dem Volksgerichtshof und den Oberlandesgerichten Wien und Graz (Resistance and Persecution in Austria 1938 to 1945. The Proceedings of the Volksgerichtshof and the Regional Courts of Vienna and Graz)
Soon after the Austrian “Anschluss” of 1938, the National Socialist regime installed criminal justice as an instrument to fight and oppress political enemies in Austria. The relevant paragraphs of the Austrian criminal code were abolished with the decree of June 20th, 1938 and replaced by the political Nazi criminal code in modified form. The cardinal offences leveled against resistance groups and political opponents were high treason, treason and, during wartime, military subversion. Anything regarded as an attack on the so-called Inner Front (“Innere Front”) as well as contacts with foreign governments were prosecuted. The indictments and verdicts of the Volksgerichtshof, the central political court of the Reich, and in particular the files of the Oberlandesgericht in Vienna and, as of October 1944, in Graz represent unique records of the scope and “quality” of National Socialist criminal prosecution in Austria. Members and sympathizers of the Austrian Communist Party and its subdivisions, Social Democrats and representatives of political Catholicism became caught up in the judicial machinery along with numerous individuals without political motives, whose principal fault consisted of leveling any kind of criticism at the course of war or the rallying calls of National Socialist propaganda. About 2,300 indictments and verdicts of the Oberlandesgerichte of Vienna and Graz and of the Volksgerichtshof – in as far as it effected Austrians – have been found by historians in the State Archive Berlin, in Moscow, in the Austrian national archives, in state authorities and in the Documentary Archive of Austrian Resistance in Vienna, and compiled and edited. The indictments and verdicts provide a broad base of source material for research on Nazi criminal justice, the National Socialist machinery of persecution in Austria and the various resistance movements, based on the fates of numerous individuals.
Reproduction of the documents in the database
The three sources can be accessed individually using the Browse button. In the filter area on the left, you can then access “Explanatory materials”, “Sources” and “Indices”. Indictments and judgments are also linked to each other on the page of the source documents: at the very bottom, following the facsimile under “Zugehörige Dokumente” [related documents].
Politische Schriften und Briefe Carl Friedrich Goerdelers (Political Writings and Letters of Carl Friedrich Goerdeler)
Carl Friedrich Goerdeler, a leading figure in regional politics and for many years mayor of the city of Leipzig, was among the major representatives of civilian opposition within the resistance movement of July 20th, 1944. Following futile attempts to keep the NS regime from going to war, he became one of the leading civilian conspirators and was intended to be the chancellor of the post-putsch government. After the failed assassination attempt, he was arrested and sentenced to death by the NS People’s Court (Volksgerichtshof). Carl Friedrich Goerdeler was executed in Berlin Plötzensee on February 2nd, 1945. Goerdeler’s political writings and letters are an exemplary illustration of the political ideas of the right wing, middle-class elite since the former Kaiserreich. His writings deal with economic, fiscal and foreign policy, as well as constitutional issues, reflecting Goerdeler’s extraordinary involvement in local and national politics since 1930, and also his gradual aversion to the National Socialist regime. Documents illustrating his suggestions for constitutional and social reform in connection with the planning of the coup are also included. In the texts written by Goerdeler during his Gestapo imprisonment, Goerdeler was concerned partly with postwar planning, and partly with taking stock of his life and passionately appealing to his contemporaries to strive for peace and honest understanding. The selected memoirs, speeches, letters and travelogues originate from private estates and public archives, and are extensively annotated. They are reproduced in chapters, arranged chronologically by content and introduced by short articles. One article deals with Goerdeler’s position within the July 20th Movement.
Reproduction of the documents in the database
The writings and letters of Goerdeler can be selected using the Browse button. In the left filter area you'll find under “Explanatory Materials 18 additional documents (mainly introductions and indices).
The sources were first published online in this database:
Deutsche Geschichte im 20. Jh.: Nationalsozialismus, Holocaust, Widerstand und Exil 1933–1945 Online, De Gruyter/K. G. Saur (2006–2022)
The database is based on the following printed works:
Widerstand als “Hochverrat” 1933–1945. Die Verfahren gegen deutsche Reichsangehörige vor dem Reichsgericht, dem Volksgerichtshof und dem Reichskriegsgericht
Herausgegeben vom Institut für Zeitgeschichte, München. Bearbeitet von Jürgen Zarusky und Hartmut Mehringer. Mikrofiche-Ausgabe mit Erschließungsband. München: K. G. Saur 1995 (Der Erschließungsband erschien in der Reihe Texte und Materialien zur Zeitgeschichte Bd. 7)
Widerstand und Verfolgung in Österreich 1938 bis 1945. Die Verfahren vor dem Volksgerichtshof und den Oberlandesgerichten Wien und Graz
Herausgegeben von Wolfgang Form, Wolfgang Neugebauer und Theo Schiller in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Bundesarchiv. Bearbeitet von Esther Krähwinkel und Wolfgang Form. Mikrofiche-Ausgabe mit Erschließungsband. München: K. G. Saur 2004.
Politische Schriften und Briefe Carl Friedrich Goerdelers
Herausgegeben von Sabine Gillmann und Hans Mommsen. 2 Bde. München: K. G. Saur 2003