Political Justice under Lenin, Stalin, Hitler


At no point did either the Bolshevik-Stalinist or the National Socialist systems ever forego political justice as a means of maintaining power, even as they both practiced extrajudicial persecution on a large scale to the inclusion of mass murder. The paradox of law in a state system built on injustice forms the starting point of the project.

The project’s focus lies in the comparison of political-administrative structures and practices of rule. The tertium comparationis here is the modern criminal trial that largely prevailed as an institution in 19th-century continental Europe. Typical of the two dictatorships in question is that, while they instrumentalized the legitimacy of criminal legal proceedings, each in their specific manners, they were not prepared to accept the limitations on power that would be necessary to uphold the status of defendants in a modern criminal justice system, when it came to the prosecution of their actual or perceived opponents.

The project is expected to shed light not only on the characteristics of political persecution in the two dictatorships but also on the respective potential and limits of the utilization of the legitimacy lent by judicial proceedings. This is based in a comparative study of the forms and methods of political control and the instrumentalization of the judiciary, of the different practices of their instrumentalization, as well as of the shifting of large areas of persecution and repression from the jurisdiction of the judiciary to the executive and to political police apparatuses in particular.

© Institut für Zeitgeschichte