Journal Article

The Tolsdorff Trials in Traunstein: Public and Judicial Attitudes to the Wehrmacht in the Federal Republic, 1954-60

Alaric Searle

in German History

Published on behalf of German History Society

Volume 23, issue 1, pages 50-78
Published in print January 2005 | ISSN: 0266-3554
Published online January 2005 | e-ISSN: 1477-089X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1191/0266355405gh328oa
The Tolsdorff Trials in Traunstein: Public and Judicial Attitudes to the Wehrmacht in the Federal Republic, 1954-60

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This article uses the prosecution of former Generalleutnant Theodor Tolsdorff before the Landgericht Traunstein on three separate occasions (June 1954, September 1958 and May/June 1960) as a means of examining both press and judicial attitudes towards the Wehrmacht in the Federal Republic from 1954 to 1960. What is most surprising about the case is that, while the press reactions to the first hearing in June 1954 were uniformly critical of the guilty verdict, the first retrial in September 1958 provoked attacks on the accused in newspapers, and the abandonment of the case under the provisions of the Amnesty Law provoked intense criticism of the court. The reasons for the differing reactions in June 1954 and September 1958 are not only to be sought in the fact that the 1958 verdict came shortly after the close of the Ulmer Einsatzgruppenprozeβ, but rather in the upsurge in anti-militarism which occurred between September 1954 and February 1955 and the effects on public opinion of the 1957 Schörner trial in Munich. When examined against the background of the 1957 Schörner trial and the 1959 Manteuffel trial, the Tolsdorff case indicates not only that attitudes towards the Wehrmacht became much more critical during the second half of the 1950s, but also that these three ‘generals’ trials' were part of a broader pattern of proceedings for ‘crimes of the final period’ which played an important psychological part in paving the way for a more honest confrontation with the mass murder committed during the Third Reich.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: European History

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