Germany’s governing parties agree to overturn Nazi treason convictions
BERLIN - Germany’s governing parties agreed yesterday on a blanket measure to overturn Nazi-era verdicts convicting people of treason, nearly 65 years after the end of World War II, and it will go before Parliament next month.
Treason convictions carried the death penalty and were handed down in Nazi Germany for any act deemed harmful to the nation or helpful to the enemy. Under that umbrella, people were convicted of treason for political resistance, aiding Jews, helping prisoners of war, and scores of other acts.
Since the end of the war in 1945, the treason convictions had to be handled on an individual basis with a prosecutor.
In 1996, for example, Berlin justice officials formally exonerated the Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was hanged in Bavaria in April 1945 for his role in plotting the attempted assassination of Hitler. The ruling covered other resistance figures, including Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, who was hanged with Bonhoeffer.
Some members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats and the Bavarian-only Christian Social Union had been against a blanket measure overturning the convictions, however, arguing some of those sentenced may have harmed comrades in arms.
But after a study of the issue concluded that it was impossible to determine whether the acts for which people were sentenced “harmed a third party,’’ they signed off on the draft legislation.