What Happened When One Lawyer Went Up Against Hitler?
He was small, plump-cheeked and going bald, a skilful lawyer who had long defended the underdogs of society. Now, in May 1931, Hans Litten was preparing to take on the most formidable foe in his entire career.
In the dock before him stood Adolf Hitler, leader of the Nazi Party, who was accused of waging a systematic and brutal war against the enemies of Nazism. Hans Litten, the chief prosecutor, was determined to prove Hitler guilty. The Eden Dance Palace trial was to prove one of the most dramatic legal showdowns in history. In the run-up to the case, Litten—who was born of Jewish parents—had grown increasingly appalled by the lawlessness of Hitler and his supporters.
Just a few months earlier, an SA Rollkommando (a small paramilitary unit) had launched a savage attack on a nightclub frequented by communists. Three people were killed and twenty badly injured in a violent brawl that had clearly been planned in advance. The ensuing police investigation was bungled from the outset and made little headway. The incompetence of the police so infuriated Hans Litten that he took it upon himself to investigate the events of that night in November. He centred his case on four of the injured, convinced that he would be able to secure a conviction for manslaughter against their attackers. If found guilty, the perpetrators of the violence could expect to spend years behind bars.
But Litten hoped to achieve far more than a prison sentence for the men. He wanted to demonstrate that the Nazis were deliberately and systematically using terror tactics to destroy the Weimar Republic. If he could prove this, the days of the Nazi Party were certain to be numbered.
To find out what happened next, listen to the full episode of our podcast, Unknown History, in the top right hand player of this page or on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify. Plus, connect with Giles on Twitter and Facebook.
This post is roughly excerpted from When Churchill Slaughtered Sheep and Stalin Robbed a Bank. You can preorder a copy of the book, due out in November 2016, on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, Books-a-Million, and Apple.
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