The Holocaust Historiography Project

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West German Court Rejects Judge Stäglich’s Appeal


While an officer in a German anti-aircraft unit in 1944, Wilhelm Stäglich was for several months stationed in the vicinity of the Auschwitz concentration camp. The postwar doubts he expressed about alleged mass exterminations carried out at Auschwitz have led to twenty years of disciplinary proceedings, including his early retirement from the judiciary with a reduced pension, the banning from open sale of his book Der Auschwitz Mythos (published in English by IHR as The Auschwitz Myth), and the notorious revocation of his duly earned doctorate in jurisprudence by the council of deans of the University of Göttingen, acting under the provisions of a law issued by Adolf Hitler. Dr. Stäglich reports below on his latest legal setback in his fight for justice in West Germany.

On November 17, 1987 the Higher Administrative court (HAC) at Lüneburg rejected my appeal (Az, 10 OVG A 17/86) of the Administrative Court (AC) at Braunschweig’s January 29, 1986 dismissal (Az. 6 VG A 219/83) of my pleas to regain my doctorate, which was withdrawn by the University of Göttingen. A writ of certiorari was not allowed. The grounds for rejecting my appeal are, in essence, as follows:

A holder of the doctoral degree who, “under the cloak of scholarly activity” [sic] complies with the statutory provisions for the crimes of popular agitation (ß 130 STGB) and incitement to racial hatred (ß 131 STGB)” violates the “dignity inseparably bound with the doctorate” and misuses “the claim to scholarship” which arises from the doctorate; he thus demonstrates that he is unworthy to continue holding the doctorate.

These findings, which correspond neither to the facts of the case nor to the law, were signed by three judges, Dr. Jank (presiding), Dr. Heidelmann, and Dr. Greve. Their opinion was based on a law regarding academic degrees issued by none other than Adolf Hitler, on June 7, 1939 (RGBL. I S. 985). The same law served the council of deans of the University of Göttingen as a basis for depriving me of my doctorate on March 24, 1983, without so much as granting me a personal hearing. Where does the state governed by the “rule of lawn begin and the lawless state leave off?

The Administrative Court’s ruling of January 29, 1986 had been based on a thoroughly false determination of the facts, as I amply demonstrated in a 34-page report which I submitted to the HAC. The HAC, although the trial court of last resort, nevertheless accepted the lower court’s erroneous finding as to the facts of the case, which the AC had arrived at in violation of the applicable statutes. The HAC did not devote a single word to my strictly factual report. The higher court likewise disregarded the extensive legal argumentation of my attorney, who is especially competent in the subject matter. In my view the court’s behavior satisfies the criteria for a perversion of the law (ß 336 STGB).

My attorney will file an appeal against the court’s refusal to grant a writ of certiorari within the specified time period. There are a number of grounds for doing so. In particular, my case is of fundamental importance since to my knowledge it is the first time that an attempt has been made in the Federal Republic to deprive someone of a doctoral degree on purely political grounds, using a law established during the Third Reich. If the HAC ruling acquires the force of law, then every academic degree-holder who undertakes research in the treatment of the Jews in the war years after 1940, a treatment which Professor Helmut Diwald has characterized as “in its central questions still unclarified” (Geschichte der Deutschen, 1st edition, p. 165), must fear for his academic titles and honors. For according to the HAC opinion, “the cloak of scholarship” no longer allows, in contravention of Article 5, Paragraph 3 of the Basic Law [West Germany’s provisional constitution — Ed.] unbiased research in this area. A truly shocking determination! Even such welcome Revisionist tendencies as have appeared in recent years among Establishment historians, in opposition to the historical line fostered by the victors of the Second World War, would then probably come to an end. Perhaps this was in fact the hidden goal of the entire process that has been directed against me.

Should the Federal Administrative Court [the highest administrative tribunal in the Federal Republic-Ed.] fail to reverse the HAC’s scandalous ruling through a writ of certiorari, the last remaining legal remedy open to me is a constitutional complaint. Only then will we find out what the much lauded constitutional right of freedom of opinion and research really counts for in this country. To determine this, once and for all, is the only reason for carrying on my legal battle. I have ceased to care about my honorably earned doctorate, since my case has demonstrated that even the University of Göttingen, so highly regarded both here and abroad, is today no longer the bastion of academic freedom it should be.