Roland Freisler

Roland Freisler bigraphy, stories - German notorious Nazi Judge and President of the People's Court

Roland Freisler : biography

30 October 1893 – 3 February 1945

Roland Freisler (30 October 1893 – 3 February 1945) was a prominent and notorious Nazi lawyer and judge. He was State Secretary of the Reich Ministry of Justice and President of the People’s Court (Volksgerichtshof), which was set up outside constitutional authority. This court handled political actions against Hitler’s dictatorial regime by conducting a series of show trials.

Fictional portrayals

Freisler appears in fictionalised form in the 1947 Hans Fallada novel Every Man Dies Alone (Jeder stirbt für sich allein). In 1943 he tried and handed down death penalties to Otto and Elise Hampel, whose true story inspired Fallada’s novel.

Freisler has been portrayed by screen actors at least five times: by Rainer Steffen in the 1984 German television movie Wannseekonferenz, by Roland Schäfer in the 1989 British-French-German film Reunion, by Brian Cox in the British 1996 television movie Witness Against Hitler, by Owen Teale in the 2001 BBC/HBO film Conspiracy, by André Hennicke in the 2005 film Sophie Scholl – The Final Days, and by Helmut Stauss in the 2008 film Valkyrie.


Involvement with the Nazi Party

Freisler joined the Nazi Party in July 1925. He registered with the NSDAP as member number 9679. During this period, he served as defense counsel for members of the nascent Party who got into trouble with the law. He was also a delegate to the Prussian Landtag, or state legislature, and later he became a member of the Reichstag.

In 1927, the Gauleiter of Kurhessen, Karl Weinrich, characterized Freisler in the following manner: Rhetorically Freisler is equal to our best speakers, if not superior. Particularly on the broad masses, he has influence, but thinking people mostly reject him. Party Comrade Freisler is only usable as a speaker. He is unsuitable for any leadership post, since he is an unreliable and moody person.


On 3 February 1945, Freisler was conducting a Saturday session of the People’s Court, when American bombers attacked Berlin. Government and Nazi Party buildings were hit, including the Reich Chancellery, the Gestapo headquarters, the Party Chancellery, and the People’s Court.

According to one report, Freisler hastily adjourned court and had ordered that day’s prisoners to be taken to a shelter, but paused to gather that day’s files. Freisler was killed when an almost direct hit on the building caused him to be struck down by a beam in his own courtroom.Granberg, Jerje. AP dispatch from Stockholm, reprinted as "Berlin, Nerves Racked By Air Raids, Fears Russian Army Most," Oakland Tribune, 23 February 1945, p. 1. His body was reportedly found crushed beneath a fallen masonry column, clutching the files that he had tried to retrieve. Among those files was that of Fabian von Schlabrendorff, a 20 July Plot member who was on trial that day and was facing execution.Will, George F. , "Plot failed, but the spirit lived," reprinted in The Anniston Star, 19 July 1974, p. 4.

According to a different report, Freisler "was killed by a bomb fragment while trying to escape from his law court to the air-raid shelter", and he "bled to death on the pavement outside the People’s Court at Bellevuestrasse 15 in Berlin." Fabian von Schlabrendorff was "standing near his judge when the latter met his end."

Freisler’s death saved von Schlabrendorff, who after the war became a judge of the Constitutional Court of the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesverfassungsgericht).

Yet another version of Freisler’s death states that he was killed by a British bomb that came through the ceiling of his courtroom as he was trying two women, who survived the explosion.Davies, Norman. No Simple Victory: World War II in Europe, 1939–1945 (New York: Viking Penguin, 2007), p. 308.

A foreign correspondent reported, "Apparently nobody regretted his death." Luise Jodl, then the wife of General Alfred Jodl, recounted more than 25 years later that she had been working at the Luetzow Hospital when Freisler’s body was brought in, and that a worker commented, "It is God’s verdict." According to Mrs. Jodl, "Not one person said a word in reply."Buchanan, William, "Nazi War Criminal’s Widow Recalls Nuremberg," Boston Globe report reprinted in The Daily Times-News (Burlington, N.C.), 20 December 1972, p. 1.