Political and Transitional Justice in Germany, Poland and the USSR from the 1930s – 1950s.

Monday, August 25, 2014, 01:00 pm
Institute of National Remembrance– Institut für Zeitgeschichte München-Berlin – Deutsches Historisches Institut Warschau – MEMORIAL Historical, Educational, Human Rights And Charitable Society, Moskau
By registration only


International Conference "Political and Transitional Justice in Germany, Poland and the USSR from the 1930s – 1950s."

Warsaw, 12-14 March, 2015

“Political Justice”, according to Otto Kirchheimer’s classical work, is the enlargement of “the area of political action by enlisting the services of the courts on behalf of political goals”. The development of this phenomenon is driven by the increasing importance of laws and courts in modern society. This relates not only to democratic states but also to authoritarian ones and even to the most extreme regimes in the European history of the 20th century, Nazism and Stalinism. For them, too, despite their nearly boundless use of force, political justice was an  indispensable instrument of governing. “Speaking legally” on political matters is a special form of communication between rulers and their subjects aiming at gaining specific legitimization, which is not attainable by using other methods.

In his study Kirchheimer also dealt with what is today known as “transitional justice”. This obviously makes sense, since it is hardly possible to imagine “completely  apolitical” and “purely  juridical” court trials on state crimes, especially when it comes to the crimes against humanity committed by the Nazi regime an their  judgment by Stalinist courts or  juridical bodies under the influence of Stalinist jurisdiction.

The history of political justice in Germany, Poland and the USSR during their most difficult periods reflects the character and the problems of their specific  political systems as well as the mainly tragic entanglements between the three countries. The norms of political criminal law are to a very high degree based on the perceptions of dangers for the existing order. In the period and region at issue here they were – justly so or not – often related to the political aspirations of one of the neighbour states. The procedures and practices of political justice, especially with regard to the principle of the “equality of arms” of defendants and accusers in trials, are indicators for the degree of state control over society, and as such open perspectives for  comparative approaches. 

The conference aims at a broad overview of manifestations of political justice in Germany, Poland and the USSR from the 1930s – 1950s, hereby  focusing on the following aspects: 

*         Political Justice as a form of political communication

*         Interdependences and contradictions between legal traditions and ideological influences

*         Political influences on and control over courts and trials

*         The significance of political justice as a means of governing in different systems

*         Transitional justice between  juridical persecution of Nazi crimes and strategies of political legitimization of communist rule 

Conference paper proposals are welcome on a broad range of topics related to the subject, from analyses of specific political or transitional trials, examinations of structural and ideological determinants to comparative approaches. 

The language of the conference will be German, Polish and Russian. Simultaneous interpretation will be provided. 

All those interested are encouraged to participate – both as presenters and as auditors. In the case of the presenters, the accommodation, meals, and travel expenses will be covered by the conference organizers. 

Conference participation is free of charge. 

The deadline for conference paper proposals (to be submitted on the attached form) is September 30, 2014. Please enclose, along with the proposal, an abstract of your paper of 500–700 words in German, Russian and Polish, and a short bio and a list of not more than ten relevant publications. The conference program will be made available by October 31, 2014. 

It is possible to send submissions in Polish, German and Russian. 

Submissions in Polish should be sent to: anna.piekarska@ipn.gov.pl

Submissions in German should be sent to:  zarusky@ifz-muenchen.de

Submissions in Russian should be sent to:  nipc@memo.ru

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