Otto Georg Thierack

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Otto Georg Thierack

Dr. jur. Otto Georg Thierack

800px-Flag of Germany (1935–1945).svg.png Reich Minister of Justice
In office
24 August 1942 – 5 May 1945
Chancellor Adolf Hitler
Preceded by Franz Schlegelberger
Succeeded by Herbert Klemm

800px-Flag of Germany (1935–1945).svg.png President of the Academy for German Law
In office
20 August 1942 – 8 May 1945
Preceded by Hans Frank
Succeeded by Office abolished

800px-Flag of Germany (1935–1945).svg.png President of the People's Court
In office
1 May 1936 – 20 August 1942
Preceded by Wilhelm Bruner
Succeeded by Roland Freisler

Born 19 April 1889(1889-04-19)
Wurzen, Kingdom of Saxony, German Empire
Died 26 October 1946 (aged 57)
Eselheide internment camp, North Rhine-Westphalia, Allied-occupied Germany
Nationality German
Political party NSDAP
Spouse(s) ⚭ 1920 Karoline Bernardine Eveline Zumloh[1]
Occupation Jurist
Military service
Allegiance  German Empire
Service/branch Military Order of St. Henry (Saxony 1916), Grand Cross.jpg Royal Saxon Army
Iron Cross of the Luftstreitkräfte.png Imperial German Army
Balkenkreuz.jpg Heer
SA-Logo.png Sturmabteilung
Rank Leutnant d. R.
Hauptmann d. R.
Battles/wars World War I
Awards Iron Cross

Otto Georg Thierack (19 April 1889 – 26 October 1946) was Reich Minister of Justice in National Socialist Germany during World War II. Thierack allegedly committed suicide after his capture in 1946. He was also was Captain of the Reserves of the Wehrmacht (honorary rank).[2]


Celebration of the 5th anniversary of the People's Court in Berlin on 10 July 1939, from left to right: Italian judge Antonio Tringali-Casanova, the President of the People's court Otto Thierack, the head of the national socialist Rechtswahrerbund Hans Frank, Generaloberst Wilhelm Keitel, head of the High Command of the Armed Forces (OKW), and state secretary Franz Schlegelberger.
Reich Minister of Justice Thierack accompanies Dr. Roland Freisler to his inauguration celebrations in August 1942

Early life and career

Thierack was born in Wurzen in Saxony in 1889 as the son of Heinrich Otto Thierack (b. 1846), druggist and colonial goods dealer (Kolonialwarenhändler), and his wife Antonie, née Fels (1861–1935).

Thierack studied law at the universities in Marburg and Leipzig from 1910, became a member of the Guestphalia Marburg Corps (dueling scar, left cheek) and passed the first state law examination on 20 July 1913. He received his doctorate in Leipzig in February 1914 with the dissertation "Wem fällt das Vermögen eines rechtsfähigen Vereins des Bürgerlichen Gesetzbuchs nach dem Verlust seiner Rechtsfähigkeit zu und wie gestaltet sich dieser Anfall?" (Who does the assets of a legal association under the Civil Code fall to after the loss of its legal capacity and how does this accrue?). At that time he was working as a trainee lawyer in Scheibenberg.

He took part in the First World War from 1914 (at the front 1915) to 1918 as a volunteer, then Jäger and Oberjäger (NCO), reaching the rank of 2nd lieutenant of the reserves of the 1st Company/Royal Saxon Reserve-Jäger-Bataillon Nr. 13 (47. Reserve-Infanterie-Brigade/24. Reserve-Division/XII. Reserve-Korps/3. Armee) on 26 March 1917. He fought in France, Serbia and Macedonia, only interrupted once by his legal traineeship (Referendariat). He suffered a serious head injury and possibly lost his left eye.

  • October 1916 Slightly wounded as Oberjäger, remains with the troops[3]
  • 26 March 1917 Officer in 1st company (1./RJB 13)
  • 14 April to 20 June 1917: Trench-mortar detachment
  • 15 July to 2 September 1917 Adjutant (battalion)
  • 2 September 1917 Sick in hospital
  • 18 May to 5 July 1918 Orderly-officer in the staff of the battalion (Ordonnanz-Offizier)
  • 5 June to 12 September 1918 Adjutant (battalion)
  • 16 October to 10 December 1918 Signalling-officer in the staff of the battalion (Nachrichten-Offizier)

After the war ended and his demobilization, he resumed his interrupted law studies and ended them in 1920 taking his Assessor examination. In the same year, he was hired as a court Assessor (probationary judge) in Saxony.[4]

Joins Party

On 1 August 1932, Thierack joined the National Socialist Party. After Adolf Hitler's rise to power, on 12 May 1933, he was appointed Saxony's justice minister. Thierack became leader of the National Socialist jurists' organization, the Rechtswahrerbund. He then became Vice-President of the Reich (State) Court in 1935, and in May 1936 was appointed President of the Peoples' Court (Volksgerichtshof), which had been newly founded in 1934. He held this job, interrupted as it was by two stints in the armed forces, until August 1942, when he was succeeded in the position by Roland Freisler. On 20 August 1942, Thierack succeeded Hans Frank as President of the Academy for German Law.[5]

Reich Minister of Justice

On 24 August 1942, Thierack was appointed to the office of Reich Minister of Justice. He introduced the monthly Richterbriefe in October 1942, in which were presented model decisions upon which German jurisprudence was to be based. He also introduced the so-called Vorschauen and Nachschauen ("previews" and "inspections"). After this, the higher state court presidents, in proceedings of public interest, had at least every two weeks to discuss with the public prosecutor's office and the State Court president, who had to pass this on to the responsible criminal courts, how a case should be judged before reaching the court's decision.

In February 1945, in the last months of WWII, Thierack ordered the establishment of court martials in enemy-threatened Reich districts to enforce fighting determination and dedication to the utmost. Hitler confirmed Thierack as Reich Minister of Justice in his political will of 29 April 1945, and he served in the brief Goebbels cabinet but was dismissed on 5 May 1945 by Hitler's successor, Reichspräsident Karl Dönitz, who chose jurist secretary of state SA-Oberführer Herbert Klemm.


  • 1 August 1932 Member of the NSDAP
  • 12 May 1933 Saxon Minister of Justice in Manfred von Killinger's cabinet
  • 15 February 1934 Member of the Sturmabteilung (SA)
  • 1935 Vizepräsident of the Reich Court
  • 1936 President of the People's Court
  • 30 January 1938 SA-Brigadeführer
  • 20 August 1942 Oberbefehlsleiter (senior command leader) of the NSDAP
  • 24 August 1942 Reich Minister of Justice (preceded by
  • 27 August 1942 President of the Academy for German Law (Akademie für Deutsches Recht)
    • in 1942, he also became head of the National Socialist Association of Legal Professionals (Nationalsozialistisches Rechtswahrerbund).
  • 9 November 1942 SA-Gruppenführer and honorary SS-Gruppenführer (SS-Ehren- und Rangführer)
  • January 1943 Dr. Thierack was led through the Auschwitz main camp (Stammlager) by Rudolf Höß


The Allies arrested Dr. Thierack after the end of World War II. Before he was brought to trial before the court at the Nuremberg Judges' Trial, he committed suicide in Eselheide internment camp (Civil Internment Camp No. 7) near Stukenbrock (between Gütersloh, Bielefeld, Paderborn and Detmold) by poisoning himself. His widow Eveline, née Zumloh, experienced the end of the war with her mother in Triebes, Thuringia. The couple had separated in 1940, but never divorced. There she was denazified and later received a small pension.

Alleged "Extermination through labour" of "asocial" convicted prisoners policy

The Nuremberg Show Trials' documents 654-PS and 682-PS, with Thierack as the alleged author, are sometimes cited as evidence for the existence of a policy of "extermination through labour" or "to be worked to death " (German: "Vernichtung durch Arbeit") of certain groups. The persons allegedly involved in the discussions (Thierack, Himmler, Goebbels, and Bormann) had all died or disappeared before they could be questioned regarding these alleged documents during the Nuremberg trials. The alleged discussions involved transferring certain groups of "asocial" convicted prisoners to labour camps for 'Annihilation through labour' (Vernichtung durch Arbeit) and as such did not involve genocidal policies (and the policy even included convicted Germans).

The Questions

Revisionists have argued that Vernichtung must not necessarily mean "extermination". (See Meanings and translations of German words and Holocaust revisionism‎.) Thus, if these prisoners were viewed as "asocial" and not contributing to society, then this problem could have been seen as being eliminated by forced labour. It is arguably questionable that often relatively mild prison sentences (in some cases only a few years imprisonment) would have been changed to death sentences, an extreme measure, especially at a time when Germany was in desperate need of laborers.

Awards and decorations (excerpt)

Writings (excerpt)

  • Wem fällt das Vermögen eines rechtsfähigen Vereins des Bürgerlichen Gesetzbuchs nach dem Verlust seiner Rechtsfähigkeit zu und wie gestaltet sich dieser Anfall?, Dissertation, Leipzig 1914
  • Die Aufgaben des Beauftragten des Reichsministeriums der Justiz, in: "Deutsche Justiz", 1935, p. 3 f.
  • Grundzüge eines nationalsozialistischen Strafprozesses unter besonderer Berücksichtigung des Ergebnisses der Arbb. d. Ausschusses f. Strafprozeßrecht der Akademie für Deutsches Recht, in: "Zeitschrift der Akademie für Deutsches Recht", 1935, pp. 94 ff.
  • Aufgaben und Tätigkeit des Volksgerichtshofs, in: "Zeitschrift der Akademie für Deutsches Recht", 1936, pp. 855 ff.
  • Die Kriegsaufgaben der Akademie für Deutsches Recht für die Gesetzgebung, in: "Zeitschrift der Akademie für Deutsches Recht", 1943, pp. 1 ff.
  • Der Strafvollzug im Dienste der Volksgemeinschaft, in: "Monatsblätter für Gerichtshilfe, Gefangenen- und Entlassenenfürsorge" 11, 1936, pp. 209–15
  • Recht und Richter in den autoritären Staaten, in: "Monatsblätter für Gerichtshilfe, Gefangenen- und Entlassenenfürsorge", 1939, pp. 219 ff.
  • Das Berufsethos der Juristen, in: "Reich und Geist", 1942, pp. 62 ff.
  • Die Aufgaben der Nationalsozialistischen Rechtswahrerbundes, in: "Deutsches Recht", 1942, pp. 1473 ff.
  • Der Rechtskampf unseres Volkes, lecture on 1 June 1943 in the Saalbau in Frankfurt am Main

External links

  • Ausrottung yet again – the section "On Vernichtung durch Arbeit and Harrison’s new interpretation of a Rosenberg diary entry"


  1. Thierack, Otto Georg
  2. Otto Georg Thierack 1889-1946
  3. Verlustlisten 1. Weltkrieg, Seite 15411: Thierack Georg (Wurzen, Grimma)
  4. In the German legal system, the obsolete designation Gerichtsassessor was held by judges or federal prosecutors, whose employment status today would be "on probation". Attainment of the second state legal qualification (the so-called "Competence to the Justiceship") was always a pre-requisite. The appointment took place with the intention that the Gerichtsassessor would be employed later in his lifetime as a judge. The Gerichtsassessor usually held this designation for one year after receiving his Certificate of Appointment, before being appointed as a judge.
  5. Christian Zentner & Friedemann Bedürftig: The Encyclopedia of the Third Reich, Da Capo Press, 1997, p.3.