Gürtner, Franz

(1881-1941)
   judge and politician; as Bavarian Justice Minister, shielded Hitler* during the Beerhall Putsch* trial. A native of Re-gensburg, he received a stipend to study law at Munich during 1900-1904. After taking Bavaria's* civil-service exams in 1908, he became a public prosecutor.
   He was appointed personnel officer in 1909 at the Bavarian Justice Ministry and held the position until the outbreak of war in 1914. Decorated numerous times on the Western Front, he was assigned to Palestine in 1917 and ended the war as a battalion commander attached to the expeditionary corps in Turkey.
   Gürtner returned to Munich in 1920 as a provincial court counselor and mem-ber of the Bavarian Justice Ministry. In August 1922, while serving as chairman of the Bavarian Middle Party (the local variant of the DNVP), he was appointed Justice Minister. Under his leadership the Bavarian courts indulged right-wing extremism, a fact of great advantage to Hitler in his trial before the Bavarian People's Court. It was thanks to Gürtner that Hitler gained early release from Landsberg Prison, that the ban on the NSDAP was lifted, and that the prohibition on Hitler's public speaking was revoked. Gürtner retained office until Franz von Papen* appointed him Reich Justice Minister on 2 June 1932. He held the same office under Kurt von Schleicher* and Hitler.
   Although Gürtner was never an NSDAP member, he was responsible for the administrative and legal coordination (Gleichschaltung) that recast Germany's courts as instruments of Nazi policy. As a conservative lawyer, he did not concur with every measure carried out; thus he slowly lost control of the judicial system to rivals in the Schutzstaffeln (SS). But his impact on German justice* was profound. In Das neue Strafrecht (New criminal law), coauthored in 1936 with Roland Freisler, Gürtner asserted that under Nazism "the law renounces its claim to be the sole source for determining what is legal and illegal."
   REFERENCES:Benz and Graml, Biographisches Lexikon; Ingo Müller, Hitler's Justice; NDB, vol. 7.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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