Template:Infobox Government agency The Hauptamt SS-Gericht (Template:Lang-en) was the legal department of the SS during the Third Reich. It was responsible for formulating the laws and codes for the SS and various other groups of the police, conducting its own investigations and trials, as well as administering the SS and Police Courts and penal systems.<ref name="axishistory">Axis History Factbook retrieved on 30 March 2007</ref>
Early in the Nazi regime SS personnel were charged with breaking the law through the performance of their duties at the Dachau concentration camp in 1934. Under such circumstances, the Nazi regime realised it would be expedient to remove the SS and police units from the jurisdiction of the civilian courts. This was achieved with a petition to the Reich Ministry of Justice.
This legal status meant all SS personnel were only accountable to the Hauptamt SS Gericht. This effectively placed the SS above German law and able to live by its own rules and conventions.
The Hauptamt SS Gericht was an extension of the previous SS Gericht, an organization that administered surveys of the SS and police forces and their codes of honor. The Hauptamt SS Gericht had four departments (Template:Lang-de):
- Amt I Legal affairs - SS-Oberführer Dr. Reinecke
- Amt II Organisation, personnel & disciplinary matters - SS-Obersturmbannführer Hinderfield
- Amt III Pardons, reprieves and the execution of sentences - SS-Sturmbannführer Burmeister
- Amt IV Liaison office - SS-Obersturmbannführer Dr. Krause
The Hauptamt SS Gericht's headquarters were the high court offices in Munich. The Hauptamt SS Gericht had 605 qualified lawyers that passed sentences on members of the German armed forces, though Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler often changed the sentences. By 1944, the number of SS-Hauptamt offices within Germany had grown from 8 to 12.<ref name="axishistory"/>
SS and Police Courts
The Hauptamt SS-Gericht administered also 38 regional SS courts throughout the Third Reich under legal jurisdiction which superseded civilian courts. These laws extended to all SS and police force members operating in Germany or throughout occupied Europe. The SS and Police Courts were the only authority that could try SS personnel for criminal behaviour.
The different SS and Police Courts were as follows:
- SS- und Polizeigericht: Standard SS and Police Court for trial of SS officers and enlisted men accused of minor and somewhat serious crimes
- Feldgerichte: Waffen-SS Court for court martial of Waffen-SS military personnel accused of violating the military penal code of the German Armed Forces.
- Oberstes SS- und Polizeigericht: The Supreme SS and Police Court for trial of serious crimes and also any infraction committed by SS Generals.
- SS- und Polizeigericht z.b. V.: The Extraordinary SS and Police Court was a secret tribunal that was assembled to deal with highly sensitive issues which were desired to be kept secret even from the SS itself.
The one exception to the SS and Police Courts jurisdiction involved members of the Allgemeine-SS who were serving on active duty in the regular Wehrmacht. In such cases, the SS member in question was subject to regular Wehrmacht military law and could face charges before a standard military tribunal.
Investigations by Judge Georg Morgen
In 1943 SS-Sturmbannführer Georg Konrad Morgen, from the Hauptamt SS-Gericht, began investigating corruption and criminal activity within the Nazi concentration camps system. He eventually prosecuted so many SS officers that by April 1944, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler personally ordered him to restrain his cases. Among the people he investigated was Karl Otto Koch, the commandant of Buchenwald and Majdanek, and husband of Ilse Koch — as well as Buchenwald's concentration camp doctor Waldemar Hoven, who was accused of murdering both inmates and camp guards who threatened to testify against Koch.
In 1944, while investigating the Auschwitz commander, Rudolf Höss, Morgen's assistant Hauptscharführer Gerhard Putsch disappeared. Some theorized this was a warning for Morgen to ease up on his investigations as the building where his files were stored was burned down shortly thereafter.
Morgen, who had been an SS judge and investigator, later testified at the Nuremberg trials. He later claimed that he fought for justice during the Nazi era, and cited his long list of 800 investigations into criminal activity at concentration camps during his two years of activity.