112 PENAL LAW REFORM If I tolerated the preservation of criminals, at a time when the best of us are being killed at the front, I should destroy the balance of forces to the detriment of the nation's healthy element. That would be the triumph of the rabble. If a country suffers reverses, it runs the risk that a handful of criminals, thus kept under shelter, may cheat the combatants of the fruits of their sacrifice. It's what we experienced in 1918. The only remedy for that situation is to impose the death penalty, without hesitation, upon criminals of this type. In Vienna before the war, more than eight thousand men used to camp on the edge of the canals. A kind of rats that come rampaging out of their holes as soon as there are rumbles of a revolution. Vienna still possesses gutter-rats such as aren't found anywhere else. The danger is to give these dregs an opportunity to get together. No magistrate, priest or politician can change an inveterate criminal into a useful citizen. Sometimes one can redeem a criminal, but only in exceptional cases. The criminal is very willing, of course, to play the game of the worthy types who work to save delinquents—for he sees in it a possibility of saving his own neck. Afterwards he splits his sides at their expense with his confederates. Our whole penal system is a mess. Young delinquents belonging to respectable families shouldn't be exposed to living communally with creatures who are utterly rotten. It's already an improvement that, in the prisons, young people are divided into groups. In any case, I'm a believer in the restoration of corporal punishment to replace imprisonment in certain cases. Like that, young delinquents would not risk being corrupted by contact with hardened criminals. A good hiding does no harm to a young man of seventeen, and often it would be enough. I've had the luck, in the course of my life, to have had a great variety of experiences and to study all the problems in real life. For example, it was in Landsberg gaol that I was able to check the correctness of these ideas. A young man from Lower Bavaria, who would rather have cut his hand off than stolen, had had fruitful relations with a girl, and had advised her to go to an abortionist. For that he
TYPES OF CRIMINALS—APPEAL JUDGE'S BIAS 113 was given a sentence of eight months. Of course, some punishment was necessary. But if he'd been given a sound licking, and then let go, he'd have had his lesson. He was a nice boy. He used to tell us that, for his family, it was a disgrace they could never outlive, to have a son in prison. We often used to comfort him. As a result, he wrote to us to thank us for what we'd done for him, to tell us that he'd never forget it and to promise us that he'd never again commit the slightest evil deed. He used to end by saying that he'd only one wish: to enter the Party. Signed: Heil Hitler! The letter was intercepted by the prison censorship, and gave rise to a minute and niggling enquiry. But there were also real bad lots there. Each of them took up at least half an advocate's time. There were the hibernators, the annual visitors, whom the guards used to see return with a certain pleasure, just as they themselves showed a certain satisfaction at seeing their old cells again. I also remember certain letters from prisoners to respectable people—letters that would wring your heart: "Now I realise what happens when you stop doing what religion teaches." Followed by a reference to such-and-such a wonderful sermon by the prison chaplain. My men once attended at a sermon. The man of God spoke of fulfilling one's conjugal duties, with tremolos in his voice ! Whenever there's a question of granting certain prisoners a remission of their penalty, all sorts of things are taken into account, but these displays of contrition are not the least important factor. Thanks to this play-acting, many customers are let go before their term of sentence has expired. I completely disagree with the procedure followed in Germany concerning matters taken to appeal. The higher court forms its judgment on the basis of the evidence given before the lower court, and this practice has many drawbacks. In the several dozen cases in which I've been involved, not once was the lower court's verdict altered. The mind of the judge of the higher court is automatically inhibited against this. In my opinion, the latter should know only the form of the accusation or complaint, and should go again from the beginning through the necessary enquiries. Above all, he should be really a higher
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Magazine: Adolf Hitler's Table Talk-1941-1944