In the immediate aftermath of the Nazi seizure of power Rothenberger
was part of an unofficial group within the Nazi Party, led by Hans
Nonetheless as senior judge in the Hanseatic Higher Regional Court
Rothenberger clashed with the
Rothenberger sent his ideas about judicial reform to prominent legal
Hans Lammers in early 1941; Lammers was not impressed and
rejected the plan. Rothenberger then sent the same ideas to Rudolf
Hess , who proved keener but made his ill-fated flight to Scotland
before he could act on them. Finally in 1942 Rothenberger condensed
his ideas into a short memorandum and, through
Martin Bormann , had
this version shown directly to
In order to undertake these changes Justice Minister Franz Schlegelberger was dismissed and replaced by Otto Thierack , with Rothenberger appointed his state secretary in charge of judicial reform. Bormann's ally Hans Klemm was added as another state secretary in order to limit the power of Rothenberger.
One of Rothenberger's first acts as state secretary was to make a
deal with SS -
Rothenberger soon returned to his original reform plans and sought to give the Nazi Party a closer role in the training of judges. Alongside this he sought to extend the use of lay judges and people's courts at the expense of the professional judiciary. Nonetheless he argued that the dispensing of justice at the highest level should remain in the hands of a proper, trained judiciary, an idea that was interpreted by Bormann as not going far enough. Others however saw Rothenberger's ideas as constituting unwarranted attacks on the judiciary and indeed Hans Frank resigned from the presidency of the Academy of German Law, a body which he had established in 1933, as a protest against the Rothernberger proposals.
Realising that the proposed reforms were causing too much friction at
a time when the
Second World War
Rothenberger was one of the defendants at the Judges\' Trial , where he was sentenced to seven years in prison. All three state secretaries, Rothenberger, Klemm and Franz Schlegelberger , were charged at the trial. When in 1959 his role during the war was again publicized, Rothenberger committed suicide.
* ^ Dietrich Orlow, The History of the Nazi Party Volume 2 1933-1945, David border-left-width:2px;border-left-style:solid;width:100%;padding:0px">
* WorldCat Identities * VIAF : 114355956 * LCCN : no2002102107 * GND