Peter Römer, scientific-pedagogical assistant of the History Place Villa ten Hompel

Mr. Römer, why could it be important for employees in the police and judiciary to look at the crimes of National Socialism?

There are substantial continuities in the exercise of state professions. Police officers and lawyers, for example, have the same role across all state systems: They enforce laws and administer justice. It was not these roles that changed during the National Socialist era, but rather the laws – and it is precisely for this reason that the professional predecessors of our seminar participants not only contributed to the stabilization of the NS dictatorship, they were actively involved in the Holocaust. Many participants in our seminars did not know that police officers shot 600,000 Jews – and yet many returned to duty unpunished by the legal system in the post-war period. In this respect, police officers and lawyers can reflect on past events, their options for action as well as their professional role in the present and the future, which are also shaped by the continuities of their profession.

What is special about the project "Das geht mich ja was an! [This concerns me!]" and what is the approach here?

Our project focuses on the continuities of discrimination by state officials beyond the supposed caesura of 1945. Thus, the persecution of homosexuals did not end on May 8, 1945 – in fact, Paragraph 175 continued to apply. Gay men – even if they had been imprisoned in concentration camps – were excluded from reparation payments and, with the help of "pink lists" from the National Socialist era, still experienced persecution by the police and they were sentenced by courts. It was only a change in values that led to the deletion of the paragraph in 1994, but the consequences of the exercise of the law and of the case law still have an effect to this day. And: The participants in our seminars can already state in advance via the project whether they would like to discuss this main topic or another one – antigypsyism, antisemitism and racism.

Which experiences in the context of the project were surprising, and which perhaps point to grievances or needs?

The project reveals that images of supposedly classic perpetrator groups in National Socialism continue to dominate, such as the SS, SA and the Wehrmacht. The fact that all those state professional groups that were involved in National Socialist crimes also continued in the successor states – i.e. police officers, judges, etc. – may be recognized by scholars, but this is far from being common knowledge. It is equally surprising for our seminar participants that the process of coming to terms with the burdened German history has been by no means exemplary, but rather inadequate. Those institutions that survived the caesura protected themselves – and this explicitly included staff who were implicated. In this respect, the project also points to the need for reflection on the self-images as well as external images of one's own profession.