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March 18: On Trial for “Racial Defilement”

March 17, 2016

LEO-1German Jewish businessman Leo Katzenberger was arrested in Nuremberg on this date in 1941 for violating the Nazi’s racist Nuremberg Laws by allegedly having sexual relations with a non-Jewish woman, Irene Seiler, a photographer who was the daughter of Katzenberger’s friend. Both Katzenberger, 76, and Seiler, 30, were married. They claimed that their friendship was platonic — and the only “evidence” was the testimony of a single witness who had seen him leaving her apartment (in a building that Katzenberger owned) “when it was already dark.” The judge in the case, however, Oswald Rothaug, was a fervent Nazi, who sent out tickets to the trial to prominent Nazi officials in Nuremberg, described Katzenberger in court as a “syphilitic Jew” and an “agent of world Jewry,” and then bent the law to bring a death sentence against him. Katzenberger was guillotined in Munich the following June; Seiler, found guilty of perjury for denying that a sexual affair had taken place, was sentenced to two years in prison. Judge Rothaug would be tried for war crimes by the Americans in 1947 and sentenced to life imprisonment (the photo at right shows Irene Seiler testifying at his trial). He was released in 1956, however, at 59, and lived an additional eleven years as a free man.

800px-Irene_Seiler“Under interrogation they steadfastly denied that there was any sexual element to their relationship and asserted that it was merely a longstanding friendship in which Katzenberger helped Seiler as a father would help a daughter. The judge who initially investigated the case was unable to find sufficient evidence that sexual intercourse between Katzenberger and Seiler had occurred and delayed bringing the case to trial until further investigation. Then, in March 1942, following a sworn statement by Irene Seiler in which she also denied the charges, the case was brought before the Nuremberg Special Court and presided over by the notorious Nazi judge Dr. Oswald Rothaug.” --U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum