On this date in 1945, a Hamburg coal worker was executed for an excessively realistic take on the war effort.
Although — or because — Germany’s administrative infrastructure was falling apart under the Allied onslaught late in World War II, its judiciary had no compunction about doling out death sentences.
While the overall number of cases dealt with by most special courts was much lower than in previous years, due to the gradual collapse of the court system, in these last months of the war some judges passed proportionally more death sentences than ever before. Legal officials continued to justify their brutal sentencing by claiming that this would prevent another ‘stab in the back’.
In other words: Clap louder!
Poor Max Schlichting, a coal worker with an unfortunate communist past, was sentenced to death for Wehrkraftzersetzung — “subversion” or “undermining the war effort,” the same thing they got Remarque’s sister on.
Specifically: he remarked to a soldier, in the aftermath of the American landing at Normandy, that Germany was going to lose the war. An undercover Gestapo spy overheard him.
Although hard evidence of Germany’s situation (German link) would have been difficult for a Hamburger to overlook, Schlichting received no clemency and was executed — six weeks before Hamburg surrendered to the Allies.
His sentence and (banal) last letter are recounted here, in German.