Hans Lammers was a senior official in Nazi Germany. Lammers had a legal background and held the positions of Reich Minister and State Secretary in the Reich Chancellery. After World War Two, Lammers was arrested and tried at Nuremberg and charged with giving anti-Jewish legislation a legal basis.
Hans Lammer was born on May 27th 1879 in Lublinitz in Upper Silesia. He completed his law studies at Wroclaw and Heidelberg universities and was awarded a doctorate in law in 1904. His elevation up the legal ladder meant that in 1912 Lammers was appointed as a judge.
Lammers volunteered to serve in the German Army during World War Oneand he was commissioned for the duration of the war. For his bravery Lammers received the Iron Cross First and Second Class. After the end of World War One, Lammers along with many other Germans, felt greatly let down by the Weimar government that had signed the Treaty of Versailles. To him, the government of Stressemann lacked patriotism and like to so many other Germans, Lammers turned to a political party that claimed to put Germany first – the German National People’s Party (DNVP).
Wilhelm Frick suggested that Lammers should be made the chief legal advisor for all government departments and this was agreed to by Hitler.
He was a member of Hitler’s inner circle and was a guest at Hitler’s Obersalzberg home, the Berghof, in Bavaria where he would work for months at a time. Hitler would frequently consult Lammers on legal issues. Hitler obviously trusted the advice of Lammers as he gave him a number of positions within the Nazi hierarchy that gave him an elevated status above many others. In 1937, Hitler appointed Lammers as Reich Minister without Portfolio and in 1939 Lammers became Ministerial Councillor for the Defence of the Reich. In this position, Lammers had access to highly sensitive documents before they had even reached Hitler.
In 1940, Lammers was appointed a general (Obergruppenfuehrer) in the SS.
However, regardless of the titles bestowed on Lammers, he remained essentially one of Hitler’s closest legal advisors and confidantes.
In 1943, Martin Bormann attempted to create the ‘Committee of Three’. This was a small and highly selective group that was designed to take some of the burden of leadership away from Hitler while the war appeared to be going against Nazi Germany. The members of the ‘Committee of Three’ were Lammers who represented the state, Martin Bormann who represented the party and Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel who represented the military. Ultimately the ‘Committee of Three’ never came to fruition as other leading Nazis believed that it would suck away their power. In particular,Himmler, Goering and Goebbels were against it and Bormann’s idea folded. The position of Lammers was also affected by the war. The declining position of German forces in the USSR gave Hitler very many problems and discussing the legal issues in Nazi Germany itself must have seemed to Hitler as completely irrelevant.
Having been a loyal member of the Nazi Party from 1932, Lammers fell victim to Hitler’s unpredictable nature as the war came to an end. On April 23rd 1945, Hermann Goering sent Hitler a telegram that he was taking over the leadership of Nazi Germany as Hitler was trapped in his bunker in Berlin surrounded by the Red Army. Lammers had advised Goering that under a decree of June 29th 1941 issued by Hitler himself, Goering had the legal right to do this if it was plain that Hitler’s position as leader in Berlin was compromised. Hitler was furious with both men and ordered the arrest of Lammers and Goering. Lammers was very lucky that the war was in its final few days as he could have been executed – such was Hitler’s sense of betrayal in the final few days in his Berlin bunker.
Lammers was used as a witness during the first Nuremberg Trials.
Lammers himself was put on trial in April 1949. He was not viewed as one of the senior Nazis who were put on trial in 1946 despite the charges made against him. Lammers was charged with helping to formulate anti-Jewish laws in Nazi Germany and giving those laws legal validity. Lammer claimed that he knew nothing about anti-Jewish laws until they were revealed during the first round of trials at Nuremberg.
“I knew that a Fuehrer order was transmitted by Goering to Heydrich. This order was called the ‘Final Solution of the Jewish Problem’. But I knew nothing about it.”
Lammers was found guilty of the charges brought against him and was sentenced to twenty years in prison. However it was reduced to ten years in 1951 and he was released from prison – he was being held in Landsberg Prison – in 1952.
Hans Lammers dies in Düsseldorf on January 4th 1962.