Leo Katzenberger was a prominent Jewish businessman in Nuremberg who owned a wholesale shoe business and a number of stores throughout southern Germany and who was a leading figure in the Nuremberg Jewish community. Beginning in 1932, he rented an apartment and a small storefront in his building at 19 Spittlertorgraben to Irene Seiler, the daughter of a non-Jewish friend. Although his business was “Aryanized” in 1938, he was still considered well-off and continued to own his building and rent space to Seiler.
In the spring of 1941, Katzenberger, who was 76, and Seiler, who was 30, were accused of having a sexual affair and arrested on charges of race defilement (Rassenschande). 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.
There was great public interest in the proceedings and the court was crowded both days. In what was a deliberately orchestrated show trial, Rothaug referred to Katzenberger several times as a “syphilitic Jew” and an “agent of world Jewry.” There was no question of the outcome. The court convicted Katzenberger of race defilement and imposed the death penalty by applying not just the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor, but also the Ordinance against Public Enemies (also called the Folk Pest Law) of 1939. The latter law—which permitted the death penalty if the accused exploited wartime conditions to further his or her crime—was used against Katzenberger on the grounds that he secretly visited Seiler “after dark.”
The written findings of the case reveal a series of inconsistencies and perversions allowed under the Nazi system of justice. The accused were arrested on the basis of rumors and innuendo; their sworn statements were twisted and used against them to further the aims of the prosecution; and the verdict was written to meet a predetermined outcome of guilt. It was a public demonstration designed to inflame antisemitic feeling and justify the extraordinary measures put in place to persecute Jews and other so-called enemies of the regime.
Irene Seiler was found guilty of perjury and sentenced to two years of hard labor. Leo Katzenberger was beheaded on June 2, 1942, at Stadelheim Prison in Munich.
Decision of the Nuremberg Special Court in the Katzenberger Race Defilement Case :
In the Name of the German People
The Special Court for the district of the Court of Appeals in Nuremberg at the District Court Nuremberg-Fürth pronounced its verdict in the proceedings against Lehmann Israel Katzenberger, commonly called Leo, merchant and head of the Jewish religious community in Nuremberg, and Irene Seiler, née Scheffler, owner of a photographic shop in Nuremberg. At present, both are being held on charges of racial pollution and perjury. They were tried in a public session on March 13, 1942, in the presence of:
The President-Dr. Rothaug, Senior Judge of the District Court;
Associate Judges-Dr. Ferber and Dr. Hoffmann, Judges of the District Court;
Public Prosecutor for the Special Court-Markl; and
Official Registrar-Raisin, clerk.
Lehmann Israel Katzenberger, commonly called Leo, Jewish by race and religion, born November 25, 1873, at Massbach, married, merchant in Nuremberg; and Irene Seiler, née Scheffler, born April 26, 1910, at Guben, married, owner of a photographic shop in Nuremberg, both at present in arrest pending trial have been found guilty and sentenced as follows:
Lehmann Israel Katzenberger for the offense of racial pollution as defined under Article 2, legally identical with an offense under Article 4 of the Decree against Public Enemies, is hereby sentenced to death and to loss of his civil rights for life according to Sections 32-34 of the Criminal (Penal) Code. Irene Seiler for the offense of committing perjury while a witness is hereby sentenced to two years of hard labor and to loss of her civil rights for the duration of that time.
The three months the defendant Seiler spent in arrest pending trial will be taken into consideration in her sentence. Costs will be charged to the defendants.
1. The defendant Katzenberger is fully Jewish and a German national; he is a member of the Jewish religious community.
As far as his descent is concerned, extracts from the birth registers of the Jewish community at Massbach show that the defendant was born on November 25, 1873, as the son of Louis David Katzenberger, merchant, and his wife, Helene née Adelberg. The defendant's father, born on June 30, 1838, at Massbach, was, according to an extract from the Jewish registers at Thundorf, the legitimate son of David Katzenberger, weaver, and his wife, Karoline [née] Lippig. The defendant's mother, Lena Adelberg, born on June 14, 1847, at Aschbach, was, according to extracts from the birth register of the Jewish religious community of Aschbach, the legitimate daughter of Lehmann Adelberg, merchant, and his wife, [Bela-] Lea [née Seemann]. According to the Thundorf register, the defendant's parents were married on December 3, 1867, by the district rabbi in Schweinfurt. The defendant's grandparents on his father's side were married, according to extracts from the Thundorf register, on April 3, 1832; those on his mother's side were married, according to an extract from the register of marriages of the Jewish religious community of Aschbach, on August 14, 1836.
Concerning the marriage of the maternal grandparents, the extracts from the register of marriages of the Jewish religious community at Aschbach show that Bela-Lea [née] Seemann, born at Aschbach in 1809, was a member of the Jewish religious community. Otherwise the documents mentioned give no further information so far as confessional affiliations are concerned that parents or grandparents were of Jewish faith.
The defendant himself has stated that he is certain that all four grandparents were members of the Jewish faith. He knew his grandmothers when they were alive, and both grandfathers were buried in Jewish cemeteries. Both his parents belonged to the Jewish religious community, as he does himself.
The court sees no reason to doubt the correctness of these statements, which are fully corroborated by the available extracts from exclusively Jewish registers. Should it be true that all four grandparents belonged to the Jewish faith, the grandparents would be regarded as fully Jewish according to the Regulation to Facilitate the Producing of Evidence in Section 5, Paragraph 1, together with Section 2, Paragraph 2, Page 2 of the Ordinance to the Reich Civil Code of November 14, 1935, Reichsgesetzblatt, Page 1333. The defendant therefore is fully Jewish in the sense of the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor. His own admissions show that he himself shared that view.
The defendant Katzenberger came to Nuremberg in 1912. Together with his brothers, David and Max, he ran a shoe shop until November 1938. The defendant married in 1906, and there are two children, ages 30 and 34.
Up to 1938 the defendant and his brothers, David and Max, owned the property of 19 Spittlertorgraben in Nuremberg. There were offices and storerooms in the rear building, whereas the main building facing the street was an apartment house with several apartments.
The codefendant Irene Seiler arrived in 1932 to take a flat in 19 Spittlertorgraben, and the defendant Katzenberger has been acquainted with her since that date.
2. Irene Seiler, née Scheffler, is a German citizen of German blood.
Her descent is proved by documents relating to all four grandparents. She herself, her parents, and all her grandparents belong to the Protestant Lutheran faith. This finding of the religious background is based on available birth and marriage certificates of the Scheffler family that were made part of the trial. As far as descent is concerned, therefore, there can be no doubt about Irene Seiler, née Scheffler, being of German blood.
The defendant Katzenberger was fully cognizant of the fact that Irene Seiler was of German blood and of German nationality.
On July 29, 1939, Irene Scheffler married Johann Seiler, a commercial agent. There have been no children so far.
In her native city, Guben, the defendant attended secondary school and high school up to Unterprima [eighth grade], and after that, for one year, she attended the Leipzig State Academy of Art and Book Craft.
She went to Nuremberg in 1932 where she worked in the photographic laboratory of her sister Hertha, which the latter had managed since 1928 as a tenant of 19 Spittlertorgraben. On January 1, 1938, she took over her sister's business at her own expense. On February 24, 1938, she passed her professional examination.
3. The defendant Katzenberger is charged with having had continual extramarital sexual intercourse with Irene Seiler, née Scheffler, a German national of German blood.
He is said to have visited Seiler frequently in her apartment at 19 Spittlertorgraben up to March 1940, while Seiler visited him frequently, up to autumn 1938, in his offices in the rear of the building. Seiler, who is alleged to have gotten herself in a dependent position by accepting gifts of money from the defendant Katzenberger and by being allowed to delay in paying her rent, was sexually amenable to Katzenberger. Thus, their acquaintance is said to have become of a sexual nature, and, in particular, sexual intercourse occurred. They are both said to have exchanged kisses, sometimes in Seiler's flat and sometimes in Katzenberger's offices. Seiler is alleged to have often sat on Katzenberger's lap. On these occasions, Katzenberger, in order to achieve sexual satisfaction, is said to have caressed and patted Seiler on her thighs through her clothes, clinging closely to Seiler and resting his head on her bosom.
The defendant Katzenberger is charged with having taken advantage of wartime conditions to commit this act of racial pollution. Lack of supervision was in his favor, especially as he is said to have visited Seiler during the blackout periods. Moreover, Seiler's husband had been called up, and consequently Katzenberger did not need to fear surprise appearances of her husband.
On the occasion of her interrogation by the investigating judge of the local Nuremberg Court on July 9, 1941, the defendant Irene Seiler is charged with having made deliberately untrue statements and affirmed under oath that this contact was without sexual motives and that she believed that to apply to Katzenberger as well. It is therefore alleged that Irene Seiler has become guilty of perjury.
The defendants have said the following in their defense:
According to the defendant Irene Seiler:
When she arrived in the photographic laboratory of her sister in Nuremberg in 1932, she was thrown completely on her own resources. Her sister returned to Guben, where she opened a studio as a photographer. Her father had recommended her to the landlord, the defendant Katzenberger, asking him to look after her and to assist her with advice and support. This was how she became closely acquainted with the Jew Katzenberger.
As time went on, Katzenberger did indeed become her adviser, helping her, in particular, with her financial difficulties. Delighted by the friendship and kindness shown her by Katzenberger, she came to regard him gradually as nothing but a fatherly friend, and it never occurred to her to look upon him as a Jew. It was true that she called regularly in the storerooms of the rear of the house. She did so after office hours, because it was easier then to pick out shoes. It also happened that during these visits, and during those paid by Katzenberger to her flat, she kissed Katzenberger now and then and allowed him to kiss her. On these occasions she frequently would sit on Katzenberger's lap, which was quite natural to her, and she had no ulterior motive. In no way should sexual motives be regarded as the cause of her actions.
She always believed that Katzenberger's feelings for her were purely those of a concerned father.
Based on this view, Seiler made the statement to the investigating judge on July 9, 1941, and affirmed under oath that, when exchanging those caresses, neither she nor Katzenberger did so because of any erotic emotions.
According to the defendant Katzenberger:
He denies having committed an offense. It is his defense claim that his relationship with Mrs. Seiler was of a purely friendly nature. The Scheffler family in Guben had likewise looked upon his relationship with Mrs. Seiler only from this point of view. He continued his association with Mrs. Seiler after 1933, 1935, 1938, and beyond; which might be illegal according to the Nazi party but the fact that the relationship continued only signified his good intentions.
Moreover, their meetings became less frequent after the action against Jews in 1938 [Kristallnacht]. After Mrs. Seiler got married in 1939, the husband often came in unexpectedly when he, Katzenberger, was with Mrs. Seiler in her flat. Never, however, did the husband surprise them in an ambiguous situation. In January or February 1940, at the request of the husband, Katzenberger went to the Seilers' apartment twice to help them fill in their tax declarations. The last talk he ever had in the Seiler apartment took place in March 1940. On that occasion Mrs. Seiler suggested to him that he discontinue his visits because of the representations made to her by the Nazi party, and she gave him a farewell kiss in the presence of her husband.
He never had any amorous intentions toward Mrs. Seiler and therefore could not have taken advantage of wartime conditions and the blackout periods.
The court has evaluated the excuses of defendant Katzenberger and the attempts of defendant Seiler to present her admissions as harmless as follows:
In 1932, when the defendant Seiler came to settle in Nuremberg, she was 22 years old, a fully grown and sexually mature young woman. According to her own statements, which are in this respect at least credible, she was not above engaging in sexual activities with her friends.
In Nuremberg, when she took over her sister's photography laboratory at 19 Spittlertorgraben, she entered the immediate sphere of the defendant Katzenberger. During their acquaintance, she gradually, over a period of almost ten years, became willing to exchange caresses and, according to the confessions of both defendants, situations arose that in no way could be regarded as the results of only fatherly affection. When she met Katzenberger in his offices in the rear building or in her flat, she often sat on his lap and, without a doubt, kissed his lips and cheeks. On these occasions Katzenberger, as he admitted himself, responded to these caresses by returning the kisses, putting his head on her bosom, and patting her thighs through her clothes.
Katzenberger's portrayal of the exchange of caresses-as the expression of fatherly feelings-and that of Seiler-as the tender caress to a child arising from the immediate situation-defy common sense. The subterfuge used by the defendant in this respect is, in the view of the court, simply a crude attempt to disguise his actions, which have a strong sexual bias, as fatherly affection free of sexual lust. In view of the character of the two defendants and on the basis of the evidence submitted, the court is firmly convinced that sexual motives were the primary cause for the caresses exchanged by the two defendants.
Seiler was usually in financial difficulties. Katzenberger took the opportunity and availed himself of this fact to make her frequent gifts of money and repeatedly gave her sums from one to ten Reichsmarks. In his capacity as administrator of the property on which Seiler lived and which was owned by the firm in which he was a partner, Katzenberger often allowed her long delays in paying her rental debts. He often gave Seiler cigarettes, flowers, and shoes.
The defendant Seiler admits that she was anxious to remain in Katzenberger's favor. They addressed each other in the second-person singular.
According to the facts established in the trial, the two defendants gave the impression to those in their immediate surroundings and, in particular, to the community of the house of 19 Spittlertorgraben that they were having an intimate love affair.
The witnesses Paul and Babette Kleylein, Johann Maesel, Johann Heilmann, and Georg Leibner frequently observed that Katzenberger and Seiler waved to each other when Seiler saw Katzenberger in his offices through one of the rear windows of her flat. The witnesses' attention was drawn particularly to the frequent visits paid by Seiler to Katzenberger's offices after business hours and on Sundays, as well as to the length of these visits. Everyone in the house eventually came to know that Seiler repeatedly asked Katzenberger for money, and they all became convinced that Katzenberger, as the Jewish creditor, sexually exploited the dire financial situation of the German-blooded woman Seiler. The witness Johann Heilmann, in a conversation with the witness Paul Kleylein, expressed his opinion of the matter to the effect that the Jew was getting a good return for the money he gave Seiler.
Nor did the two defendants themselves regard these mutual calls and exchanges of caresses as being merely casual happenings of daily life, beyond reproach. According to statements made by the witnesses Babette and Paul Kleylein, they observed Katzenberger showing definite signs of fright when he saw that they had discovered his visits to Seiler's flat as late as 1940. The witnesses also observed that during the later period Katzenberger sneaked into Seiler's flat rather than walking in openly.
In August 1940 defendant Seiler accepted [the accusation] when she addressed Oestreicher in the air raid shelter, in the presence of the other residents of the house, and he answered, "You Jewish hussy, I'll get you good!" Seiler did not do anything to defend herself against this reproach, and all she did was to tell Katzenberger of this incident shortly after it had happened. Seiler has been unable to give an even remotely credible explanation for why she showed this remarkable restraint in the face of so strong an expression of suspicion. Although she simply pointed out that her father, who is over 70, had advised her not to take any steps against Oestreicher, this is not a plausible explanation for the restraint she showed.
According to the testimony of the witness, Assistant Inspector of the Criminal Police Hans Zeuschel, it is also untrue that both defendants portrayed the existence of their sexual situation as harmless from the start. The fact that Seiler admitted the caresses she bestowed on Katzenberger only after having been earnestly admonished, and the additional fact that Katzenberger, when interrogated by the police, confessed only when Seiler's statements were being shown to him, forces the conclusion that they both deemed it advisable to keep secret the actions for which they have been put on trial. This being so, the court is convinced that the two defendants made these statements with the opportunistic intention of minimizing and rendering harmless the situation that has been established by witnesses' testimony.
Seiler has also admitted that she did not tell her husband about the caresses exchanged with Katzenberger prior to her marriage-all she told him was that in the past Katzenberger had helped her a good deal. After getting married in July 1939 she gave Katzenberger a "friendly kiss" on the cheek in the presence of her husband on only one occasion; otherwise they avoided kissing each other when the husband was present.
In view of the behavior of the defendants toward each other, as repeatedly described, the court has become convinced that the relations between Seiler and Katzenberger, which extended over a period of ten years, were of a purely sexual nature. This is the only possible explanation of the intimacy of their acquaintance. As there were a large number of circumstances favoring seduction, there can be no doubt that the defendant Katzenberger maintained a continuous sexual intercourse relationship with Seiler. The court considers as untrue Katzenberger's statement to the contrary that Seiler did not interest him sexually; and further, the court considers the statements made by the defendant Seiler in support of Katzenberger's defense as incompatible with all practical experience. They were obviously made with the purpose of saving Katzenberger from his punishment.
The court is therefore convinced that Katzenberger, after the Nuremberg Laws had come into effect, had repeated sexual intercourse with Seiler up to March 1940. It is not possible to say on what days and how often this took place.
Under the provisions of the Nuremberg Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor, extramarital sexual relations are to be understood as-in addition to intercourse-any act with a member of the opposite sex that satisfies the sexual urges of at least one of the partners engaging in that act. The conduct to which the defendants admitted and which in the case of Katzenberger consisted of his drawing Seiler close to him, kissing her, and patting and caressing her thighs over her clothes, makes it clear that in a crude manner Katzenberger did to Seiler what is popularly called "Abschmieren" [petting]. It is obvious that such actions are motivated only by sexual impulses. Even if the Jew had only done these so-called Ersatzhandlungen [sexual acts in lieu of actual intercourse] to Seiler, it would have been sufficient to charge him with race defilement in the full sense of the law.
The court, however, is convinced over and above this that Katzenberger, who admits that he is still capable of having sexual intercourse, had intercourse with Seiler throughout the duration of their affair. According to general experiences it is impossible to assume that in the ten years of his meetings with Seiler, which often lasted up to an hour, Katzenberger would have been satisfied with the "Ersatzhandlungen," which nevertheless in themselves warranted the application of the law.
Thus, the defendant Katzenberger has been convicted of having had, as a Jew, extramarital sexual intercourse with a German citizen of German blood after the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor came into force, which, according to Section 7 of the law, means after September 17, 1935.He acted on the basis of a comprehensive plan designed from the very beginning to include repeated violations of the law. He is therefore guilty of a continuous crime of racial pollution according to Articles 2 and 5, Paragraph 2, of the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor of
September 15, 1935.
A legal analysis of the established facts shows that in his polluting activities, the defendant Katzenberger, moreover, generally exploited the exceptional conditions arising from wartime circumstances. Men have largely vanished from towns and villages because they have been called up [for military service] or are doing other work for the armed forces that prevents them from remaining at home and maintaining order. It was these general conditions and wartime changes that the defendant exploited. As he continued his visits to Seiler through the spring of 1940, the defendant took into account the complete lack of any kind of measures that might have revealed his activities. Even the induction of Seiler's husband into the armed forces and the thereby altered circumstances of the household only facilitated his nefarious activities.
Looked at from this point of view, Katzenberger's conduct is particularly contemptible. Together with his offense of racial pollution he is also guilty of an offense under Article 4 of the Decree against Public Enemies. It should be noted here that the national community is in need of increased legal protection from all crimes attempting to destroy or undermine its inner solidarity.
On several occasions since the outbreak of war, the defendant Katzenberger sneaked into Seiler's flat after dark. In these cases, the defendant acted by exploiting the measures taken for protection during air raids and by taking advantage of the blackouts. His chances were further improved by the absence of the bright street lighting that exists in the street along Spittlertorgraben in peacetime. In each case, he exploited this fact, being fully aware of its significance, and thus during his excursions he instinctively escaped observation by people in the street.
The visits Katzenberger paid to Seiler under the cover of the blackouts served, at the very least, to keep relations going. It does not matter what they did during these visits-whether sexual relations occurred or, as Katzenberger claimed, that they only conversed with the husband present. The motion to have the husband called as a witness was therefore overruled.
The court holds the view that the defendant's actions were deliberately performed as part of a consistent plan and amount to a crime against the body according to Article 2 of the Decree against Public Enemies. The law of September 15, 1935, was promulgated to protect German blood and German honor. The Jew's racial pollution amounts to a grave attack on the purity of German blood, the object of the attack being the body of a German woman. The public's requirement for protection permits-as far as it concerns the party participating in race defilement but not liable for prosecution-no action to be taken. It is clear from statements made by the witness Zeuschel to whom the defendant [Seiler] repeatedly and consistently admitted the fact that racial pollution occurred. At least up to 1939-1940, she was in the habit of sitting on the Jew's lap and exchanging caresses as described above. Thus, the defendant [Katzenberger] also committed an offense under Article 2 of the Decree against Public Enemies. The personal character of the defendant likewise stamps him as a public enemy. His practice of racial pollution grew by his exploitation of wartime conditions over many years into an attitude inimical to the nation, constituting an attack on the security of the national community during an emergency.
This was why the defendant Katzenberger had to be sentenced, both on a crime of racial pollution and on an offense under Articles 2 and 4 of the Decree against Public Enemies, the two charges being taken in conjunction according to Paragraph 73 of the Penal Code.
In the view of the court, the defendant Seiler realized that the contact that Katzenberger continuously had with her was of a sexual nature. The court has no doubt that Seiler actually had sexual intercourse with Katzenberger. Accordingly, the oath given by her as a witness was, to her knowledge and intention, a false one, and she became guilty of perjury under Paragraphs 154 and 153 of the Penal Code.
In passing sentence the court was guided by the following considerations:
The political form of life of the German people under National Socialism is based on the community. One fundamental factor of the life of the national community is the racial problem. If a Jew commits racial pollution with a German woman, this amounts to polluting the German race and, by polluting a German woman, to a grave attack on the purity of German blood. The need for protection is particularly strong.
Katzenberger practiced pollution for years. He was well acquainted with the point of view taken by patriotic German men and women as regards racial problems and he knew that his conduct was a slap in the face to the patriotic feelings of the German people. Neither the National Socialist Revolution of 1933, nor the passing of the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor in 1935, neither the action against the Jews in 1938, nor the outbreak of war in 1939, made him abandon his activities.
As the only feasible answer to the frivolous conduct of the defendant, the court therefore deems it necessary to pronounce the death sentence as the heaviest punishment provided by Article 4 of the Decree against Public Enemies. His case must be judged with special severity, as he had to be sentenced in connection with the offense of committing racial pollution, under Article 2 of the Decree against Public Enemies, and even the more so if taking into consideration the defendant's personality and the accumulative nature of his deeds. This is why the defendant is eligible for the death penalty, which the law provides as the only punishment in such cases. Dr. Baur, the medical expert, describes the defendant as fully responsible.
Accordingly, the court has pronounced the death sentence. It was also considered necessary to deprive him of his civil rights for life, as specified in Paragraphs 32-34 of the Penal Code.
When imposing punishment on the defendant Seiler, her personal character was the first matter to be considered. For many years, Seiler indulged in this contemptible love affair with the Jew Katzenberger. The national regeneration of the German people in 1933 was altogether immaterial to her in her practices, nor was she in the least influenced when the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor was promulgated in September 1935. It was, therefore, nothing but an act of frivolous provocation on her part to apply for membership-which she subsequently obtained-to the Nazi party in 1937.
When by initiating legal proceedings against Katzenberger the German people were to be given satisfaction for the Jew's polluting activities, the defendant Seiler did not pay the slightest heed to the concerns of state authority or to those of the people and decided to protect the Jew.
Taking this overall situation into consideration, the court determined that the defendant deserved a sentence of four years of hard labor.
An extenuating circumstance was that the defendant, finding herself in an embarrassing situation, lied under oath, as she knew. Had she spoken the truth she could have been prosecuted for [the harsher charge of] adultery and aiding and abetting Katzenberger's violation of the Nuremberg Laws. The court therefore reduced the sentence by half despite her guilt, and imposed two years of hard labor as the appropriate sentence. (Paragraph 157, Section 1, No. 1, of the Penal Code.)
On account of her lack of honor, she had to be deprived of her civil rights, too. This has been decided upon for a duration of two years, taking into consideration the time spent in arrest pending trial.
(Paragraph 60 of the Penal Code. Costs: Paragraph 465, Code of Criminal Procedure.)
Nuremberg, March 23, 1942
The Registrar of the Office of the Special
Court for the district of the Nuremberg Court
of Appeals with the District Court Nuremberg-Fürth