Germany considers rehabilitating soldiers executed for 'treason'

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Most of the 30,000 Germans sentenced to death by Nazi Germany's military courts have been rehabilitated. So far, however, soldiers found guilty of treason -- in many cases unjustly, have been excluded. Now, though, Germany's parliament may be prepared to do just that.

At the Berlin opening of a travelling exhibit dedicated to victims of Nazi military justice last week, German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries seemed to indicate that the political will might very well be at hand. Just a year after rejecting a blanket rehabilitation of World War II military treason cases, Zypries indicated the Wette's research might be enough to change her mind. "This study gives lawmakers cause to discuss anew the topic as to whether one should lift all convictions of military treason across the board," she said in her speech last Thursday.

Yet despite the renewed momentum towards righting a six-decade-old wrong, it is by no means sure that the draft law, presented by the far-left Left Party on May 10, has a chance of passing. After all, Germany has confronted the issue of Nazi Military Court victims before. In 1998, the Bundestag passed a law rehabilitating those convicted by the Nazis of refusing to serve in the Wehrmacht. Germans found guilty of undermining the war effort, treason convicts and spies were likewise rehabilitated. In 2002, military deserters were added to the list.

Soldiers convicted of treason, though, were left out of both laws, parliamentarians preferring that they be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. And the concerns voiced in both 1998 and 2002 are still alive and well today.

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