We were nothing special," an East German judge once told me.
40) An East German judge once, jokingly, translated for me the frequently used classification "nur fur den Dienstgebrauch" ("for internal use only") as "vor dem Lesen vernichten" ("destroy before reading")--the ultimate condemnation of the communicative value of these texts.
We would have been more precise," a former East German judge, now an attorney, told me when she described the differences between West German judges and her own former self.
While on May 8, 1945, about 80% of all judges in the Soviet Occupation Zone had been members of Hitler's NSDAP, already by December 1945, vetting campaigns had reduced that percentage to 22%(11) By the end of 1950, 63% of East German judges and 89% of East German prosecutors, their ranks by now almost completely purged of ex-Nazis, were instead members of East Germany's Communist Party, the SED.
Unlike West German judges who claim as part of their judicial independence the right to come and go to work as they please, East German judges and prosecutors had fixed working hours and were expected to remain in their offices.
Accordingly, East German judges would focus not so much on the efficient processing of private claims as on education and peacekeeping.
East German judges and prosecutors accepted the contradictions without visible complaints.
Another was positivism: East German judges liked to stick closely to the letter of the law since it could be trusted to reflect authoritative Party positions and, at the same time, provided shelter against interferences from the outside.
East German judges and prosecutors were taught to work in an orderly manner and with care, to investigate each case thoroughly and to follow exactly prescribed procedures.
For example, to judge by the files, East German judges, when signing arrest warrants, took care to inform the suspect of his right to lodge a complaint.
Even if East German judges observed what to us looks like demands of procedural fairness, they often would do so for motives quite different from our own.