6th November 1941, evening
Cast out the outcasts—Customary rights of ancient days—On Treason.
It always fills me with nervous irritation to see in what spirit the magistrates deliver their verdicts. The authors of crimes against morality are as a rule recidivists—and they usually crown their career with some filthy misdeed. Why not wipe out these individuals at once? When I consider the question of responsibility, I don’t regard the fact that a being is abnormal as an extenuating circumstance—it’s an aggravating circumstance. What harm do you see in it if an abnormal being is punished as much as a normal being?
Our ancestors were particularly tolerant towards thefts of food. When the delinquent could prove that his only motive had been hunger, and that he had stolen only what he needed to appease his hunger, he was not punished. I put my signature beneath every new law, but only a short time ago I hadn’t the power to refuse, by a simple written declaration, a legacy that was offered me.
To-day there’s no middle course. Either exaggeratedly severe sentences (when they feel they are supported by public opinion), or else a misplaced leniency. When somebody speaks to me about a traitor, it doesn’t interest me to know just how he betrayed, or whether his treachery was successful, or what it concerned. For me, the only question is: “Did he act for or against Germany?”
As regards certain offences committed with the aggravating circumstance of perversity, that’s just the same. To catch an offender, shut him up, let him go again, watch over him, catch him again, what’s the sense in all that?
A court is asking me to show clemency to a man who, having made a girl pregnant, drowned her in the Wannsee. The motive: he acted in fear of the illegitimate child. I noticed on this occasion that all those who had committed an analogous crime had been pardoned. Hundreds of cases. And yet isn’t it the filthiest of crimes? I said to Gürtner: “Criminals of that sort, I shall never pardon a single one of them. There’s no use in suggesting it to me.”