We have been guilty, Ulf Panzer

On January 12, 1987, twenty-two judges from all over West Germany, and from various jurisdictions, together formed a nonviolent blockade of the United States air base at Mutlangen, near Stuttgart, where the United States has deployed Pershing II nuclear missiles. What follows is a statement by one of the participants, a district court judge from Hamburg.

Fifty years ago, during the time of Nazi-fascism, we judges and prosecutors allegedly did not know anything. By closing our eyes and ears, our hearts and minds, we became a docile instrument of suppression, terror and death. We were silent in the face of injustice; we served injustice by just applying Nazi laws. The judiciary allowed itself to be abused, to legitimize injustice, and many judges, as murderers in black robes, under the cloak of law, committed the most cruel crimes. We have been guilty.

Today, we are on the way to becoming guilty again, to be abused again. By our passivity, but also by applying democratic laws, we legitimize terror: nuclear terror. And today we do know. We know that we need only the push of a button, and all Germany, Europe, the whole world, will be a radiating desert without human life. Today, in the nuclear age, humankind depends on the good functioning of a Soviet or American computer.

It is because we know that, that we have to act.

We are concerned, not only as ordinary citizens, as mothers and fathers who care for the future of their children, but, especially, in our office as judges in a democratic state. Since we are judges, we have a special responsibility not to be silent in face of the ever-growing stockpiles of nuclear arms in East and West, whose power of destruction supercedes all human imagination.

Nuclear arms are not only immoral, they are illegal.

It is our office to serve justice and peace. Nuclear arms do not serve justice or peace. They are the ultimate crime. They hold all humankind as hostages.

That is why many of us have organized “Judges and Prosecutors for Peace.” We have raised our voices in warning against nuclear omnideath. We have worked with our local peace groups, we have advertised against the illegality of nuclear armament, we have demonstrated and submitted resolutions to our parliament. We have held two peace conferences in Bonn in the summer of 198¬†and in Kassel in November 1985.

Our warnings have died away unheard.

That is the reason why we, today, block the U.S. air base at Mutlangen, the place where the Pershing missiles are deployed. We hope that such an action will be heard more loudly than all our futile words before.

We do not break the law. We uphold the law, as we swore to do when entering our office.

Of course, we do know that, by the predominant opinion of our peers, such a blockade is a crime. They say it is a form of violence punishable by section 240 of the German Penal Code. If it can be called violent to sit peacefully in the street in front of a Pershing base, what are we then to call a Pershing II missile, with its horrific powers of destruction?

We have to put up with the risk of being sentenced by our fellow judges. For we are convinced that there do exist things which have to be denied a place in human civilization. The ovens of Auschwitz were such things. Today, it is nuclear disarmament.

By our action of civil disobedience (or is it not rather an act of civil obedience?) we want to make clear that there are members of the judiciary – a profession which, by our Constitution, was granted political power, and thus political responsibility – who refuse the madness of nuclear armament. We refuse complicity with this policy of our government which is so despising of humankind.

Our blockade is also an act of solidarity. Solidarity with the many hundreds of fellow citizens who have been prosecuted by our fellow state attorneys, and have been sentenced by our fellow judges because they did the same thing we do today. Solidarity also with the peace-loving people of the Eastern block, who are sentenced very harshly only because they committed the “crime” of standing up for peace and disarmament.

Solidarity, finally, with our countless peace-loving friends in the United States of America, who, on any given day, go to prison because they dare to resist the terror of nuclear arms. Some of them have been sentenced with imprisonment up to eighteen years – quite unbelievable for a society which calls itself democratic.

They give us hope. They gave us courage. Their commitment is a signal and shining example. So, together with them we today say, as loudly and clearly as we can: “NO TO NUCLEAR ARMS!”