Archive/File: imt/nca/supp-b/nca-sb-02-berger.01 Last-Modified: 1997/12/10 Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression, Supplement B XVIII. Gottlieb Berger* The Fate of Red Cross Parcels for War Prisoners Excerpts from Testimony of Gottlieb Berger, taken at Nurnberg, Germany, 19 October 1945, 1450-1615, by Lt. Col. Smith Brookhart, IGD. Captain Mark Priceman, Interpreter; Todd Mitchell, Reporter. * Gottlieb Berger was Chief of Central Office of SS; SS Obergruppenfuehrer and General of Waffen-SS; Inspector General of Prisoners of War; Head of Policy Division of Reich Ministry for Eastern Territories. See also Document 3723-PS, vol. VI, p. 460.] Q. Will you tell us the circumstances under which you were ordered on or about the first of October 1944, to take charge of prisoners of war affairs under the Reichsfuehrer SS Himmler? A. On the 29th of September 1944, I was ordered to the general headquarters in East Prussia. This surprised me, for the last time I had been there on the 19th of September Himmler explained to me that he had taken charge of the administration of the POW's, and that he would put me in charge of this activity. On that evening of the 29th I had to go with him to see Hitler in order to be introduced to him. I asked him then why I should be selected for this task as I did not feel qualified for the job of a guardian of prisoners, and he told me that it was essential that the prisoner of war organization be kept separate from the concentration camps and that no confusion be permitted to take place. He did not want to go into detail as he did not have a clear picture himself at that time, and he said he would have to discuss it with Field Marshal Keitel. Q. Then what happened? A. And so that evening I went over to Hitler's place. Himmler came along and, finally, sometime between midnight and one in the morning I was received by Hitler, who immediately began by reprimanding me because he had been under the impression that I had been in charge of this administration for some time. Q. What did he say, and what did you say? A. Hitler was then suffering from the effects of the attempt against his life. He was in poor physical condition, could hardly get up by himself, pus was coming out of his right ear, and he was extremely irritable. I could not possibly repeat now the exact wording of the conversation that took place. Q. State it in substance. A. As I said, he was extremely irritable. He said that scandalous [Page 1534] conditions prevailed in some of the camps for prisoners of war, that up to fifteen tons of food products had accumulated in some of those camps, and that he had information from officials who had been captured in the uprising in Czechoslovakia to the effect that airborne landings were impending, and we were taking the risk of permitting the landing troops to gain control over those stores of food supplies -- food reserves. At this point Himmler intervened, and he suggested that if these food reserves were to be removed expeditiously that the best we could do would be to assign them to the NSV, the National Socialist Welfare organization. Hitler said that he would go along if this was in compliance with international commitments -- he used some such term -- and in any case, he told me, that by the second of October I would have to issue instructions according to which these food reserves were to be moved within fourteen days, and that whatever remained after that period would be lost to the prisoners of war organization. He also told me that I had been the one who had always been in favor of fair treatment for the eastern prisoners of war, and he said now was the time for me to accept the more unpleasant side of my task of handling them, and, in any case, he wanted to see a copy of the order that I was to issue. As I said, this whole field was entirely new to me, and I didn't know at that time what sort of food products were concerned. When riding back with Himmler I asked him about them and only then I learned from him that these were mercy parcels for prisoners of war which had been transmitted through the Red Cross.
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