The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: imt/tgmwc/tgmwc-09/tgmwc-09-79.07


Archive/File: imt/tgmwc/tgmwc-09/tgmwc-09-79.07
Last-Modified: 1999/12/6

Q. Then you also know that Heines could establish this camp
merely in his capacity as Chief of Police?

A. Yes, that may be.

Q. Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Stahmer, have you any questions to ask?

DR. STAHMER: I have no further questions to put to the
witness.

THE PRESIDENT: Then the witness may retire.

DR. STAHMER: With the permission of the Tribunal I call, as
next witness, Field-Marshal Kesselring.

(Witness Albert Kesselring took the stand and testified as
follows:)

BY THE PRESIDENT:

Q. Will you tell me your name?

A. Albert Kesselring.

Q. Will you repeat this oath after me:

I swear by God the Almighty and Omniscient that I will speak
the pure truth, and will withhold and add nothing.

(The witness repeated the oath.)

THE PRESIDENT: You may sit if you wish.

DIRECT EXAMINATION BY DR. STAHMER:

Q. Witness, since when have you served with the Luftwaffe?

A. Since 1st October, 1933.

Q. What rank did you hold on your transfer to the Luftwaffe?

A. Up to that time I was a colonel and artillery commander
in Dresden. Then I was retired as air commodore.

Q. You helped to build up the Luftwaffe?

A. During the first three years I was chief of the
administrative office, subsequently Chief of the General
Staff, and I then served in the Gruppenkommando.

Q. Was the Luftwaffe being built up for defensive or
aggressive purposes?

A. The German Luftwaffe was purely a weapon of defence. I
must, however, add the comment that the single plane as well
as the whole of the Air Arm by its very nature is an
aggressive weapon. Even in land fighting, defence alone,
unaccompanied by attack, is considered not to lead to any
appreciable results or successes. This applies to a still
greater degree to air war. The Air Arm covers a wider range,
for both defence and attack. This had been realised by the
Reichsmarschall and the generals.

It is obvious that when an air force is being built up only
light machines are produced, or are the first types to reach
the formations. Thus, up to 1936-37 we had only light craft-
fighters, Stukas, reconnaissance planes and a few "old
sledges" as we called them, such as Ja 52, Do 11 and Do 13 -
all obsolete bomber types.

One can hold the view that defence can be successfully
conducted with these light craft. On the other hand, I
should like to point to the end of the World War, when the
German defensive Air Force was smashed by the attacking air
force of the enemy.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Stahmer, the Tribunal thinks the witness
is dealing with this matter in far too great detail.

A. To continue: Up to 1937-38 there was no attacking Air
Force, in particular no bombers, and the bombers which were
built later had neither the range nor the load capacity
necessary for attack. There were no four-engine bombers.

                                                   [Page 25]

Q. Did you play any part in the attack on Warsaw?

A. As Chief of Air Fleet No. 1, I led this attack.

Q. Did the military situation at the time justify this
attack and how was it carried out?

A. Several attacks were made on Warsaw. In the German view,
Warsaw was a fortress, and, moreover, it had strong air
defences. Thus, the premises of The Hague Convention for
land warfare, which can analogously be applied to air
warfare, were fulfilled.

As to the first phase of the attack on Warsaw - according to
the operational principle governing the employment of the
Luftwaffe, the enemy Air Force and the aircraft factories in
the immediate vicinity of the air fields were to be
attacked. These attacks were in my opinion fully justified
and they comply with the rules.

The second phase concerns the combating of the operational
movements of the Poles. I may add that Warsaw is a junction
for Northern and Central Poland. When our long-range
reconnaissance reported - this was confirmed by the final
phase - that the railway stations were crammed with material
and, that reinforcements in increasing numbers were moving
on Warsaw, the air attack on these movements was ordered and
carried out.

It was mainly directed against railway stations and sidings
and the Vistula bridges. For the execution of these attacks
I detailed Stukas and ground strafing aircraft, because the
precision of these machines afforded the guarantee that
mainly the military targets would be hit.

The third phase was the shelling of Warsaw. I consider the
shelling to be an Army action in which, at the request of
the Army, small units of the Air Force were employed against
military targets. I myself was over Warsaw and after
practically every air attack I consulted with the Army
commanders about the execution. From my own experiences and
reports I can assert that everything that was humanly
possible was done to hit military targets only and to spare
civilians.

Q. Can you confirm conclusively that these attacks were kept
throughout within the limits of military necessity?

A. Absolutely.

Q. Did you play any part in the attack on Rotterdam?

A. As Air Force Chief 2, to which rank I had been promoted,
I led on the right flank the attack on Holland, Belgium and
France, and the Airborne Corps operated under my command
also. The Airborne Corps was commanded by General Student,
who asked for his Paratroops to be supported by a bomber
attack. General Student had such a comprehensive knowledge
of the ground situation that he alone must be considered
responsible for preparation and execution of the attack. The
Fourth Air Corps was ordered to provide air support, and one
group, the smallest unit necessary for this purpose, was
employed. The attack was carried out solely in accordance
with the tactical requirements and technical possibilities.
The orders of General Student reached my command very early.
Thus all preparations could be made leisurely according to
plan. At the instance of the Reich Marshal the troops were
informed of possible changes within Rotterdam and of the
approach of Panzer Divisions. The objective set by General
Student was quite clear as to extent, central and key
points, and occupation. It was not difficult for seasoned
troops to grasp the objective. There was radio communication
between General Student's command, my staff and other
staffs, including C.-in-C. of the Air Force. Any
interruption of this communication could only have been a
very short one as radio orders were transmitted by me or the
Reich Marshal. The technique at that time made it possible
to maintain contact, through this radio communication,
between the tactical ground station and the flying unit via
its ground station. The ground communications usual at that
time,

                                                   [Page 26]

such as flares, and signal code designations, were
maintained at the front according to plan. They functioned
without hitch. In accordance with its training and its
orders, the formation had sent out a reconnaissance aircraft
which kept them informed of the position and the objective.
In addition, by order of the Reich Marshal, there followed a
General Staff officer attached to my air fleet who had the
same mission.

Q. Had the order been given that the situation and the
objective ...

A. I myself never had any doubt that the attack had to be
carried out, only I was not quite sure whether or not it
should be repeated. This was the question to which the
signals referred. Judging from my knowledge of General
Student and - I stress this particularly - his technique in
leading an attack and his clearly stated requirements, I had
to expect the attack to be carried out.

The attack was carried out according to plan and time
schedule. The report that the target had been accurately
bombed came through very quickly together with the message
that no further attacks were necessary. During the three
days of fighting in Holland the C.-in-C. of the Air Force
was kept well informed. Particularly on the third day, i.e.,
the day I am talking of, the Reich Marshal in his outspoken
manner intervened more than usual in the direction of the
air fleet and did, in my opinion, everything that could
possibly be done from such a leading position. I do not
remember any message to the effect that the bomber attack
was no longer warranted by the tactical situation.

Q. Bombs are said to have been dropped when negotiations
about capitulation had already started.

A. As I said, no message to this effect had been received by
the Command, neither had the formation operating over
Rotterdam picked up a message from the ground. It may be
that some confusion occurred at the Command in Rotterdam
itself. I do not know about the agreements reached between
General Student and the officer commanding the Dutch troops
in Rotterdam. I wanted later to talk with General Student on
this question but this was not possible because of his
having received a serious brain injury. If (though I am
convinced such was not the case) the attack was not
warranted by the situation, it was most regrettable. As a
soldier of 42 years' standing, as an artillery man, as an
airman, as a General Staff officer and as a leader for many
years, I wish to make it clear that this was one of those
unforeseeable accidents of war which, I am sorry to say,
occur in the Armed Services of all countries more frequently
than one might think, though the outside world does not know
this to be the case.

Q. How do you explain the big fires that kept breaking out
in Rotterdam?

A. When I received the report from the formation I was very
pleasantly surprised to learn that the effect of the bombing
was confined to the target area, but this war has shown that
most of the destruction is not caused by the bombs
themselves, but by the spreading of fires. Unfortunately, a
bomb had hit a margarine or some other factory in Rotterdam,
causing oil to run out and the fire to spread. As, after the
attack, the capitulation was already effective, it should
have been possible to prevent the fires from spreading by
bringing in the fire services and the troops.

Q. What were the military consequences of this attack?

A. The immediate consequences of the attack was the
surrender of the Rotterdam troops. General Wenninger, who
was Air Chief at the time and who later on was attached to
my air fleet, told me that in consequence of this attack the
whole of the Dutch Army capitulated.

Q. Did you lead the attack on Coventry in November, 1940?

A. As Chief of Air Fleet 2 I took part in this attack. I
cannot say now whether Air Fleet 3 took part in it as well,
but I did.

Q. What was the object of this attack?

A. According to the target index kept by the archives
department of the C.-in-C. of the Air Force, Coventry was an
English armament centre: it was

                                                   [Page 27]

known as "Little Essen." This index was compiled with
meticulous care by experts, engineers and officers, and
contained charts, photographs, description of targets, key
points, etc. I myself, as well as my men, were fully
familiar with these details. Furthermore, I arranged for the
above-mentioned General Wenninger and several engineers with
the C.-in-C. of the Air Force to give lectures to the troops
about targets, in order to make them acquainted with the
nature of the targets, their vulnerability and the effects
of an air attack. Preparations for an attack were made most
conscientiously. I was very often present and the Reich
Marshal himself occasionally inspected them. The case of
Coventry was extremely simple as, in those November nights,
favourable weather conditions prevailed, so that Coventry
could be reached without radio navigation. The distribution
of the objectives in Coventry was likewise very simple, so
that bombs could be dropped without the help of flares, and
it was hardly possible to miss the target. But bombs follow
the same law as other explosives - in other words, in land
and air warfare the dispersion covers a wide range. So with
air attack, if strong formations are employed, not the
individual target but only the target area as a whole can be
aimed at, which naturally causes a deviation from the target
itself. By order of the C.-in-C. of the Air Force and on the
reconnaissance pilot's own initiative, the photographs
showing the hits were checked the following day. The ground
visibility was good but, as I already said in the case of
Rotterdam, the destruction of the objective was not caused
so much by the bombs themselves as by the spreading of fire.
I do not know whether I should add anything further. The
Hague Convention on land warfare did not provide for the
requirements of air warfare. In order to avoid an arbitrary
selection of targets the Supreme Command had to go into the
question and issue general directives based on the preamble
to The Hague Convention, the literature published in the
meantime and, finally, the special conditions governing air
operations. Only those targets which we considered
admissible according to International Law were assigned to
the air fleet or formation. This did not exclude the
reconsideration and change of targets in individual cases,
which were discussed with the C.-in-C. of the Air Force, and
we took the responsibility...

THE PRESIDENT: You are speaking too fast.

A. By personal visits and other methods we impressed upon
our formations the need to study and apply carefully the
preparatory work, the aiming and the meteorological
conditions, so that the highest degree of accuracy could be
obtained. The case of Coventry was particularly fortunate,
as it presents an important military target, so that one
could not speak of an attack directed against the civilian
population.

DR. STAHMER: I have no more questions.

THE PRESIDENT: Does any other defence counsel wish to ask
questions?

DR. LATERNSER (counsel for the General Staff and the High
Command).

BY DR. LATERNSER:

Q. Witness, since when were you Commander-in-Chief of an
Army Group?

A. I became Commander-in-Chief of an Army Group in
September, 1943 after I had already served in a supervisory
capacity as far as general strategic and tactical questions
were concerned.

Q. The Army Group which you led was in Italy?

A. The Army Group was in the Mediterranean area.

Q. Do you know the composition of the Group General Staff
and High Command as presented by the prosecution?

A. Yes.

Q. First I have a preliminary question. What is, strictly
speaking, understood by the German General Staff of the
various Services?

A. The General Staff of the various Services comprises all
those officers who assist the Cs.-in-C. of the Services and
share their responsibility.

                                                   [Page 28]

Q. Would you please state how this group was composed and
organised, in the Air Force, for instance?

A. The General Staff of the Air Force was the equivalent of
the General Staff of the Army and these organisation were as
alike as two peas. The General Staff consisted of the
Central Department, called in the Air Force "Operations
Staff," headed by the Chief of the General Staff, the
operational departments, the organisational groups, the
departmental chiefs of the Air Force, the Quartermaster-
General, etc. The various commands, from the air fleet down
to the division, with the exception of the ground staff and
the Luftgaue, have General Staff officers attached to them
to assist the direction. The Chief of General Staff no
longer bore the co-responsibility, as was previously
customary, since this was held to be inconsistent with the
"Leadership Principle." These Chiefs of General Staffs and
the Chief of the Central Department of the General Staff
exercised their influence regarding military and ideological
training on all General Staff officers within the Armed
Forces without prejudice to the responsibility of the
individual military commander.

Q. If I summarise your reply that by General Staff of the
Air Force is meant the Chief of General Staff and the
regimental staff officers, would I then be describing
correctly the composition of the General Staff of the Air
Force?

A. Most certainly.


Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.