The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. Which offices did you hold after the taking over of power?

A. First I was President of the Reichstag, as before, and I
remained so until the end. In the Reich Cabinet I received
at first the post of a Reich Minister and Reich Commissioner
of Aviation, not of the Air Force. In parentheses, I should
like to say that from the very beginning it was clear to me
that we had to establish an Air Force.

In Prussia I received the position of the Prussian Minister
of the Interior, then, on 20th April, 1933, in addition the
post of Prime Minister of Prussia.

The Reich Commissariat for Aviation had before this time, I
believe already in March, 1933, become a Reich Ministry of
Aviation.

Then there were still several not very important offices,
President of the State Council, and so on.

Decisive at that time, however, were the two offices of
Prime Minister of Prussia on one hand and Minister of
Aviation on the other hand. The office of Prussian Minister
of the Interior I handed over to the Reich Minister of the
Interior at the beginning of 1934, because it was part of
the consolidation of power and of the clarification
necessary for proper governing authority in the Reich that
the Prussian Ministries be consolidated with those of the
Reich, as only in this way was it possible for the Reich
Ministries to receive practical information about the
political work of the day and about the work of the
departments. Only through this consolidation was that
possible.

Q. Did you, in your capacity as Prussian Minister of the
Interior, create the Gestapo and the concentration camps
which have so often been mentioned here? When and for what
purpose were they established?

A. I mentioned before that, for the consolidation of power,
the first prerequisite was to create along new lines that
instrument which at all times and in all nations is always
the inner political instrument of power, namely, the police.
There was no Reich Police, only State Police. The most
important of these was the Prussian Police.

This police had already been filled by our predecessors, the
former Parties, with their own people, each according to its
political attitude. I mentioned the filling of the offices
of police chiefs and those of the chiefs of the main police
offices within the Prussian Ministry of the Interior. Thus
it was that our opponents, the most bitter opponents, who up
to then had always opposed us most harshly with their police
powers, were still in the subordinate offices.

A slight loosening up had taken place before I took charge,
during the time when the Social Democratic Braun-Severing
Government was replaced by the Government of Herr von Papen.
At that time the bitterest opponents were also removed from
the police. Nevertheless, the most important positions were
still in the hands of definite political opponents. I could
not very well expect that those who until yesterday were
ready to employ the police with particular severity against
us would to-day show the same loyalty to the new State.

Before our time there was also a Political Police in
Prussia. That was Police Department 1-A, and its task was,
first of all, the surveillance of and the fight against the
National Socialists and also, in part, against the
Communists.

Now, I could have simply put new people in this Political
Police and let it keep on running the old set-up. But the
situation had changed because of our seizure of power, for
at this time, as I have mentioned before, the Communist
Party was extraordinarily strong. It had over six million
voters, and in its Red Front organisation it had a
thoroughly revolutionary instrument of power, and it was
quite self-evident to the Communist Party that if we should
stay in power for any length of time it would ultimately
lose this power.

The danger positively existed that at that time - one has to
think back to the political tension, the atmosphere of
conflict-revolutionary acts could have

                                                   [Page 77]
taken place on the part of the Communists, particularly
since, even after we came to power, political murders and
political shootings of National Socialists and policemen by
that Party did not stop but, at times, even increased. Also,
the information which I received was such that I became
extremely fearful of a sudden shift in that direction.
Therefore, under the existing conditions, I could not ward
off this danger. I needed a reliable Political Police not
only in the main office but also in the branch offices. I
therefore had to enlarge this instrument.

In order to make clear from the outset that the task of this
police was to make the State secure I called it the Secret
State Police and at the same time I established branch
offices in this police department. I took in a great number
of political officials who were experienced, and at the
beginning took fewer people from the Party, because for the
time being I had to attach importance to professional
ability.

I also wanted this police to be concerned exclusively with
protecting the State first of all against its enemies. The
leader whom I selected for this police force was not from
the Party but came from the former police. He, Diehls, was
already there, at that time as Oberregierungsrat and later
as Ministerialrat, and likewise the main chiefs of the
Gestapo were officials who were not from the Party. Later
the Party element appeared in the police more and more.
Their mission was first of all to create as quickly as
possible all assurance of security against any action from
the Left. I knew - it proved afterward to be true - that the
headquarters of the Communists in Berlin, the Liebknecht
House, was strongly fortified and contained very many arms;
we had also at that time brought to light very strong
connections between the Russian Trade Delegation and the
German Communist Party. Even though I arrested, as I did,
thousands of Communist functionaries at one blow, so that an
immediate danger was eliminated at the outset, the danger as
such was by no means eliminated. It was now necessary to
expose the secret connections, the network of these secret
connections, and to keep them constantly under observation.
For this purpose a police leadership would have to
crystallise. The Social Democratic Party on the whole seemed
to me not nearly so dangerous, especially as far as its
members were concerned. But of course they were also
absolute opponents of our new State. A part of their
functionaries were radical, another part less radical. The
more radical I likewise placed under observation, while a
whole number of former Social Democratic Ministers, heads of
Prussian provinces and higher officials, as I said before,
were quietly retired and received their pension, and nothing
further was undertaken against them. Of course there were
also other functionaries of the Social Democratic Party whom
we definitely had to watch carefully. Thus the Secret State
Police was created by me for these tasks, first of all in
Prussia, because I had nothing to do with the other
provinces at that time. The organisation of the rest of the
police is not of such importance here.

Q. The concentration camps?

A. When the need for creating order, first of all, and
removing the most dangerous element of disorder directed
against us now became evident, I reached the decision to
have the Communist functionaries and leaders arrested all at
once. I therefore had a list made for that purpose, and it
was clear to me that, even if I arrested only the most
important and most dangerous of these functionaries, it
still would involve several thousands of them; for it was
necessary to arrest not only the Party functionaries, but
also those from the Red Front organisation, since the
Communists also had affiliated organisations. These arrests
were in accordance with reasons of State security and State
necessity. It was a question of removing a danger. Only one
possibility was available here, that of protective custody;
that is, first of all, whether or not one could prove that
these people were involved in a traitorous act or an act
hostile

                                                   [Page 78]


to the State, whether one could expect such an act from them
or not, to prevent such an act and to eliminate the
possibility by means of protective custody. That was nothing
new and was not a National Socialist invention, for already
before this such protective custody measures had been
carried out, partly against the Communists, and chiefly
against us, the National Socialists. For this purpose the
prisons were not at our disposal, and also I want to stress
from the very beginning that this was a political act for
the defence of the State Therefore, I said that these men
should first of all be gathered in camps - one to two camps
were proposed at that time - because at this time I could
not tell for how long the internment of these people would
be necessary, nor how the number would be increased by the
further exposure of the entire Communist movement. When we
occupied the Karl Liebknecht House we found so many arms,
material and preparations for a civil war that, as I said,
one could not gain a general view of its extent. I had
already indicated that, in view of the great political
tension that existed between the extreme wings of these
political opponents, and in view of the bitterness of the
opposition brought about by the continuous fighting in the
streets, and the mutual tension resulting from the political
struggle, the situation would conceivably not be a very
pleasant one for the inmates. For this reason I gave
instructions that the guard should as far as possible,
consist of police forces; only where these were not adequate
should auxiliary forces be called. I have taken a stand with
regard to the question of concentration camps and I should
like to point out that this name was not created by us, but
that it appeared in the foreign Press and was then adopted.
Where the name originated is rather a historical matter: At
the end of 1933, in a book which at first appeared in
English at the request of an English publisher, and which
has already been presented by the prosecution as evidence, I
stated my views of this quite openly. I point out again that
it was for foreign countries, for English-speaking
countries. At that time I made the following statement quite
openly:

  "Of course in the beginning there were excesses; of
  course the innocent were also hurt here or there; of
  course there was fighting here and there and acts of
  brutality were committed; but compared to all that has
  happened in the past and to the greatness of the events,
  this German revolution of freedom is the least bloody and
  the most disciplined of all revolutions known to
  history."

Q. Did you supervise the treatment of the prisoners?

A. Of course I gave instructions that such things should not
happen. That they did happen and happened everywhere to a
smaller or greater extent I have just stated. I always
stressed that these things should not happen, because it was
important to me to win over some of these people for our
side and to re-educate them.

Q. Did you do anything about abuses which you heard about?

A. I personally took an interest in the concentration camps
until the spring of 1934. At that time there were two or
three camps in Prussia.

Witness Koerner has already mentioned the case of Thaelmann.
I would like to speak about it briefly, because it was the
most striking case, since Thaelmann was the leader of the
Communist Party. I could not say to-day who it was who
hinted to me that Thaelmann had been beaten.

I had him called to me directly and without informing the
higher offices and questioned him in my room very exactly.
He told me that he had been beaten during, and especially at
the beginning, of the interrogations. Thereupon, as the
witness, who was present, has said already, I told Thaelmann
that I regretted that. At the same time I said, "Dear
Thaelmann, if you had come to power, I probably would not
have been beaten, but you would have chopped my head off
immediately." He confirmed that. Then I told him that in the

                                                   [Page 79]

future he should feel free, if anything of this sort should
happen to him or to others, to let me know. I could not
always be there, but it was not my intention that any act of
brutality should be committed against them.

Just to demonstrate this case, which was not an unimportant
one, I want to stress that later Thaelmann's wife turned to
me for help and that I answered her letter immediately.

At that time I also - this I can prove by evidence - helped
the families of the inmates financially so far as that was
necessary.

At this opportunity I should also like to mention the
unauthorised concentration camps which have been mentioned,
the purpose of which come under the heading of abolition of
abuses. At first I did not know anything about them, but
then I found out about such a camp near Stettin. It had been
established by Karpfenstein, at that time Gauleiter of
Pomerania. I had this camp closed at once - my defence
counsel will remember that he, independent of me, received
information about this, during the trial, from an inmate
whom I do not know at all - and had the guilty persons who
had committed acts of brutality there brought before a court
and prosecuted by the State attorney. This, too, can be
proved. Karpfenstein was expelled from the Party.

A second camp of that kind was found in Breslau, which
Heines had established. I do not remember to-day what
happened there. At any rate, it was a camp not authorised by
me. This one I likewise closed down and dissolved
immediately. Heines was one of the closest collaborators of
Roehm, about whom I shall speak later.

As far as I can remember - I cannot name the place exactly
any more - close to Berlin another unauthorised
concentration camp had been secretly established by Ernst,
the S.A. leader in Berlin, whom I had always suspected of
acts of brutality.
That also was closed. Ernst belonged to these evil figures
who were eliminated in the Roehm Putsch. It is possible to
question persons who were inmates of these camps at that
time, 1933 and the beginning of 1934, as to whether during
that time anything happened even approaching that which
happened later.

Q. Did you, after a consolidation of power had taken place,
ever free inmates to any great extent and at what time did
you do so?

A. At Christmas of 1933 I directed that the lighter cases -
that is, the less - dangerous cases and those cases of which
one had the impression that the people had resigned
themselves to the situation - be released, about 5,000
people. I repeated that once more in November, 1934, with
2,000 inmates. I stress again that that refers only to
Prussia. At that time, as far as I remember - I cannot say
exactly - one camp was dissolved or at least closed
temporarily. That was at a time when nobody thought that it
would ever be the subject of an investigation before an
international tribunal.

Q. How long were you in charge of the Gestapo and the
concentration camps and until what date?

A. Actually I was in charge until the beginning of 1934 -
that is, at the beginning of 1934 Diehls was the head and he
gave me frequent reports about the Gestapo and also about
the concentration camps. Meanwhile, outside Prussia a
regrouping of police had taken place in such a way that
Himmler was in charge of the police in all provinces of
Germany with the exception of Prussia only. Probably
following the example of my measures, he had thus installed
the Secret State Police there, because the police at that
time was still a matter of the States. There was a Bavarian,
a Wurttembergian, a Badensian, a Hessian, a Saxonian Police,
etc.

He had become the leader of all these police forces, and, of
course, he now sought to get the leadership of the police in
Prussia as well. I was very satisfied with Diehls at that
time, and from my point of view I saw no reason for letting
any change take place.

                                                   [Page 80]

These efforts, I believe, started as early as in the late
summer of 1933. Shortly after I had transferred the Prussian
Ministry of the Interior to the Reich Ministry of the
Interior, in the spring of 1934, and thereby left this
Ministry. After this event Himmler, I assume, probably urged
the Fuehrer more strongly that he be put in charge of the
Prussian Police as well. At that time I did not expressly
oppose it. It was not agreeable to me, I wanted to handle my
police myself. But when the Fuehrer asked me to do this and
said that it would be the correct thing and the expedient
thing and that it was proved necessary that the enemy of the
State be fought throughout the Reich in a uniform way, I
actually handed the police over to Himmler, who put Heydrich
in charge. But legally I still retained it, because there
was still no Reich Police in existence.

The rest of the police, the State Police, that is, the
uniformed police, I did not turn over to him, because, as I
shall explain later, I had to a large extent organised this
police in Prussia along military lines, in order to be able
to fit it into the later rearmament programme. For this
reason I could not and did not want to give him the
uniformed police, because it had been trained for purely
military purposes - by me, at my instigation and on my
responsibility, and had nothing to do with the actual
police, and was turned over to the Armed Forces by me in
1935.

In 1936 the Reich Police Law was issued, and thereby the
office of the Chief of the German Police was created. By
virtue of this law the police was then legally and formally
turned over to the Reichsfuehrer S.S., or, as he was called,
the Chief of the German Police.

Q. You mentioned before the Roehm Putsch. Who was Roehm, and
with what event was this putsch connected?

A. Roehm had become leader of the S.A., Chief of Staff of
the S.A.

THE PRESIDENT: I think we had better adjourn. It is 5
o'clock.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 14th March, 1946, at 10.00 hours.)


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