The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 1999/12/7

Q. What reasons made you put Colonel Veltjens in charge of
centralising the black market in France?

A. Colonel Veltjens was a retired colonel. He was an airman
in the First World War. He then entered business. Therefore,
he was not there in his capacity as Colonel, but as an
economist. He was not only in charge of the black market in
France, but also of Holland and Belgium. It came about in
the following manner: After a certain period during the
occupation it was reported to me that various items in which
I was particularly interested for reasons of war economy
could only be obtained in the black market. It was then, for
the first time, that I became familiar with the black market
- that is, that copper, tin and other vital materials were
still available, but that, in part, they lay buried in the
canals of Holland, and had also been carefully hidden in
other countries. However, if the necessary money were paid,
these articles would come out of hiding, while, on the basis
of the confiscation order, we would receive only very little
of the raw materials necessary for the conduct of the war.
At that time, as during the entire war, I was guided only by
those intentions and ideas leading toward the final war
goal, the winning of victory. It was more important to me to
procure copper and tin, just to cite one example, to get
them in any case, no matter how high the price might be,
than not to get them merely because I did not consider such
high prices justified. I therefore told Veltjens in rather
general terms, "You know in what things the German war
economy is interested. Where and how you get these things is
in the last analysis immaterial to me. If you get them by
means of confiscation, that is all the better. If we have to
pay a great deal of money to get them, then we will have to
do this, too." The unpleasant thing was that other offices,
first without my knowing it, as the French prosecution has
shown here quite correctly, also tried in the same way to
get the same things in which they also were interested. The
thought of now having internal competition as well was too
much for me. And now I gave Veltjens the sole authority to
be the one and only office which would be in control as far
as the civilian dealers were concerned, who insisted they
could procure these things only in that other way, and would
be the only purchasing office for these things and, with my
authority, would eliminate the other offices.

The difficulty of combating the black market is the result
of many factors. Afterwards, at the special request of Prime
Minister Laval, I absolutely prohibited the black market for
Veltjens and his organisation as well. But in spite of this
it was not thereby eliminated, and the statement of the
French prosecution confirms my opinion that the black market
lasted even beyond the war. As far as I know it is again
flourishing here in Germany to-day to the widest extent.
These are symptoms which always arise during and after a
war, when there is, on the one hand, a tremendous scarcity
and holding back and hiding of merchandise and, on the other
hand, the desire to procure these things.

DR. STAHMER: Shall I stop now?

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Stahmer, the Tribunal understood from you
that the witness would probably - that the defendant would
probably finish his examination in chief at midday to-day.
Can you now tell me how much longer you think the defendant
will be with his testimony?

DR. STAHMER: I had counted on being able to finish this
morning, but there were several interruptions, and I hope to
finish during the course of the day.

                                                  [Page 128]

THE PRESIDENT: There was no interruption with the exception
of that one interruption with reference to Mr. Justice
Jackson's objection as to reprisals. There was no other
interruption that I remember.

DR. STAHMER: Yes, there was a technical disturbance earlier.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Then the Tribunal will sit to-morrow
morning from ten till one.

(A recess was taken until 14.00 hours.)

BY DR. STAHMER:

Q. What were the reasons that led to the attack on
Yugoslavia?

A. Germany, during all the years before the beginning of the
war, had the very best relations with the Yugoslav people
and the Yugoslav Government. It was part of my foreign
political task to cultivate especially these relations.
Since the Regent, Prince Paul, and Prime Minister
Stojadinowic were personal friends of mine, I often visited
this country and also spent a long vacation there.

It was our intention to have not only the best economic
relations by means of being complementary to one another,
but also, beyond that, to come to a close political
understanding and friendship. This was successful to the
fullest extent and found its climax in the return visit
which the Regent, Prince Paul, made to Germany.

Since at the same time I also had similar friendly relations
with King Boris of Bulgaria, here, too, I was able to exert
a stabilising influence and at times also in regard to
Italy. My intervention on behalf of Yugoslavia even caused
there, for a time, a certain misapprehension as far as I was
concerned. After the outbreak of the war everything was
likewise avoided which could cause anything but the most
friendly relations with Yugoslavia. Unfortunately, Prime
Minister Stojadinowic resigned, but his successor followed
the same policy.

The entering into the Three Power Pact had the purpose of
maintaining Yugoslavia's neutrality under all circumstances
and of not drawing her into the war. Even at the time when
the pact was signed, one recognised the necessity for
sending troops to Roumania as a precautionary measure and
also to Greece, because of the English landing there or the
impending English landing. In spite of that agreement it was
expressly provided that no troop transports should go
through Yugoslavia, so that the neutrality of that country
after its entry into the Three Power Pact would be confirmed
in every way.

When the Prime Minister Cvetovic came to power, General
Simovic's Putsch against the Government of the Prince Regent
and the accession to the throne of the King, who was still a
minor, followed shortly after. We very quickly learned,
through the close relations to Yugoslavia, the background of
General Simovic's Putsch. Shortly afterwards it was
confirmed that the information from Yugoslavia was correct,
namely, that a strong influence of Russian policy existed,
as well as extensive financial assistance of this
undertaking on the part of England, of which we later found
proof. It was clear that this venture was directed against
the friendly policy of the previous Yugoslav Government
toward Germany. It must be mentioned here that, in later
Press statements, it was pointed out by the Russian side how
strong the influence had been and for what purpose this
under-taking had been executed.

The new Yugoslav Government, quite obviously and beyond a
doubt, stood visibly in close relation with these enemies
which we had at that time, that is to say, England and, in
this connection, already with our enemy-to-be, Russia.

The Simovic affair was definitely the final and decisive
factor which dispelled the very last scruples which the
Fuehrer had in regard to Russia's position, and caused him
to take preventive measures in that direction under all
circumstances. Before the Simovic incident it, is probable
that, although preparations

                                                  [Page 129]

had been undertaken, ultimate doubts as to the inevitable
necessity of an attack against Soviet Russia might have been
pushed into the background. These clear relations between
Moscow and Belgrade, however, dispelled the Fuehrer's, very
last doubts. At the same time it was evident that
Yugoslavia, under the new Government, was merely trying to
gain time for her massing of troops, for, in the very same
night when the putsch was undertaken, secret and, shortly
afterwards, official orders for mobilisation were issued to
the Yugoslav Army.

In spite of the assurances which Simovic gave Berlin, that
he would feel himself bound to the agreement, the manoeuvre
could easily be seen through. The situation was now the
following:

Italy, our ally, had at the time attacked Greece, advancing
from Albania in October or September, 1940, if I remember
correctly. Germany had not been informed of this venture.
The Fuehrer was informed of this undertaking by me on the
one hand, who had by chance learned of it, and also by the
Foreign Office, and he immediately re-routed his train,
which was on the way from France to Berlin, in order to
speak to the Duce in Florence.

The Italian Government, or Mussolini himself, saw very
clearly at this moment why the Fuehrer wanted to talk to him
and, as I remember, the order to the Italian Army to march
from Albania to Greece was therefore released from 24 to 48
hours earlier. The fact is that the Fuehrer, in his concern
to prevent an expansion of the conflict in the Balkans and
the Eastern Mediterranean, under all circumstances wanted to
urge the Duce to forgo such plans, which were not necessary
but only taken for reasons of prestige.

When the meeting took place at 10 o'clock in the morning and
the Fuehrer had mentioned his misgivings, Mussolini actually
declared that, since 6 o'clock of that morning, the Italian
troops had already been advancing through Greece and, in his
opinion, would shortly be in Athens. The Fuehrer pointed out
again that this would mean that, under certain
circumstances, the relations to Turkey would also be most
seriously endangered and a new theatre of war would be
created, since he well knew, although he did not mention it
at that time, that an Italian theatre of war sooner or later
would draw on the German ally for help. And that actually
was the situation at the outbreak of the attack on
Yugoslavia.

Italy, stopped and thrown back, was left in a most
unfavourable situation strategically and tactically while
still facing the Greek enemy. If only a part of the Yugoslav
Army moved against the flank and the rear of the Italian
Scutari position, then not only would Italy be eliminated
there, but also an essential part of the Italian fighting
forces would be destroyed. It was clear that the position of
these Italian fighting forces would soon be hopeless, since
because of the landing of British auxiliary troops in Greece
it could be expected that, as soon as they came to the aid
of the Greeks, the Italian Army would be thrown out, not
only of Greece, where they were standing merely at the
border, but also of Albania, and that British troops would
then be in dangerous proximity to Italy and the Balkans,
which were economically of decisive importance for us.

By means of the Simovic Putsch and the mobilisation of
Yugoslavia the elimination of the Italian Balkan Army would
have been decided. Only the quickest action could prevent a
twofold danger: First, a catastrophe befalling our Italian
ally; and, second, a British foothold in the Balkans, which
would be detrimental to a future vantage point in the
conflict with Russia.

The German troops were set marching according to the plan
"Marita" in Greece and were, therefore, to proceed against
Greece in order to throw back into the Mediterranean those
British divisions which had landed, and in order to relieve
the rear of the Italian ally; their spearheads were turned
to the right and, with accelerated, short-notice
preparations for attack, were thrown into

                                                  [Page 130]

the flank of the Yugoslav troops massed according to the
mobilisation plan. The Air Force was called from its
airfields in Germany within a very short time, and assembled
at the airfields in the South-east area, which was easily
possible, and was also used to support the attack. Only by
such quick action, and due to the fact that the basic
conditions had been provided by the plan "Marita," was
Germany able to stave off an extraordinary danger to her
entire position in the Balkans and in the South-east area at
that moment. Politically and from a military point of view
it would have been a crime against the State, as far as the
vital German interests were concerned, if in that case the
Fuehrer had not acted as he did.

Q. What targets did the Air Force first attack in
Yugoslavia?

A. I have just explained the very particular situation of
the German Armed Forces at the outbreak of this war, and the
problems which they had to solve with extraordinary speed,
and with a likewise extraordinary result which had to be
attained, in order to carry out their original task, the
piercing of - I do not remember the name now - the Metaxas
line in Northern Greece in good time, before English troops,
which had already landed near Athens, could come to the
support of the Greek garrisons along the Metaxas line.

Therefore, on the one hand it was necessary that a
considerably smaller part of the German forces penetrate
that line, while the other part, as planned, had to throw
itself upon the Yugoslav Army, and here, too, with
insufficient forces, in the shortest possible time had to
eliminate this army-that was a necessary condition for the
success of the whole thing; otherwise not only would it
happen that the Italian Army would surely be destroyed, but
the German Army, thus divided, would carry out with part of
its forces the penetration of the strong Metaxas line and
prevent English deployment there - the Bulgarian support
came much later - and, thus divided, might even get into a
difficult and critical and, perhaps, disastrous military
position. Therefore the Air Force was in this case to be
employed with the greatest effect, in order to see to it
that the Yugoslav action of deployment against Germany and
her ally be stopped as quickly as possible.

Therefore, there was first of all an order for a
concentrated attack upon the Yugoslav Ministry of War in
Belgrade, secondly, upon the railway station which in
Belgrade, in view of the small number of Yugoslav railway
lines, was a particularly important deployment junction; and
then there were several other rather important centres, the
General Staff building, etc., included in the order because,
at that time, the political and military headquarters were
still located in Belgrade. Everything was still concentrated
there, and the bombing of that nerve centre would from the
very beginning result in the extraordinary paralysing of the
resistance as far as further deployment was concerned.

A warning to Yugoslavia was not necessary for the following
reasons. Formally, one may retort that we did not send a
declaration of war or a warning. Actually, however, none of
the leading men in Yugoslavia had the least doubt but that
Germany would attack. That was recognised, for they had
feverishly busied themselves with deployment, and not only
with mobilisation. In addition, the attacks of the German
Army were prepared at a time before the bombing of Belgrade.
But even assuming that the Air Force had made the first
attack and only then the Army, that is, without warning;
Yugoslavia's actions would have provoked this. The
extraordinary danger of the military situation - we were in
the midst of the most severe battle - it was a matter of
securing the Balkans on both sides and taking them firmly in
hand - the targets -and I emphasise this once more - were,
if I remember correctly, the Ministry of War, the railway
station, the General Staff building, and one of the other
Ministries. The city, of course, since these buildings were
spread about within the city, was also affected by the
bombardment.


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