The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Had the war been won is it to be supposed that these men
would have retired to the obscurity and comparative
innocence of private citizenship? That opportunity was not
denied to them before the war, had they wished to dissociate
themselves from what was taking place. They chose a
different path. From small beginnings, at a time when
resistance instead of participation could have destroyed
this thing, they fostered the Hitler legend, they helped to
build up the Nazi power and ideology and to direct its
activities until, like some foul octopus, it spread its
slime over Europe and extended its tentacles throughout the
world. Were these men ignorant of the ends sought to be
achieved during that period of the rise to power? Paul
Schmidt, Hitler's interpreter, a witness of great knowledge,
has testified:

  "The general objectives of National Socialism were known
  from the start - namely, the domination of the European
  continent, to be achieved first by the incorporation of
  all German-speaking groups into the Reich, and secondly,
  by territorial expansion under the slogan of
  'Lebensraum'."

That slogan "Lebensraum" - that entirely false idea that the
very existence of the German people depended upon
territorial expansion under the Nazi flag - was from the
earliest days an openly avowed part of the Nazi doctrine -
yet any thinking person must have known that it would lead
inevitably to war.

It was the justification Hitler offered to his fellow-
conspirators at those secret meetings on the 5th November,
1937, 23rd May and 23rd November, 1939, at which the fate of
so many countries was sealed.

Although less concrete it was no less false than the demand
for a revision of the Treaty of Versailles. The so-called
injustice of Versailles, so cunningly exploited to provide a
popular rallying-point under the Nazi banner, had succeeded
in uniting behind the Nazis many Germans who would not
otherwise have supported some of the rest of the Nazi
programme.

And the effect of that propaganda can be judged from the
repeated efforts here made by the defence to develop the
alleged injustice of the Treaty. Unjust or not, it was a
treaty, and no government content to live at peace need have
complained of its provisions. Even if the complaints were
justified, there was comparatively soon no ground left for
them. The provisions of the Treaty could have been - in some
respects they were - revised by peaceful negotiations. By
1935, four years before the world was plunged into war,
these men had publicly renounced the Treaty, and by 1939 not
only were they free of nearly all the restrictions of which
they had complained, but they had seized territory which had
never belonged to Germany in the whole of European history.
The cry of Versailles was a device for rallying men to
wicked and aggressive purposes. But it was a device less
diabolical than the cry of anti-Semitism and racial purity,
by which these men sought both to rally and cement the
various forms of public opinion in their own country and to
sow discord and antagonism amongst the people of foreign
lands. Rauschning reports Hitler's statement:

  "Anti-Semitism is a useful revolutionary expedient. Anti-
  Semitic propaganda in all countries is an almost
  indispensable medium in the extension of our political
  campaign. You will see how little time we shall need in
  order to upset the ideas and criteria of the whole world,
  simply and solely by attacking Judaism. It is beyond
  question, the most important weapon in my propaganda
  arsenal."

                                                  [Page 410]

And as a result of this wicked propaganda, I would remind
you of the words of Bach Zelewski who, when he was asked how
Ohlendorf could admit that the men under his command had
murdered 90,000 people, replied:

  "I am of the opinion that if for decades a doctrine is
  preached to the effect that the Slav race is an inferior
  race and Jews not even human at all, then such an
  explosion is inevitable."

And so, from the earliest day, the aims of the Nazi movement
were clear and beyond doubt: expansion, European domination,
elimination of the Jews; ultimate aggression, ruthless
disregard of the rights of any people but themselves.

Such were the beginnings. I shall not pause to trace the
Nazi Party's growth to power; how, as the writer of the
history of the SA has said, they found that:

  "Possession of the streets is the key to power in the
  State."

or how, by the organized terror which the witness Severing
has described, the storm troops of Blackshirts terrified the
people whilst the Nazi propaganda, headed by Der Sturmer,
vilified all opponents and incited people against the Jews.

I shall not examine that period, grave as are the lessons
which democratic peoples ought to learn from it, for it may
not be easy to say exactly at what date each of these
defendants must have realised, if, indeed, he had not known
and gloried in it all from the beginning - that Hitler's
apparently hysterical outpourings in Mein Kampf were
intended in all seriousness and that they formed the very
basis of the German plan. Some, no doubt, such as Goering,
Hess, Ribbentrop, Rosenberg, Streicher, Frick, Frank,
Schacht, Schirach and Fritzsche realised it very early. In
the case of one or two, such as Donitz and Speer, it may
have been comparatively late. Few can have been ignorant
after 1933: all must have been active participants by 1937.
When one remembers the apprehension caused abroad during
that period there can be no doubt, in our submission, that
these men, almost all of whom were the rulers of Germany
from 1933 onwards, Hitler's intimate associates, admitted to
his secret meetings, with full knowledge of plans and
events, not only acquiesced in what was taking place but
were active and willing participants.

May I then examine in a little more detail the period of the
"build-up" - the position of domestic government in Germany
between 1933 and 1939; because what happened then makes
clear the criminal involvement of these men in what was done
later. What I say now has some special reference to the
first Count in the Indictment, for it is against this
general background that must be considered the allegation
that these men were common conspirators to commit the crimes
(such as Crimes Against Peace, and the Crime Against
Humanity) which are more specifically charged in the later
counts.

Totalitarian government brooks no opposition. Any means
justifies the end, and the immediate end was ruthlessly to
gain complete control of the German State and to brutalise
and train its people for war. What stood in the way in
January, 1933? Firstly, the members of the other political
parties; secondly, the democratic system of election and of
public assembly, the organization of trade unions; thirdly,
the moral standards of the German people, and the Churches
which fostered them.

Accordingly, the Nazis set out, quite deliberately, to
eliminate this opposition firstly, by imprisoning or
terrorising their opponents; secondly, by declaring illegal
all elements of tolerance and liberalism, outlawing trade
unions and opposition parties, reducing the democratic
assembly to a farce and controlling elections; thirdly, by
systematic discouragement and persecution of religion, by
replacing the ethics of Christianity with the idolatry of
the Fuehrer and the cult of the blood and by rigidly
controlling education and youth. Youth was systematically
prepared for war and taught to hate and persecute the Jews;
the plans for aggression required a nation trained in
brutality, and taught that it was both necessary and heroic
to invade other countries.

                                                  [Page 411]

it is a measure of the wickedness and effectiveness of this
domestic policy that, after six years of rule, the Nazis
found little difficulty in leading a perverted nation into
the greatest criminal enterprise in history. It is perhaps
worth considering from the evidence a few examples of how
this policy developed during these six years. They are
examples of what was happening in every German town and
village: it must be remembered here that in the need to
avoid cumulative evidence you have, in the result, been
deprived of its cumulative effect.

First, then, the elimination of political opponents. Within
six weeks of the Nazis coming to power in January, 1933, the
German newspapers were quoting official sources for the
statement that 18,000 Communists had been imprisoned whilst
the 10,000 prisoners in the jails of Prussia included many
Socialists and intellectuals. The fate of many of these men
was described by Severing, who estimated that at least 1,500
Social Democrats and a similar number of Communists were
murdered in concentration camps recently established by
Goering as Chief of the Gestapo.

These camps, controlled by the Party organizations, were
deliberately so run as to strike terror throughout the
country. In the words of the witness Severing, the
concentration camps represented for the people "the
incarnation of all the terrible".

Goering has said:

  "We found it necessary that we should permit no
  opposition to us,"

and he admitted that there were arrested and taken into
protective custody people who had committed no crime.

It might have been well if at that time they had read the
maxim of which they spoke yesterday, nulla poena sine lege.

Goering added:

  "If everyone knows that if he acts against the State he
  will end up in a concentration camp ... that is to our
  advantage."

The camps were at first run indiscriminately by the SA and
the SS, and according to Goering were created "as an
instrument which at all times was the inner political
instrument of power".

Gisevius, who at that time had recently joined the Gestapo,
you remember, gave the following description:

  "I was hardly more than two days in that new police
  office when I had discovered already that incredible
  conditions existed there. There was no police which
  interfered against crimes, against murder, against
  arrests, against burglary. There was a police
  organization which protected just those who committed
  such crimes. Those arrested were not those who were
  guilty of such crimes, they arrested those who sent their
  cries for help to the police. It was not a police which
  interfered for protection but a police whose task, it
  seemed, was in fact to hide, to cover up and to sponsor
  crimes; those commandos of the SA and SS who played
  police were encouraged by that so-called Secret State
  Police and all possible aid was given to them ....
  
  Special concentration camps for the Gestapo were
  installed, and their names will remain for a terrible
  shame in history. They were Oranienburg and the private
  prison of the Gestapo, in the Papenstrasse, the Columbia
  House, or, as it was called cynically, the 'Columbia
  Diele' .... I asked one of my colleagues, who was also a
  professional civil servant ... 'Tell me, please; am I
  here in a police office or in a robbers' cave?' The
  answer that I received was: 'You are in a burglars' cave
  and you can expect that you will see much more yet."'

Gisevius went on to describe Goering's order to murder the
National Socialist Strasser, and how he gave "blank
warrants" for murder to the political police, by signing a
form granting amnesty to the policeman, leaving a blank
space for the name of the murdered person in respect of whom
the amnesty had been granted.

                                                  [Page 412]

If confirmation of the evidence of these defence witnesses
were required, it is to be found in the series of reports
dated in May and June, 1933, from the Munich Public
Prosecutor to the Minister of Justice, which are in evidence
recording a succession of murders by SS officials in the
concentration camp at Dachau.

In 1935 the Reich Minister of Justice is writing to Frick.
He is protesting against numerous instances of ill-treatment
in concentration camps including:

  "Beating as a disciplinary punishment ... ill-treatment
  mostly of political internees in order to make them talk"
  and "ill-treatment of internees arising out of sheer fun
  or sadistic motives".

He went on to complain that "the beating of the Communists
held in custody is regarded as an indispensable police
measure for a more effective suppression of Communist
activities ". And after citing instances of torture, he
concludes:

  "These few examples show a degree of cruelty which is an
  insult to every German sensibility."

Frick's sensibility was apparently not so tender - the very
next year he received a similar protest from one of his own
subordinates and shortly afterwards he issued a decree
making all police forces subordinate to Himmler, the very
man whom he knew to be responsible for these atrocities.

These brutalities, well known to Ministers, as we suggest
they were, were not confined to the privacy of concentration
camps. It is perhaps worth quoting one instance from the
thousands who suffered from the policy which was being
pursued.

The Tribunal will remember the account by Sollmann, a Social
Democrat, and member of the Reichstag from 1919 to 1933. He
spoke of the incident on 9th March, 1933, when, to quote his
own words:

  "Members of the SS and SA came to my home in Cologne and
  destroyed the furniture and my personal records. At that
  time I was taken to the Brown House in Cologne, where I
  was tortured, being beaten and kicked for several hours.
  I was then taken to the regular Government prison in
  Cologne where I was treated by two medical doctors and
  released the next day. On 11th March, 1933, I left
  Germany."

The second object, the suppression of all democratic
institutions, was comparatively simple. The necessary laws
were passed to outlaw trade unions: the Reichstag became a
farce directly the opposition parties had been dissolved and
their members had been put in concentration camps. The
witness Severing has spoken of the treatment of the
Reichstag members. In 1932, on von Papen's order, he, who
was chief of the Prussian Ministry of the Interior, was
forcibly removed from his office. It was not long after the
30th January, 1933, that the Communist and Social Democratic
parties were decreed illegal and all form of public
expression, other than by the Nazis, was prevented. This
action resulted from deliberate planning. Frick had said as
long before as 1927:

  "The National Socialists longed for the day when they
  could put an inglorious but well-deserved end to this
  infernal sham of a parliament and open the way for a
  racial dictatorship."

At this time, when democratic government is seeking to re-
establish itself throughout the world, the Nazi attitude to
elections is not to be forgotten. Free elections could not,
of course, be permitted. Goering had told Schacht in
February, 1933, when seeking money for the Party from
industry:

  "The sacrifices asked for will surely be so much easier
  for industry to bear if it is realised that the election
  of 5th March will be the last one for the next ten years,
  probably for the next hundred years."

In these circumstances it is not surprising to find that
thereafter, as the evidence such as the SD report on the
conduct of the plebiscite at Kappel makes clear; the
occasional votes of the people, always announced as triumphs
for the Nazis, were conducted dishonestly.

                                                  [Page 413]

I turn to the third class of opposition, the Churches.
Bormann's memorandum, sent in December, 1941, to all
Gauleiter and distributed to the SS, sums up the Nazi
attitude to Christianity:

  "National Socialist and Christian concepts are
  irreconcilable .... If therefore in the future our youth
  learn nothing more of this Christianity whose doctrines
  are far below ours, Christianity will disappear by itself
  ... All influences which might impair or damage the
  leadership of the people exercised by the Fuehrer with
  the aid of NSDAP must be eliminated. More and more the
  people must be separated from the Churches and their
  organs, the pastors."

The persecution of the Churches makes a melancholy story.
From the abundance of evidence which has been submitted to
the Tribunal it is perhaps permissible to quote from a
complaint to Frick made early in 1936:

  "Lately half the political police reports concern
  clerical matters. We have untold petitions from all kinds
  of cardinals, bishops and dignitaries of the Church. Most
  of these complaints concern matters under the
  jurisdiction of the Reich Ministry of the Interior,
  although the respective rules were not decreed by it ..."

And then, after referring to the chaos resulting from the
division of authority between the various police forces, the
report goes on to refer to the results of the religious
struggle:

  "Instances of gross disturbances of congregations are
  mounting terribly fast lately, often necessitating the
  intervention of the emergency squad .... After discarding
  the rubber truncheon, the idea of exposing executive
  officials to situations in which during gross
  interruption of meetings they may be forced to use cold
  steel, is unbearable."


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