The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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THE PRESIDENT: I call on counsel for the defendant Fritzsche.

DR. FRITZ (counsel for defendant Fritzsche): Mr. President,
I intend to present the case of the defendant Fritzsche as
follows:

First I should like to call the defendant Fritzsche to the
witness stand and then the witness von Schirmeister. In the
course of these two examinations I intend to present to the
tribunal a few affidavits and to refer to these and to the
rest of the contents of my two document books.

                                                  [Page 236]

In its decision of 8th March, 1946, the Tribunal granted as
witnesses for my case: first Herr von Schirmeister, and
second, Dr. Krieg; and as documents: the text of all radio
speeches of the defendant Fritzche from 1932 to 1945 and the
archives of "Deutscher Schnelldienst" (German Express
Service) of the Propaganda Ministry. Of all this evidence,
in spite of the efforts of the General Secretary,
unfortunately only the witness von Schirmeister could be
brought here. Therefore, I had to rearrange my case, and I
must ask for the indulgence of the Tribunal if I go into a
somewhat greater detail than originally intended in
examining the defendant Fritzche and the witness von
Schirmeister.

With the approval of the Tribunal I shall now call the
defendant Fritzsche to the witness stand.

HANS FRITZSCHE, a witness, took the stand, and testified as
follows:

BY THE PRESIDENT:

Q. Will you state your full name, please?

A. Hans Fritzsche.

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 down.

DIRECT EXAMINATION

BY DR. FRITZ:

Q. Herr Fritzsche, will you please describe briefly your
career up to the year l933?

A. As to that, may I refer to my affidavit, Document
3469-PS, points one, and three to eight. In addition, I can
limit myself now to a broad outline.

DR. FRITZ: Mr. President, I should like to remark at the
beginning of the examination that my document books, of
which I have two, have not yet been completely translated.
This affidavit, which the defendant has just mentioned, is
also contained in the document book for the prosecution. I
do not know whether the Tribunal now has this document book.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you can go on.

A. (continuing): I was born on 21st April, 1900. My father
was a civil servant. (I went to a school specialising in
classical languages.) Then I was a soldier in the First
World War; returned to school and studied, at various
universities, philosophy, history and political economy.

After the First World War, my life and my work were
determined by the distress of my people. We called this
distress "Versailles.'' Enough has been said here about the
Versailles Treaty, therefore I need add nothing in that
connection.

Q. You were striving then in your journalistic work before
1933 for a change of the Versailles Treaty?

A. Yes, of course.

Q. Did you seek this change through war?

A. No, I sought it through the means of law, political and
economic common sense, which were at that time all on the
German side. Together with this, certain restoration of the
power of the German Reich would have been desirable because
I saw in the weakness of the Reich a potential danger of
war. But to resort to war to change the Treaty of Versailles
did not seem to me to be possible, expedient or desirable.
The same view prevailed later under the Hitler Government.

On this very point, Adolf Hitler gave assurances which for
me, and for millions of other Germans, were especially
impressive. The first was: "I myself was a simple soldier,
and therefore know what war means." The second was the
statement: "In all the bloody wars of the last thousand
years, not even the

                                                  [Page 237]

victors gained as much as they had sacrificed." These two
assurances sounded to German ears like holy and binding
oaths. Whatever in Hitler's policy violated these two
assurances was a betrayal of the German people.

Q. When, how and why did you come to the NSDAP?

A. After my entry into the Propaganda Ministry I joined the
Party. I refer again to my affidavit, to points nine to
thirteen.

I did not join the NSDAP on account of the Party programme,
nor through Hitler's book Mein Kampf; nor did I join because
of the personality of Hitler, whose suggestive power, which
has frequently been mentioned here, escaped me entirely. I
rejected the harsh radicalism of the methods of the Party.
This harsh radicalism was contrary to the practice of my
whole life and my personal principles. Because of this, I
even came into conflict with the Party in 1932.

I joined the Party when it had, without doubt, won over the
majority of the German people. This party had overcome at
the time the discord of the German people and brought about
its unity after Bruening's great attempt at recovery on a
democratic basis had failed because of the foreign political
resistance, not because of the resistance of the German
people. After the Cabinets also had failed to find a
foundation amongst the people, the appointment of Hitler, as
Reich Chancellor, meant a return to democratic principles.
Much has been said here about these matters. I ask for
permission to cite one circumstance which, to my knowledge,
has not yet been mentioned here and which does have a
certain significance.

When I joined the NSDAP, I did not believe I was really
joining a party in the true sense of the word, for the NSDAP
did not have a party theory similar to those of the Marxist
parties which had a developed and mature theory; all
theorists of the Party were disputed. The theoretical
writings of Gottfried Feder had been prohibited. The
theorist Rosenberg was disputed in the Party to the very
end. The lack of a theory for the Party was so great that
even the printing of the bare Party programme was forbidden
for the German papers. The German papers were even forbidden
a few years after 1933 to quote arbitrarily any part of
Hitler's Mein Kampf.

At that time, then; I did not believe that I was joining a
strictly limited party, but a movement, a movement which
united in itself contrasts such as those between Ley and
Funk, between Rosenberg and the Reich Bishop; a movement
which was variable in its choice of methods; which at one
time prohibited the labour of women and at another solicited
it. I believed I was joining such a movement because one
group within the NSDAP saw in the swastika flag nothing but
a new combination, a new form for the colours black, white
and red, while another group saw in this banner the red flag
with a swastika. It is a fact that there were whole groups
of the former German Nationalist Party or of former
Communists in the NSDAP. Thus, I hoped to find in this wide-
flung movement a forum for intellectual discussions which
would no longer be carried on with the murderous animosity
which had previously ruled in Germany, but which could be
carried on with a certain discipline dominated by
Nationalist and Socialist conceptions.

For this reason, and by making constant compromises, I put
aside my own wishes, my own misgivings, my own political
beliefs. In many conversations I advised my friends to do
the same, when they complained that they and their interests
were not given proper consideration during the time of the
Gleichschaltung (Nazification). I came to the, conviction
that millions of Germans had joined the Party only for this
reason and in this expectation. They thought they were
serving a good cause. Out of pure idealism, they were
willing to sacrifice everything to this cause, everything
except their honour. Meanwhile, I had to realize that the
leader of this cause accepted the sacrifice of these
idealists, that he exploited it and that, besides, he
stained their honour with a senseless and inhuman murder,
unique in history, a murder which no war necessity could
have justified, for which one could not even find any reason
in any necessity of war.

                                                  [Page 238]

Q. Now, the prosecution accuses you of having "sworn the
customary oath of unconditional loyalty to Hitler" in 1933.
For whatever reason you did this, the fact that you took
this oath is true, is it not?

A. Yes, I also twice swore an oath to the Weimar
Constitution, in 1933 and 1938. Let me add something. It was
always and still is my conviction that no oath relieves a
human being of his general duties to humanity. No one is
made an irresponsible tool by an oath. My oath would never
have made me carry out an order if I had recognized it to be
criminal. Never in my life did I obey anyone blindly. For
that reason, I do not refer for any of my actions to my duty
to obey.

Q. Did you keep the oath which you took?

A. Yes. No actions were expected of me which I could have
considered criminal or a violation of written or unwritten
laws. Moreover, I kept the oath which I took, not to Hitler,
but to the German people.

Q. How long did you keep the oath?

A. I kept it to the end. Then, it is true, I remained in
Berlin, in violation of the order which I was given. When
Hitler and his entourage took the way of suicide or fled
toward the west, I was, to my knowledge, the only higher
official to remain in Berlin. At that time I gathered
together the employees of the high Reich agencies, who had
been left to their fate, in the ruins of my office. Hitler
had left behind an order to fight on. The Berlin battle
commandant could not be found. Therefore, I, as a civilian,
felt obliged to offer to the Russian Marshal Zhukov the
capitulation. As I was sending off the emissaries who were
to go across the battleline, the last military adjutant of
Hitler appeared - General Burgsdorff - and wanted to shoot
me in compliance with Hitler's order. Nevertheless, we
capitulated, the document being signed by the battle
commandant, who had been found in the meantime. Thus, I
believe I kept my oath, the oath which I had taken to the
German people in the person of Hitler.

Q. Did you hold an office in the Party?

A. No.

Q. Were you a political leader?

A. No.

Q. Were you in the SA or the SS or any one of the other
organizations which are accused here?

A. No.

Q. Did you ever take part in a Party rally?

A. No.

Q. In one of the 9th November celebrations in Munich?

A. No.

Q. Then, please describe briefly your position and your work
from 1933 to 1945.

A. Here, again, I may refer to my affidavit, that is, to the
rest of it. Thus I may again limit myself to a very brief
presentation to supplement what is said in the affidavit.

At the seizure of power by National Socialism, I remained
what I had been previously, Chief Editor of the Wireless
Service ("Drahtloser Dienst"). That was the name of the
German radio news service. I held that position for a
further five years.

In May, 1933, this wireless service, which had been a part
of the Reich Broadcasting Company, was incorporated into the
Propaganda, Ministry in its Press section. As I was a
specialist in journalistic news service, I soon was
entrusted with the news agencies - first, the smaller ones,
such as "Transozean" or "Europa-Presse" or "Eildienst."
Later I was entrusted with the big "German News Service."

At that time, I had no power to issue orders to the
agencies, for I was still an employee of the Ministry and
not yet an official. I also had no right to determine the
contents of the news. I had only the organisational
supervision, but I believe that my advice was respected at
the time. In those days I also gave other advice

                                                  [Page 239]

of a journalistic nature. Then in December, 1938, I became
head of the section, "German Press." I became
Ministerialdirigent. As an official, I still felt like the
journalist I had been for decades previously. I continued to
direct the German Press Section until the spring of 1942.

I did not agree, among other things, with the highly
coloured Press policy of my superior, Reich Press Chief Dr.
Dietrich. For that reason, I became a soldier and went to
the Eastern Front.

In the autumn of 1942, I was called back by Dr. Goebbels.
Dr. Goebbels approved my previous criticism, of which he
knew. He offered me the direction of the Radio Section of
his Ministry. I answered that I could return to the
Propaganda Ministry only if I had the certainty that a
political termination of the war would be sought and that
total military victory would not be striven after, which
from the first day of the war I had considered impossible. I
told Dr. Goebbels at that time literally: "I am not going to
participate as a propagandist in a fight of self-destruction
such as was fought by the Goths at Mt. Vesuvius." Dr.
Goebbels answered that Hitler and he, also, were seeking a
political termination of the war on the basis of reaching
some sort of understanding. He promised me that he would
inform me in time if he noticed that the Fuehrer was
changing his intentions. Goebbels repeated this promise at
intervals of a few months, up to the end of the war, and
each time that he repeated it, he always gave me
substantiated indications about the political efforts in
progress at the moment. Today, I have the feeling that he
broke his promise.

Then I took over the radio section of the Propaganda
Ministry, and I became Ministerial Director.

Q. Those were your official positions. But they were less
known to the public. Better known were your radio speeches.
What about them?

A: Since 1932 I spoke once a week, for ten to fifteen
minutes, on some German stations and on the
Deutschlandsender. At the beginning of the war I spoke daily
on all the stations, I believe for three or four months.
Then I spoke three times a week, then twice a week, and
finally once a week again. At first, these radio speeches
were just reviews of newspaper articles, that is a
collection of quotations from domestic and foreign
newspapers. After the beginning of the war, however, these
speeches, of course, became polemics on the basis of
quotations mostly from foreign papers and foreign radio
stations.

Q. Did your speeches have an official character? The
prosecution says that they were, of course, under the
control of the Propaganda Ministry.

A. That is not correct. The speeches were not official. At
the beginning, they were decidedly private work. Of course,
I could not prevent, as time went on, the private speeches
of a man holding a position in the Propaganda Ministry being
no longer considered as private, but semi-official.

Q. You just mentioned private work, which was later
considered semi-official. For clarification I ask, could one
criticise these speeches, or was one arrested for so doing?

A. Criticism was not only allowed, but actually made. I had
an extensive correspondence with my critics, although only
with those who signed their names. There were of course also
anonymous critics, but I may add that the anonymous critics
had only general complaints.

After the outbreak of the war, a Southern German Office of
Public Prosecution, and later the Ministry of Justice,
offered me a certain protection for my publications,
apparently on the assumption that they were official or semi-
official. It was suggested to me to appear as plaintiff in
possible libel actions. I categorically refused this,
stating, as I have often done, both privately and publicly,
that people must be allowed to criticise something. If they
are forbidden to criticise the State and the Government,
then they must be allowed, at least, to criticise the Press,
the radio, and me.

Q. How did you prepare these speeches? Were they put down in
writing and censored beforehand?

                                                  [Page 240]

A. I always refused to let them be censored beforehand. The
material was gathered very carefully. It was kept in the
so-called "Archiv-Schnelldienst" which has been applied for
and approved by the Tribunal to be brought here, but which
could not be found.

The material consisted of cuttings from papers, reports of
news agencies, and reports from foreign broadcasts. The
investigation of doubtful matters was done by a special
official (Referent). A rough draft of the speech was then
dictated and then delivered freely. Therefore, this
procedure was different from that of writing an article; not
every sentence had to be polished, because in written
matter, every word counts, whereas in a speech it is more
the total impression which is decisive.

Q. Now, you worked in the Propaganda Ministry; Dr. Goebbels
was the Minister. His name has been mentioned here
frequently in connection with his various positions as Reich
Minister for Propaganda, Reich Propaganda Director of the
NSDAP, Reich Plenipotentiary for the Total War Effort, and
Gauleiter of Berlin. In which of these capacities did you
deal with him?

A. Exclusively in his capacity as Propaganda Minister.



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