The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. Did the officials of the Gestapo have to
assume that a criminal purpose was aimed at in
the concentration camps?

A. No; for the Gestapo had no final aim whatever
to achieve. Instead it only carried out and
fulfilled the orders or regulations and the tasks
which were put to it from day to day.

Q. Now, did not the Gestapo also carry out
actions which were not demanded of it through the
general police directives?

A. As far as the Gestapo had to carry out actions
which were not provided for in a general
regulation, it was an instrument for the carrying
out of matters which were alien to the police
sphere. I might say it was misused and abused
along these lines. As the first case of this
type, I remember the arrest of about 20,000 Jews
in November, 1938. This was a measure which was
not necessary from the police point of view, and
would never have been carried out by the Secret
State Police of its own initiative, but it had
received this order from the Government for
political reasons.

0. Did the leadership of the Gestapo participate
in the decision to arrest 20,000 Jews?

A. No. From my own experience I know that
Heydrich, who was then the Chief of the State
Police, was completely surprised by these
measures, for I was with him when but a few
metres from the hotel where we were staying a
synagogue went up in flames. We did not know
anything about it. Thereupon, Ileydrich rushed to
Himmler, and received orders there which he
transmitted to the agency of the State Police.

Q. And how did the so-called intensified
interrogations take place?

A. Concerning the Verschaerfte Vernehmungen
(intensified interrogation methods), Heydrich
issued a decree in 1937, which I saw for the
first time after it had been issued, for I was
not called in on such matters, being an
administrative official. Thereupon I questioned
him about it.

Q. What reason did Heydrich give for this decree?

A. At that time, Heydrich gave me the reason that
he had received permission from higher authority
to issue this decree. This measure was thought to
be necessary to prevent conspiracy activity on
the part of organizations hostile to the State
and thus prevent actions dangerous to the State;
but confessions were in no way to be extorted. He
called attention to the fact that foreign police
agencies commonly used such measures. He
emphasized, however, that he had reserved for
himself the right of approval on every individual
case in the German Reich; thus he considered any
abuse quite out of the question.

Q. From 1933 until 1939, did the Gestapo
participate in a conspiracy to plan, prepare and
unleash a war of aggression?

A. No. I believe I may be able to say that, for
if 1, as head of a department in the central
office, did not know anything about it, then the
minor officials could not have known it, either.

Q. Was the Gestapo prepared for the eventuality
of a war?

A. In the first place, it was not armed. It
especially lacked arms, vehicles and signal
material, etc., for use in occupied territories.
There was, in the second place, no possibility of
calling in police reserves as was the case with
the regular police. -- The whole system was still
in such a state of development with the working
out of directives for careers, the construction
of office buildings, etc., that in no way can one
say that the Secret State Police or the Security
Police were ready for a trial of such dimensions.

Q. For what purpose were the task force units set

                                       [Page 149]

A. The task force units were set up on the basis
of an agreement with the untries the High Command
of the Wehrmacht so that in occupied foreign co
fighting units would be protected, and also so
that in the occupied countries the most
elementary security measures could be taken.

Q. And to whom were they subordinate?

A. During the military operations the task force
units were subordinate to the military commanders
with whose units they marched. After the
operations were concluded, their subordination
varied according to the administrative system in
operation in the area. That meant, depending upon
whether the office of a military chief or of a
Reich Commissioner were set up, the Higher SS
Leader was subordinate to this superior head, and
the task force units were subordinate to the
Higher SS Leaders.

Q. And how were these task force units composed?

A. When operations began the task force units
were made up of members of the Gestapo, the
Security Service and of the criminal police.
During the war, however, personnel had to be
supplemented in great numbers partly by members
of the regular police, partly by emergency
drafting by members of the Waffen SS, and
employees in the various areas themselves so that
finally the officials of the Secret Police made
up only ten per cent. of the entire force.

Q. Were the task force units constituent parts of
the Gestapo?

A. No, they belonged neither to the central
office nor to the Gestapo police offices, but
they were Security Police units of a special

Q. From your own experience, do you know about
the activities of the task force units?

A. Yes, especially in Denmark, I had the
opportunity to watch the activities of one of
these task force units and through friendly
relations I was also informed about conditions in
Norway as well.

0. What do you know of the activities of these
task force units in Denmark anj Norway, for

A. I should especially like to emphasize that the
forces which were employed there very frequently
objected to the measures that they received from
central agencies, measures which would have led
to severe treatment of the local population. For
instance, they were against the use of the
"Nacht-und-Nebel" decree against the use of the
"Kugel" decree; and against the use of the
"Kommando" decree, and they rejected and fought
against other measures as well. For instance, the
Security Police and I severely protested against
the deportation of Danish Jews. In Norway the
Commander of the Security Police, as he and the
Reich Commissioner Terboven both told me, fought
against the severe measures which the Reich
Commissioner Terboven ordered time and again, and
sometimes with the help of the central office in
Berlin even prevented some of these measures.
This finally caused a break between Terboven and
the Commander of the Security Police.

Q. Did you yourself suggest the deportation of
Jews from Denmark as has been mentioned here

A. No. In frequent reports in the course of 1943
I strongly rejected these measures. On 29th
August, 1943, when the state of military
emergency was set up in Denmark against my will,
the deportation of Jews was ordered apparently by
Hitler himself and then, once more, I objected.
But, when the Foreignoffice confirmed that the
order had definitely gone out, then 1 demanded
that a state of military emergency be maintained
as long as the action was going on, for I
expected trouble and riots, and this demand of
mine that the action was to take place under the
state of military emergency was misinterpreted to
the effect that I had wanted it. I actually
sabotaged it by informing certain Danish
politicians of it and when it was going to take
place so that the Jews could flee, and in reality
6,000 Jews were able to flee, while only 450 were
arrested. The Security Police also helped me

                                       [Page 150]

in this matter. The Commander of the Security
Police could have reported me because he knew
about my actions, and this would have cost me my

Q. Did the Security Police in the occupied
countries participate in the deportation of
workers to the Reich?

A. Not a single worker left Denmark, or rather,
was deported from Denmark to the Reich. As far as
I knew, the Security Police did not assist in
this in other areas either.

Q. Who was responsible for the shooting of
hostages in France? Was that the police, or who
was it?

A. From my own experience I know that the orders
for the shooting of hostages in France came
regularly from the Fuehrer's Headquarters. The
military commander-in -chief who had to carry out
these decrees, until 1942, was himself strongly
against these measures, and General Otto von
Stuelpnagel, because of his conflicts with the
Fuehrer's Headquarters, had a nervous breakdown
and had to leave the service. Also the new Higher
SS and Police Leader, Obert, when taking over
office, assured me that he was against these
measures too.

Q. From your own experience and observations, can
you tell me who ultimately decreed the harsh
treatment in the occupied territories?

A. According to my experience, it was Hitler
himself who, in each case, issued the decrees.

Q. And what was the characteristic point in
Hitler's decrees?

A. I found this to be especially characteristic
in Hitler's decrees, that in the most astonishing
way he dealt with details which the head of a
State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces
would not deal with ordinarily, and that these
decrees, so far as they applied to occupied
territories, were always intended to have a
deterring effect containing intimidations and
threats for some purpose or another without
taking into consideration that the opposite side
also showed a fighting spirit which could not so
easily be daunted.

Q. And how did he react to objections of his

A. Mostly by outbursts of rage and by a sudden
stiffening of his attitude. On the other hand he
retained those in office who had asked to resign.

Q. Does your book, The German Police, have an
official character?

A. No, it is a purely private piece of work.

Q. Does your book only deal with definite and
actual facts?

A. No. In parts the tendencies which were
prevalent at the time it was written were
pictured as already having attained their

Q. Why did it do that?

A. Partly because I anticipated the tendencies to
be realized in a very short time and partly
because the book would otherwise have met with
difficulties at the time of its publication.

Q. Does not the following fact lead one to
believe that certain arbitrary action was taken
by the Security Police, namely, that certain
measures indicated that the chief of the German
police could order measures beyond his ordinary

A. If this was specified in two decrees dealing
with the occupation of Austria and the
Sudetenland, it meant that the chief of the
German police would legally have the authority to
issue police decrees in these regions . . . which
might deviate from the laws already existing
there. This was a transfer of legal authority, no
single acts were to be taken either illegally or

Q. What was the existing police law according to
your theory?

A. In speaking about police law in my book, I
started from the National Socialist conception of
the State and from the development of State laws
at that time in Germany. When after 1933 the
legislative power was transferred to the
Government, it gradually became the customary law
of the State that the will of the head of the
State automatically established law. This
principle was recognized as law, for one cannot
characterize the rules and regulations governing
a great power for years on end as anything but
customary law. On the same basis, the State's
police law developed too. An emergency law issued
by the Reich President on 28th February, 1933,
removed the barriers of the Weimar Constitution,
and thus the police were given much wider scope.
The activities and the authority of the police
were reguLated through numerous FUhrer decrees,
orders, directives, and so forth which, since
they were decreed by the highest legislative
authority of the State, namely, the head of the
State himself, had to be considered as valid
police laws.

Q. What would be your judgment concerning the
orders to the Gestapo or parts of it, to effect
actions, deportations and executions?

A. I have already said that these were measures
quite alien to the police, which had nothing to
do with the ordinary activities of the police and
which were not necessary from the police point of
view. But, if the police received such orders
from the head of the State or in the name of the
head of the State, then, of course, according to
the current conception each individual official
had to take it upon himself as an obligation to
carry out the decree.

Q. Did you wish to justify these measures when
you wrote in your book-

THE PRESIDENT: It is five o'clock now. Can you
tell the Tribunal how long you think you are
going to be with this witness?

DR. MERKEL: I have just two more questions.
minutes, Mr. President.


Perhaps just a few more


Q. Did you wish to justify this opinion and this
attitude when you said in your book that it was
not a question of law but a question of fate that
the head of State was setting up the proper law?

A. No. In that passage of my book I meant to give
a political warning to the State leadership,
i.e., that this tremendous amount of power to set
law arbitrarily -- at that time we could not
foresee an International Military Tribunal --
would be subject to the verdict of fate, and that
anyone transgressing against the fundamental
human rights of the individual and of nations
would be punished by fate. I am sorry to say that
r was quite right in my warning.

Q. But if the members of the Gestapo recognized
the decree which they received to be criminal,,
how would you judge their actions then?

A. In that case I have to say that they acted in
an express state of emergency, for during the war
the entire police system was subject to the
military penal code and any official who refused
to carry out a decree or order woula have been
sentenced to death in a court martial for reason
of military insubordination.

DR. MERKEL: I have no further questions.


The Tribunal will adjourn.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 1st August, 1946, at 1000 hours.)

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