The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. Did not Himmler and his immediate staff represent a
unified supreme command, which, as the central authority
issuing orders, would guarantee unified control and
direction of the various parts of the head offices?

                                                  [Page 339]

A. No, Himmler did not have such a staff. He himself
interfered in the general direction of the whole SS only
very rarely, and never in favour of unifying its command.

Q. Are not your statements here in contradiction to the
writings and speeches of Himmler himself, for instance, in
contradiction to his speech at Posen, in which he emphasized
the uniformity of the organization under his command?

A. No, these speeches do not contradict the testimony I have
given. Himmler was undoubtedly speaking of unity in this
speech, and he was certainly planning for such unity, but
that unity was in no way a reality. Himmler's speeches are
therefore to be regarded as containing only plans for the
future. Instead of working more closely together, as Himmler
had intended, these organizations, on account of the
differences in the nature of their tasks, continually moved
away from each other. Of that Himmler was aware, as his
speeches clearly show, and it was for that very reason that
he took advantage of the occasion to explain to his chiefs
and leaders his own views on the uniformity of the
organization. Real organisational unity did not, in fact,
exist at any time.

Q. Did this lack of unity also affect the legal system of
the SS?

A. This was quite evident from the arrangements regarding
jurisdiction. The legal system of the SS did not apply at
all to the General SS, but it was created mainly for the
Waffen SS, and it also applied to the police, because
Himmler had declared the police to be on active service for
the duration of the war. At the beginning of the war there
were only a few police units fighting at the front as
military units, but as the war, particularly the air war,
continued, the entire German police was declared to be one
special task force, and therefore came under the
jurisdiction of the SS. The same applied to the Security
Police. In this case, Himmler also issued a decree, in 1940,
stating that the entire Security Police was being considered
as a special task force for the duration of the war.
Consequently, the Security Police also came under the
jurisdiction of the SS legal system. But that the RSHA and
all its departments remained, organisationally, completely
independent and without any connection at all to the General
SS or Waffen SS, is apparent from the fact that Himmler at
the same time took the whole conduct of pre-trial
investigations, if members of the RSHA were involved, out of
the hands of the SS legal system and transferred it to a
special pre-trial investigation department, which was part
of the RSHA.

The outcome of this was that though legal proceedings
against members of the RSHA could still be carried out and
sentences could be passed, the SS legal system no longer had
any insight into the matters of the RSHA, and any control of
them was impossible.

The members of the guard units of concentration camps also
came under the jurisdiction of the SS legal system, because
at the beginning of the war they had nominally become
members of the Waffen SS, that is, for reasons of economy
and supply, and also for reasons of uniform army
supervision, they were nominally attached to the Waffen SS.

Q. Now you say, witness, that the General SS did not at all
come under the SS and police legal system. Then under whose
jurisdiction were the members of the General SS?

A. The legal system of the SS came into force in October,
1939, at a time when the General SS was already in the
process of disappearing. Before that time the General SS
came under the jurisdiction of the German Courts. Members of
the General SS were, therefore, prosecuted and sentenced by
ordinary German criminal courts, and in so far as any
members of the General SS remained in Germany, they
continued to come under the jurisdiction of the German
courts during the war, when the legal system of the SS was
already in existence.

Q. Then, to make it quite clear, witness, the General SS was
in peace and in war under the jurisdiction of the ordinary
German civil courts. Is that correct?

A. Yes.

                                                  [Page 340]

Q. The prosecution has alleged that from the very beginning
the SS was designed for illegal purposes, that from the very
beginning it acted illegally and that no differences can be
made between the various periods with which we are
concerned. Does the development of the legal system of the
SS confirm this allegation in any way?

A. If an organization has criminal aims and pursues criminal
activities, then logically the legal system of such an
organization must, through .its construction, its laws and
its activities, indicate that it is endeavouring to conceal
such criminal aims and criminal activities. Precisely the
reverse is the case. The SS, from the beginning of its
formation, fought against crime on principle and at all
costs, and it had a perfectly orderly administration of

Q. How was the orderly administration of justice in the SS

A. By the so-called disciplinary law.

Q. Do I understand correctly that members of the General SS
came in the first place under the jurisdiction of the
ordinary German civil courts?

A. Yes, I said so before.

Q. Then, in spite of that, there was a disciplinary
procedure, that is to say, a certain type of legal system
applicable to the members of the General SS. Is that

A. That is what I was just going to explain. This internal
disciplinary law consisted in the right of exclusion, which
every civil union possesses. The law provided, on the
principle of selection, that people who had previously been
convicted could not enter the SS at all, and that people who
committed punishable acts while members of the SS had to
leave the SS. This principle was the best method of
selection, because it automatically prevented the
perpetration of crime.

The training in the law through this disciplinary system and
the application of the disciplinary system itself
guaranteed, in addition to the administration of German law
by the ordinary German courts, that the SS would remain free
of dubious elements. An agreement had been reached between
the Reich Ministry of Justice and the Reich Leadership of
the SS that, on the one hand, the ordinary German courts
would notify the SS if they had uncovered punishable acts by
one of its members, and on the other hand, the SS would
notify the Reich Ministry of Justice if the SS had found one
of its members guilty of a crime.

This agreement was strictly followed. A special liaison
officer to the Ministry of Justice was appointed, and the
result was that in the first place, criminal elements were,
in fact, eliminated from the SS and that secondly, crimes
punishable under German penal legislation were, in fact,
tried by the ordinary German legal authorities.

Q. Witness, would you please make your sentences a little
shorter? It would help the interpreter.

Why, at the beginning of the war, was a special legal system
introduced for the Waffen SS? Was this done, perhaps -

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal thinks you are going into this
far too much in detail, Dr. Pelckmann.

DR. PELCKMANN: Your Lordship, this subject has not yet been
dealt with before the Commission, and I believe that, in
accordance with the decision of the Tribunal, I can
introduce new subjects which are important. But I shall
attempt, Mr. President, to be brief.


Q. Did you understand my last question, witness?

A. Yes.

Q. Why was a special legal system introduced for the Waffen
SS at the beginning of this war? Was its purpose to cover up

A. This special legal system was created because SS units
were used as troop units and therefore, for such units,
courts martial had to exist. This legal system

                                                  [Page 341]

was created by law, and not by some order from Himmler, and
it introduced for the Waffen SS the same laws and the same
legal organization which already existed for the Wehrmacht.
It cannot by any means be said, therefore, that this legal:
system was introduced to cover up criminal acts. In fact,
the exact reverse is true.

Q. But then; the prosecution alleges that the SS was trained
for terror, atrocities and crimes. This is contradicted, is
it not, by your allegation that crime was fought against in
the SS at all costs.

A. Training in the SS consistently aimed at decency, justice
and morals. Institutions existed which guaranteed that this
training was carried out in its entirety. The law, including
International Law, was taught not only in the Junker Schools
of the SS, but legal proceedings were openly held before
entire units. The head office "SS Courts," as the central
department of the legal system, issued its own literature to
ensure that these principles of decency and justice became
firmly established among all members of the SS. Training in
the law, as it was handled in the SS, was the exact opposite
of the prosecution's assertion about it.

Q. The prosecution might reply that this strict training in
the law, this fight against crime before and during the war
merely proves how necessary it was, since the SS was full of
criminals. Would the prosecution be right in saying so?

A. No, it would not be right. Special principles of
selection were applied in the SS. The so-called basic
principles of the SS laid it down as a duty of its members
to conduct themselves in a particularly ethical way. Thus, a
man in the SS who infringed a law was more guilty and was,
therefore, more severely penalised. And that explains the
more severe punishment of SS members in comparison with
members of the armed forces or German civilians.

Q. Himmler was the appointing and final authority in legal
matters. What were his powers? Could he, for instance,
direct a court to pass a certain judgement?

A. No, Himmler could not do that. On the whole he did not
interfere with the course of the law. As the appointing
authority he had of course the right, bestowed on him by
Hitler, to quash any sentence, but he made use of this right
only in very rare cases. The judge himself was independent,
bound only by the law. His independence was guaranteed by
law. The findings and sentences of the SS Courts were
reached by a majority vote. In that respect interference of
the appointing authority, Himmler, was not possible. He had,
however, the right to order a retrial of the case or he
could quash the sentence. He could, therefore, have a case
retried several times, if he did not agree with the verdict.
But here again the decisions of courts of the SS, reached on
the basis of the existing laws, were always finally upheld.

Sentences passed by the SS Courts were on occasions
cancelled by the appointing authority up to three or four
times, because he considered the penalty too high or too
low. The judges always reached the same decision on the
basis of the law and eventually their decision was upheld.

Q. Your description of the training in the law and the
correct administration of the legal system contradicts the
assertion of the prosecution that the SS had been designed
for matters for which neither the Party nor the State wished
to assume responsibility.

A. What I have said here about the training of the SS in the
law corresponds both to the historical development of the SS
and to the facts. The apparently unbridgeable gap between
the assertion of the prosecution and my testimony is
explained by the fact that the prosecution simply considers
the SS as an organisational unit, which it has never been.

Wherever Himmler acted, the SS acted, according to the
prosecution. Wherever he State executive acted, the SS
acted, again according to the prosecution. But these
organisational connections did not exist, and for that
reason the allegations of the prosecution in that respect
are not correct.

                                                  [Page 342]

Q. Since numerous documents dealing with crimes committed
allegedly by members of the Waffen SS were submitted to the
last witness, it is necessary for me to ask you this: Did
the Waffen SS commit crimes against the civilian population
in the occupied territories and. at the front, and were
these crimes committed systematically and in violation of
international agreements, in violation of the penal law
existing in the countries concerned, and in violation of the
general principles of penal law of all civilised nations?

A. No, there can be no question of that. It is clear that on
the part of the Waffen SS, violations of International Law
took place in individual cases, just as they took place on
the other side also. But all these are individual
occurrences and not systematic. All these individual acts
were prosecuted under the legal system of the SS and the
police in the most severe manner. In the head office "SS
Courts" there existed a department which guaranteed and
carried out an overall supervision of the entire legal
system. Having knowledge of this department I can testify in
this courtroom that in such individual cases the courts in
every theatre of war and during the entire duration of the
war passed sentences for murder, looting, manslaughter,
assault and rape, ill-treatment and also for killing
prisoners of war, and in trying such cases, the race or
nationality of the person concerned had no influence
whatever. All these were individual and not systematic acts,
and this is confirmed by the criminality statistics of the
head office "SS Courts." The absolutely strict
administration of the law kept criminality below the normal
level: it varied between 0.8 per cent. at the beginning and
3 per cent. at the end of the war.

Q. But by order of Hitler, dated 13th May, 1941, a document
which was submitted here, the prosecution of such crimes was
prohibited, was it not? Is that not a contradiction of your
testimony regarding the prosecution of such cases?

A. No, it is not a contradiction, because that order of
Hitler, though declaring the prosecution of such cases not
compulsory, nevertheless left the decision of whether or not
the case should be tried to the discretion of the appointing
authority. During the entire period of my long practice I -

THE PRESIDENT: What is the reference to the order of Hitler?

DR. PELCKMANN: I much regret, Mr. President, that at this
moment I cannot state the number. It is the order which was
issued before the beginning of the Russian campaign and
which says that only for the maintenance of discipline
should excesses of the troops be punished. If I may, I shall
state the number tomorrow.

I have only one more question, Mr. President, before closing
this chapter.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: Mr. President, I think I can give you the

This directive is signed by Keitel and its title is: "The
Struggle against the Partisans." It is Exhibit USSR 16.

THE PRESIDENT: You say you have only one more question?

DR. PELCKMANN: I have only one more question before closing
this particular chapter; I will start a new one, if I may,
tomorrow morning.

Q. It was alleged by the prosecution, witness, that the so-
called courts martial of the SS and the police murdered the
civilian population in the occupied territories under the
cloak of administering the law. What were the courts martial
of the SS and the police?

A. Such courts martial of the SS and police never existed at
any time. There were, as I know from my own experience,
courts martial of the Security Police in Poland. I recently
learned that such courts martial existed also in the other
occupied territories. These were courts martial of the
Security Police, that is to say, entirely an affair of the
police, which had nothing whatever to do with the legal
system of the SS and the police.

Thank you.

                                                  [Page 343]

THE PRESIDENT: Well, now, will you tell us what are the
subjects upon which you are going to question this witness

DR. PELCKMANN: The system of concentration camps and the SS
legal system.

THE PRESIDENT: You have been dealing with the SS legal
system today. That is the subject you have just concluded.
You have told us that the judges of the SS were independent.
That is part of the legal system, is it not?

DR. PELCKMANN: Mr. President, I wanted to deal with special
questions connected with the legal system in concentration

THE PRESIDENT: What questions are you going to deal with?

DR. PELCKMANN: I would like, tomorrow, to deal with the
concentration camp system, with the SS and police legal
system and with the connection between the two.

THE PRESIDENT: I have got down that you are going to deal
with the concentration camps and the legal system in
concentration camps. What else?

DR. PELCKMANN: Nothing else, your Lordship.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, the Tribunal wishes me to tell you that
they think you have been much too long and they will expect
you to be much shorter tomorrow morning.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 7th August, 1946, at 1000 hours.)

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