The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: imt/tgmwc/tgmwc-22/tgmwc-22-212.07


Archive/File: imt/tgmwc/tgmwc-22/tgmwc-22-212.07
Last-Modified: 2001/01/21

But if one follows through the theory of the prosecution
further - without personally accepting it - the
"criminality" of all the 129 officers would have to be
examined. In other words, it must be ascertained whether
this group as a whole has committed crimes in the sense of
Article 6 of the Charter. For my part I deny this.

The accusation leveled by the prosecution at the military
leaders, of having at any time combined with the Nazi Party
for purposes of executing a common plan, the object of which
was wars of aggression, war crimes, and crimes against
humanity, presupposes that such a general plan existed, that
it was known as a common plan, and finally, that the
military leaders, as a whole, had made this plan their own.

The prosecution has raised these charges against the
indicted group of persons as a whole. But I think I have
already proved that such an "organization" or "group" as an
acting entity of these persons did not exist. The
prosecution circumvents this unavoidable difficulty by
asserting that:

  1. The character and the actions of the five military
  chief defendants are typical of all the 129 officers, and
  
  2. That, moreover, there is no doubt as to the criminal
  character of the entire group of these officers.

If the American Chief Prosecutor explained in his speech
that the human actions which are the subject of this trial
have been considered as crimes ever since the time of Cain,
I reply that since the days of Cain it has been claimed that
the just shall not be destroyed together with the unjust in
the expiation of crimes. The

                                                  [Page 165]

requirement of individual expiation of crimes committed is
among the oldest elements of European morals.

I think it should not be too difficult for the four great
victorious nations, in practice, to reach a similar decision
in 107 individual trials on the individual guilt or
innocence of these 107 living men, as in the trial against
the five military chief defendants. Where is the inner
justification of and the legal necessity for a collective
trial against these men? The innocent individual is only too
easily condemned by a preconceived collective verdict.

The opinion expressed by the prosecution that the ideas and
actions of the five main defendants are "with absolute
certainty" typical also of the other members of the so-
called "group," and thus at the same time of the criminal
character of the "group" itself, is contradicted by the
facts themselves. The membership in the "group" is
conditioned exclusively by the holding of certain positions.
Therefore, only the holder of a typical position is typical
of the "group." As 95 per cent of the officers concerned
were commanders-in-chief of armies or army groups, the
holders of these posts might possibly be considered as
typical of the "group" as such, but this can in no case be
said of the five main defendants, not a single one of whom
ever held such a post.

On the other hand, the five main defendants are definitely
non-typical in so far as they held positions not held by any
other members of the "group." There is no second chief of
the High Command or Chief of the Operations Staff in this
group, nor is there a second commander-in-chief of the Navy,
and there is certainly not a second Reichsmarschall. As the
main defendants occupy a higher level in the military
hierarchy than the typical military leaders, their position
is different in respect to the decisive points. If one or
the other of the main defendants had perhaps had a
theoretical opportunity to influence the military
resolutions of the Supreme Leadership, the typical members
of the group could not do so. If the main defendants, at
least in their own sphere, knew the circumstances and
backgrounds of the orders given, or could obtain such
knowledge, this was impossible for the typical member of the
group. If in the case of the main defendants a certain
amount of political activity was unavoidable because they
were at the highest levels, the same was completely absent
in the case of the field commanders. This short observation
strikingly shows the arbitrary character of the Indictment,
pressing together heterogeneous elements, and extending
without further ado, to the whole of the heterogeneous
elements, charges which the prosecution, rightly or wrongly,
believes it can bring against the main defendants.

I cannot follow the prosecution in this direction, and in my
observations I shall, therefore, not deal with the typical
main defendants, but only with those members who can be
considered as typical of the overwhelming majority of the
"group." Only from the attitude which these members adopted
towards the alleged plans of the Nazis, only from their
knowledge of these plans and the extent to which they
cooperated in their execution, can the elements be obtained
to build up a charge against the "group" in the sense of the
Indictment.

As Hitler is dead, the prosecution leaves him in the
background, and looks for other responsible parties. But no
one can deny that Hitler alone held the power of the Reich
in his hands and consequently also held the sole and total
responsibility. The essence of every dictatorship ultimately
lies in the fact that one man's will is predominant, that
his will is decisive in all matters. In no other
dictatorship was this principle developed so exclusively as
in Hitler's dictatorship. If all military men and all
politicians emphasize this repeatedly, it is impossible to
suspect every one of them of lack of courage to stand by his
convictions; it must have been a fact! The dictator
exercised the power given to him with an almost demoniac
strength of will. Other than his there was no will, no plan,
no conspiracy! As regards the soldiers, it was particularly
significant for them that Hitler had been called upon to
assume power by Reich President von Hindenburg, and had then
been made absolute head of State by Reich law and public
plebiscite.

                                                  [Page 166]

The perfectly legal and formally correct transfer of
legislative power, and of the power to give orders, resulted
in the fact that the soldiers, too, submitted to Hitler's
personality. Furthermore, he knew how to play off one party
against the other, but in his decisive resolutions he
neither had advisers nor did he allow independent planning.

Hitler's character is truly comparable with that of Lucifer.
Just as Lucifer starts out on his radiant course of light
with tremendous speed and immense momentum, gains the
highest pinnacle and then falls down into the deepest
darkness, so Hitler followed a similar course. Who has ever
heard that a Lucifer needed assistance, advisers or helpers
in his lightning ascent? Does he not rather, by the force of
his personality, carry with him to the heights all the
others, and then pull them down into the depths with the
same force? Is it imaginable that a man of this kind should
have engaged in a long-term preparation of a plan,
surrounded himself with a circle of conspirators, and sought
their advice and assistance for his ascent?

This picture should not be interpreted as an attempt to
elude responsibility. Every German general is enough of a
man to stand up for his actions; but if justice is to be
done, the actual circumstances, as they really were, must be
recognized, and serve as a basis for the final judgment. The
best proof, however, against the participation of the
generals in Hitler's plans is given by Hitler himself when
says: "I do not expect my generals to understand my orders;
I only expect they obey them."

Just as at the end of the First World War it was the General
Staff, so it is now the military leaders as such - again
grouped together under the misleading collective term
"General Staff" - who are clearly fated to suffer under the
prejudice that they are possessed not by a soldierly but by
a "militaristic" mentality. Literature and the Press of the
world declare with many voices that the German officer does
not exercise his soldier's profession only as a duty, but
that to him war - as the centre of all his planning and
scheming - constitutes the highest value of all personal and
national life. The American Chief Prosecutor defines this
idea by sayings that:

  "war is a noble and necessary occupation for all
  Germans."

Such glorification of war has directed the mentality of the
German officer corps for generations, so it is asserted,
exclusively to aggression, conquest, domination, and
violation of other nations. It may sometimes be difficult to
refute prejudices - but to prove this slogan to be unfounded
nonsense is rather easy. The attitude and the mentality,
which find their characteristic expression in the General
Staff, are known to have been created by men like Frederick
the Great, Scharnhorst, Moltke,  Schlieffen and Seeckt. If
we search the life and the writings of these men for
evidence of a militaristic spirit, the result is distinctly
negative. Hardly ever did a monarch meet with such
enthusiastic praise as Frederick the Great found in the
Englishman, Thomas Carlyle, and the American, George
Bancroft, who says in his History of the United States that
Frederick the Great did not contribute less to the freedom
of the world than Washington and Pitt. Helmut von Moltke,
who formed the personality of the German General Staff
officer as no one else before or after him, expressly calls
war, "the last means of safeguarding existence, the
independence and the honour of a State." He furthermore
declared: "It is to be hoped that this last means will be
applied ever more infrequently with our progressing culture.
Who would wish to deny that every war, even a victorious
one, constitutes a misfortune for one's own nation, because
no territorial aggrandizement, no war reparations amounting
to billions, can replace the loss of life and offset the
grief of mourning families?"

Von Moltke's most famous successor, Count Schlieffen, was
the author of the often misinterpreted slogan: "To be more
than to appear," which required every General Staff officer
modesty, quiet work, and absolute renunciation of personal
distinction in public.

                                                  [Page 167]

Is it possible to express more strikingly in a few words the
fundamental difference existing between this mentality and
that of the National Socialists?

When in 1914 the German General Staff started on its crucial
test, the younger Moltke, who was at its head, was a man of
resignation, who as an anthropologist was even farther
removed from militaristic conceptions than all his
predecessors. As regards, finally, General von Seeckt, the
creator of the Reichswehr, his principles as laid down in
his detailed essay on the subject "Statesman and General,"
published in 1929, are such that this essay could, without
essential alterations, be immediately included in any
handbook for British, American or French officers.

To conclude this survey, I may be allowed to quote from the
memoirs of Field-Marshal von Mackensen, who was a man who
must be considered, together with Hindenburg, as the chief
representative of William II's officer corps. On the day
when he gave the orders for the great break-through in the
battle of Gorlice - was the 28th of April, 1915 - he wrote
down the following lines:

  "Today my expectations centre around a murderous battle
  ... It is expected of me that I should win a great
  success, but decisive and great successes in war are
  mostly achieved at the cost of many lives. How many death
  sentences does my order of attack involve? It is this
  thought that weighs heavily on me whenever I give an
  order; but I am myself acting under orders, driven by
  unavoidable necessity. How many of the strong and healthy
  boys who marched past me yesterday and are today on their
  way to the front lines will lie dead on the battlefield
  within a few days? ... Many of the radiant pairs of eyes
  into which I was able to look will soon be closed for
  ever -
  
  That is the reverse side of a military leader's job."

These, therefore, are the facts: How little do the leading
men among the German generals correspond to the picture
drawn of them by an envious, biased or uninformed propaganda
in the world. To correct this erroneous picture is, I think,
a duty which I have to fulfil in this unique trial of
historic importance. Has the German officer corps, and in
particular, have the German generals changed since 1933?
Have they, under Hitler, become disloyal to their teachers
and drifted into a "militaristic" backwater? Has the spirit
of a Moltke, of a Schlieffen, of a Seeckt become extinct in
them? Have the generals turned to a criminal Nazi plan and
taken an active part in it? I believe that the facts speak a
language of sufficient clarity.

The "COMMON PLAN," the "CONSPIRACY," with the object of an
extension of power which was finally to lead to aggressive
war, was at first and primarily, as the prosecution
emphasized again and again, aimed at the subjugation of
Germany itself, at the extermination of all elements of
opposition in its own people. In this process, so the
prosecution alleges, the facts and experiences required for
the planned subjugation and extermination of other nations
were to be gained.

Such an all-comprehensive plan, however, would have been
conditioned in all circumstances by an inner agreement of
the military leaders with these alleged objectives and
principles.

What were the facts? Relations between the officer corps and
the Party were anything but good. When the Party was
entrusted with the leadership in all spheres of public life,
as well as in the creation of a totalitarian control of
trade and industry, the officer corps had been deprived of
all influence. The officer corps participated in no
political decisions. Excesses of high Party officials,
terrorist methods of the Party, action against the Jews, the
political education of the young generation and the anti-
Church attitude adopted by the Party under the leadership of
Himmler and Bormann were sharply rejected. The attempt of
the SA to take the place of the armed forces, and that of
the SS to constitute a second armed force in addition to the
Wehrmacht, met with the strongest opposition.

                                                  [Page 168]

This was the typical attitude of the military leaders!
Where, then, was the ideological foundation which alone
would have rendered common planning possible? Hitler's
personality excluded every plan and every conspiracy below,
beside, or with him. As regards the military leaders, there
was no room, either under the Constitution or in fact, for
the pursuit of political aims or political plans. Beyond
that, warnings arose from among the indicted officers
against the policy pursued since 1935, which later on proved
to be a va banque policy. The Chief of the General Staff
risked his position and his life to call a halt to the
fateful actions of a head of State who was resolved to go to
the last extreme. From among the same quarters, a coup
d'etat was finally attempted right in the middle of the war.
Is there anyone who can still seriously assert that the
mentality of these men, their planning and their scheming,
was directed only toward war and to nothing but war, and to
the assistance of a policy having a war of aggression as its
purpose? If the Chief of the American General Staff, General
Marshal, whose sources of information were no doubt
excellent, gives even in his reports to the American
President expression to his conviction that there existed no
common plan between the General Staff and the Party, but
that on the contrary, sharp differences often arose between
the two, this is certainly an important and conclusive
testimony to which I need add nothing more.

I am now coming to the section of the Indictment according
to which the military leaders, as a whole, are said to have
deliberately, consciously and treacherously committed the
crime of planning and executing a war of aggression.

The serious legal objections to characterizing a war of
aggression as a crime under the Kellogg Pact have so often
been dealt with by the defence that I can safely refer here
to them:

I wish to point out particularly the arguments put forward
by Professor Jahreiss, and in this connection I should like
to direct the attention of the Tribunal only to the fact
that the men represented by me are not politicians, not
statesmen, not experts of International Law, but merely
soldiers.

Shall we require of the soldiers of a country something
that, in the preceding twenty years, the diplomats and legal
advisers of the League of Nations were unable to achieve? A
soldier bases his judgment predominantly on his
surroundings. In at least three cases during the last
decade, he noted that perpetrators of an alleged crime of a
war of aggression were not persecuted. Neither after Italy's
war against Greece, nor after the Abyssinian war, nor after
the war of the Soviet Union against Finland, were the
soldiers of these countries indicted before a Tribunal.

The fact always remains that soldiers only plan wars, not
wars of aggression. That the classification of a war has
nothing to do with war in itself cannot be judged on
defensive or offensive strategy, as the prosecution itself
admits.

Even the prosecution admits that it is permissible to
prepare military plans (including plans for an offensive),
to carry them out, and, finally, to participate in  a war.
The classification of a war as a war of aggression is a
purely political opinion. The planning of wars of aggression
by soldiers is thus only possible when soldiers enter the
political arena. The decisive factor, therefore, is that an
officer participating in such planning knows that he was
concerned with a political plan for a definite war of
aggression, that his war of aggression was an unlawful one
and that by his own participation he himself was committing
an unlawful act.

Now, how does the history of the last years before the
Second World War present itself to the military leaders?
Decisive for the conclusions to be drawn as to guilt or
innocence is not how, after the war and defeat, these events
are today clearly recognizable in their past development,
but how they appeared at the time to the typical German
military leader.

Whenever the world has passed through the upheavals of great
wars, the longing for an eternal peace makes itself felt.
This longing is strongest in the case of those who made the
greatest sacrifices in the war. In the First World War, they

                                                  [Page 169]

were the German officers' families from whom the majority of
the indicted military leaders originate.

Those who witnessed the death of their own young generation
are not eager to sacrifice their own sons in a new war. And
would these very men be inclined to start another war of
aggression?

It was not the waging of wars, but the education of youth to
a decent attitude, to a clean mind, to honesty and
comradeship, which was considered by the officer as his real
task.

The abolition of the Treaty of Versailles was not a special
objective of the German generals, but it was the obvious aim
pursued by German policy as such. Reich Chancellor Bruening,
who is certainly beyond suspicion, declared on 15th
February, 1932, that "the demand for equality of rights and
equality of security is shared by the entire German nation.
Any German government will have to put forward this demand."

I will omit the following pages up to Page 39. These pages
deal with the relative strength and with the questions of
armament. I shall continue on Page 39 at the top of the
page.


Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.