The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 2000/11/03

Q. Who - who in Denmark told you that this Einsatzkommando
was opposed to the Kugel Erlass?

A. I was told that by the head of the executive, Dr.

Q. Yes, Dr: Hoffmann. He was the head of the Gestapo in
Denmark, was he not?

A. Of the Gestapo branch with the commander of the Security

Q. Yes, and when, approximately, did Dr. Hoffmann tell you

A. I cannot remember exactly, whether through my
conversation with Dr. Hoffmann I was reminded of these
facts, or whether the individual measures which were turned
down at that time were ever reported to me. It may be that
this is a new piece of information for me, which confirms to
me that this decree never was put into effect. No case of
this kind ever occurred.

Q. Now, Dr. Best, you just said in your last answer that Dr.
Hoffmann told you that the Gestapo was opposed to the Kugel
Erlass in Denmark and that he told you this in Denmark. Now,
is that true or is it not true?

A. I did not say when and where I learned of it. I said only
that the decree was not put into effect on the initiative of
the police. I did not say when and where I was told this.

Q. What was the Kugel Erlass?

A. Today I know, for I have read files and transcripts, that
these were measures, I believe, dealing with prisoners of
war who had escaped.

Q. Now - when you were asked about your knowledge of the
Kugel Erlass before the Commission, you did not say anything
about having had a conversation with Dr. Hoffmann about it,
did you?

A. According to my memory, I was asked only whether at that
time during my time of office I had known of the Kugel
Erlass. I did not see the decree at that time. I believe I
have mentioned this already. I read if only here.

LT.-COMMANDER WHITNEY HARRIS: If the Tribunal please, I have
two documents which I would like to offer into evidence at
this time. These documents have come to our attention and
have been made available only in the last two days.
Consequently, it has been impossible for us to present them
to anyone speaking for the Gestapo before the Commission,
and I think that this witness can assist in identifying some
of the names. And I would like to ask the permission of the
Tribunal merely to show these documents to the witness. They
are quite long, and I will then try to summarize them as
briefly as possible and develop what I can out of them in
the shortest possible time, perhaps fifteen minutes for both
documents, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, go on, Commander Harris.

                                                  [Page 157]

LT.-COMMANDER WHITNEY HARRIS: Then at this time I offer into
evidence Document R-178, which becomes Exhibit USA 910, and
I ask that the document be shown to the witness.

This document was captured by a combined British-American
documents exploitation team and sent to the prosecution from
the Air Documents Research Centre in London. It contains
detailed correspondence concerning a complaint about a
certain Major Meinel against the Gestapo officers in Munich,
Regensburg, Nuremberg, and Furth over the screening out and
murdering of Russian prisoners of war. I ask that the
witness turn to Document F, which is Page 7 of the English


Q. You will note, witness, that this is a report from the
Gestapo office in Munich, in which are listed 18 camps
screened by the Gestapo, showing a total of 3,088 Soviet
prisoners of war screened, of whom 410 are screened out as
intolerable. You will note, following Page 8 of the English
translation, that the 410 Russians sorted out belong to the
following categories: officials and officers, Jews, members
of intelligentsia, fanatical Communists, agitators and
others, fugitives, and incurably sick. You will note on Page
9 of the English translation that of the 410 Russians so
sorted out, 301 had been executed at the concentration camp
at Dachau at the date of this report. On Page 10 of the
English translation, witness, you will find the following:
namely, that these 410 Russians screened out at Munich
represent a percentage of 13 per cent, whereas the Gestapo
offices at Nuremberg, Furth, and Regensburg screened out an
average of 15 to 17 per cent. This report, which is signed
by Schuermer, states, quoting at the same place:

  "I wish to refute most emphatically the complaints of the
  High Command of the Armed Forces that the screening of
  the Russians had been carried out in a superficial

Now, witness, do you know Schuermer?

A. No, the name is not familiar to me.

Q. All right. Then I want you to turn to Document G. This is
a report from the Gestapo office in Munich complaining about
the attitude of Major Meinel; and on Page 13 of the English
translation you will find a statement that Meinel was
thought to have complained to the High Command of the Armed
Forces that the Russians had been superficially screened

Now, you will note that a report was made against Major
Meinel by the SD, in which Meinel was reproached with having
shown, to some extent, aversion against the National
Socialist creed. For example, he mentioned God but not the
Fuehrer in an order of the day.

THE PRESIDENT: Where does that come?

LT.-COMMANDER HARRIS: Sir, you will find that on Page 13 of
the English translation, in the middle of the page.


That was the mark of a bad National Socialist, was it not,
Dr. Best - one who would put God before Hitler?

A. I do not know which question you want me to answer. As
regards this entire connection, I should like to emphasize
that at the end of May, 1940, I left my position in the
Security Police Division at the Reich Ministry of the
Interior, and therefore I had no knowledge of these things,
which transpired in the year 1941.

Q. Then turn to Document G, Page 15 of the English
translation. You will find this sentence:

  "Experience, however, has shown that the Russians can be
  compelled to work only by the utmost severity and the use
  of corporal punishment."

Now, pass to Document H, Dr. Best. There appears on Page 17
of the English translation, this statement:

                                                  [Page 158]

  "Furthermore, I pointed out to Major Meinel that the work
  of the Gestapo employment detachments was done with the
  consent of the High Command of the Armed Forces, and
  according to rules which had been drafted in
  collaboration with the High Command, Department of
  Prisoners of War."

Now, this document is signed by Schimmel. Was Schimmel known
to you?

A. Schimmel? I cannot remember the name Schimmel, but I do
recall that there was a Regierungsrat, I think, of that
name, in the Gestapo.

Q. Turn to Document J, then, page 21 of the English
translation. At the end of that, you will find that Meinel,
in giving his reply to the accusations made against him,

  "When I mentioned that it weighed heavily on the
  officers' conscience to hand over the Russian prisoners,
  Regierungsrat Schimmel replied that the hearts of some of
  the SS man who were charged with executing prisoners were
  all but breaking."

Now, on Document M, witness, which is Page 26, you will find
a notice that the Reich Commissioner for Defence was
informed about these murders, and approved of them. This was
for Defence Area VII. Do you know who the Reich Commissioner
for Defence was in Defence Area VII who approved these

A. A Reich Commissioner? You mean the Reich Defence

Q. Yes, the Reich Defence Commissioner. That, is what I

A. I do not recall the Reich Defence Commissioner in Area
VII, for during that time I was away from the Reich and held
a position outside the Reich boundaries.

Q. All right. Let us go on. There are many other cases of
the screening of Soviet prisoners of war by the Gestapo for
execution; that is, by local Gestapo offices within Germany
proper, and I do not wish to take up further time about
that. But I wish that you would turn to Document T, witness,
because I want to get evidence of the result of this
conflict with Major Meinel. Document T is a teletype from
the Gestapo office in Berlin, and it states:

  "The prisoners of war who have been screened out - "

THE PRESIDENT: What page is that?



  "The prisoners of war who have been screened out will be
  transferred to the Buchenwald concentration camp, as the
  High Command has decided in a conference today. Will you
  please inform the Higher SS and Police Leader today about
  this and also that Meinel is getting a different

Now, this teletype emanated from the RSHA, Office IV A. That
was the Gestapo, was it not, Dr. Best?

A. Yes.

Q. And you see it was signed by SS-Obersturmbannfuehrer
Panzinger. Now you know who Panzinger was, do you not?

A. Yes. He was the deputy of Muller.

Q. Yes. And he was the head of this Department IV A, which
was charged with the handling of opponents and sabotage,
assassinations, protective security, and matters of that
sort, was he not?

A. He was the head of the Department IV A. Just what was
dealt within this department I cannot recall.

Q. Well, you can take my word for that.

LT.-COMMANDER HARRIS: For the Tribunal's information, that
appears in Document L-219, and is already in evidence.

Now, I wish to offer the other documents. There are five
documents here which are in a group, sir, and I will offer
them in order:

                                                  [Page 159]

4050-PS becomes Exhibit USA 911; 4049-PS becomes 912; 4052-
PS becomes 913; 4048-PS becomes 914; and 4051-PS becomes

These documents have just come to us from the Berlin
Document Centre, and we have not yet been able to obtain the
originals. They sent to us only the photostatic copies. We
have requested the originals, and they will be here, we are
assured, in a matter of days. As soon as they come, we will,
with the permission of the Tribunal and the approval of
counsel, substitute the originals for these photostatic


Now, Dr. Best, turning to Document 4050-PS first, you will
see that this refers to the same SS-Oberfuehrer Panzinger.
This is apparently a Foreign Office communication, in which
it says that Panzinger reports that various changes have
been made in the preparation of the matter discussed, and
that he has promised a plan for the execution of our
proposed action.

Now, if you will turn to the enclosure, which is Document
4049-PS, you will find just what that plan was. You will see
there that the plan was to transfer 75 French generals from
Koenigstein, in the course of which one general by the name
of De Boisse was to have a misfortune - namely, his car was
to break down - in order to separate him from the others.
This was to provide the opportunity to have the general shot
in the back while attempting to escape.

You will find that this document goes on to recite all the
details of completing this murder, including this
interesting statement, that "a decision has as yet to be
reached whether or not the burial of the urn should be
carried out with military honours"; and it goes on to say
that the question will be looked into once more by the SD.

This is the basic report of November, 1944.

Now, if you will turn to the next document, 4052 -

THE PRESIDENT: Should not you read the last paragraph on
Page 2?

LT.-COMMANDER HARRIS: Yes, sir, I will read that.

  "Protecting Power investigations: It will be assured,
  through the selection of the persons concerned, and in
  the preparation of all documentary evidence, that in the
  event of the Protecting Power being desirous of an
  investigation, the necessary documents are available for
  the dismissal of any complaint."


O. Now, turning to the next document, witness, 4052-PS, you
will find again the reference to this infamous SS-
Oberfuehrer Panzinger. You see, witness, Panzinger had been
promoted by this time. He states that the preparations in
respect to the French generals had reached the stage where a
report concerning the proposed procedure would be submitted
to the Reichsfuehrer SS during the next few days. And you
will find that he again explains this method of murder, and
he says that they will carry it out by one of two methods,
either by shooting during escape, or through poisoning by
carbon monoxide gas.

Now, you have noticed, witness, that at the end of this
document it shows that it was prepared for presentation to
the Reich Foreign Minister, Herr von Ribbentrop.

Now, the next document is a particularly interesting one. It
is Document 4048-PS. This document is dated 30th December,

THE PRESIDENT: Was Ambassador Ritter the ambassador in


Q. Witness, was Ambassador Ritter the ambassador in Paris?

A. I do not remember exactly. That must have been some time
before I knew how the diplomatic posts were filled.

THE PRESIDENT: It does not matter.

                                                  [Page 160]

LT.-COMMANDER HARRIS: I am informed, sir, that he was a
liaison officer between the Foreign Office and the Army. I
am not sure of that, however.

Well, passing to Document 4049-PS, here is where the whole
plan is laid out in summary form, and I would like to read
this briefly. This is addressed to the Reichsfuehrer SS, and
it says:

  "The discussions about the matter in question with the
  Chief of Prisoner-of-War Matters and the Foreign Office
  have taken place as ordered and have led to the following
  1. In the course of a transfer of five persons in three
  cars with army identifications, the   escape incident
  occurs when the last car has a flat tyre, or
  2. Carbon monoxide is released by the driver into the
  closed back of the car. The apparatus can be installed
  with the simplest means and can be removed again
  immediately. After considerable difficulties a suitable
  vehicle has now become available.

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