The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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The major National Socialist culprits had their orders
carried out in the divers Nazi organisations, which we ask
you to declare criminal in order that each of their members
may be then apprehended and punished.

The Reich Cabinet, the Leadership Corps of the Nazi Party,
the General Staff, and the High Command of the German Armed
Forces represent only a small number of persons whose guilt
and punishment must ultimately result from the evidence,
since they participated personally and directly in the
decisions, or ensured their execution through some eminent
person in the political or military hierarchy, and without
being able to ignore their. criminal nature.

The leaders of the Nazi Party are unquestionably in the
forefront of those who participated in the criminal
enterprise, and around the defendants Keitel and Jodl the
military High Command directed the Army to execution of
hostages, to pillage, to wanton destruction and to

But perhaps it will seem to you that the punishment of
hundreds of thousands of men who belonged to the S.S., to
the S.D., to the Gestapo and to the S.A. will give rise to
some objection. I should like to try, should this be the
case, to do away with that objection by showing you the
dreadful responsibilities of these men. Without the
existence of these organisations, without the spirit which
animated them, one could not understand how so many
atrocities could have been perpetrated. The systematic War
Crimes could not have been carried out by Nazi Germany
without these organisations, without the men who composed
them. It is they who not only executed but willed this body
of crimes on behalf of Germany.

It may have seemed impossible to you that the monstrous
barbarity of the National Socialist doctrine could have been
imposed upon the German people, the heir, as are our people,
of the highest values of civilisation. The education by the
Nazi Party of the young men who formed the S.S., the S.D.,
and the Gestapo explains the hold that Nazism exercised over
all Germany. They incarnated National Socialism, and
permitted it to accomplish, thanks to the guilty passiveness
of the whole German population, a part of its purpose. This
youth, those who carried out the tenets of the regime, were
trained in a veritable doctrine of unmorality, which results
from the ideology that inspired the regime. The myth of the
race removed from war in the eyes of these disciples of
Nazism its criminal character.

If it is proved that a superior race is to annihilate races
and peoples that are considered inferior and decadent,
incapable of living a life as it should be lived, before
what means of extermination will they recoil? These are the
ethics of immorality, the result of the most authentic
Nietzscheism, which considers that the destruction of all
conventional ethics is the supreme duty of man. The crime
against race is punished without pity. The crime on behalf
of race is exalted without limit. The regime truly creates a
logic of crime which obeys its own laws, which has no
connection whatsoever with what we consider ethical. With
such a point of view, all horrors could have been justified
and authorised. So many acts which appear incomprehensible
to us, so greatly

                                                  [Page 375]

do they clash with our customary notions, were explained,
were formulated in advance in the name of the racial

Add that these atrocities and these cruelties were
perpetrated within the rigid framework created by the esprit
de corps, by the soldierly solidarity which bound
individuals and ensured the legitimacy of the crime an
unlimited field of action. The individuals who committed
them would not only be covered by the regime itself, but
spurred on by the discipline and the "camaraderie" of these
corps, imbued with Nazi criminality.

The Nazi Youth was invited to go through an extraordinary
adventure. Having unlimited power at its disposal thanks to
the Party and its massive grip, it was first of all called
upon to implement the grandiose dreams of National Socialist

The Party exercised a rigid selection of its youth, and
neglected no incentive. It solicited from its youth the
desire to distinguish itself, to accomplish exploits beyond
the common order and beyond nature. The young Nazis in the
Gestapo and the S.S. knew that their acts, no matter how
cruel or how inhumane they might be, would always be judged
legitimate by the regime, in the name of the racial
community, of its needs and of its triumphs. The Nazi Party,
thanks to the young men of the S.S., of the S.D., and of the
Gestapo, had thus become capable of accomplishing in the
field of criminality what no other person or nation could
have committed.

The members of these organisations became voluntarily the
authors of these innumerable crimes of all kinds, often
executed with disconcerting cynicism and with artful sadism
in the concentration camps of Germany as well as in the
various occupied countries, and especially in those of
Western Europe.

The crimes are monstrous. The crimes and the responsibility
for them have definitely been established. There is no
possible doubt.

But nevertheless, throughout these tranquil sessions of this
trial, extraordinary in the history of the world, in view of
the exceptional nature of the justice which your High
Tribunal is called upon to render before the United Nations
and the German people and before all mankind, a few
objections may arise in our minds.

It is our duty to discuss this exhaustively, even if it is
still only in our subconscious, for soon a pseudo-patriotic
propaganda may take hold of Germany, and even may echo in
some of our countries.

"Who can say: 'I have a clean conscience, I am without
fault'? To use different weights and measures is abhorred by
God." This text from the Holy Scriptures has already been
mentioned here and there; it will serve to-morrow as a theme
of propaganda, but above all, it is profoundly written in
our souls. Rising in the name of our martyred people as
accusers of Nazi Germany, we have never for a moment
suppressed it as an unwonted appeal.

Yes, no nation is without reproach in its history, just as
no individual is faultless in his life. Yes, every war in
itself brings forth iniquitous evils and entails almost
necessarily individual and collective crimes, because it
easily unleashes in man the evil passions which always
slumber there.

But we can examine our conscience fearlessly in the face of
the Nazi culprits; we find no common measure between them
and ourselves.

If this criminality had been accidental, if Germany had been
forced into war, if crimes had been committed only in the
excitement of combat, we might question ourselves in the
light of the Scriptures. But the war was prepared and
deliberated upon long in advance, and up to the very last
day it would have been easy to avoid it without sacrificing
any of the legitimate interests of the German people. And
the atrocities were perpetrated during the war, not under
the influence of a mad passion or of a warlike anger or of
an avenging resentment, but as a result of cold calculation,
of perfectly conscious methods, of a pre-existing doctrine.

                                                  [Page 376]

The truly diabolical enterprise of Hitler, and of his
companions, was to assemble, in a body of dogmas formed
around the concept of race, all the instincts of barbarism,
repressed by centuries of civilisation, but always present
in men's innermost nature, all the negations of the
traditional values of humanity, without which nations, as
well as individuals, question their conscience in the
troubled hours of their development and of their life; to
construct and to propagate a doctrine which organises,
regulates and aspires to command crime.

The diabolical enterprise of Hitler, and of his companions,
was also to appeal to the forces of evil in order to
establish his domination over the German people, and
subsequently the domination of Germany over Europe and
perhaps over the world. It planned to incorporate organised
criminality into a system of government, into a system of
international relations and into a system of warfare, by
unleashing within a whole nation the most savage passions.

Nationalism and serving their people and their country will
perhaps be their explanation; far from constituting an
excuse, if any excuse were possible in view of the enormity
of their crime, these explanations would make them still
more serious. They have profaned the sacred idea of the
Fatherland by linking it to a willed return to barbarism.

In its name they obtained, half by force, half by
persuasion, the adherence of a whole country, formerly among
the greatest in the order of spiritual values, and have sunk
it to the lowest level. The moral confusion, the economic
difficulties, the obsession with the defeat of 1918, and
with the loss of might and the Pan-Germanic tradition, are
the basis of the empire of Hitler and of his companions over
a people thrown off its balance; to abandon oneself to
force, to renounce moral concern, to satisfy a love of
collectivity, to revel in lack of restraint, are the natural
temptations strongly implanted in the German, which the Nazi
leaders exploited with cynicism. The intoxication of success
and the madness of greatness completed the picture, and put
practically all Germans, some without doubt unconsciously,
in the service of the National Socialist doctrine, by
associating them with the diabolical enterprise of their
Fuehrer and his companions.

Opposing this enterprise arose men of various countries and
different classes, all of them animated by the common bond
of their human lot. France and Great Britain entered the war
only to remain faithful to their given word. The peoples of
the occupied countries, tortured in body and soul, never
renounced their liberty, nor their cultural values, and it
was a magnificent epic of clandestine opposition and of
resistance which, through a splendid heroism, testifies to
the spontaneous refusal of the populations to accept the
Nazi myths. Millions and millions of men of the Soviet Union
fell to defend, not only the soil and independence of their
country, but also their humanitarian universalism. The
millions of British and American soldiers who landed on our
unhappy  continent carried in their hearts the ideal of
freeing from Nazi oppression both the occupied countries and
the peoples who, willingly or by force, had become the
satellites of the Axis and the German people itself.

They were all of them together, whether in uniform or not,
fighters for the great hope which throughout the centuries
has been nourished by the suffering of the peoples, the
great hope for a better future for mankind.

Sometimes this great hope expresses itself with difficulty,
or loses its way, or deceives itself, or knows the dread
return to barbarism, but it persists always and finally
constitutes the powerful lever which brings about the
progress of humanity despite everything. These aspirations
always reborn, these concerns constantly awakened, this
anguish unceasingly present, this perpetual combat against
evil, form in a definitive manner the sublime grandeur of
man. National Socialism only yesterday imperilled all of

After that gigantic struggle where two ideologists, two
conceptions of life were at grips, in the name of the people
whom we represent here, and in the name

                                                  [Page 377]

of the great human hope for which they have so greatly
suffered, so greatly fought, we can without fear and with a
clean conscience rise as accusers of the leaders of Nazi

As Mr. Justice Jackson said so eloquently at the opening of
this trial: "Civilisation would not survive if these crimes
were to be committed again," and he added: "The true
plaintiff in this Court is civilisation."

Civilisation requires from you, after this unleashing of
barbarism, a verdict which will also be a sort of supreme
warning at the hour when humanity appears still, at times,
to enter the path of the organisation of peace only with
apprehension and hesitation.

If it is our wish that on the morrow of the cataclysm of war
the sufferings of martyred countries, the sacrifices of
victorious nations, and also the expiation of guilty people
will engender a better humanity, justice must strike those
guilty of the enterprise of barbarism from which we have
just escaped. The reign of justice is the most exact
expression of the great human hope. Your decision can make a
decisive stage in its difficult pursuit.

Undoubtedly, even to-day, this justice and this punishment
have become possible only because, as a first condition,
free peoples emerged victorious from the conflict. This is
actually the link between the force of the victors and the
guilt of the vanquished leaders who appear before your High

But this link signifies nothing else but the revelation of
the wisdom of nations that justice, in order to impose
itself effectively and constantly upon individuals and upon
nations, must have force at its disposal. The common will to
put force in the service of justice inspires our nations and
commands our whole civilisation.

This resolution is brilliantly confirmed to-day in a
judicial case where the facts are examined scrupulously in
all their aspects, the penal nature of the offence
rigorously established, the competency of the Tribunal
incontestable, the rights of the defence intact, and total
publicity ensured.

Your verdict, pronounced under these conditions, can serve
as a foundation for the moral uplift of the German people, a
first stage in its integration into the community of free
countries. Without your verdict, history might incur the
risk of repeating itself, crime would become epic, and the
National Socialist enterprise a last Wagnerian tragedy; and
new Pan-Germanists would soon say to the Germans: "Hitler
and his companions were wrong because they finally failed,
but we must begin again some day on other foundations the
extraordinary adventure of Germanism."

After your verdict, if only we know how to enlighten this
people and watch over their first steps on the road to
liberty, National Socialism will be inscribed permanently in
their history as the crime of crimes which could lead it
only to material and moral perdition, as the doctrine which
they should for ever avoid with horror and scorn, in order
to remain faithful, or rather become once more faithful, to
the great norms of common civilisation.

The eminent international jurist and noble European,
Politis, in his posthumous book entitled "International
Ethics," reminds us that, like all ethical rules, those
which should rule international relations will never be
definitely established unless all peoples succeed in
convincing themselves that there is definitely a greater
profit to be gained by observing them than by transgressing
them. That is why your judgement can contribute to the
enlightenment of the German people and of all peoples.

Your decision must be inscribed as a decisive act in the
history of International Law in order to prepare the
establishment of a true international society excluding
recourse to war and enlisting force permanently in the
service of the justice of nations; it will be one of the
foundations of this peaceful order to which nations aspire
on the morrow of this frightful torment. The need for

                                                  [Page 378]

justice of the martyred peoples will be satisfied, and their
sufferings will not have been useless to the progress of

TM PRESIDENT: M. de Menthon, would you prefer to continue
the case on behalf of France this afternoon, or would you
prefer to adjourn?

M. DE MENTHON: We are at the disposal of the Court.

THE PRESIDENT: Well then, if that is so, I think we had
better go on until 5 o'clock.

M. DE MENTHON: It might be preferable to adjourn, because M.
Faure's brief which is going to be presented will last at
least an hour. Perhaps it is better to adjourn until to-
morrow morning. However, we will remain at the disposal of
the Court.

THE PRESIDENT: When you said that the proof which will now
be presented would take an hour, do you mean by that that it
is an introductory statement or is it a part of the main
case which you are presenting?

M. DE MENTHON: Your Honour, it is part of the general case.

THE PRESIDENT: Would it not be possible, then, to go on
until 5 o'clock?

M. DE MENTHON: Yes, quite so.

THE PRESIDENT: We would prefer to go on until 5 o'clock.

M. DE MENTHON: All right, agreed.

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