The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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question I asked you yesterday concerned the channel through
which orders were transmitted in the Prisoner of War
Organisation, the K.G.W. You said that orders went from the
camp commander or commandant to the army district commander
and then through the commander of the reserve army to the
O.K.H. - the High Command of the Armed Forces. I should now
like you to tell me who was responsible if something
happened in a P.W. camp which violated the Geneva Convention
or was a breach of generally recognised International Law.
How did that affect you? Was the O.K.W. responsible?

A. The O.K.W. was responsible in the case of incidents which
violated general orders, that is basic instructions by
O.K.W., or in the case of failure to exercise the right to
inspect. In such circumstances I would say that the O.K.W.
was responsible.

Q. How did the O.K.W. exercise its right to inspect camps?

A. At first, in the early days of the war, through an
inspector of the Prisoner of War Organisation, the K.G.W.,
who was at the same time the sectional or departmental chief
of the department K.G.W. in the General Department of the
Armed Forces. In other words, he exercised a double
function. Later on - I think after 1942 - it was done by
appointing an inspector general who had nothing to do with
the correspondence or official work on the ministerial side.

Q. What was the situation regarding inspection by the
protecting powers and the International Red Cross?

A. If a protecting power wished to send a delegation to
inspect camps, that was arranged by the department or the
inspector for the Prisoner of War Organisation; and he
accompanied the delegation. Perhaps I ought to say that as
far as the French were concerned, Ambassador Scarpini
carried out that function personally, and that a protecting
power did not exist in this form.

Q. Could the representatives of the protecting powers and
the Red Cross talk freely to the prisoners of war or only in
the presence of officers of the German Armed Forces?A. I do
not know whether the procedure adopted in camps was always
in accordance with the basic instructions which were to
render possible a direct exchange of views between prisoners
of war and visitors from their own countries. As a general
rule, it was allowed and made possible.

Q. Did you as the chief of the O.K.W. concern yourself
personally with the general instructions regarding prisoners
of war?

A. Yes. I did concern myself with the general instructions.
On the other hand, my being tied to the Fuehrer and to
headquarters naturally made it impossible for me to be in
continuous contact with my offices. There were, however, the
K.G.W. branch office and the inspector, as well as the Chief
of the General Armed Forces Department, who was in any case
responsible to me and dealt with these matters. These three
departments had to deal with the routine work, while

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I myself was called on when decisions had to be made, and
when the Fuehrer interfered in person, as he frequently did,
and gave orders of his own.

Q. According to the documents presented here in Court,
Soviet prisoners of war seem to have received different
treatment to the other prisoners. What can you say on that
subject?A. It is true that in this connection there was a
difference in treatment, due to the view frequently stated
by the Fuehrer that the Soviet Union on their part had not
observed or ratified the Geneva Convention. It was also due
to the part played by "philosophical conceptions regarding
the conduct of the war." The Fuehrer emphasised that we had
a free hand in this field.

Q. I am now going to show you Document IC-388, Exhibit USSR
356. It is dated 15th September, 1941.Part 1 is a report by
the Intelligence Department of the O.K.W.

Part 2 is a directive from the O.K.W., dated 8th September,
1941, regarding the treatment of Soviet prisoners of
war.Part 3 is a memorandum on the guarding of Soviet
prisoners of war, and the last document is a copy of the
Decree by the Council of People's Commissars regarding the
Prisoner  of War Organisation, dated 1st July, 1941.A.
Perhaps I can say by way of introduction that these
directives were not issued until September. This can be
attributed to the fact that at first an order by Hitler
existed, saying that Soviet prisoners of war were not to be
brought back to Reich territory. This order was later on
rescinded.Now, regarding the directive of 8th September,
1941, the full text of which I have before me:I should like
to say that all these instructions have their origin in the
idea that this was a battle of nationalities. For the
initial phrase reads: "Bolshevism is the deadly enemy of
National Socialist Germany."That, in my opinion, immediately
shows the basis on which these instructions were made and
the motives and ideas from which they sprang. It is a fact
that Hitler, as I explained yesterday, did not consider this
a formal battle between two States, to be waged in
accordance with the rules of International Law, but a
conflict between two philosophies. There are also several
statements in the document regarding selection from two
points of view, selection of those who seem - if I may
express it in this way - not dangerous to us and the
selection of those who, on account of their political
activities and their fanaticism, had to be isolated as
representing a particularly dangerous threat to National
Socialism.Turning to the introductory letter, I may say that
it has already been presented here by the Prosecutor of the
Soviet Union. It is a letter from the Chief of the
Intelligence Department, Admiral Canaris, referring to the
general order which I have just mentioned and adding a
series of remarks in which he formulates and emphasises his
doubts about the directive and his objections to it. The
memorandum is attached. I need not say any more about that -
it is an extract - and also the orders which the Soviet
Union issued in its turn - I think on 1st July - for the
treatment of prisoners of war. These are directives for the
treatment of German prisoners of war. I received this on
15th September, whereas the other order had been issued
about a week earlier; and after studying this report from
Canaris, I must admit I shared his objections. Consequently,
I took all the papers to Hitler and asked him to cancel it
and to make a further statement on the subject. The Fuehrer
said that we could not expect that German prisoners of war
would be treated according to the Geneva Convention or
International Law, that we had no way of investigating the
matter and that he saw no reason to alter the directives he
had issued on that account. He refused point blank, so I
returned the file with my marginal notes to Admiral Canaris.
The order remained in force.Q. What was the actual treatment
accorded to Soviet prisoners of war? Did it follow the
instructions issued or was it handled differently in

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A. According to my own personal observations and the reports
which have been put before me, the practice was, if I may
say so, better and more favourable than the very severe
instructions first issued, when it had been agreed that the
prisoners of war were to be transported to Germany. At any
rate, I have seen numerous reports stating that, with regard
to labour conditions - particularly in agriculture and war
economy such as railways, road construction and so on,
conditions in practice were considerably better than might
have been expected, considering the severe terms of the
instructions.DR. NELTE: Mr. President, may I on this
occasion refer to Document 6 in the document book?

THE PRESIDENT: Which document book?

DR. NELTE: Document 6, in Document Book No. 1, 6:
"Conditions of employment for workers from the. East, as
well as Soviet prisoners of war." In this document book I
have quoted only those passages which concern the conditions
of employment for Soviet prisoners of war. I am submitting
this book in evidence as Exhibit K 6, and beg the Tribunal
to admit it in evidence without my having to read from it.
These instructions refer expressly to the points which
indicate that at a later period Soviet prisoners of war were
to be treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention, as
laid down by the O.K.H., the authors of the decree.May I

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, very well. You do not wish to read from

DR. NELTE: No, I do not want to.


Q. Please, will you explain to me just what relations
existed between the police or Himmler respectively on one
side and the Prisoners of War Organisation, the K.G.W., on
the other side?A. May I say first of all that there was
constant friction between Himmler and the executive police
departments and the departments of the Armed Forces who
worked in this sphere, and that this friction never stopped.
It was apparent right from the first that Himmler at least
desired to have the lead in his own hands and he never
ceased trying to obtain influence of one kind or another
over the Prisoner of War Organisation. The natural
circumstances of escapes, recapture by police, searches and
inquiries, the complaints about insufficient guarding of
prisoners, the insufficient security measures in the camps,
the lack of guards and their inefficiency, all these things
suited him and he exploited them in talks with Hitler, when
he continually accused the Wehrmacht behind its back, if I
may use the expression, of every possible shortcoming and
failure to carry out its duty. As a result of this, Hitler
was continually intervening, and in most cases I did not
know the reason. He took up the charges and intervened
constantly in affairs, so that the Wehrmacht departments
were kept in what I might term a state of perpetual unrest.
In this connection, since I could not investigate matters
myself, I was forced to give instructions to my departments
in the O.K.W.Q. What was the underlying cause and the real
purpose which Himmler attempted to achieve?A. He wanted not
only to gain influence but also, as far as possible, to have
the Prisoner of War Organisation under himself as Police
Chief of Germany, so that he would reign supreme in these
matters.Q. Did not the question of procuring labour enter
into it?A. Later on that did become apparent, yes. I think I
shall have to refer to that later but I can say now that one
observation at least was made which could not be
misinterpreted: the searches and inquiries made at certain
intervals in Germany for escaped persons made it clear that
the majority of these prisoners of war did not go back to
the camps from which they had escaped, so that obviously
they had been retained by police departments and probably
used for labour under the jurisdiction of Himmler.
Naturally, the number of escapes increased every
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year and became more and more extensive. For that, of
course, there are quite plausible reasons.

Q. The Prisoner of War Organisation, of course, is pretty
closely connected with the labour problem. Which department
was responsible for the employment of prisoners of war?A.
The departments which dealt with this were the County Labour
Offices in the so-called Reich Labour Administration
Service, which had originally been in the hands of the
Labour Minister and were later on transferred to the
Plenipotentiary for Labour.In practice it worked like this.
The County Labour Offices applied for workers to the Army
District Commanders who had jurisdiction over the camps.
These workers were supplied as far as was possible under the
existing general directives.Q. What did the O.K.W. have to
do with the allocation of labour?A. In general, of course,
they had to supervise it, so that employment was regulated
according to the general basic orders issued. It was not
possible, of course, even for the inspector to check up on
how each individual was employed; after all, the Army
District Commanders and their Generals for the K.G.W. were
responsible for that task and were the appropriate
persons.The actual fight - as I might call it - for prisoner-
of-war labour did not really start until 1942. Until then,
such workers had been employed mainly in agriculture and the
German railway system and a number of general institutions;
but not in industry. This applies especially to Soviet
prisoners of war who were, in the main, agricultural
workers.Q. What was the actual cause for these labour

A. During the winter of 1941-2 the problem of replacing
soldiers who had dropped out, particularly in the Eastern
theatre of war, arose. Considerable numbers of soldiers fit
for active service were needed for the front and the armed
services. I remember the figures. The Army alone needed
replacements numbering two to two and a half million men
every year. Assuming that about one million of these would
come from normal recruiting and about half a million from
rehabilitated men, that is, from sick and wounded men who
had recovered, that still left one million to be replaced
every year. These could be withdrawn from the war economy
and placed at the disposal of the services, the Armed
Forces. That fact explains the rapid rotation in which these
men were called up from the war economy and replaced by new
workers, who had to be taken from the prisoners of war on
the one hand, and through Plenipotentiary Sauckel, whose
task it was to find them, on the other hand. This rotation
of workers affected me too, since I was responsible for the
replacements for all the Armed Forces, Army, Navy and Air
Force, in other words for the recruiting system. That is why
I was present at discussions between Sauckel and the Fuehrer
regarding replacements and how these replacements were to be
found.Q. What can you tell me about the employment of these
prisoners of war in the armament industry?A. Up to 1942 or
thereabouts we had not used prisoners of war in any industry
even indirectly connected with armaments. This was due to
orders expressly issued by Hitler, although I must admit
that the reason he gave was that he feared attempts at
sabotaging machines, production equipment, etc. He regarded
developments of that kind as probable and dangerous. Not
until necessity compelled us to use every worker in some
capacity in the home factories did we abandon this
principle. It was no longer discussed; prisoners of war came
to be used after that in the general war production. My
view, which I expressed in my general orders, i.e. the
O.K.W. orders, was that their use in armament factories was
forbidden, in other words, that it was not permissible to
employ prisoners of war in factories which were definitely
making armaments, by which I mean war equipment, weapons and
munitions. To complete the story, perhaps I should add that
an order issued by the Fuehrer
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at a later date decreed a further relaxation of the existing
orders. I think the prosecution stated that Minister Speer
is supposed to have spoken of some thousands of prisoners of
war employed in the war economy. I may say, however, that
many jobs had to be done in the armament industry which had
nothing to do with the actual production of arms and
ammunition.Q. The prosecution has frequently stated that
prisoners of war were detained by the police and even placed
in concentration camps. Can you explain that?A. I think the
explanation of that is that the selection process already
mentioned took place in the camps. Furthermore there are
documents to show that prisoners of war in whose case the
disciplinary powers of the commandant were not sufficient,
were separated and handed over to the Secret State Police.
Finally, I have already mentioned the subject of prisoners
who escaped and were recaptured, a considerable number of
whom - if not the majority - did not return to their camps.
Instructions on the part of the O.K.W. or the Chief of the
Prisoner of War Organisation, ordering the surrender of
these prisoners to concentration camps, are not known to me
and have never been issued. But the fact that when they were
handed over to the police they frequently did end up in the
concentration camps has been made known here in various
ways, through documents and witnesses. That is my
explanation.Q. The French Prosecution has presented a
document, which bears the number 1650-PS. This is an order,
or, rather, an alleged order from the O.K.W. ordering that
escaped prisoners of war who are not employed are to be
surrendered to the Security Service. After what you have
just told us, you will have to give an explanation of that.
I am showing you in addition Document 1514-PS, an order from
the Armed Forces, Regional District No. 6, from which you
will be able to see the procedure adopted by the O.K.W. in
connection with the surrender of prisoners of war to the
Secret State Police.A. First of all, I want to discuss
Document 1650-PS. To begin with I have to state that I did
not know of that order, that it was never in my hands, and
that so far I have not been able to find out how it came to
be issued.Q. Would you not like to say, first of all, that
the document as such is not a document of the O.K.W.?

A. I am coming to that.

Q. I think you should start with that in order to clear up
the matter.

A. The document appears to be one that was found in a police
department. It starts with the words "The O.K.W. has
ordered." After that come three numbers, and then it goes on
to say, "In this connection I order'" - and that is the
Supreme Chief of the R.S.H.A. It is signed by Muller, not
Kaltenbrunner. I have most certainly not signed this order -
OKW 1-3, and I have not seen it; there is no doubt about
that. The fact that technical expressions "Stage 3-b" etc.
are used proves that in itself. These are terms used by the
police and they are unknown to me. I must say, therefore,
that I am not sure how this document was compiled. I cannot
explain it. There are assumptions and possibilities, and I
should like to mention them briefly because I have given a
great deal of thought to the matter. First, I do not believe
that any department of the O.K.W., that is the Chief of the
Prisoner of War Organisation, or the Chief of the General
Armed Forces Department could have issued this order without
instructions to do so. I consider that quite impossible, as
it was completely contrary to the general tendency. I have
no recollection that I ever received any instructions of
this kind from Hitler or that I passed any such instruction
on to anybody else. Finally, even if this may look like an
excuse, there were, of course, other channels which the
Fuehrer used, unorthodox channels. And, if I must supply an
explanation, such orders could have been sent through an
adjutant without my knowledge.I emphasise that this is a
supposition and that it cannot absolve me from blame.

There is only one thing that I would like to say, and that
is with reference to the Document 1514- PS. This is a
captured order from the Armed Forces
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Regional District No. 6, at Munster, dated 27th July, 1944 -
in other words, the summer of 1944, It concerns escaped
prisoners of war and how they are to be dealt with. It says
"Reference," and then it quotes seven different orders from
the year 1942 up to the beginning of July, 1944. This order
deals with the question of escaped prisoners of war and
ought to have been incorporated in this document, if the
Military Service Department of District 6 had had such an
O.K.W. order. That fact is remarkable, and it has convinced
me that there never was a written order and that the
military authorities in question never received such an
order. I cannot say more about it since I cannot prove it.Q.
You know that the prosecution has submitted an order,
according to which, Soviet prisoners of war were to be
marked by means of tattooing so that they could be
identified. Would you please make a statement on that?

A. The facts are the following:

During the summer of 1942, the Fuehrer called the
Quartermaster General of the Army to Headquarters for a
discussion lasting several hours, and at which the Fuehrer
asked him to report on conditions in the rear Eastern Army
territory. I was suddenly called in and told that the
Quartermaster General was saying that thousands of Russian
prisoners of war were escaping every month; that they
disappeared among the population, immediately discarded
their uniforms and procured civilian clothes, and could no
longer be identified.

I was ordered to make investigations and to devise some
means of identifying them even after they had discarded
their clothing. Consequently, I sent instructions to Berlin,
saying that such an order should be prepared but that
investigations should first be made by the International Law
Department of the Foreign Office to find out whether such an
order could be given at all; and, secondly, how it could be
carried out technically.

I should like to say that we were thinking of tattoo marks
of the kind found on many seamen and labourers in Germany.
But I heard no more about it. One day I met the Foreign
Minister at headquarters and talked to him about the
question. The Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop knew about the
inquiry made by the Foreign Office and considered the whole
thing extremely questionable. That was the first news I had
about the subject. I gave immediate instructions, whether
personally or through the adjutant I cannot remember, that
the order was not to go out. I had neither seen a draft nor
had I signed anything. At any rate I definitely stated "The
order is in no circumstances to be issued." I received no
further detailed information at the time. I heard nothing
more about it, and I was convinced that the order had not
been published.

When I was interrogated, I made a statement on those lines.
I have now been told by my defence counsel that the woman
secretary of the Chief of the Prisoner of War Organisation
has volunteered to testify that the order was rescinded and
was not to be published and, further, that she had received
those instructions personally. She said in her statement,
however, that this did not happen until several days after
the order had actually gone out, and that that was the only
possible explanation of how that order came to be found in
the Police Department as still valid.

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