The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 2000/01/25


Q. Will you please tell us whether you saw the letter and
knew its contents?

A. I am sorry that I did not say so at once but I helped in
drafting the letter. I was there when the letter was drafted
and written.

DR. DIX: Then I believe Justice Jackson will withdraw his



Q. Will you please answer my question; what is meant by
those cryptic words?

                                                  [Page 249]

A. We wanted to suggest that we in Germany were interested
in forcing certain developments and that we now expected an
encouraging word from the other side - I do not, however,
want any misunderstanding to arise here. In this letter it
also states very clearly that President Roosevelt had in the
meantime been disappointed many times by the Germans, so
that we had to urge, even to beg him to take such a step. It
is also a fact that President Roosevelt had already taken
various steps for peace.

Q. Let us go on. Now, if I were to give you the cue "Vatican

A. In addition to this attempt to enter into discussions
with America, we believed we should ask for a statement from
the British Government. Again it was our aim solely to -

THE PRESIDENT: Is the original of this letter still
available or is this only given from memory?

DR. DIX: The original document, yes, that is, a letter
signed by Schacht, is here. It was kept during the war in
Switzerland and was brought back to us from Switzerland by
this witness.


Q. Now, let us turn to the "Vatican Action."

A. We tried in every possible way to prove to General Halder
and General Olbricht that their theory, that there could be
no more dealings with a decent German Government, was wrong.
We believed that we could now follow a very sure road. The
Holy Father was personally interested in finding a solution,
since the British Government had, quite justifiably, become
uncertain whether there existed in Germany a trustworthy
group of men with which one could talk. It was soon
afterwards that the Venlo incident took place when, with the
excuse that there was a German oppositional group, officials
of the British Secret Service were kidnapped at the Dutch
border. Therefore, we wanted to prove that here there was
such a group, which was honestly trying to do its best and
which, if the occasion arose, would stand by its word, under
all circumstances. I believe that we kept our word regarding
the things we proposed to do, in that we said quite frankly
that we could not bring about this putsch as we had said
previously we hoped to do.

These negotiations began in October or November, 1939. They
were only concluded later in the spring and if I am asked I
shall continue.

Q. Yes, please describe the conclusion.

A. I believe I must add first that, during November of 1939,
General Halder actually had plans for a putsch, but that
these plans came to naught, when at the very last minute
Hitler called off the Western Offensive. Strengthened by the
position of Halder at that time, we believed that we should
continue these discussions at the Vatican. We reached what
you might call a gentleman's agreement on the basis of which
I believe that I am entitled to state that we could give the
generals unequivocal proof, that in the event of the
overthrow of the Hitler regime, terms could be made with a
decent civil German Government.

Q. Did you read the particulars yourself?

A. These were oral discussions which were then put into a
comprehensive report. This report was examined by the
Ambassador, von Hassel and by Dr. Schacht before it was
given to Halder by General Thomas. Halder was so taken with
the contents that he gave the report to von Brauchitsch.
Brauchitsch was enraged and threatened to arrest the
intermediary, General Thomas, and thus this action which had
every prospect of success, failed.

Q. Doctor, you have testified

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Dix, the last notes that I have got down
in my notebook are these: "that we knew that if Holland,
Belgium and the other countries were attacked, it would have
very grave consequences, and we therefore negotiated with
Halder and Brauchitsch and they weren't prepared to help us
to stop the war at that time. We wanted peace with honour,
eliminating politics.

                                                  [Page 250]

We took all possible steps." Well, now, since I took these
notes down, I think we spent nearly ten minutes in details
which are utterly irrelevant about further negotiations. If
they took, all possible steps, what is the point of giving
us these details about it?

DR. DIX:. Your Lordship, when a witness is called in a
matter of such importance as this, he, as well as the
defendants' counsel must always take into account that
people who hold contrary views will say "these are just
generalities, we want facts and particulars"; then, I cannot
forgo having the witness testify, at least in outline, that
for example, a detailed action had been undertaken through
his Holiness in the Vatican. If he merely says that the
result of this action was a comprehensive report, if with
Halder and Brauchitsch the above-mentioned -

THE PRESIDENT: I agree with you that the one sentence about
some negotiations with the Vatican may have been properly
given but all the rest of it were unnecessary details.

DR. DIX: Anyway we have already concluded this chapter, your


Q. You have already testified that the putsch which was
planned for November did not occur because the, Western
Offensive did not take place. Therefore, we need not pursue
this subject any further. I merely would like to ask you at
this point: Did your group of conspirators remain inactive
during the winter, and particularly during the spring, or
were further plans followed and acted upon?

A. Constant attempts were made to influence all generals
within our reach. Besides Halder and Brauchitsch we tried to
reach the generals of divisions in the West. For instance,
there was a discussion between Schacht and General Hoeppner.

Q. Hoeppner?

A. Hoeppner. We also tried to influence Field Marshal
Rundstedt, Beck, and Leeb. Here, too, General Thomas and
Admiral Canaris were the intermediaries.

Q. And how did the generals react?

A. When everything was ready, they did nothing.

Q. Now, we come to the summer of 1940. Hitler is in Paris.
The air offensive against England is imminent. Tell us about
your group of conspirators and their activity during this
and the following period.

A. After the fall of Paris, our group had no influence for
months. Hitler's success deluded everyone, and it took much
effort on our part through all channels open to us to try at
least to prevent the bombardment of England. Here again the
group made united efforts and we tried, through General
Thomas and Admiral Canaris and others, to prevent this

Q. Do I understand you correctly when you use the word
"group" you mean the group which was led by Beck, in which
Schacht participated?

A. Yes.

Q. Now, at that time did Schacht have a discussion or
discussions on the same lines in Switzerland?

A. That was a little bit later. We have now come to the year
1941, and on this trip to Switzerland, Schacht tried to
plead for a peace conference as soon as possible. We knew
that Hitler was thinking about the attack on Russia, and we
believed that we should do everything to avert, at least
this disaster. It was with this end in view that Schacht's
discussions in Switzerland were conducted I myself took part
arranging a dinner with the President of the B.I.Z., Mr.
McKittrick, an American in Basel, and I heard Schacht when
he tried to express the opinion that everything possible
would have to be done to initiate negotiations.

DR. DIX: In this connection I would respectfully like to
remind the Tribunal

                                                  [Page 251]

of the article in the "Basler Nachrichten," the gist of
which I gave when we discussed the admissibility of
documents. It deals with a conversation between Schacht and
an American economist and refers to the same journey which
the witness is now discussing. I will take the liberty to
refer again to this article later.


Q. Now, the war continued. Have you anything to say about
Russia about, the imminent war with Russia?

A. I can say only that Schacht knew of all the many attempts
which we undertook to avert this catastrophe.

Q. Now let us go further to the time of Stalingrad. What was
done by your group of conspirators after this critical
period of the war?

A. When we had not succeeded in persuading the victorious
generals to engineer a putsch, we then tried at least to win
them over to it when they had met with what was, obviously,
a great disaster. This disaster, which found its first
visible expression in Stalingrad, had been predicted in all
its details by General Beck since December of 1942. We
immediately made all preparations to organise a military
putsch to coincide with the day when Paulus' forces,
completely defeated, would be forced to capitulate. The day
of this defeat could be predicted with almost mathematical
accuracy. I myself was called back from Switzerland and
participated in all discussions and preparations. I can only
testify that this time a great many preparations had been
made. Contact was made with the Field Marshals in the East,
and with Witzleben in the West but again, things turned out
differently, since Field Marshal Paulus capitulated without
giving us as arranged, the cue for Kluge to start the putsch
in the East.

Q. This was the time of the so-called Schnaberndorf attempt?

A. No, a little later.

Q. Then I shall interpose another question. Until now you
have always described the group led by General Beck and
supported by Schacht, Goerdeler, etc., as a putsch movement,
that is, a group which wanted to overthrow the government.
Didn't this group now more and more lean towards an attempt
on Hitler's life?

A. Yes, from the moment when the generals again deserted us,
we realised that a putsch was not to be hoped for, and from
that moment on we took All the necessary steps to an

DR. LATERNSER (Counsel for the General Staff and O.K.W.):
Mr. President, I must object at this point to the testimony
of the witness. Dr. Gisevius by his testimony has
incriminated the group which I represent. However, some of
this testimony is so general that it cannot be referred to
as fact. Furthermore, he has just testified that the Field
Marshals in the East had "deserted" the group of
conspirators. These statements are opinions which the
witness is giving, but they are not facts, to which the
witness must limit his testimony and therefore I ask - Mr.
President, I have not yet finished. I wanted to conclude
with the request for a resolution by the Tribunal that that
part of the testimony of the witness, in which he asserted
that the general had "deserted" the group of conspirators be
stricken from the record.

DR. DIX: May I please reply briefly? I cannot agree with the
opinion of my esteemed colleague Dr. Laternser that the
statement "the generals deserted us" was not a statement of
fact -

THE PRESIDENT: I don't think we need to hear further
argument upon it. It certainly won't be stricken from the
record until we have had time to consider it, and Dr.
Laternser will have his opportunity of examining this
witness and he can then elucidate any evidence he wants to.

DR. LATERNSER: But, Mr. President, if I make the motion for
the reason that the witness is giving testimony which is
beyond his scope as a witness,

                                                  [Page 252]

and that he is merely giving his opinion, then to that
extent it is inadmissible testimony, and should be stricken
from the record.

THE PRESIDENT: If you mean that the evidence is hearsay,
that is perfectly obvious to the Tribunal, and does not make
the evidence inadmissible. You will be able to cross examine
him about it.

DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, I have been misunderstood. I
am not basing my request to strike the testimony from the
record on the allegation that the witness made statements
from hearsay, but I maintain that it is not a statement of
fact but an opinion which the witness is giving when he
says: "The generals in the East deserted the group of

DR. DIX: May I answer briefly to that. If I try to influence
a group of generals to organise a revolt and if they do not
do so, that is a fact and I can state this fact with the
words "They deserted me. " Naturally I can also say, "They
did not revolt," but that is merely a matter of expression.
Both are fact and not an opinion. He is not evaluating the
action of the generals in an ethical, military or political
sense, he is merely pointing out: "They did not wish to do



Q. If I recall correctly, you were just about to tell us
that now the policy of the conspirator group changed from a
putsch to an attempt on Hitler's life Is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you wish to state anything further?

A. You had asked me about the first step in this direction
after General Beck had given up all hope of being able to
win over other generals to a putsch. It was said at that
time: "Now there is nothing left for us but to free Germany,
Europe, and the world, through a bomb attack." Immediately
after this decision, preparations were started. Oster spoke
to Lahousen and Lahousen furnished the bombs from his
arsenal. The bombs were taken to the headquarters of Kluge
at Smolensk, and with every possible means we tried to bring
about the attempt on Hitler's life. This was unsuccessful
only because at the time when Hitler visited the front, the
bomb which had been put in his airplane did not explode.
This was in the spring of 1943.

Q. Now, an event took place in the Abwehr, O.K.W., which as
a result of further developments, strongly affected
Schacht's further attitude and also your remaining in
Germany. Will you please describe that?

A. Gradually even Himmler could not fail to see what was
happening in the O.K.W. and upon the urgent request of
General of the S.S. Schellenberg a thorough investigation of
the Canaris group was started. A special commissar was put
in office and on the first day of this investigation Oster
was relieved of his office and a number of his assistants
arrested. A short time thereafter Canaris was also dismissed
from his post. I myself could no longer remain in Germany,
and thus this group which until now had in a certain sense
been the brains and management of this conspiracy was

Q. During that time, that is January, 1943, Schacht was also
relieved of his position as Reich Minister without
portfolio. Did you meet Schacht after that time?

A. Yes. By chance I was in Berlin on the day when this
letter of dismissal arrived. It was an unusually sharp
letter and I remember that during the night Schacht asked me
to come and see him at his country estate, and since the
letter simply stated that Schacht was to be dismissed we
wondered whether he was also going to be arrested.

DR. DIX: I would like to remind the Tribunal that I read
this letter into the record when Lammers was examined and
showed it to him. This letter is

                                                  [Page 253]

already - I mean Schacht's letter of dismissal signed by
Lammers - has been read into the record and is probably
contained in my document book.

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