The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 1999/09/04

Q. Prior to your going to this conference, did Canaris make
any other comment on those orders?

A. Even at the time when these orders were given, Canaris
said to our circle - and when I say our circle I mean the
section chiefs - that he had put himself in a position of
sharp opposition to this command and protested through
Burckner. I cannot say now whether that was done in writing
or orally, whether that was communicated to Keitel in
writing or orally, I don't know, but, at any rate, Burckner
communicated it to Keitel; probably by both media.

Q. When you say "protested through Burckner", what do you

A. When I say Burckner, I mean the group or perhaps even a
representative in his office.

Q. Will you repeat that?

A. This protest or this counter-argument, and the question
regarding the treatment of the Russian prisoners of war, was
communicated by Canaris via the

                                                  [Page 280]

Foreign Office, Ausland-Amt, and, through Burckner,
communicated further. The Ausland office had a section that
dealt with questions of International Law. The expert in
that section was Count Moltke who, like some other men,
belonged to Oster's inner circle. After 20th July he was

THE PRESIDENT: Would that be a convenient time to break off?


THE PRESIDENT: Until 2.00 o'clock.

(A recess was taken until 1400 hours.)

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, Colonel Amen.

(Erwin Lahousen resumed the stand and testified further as
follows: )


Q. Prior to the luncheon recess you were testifying about a
conference in 1941 with Reinecke and others. Prior to that
conference did Canaris tell you what kind of appeal to make
to those present at the meeting?

A. Before the discussion Canaris said, as I have already
stated, that I should use arguments in order to ruin the
case or to weaken its effects, but that otherwise I should
not take it into my head to use arguments of a humanitarian
nature, lest I should so make a fool of myself.

Q. And now will you explain to the Tribunal, to the best of
your recollection, exactly what happened and what was said
in the course of that conference?

A. The discussion was opened by General Reinecke, and he
explained these orders in the manner in which I described
them before the recess. He said that these measures were
necessary, and that it was particularly necessary that this
idea should also be made clear to the Wehrmacht, and above
all to the officers corps, as they apparently still had
ideas which belonged to the Ice Age and not to the present
age of National Socialism.

Q. What views did you present at this conference?

A. According to my instructions from the Amt Ausland-Abwehr
and as representative of Canaris, in the main I pointed out,
first of all, the most unfavourable effect of such measures
on the troops, namely, on the Front troops; that they would
never understand such orders, particularly not the simple
soldier. Besides, I said, we had reports that the executions
were sometimes carried out before their eyes.

Secondly, I brought forward the objections of my office in
regard to activities which referred to the office itself,
the effect on the enemy of these measures which were,
practically speaking, the hindering of deserters, to prevent
Russians from deserting, who were surrendering without any
opposition; and then the great difficulties which the Abwehr
Division had in fighting agents, that is, people who for any
reasons had voluntarily kept themselves prepared to help the

Q. In order that this may be clear on the record, because I
think there was quite a bit of confusion in the translation,
I want to point out one or two of those arguments again.
What did you say at this conference about the effect of the
execution of these orders on Russian soldiers?

A. I pointed out, first of all, that through these orders
some elements among the Russian soldiers who were inclined
to surrender were prevented from doing so. Secondly, that
people who for any reason had offered their services to the
Abwehr would also be prevented by these measures. And that,
taking it all together, above all, the effect attained would
be the opposite to that which they had desired, and that the
resistance of the Russians would be increased to the utmost.

Q. And in order that we may be perfectly clear, what did you
say about the effect of the execution of these orders on the
German troops?

A. I said that, from several reports which we had from the
Front, the effect on the morale and on the discipline of the
troops was terrible, devastating.

                                                  [Page 281]

Q. Was there any discussion about International Law at this

A. No. In this connection there was no discussion of
International Law. The manner of selection of the prisoners
of war was particularly stressed. It was completely
arbitrary, apart from the order in itself, the general order

Q. We will get to that in a moment. Were your views accepted
at this conference?

A. My views, which were the views of the Amt Abwehr which I
was representing, were opposed in the sharpest possible
manner by Muller, who, with the usual cliches, rejected the
arguments that I had produced, and who made the sole
concession that the executions, in order to consider the
feelings of the troops, should not take place in the face of
the troops but at a secret place. He also made a few
concessions in the question of the selection, which was
completely arbitrary, and was just left to the Kommando
leaders or their viewpoints.

Q. And subsequent to this conference did you learn whether
an order was issued with respect to having these killings
take place out of the sight of the German troops?

A. Except for Muller's promise, which I have just mentioned,
I heard no more about it at the time. I found a confirmation
of the results of this conference; and the promises then
made to me, in an order which was submitted to me only now.

Q. Was there a conversation at this conference about the
manner in which these orders for the killings were being

A. Yes; in the course of discussions the entire problem was
under discussion as well as the manner in which these orders
were carried out by the riot-squads (Einsatzkommandos) of
the S.D. - according to my recollection. These S.D. squads
were in charge both of singling out of persons in camps, and
in assembly centres for prisoners of war, and of carrying
out the executions.

Reinecke also discussed measures regarding the treatment of
Russian prisoners of war in the camps. Reinecke emphatically
accepted the arguments put forth by Muller and not by
myself, and voiced his conviction in very sharp words.

Q. Now, will you explain to the Tribunal, from what you
learned at this conference, the exact manner in which the
sorting of these prisoners was made and in what way it was
determined which of the prisoners should be killed?

A. The prisoners were sorted out by commandos of the S.D.
and according to peculiar and utterly arbitrary points of
view. The leaders of these "Einsatzkommandos" were guided by
racial characteristics; particularly if someone was a Jew or
Jewish type or could otherwise be classified as racially
inferior, he was picked for execution. Other leaders of the
S.D. selected people according to their intelligence. Some
had views all their own and usually most peculiar, so that I
felt compelled to ask Muller, "Tell me, according to what
principles does this selection take place? Do you determine
it by the height of a person or the size of his shoes?"

Muller was very emphatic in rejecting these and any other
objections, and Reinecke adopted rigidly the same point of
view, instead of accepting my opinions, i.e., those of the
Amt Ausland-Abwehr, which were offered him as a "golden
bridge" for his acceptance. That was essentially the
contents of the discussion in which I participated.

Q. Did you receive knowledge about the manner in which these
orders were executed through official reports?

A. We were currently informed of all happenings by the
organs either at the front or active in the camps. Officers
of the Abwehr Division were active in these camps, and in
this way, and through the normal service channels, we were
informed by reports and oral presentation of all these
measures and of their effects.

                                                  [Page 282]

Q. Was the information which you received secret and
confidential information not open to others?

A. The information was confidential since almost all which
took place in our offices was treated confidentially. De
facto, however, it was known to large groups of the
Wehrmacht that these things happened in the camps,
respectively in due execution.

Q. Now, at this conference did you learn anything from
Reinecke with respect to the treatment of Russian prisoners
in prison camps?

A. In this discussion the treatment of Russian prisoners in
the camps was discussed by Reinecke, and Reinecke was of the
opinion that in the camps their treatment must not be the
same as the treatment of other Allied prisoners of war, but
that here too, according to the principles laid down,
discriminating measures must be used. The camp guards should
be furnished with whips, and, in case of an attempted escape
or other undesirable act, the guards should have the right
to resort to arms.

Q. Besides the whips, what other equipment were the Stalag
guards given?

A. Those are details which I do not remember for the moment.
I can only say what was mentioned in this discussion.

Q. What, if anything, did Reinecke say about the whips?

A. Reinecke said that the guards, i.e., the guard details,
should make use of their whips or sticks or whatever other
primitive instruments they had.

Q. Now, through official channels did you learn of an order
for the branding of Russian prisoners of war?

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Amen, I think you should refer to
them as "Soviet", not "Russian" prisoners.

COLONEL AMEN: Yes, Your Honour.


Q. Did you learn of such an order?

A. Yes, in one of the discussions at which most of the
previously mentioned divisional chiefs were usually present.
At least one of them must have been present.

Q. Do you know whether any protests were made with respect
to that order?

A. When the intention was made known of branding these
prisoners, a very sharp protest was voiced at once by
Canaris, probably through Burckner himself.

Q. What, if anything, did Canaris tell you with regard to
this order?

A. Canaris told us that the question had already been
expounded in a medical opinion by some sort of physician;
that there actually were people low enough to consent to
giving a medical opinion on such madness. That was the main
topic of this discussion.

Q. What information, if any, did you receive through
official channels regarding plans to bring Soviet prisoners
back to German territory?

A. Under similar circumstances, that is, during discussions
between Canaris and the chiefs of his divisions, as well as
in the General Staff talks, I heard that it had been planned
to bring some Soviet prisoners into Germany, but that those
projects were suddenly abandoned, and I remember that this
was by direct order of Hitler. The reason for it was the
conditions found in camps in the theatre of operations,
where prisoners were crowded together and could not be
adequately fed, housed or clothed, resulting in epidemics
and cannibalism in these camps.

Q. I am not sure but what we missed some of your previous
answer. Will you start again to tell us about the change
which was made in these orders?

A. Will you please repeat the question once more?

Q. You referred to a change in the plans to take the Soviet
prisoners back to German territory. Is that correct?

A. Yes, they were not brought back into Germany.

                                                  [Page 283]

Q. And what was the result of this action, namely, of their
not being brought back, at the direct order of Hitler?

A. The result was as described just now.

Q. But I want you to repeat it because we lost some of the
answer in the interpreting process. Please just repeat it

A. The greater number of prisoners of war remained in the
theatre of operation, without proper care - care in the
sense of PW conventions, with regard to housing, food,
medical care; and many of them died on the bare floor.
Epidemics broke out and cannibalism - human beings devouring
each other - driven by hunger - manifested itself.

Q. Were you personally at the front to observe these

A. I made several trips with Canaris and I saw some of these
things which I have just described with my own eyes. I made
notes of my impressions at the time, which were found
amongst my papers.

Q. Did you also obtain information as to these matters
through official channels of the Abwehr?

A. Yes, I received this information through our own legal
department and through the Ausland-Abwehr.

Q. From your official information, to what extent was the
Wehrmacht involved in the mistreatment of these prisoners?

A. According to my information, the Wehrmacht was involved
in all matters which referred to prisoners of war, except
the executions, which were the concern of the "Kommandos" of
the S.D. and the Reichssicherheitshauptamt.

Q. But is it not a fact that the prisoner-of-war camps were
entirely under the jurisdiction of the Wehrmacht?

A. Yes, prisoners of war were under the jurisdiction of the
Supreme Command of the Wehrmacht.

Q. But before they were placed in these camps, the Special
Purpose Kommandos of the S.S. were responsible primarily for
the executions and the selection of the people to be
executed, is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you receive through official channels information
regarding the existence of an order for the killing of
British Commandos?

A. Yes.

Q. What action, if any, did Canaris or yourself take with
respect to this order?

A. The order, as far as I remember, and even the intention
that such an order  was to be issued, was discussed in our
circle, that is, between Canaris and his section chiefs. We
all, of course, absolutely agreed on its rejection. The
reasons, apart from the aspects of International Law, being
that the Amt Ausland had under its jurisdiction a formation,
which was attached to our section, named "Regiment
Brandenburg", which had a task similar to that of the
Kommandos. I immediately and most emphatically protested
against this order, as the head of the section to which this
regiment was attached, and for which I considered myself
responsible, and also in view of the retaliation measures
which were to be expected as a result.

Q. Did you personally assist in the drafting of these

A. I know that twice a protest was lodged against this order
by Canaris, and by Amt Ausland, through Burckner. The first
time as soon as the order was issued orally or in writing,
and the second time after the first executions had been
carried out. I drafted one of these written protests - I do
not know whether the first or the second; this very
contribution was made in the interest of my section, and the
Regiment Brandenburg, whose functions were similar, very
similar, to those of the Kommandos.

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