The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: imt/tgmwc/tgmwc-09/tgmwc-09-82.06


Archive/File: imt/tgmwc/tgmwc-09/tgmwc-09-82.06
Last-Modified: 1999/12/7

Q. And what part did the Air Force have in the attacks on
Leningrad?

A. The Air Force at Leningrad was very weak. The most
Northern sector of our position had the very poorest air
protection, so that the Air Force there had to take care of
very many tasks simultaneously. At no time was there a
concentrated attack by our Air Force on Leningrad, such as
we have made on other cities, or as such attacks have been
carried out on German cities to the greatest extent. The
Fuehrer not once but repeatedly, in the presence of other
gentlemen at briefing sessions, accused me that apparently
the German Luftwaffe did not dare go into Leningrad. I
replied:

  "As long as my Air Force is ready to fly into the hell of
  London it will be equally prepared to go into the much
  less defended air of Leningrad. However, I lacked the
  necessary forces, and besides you must not give me too
  many tasks for my Air Force on the Northern front, such
  as preventing reinforcements from coming over the Ladoga
  Sea and other tasks."

Attacks were, therefore, made only on Kronstadt and on the
fleet which was left in the outer bay of Leningrad and other
targets, such as heavy batteries.

I was interested to hear once from the testimony, sworn to
by the Russian professor for museums, that he was under the
impression that the German Air Force was mainly out to
destroy museums and then from the testimony - not sworn to -
by I believe he called himself the Metropolitan, who had the
impression that my Air Force had mainly chosen his cathedral
as a target. I would like to call your attention to this
contradiction - perhaps understandable for people who are
not experts - St. Petersburg was, in fact, at the very front
of the fighting, and it was not necessary to attack by air,
for medium and heavy artillery was sufficient to get into
the centre of the city.

Q. Was confiscation by the occupying Power in Russia limited
to State property?

A. In connection with the last question I forgot to mention
something briefly.

There has been a great deal of talk here about the great
destruction in Russia, pictures and films were shown,
impressive in themselves but not so impressive to a German,
for they showed only a modest proportion of the destruction
which we personally experienced in our own cities. But I
would like to point out that much of this destruction took
place in the course of battle - in other words, that
destruction was not intended by the Air Force or by the
artillery, but that cities, historical cities or art
monuments were very frequently destroyed by battle action.

In Germany also, men of the rank of the musician and
composer Tchaikowski, and the poets Tolstoy and Pushkin, are
too highly revered that deliberate destruction of the graves
of these great and creative men of culture could have been
intended.

                                                  [Page 142]

Now to the question whether only State property was
confiscated; as far as I know, yes. Private property, as has
been mentioned here from State documents - I could easily
imagine that in the cold winter of 1941-42 German soldiers
took fur shoes, felt boots and sheep furs here and there
from the population - that is possible. By and large there
was no private property, therefore it could not be
confiscated. I personally can speak only of a small section,
namely of the surroundings of the city of Winniza and the
city Winniza itself. When I stopped there in my special
train with my headquarters I repeatedly visited the peasant
country and villages in the vicinity of Winniza, because
life there interested me.

I saw such unimaginable poverty there that I cannot possibly
figure out just what one could have taken. As an
insignificant but informative example I would like to
mention that for empty marmalade jars, tin cans, or even
empty cigar boxes or cigarette boxes - the people would
offer remarkable quantities of eggs and butter because they
considered these primitive articles very desirable.

In this connection I would, also, like to emphasise that no
theatres or the like were ever consciously destroyed either
with my knowledge or that of any other German person. I only
want to recall the theatre in Winniza that I have visited. I
saw the actors and actresses there and the ballet. The first
thing I did was to get material, dresses, and all sorts of
things for these people because they had nothing.

As the second example, the destruction of churches. It,
also, is a personal experience of mine in Winniza, where I
attended the dedication of the largest church which for
years had been a powder magazine, and now, under the German
administration, was reinstated as a church. The clergy
requested me to be present at this dedication. Everything
was decorated with flowers. I declined because I do not
belong to the Greek Orthodox Church.

As far as the looting of stores was concerned, I could see
only one store in Winniza that was completely empty.

Q. What was the significance of the Work-Camp Dora for the
Air Force, which was mentioned by the French prosecution?

A. Before I go on to that, I must add that the accusation
that we destroyed industry everywhere is incorrect, but
rather for our own purposes we had to reconstruct a great
part of industry. Thus I would like to recall the famous dam
of Dniepropetrowsk which was destroyed and which was
important for the electricity supply of the entire Ukraine
and even for the Donetz area.

As far as industry and agriculture are concerned, I have
spoken of that before and mentioned the scorched earth
policy as it was described in the Russian order and as it
was carried out. This scorched earth policy, the destruction
of all stock, of everything, created a very difficult
situation which was hard to overcome. Therefore, from the
economic point of view, we also had much reconstruction to
do.

As far as destruction of cities is concerned, I would like
to add that over and beyond that which was shot to pieces in
the course of battle during the advance or retreat, there
were considerable parts and important buildings of cities
that had been mined and at the proper time blew up,
involving, of course, many German victims. I can cite Odessa
and Kiev as two main examples.

Now I come to the question of Camp Dora. About Camp Dora,
likewise, I heard here for the first time. Of course, I knew
of the subterranean works which were near Nordhausen, though
I was never there myself. But they had been established in
the meantime. Nordhausen mainly produced V-l's and V-2's.
With the conditions in Camp Dora as they have been
described, I am not familiar. I also believe that they are
exaggerated.

Of course, I knew that subterranean factories were being
built. I was also interested in having production continued
for the Air Force. I cannot see why the construction of
subterranean works should be something particularly

                                                  [Page 143]

wicked or destructive. I had ordered construction of an
important subterranean work at Kala in Thuringia for
aeroplane production in which, to a large degree, German
workers and, for the rest, Russian workers and prisoners of
war were employed. I, personally, went there to look over
the work being done and on that day found everyone in good
spirits. On the occasion of my visit I brought the people
some additional rations of beverages, cigarettes and other
things, for Germans and foreigners alike.

The other subterranean works for which I requested
concentration camp internees were not put up any more. That
I requested inmates of concentration camps for the aviation
industry is correct and it is, in my opinion, quite natural,
because I was, at that time, not familiar with the details
of the concentration camps. I only knew that many Germans
were in concentration camps, such people as had refused to
join the Army, who were politically unreliable, or who had
been punished for other things as in times of war also
happens in other countries. At that time everyone had to
work in Germany. Women were taken into the ranks of labour,
including those who had never worked before. In my own home
parachute production was started, in which everyone had to
participate. I could not see why, if the entire people had
to take part in the work, the inmates of prisons,
concentration camps, or wherever they might be, should not
also be put to use for the work essential to the war.

Moreover, I am of the opinion, from what I know to-day, that
it certainly was better for them to work in some plane
factory than in their concentration camps. The fact per se
that they worked, is to be taken as a matter of course, and
also that they only worked for war production. But that work
meant their destruction is a new concept. It is possible
that it was strenuous here or there. I for my part was
interested that these people should not be destroyed but
that they worked and thereby could produce. The work itself
was the same as done by German workers - that is, plane and
motor production - no destruction was intended thereby.

Q. Under what conditions were prisoners of war used in anti-
aircraft operations?

A. Prisoners of war were used for flak operations mainly for
those stationary batteries at home which were used for the
protection of factories and cities. And indeed these were
auxiliary volunteers. They were chiefly Russian prisoners of
war, but not entirely, as far as I remember. One must not
forget that, in Russia, there were various racial groups who
did not think alike and did not all have the same attitude
to the system there. Just as there were so-called East
battalions made up of volunteers, so there was also a great
number of volunteers who, after the announcement in the
camps, reported for service in the flak batteries. We also
had an entire company of Russian prisoners of war who
volunteered to fight against their own country. I did not
think much of these people, but in time of war one takes
what one can get. The other side did the same thing.

The auxiliary volunteers liked to go to the flak because
they had considerably less work there and their food was
better, since it was soldiers' rations; whatever other
reasons they may have had I do not know. However, if one did
look at a local German flak battery in the year 1944 or
1945, it made, I admit, a rather strange  impression. There
were German youths from 15 to 16 and old men from 55 to 60,
some women and some auxiliary volunteers of all
nationalities; I always called it my "Gipsy battery." But
they shot, and that was the decisive thing.

Q. What was Sauckel's official relation to you?

A. I mentioned that in the Four-Year Plan in 1936 there was
already a General Plenipotentiary for Labour Employment. In
the year 1942, after he had become ill and was being
represented by somebody else, I was taken aback by the
direct appointment of a new General Plenipotentiary for
Labour

                                                  [Page 144]

Employment - an appointment made directly and without my
being consulted by the Fuehrer. But at that time the Fuehrer
had already begun to intervene much more strongly and
directly in such problems. If he did it here too, he did so
because the labour problem became more acute from day to
day. It had been suggested to him that he appoint a new
deputy for the time being, perhaps a Gauleiter of a
different name, the one from Silesia. But the Fuehrer
decided on the Gauleiter from Thuringia, Sauckel, and made
him Plenipotentiary. This order was countersigned by
Lammers, not by me, but that is of no significance; and it
was formally installed in the Four-Year Plan, for the Four
Year Plan had general plenary authority for all matters
concerning economy. For this reason up till the very end,
even the appointment of Goebbels as General Plenipotentiary
for the Total War, which had nothing at all to do with me,
was also included in the plenary powers of the Four-Year
Plan, since otherwise the entire legislative work of the
Four-Year Plan, which I had gradually built up with its
plenary powers, would have collapsed and we should have had
to create entirely new conditions.

If Sauckel, from that time on, received his orders mainly
from the Fuehrer, it was because the Fuehrer now intervened
more strongly in all these matters; but I welcomed the
appointment of Sauckel, for I considered him one of the
calmest and most reliable Gauleiter, and was also convinced
that he would fully dedicate himself to this new task. The
connection with the offices of the Four-Year Plan was of
course maintained, and in the case of important legislative
decrees Sauckel and my offices of the Four-Year Plan worked
together, as far as I know.

Sauckel himself talked to me on several occasions after he
had been with the Fuehrer, and sent me also a few of those
reports which he sent to the Fuehrer. If not in full detail
I was, on the whole, informed.

Q. In March, 1944, seventy-five English Right officers from
the prisoner-of-war camp, Stalag Luft III, escaped. As you
surely know from the proceedings, fifty of these officers
after their recapture by the S.D. were shot. Did this order
for shooting come from you, and did you know about this
intention?

A. I am closely familiar with the course of events, but
unfortunately not until a later period of time. When these
seventy-five or eighty English flight officers attempted to
escape on 3rd March, I was at the moment on leave, as I can
prove. I heard, one or two days later, about this escape.
But since, prior to that, a few large escapes had already
taken place and each time a few days later most of the
escaped prisoners had been brought back to camp, I assumed
that, in this case also, that would happen.

On my return from my leave, my Chief of General Staff told
me that a number, but he could not give me the figure at the
time, of these escaped flight officers had been shot. This
had, to a certain extent, caused talk and excitement in our
Air Force; one also feared reprisals. I asked from whom he
had his information and what had really happened here. He
said he knew only that some of the escaped men had been
recaptured by the camp guards in the vicinity of the camp,
by the police authorities in the immediate neighbourhood,
and had been brought back to camp. On the other hand, of the
fate of those who had been recaptured at a greater distance
from the camp he knew only that some of them had been shot.

I turned to Himmler and asked him. He confirmed this without
mentioning a definite figure, and told me that he had
received this order from the Fuehrer. I called his attention
to the fact that this was utterly impossible and that the
English officers in particular were in duty bound to try at
least one or two escapes and that we knew this. He said, I
believe, that he had at least opposed the Fuehrer in this
matter at first, but that the Fuehrer had absolutely
insisted on it, since he maintained that escapes to such an
extent represented an extreme danger to security.

                                                  [Page 145]

I told him then that this would lead to the most serious
excitement in my forces, since no one would understand this;
and that, if he had received such orders, he could at least
inform me before carrying them out so that I would have the
opportunity of countermanding such orders if necessary.

After this instruction I talked to the Fuehrer personally
about this matter, and the Fuehrer confirmed the fact that
he had given this order and told me why - the reasons just
mentioned. I explained to him why this order, according to
our opinion, was completely impossible and what
repercussions it would cause in regard to my airmen employed
against the enemy in the West.

The Fuehrer - our relations were already extremely bad and
strained - answered rather violently that the airmen who
were flying against Russia would also have to reckon with
the possibility of being immediately beaten to death in case
of an emergency landing, that the airmen going to the West
should not want to claim a special privilege in this regard.
I told him thereupon that these two things really had no
connection with each other.

Then I talked with the Chief of my General Staff and asked
him - I believe he was the Quartermaster-General - to write
to the O.K.W. and say that I was now requesting, and that
the Air Force was requesting, that these camps be taken away
from its control. I did not want to have anything more to do
with those prisoner-of-war camps if such things were to come
up again. This letter is closely connected with those
events, a few weeks after those events. That is what I know
about this matter.


Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.