The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 1999/12/11

Q. So you were within easy reach of the telephone from the
Air Ministry or, indeed, from Breslau, if you were wanted?

A. I would have been easily accessible by phone if someone
wanted to communicate with me.

Q. I want you to help me with regard to one or two other
dates of which you have spoken. You say: "I heard one or two
days later about this escape." Do you understand, witness,
that it is about the escape I am asking you, not about the
shooting, for the moment; I want to make it quite clear.

A. It is clear to me.

Q. Did you mean, by that, that you heard about the actual
escape one or two days after it happened?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you hear about it from the office of your adjutant or
from your director of operations?

A. I always heard these things through my adjutant. Several
other escapes had preceded this one.

Q. Yes, that is right. There had been a number of escapes
from this camp.

A. I cannot tell you exactly whether they were from this
camp. Several big escapes had taken place shortly before,
which I always heard of through the office of my adjutant.

Q. I want you to tell the Tribunal another date: You say
that on your return from leave your Chief of Staff made a
communication to you. Who was your Chief of Staff?

A. General Korten was Chief of Staff at that time.

Q. Can you tell us the date at which he made this
communication to you?

A. No, I cannot tell you that exactly. I believe I discussed
this incident with him later, telling him what I had already
heard about it from other sources.

Q. Who was the first to tell you about it? Was it your Chief
of Staff who told you about the shootings or do you mean
that someone else had told you about them?

A. I cannot say exactly whether I heard about them from the
Chief of Staff or from other sources. But in any event I
discussed this with him.

Q. What was the date that you talked about it with him?

A. I cannot tell you exactly from memory the day and the
date, but it must have been around Easter.

Q. That would be just about the end of March, would it not?

A. No. It might have been at the beginning of April, the
first half of April.

Q. And then you had an interview with Himmler, you have told
us?

A. Yes, I talked with Himmler about this.

Q. Can you tell us the exact date?

A. Of course I cannot establish this date with certainty. I
saw Himmler, and at the first opportunity after I had heard
about this incident spoke to him about it.

Q. So that you cannot fix the date in relation to your
coming back from leave, or the interview with your Chief of
Staff, or any other date, or Easter?

A. Without any documents it is, as I said, impossible for me
to-day to fix the date. I can only mention the approximate
period of time; and that I have done.

                                                  [Page 285]

Q. You said the other day that you could prove when you were
on leave. Am I to take it that you have not taken the
trouble to look up what your leave dates were?

A. I have already said that I was on leave during March.
Whether I returned on 26th or 28th or 29th March I cannot
tell you. For proof of that you would have to ask the people
who accompanied me, who perhaps can fix this date more
definitely. I only know that I was there in March.

Q. Witness, will it be perfectly fair to you if I take the
latest of your dates, 29th March, to work on?

A. It would be more expedient if you would tell me when
Easter was that year, because I do not recall it. Then it
will be easier for me to specify the dates, because I know
that a few days before Easter I returned to Berchtesgaden in
order to pass these holidays with my family.

Q. A few days before Easter you went back to Berchtesgaden?

A. Yes.

Q. So you had comeback on leave someday before that. Before
you went to Berchtesgaden you had come back from your March
leave?

A. Berchtesgaden was then at the same time the headquarters
of the Fuehrer. I returned from my leave to Berchtesgaden,
and with my return my leave ended, because I returned to
duty. The return to Berchtesgaden was identical with the
termination of my leave.

Q. Well, I cannot give you the date of Easter offhand, but I
happen to remember Whitsuntide was 28th May, so that Easter
would be early, somewhere about 5th of April. Your leave
therefore would finish somewhere about the end of March,
maybe the 26th or 29th; that is right, is it not?

Now, the shooting of these officers went on from 25th March
to 13th April; do you know that?

A. I do not know that exactly.

Q. You may take that from me, because there is an official
report of the shooting, and I want to be quite fair with
you. Only forty-nine of these officers were shot, as far as
we can be sure, on 6th April, and one was shot either on
13th April or later. But the critical period is the end of
March, and we may take it that you were back from leave by
about 29th March.

I just want you to tell the Tribunal this was a matter of
great importance, was it not? It was considered a matter of
great importance?

A. It was a very important matter.

Q. General Milch - I beg pardon - Field-Marshal Milch has
said that it was a matter which would require the highest
authority, and I think you have said that you know it was
Hitler's decision that these officers should be shot; is
that so?

A. The question did not come through clearly.

Q. It was Hitler's decision that these officers should be
shot?

A. That is correct; and I was later notified that it was
Hitler's decree.

Q. I want you just to remember one other thing, that
immediately it was published, the British Foreign Secretary,
Mr. Eden, at once said that Great Britain would demand
justice of the perpetrators of these murders; do you
remember that?

A. I cannot remember the speech to the Lower House given by
Mr. Eden. I myself do not know the substance of this speech
even to-day. I just heard that he spoke in Parliament about
this incident.

Q. I want you to tell the Tribunal just who were the persons
in your Ministry involved. No: I will tell you; I think it
would be shorter in the end. If you disagree you can correct
me.

The commandant of Stalag Luft III was Oberst von Lindeiner
of your Service, was he not?

                                                  [Page 286]

A. That is quite possible. I did not know the names of all
these commandants. There was a court martial against him
because of the escape. He was not connected with the
shootings.

Q. No, but he was commandant of the camp, and I suppose you
had to review and confirm the proceedings of the Zentral
Luftwaffen Gericht which convicted him and sentenced him to
a year's imprisonment for neglect of duty. That would come
to you, would it not? Would not that come to you for review?

A. No, only if larger penalties were involved. One year's
imprisonment would not come to my attention. But I know, and
I would like to certify, that the court proceedings were
taken against him because of neglect of duty at the time of
the escape.

Q. In May, 1943, Inspectorate No. 17 had been interposed
between the Luftwaffe and the Prisoners of War Department of
the O.K.W., the Kriegsgefangenenwesen; do you remember that?

A. I do not know the details about inspection nor how
closely it concerned the Prisoners of War Department of the
O.K.W.

Q. I want to remind you who your own officers were. You
understand, witness, that your own officers are involved in
this matter. I want to remind you who they were. Was the
head of Inspectorate 17, Major-General Grosch of the
Luftwaffe?

A. Major-General Grosch does belong to the Luftwaffe.

Q. You told the Tribunal the other day - I am quoting your
own words - that you knew from information, you knew this
incident very completely and very minutely. You are now
telling the Tribunal you do not know whether Major-General
Grosch was head of Inspectorate No. 17 of the Luftwaffe.

A. That is irrelevant. I told the High Tribunal that I heard
an accurate account of the incident of the shooting of these
airmen, but that has no connection with General Grosch and
his Inspectorate, for he did not participate in the
shooting.

Q. I will show you that connection in one minute if you will
just answer my questions. Was Grosch's second-in-command
Oberst Welder; do you remember that?

A. I do not know the particulars of the organisation for
inspection of prisoner-of-war camps, nor the leaders, nor
what positions they held. At least not by heart. I would
like to emphasise again, so that there will be no confusion,
that when I said I knew about this matter I meant that I
knew how the order was issued, and that the people were
shot: that I came to know all about this; but not as far as
this was related to inspections, possibilities of flight,
etc.

Q. Did General Grosch, as head of Inspectorate 17, have to
report to General Forster, your director of operations at
the Luftwaffe Ministerium?

A. That I cannot tell you without having the diagram of the
subordinate posts before me. General Forster was, I believe,
at that time head of the Luftwehr (Air Defence), or held a
similar post in the Ministry. I concerned myself less with
these matters because they were not directly of a tactical,
strategic, or of an armament nature. But it is quite
possible, indeed certain, that he belonged to this
department.

Q. I put it to you quite shortly, and if you do not know I
will leave it for the moment. Did you know that Major-
General von Gravenitz was head of the defendant Keitel's
department, the Kriegsgefangenenwesen, that dealt with
prisoners of war?

A. I first heard about General Gravenitz here, for this
department did not directly concern me. I could not know all
these military subleaders in their hundreds and thousands of
departments.

Q. So I take it that you did not know Colonel, now General,
Westhoff, of the department under von Gravenitz?

                                                  [Page 287]

A. Westhoff I never saw at all, and he did not belong to the
Luftwaffe.

Q. I am not suggesting that von Gravenitz and Westhoff
belonged to the
Luftwaffe. I
wanted to make it clear that I was suggesting they belonged
to General
Keitel's
organisation.

A. I did not know that either; and I did not know what posts
they occupied.

Q. Up to that time you still had a considerable influence in
the Reich, had
you not?

A. Not at this time-1944.

Q. But you were still head of the Luftwaffe and head of the
Air Ministry, were you not?

A. Yes, I was.

Q. And you had, as head of the Luftwaffe and head of the Air
Ministry, been responsible for six prisoner-of-war camps for
the whole of the war up to that time, had you not?

A. How many prisoner-of-war camps I do not know. But of
course I bear the responsibility for those which belonged to
my Ministry.

Q. To the Air Force?

A. Yes, those which were subordinate to the Luftwaffe.

Q. You knew about the general plan for treatment of
prisoners of war, which we have had in evidence as the
"Aktionkugel" plan, did you not?

A. No. I knew nothing of this action. I was not advised of
it.

Q. You were never advised of "Aktionkugel"?

A. It was here that I first heard of "Aktionkugel," saw the
document and heard the expression. Also no officer of the
Luftwaffe ever advised me of such, and I do not believe that
a single officer was ever taken away from the Luftwaffe
camps. In any case, a report to this effect was never
presented to me.

Q. You know what "Aktionkugel" was: That escaped officers
and non-commissioned officers, other than British and
American, were to be handed over to the police and taken to
Mauthausen, where they were shot by the device of having a
gun concealed in the measuring equipment when they thought
they were getting their prison clothes. You know what
"Aktionkugel" was, do you not?

A. I heard of it here.

Q. Are you telling the Tribunal that you did not know that
escaped prisoners of war who were picked up by the police
were retained by the police and taken to Mauthausen?

4. No, I did not know that. On the contrary, different
prisoners who escaped from my camps were caught again by the
police; they were all brought back to the camps and this was
the first case where this did not happen.

Q. But did you not know that Colonel Welder, as second-in-
command of your Ministry's inspectorate, issued a written
order a month before this, in February, 1944, that prisoners
of war picked up by the Luftwaffe should be delivered back
to their camp, and prisoners of war picked up by the police
should be held by them and no longer counted as being under
the protection of the Luftwaffe; did you not know that?

A. No. Please summon this Colonel to testify if he ever made
a report of that nature to me or addressed such a letter to
me.

Q. Well, of course I cannot tell whether your Ministry was
well run or not. But he certainly issued the order, because
he says so himself.

A. Then he must say from whom he received this order.

Q. I see. Well, he says that he issued this order, and you
know as well as I do that the treatment of prisoners of war
is a thing that you have got to be careful about, because
you have got a Protecting Power that investigates any
complaint; and you never denounced the Convention, and you
had the Protecting Power in these matters all through the
war, had you not. That is right, is it not?

                                                  [Page 288]

A. That is correct, but I take the liberty to ask who gave
him this order, whether he received this order from me.

Q. Well, he would not get it direct from you. I do not think
you had ever met him, had you? He would get it from
Lieutenant-General Grosch, would he not?

A. Then Grosch should say whether he received such an order
from me. I never gave such an order.

Q. I see. So you say that you had never heard - this was
three and a half years after the beginning of the war - that
you had never heard that any escaped prisoners of war were
to be handed over to the police. Is that what you ask the
Tribunal to believe?

A. In so far as escaped prisoners of war committed any
offences or crimes, they were of course turned over to the
police, I believe. But I wish to testify before the Tribunal
that I never gave any order that they should be handed over
to the police or sent to concentration camps merely because
they had attempted to break out or to escape, nor did I ever
know that such measures were taken.

Q. This is my last question: I want to make it quite clear,
witness, that I am referring to those who had escaped, who
had got away from the confines of the camp and were
recaptured by the police. Did you not know that they were
handed over to the police?

A. No. Only if they had committed crimes while fleeing,
murder or such. Such things occurred.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 21st March, 1946, at 10.00
hours.)


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