The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Dr. Goebbels, one of the oldest
and closest of Hitler's collaborators, and Dr. Dietrich,
Hitler's permanent escort - during the war he was present
almost uninterruptedly in his headquarters - never allowed
the leadership of the Press and radio to be taken out of
their hands, especially by a man who, like Fritzsche, had no
connections of any kind with Hitler, and had not even had a
single conference with him. Ultimately, Hitler's will was
decisive here, too.

We have furthermore heard what influence - it is of no
importance here whether it was due to Hitler, Goebbels or
Dietrich - other governmental agencies too successfully
exercised on the Press and radio. Here I will mention the
Foreign Office, the High Command of the Wehrmacht and other
ministries, the heads of which were much more closely
connected with the three aforementioned personages than, for
instance, Fritzsche.

In order to avoid a misunderstanding, I would like to point
out that the assertion of the Indictment that Fritzsche was
in some way closely connected with the Party propaganda
apparatus, e.g., with the so-called Reich Press Agency of
the NSDAP or the radio department of the Party, has been
positively withdrawn by the prosecution in the course of the

With this, I think that I have sufficiently established the
limits of the defendant's responsibility. This limitation
shows the inaccuracy of the widely spread opinion that
Fritzsche occupied a very important and influential position
in the "gigantic propaganda apparatus" of the Third Reich.
This limitation not only takes into account the legal but
also the moral facts, which have been clearly exposed by the
hearing of evidence.

Thus to a certain extent I have already taken a stand
against the charge that Fritzsche was a member of the
alleged conspiracy. The prosecution has repeatedly tried to
incorporate Fritzsche's work, at its different stages, in
the alleged group of conspirators and has drawn from it
conclusions which go so far as to say that Fritzsche was
therefore also responsible for war crimes, for crimes
against humanity and even for crimes against peace.

                                                  [Page 330]

Already in the arguments of the Indictment, these attempts
seemed to have little relevant justification. It is hardly
any improper criticism if I declare here that it caused the
prosecution a certain embarrassment to display Fritzsche's
subordinate position as an official as so important and full
of meaning. Today, now that the hearing of evidence is
complete, it seems to me that the attempt to include
Fritzsche in the circle of conspirators has miscarried.

Fritzsche cannot be found, at any of the sessions at which
Hitler discussed any plans or actions with the closer or
wider circle of his collaborators. And apart from this, he
never actually took part either in any discussions which
might have been capable of plunging the world into the blood
bath of wars of aggression. He was neither an "old Party
fighter" nor was he decorated later on with the golden Party
badge. He did not belong, as I had to emphasize especially,
to any of the organizations which are to be declared here as
criminal. Up to the end he fulfilled the functions of an
official in a ministry and received directives like any
other official. He could never be a political adviser.

In view of the circumstances, the bridge between himself and
the alleged conspiracy could have been spanned only by the
person of Dr. Goebbels. The witness von Schirrmeister has
repudiated such an assumption. According to his testimony,
Fritzsche did not even belong to the closer circle around
Dr. Goebbels. Indeed, von Schirrmeister could even state
that Fritzsche often had to apply to him because he could
not get Dr. Goebbels's opinion on any question other than
through him, as he was Dr. Goebbels's personal Press
assistant. Communicating through the State secretaries -
e.g., Dr. Dietrich, Dr. Naumann, to mention only a few -
also involved certain difficulties. That is not the manner
in which conspirators usually communicate.

Moreover, the witness von Schirrmeister has said that it was
out of the question that Fritzsche could even have embarked
on an exchange of ideas with Dr. Goebbels with a view to
forming plans. Now, it would have been the task of the
prosecution to prove to the defendant Fritzsche where his
participation in the conspiracy can be seen. I say that one
cannot consider any count of the Indictment as proved.

I think that it was not Fritzsche's official position at all
which led to the bringing of an Indictment against him. I
rather assume that the latter is solely to be traced back to
his broadcast speeches which made him and his name known -
but only during the war - both in Germany and perhaps also
in a part of the rest of the world.

All the serious charges levelled against him can be traced
back, therefore, only to these radio addresses. The other
assertions concerning his position within the State or Party
apparatus are based only on assumptions or combinations
without any factual basis, which is especially evident, for
example, from the purely personal and refuted statements of
Schorner, Foss and Stahel. But his name became so well known
only because of the technical means he utilised. Only the
great significance of the radio for the modern transmission
of news made him appear in a special light. It cannot be
denied that in this way he had a great influence on the
German people, but from our own experiences of Nazi-ruled
Germany, I can well say that every Gau speaker (Gauredner)
and many a district leader (Kreisleiter) used much stronger
language. But, as a rule, their speeches were published only
by the local Press.

With respect to these radio addresses, the defence was
handicapped in so far as not all of them; and not the
complete text of all of them, could be made available.
Unfortunately, the excerpts quoted during cross-examination
by the Russian prosecution could not be supplemented either
by the entire text of the respective speech. Thus there was
no possibility of reproducing the sense which the respective
address had at the time of delivery. I shall come back to
this and give an example later. To submit only single
passages or quotations to the Tribunal is especially
inadequate because such excerpts do not show that in his
speeches so Fritzsche always put the events of the day in
the foreground. It was only rarely

                                                  [Page 331]

and incidentally that he drew any general ideological
conclusions. But even what Fritzsche has said here about
those of his addresses which the prosecution was able to
produce in their entirety shows a completely different
picture of the cause and motives of his broadcast speeches.
From 1932 - that is, already before the seizure of power by
National Socialism - up to 1939, these speeches were nothing
but a political Press review. And that is what they were
called! They were therefore a collection of quotations from
domestic and foreign newspapers.

Fritzsche does not dispute the fact that these collections
were made on the basis of the interests of the National
Socialist State. Only during the war - but right up to the
end they were still based on quotations also from the
foreign Press - did these speeches become the platform for
the polemical controversy which in time of war is naturally
carried on from both sides. Without any doubt, they greatly
contributed toward the formation of political opinion in
Germany, but there is also no doubt that many people in
Germany listened to Fritzsche's speeches not for their
polemics but in order to learn from his quotations at least
something about the opinions expressed abroad. For years
these speeches constituted private work carried out
alongside his official position. Only during the war did
they come to be considered as semi-official because of their
increasing political news value. Thus - to make it clearer -
they assumed approximately the character of editorials in a
newspaper, which - as one says - is closely connected with
the Government. It would have been easy for the defence to
submit to the Tribunal tomes of newspapers dating from the
same time, the editorials of which showed the same trend,
and even - this can be said quite definitely - used
considerably stronger language.

Fritzsche has been able to repudiate most decidedly - and in
my opinion quite rightfully - that these addresses
constituted an incitement to race hatred, to murder or
violence, to hatred among nations or to wars of aggression.
If such an effect could really have been produced by these
speeches, absolutely the same reproach should fall upon any
editor of the Third Reich who received the "Daily
Directives" from the Reich Press Chief. Fritzsche seems to
be accused before this Tribunal only because through
technical means he could be heard over a wide range. But it
is, especially in war time - and only since 1939 did his
speeches have a political news value at all - in the nature
of things that the controversialist becomes himself the
subject of controversy, especially the one whose influence,
considered from the standpoint of political news value,
extended farther technically than the influence of an
article in a local paper. Only in this manner did his name
become better known to outsiders than names of people who
were much more powerful than the publicist.

How far the prosecution went in its accusations against
Fritzsche in his capacity as a publicist is shown by the
fact that not only is he supposed to have belonged to the
plotting group of conspirators, but that he is also accused
of crimes against peace. If a propagandist is subjected to
such an accusation, there immediately arises the question
whether public radio speeches would not be the least proper
means for carrying through criminal aims of a secret
conspiracy. Speeches which can be heard all over the world
could at best be suitable for camouflaging such aims and for
misleading the world. But actually, just the opposite
reproach is levelled against Fritzsche: he is supposed to
have incited other people. I think I have now dealt at
sufficient length with the nature and the character of these
speeches. Their importance had to be adjusted to the proper
scale in view of the far-reaching conclusions of the

Before going into the details of the charge that by radio
speeches or by other means Fritzsche contributed towards the
various wars of aggression, it is necessary, in a case in
which accusations to that effect, pertaining to criminal or
International Law, are raised against a publicist, to deal
with a legal problem. At no point - as far as I can see -
did the prosecution consider the question of whether and to
what extent propaganda, i.e., the attempt to influence
minds, especially during

                                                  [Page 332]

war, was or still is subject to the rules of International
Law. Perhaps the problem did not come up only because this
question, once it was asked, would have had to be definitely
denied. While it is true that the Indictment speaks of the
"gigantic propaganda apparatus" during Hitler's
dictatorship, which was created as a consequence of the
supervision and control of all cultural activity, it does
not draw any conclusions for a judgement according to
International Law. For, as a matter of fact, no generally or
specially valid rules concerning this field have ever been
established; no sort of common law either developed in this

In this connection, it is interesting that in the text-books
of International Law no attention at all - as far as I could
find out - is paid to this problem. A certain number of text-
books, however, especially those with a hint of natural law,
regularly contain in their catalogues of fundamental
International Law a section on national honour or national
dignity. These chapters deduce from the equality of nations
and their living together in a community governed by
International Law the demand that the nations treat each
other with respect. And they furthermore demand that insults
directed against other countries by private persons from
their own sphere of influence be prevented, and that if
committed such excesses be punished. But this idea found its
positive legal expression only in a number of national
criminal codes in which - naturally in peace time only - the
insulting of foreign chiefs of State, for instance, is made
a punishable offence. Another doctrine, which is based less
upon natural law, holds that this is not a question of legal
obligation but one of international courtesy only. Be that
as it may, an International Law precisely defined in some
way does not exist, not even for times of peace, especially
not as far as private propaganda through Press and writings
is concerned. And as to war, any directive in this respect
is lacking altogether as I have already pointed out.
According to existing rules of International Law there are
no limits to propaganda against foreign countries in time of
war. Consequently, there is only one barrier to this
propaganda, namely, the great barrier which governs all the
rules of warfare that everything and only that is permitted
"quod ad finem belli necessarium est".

In view of the tremendous importance of moral influence upon
the will of individuals and nations, it is beyond doubt that
propaganda can be an important and in certain cases even
decisive means of war, not less important than, for
instance, economic warfare or even warfare with weapons.
Propaganda in this sense has a double task: Firstly, to
serve as a means for increasing the power of resistance of
one's own nation, and secondly, to undermine the fighting
powers of the opponent. This influence - rosy-colouring on
one side, slandering on the other, concealment of facts,
etc. - is essentially nothing else but a stratagem which,
within the framework of the rules of land warfare, has been
expressly declared as a permissible instrument of warfare,
according to Article 24 of the Hague Rules of Land Warfare.
In this connection, it may be pointed out that spying - also
a form of war stratagem - had likewise been declared as a
permissible instrument of warfare by the Hague Rules of Land

What has been said here is in complete accord with what is
practised by all countries; defamation of the opponent and
his statesmen, making the opponent contemptible, falsifying
the motives and intentions of the enemy, slanderous
assumptions, assertion of unproved statements, all this
belongs unfortunately to the means of propaganda which
during a war are used on all sides and at an increasing

Small attacks, but only for the purpose of preventing war,
are known from the time before the First World War. At that
time they had an even further aim, namely, to contribute in
general to an understanding among nations by means of a
general moral and spiritual disarmament ("Desarmament
moral"). However, this goal was not reached before the first
world conflagration of this century. After 1918, it though,
as a reaction after the great armed conflicts, this aim
received a stronger uplift and became known to the world
through the tasks imposed upon the League

                                                  [Page 333]

of Nations in this respect.  This was indeed the first real
attempt to start an intellectual disarmament. At the 5th
session of the League of Nations in 1925 in Paris it was
decided to found an institute for intellectual co-operation
(co-operation intellectuelle).

Further investigations which lasted for years resulted in
numerous proposals, in the establishment of general
committees and sub-committees, of sections and committees of
experts, with an incalculable wealth of documents. But
nevertheless none of these great efforts converted the
idealistic impulse and the longing of the nations for a
"moral disarmament" and for intellectual co-operation into
sober and concrete legislation which would have imposed
legal obligations on the individual States as well as on
their nationals. No results were achieved in pointing a way
which in time of war would prevent hatred, incitement,
distortion of facts, and provocation of other nations or of
the nationals of other countries in all the possible modern
forms of expression.

Even such well-defined and comprehensive propositions for a
moral-intellectual disarmament as those presented by the
Polish Government to the League of Nations in two memoranda
of 17th September, 1931, and 13th February, 1932, had the
same fate. These propositions aimed at using national
legislation to prohibit any propaganda which might become
dangerous for peace, and even any propaganda which aimed at
a mere disturbance of the good relations between nations.
Influence was to be exerted not only upon the big public
news media but also upon the vast ramifications in the
administration of every modern State, including even the
revision of school-books. These propositions which advised
member States not to recoil even from censorship and
measures of prohibition finally came to nothing because they
stood in direct contradiction to the deeply rooted
conception that freedom of expression of opinion in
intellectual matters could not be undermined by such
exceptionally far-reaching police measures; this freedom of
expression had to be preserved as an "inalienable right"
granted by the Creator.

And this opposition on fundamental principles ended matters;
we have in the course of the trial seen ample evidence of
the effect which censorship and control of the Press, radio
and films may have.

The few bilateral agreements which were concluded after the
failure of the Polish propositions of 1931 and 1932 are not
worth mentioning here. They concern themselves solely with
periods of good international relations. We can only express
the hope therefore that on the basis of international
solidarity it will in the future be possible to reconcile
these two opposing theses on a higher level.

In the course of this trial a secret order was produced
which had been issued by the High Command of the Wehrmacht
on 1st October, 1938. This document showed that the division
for International Law in the OKW had drawn up a chart for
the event of an armed conflict, and this chart listed the
principles for dealing with any possible violation of the
rules of warfare by friend and foe. With the knowledge of
the legal vacuum existing in the field of propaganda in its
broadest sense, it is stated there that from the point of
view of International Law it is absolutely permissible to
render the opponent contemptible and to try to undermine his
strength "regardless of how many lies and falsehoods are
used for this purpose", and that from the legal standpoint a
rule for the future could even be established to the effect
that if the enemy employed such propaganda, defence by means
of "counter-attacks" would be legally possible, and
"naturally the propagation of atrocity lies" must be used.
This may sound cynical and brutal. But unfortunately it
fitted in with the customs of war, or rather, this
undisguised statement originated in the legal lacuna which
could actually be found in international agreements and in
common law. Dr. Kranzbuehler rightly stated here: In war the
duty to tell the truth does not exist.

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