The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 2000/10/18

THE MARSHAL: May it please the Tribunal, the defendants
Streicher and Raeder are absent.

THE PRESIDENT: The following is the order on the procedure
to be followed in the cases against the organization:

First: The Tribunal draws the attention of counsel for the
organizations to the Order of 1st July, which directed that
any of the evidence taken on commission, which counsel for
the defence or the prosecution wish to use, should be
offered in evidence and thus become part of the record,
subject to any objections. It will be convenient to the
Tribunal, if it is desired, to offer the whole of the
evidence at the outset of the proceedings.
Paragraph 2: The counsel for the defence will then put in
their document books, subject to any objections.

Paragraph 3: The witnesses for the defence will then be
called and examined by defence counsel, who will bring out
the matters they regard as important, given in evidence
before the Commission, and any new relevant matters. Each
organization will be dealt with in turn, and the whole of
the evidence for that organization, both examination and
cross-examination, heard before dealing with the next

Paragraph 4: Counsel for each organization will then make
his closing speech, dealing with the evidence given before
the Tribunal, and making the necessary references to the
documents introduced in evidence. He will also draw the
attention of the Tribunal to the matters contained in the
evidence given before the Commissioners and in the summaries
of the affidavits which he deems important and which he
wishes the Tribunal specially to consider.

Paragraph 5. The counsel for the prosecution will reply when
all the speeches of the defence counsels have been made.

Paragraph 6. The Tribunal is of the opinion that the closing
speeches of counsel for the prosecution and the defence
ought to be short, not exceeding one half-day in each case.
If this time is thought likely to be exceeded, a special
application must be made to the Tribunal, stating the
grounds for such extension of time, not later than Monday
next, July 29th. That is all.

THE PRESIDENT: I call on Doctor Seidl for the defendant

DR. SEIDL: Mr. President, before beginning with the final
plea for the defendant Hess, I beg the permission of the
Tribunal to represent the defence counsel for defendant
Goering, and submit on his behalf two exhibits. Both have
been allowed by the Tribunal, and they refer to the Katyn
case, that is to say, the question of the murder of 11,000
Polish officers in the neighbourhood of Smolensk. The first
is Exhibit Goering 60, an extract from the German White
Book, referring to the post-mortem examination conducted by
the Italian Professor Palmieri and the post-mortem
examination conducted by the Bulgarian Professor Borotin.
The second is Exhibit Goering 61, which is also an extract
from the German White Book, and refers to the Katyn case. It
is the report of the International Medical Commission of
30th April, 1943.

Mr. President, when the German people, having lost the First
World War, set out in 1919 to rebuild their public life
according to democratic principles, they

                                                  [Page 354]

found themselves facing difficulties which were caused not
merely by the war itself and the material loss resulting
therefrom. The defendant Rudolf Hess, being among the first
comrades-in-arms of Adolf Hitler, belonged to those who time
and again reminded the German people of the great dangers
which would of necessity arise for Germany's domestic
economy and for world economy as the result of the
reparations policy of the victorious States of 1919. The
consequences of that policy were bound to be all the more
devastating for Germany when in 1923 France proceeded to
effect the military occupation of the Ruhr territory, the
centre of Germany's economic power. At that time of economic
collapse and complete disarmament of Germany, Adolf Hitler
made the first attempt through the revolution of 9th
November, 1923, to seize the power of the State. The
defendant Rudolf Hess also took part in the march to the
Feldherrn Hall in Munich. Together with Adolf Hitler, after
conviction by the People's Court, he underwent imprisonment
at Landsberg Fortress where Hitler wrote his book Mein

When in 1925 the Party was established again, Rudolf Hess
was one of the first to resume with Adolf Hitler the
struggle for a national rebirth of the German people. During
the first years after its re-establishment, the Party at
first only began to develop slowly. Germany's domestic
economy had recovered from the worst effects of the Ruhr
invasion. The currency had been stabilised and owing to very
extensive foreign credits it had even been possible to bring
about an economic boom.

Very soon, however, it was revealed that the economic
progress of the years 1927-1928-1929 in reality was but
illusory prosperity for which in Germany, at any rate, there
was no foundation of a sound and well-balanced national
economy. It is true that the economic crisis which began in
1930 was a general crisis in world economy and that the
decline which Germany experienced at that time was but a
part of the general disintegration in the world economy. It
is just as certain, however, that it was not a question here
simply of a seasonal decline within the capitalist economy -
such as had been experienced repeatedly before by individual
commercial economies of States and by world economy - but a
case, in this instance, of structural changes arising from
various causes, one of the most important of which, however,
undoubtedly was the disturbance in the exchange of products
and legal tender caused by the unreasonable reparations

It is certain that the reason the consequences of the crisis
of the world economy were so devastating in Germany, finally
finding expression in an unemployment figure of almost seven
millions, was because the changes brought about in the
national economy as a result of reparations payments were
particularly far-reaching. The fact that the National
Socialist Party won a major electoral victory in the
Reichstag elections of 14th September, 1930, and entered the
new Reichstag with no less than 107 delegates, is not to be
principally attributed to the economic crisis then
prevailing, to the great unemployment and, indirectly, to
the economic absurdity of the reparations payments and the
refusal of the victorious States to consent to a new
arrangement despite the most urgent warnings. True, the
reparations payments stipulated in the Treaty of Versailles
and the mode of settlement were amended by the Dawes and
Young plans. It is, however, just as trite that these
amendments came too late and demands were continued for
payments from Germany to an extent and under conditions
which were bound to, and did in fact, lead to an economic
catastrophe. In this connection, I must point to the
following fact: The prosecution has produced an extensive
amount of documentary evidence in reference to the rise of
the NSDAP until its seizure of power. A comparison of the
Reichstag mandates in the years ranging from 1930 to 1932
with the unemployment figures for the same period would
disclose that the progression of these figures was
approximately parallel. The more hopeless the social
consequences of unemployment became - and in 1932, no less
than 25 million people may be estimated to have been
affected by the consequences of unemployment - the more
impressive became the electoral successes of the National

                                                  [Page 355]

Socialists. I hardly think there could be a more convincing
proof of the existence of a causal relation between the
consequences of the reparations policy of the victorious
Powers of 1919 and the rise of National Socialism. The
causal relation may be summed up in a short formula: No
Versailles Treaty, no reparations - no reparations, no
economic collapse with its particularly catastrophic effects
upon Germany, which found expression in an unemployment
figure of nearly seven millions - and without this collapse,
no seizure of power by the National Socialists. The
political and historical responsibility of the authoritative
statesmen of the opposite side resulting from this causal
connection is so crystal-clear that further demonstrations
of it are superfluous in the framework of this trial.

This formula may appear too pointed, and it may furthermore
be true that it was not the economic emergency and the high
unemployment figure alone which induced millions of Germans
to vote National Socialist on the 14th September for the
first time, and which led to the subsequent progress of the
Party's rise to power. Nevertheless, these causes were
assuredly among the foremost, and even the other causes
which played a part in the decision of many voters can
finally be traced back to the fatal effects of the Treaty of
Versailles and refusal of the victorious powers - especially
France - to consent to a revision of the treaty. This
applies in the first place to the claim for equality of
rights raised by all subsequent democratic governments.

When the German nation had disarmed in fulfilment of the
Versailles Treaty, it was entitled to expect the victorious
Powers to disarm also, in accordance with the obligation
assumed by them in the Treaty. This was not carried out, and
there can be no doubt that their denial of the equality of
rights, as evidenced by their refusal to disarm themselves,
figures amongst the most decisive causes of the rise of
National Socialism in the years 1931 and 1932. And if any of
Hitler's arguments ever found a response in the German
nation, it was that equality of rights could not be denied
in the course of time, even after a lost war, to a nation
like the German nation with a population of over 75
millions, situated in the heart of Europe and with a
cultural past of which few other nations can boast. It has
already been remarked in this courtroom that a nation which
has produced a Luther, a Goethe and a Beethoven cannot be
indefinitely treated as a minor nation.

Again and again Hitler had occasion to remark upon the fact
that the statesmen of the Weimar Republic left no method
untried to arrive at a peaceful revision of the more
unbearable clauses of the Treaty of Versailles. For eight
years the statesmen of democratic Germany, a Stresemann, and
a Bruning, went to Geneva to obtain the repeatedly promised
equality of rights for Germany and they were repeatedly sent
home with empty hands. The dangers produced by this
situation could not remain concealed from anyone. In fact,
the world was warned by German statesmen, as well as by
shrewd politicians of Germany's former enemies. All these
warnings were ignored.

When finally in 1932 the National Socialist Party with 250
seats in the Reichstag had become by far the strongest party
in Germany, it could only be a question of time until Hitler
and his party would be entrusted with the taking over of
government leadership. This was all the more inevitable
since the heads of the previous governments, Herr von Papen
and General Schleicher, had no effective following in the
Reichstag at their disposal and exercised their governmental
authority exclusively by means of emergency decrees in
accordance with Article 48 of the Weimar Reich Constitution.
When on 30th January, 1933, Adolf Hitler was actually
appointed Reich Chancellor by Reich President von Hindenburg
and was entrusted with the formation of a new cabinet, this
was done legitimately according to the clauses of the Reich

At the Reichstag election in 1932 the National Socialist
Party obtained in its favour more votes than had been
received by any party since the existence of the German
Reich. If the leader of this strongest party was entrusted
with the formation of the Cabinet, then this was by no means
extraordinary, particularly

                                                  [Page 356]

in view of the parliamentary conditions prevailing in
Germany at that time, and there cannot be the slightest
doubt that Hitler and his Party came to power legally, that
is according to the Constitution. However, it is correct
that in the course of the following years the constitutional
structure of the German Reich, and particularly Hitler's
position, underwent a change. There is, however, no evidence
on hand that this development as well was not legal. In this
respect, in order to avoid repetition, I am referring to the
statements of the witness Dr. Lammers.

In this case it may be left completely undecided whether one
wants to attribute this development to Hitler's absolutely
autocratic rule by the creation of a so-called common law or
whether one avails oneself of another theory. For the scope
of this trial it seems to me much more decisive that not a
single nation with which Germany maintained diplomatic
relations raised any objections whatsoever, or even drew
diplomatic or international legal conclusions either at the
seizure of power or on the occasion of the transformation of
the constitutional structure carried on openly before the
entire world. Neither at the seizure of power nor at any
later period was the question of diplomatic and
international legal recognition of the National Socialist
State in doubt.

In addition, may it merely be pointed out that the law,
which in the following period was to be of the greatest
importance for the relationship between citizen and State,
was still issued by Reich President von Hindenburg pursuant
to Article 48 of the Reich Constitution. I have in mind the
decrees of the Reich President for the protection of the
people and the State, dated 28th February, 1933
(Reichsgesetzblatt, Part 1, Page 83). In Article 1 of this
decree, the pertinent basic laws of the Weimar Constitution
were voided and curtailments of personal liberty, the rights
of free speech, including freedom of the Press, the right to
organize and assemble, interference in the privacy of the
letters and mails, telegraph and telephone, orders for
searching of homes and confiscations, as well as limiting
property, were declared valid.

From a formal viewpoint there can be just as little doubt
about the validity of this decree as there can be about any
other so-called constitutional or basic State law issued by
the Reichstag, the Reich Cabinet, the Ministerial Council
for Reich Defence, or by Hitler himself.

On behalf of the defendant Rudolf Hess, I have already
stated that he assumes the full responsibility for all laws
and decrees which he has signed in his capacity as the
deputy of the Fuehrer, as Reichsminister and member of the
Ministerial Council for Reich Defence.

I have refrained from presenting documentary evidence in
reference to accusations which, as a sovereign State, merely
concern the domestic affairs of the German Reich and have no
bearing on the crimes against peace and crimes against the
laws of war specified by the prosecution. I shall,
therefore, now also only touch on such laws and
constitutional and political measures which have some
recognizable connection with the actual Counts of the
Indictment and the common plan or conspiracy asserted by the

The Indictment accuses the defendant Rudolf Hess of having
sponsored the military, economic and psychological
preparations for war and of having participated in the
political planning and preparation of wars of aggression. As
evidence for this assertion, the prosecution pointed to the
fact that the defendant Rudolf Hess, in his capacity as
Reich Minister without portfolio, co-signed the law of 16th
March, 1935, for the reconstruction of the armed forces.
This law reintroduced general conscription in Germany and
stipulated that the German peace-time army was to be divided
into 12 corps commands and 36 divisions. For this trial the
proclamation which the Reich Cabinet directed to the German
people in connection with the publication of this law, and
which was placed ahead of the law in the Reichsgesetzblatt,
appears to me no less important than the contents of this
law. I refer to the contents of this proclamation which has
been presented as an exhibit. This proclamation of 16th
March, 1935, contains no essential

                                                  [Page 357]

arguments on this question which had not already previously
been brought out by the democratic German Government at the
time of the Weimar Republic.

Your Honours, the Tribunal has permitted me at least to read
some of my brief in connection with this question. However,
in view of the fact that defence counsel for the defendant
von Neurath has already referred to this question in detail,
I shall merely refer to his argument in this connection, and
I shall therefore, on my part, forgo detailed comment on
that question. Rather, I shall continue on Page 119 of my
script and begin with the fourth line from the bottom of the

The reintroduction of general military service by the law of
16th March, 1935, is apparently not considered in the
Indictment as a punishable offence in itself, but only as
part of the general plan asserted by the prosecution, which
is claimed to have been intended to commit crimes against
peace, against the laws of war and against humanity. Whether
such a plan ever existed at all, whether and to what extent
the defendant Rudolf Hess was involved in it, and what part
the reintroduction of general military service may have
played in both an objective and a subjective way, I shall
take up in detail later.

Within the scope of the common plan, of having planned and
prepared a war of aggression, the defendant Rudolf Hess is
also accused of having, in his capacity as deputy of the
Fuehrer, set up the foreign organization of the NSDAP, the
National League for Germans Abroad, the German Eastern
League, the German-American Bund and the German Foreign
Institute. The documents submitted by the prosecution in
this connection are not able to furnish proof to the effect
that the defendant Hess himself issued directives or orders
to these organizations, which could have caused them to
pursue activities similar to those of a fifth column. The
testimony of the witnesses Bohle, Stroelin and Alfred Hess
has, on the contrary, proved that the defendant Hess, in
particular, forbade these organizations and leaders in the
most definite way to interfere in the internal affairs of
other countries. The prosecution has not been able to prove
in any way that the above-named organizations had actually
developed activities which were aimed at undermining the
structure of foreign States from within.

Under these circumstances it is superfluous to go into the
activity of the above-named organizations and establishments
in more detail, all the more so since there is nothing at
all tending to prove that there was any causal connection
between the tasks and functions of these organizations and
the events which later led to the outbreak of war in the
year 1939.

The prosecution furthermore tried to prove that defendant
Rudolf Hess also took a decisive part in the occupation of
Austria on 12th March, 1938. I do not intend to enter into
details of the history of the annexation and to consider
from the legal point of view the facts which actually led to
the annexation of Austria to the German Reich in the year
1938. In order to save time, again I shall refer to the
extensive statement made by the defence counsel for the co-
defendant, Dr. Seyss-Inquart, and I shall now continue in my
brief on Page 23, beginning with paragraph 2.

Whatever now concerns the participation of the defendant
Rudolf Hess and the Party in the execution of the
annexation, the evidence has shown here only that the
annexation of Austria was an incident which did not really
have anything to do with the National Socialist Party in the
Reich as such. It is sufficient to refer in this connection
to the testimony of the defendant Goering and to that of Dr.
Seyss-Inquart on the witness stand, which shows that the
question of the annexation was solved exclusively by the
Reich; that is, therefore, by State authority and not by the

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