The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Donitz, Hitler's legatee of defeat, promoted the success of
the Nazi aggressions by instructing his pack of submarine
killers to conduct warfare at sea with the illegal ferocity
of the jungle. Raeder, the political admiral, stealthily
built up the German Navy in defiance of the Versailles
Treaty, and then put it to use in a series of aggressions
which he had taken a leading part in planning. Von Schirach,
poisoner of a generation, initiated the German youth in Nazi
doctrine, trained them in legions for service in the SS and
Wehrmacht, and delivered them up to the Party as fanatic,
unquestioning executors of its will.

Sauckel, the greatest and cruellest slaver since the
Pharaohs of Egypt, produced desperately needed manpower by
driving foreign peoples into the land of bondage on a scale
unknown even in the ancient days of tyranny in the kingdom
of the Nile. Jodl, betrayer of the traditions of his
profession, led the Wehrmacht in violating its own code of
military honour in order to carry out the barbarous aims of
Nazi policy. Von Papen, pious agent of an infidel regime,
held the stirrup while Hitler vaulted into the saddle,
lubricated the Austrian annexation, and devoted his
diplomatic cunning to the service of Nazi objectives abroad.

Seyss-Inquart, spearhead of the Austrian fifth column, took
over the government of his own country only to make a
present of it to Hitler, and then, moving north, brought
terror and oppression to the Netherlands and pillaged its
economy for the benefit of the German juggernaut. Von
Neurath, the old-school diplomat, who cast the pearls of his
experience before the Nazis, guided Nazi diplomacy in the
early years, soothed the fears of prospective victims, and
as Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia strengthened the
German position for the coming attack

                                                  [Page 396]

on Poland. Speer, as Minister of Armaments and Production,
joined in planning and executing the programme to dragoon
prisoners of war and foreign workers into German war
industries, which waxed in output while the labourers waned
in starvation. Fritzsche, radio propaganda chief, by
manipulation of the truth goaded German public opinion into
frenzied support of the regime, and anaesthetised the
independent judgement of the population so that they did
their masters' bidding without question. Bormann, who has
not accepted our invitation to this reunion, sat at the
throttle of the vast and powerful engine of the Party,
guiding it in the ruthless execution of Nazi policies, from
the scourging of the Christian Church to the lynching of
captive Allied airmen.

The activities of all these defendants, despite their varied
backgrounds and talents, were joined with the efforts of
other conspirators not now in the. dock, who played still
other essential roles: They blend together into one
consistent and militant pattern animated by a common
objective to reshape the map of Europe by force of arms.
Some of these defendants were ardent members of the Nazi
movement from its birth. Others, less fanatical, joined the
common enterprise later, after success had made
participation attractive by the promise of rewards. This
group of latter-day converts remedied a crucial defect in
the ranks of the original true believers, for as Dr. Siemers
has pointed out in his summation:

  "... There were no specialists among the National
  Socialists for the particular tasks. Most of the National
  Socialist collaborators did not previously follow a trade
  requiring technical education." (118.)

It was the fatal weakness of the early Nazi band that it
lacked technical competence. It could not from among its own
ranks make up a government capable of carrying out all the
projects necessary to realize its aims. Therein lies the
special crime and betrayal of men like Schacht and von
Neurath, Speer and von Papen, Raeder and Donitz, Keitel and
Jodl. It is doubtful whether the Nazi master plan could have
succeeded without their specialized intelligence which they
so willingly put at its command. (119.) They did so with
knowledge of its announced aims and methods, and continued
their services after practice had confirmed the direction in
which they were tending. Their superiority to the average
run of Nazi mediocrity is not their excuse. It is their

The dominant fact which stands out from all the thousands of
pages of the record of this trial is that the central crime
of the whole group of Nazi crimes - the attack on the peace
of the world - was clearly and deliberately planned. The
beginning of these wars of aggression was not an unprepared
and spontaneous springing to arms by a population excited by
some current indignation. A week before the invasion of
Poland Hitler told his military commanders:

  "I shall give a propagandist cause for starting war -
  never mind whether it be plausible or not. The victor
  shall not be asked later on whether we told the truth or
  not. In starting and making a war, it is not the right
  that matters, but victory." (120.)

The propagandist incident was duly provided by dressing
concentration camp inmates in Polish uniforms, in order to
create the appearance of a Polish attack on a German
frontier radio station. (121.) The plan to occupy Belgium,
Holland, and Luxembourg first appeared as early as August,
1938, in connection with the plan for attack on
Czechoslovakia. (122.) The intention to attack became a
programme in May, 1939, when Hitler told his commanders

  "The Dutch and Belgian air bases must be occupied by
  armed forces. Declarations of neutrality must be
  ignored." (123.)

Thus, the follow-up wars were planned before the first was
launched. These were the most carefully plotted wars in all
history. Scarcely a step in their terrifying succession and
progress failed to move according to the master blueprint or
the subsidiary schedules and timetables until long after the
crimes of aggression were consummated.

                                                  [Page 397]

Nor were the war crimes and the crimes against humanity
unplanned, isolated or spontaneous offences. Apart from our
undeniable evidence of their plotting, it is sufficient to
ask whether six million people could be separated from the
population of several nations on the basis of their blood
and birth, could be destroyed and their bodies disposed of,
unless the operation had fitted into the general scheme of
government. Could the enslavement of five millions of
labourers, their impressment into service, their
transportation to Germany, their allocation to work where
they would be most useful, their maintenance, if slow
starvation can be called maintenance, and their guarding
have been accomplished if it did not fit into the common
plan? Could hundreds of concentration camps located
throughout Germany, built to accommodate hundreds of
thousands of victims, and each requiring labour and
materials for construction, manpower to operate and
supervise, and close gearing into the economy - could such
efforts have been expended under German autocracy if they
had not suited the plan? Has the Teutonic passion for
organization suddenly become famous for its toleration of
non-conforming activity? Each part of the plan fitted into
every other. The slave labour programme meshed with the
needs of industry and agriculture, and these in turn
synchronised with the military machine. The elaborate
propaganda apparatus geared with the programme to dominate
the people and incite them to a war which their sons would
have to fight. The armament industries were fed by the
concentration camps. The concentration camps were fed by the
Gestapo. The Gestapo was fed by the spy system of the Nazi
Party. Nothing was permitted under the Nazi iron rule that
was not in accordance with the programme. Everything of
consequence that took place in this regimented society was
but a manifestation of a premeditated and unfolding purpose
to secure the Nazi State a place in the sun by casting all
others into darkness.


The defendants meet this overwhelming case, some by
admitting a limited, responsibility (124), some by putting
the blame on others (125), and some by taking the position,
in effect, that while there have been enormous crimes there
are no criminals. Time will not permit me to examine each
individual and particular defence, but there are certain
lines of defence common to so many cases that they deserve
some consideration.

Counsel for many of the defendants seek to dismiss the
charge of a common plan or conspiracy on the ground that the
pattern of the Nazi plan does not fit into the concept of
conspiracy applicable in German law to the plotting of a
highway robbery or a burglary. (126.) Their concept of
conspiracy is in the terms of a stealthy meeting in the dead
of night, in a secluded hide-out, in which a group of felons
plot every detail of a specific crime. The Charter
forestalls resort to such parochial and narrow concepts of
conspiracy taken from local law by using the additional and
non-technical term, "common plan". Omitting entirely the
alternative term of "conspiracy", the Charter reads that
"leaders, organisers, instigators, and accomplices
participating in the formulation or execution of a common
plan to commit" any of the described crimes "are responsible
for all acts performed by any persons in execution of such

The Charter concept of a common plan really represents the
conspiracy principle in an international context. A common
plan or conspiracy to seize the machinery of a State, to
commit crimes against the peace of the world, to blot a race
out of existence, to enslave millions, and to subjugate and
loot whole nations cannot be thought of in the same terms as
the plotting of petty crimes, although the same underlying
principles are applicable. Little gangsters may plan who
will carry a pistol and who a stiletto, who will approach a
victim from the front and who from behind, and where they
will waylay him. But in planning

                                                  [Page 398]

war, the pistol becomes a Wehrmacht, the stiletto a
Luftwaffe. Where to strike is not a choice of dark alleys,
but a matter of world geography. The operation involves the
manipulation of public opinion, the law of the State, the
police power, industry, and finance. The baits and bluffs
must be translated into a nation's foreign policy. Likewise,
the degree of stealth which points to a guilty purpose in, a
conspiracy will depend upon its object. The clandestine
preparations of a State against international society,
although camouflaged to those abroad, might be quite open
and notorious among its own people. But stealth is not an
essential ingredient of such planning. Parts of the common
plan may be proclaimed from the housetops, as anti-Semitism
was, and parts of it kept under cover, as rearmament for a
long time was. It is a matter of strategy how much of the
preparation shall be made public, as was Goering's
announcement in 1935 of the creation of an air force, and
how much shall be kept covert, as in the case of the Nazis'
use of shovels to teach "labour corps" the manual of arms.
(127.) The forms of this grand type of conspiracy are
amorphous, the means are opportunistic, and neither can
divert the law from getting at the substance of things.

The defendants counted, however, that there could be no
conspiracy involving aggressive war because (1) none of the
Nazis wanted war (128); (2) rearmament was only intended to
provide the strength to make Germany's voice heard in the
family of nations (129); and (3) the wars were not in fact
aggressive wars but were defensive wars against a "Bolshevik
menace". (130.)

When we analyse the argument that the Nazis did not want war
it comes down, in substance, to this: "The record looks bad
indeed - objectively - but when you consider the state of my
mind - subjectively I hated war. I knew the horrors of war.
I wanted peace." I am not so sure of this. I am even less
willing to accept Goering's description of the General Staff
as pacifist. (131.) However, it will not injure our case to
admit that as an abstract proposition none of these
defendants liked war. (132.) But they wanted things which
they knew they could not get without war. They wanted their
neighbours' lands and goods. Their philosophy seems to be
that if the neighbours would not acquiesce, then they are
the aggressors and are to blame for the war. The fact is,
however, that war never became terrible to the Nazis until
it came home to them, until it exposed their deceptive
assurances to the German people that German cities, like the
ruined one in which we meet, would be invulnerable. From
then on, war was terrible.

But again the defendants claim: "To be sure, we were
building guns. But not to shoot. They were only to give us
weight in negotiating." At its best this argument amounts to
a contention that the military forces were intended for
blackmail, not for battle. The threat of military invasion
which forced the Austrian Anschluss, the threats which
preceded Munich, and Goering's threat to bomb the beautiful
city of Prague if the President of Czechoslovakia did not
consent to the Protectorate (133), are examples of what the
defendants had in mind when they talked of arming to back

But from the very nature of German demands, the day was
bound to come when some country would refuse to buy its
peace, would refuse to pay Dane-geld,

  "For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
  And the nation that plays it is lost."

Did these defendants then intend to withdraw German demands,
or was Germany to enforce them and manipulate propaganda so
as to place the blame for the war on the nation so
unreasonable as to resist? Events have answered that
question, and documents such as Admiral Carl's memorandum,
earlier quoted, leave no doubt that the events occurred as
anticipated. (134.)

But some of the defendants argue that the wars were not
aggressive and were only intended to protect Germany against
some eventual danger from the "menace of Communism", which
was something of an obsession with many Nazis.

                                                  [Page 399]

At the outset this argument of self-defence fails because it
completely ignores this damning combination of facts clearly
established in the record: first, the enormous and rapid
German preparations for war; second, the repeatedly avowed
intentions of the German leaders to attack, which I have
previously cited; and third, the fact that a series of wars
occurred in which German forces struck the first blows,
without warning, across the borders of other nations.

Even if it could be shown  -which it cannot - that the
Russian war was really defensive, such is demonstrably not
the case with those wars which preceded it.

It may also be pointed out that even those who would have
you believe that Germany was menaced by Communism also
compete with each other in describing their opposition to
the disastrous Russian venture. (135.) Is it reasonable that
they would have opposed that war if it were undertaken in
good faith in self-defence.

It is sought to balance the frivolous self-defence theory
against the facts, as advocates often do, by resort to a
theory of law. Dr. Jahrreiss, in his scholarly argument for
the defence, rightly points out that no treaty provision and
no principle of law denied Germany, as a sovereign nation,
the right of self-defence. He follows with the assertion for
which there is authority in classic International Law, that:

  "... every State is alone judge of whether in a given
  case it is waging a war of self-defence". (136.)

It is not necessary to examine the validity of an abstract
principle which does not apply to the facts of our case. I
do not doubt that if a nation arrived at a judgement that it
must resort to war in self-defence, because of conditions
affording reasonable grounds for such an honest judgement,
any Tribunal would accord it great and perhaps conclusive
weight, even if later events proved that judgement mistaken.

But the facts in this case call for no such deference to
honest judgement because no such judgement was ever
pretended, much less honestly made.

In all the documents which disclose the planning and
rationalisation of these attacks, not one sentence has been
or can be cited to show an honest fear of attack. It may be
that statesmen of other nations lacked the courage
forthrightly and fully to disarm. Perhaps they suspected the
secret rearmament of Germany. But if they hesitated to
abandon arms, they did not hesitate to neglect them. Germany
well knew that her former enemies had allowed their
armaments to fall into decay, so little did they contemplate
another war. Germany faced a Europe that not only was
unwilling to attack, but was too weak and pacifist even
adequately to defend, and went to the very verge of
dishonour, if not beyond, to buy its peace. The minutes we
have shown you of the Nazis' secret conclaves identify no
potential attacker. They bristle with the spirit of
aggression and not of defence. They contemplate always
territorial expansion, not the maintenance of territorial

Minister of War von Blomberg, in his 1937 directive
prescribing general principles for the preparation for war
of the armed forces, has given the lie to these feeble
claims of self-defence. He stated at that time:

  "The general political situation justifies the
  supposition that Germany need not consider an attack on
  any side. Grounds for this are, in addition to the lack
  of desire for war in almost all nations, particularly the
  Western Powers, the deficiencies in the preparedness for
  war in a number of States and of Russia in particular."

Nevertheless, he recommended:

  "a continuous preparation for war in order to (a) counter-
  attack at any time, and (b) to enable the military
  exploitation of politically favourable opportunities
  should they occur". (137.)

If these defendants may now cynically plead self-defence,
although no honest need of self-defence was asserted or
contemplated by any responsible leader at that time, it
reduces non-aggression treaties to a legal absurdity. They

                                                  [Page 400]

additional instruments of deception in the hands of the
aggressor, and traps for well-meaning nations. If there be
in non-aggression pacts an implied condition that each
nation may make a bona fide judgement as to the necessity
for self-defence against imminent threatened attack, it
certainly cannot be invoked to shelter those who never made
any such judgement at all.

In opening this case I ventured to predict that there would
be no serious denial that the crimes charged were committed,
and that the issue would concern the responsibility of
particular defendants. The defendants have fulfilled that
prophecy. Generally, they do not deny that these things
happened, but it is contended that they "just happened", and
that they were not the result of a common plan or

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