The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 2000/11/08

Q. Going back to the question of the President to the
witness von Eberstein, I should like to ask you something
about the composition of the guard personnel of the
concentration camps. Is it true, as the prosecution asserts,
that the General SS during the war took over the guard duty
at the concentration camps?

A. In no way can that be said. The 8,000 men of the
Totenkopf formation, of which I spoke previously, at the
beginning of the war consisted only in part of members of
the General SS. In October, 1939, when the SS Totenkopf
division was set up, these men were transferred to this
front unit. These men were replaced by emergency service
draftees. They included, I should perhaps say, 3,000 men of
the General SS. But these men were taken from the General SS
by the Emergency Service Regulation, which could equally
have been applied to the induction of other men, which was
done in part; for example, men of the Reichskriegerbund and
of the Kyffhauserbund. During the whole war the General SS
did not replace the guards for concentration camps unless
one or another SS man who was incapable of emergency service
at the front was transferred there.

Q. Please tell us briefly what the purpose of the so-called
Emergency Service Regulation was and to whom it could be

A. The Emergency Service Regulation was, in my opinion, and
as far as I am informed, a regulation of the Reich according
to which, in times of emergency, any member of the German
Reich could be inducted for special service to the Reich. I
have already mentioned this morning that 36,000 men were
taken from the General SS on the basis of this regulation by
the Reich Ministry of the Interior. The Reich Ministry of
the Interior increased its contingent, as far as I know, to
1,000,000 men for police reinforcements and reserves,
including these 36,000 men of the General SS.

Q. The Emergency Service Regulation and its effect are made
clear by Document SS-26. Can you tell us who mainly took
over the guarding of concentration camps during the war?

                                                  [Page 286]

A. For the most part during the war, racial Germans and
members of the German Wehrmacht guarded the concentration
camps. Let me explain this briefly. In 1940 and 1941 the
guard personnel of the concentration camps were only
replaced to a small extent. For the most part, there were
members of the Kyffhauserbund, the Reich Warriors League
(Reichskriegerbund), who came partly as inductees and partly
as draftees of the emergency regulations. In 1942 racial
Germans and volunteers from the Reich who did not, however,
volunteer as guards for concentration camps, but for the
Waffen SS, and who, because of unsuitability for service at
the front, could not be put in the Waffen SS, were made
guards. In 1943, the replacements were done similarly. That
year, too, another contingent of veterans was drawn in, and
in 1944 the last young men among the concentration camp
guards were to be sent to the front. In this year the great
majority of the guards in the concentration camps were
members of the German Wehrmacht. I know that the OH reached
an agreement with the inspectorate of the concentration
camps that the army would take over the guarding. I myself
saw the order. 10,000 men were mentioned in it.

Q. Can you give us figures on the concentration camp guards?

A. Yes. In the SS Main Office, the army had supervision of
the guards at the concentration camps.

Q. What does "Wehruberwachung" mean?

A. That means that every man was included in a card index so
that in case he was transferred, the office concerned would
know exactly where the man was and when he would be
available again. As I was saying, the record was kept of
these men at the SS Hauptamt. Therefore, I know that about
7,000 such men were racial Germans, that about 7,000 were
from the army and some from the Luftwaffe, and that there
were 10,000 men who had volunteered for the Waffen SS, but
as a result of unsuitability for front service were simply
transferred to the guard personnel of concentration camps.
This included the Kyffhauser members whom I have already
mentioned, also SA members, non-party people, and so forth.
About 6,000 men at the end of 1944 were from the
Notdienstverordneten (Emergency Services draftees) and the
old Frontkampferverbanden (Veterans Organizations) and a few
injured members of the Waffen SS.

Q. What do you mean by that?

A. That means people who had been wounded at the front and
were no longer able to do military service at the front, but
were still suitable for guard duty.

Q. Now can you tell us whether the majority of the men, no
matter where they came from, were volunteers or whether they
were drafted?

A. No one ever volunteered for guard duty at concentration
camps. The racial Germans as well as the Reich Germans who
were used as guards were assigned there. The members of the
Wehrmacht also, as far as I know, did not volunteer for this
service but were sent there by order.

Q. Witness, what do you know about the administration of
concentration camps?

A. The highest administrative authority for concentration
camps was the Inspectorate KL (concentration camp). This
Inspectorate KL was in 1939 or at the beginning Of 1940 in
the hands of the General Inspector for the
Totenkopfverbande. In 1942 the Inspectorate KL was
transferred to the WVHA as Amtsgruppe D (Main Office for
Economics and Administration).

I had no insight into the internal affairs of this
Amtsgruppe such as I had with many other SS agencies. In the
first place, this Amtsgruppe D was far away from us in
Berlin. In addition, with the exception of the assignment of
a few men, which was effected by telephone, we had no
personal contact.

Q. Can you, on the basis of your long service in the Waffen
SS and your position, give any information as to whether
members of the Waffen SS in general had the opportunity to
learn anything about the crimes which are now charged
against the SS as a whole, or whether you yourself could
learn anything of the same?

                                                  [Page 287]

A. Hundreds of thousands of people, mostly young men, were
inducted into the Waffen SS. These people were 13, 14,
perhaps 16 years old at the beginning of the war. When they
came into the Waffen SS they were only used at the front. If
they went home for a few days on leave they did not worry
about politics or enemy propaganda, but only thought of
seeing their families. Tens of thousands of wounded men in
hospitals had only one desire - to regain their health. They
did not listen to the enemy radio either so that they could
not have learned anything. I talked to many of these men,
and I know they were interested only in their military
service. Only one per cent of those inducted were employed
in the Waffen SS, in the offices and agencies of the Waffen
SS. Very few of these were in a position to learn anything.
However, they did not and would not tell us anything about
what kind of service they had there anyway. In every office
of the Waffen SS and SS as a whole there was a poster with
an order from the Fuehrer which read, "You must know only as
much as belongs to your official duties, and concerning what
you learn, you must be silent."

Q. Was the reason for this Hitler order a military one?

A. I believe this order of the Fuehrer was in effect for the
whole of the Reich. It applied as well to the troops as to
the various offices.

Q. The troops - do you mean the Wehrmacht?

A. Yes, the Wehrmacht.

Q. Perhaps you know something about another point of the
Indictment. When you were still with the staff of the
Leibstandarte, did you learn anything, for example, about
the proposed invasion of Austria?

A. Among the troops, it is true that the soldier always
knows the least. The Leibstandarte was no exception. I
recall very well the entry into Austria. Although the
Leibstandarte was one of the first formations to march into
Austria, we made no preparations for this entry. I know that
exactly, since I was secretary with the staff, that neither
the adjutant nor the Hauptsturmfuehrer in the staff knew
anything half an hour before we left as to where we were
going. When the Leibstandarte was in Austria, there was such
enthusiasm that none of us would have thought that a crime
had been committed here. The fact that we, as Leibstandarte,
moved into Austria was a matter of course to us because the
Fuehrer was there and we, as his bodyguard, went to Austria

Q. Witness, in view of the evidence which has been presented
here, do you want to deny that millions of killings have
taken place which are now being charged against the SS men?

A. I have talked to many members from various internment
camps on this point. I can only repeat what we told each
other. The Allies have given us a big puzzle with the
discovery of this crime. We were always trained in honour,
discipline and decency. For five years we fought in faithful
duty for our fatherland. Now we sit behind barbed wire and
everyone tells us we are murderers and criminals. I can only
say one thing, and I say this for my comrades to whom I have
spoken - we did not murder, we did not know of the
abominable atrocities of Himmler who betrayed and deceived
us too, by preferring death to responsibility. By committing
suicide, he placed himself outside the ranks of the former
SS, and that small circle of men who, perhaps through a
false sense of obedience, became his assistants knew how to
keep silent. Until today we knew nothing about it.

DR. PELCKMANN: Thank you. I have no more questions.



Q. Witness, you have said that the SS, and the Waffen SS in
particular, was always trained in honour and decency.
Himmler used to come and lecture to your division, the
Leibstandarte, did he not?

A. I was not present at any speech which Himmler made to the

                                                  [Page 288]

Q. Did you know that he made speeches to the officers of the

A. Yes. As far as I recall, there was a speech at Metz when
I was at the Erganzungsamt. My comrades told me about it.

Q. Do you know what Himmler said?

A. No.

Q. Did you riot think it was right to ask them?

A. Of course. I always asked, because as a former member of
the Leibstandarte I was still interested in what was going
on. But I did not discuss individual items such as, for
example, the speech of the Reichsfuehrer.

Q. Because he was educating your division in what is the
very opposite of honour and decency. Did you know, for
instance, of the mass murder of the leaders of the Polish
nation by the SS?

A. That cannot be possible. I read a great deal of the
training material of the Waffen SS. I did not read any
request to commit such mass murders.

Q. Let me read to you two or three sentences from a speech
Himmler made to the officers of your own regiment. I refer
to 1918-PS, Exhibit USA 304.

  "Very frequently the member of the Waffen SS thinks about
  the deportation of this people here. These thoughts came
  to me today when watching the very difficult work out
  there performed by the Security Police, supported by your
  men, who helped them a great deal. Exactly the same thing
  happened in Poland in weather 40 degrees below zero,
  where we had to haul away thousands, tens of thousands,
  hundreds of thousands; where we had to have the toughness
  - you should hear this but also forget it again
  immediately - where we had to have the toughness to shoot
  thousands of leading Poles, otherwise one might later
  sorely regret it."

Are you saying that you did not know that Himmler said that
to your regiment?

A. In the first place, I did not know it. In the second
place, as far as I have heard, no members of the Waffen SS
did that. Himmler said "we." I do not know who this "we" is.
As far as I heard, that is not shown by the speech.

Q. Himmler was addressing the officers of your regiment, the
Adolf Hitler SS Leibstandarte, and told them that the
murders should be the work of the Security Police, namely,
your men, the men of your regiment. That is perfectly clear,
is it not?

A. No. That is not clear. The whole thing is wrong.

Q. Let me read to you another indication of the honour and
decency in which you are apparently being inculcated. At
Page 10 of the German text of Himmler's speech, Page 3 of
the English text, you will see how Himmler - you need not
trouble to read it at the moment - you will see how Himmler
was telling your regiment of the SS that out of the slave
labour of the victims of his organization, money was to be
raised for the benefit of the SS men. I will read to you
what he said.

THE PRESIDENT: We have had this document read before, I

MR. ELWYN JONES: Yes, my Lord, I am only going to refer to
two sentences of it.

THE PRESIDENT: The witness said he was not there.

MR. ELWYN JONES: That is so, my Lord; what I am suggesting
is that this was an address to the officers of his own
regiment. Before the Commissioner, it was indicated he
joined a month later.


Q. When did you rejoin the Leibstandarte, witness? In 1941?

A. I joined in 1933.

Did you rejoin it again in 1941?.

A. In 1941, from June to August, I was on the Russian front
with the Leibstandarte.

                                                  [Page 289]

Q. So you joined this regiment a few weeks after Himmler had
addressed the officers of it?

A. I do not know exactly the date of Himmler's speech in

MR. ELWYN JONES: If it is not desired that I should put the
document to the witness, I certainly should not do so
against the wish of the Tribunal.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal would rather you did not.

Q. Can you explain to the Tribunal why it was that the
Waffen SS, the personnel of the Waffen SS, were used in anti-
partisan activity?

A. No. I did not know that the Waffen SS was particularly
used against the partisans. On the basis of my position, I
know that the Waffen SS was often subordinate to army units
in the rear areas and here, perhaps in exceptional cases,
was employed in anti-partisan activities. On the whole,
however, the Waffen SS with its divisions was at the front.
I know nothing of the special partisan units of the Waffen

Q. I suggest to you that for military or other tasks that
call for ruthlessness or political fanaticism, the Waffen SS
was used. Is that not so?

A. I do not know that. I know nothing about it. Please give
me an example so that I can comment on it.

Q. I will tell you what Field-Marshal Goering said about it
to the Duce, in the Palazzo Venezia on, 23rd October, 1942.
I am referring to the document D-729, Exhibit GB 281. He
describes Germany's method in fighting the partisans. He
describes the taking away of livestock and the other details
of the technique that was advocated; and then Goering says,
"Germany had experienced that, generally speaking, soldiers
were of no use in carrying out such measures. Members of the
Party discharged this task much more harshly and

If you will be good enough to listen to me reading it,
witness, it will come over the earphones. "Members of the
Party discharged this task much more harshly and
efficiently. For the same reason armies that were
strengthened by a political creed such as the German (or the
Russian) fought much more energetically than others. Also
the SS, the guard of the old fighters of the Party, who have
personal ties with the Fuehrer and who constitute an elite,
confirm this principle."

That is correct, is it not, witness?

A. I do not know whether the Reichsmarschall gave any order
to combat partisanship. What the Prosecutor has just read is
a statement of opinion to another statesman. I see no orders
in that to the Waffen SS; and for that reason I maintain my
testimony that the Waffen SS as a unit was not used for
combating partisans.

MR. ELWYN JONES: If it please your Lordship, in view of the
evidence which is before the Tribunal on the employment of
the Waffen SS and on its pay measures, I am not going to
proceed with the cross-examination as to the general matters
with which this witness dealt. The Tribunal has indicated
that it does not desire me to put matters which should be
put in cross-examination before the Commissioners and, under
these circumstances, I have no further questions to ask but
I will take my cross-examination before the Commissioners
for the purposes of the Tribunal.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: I am going to ask a very few short
questions with your permission, my Lord.

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