The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. Let us go back to the initial stages. When was the
Verfugungstruppe created? How strong was it, and how did it
increase in numbers?

                                                  [Page 294]

A. The beginnings of the Verfugungstruppe go as far back as
the year 1933. In this year, the Leibstandarte was created
as a sort of bodyguard for Adolf Hitler. Following that,
individual battalions were formed for representational
purposes. Only at the very beginning, in 1933 and 1934, were
men of the General SS used. Later the very youngest of the
age-groups subject to military duty were recruited.

Q. What was the strength in 1936, and, for instance, in

A. In 1936, there were three infantry regiments and three
technical battalions. In 1939 there were four infantry
regiments, one artillery regiment, and three technical

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal thinks this would be a
convenient time to break off.

(A recess was taken.)

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn at half-past four
this afternoon.


Q. Witness, what was the purpose and the task of the so-
called Verfugungstruppe? Was it to serve as a new armed
force alongside the Wehrmacht?

A. The purpose and the task were laid down in the basic
decree of Adolf Hitler of August, 1938. According to that
decree the Verfugungstruppe was to belong neither to the
Wehrmacht nor to the police. It was a standing troop at the
disposition of Adolf Hitler, and it was paid from State
funds. The training was supervised by the High Command of
the Army and replacements were taken from volunteers of the
youngest age groups.

Q. Was the Verfugungstruppe, therefore, meant to be a
political nucleus? The prosecution accuses it of being a
special instrument for the oppression and elimination of
political opponents and of having aided realization of the
Nazi ideology by use of weapons.

A. That is not true. The Verfugungstruppe had neither
political nor police tasks. It developed gradually into a
test troop which had to combine all the old soldierly
virtues with the requirements of the Socialist age.
Especially as concerns the relationship between officers and
men, advancement from the bottom up without special
examinations; and the doing away with any and all

Q. Were the members of the Verfugungstruppe expected to give
blind obedience?

A. No. They swore obedience and loyalty to Adolf Hitler and
to their superiors. An unconditional obedience which would
have included crime was not expected and was not sworn to.

Q. The prosecution is particularly accusing the
Verfugungstruppe that incitement of racial hatred and
persecution of the Jews belonged to its special tasks. Was
the troop trained for these purposes?

A. The political and ideological education could only have
been carried through by training. I, personally, as leader
of the candidate school and as an inspector, have supervised
this training, for I myself was a new man and had to work
myself into the new way of thinking. I can testify that race
hatred and extermination of Jewry or of the Eastern peoples
were never taught and were never demanded.

Q. According to the prosecution, this troop served the
purpose of preparation for an aggressive war. Was the
striving for predominance in Germany through terror and the
conquest of all Europe taught?

A. These young troops needed time and peace for fulfilment
of their tasks Their commanders were veterans of the First
World War without exception. They knew war and they knew
that it had brought misery and misfortune to us once
already. Terror in German domestic life and domination in
Europe were never contemplated by this small, young troop.

                                                  [Page 295]

Q. Can it be deduced from the setting up of this
Verfugungstruppe, already before the re-establishment of
conscription in 1936, that this meant a breach of the Treaty
of Versailles?

A. Before the re-establishment of conscription, this troop
had consisted at the most of 4,000 to 5,000 men and could
not be used for either a defensive or an offensive war. And
later, too, it was not prepared for war, as it had no
divisional staff, no general staff, no replacement of men or
officers. It was far from being ready for a war of

THE PRESIDENT: Witness, could you speak in a slightly lower
tone of voice? The sound of your voice interferes with the
sound of the interpreter's voice coming through to us.

THE WITNESS: Yes, sir.


Q. What tasks did you personally have as inspector of the

A. I was not a commander with the power to issue orders but
rather I was an inspector responsible for the training and
education of the troop. Beyond that, I received executive
orders from Heinrich Himmler on questions of organization.

Q. Did the replacements consist of volunteers and where did
they come from? What were the motives for their joining?

A. Until the beginning of the war replacements came from
volunteers only. In the first years, that is in 1933 and
1934, they came from the General SS.

THE PRESIDENT: Witness, may I remind you once more to speak
a little lower and a little less loud. Otherwise, the voices
will cross in the translation. And please speak a little
more slowly as well.

A. The volunteers were recruited in the entire country.
Their applications, which were sent in in large numbers,
were not determined by questions of ideology. They were men
who wanted to do their military service in a well-known and
highly motorized unit.

Q. What relationship existed between the Verfugungstruppe
and the many other various branches of the organization
which were under Heinrich Himmler's uniform command?

A. I mentioned already that only at the time of the
establishment of the troop did we have local contacts with
the Oberabschnitte of the General SS. These contacts
decreased, especially when the inspectorate was established
as a central office, and they ceased to exist altogether
even before the war started. There were neither official nor
personal contacts with the Death's Head Units, which had the
task of guarding the concentration camps, a task belonging
more to the police sphere - not even in the joint garrison
at Dachau. Neither were there any official or private
contacts with the SD. The tasks of the SD were not known. I
might mention that in peace time I hardly spoke a dozen
words to Obergruppenfuehrer Heydrich, the chief of the SD,
when I once met him in the antechamber of Heinrich Himmler's

Q. What can you tell us about the tasks of the Death's Head

A. The tasks of the Death's Head Units were contained in the
basic decree of August, 1938. At times they furnished guards
for the concentration camps, although they had no entrance
to the inside of the camp. Their replacements were recruited
among the German youth or among men who had already served
their period of military service. Their training was not
supervised by the armed forces but it was soldierly all the

Q. Was service in the Death's Head Unit equal to service in
the armed forces?

A. No, it did not count as service in the armed forces.

Q. And these young volunteers who were recruited, did they
know that they were to be used to guard concentration camps?

                                                  [Page 296]

A. I did not have an insight into the recruiting of the
Death's Head Units, but I do not believe that they were told
the aim.

Q. What do you know about the participation of these
Verfugungstruppe in the incidents of 30th June, 1934, and
9th November, 1938?

A. I cannot speak about the participation on 30th June,
1934, for at that time I was not in the Verfugungstruppe,
but I do know that men of the Verfugungstruppe were
convinced that the executions which were being carried out
there had been ordered by acts of the State executive power.
The Verfugungstruppe was in no way connected with the
excesses of 9th November, 1938. The large majority, such as
the Leibstandarte and the regiment at Munich, and all the
recruits, had gathered at Munich for the annual swearing-in

Q. Now, what do you understand by under the Waffen SS?

A. After the beginning of the campaign in the autumn of 1939
three divisions at first were set up containing men
recruited from the Verfugungstruppe, the Death's Head Units,
and from men who had been trained for the police, and,
grouped together with various other smaller units, they
received the name of Waffen SS. These few divisions proved
their worth and with the growing need for more troops for
the war they were gradually increased up to more than thirty-
five divisions. The main reason for this unplanned growth is
due to the fact that all racial Germans who volunteered from
the North, from the East, and from the South-east of Europe
served in this Waffen SS. The total strength, with all
losses reckoned, might be said to be about 900,000 men. Only
one-third to one-half would have been Reichsdeutsche (Reich

Q. At the end of the war?

A. Yes, at the end of the war.

Q. The prosecution asserts that the Waffen SS deliberately
participated in a war of aggression. Is that assertion

A. Members of the Waffen SS did not have the impression that
they were participating in a war of aggression, and that
they were being used for that purpose. They lacked any and
all insight as to whether the war was one of aggression or
one of defence. Their oaths bound them to their duties. It
was not possible for them to refuse to participate in a war.

Q. Was there a uniform or unified SS chief command during
the war? To whom were the divisions subordinate during the

A. A unified SS chief command post did not exist during the
war. The main office leadership in Berlin was an
administrative agency. All divisions of the Waffen SS were
incorporated into the army and fought under the command and,
in the final analysis, under the responsibility of the army.
I personally, in the five and a half years of the war,
received orders only from the armed forces offices and

Q. Did Heinrich Himmler have any influence on the divisions
of the Waffen SS, and if so, what influence did he have?

A. The divisions which had been incorporated into the army
were subordinate to Heinrich Himmler only in matters dealing
with personnel and replacements, with judicial questions and
fundamental problems of organization.

Q. The prosecution states that the Waffen SS used special
means of combat and that they deliberately fought cruelly,
used terror methods, and carried out mass exterminations.

A. I must give you a straight no. The troop was young, it
had no tradition, and it had no name. It had to prove itself
first. The commanders took personal pride in achieving a
high standing and reputation for this troop through
courageous but fair methods of combat. Since some of the
divisions fought together with the army the generals of the
army would not have tolerated any methods deviating from
ordinary fighting, and just as they took steps in tactical
matters they would have stepped in if this accusation of a
terrorist method of fighting had been justified. They would
have noticed it just as I would have noticed it, for in
critical periods

                                                  [Page 297]

the commanders are on the road for days on end and they see
how the troops are fighting and can judge what methods are
being used.

Q. Were the officers and men instructed about adhering to
International Law?

A. Even in peace time as part of their training the officers
and men were informed of the Hague Convention and the Hague
Rules of Land Warfare. Further instruction, of course, took
place constantly during the war.

Q. Is it correct that Himmler once said that the successes
of the Waffen SS were to be credited to terroristic

A. Heinrich Himmler once used this expression in a speech. I
reported to him that it was completely wrong, that we had
not gained our successes through terror methods, but only
through the courage of officers and men who were ready to
sacrifice themselves to the last man if necessity arose.

Q. What basic principles were applied by the troop for the
treatment of prisoners of war?

A. The prisoners of war were treated according to the rules
which applied in the army - welfare work, food, treatment,
just as in the army. I myself while lying wounded in
different field hospitals noted that friend and foe were
treated alike, and the old manner of dealing with prisoners
did not apply.

Q. Was the nomination of Himmler to the rank of Commander-in-
Chief of the Replacement Army and its organization, and with
that his nomination as chief of the prisoner-of-war system,
the cause of any changes in this policy?

A. Regarding the Waffen SS, no. But the prisoner-of-war
system was put under his authority since Heinrich Himmler
was Supreme Commander of the Replacement Army, and he
decreed that the Higher SS and Police Leaders at home be
charged with the supervision of the security measures of the
prisoner-of-war camps. I do not know, however, the details.
I can only state that, thereupon, the Higher SS and Police
Leaders were made generals in the Waffen SS.

Q. The prosecution asserts that the Waffen SS, because of
their will to destroy, committed crimes against humanity and
crimes against the laws of war in the occupied countries and
arbitrarily destroyed cities and villages. Did the Waffen SS
participate in those measures?

A. I had occasion to see these troops during the war. I
lived with the population in the East and West. The
relationship was always a good one. It was based on mutual
aid and assistance. Where we had to call the population to
help us, of course, for instance, in road-building, they
received food for their services. The arbitrary destruction
of villages would only have made it more difficult for us to
get accommodation. I do not remember a single case in which
the front troops of my division had ever taken hostages or
destroyed villages as a punishment.

Q. Before the Eastern campaign, had you known of a decree of
Hitler's which allegedly said that excesses of the troops
toward the civilian population were not to be punished?

A. That was not the wording of the order. Rather, it left
the decision as to whether the troops, in their excesses
towards the civilian population, were legally to be
prosecuted to the court itself, whereas formerly the court
was under obligation to prosecute. I personally had ordered
in my report that, as an aid to discipline, such excesses
were to be prosecuted by the law, and the judgements which
were reported to the Reichsfuehrer show that excesses were
punished very severely.

Q. Do you know the Kommissar order or decree?

A. The Kommissar order or decree was addressed only to the
corps of the Waffen SS. In 1941 we did not have any corps,
that is General Kommandos. Accordingly this decree was and
is unknown to me and, therefore we could not have been
guided by it. I recall only having seen a later decree which
demanded the segregation of the Kommissars. The troops, in
reality, were not too concerned

                                                  [Page 298]

with this order, for the Kommissars, as such, were not
recognized by the fighting troops.

Q. Was the fight against the partisans a special task of the
Waffen SS, and was this to be considered a fight of

A. The fight against partisans was a purely military,
political, police -

(At this point there was a mechanical

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn for today.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 1000 hours, 6th August, 1946.)

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