The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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At the very outset, let us dispose of the contention that to
put these men to trial is to do them an injustice entitling
them to some special consideration. These defendants may be
hard pressed but they are not ill used. Let us see what
alternative they would have to being tried.

More than a majority of these prisoners surrendered to or
were tracked down by the forces of the United States. Could
they expect us to make American custody a shelter for our
enemies against the just wrath of our Allies? Did we spend
American lives to capture them only to save them from
punishment? Under the principles of the Moscow Declaration,
those suspected war criminals who are not to be tried
internationally must be turned over to individual
governments for trial at the scene of their outrages. Many
less responsible and less culpable American-held prisoners
have been and will continue to be turned over to other
United Nations for local trial. If these defendants should
succeed, for any reason, in escaping the condemnation of
this Tribunal, or if they obstruct or abort this trial,
those who are American-held prisoners will be delivered up
to our continental Allies. For these defendants, however, we
have set up an International Tribunal, and have undertaken
the burden of participating in a complicated effort to give
them fair and dispassionate hearings. That is the best known
protection to any man with a defence worthy of being heard.

If these men are the first war leaders of a defeated nation
to be prosecuted in the name of the law, they are also the
first to be given a chance to plead for their lives in the
name of the law. Realistically, the Charter of this
Tribunal, which gives them a hearing, is also the source of
their only hope. It may be that these men of troubled
conscience, whose only wish is that the world forget them,
do not regard a trial as a favour. But they do have a fair
opportunity to defend themselves - a favour which, when in
power, they rarely extended even to their fellow countrymen.
Despite the fact that public opinion already condemns their
acts, we agree that here they must be given a presumption of
innocence, and we accept the burden of proving criminal acts
and the responsibility of these defendants for their

When I say that we do not ask for convictions unless we
prove crime, I do not mean mere technical or incidental
transgression of international conventions. We charge guilt
on planned and intended conduct that involves moral as well

                                                   [Page 52]

legal wrong. And we do not mean conduct that is a natural
and human, even if illegal, cutting of corners, such as many
of us might well have committed had we been in the
defendants' positions. It is not because they yielded to the
normal frailties of human beings that we accuse them. It is
their abnormal and inhuman conduct which brings them to this

We will not ask you to convict these men on the testimony of
their foes. There is no count in the Indictment that cannot
be proved by books and records. The Germans were always
meticulous record keepers, and these defendants had their
share of the Teutonic passion for thoroughness in putting
things on paper. Nor were they without vanity. They arranged
frequently to be photographed in action. We will show you
their own films. You will see their own conduct and hear
their own voices as these defendants re-enact for you, from
the screen, some of the events in the course of the

We would also make clear that we have no purpose to
incriminate the whole German people. We know that the Nazi
Party was not put in power by a majority of the German vote.
We know it came to power by an evil alliance between the
most extreme of the Nazi revolutionists, the most
unrestrained of the German reactionaries, and the most
aggressive of the German militarists. If the German populace
had willingly accepted the Nazi programme, no Storm-troopers
would have been needed in the early days of the Party, and
there would have been no need for concentration camps or the
Gestapo, both of which institutions were inaugurated as soon
as the Nazis gained control of the German state. Only after
these lawless innovations proved successful at home were
they taken abroad.

The German people should know by now that the people of the
United States hold them in no fear, and in no hate. It is
true that the Germans have taught us the horrors of modern
warfare, but the ruin that lies from the Rhine to the Danube
shows that we, like our Allies, have not been dull pupils.
If we are not awed German fortitude and proficiency in war,
and if we are not persuaded of their political maturity, we
do respect their skill in the arts of peace, their technical
competence, and the sober, industrious and self-disciplined
character of the masses of the German people. In 1933, we
saw the German people recovering prestige in the commercial,
industrial and artistic world after the set-back of the last
war. We beheld their progress neither with envy nor malice.
The Nazi regime interrupted this advance. The recoil of the
Nazi aggression has left Germany in ruins. The Nazi
readiness to pledge the German word without hesitation and
to break it without shame has fastened upon German diplomacy
a reputation for duplicity that will handicap it for years.
Nazi arrogance has made the boast of the "master race" a
taunt that will be thrown at Germans the world over for
generations. The Nazi nightmare has given the German name a
new and sinister significance throughout the world, which
will retard Germany a century. The German, no less than the
non-German world, has accounts to settle with these

The fact of the war and the course of the war, which is the
central theme of our case, is history. From September 1st,
1939, when the German armies crossed the Polish frontier,
until September, 1942, when they met epic resistance at
Stalingrad, German arms seemed invincible. Denmark and
Norway, the Netherlands and France, Belgium and Luxembourg,
the Balkans and Africa, Poland and the Baltic States, and
parts of Russia, all had, been overrun and conquered by
swift, powerful, well-aimed blows. That attack on the peace
of the world is the crime against international society
which brings into international cognizance crimes in its aid
and preparation which otherwise might be only internal
concerns. It was aggressive war, which the nations of the
world had renounced. It was war in violation of treaties, by
which the peace of the world was sought to be safeguarded.

This war did not just happen - it was planned and prepared
for over a long period of time and with no small skill and
cunning. The world has perhaps never seen

                                                   [Page 53]

such a concentration and stimulation of the energies of any
people as that which enabled Germany, twenty years after it
was defeated, disarmed and dismembered, to come so near
carrying out its plan to dominate Europe. Whatever else we
may say of those who were the authors of this war, they did
achieve a stupendous work in organisation, and our first
task is to examine the means by which these defendants and
their fellow conspirators prepared and incited Germany to go
to war.

In general, our case will disclose these defendants all
uniting at some time with the Nazi Party in a plan which
they well knew could be accomplished only by an outbreak of
war in Europe. Their seizure of the German State, their
subjugation of the German people, their terrorism and
extermination of dissident elements, their planning and
waging of war, their calculated and planned ruthlessness in
the conduct of warfare, their deliberate and planned
criminality toward conquered peoples - all these are ends
for which they acted in concert; and all these are phases of
the conspiracy, a conspiracy which reached one goal only to
set out for another and more ambitious one. We shall also
trace for you the intricate web of organisations which these
men formed and utilised to accomplish these ends. We will
show how the entire structure of offices and officials was
dedicated to the criminal purposes and committed to the use
of the criminal methods planned by these defendants and
their co-conspirators, many of whom war and suicide have put
beyond reach.

It is my purpose to open the case, particularly under Count
One of the Indictment, and to deal with the Common plan or
Conspiracy to achieve ends possible only by resort to Crimes
against Peace, War Crimes, and Crimes against Humanity. My
emphasis will not be on individual perversions which may
have occurred independently of any central plan. One of the
dangers ever present in this trial is that it may be
protracted by details of particular wrongs and that we will
become lost in a "wilderness of single instances." Nor will
I now dwell on the activity of individual dependants except
as it may contribute to exposition of the Common Plan.

The case as presented by the United States will be concerned
with the brains and authority behind all the crimes. These
defendants were men of a station and rank which does not
soil its own hands with blood. They were men who knew how to
use lesser folk as tools. We want to reach the planners and
designers, the inciters and leaders without whose evil
architecture, the world would not have been for so long
scourged with the violence and lawlessness, and racked with
the agonies and convulsions, of this terrible war.

I shall first take up the lawless road by which these men
came to possess the power which they have so used. The chief
instrumentality of cohesion in plan and action was the
National Socialist German Workers Party, known as the Nazi
Party. Some of the defendants were with it from the
beginning. Others joined only after success seemed to have
validated its lawlessness or power had invested it with
immunity from the processes of the law. Adolf Hitler became
its supreme leader or "Fuehrer" in 1921.

On the 24th February, 1920, at Munich, it publicly had
proclaimed its programme (1708-PS). Some of its purposes
would commend themselves to many good citizens, such as the
demands for "profit-sharing in the great industries,"
"generous development of provision for old age," "a land
reform suitable to our national requirements," and "raising
the standard of health." It also made a strong appeal to
that sort of nationalism which in ourselves we call
patriotism and in our rivals chauvinism. It demanded
"equality of rights for the German people in its dealing
with other nations and the evolution of the peace treaties
of Versailles and St. Germain." It demanded the "union of
all Germans on the basis of the right of self-determination
of peoples to form a Great Germany." It demanded "land and
territory (colonies) for the enrichment of our people and
the settlement of our surplus

                                                   [Page 54]

population." All of these, of course, were legitimate
objectives if they were to be attained without resort to
aggressive warfare.

The Nazi Party from its inception, however, contemplated
war. It demanded the "abolition of mercenary troops and the
formation of a national army." It proclaimed that "in view
of the enormous sacrifice of life and property demanded of a
nation by every war, personal enrichment through war must be
regarded as a crime against the nation. We demand,
therefore, ruthless confiscation of all war profits." I do
not criticise this policy. Indeed, I wish it were universal.
I merely wish to point out that in a time of peace, war was
a preoccupation of the Party, and it started the work of
making war less offensive to the masses of the people. With
this it combined a programme of physical training and sports
for youth that became, as we shall see, the cloak for a
secret programme of military training.

The Nazi Party declaration also committed its members to an
anti-Semitic programme. It declared that no Jew or any
person of non-German blood could  be a member of the nation.
Such persons were to be disfranchised, disqualified for
office, subject to the alien laws, and entitled to
nourishment only after the German population had first been
provided for. All who had entered Germany after 2nd August,
1914, were to be required forthwith to depart, and all non-
German immigration was to be prohibited.

The Party also avowed, even in those early days, an
authoritarian and totalitarian  programme for Germany. It
demanded creation of a strong central power with
unconditional authority, nationalisation of all businesses
which had been "amalgamated," and a "reconstruction" of the
national system of education, which "must aim at teaching
the pupil to understand the idea of the State (state
sociology)." Its hostility to civil liberties and freedom of
the Press was distinctly announced in these words: "It must
be forbidden to publish newspapers which do not conduce to
the national welfare. We demand the legal prosecution of all
tendencies in art or literature of a kind likely to
disintegrate our life as a nation, and the suppression of
institutions which might militate against the above

The forecast of religious persecution was clothed in the
language of religious liberty, for the Nazi programme stated
"We demand liberty for all religious denominations in the
State." But it continued with the limitation, "so far as
they are not a danger to it and do not militate against the
morality and moral sense of the German race."

The Party programme foreshadowed the campaign of terrorism.
It announced, "we demand ruthless war upon those whose
activities are injurious to the common interests," and it
demanded that such offences be punished with death.

It is significant that the leaders of this Party interpreted
this programme as a belligerent one, certain to precipitate
conflict. The Party platform concluded:

   "The leaders of the Party swear to proceed regardless of
   consequences - if necessary, at the sacrifice of their
   lives - toward the fulfilment of the foregoing points."

It is this Leadership Corps of the Party, not its entire
membership, that stands accused before you as a criminal

We have not sought to include every person who may, at some
time, have supported the Nazi Party, but only the leadership
core which pledged itself to achieve its ends at the risk of
their lives.

Let us now see how the leaders of the Party fulfilled their
pledge to proceed regardless of consequences. Obviously,
their foreign objectives, which were nothing less than to
undo international treaties and to wrest territory from
foreign control, as well as most of their internal
programme, could be accomplished only by possession of the
machinery of the German State. The first effort,
accordingly, was to subvert the Weimar Republic by violent
revolution. An abortive "putsch" at Munich in 1921 landed
many of them in jail. A period of meditation which followed
produced "Mein Kampf," henceforth the source of law for the
Party workers and a source of considerable revenue to its
supreme leader. The Nazi

                                                   [Page 55]

plans for the violent overthrow of the feeble Republic then
turned to plans for its capture.

No greater mistake could be made than to think of the Nazi
Party in terms of the loose organisations which we of the
Western world call "political parties." In discipline,
structure, and method the Nazi Party was not adapted to the
democratic process of persuasion. It was an instrument of
conspiracy and of coercion. The Party was not organised to
take over power in the German State by winning the support
of a majority of the German people; it was organised to
seize power in defiance of the will of the people.

The Nazi Party, under the "Fuehrerprinzip," was bound by an
iron discipline into a pyramid, with the Fuehrer, Adolf
Hitler, at the top and broadening into a numerous Leadership
Corps, composed of overlords of a very extensive Party
membership at the base. By no means all of those who may
have supported the movement in one way or another were
actual Party members. The membership took the Party oath
which in effect amounted to an abdication of personal
intelligence and moral responsibility. This was the oath: "I
vow inviolable fidelity to Adolf Hitler; I vow absolute
obedience to him and to the leaders he designates for me."
The membership in daily practise followed its leaders with
an idolatry and self-surrender more Oriental than Western.
We will not be obliged to guess as to the motives or goal of
the Nazi Party. The immediate aim was to undermine the
Weimar Republic. The order to all Party members to work to
that end was given in a letter from Hitler of 24th August,
1931, to Rosenberg, of which we will produce the original.
Hitler wrote:-

   "I am just reading in the Volkischer Beobachter, edition
   235/236 page 1, an article entitled 'Does Wirth intend
   to come over?' The tendency of the article is to prevent
   on our part a crumbling away from the present form of
   government. I myself am travelling all over Germany to
   achieve exactly the opposite. May I therefore ask that
   my own paper will not stab me in the back with
   tactically unwise articles ..." (047-PS)

Captured film enables us to present the defendant, Alfred
Rosenberg, who from the screen will himself tell you the
story. The S.A. practised violent interference with the
elections. We have here the reports of the S.D., describing
in detail how its members later violated the secrecy of
elections in order to identify those who opposed them. One
of the reports makes this explanation:-

   ".The control was effected in the following way: some
   members of the election-committee marked all the ballot-
   papers with numbers. During the ballot itself, a voters
   list was made up. The ballot-papers were handed out in
   numerical order, therefore it was possible afterwards
   with the aid of this list to find out the persons who
   cast no-votes or invalid votes. One sample of these
   marked ballot-papers is enclosed. The marking was done
   on the back of the ballot-papers with skimmed-milk." (R-

The Party activity, in addition to all the familiar forms of
political contest, took on the aspect of a rehearsal for
warfare. It utilised a Party formation, "Die
Sturmabteilungen," commonly known as the S.A. This was a
voluntary organisation of youthful and fanatical Nazis
trained for the use of violence under semi-military
discipline. Its members began by acting as bodyguards for
the Nazi leaders and rapidly expanded from defensive to
offensive tactics. They became disciplined ruffians for
breaking up opposition meetings and the terrorisation of
adversaries. They boasted that their task was to make the
Nazi Party "master of the streets." The S.A. was the parent
organisation of a number of others. Its offspring included
"Die Schutzstaffeln" commonly known as the S.S., formed in
1925, and distinguished for the fanaticism and cruelty of
its members; "Der Sicherheitsdienst," known as the S.D.; and
"Die Geheime Staatspolizei," the Secret State Police, the
infamous Gestapo formed in 1934 immediately after Nazi
accession to power.

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