The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. At what time did you know that the war, as regards
achieving the objectives that you had in mind, was a lost
war?

A. It is extremely difficult to say. At any rate, according
to my conviction, relatively late - I mean, it was only
towards the end that I became convinced that the war was
lost. Up till then I had always thought and hoped that it
would come to a stalemate.

Q. Well, in November, 1941, the offensive in Russia broke
down?

A. That is not at all correct. We had reverses because of
weather conditions, or rather, the goal which we had set was
not reached. The push of 1942 proved well enough that there
was no question of a military collapse. Some corps, which
had pushed forward, were merely thrown back, and some were
withdrawn. The totally unexpected early frost that set in
was the cause of this.

Q. You say, "relatively late." The expression you used does
not tell me anything, because I do not know what you regard
as relatively late. Will you fix in terms, either of events
or time, when it was that the conviction came to you that
the war was lost?

A. When, after 12th January, 1945, the Russian offensive
pushed forward to the Oder and at the same time the Ardennes
offensive had not smashed through, it was then that I was
forced to realise that defeat would probably set in slowly.
Up till that time I had always hoped that, on the one side,
the position at the Vistula toward the East and, on the
other side, the position at the West Wall towards the West,
could be held until the flow of the new mass-produced
weapons brought about a slackening of the Anglo-American air
war.

Q. Now, will you fix that by date; you told us when it was
by events.

                                                  [Page 193]

A. I just said January, 1945, middle or end of January,
1945. After that there was no more hope.

Q. Do you want it understood that, as a military man, you
did not realise until January, 1945, that Germany could not
be successful in the war?

A. As I have already said, we must draw a sharp distinction
between two possibilities. First, the successful conclusion
of a war, and second, a war which ends by neither side being
the victor. As regards a successful outcome, the moment when
it was realised that that was no longer possible was much
earlier, whereas the realisation of the fact that defeat
would set in did not come until the time I have just
mentioned.

Q. For some period before that, you knew that a successful
termination of the war could only be accomplished if you
could come to some kind of terms with the enemy; was that
not true?

A. Of course, a successful termination of a war can only be
considered successful if I either conquer the enemy or,
through negotiations with the enemy, come to a conclusion
which guarantees no success. That is what I call a
successful termination. I call it a draw when I come to
terms with the  enemy. This does not bring me the success
which victory would have brought but, on the other hand, it
precludes defeat. This is a conclusion without victors or
vanquished.

Q. But you knew that it was Hitler's policy never to
negotiate and you knew that, as long as he was the head of
the Government, the enemy would not negotiate with Germany,
did you not?

A. I knew that enemy propaganda emphasised that under no
circumstances would there be negotiations with Hitler. That
Hitler did not want to negotiate under any circumstances,
that I knew also, but not in this connection. Hitler would
have wanted to negotiate if there had been some prospect of
results; but he was absolutely opposed to hopeless and
futile negotiations. Because of the declaration of the enemy
in the West after the landing in Africa, as far as I
remember, that under no circumstances would they negotiate
with Germany but would force on her unconditional surrender,
Germany's resistance was stiffened to the utmost and
measures had to be taken accordingly. If I have no chance of
concluding a war through negotiations, then it is useless to
negotiate, and I must strain every nerve to bring about a
change by a call to arms.

Q. By the time of January, 1945, you also knew that you were
unable to defend the German cities against the air attacks
of the Allies, did you not?

A. Concerning the defence of German cities against Allied
air attacks, I should like to describe the possibility of
doing this as follows: of itself ...

Q. Can you answer my question? Time may not mean quite as
much to you as it does to the rest of us. Can you not answer
"Yes" or "No"? Did you then know, at the same time that you
knew that the war was lost, that the German cities could not
successfully be defended against air attack by the enemy?
Can you not tell us "Yes" or "No"?

A. I can say that I knew that, at that time, it was not
possible.

Q. And after that time it was well known to you that the air
attacks which were continued against England could not turn
the tide of war, and were designed solely to effect a
prolongation of what you then knew was a hopeless conflict?

A. I believe you are mistaken. After January, 1945, there
were no more attacks on England, except perhaps a few single
planes, because at that time I needed all of my petrol for
the fighter planes for the defence. If I had had bombers and
oil at my disposal, then, of course, I should have continued
such attacks up to the last minute, as retaliation for the
attacks which were being carried out on German cities,
whatever our chances might have been.

Q. What about robot attacks? Were there any robot attacks
after January, 1945?

                                                  [Page 194]

A. Thank God, we still had one weapon that we could use. I
have just said that, as long as the fight was on, we had to
hit back; and, as a soldier, I can only regret that we did
not have enough of these V-1 and V-2 bombs, for an easing of
the attacks on German cities could be brought about only if
we could inflict equally heavy losses on the enemy.

Q. And there was no way to prevent the war going on as long
as Hitler was the head of the German Government, was there?

A. As long as Hitler was the Fuehrer of the German people,
he alone decided whether the war was to go on. As long as my
enemy threatens me and demands absolutely unconditional
surrender, I fight to my last breath, because there is
nothing left for me except perhaps a chance that in some way
fate may change, even though it seems hopeless.

Q. Well, the people of Germany who thought it was time that
the slaughter stopped had no means to stop it except
revolution or assassination of Hitler, had they?

A. A revolution always changes a situation, if it succeeds.
That is a foregone conclusion. The murder of Hitler at this
time, say January, 1945, would have brought about my
succession. If the enemy had given me the same answer, that
is, unconditional surrender, and had held out those terrible
conditions which had been intimated, I would have continued
fighting whatever the circumstances.

Q. There was an attack on Hitler's life on 20th July, 1944?

A. Unfortunately, yes.

Q. And there came a time in 1945 when Hitler made a will in
Berlin whereby he turned over the presidency of the Reich to
your co-defendant, Admiral Donitz. You know about that?

A. That is correct. I read of this will here.

Q. And in making his will and turning over the government of
Germany to Admiral Donitz, I call your attention to this
statement: "Goering and Himmler, quite apart from their
disloyalty to my person, have done immeasurable harm to the
country and the whole nation by secret negotiations with the
enemy which they conducted without my knowledge and against
my wishes, and by illegally attempting to seize power in the
State for themselves."

And by that will he expelled you and Himmler from the Party
and from all offices of the State.

A. I can only answer for myself. What Himmler did, I do not
know.

I neither betrayed the Fuehrer nor did I at that time
negotiate with a single foreign soldier. This will, or this
final act of the Fuehrer is based on an extremely
regrettable mistake, and one which grieves me deeply - that
the Fuehrer could believe in his last hours that I could
ever be disloyal to him. It was all due to an error in the
transmission of a radio report and perhaps to a
misrepresentation which Bormann gave the Fuehrer. I myself
never though for a minute of taking over power illegally, or
of acting against the Fuehrer in any way.

Q. In any event you were arrested and expected to be shot?

A. That is correct.

Q. Now, in tracing the rise to power of the Party, you have
omitted some such things as, for example, the Reichstag fire
of 27th February, 1933. There was a great purge following
that fire, was there not, in which many people were arrested
and many people were killed?

A. I do not know of a single case where a man was killed
because of the Reichstag fire, except that of the
incendiary, van der Lubbe, who was sentenced by the court.
The other two defendants in this trial were acquitted. Herr
Thaelmann was not, as you recently erroneously believed,
accused; it was the Communist representative, Torgler. He
was acquitted, as was also the Bulgarian Dimitroff.
Relatively few arrests were made in connection with the
Reichstag fire. The arrests which you attribute to the
Reichstag fire were

                                                  [Page 195]

the arrests of Communist functionaries. These arrests, as I
have repeatedly stated and wish to emphasise once more, had
nothing to do with this fire. The fire merely precipitated
their arrest and upset our carefully planned action, thus
allowing several of the functionaries to escape.

Q. In other words, you had lists of Communists already
prepared at the time of the Reichstag fire, of persons who
should be arrested, did you not?

A. We had always drawn up beforehand fairly complete lists
of Communist functionaries who were to be arrested. That had
nothing to do with the fire in the German Reichstag.

Q. They were immediately put into execution - the arrests, I
mean - after the Reichstag fire?

A. Contrary to my intention of postponing this action for a
few days and letting it take place according to plan,
thereby perfecting the arrangements, the Fuehrer ordered
that same night that the arrests should follow immediately.
This had the disadvantage, as I said, of precipitating
matters.

Q. You and the Fuehrer met at the fire, did you not?

A. That is right.

Q. And then and there you decided to arrest all the
Communists that you had listed?

A. I repeat again that the decision for their arrests had
been reached some days before this; it simply meant that on
this night they were immediately arrested. I would rather
have waited a few days, according to plan; then some of the
important men would not have escaped.

Q. And the next morning the decree was presented to
President von Hindenburg, suspending the provisions of the
Constitution which we have discussed here, was it not?

A. I believe so, yes.

Q. Who was Karl Ernst?

A. Karl Ernst - whether his first name was Karl I do not
know - was the S.A. leader of Berlin.

Q. And who was Helldorf?

A. Count Helldorf was the subsequent S.A. leader of Berlin.

Q. And Heines?

A. Heines was the S.A. leader of Silesia at this time.

Q. Now, it is known to you, is it not, that Ernst made a
statement confessing that these three burned the Reichstag
and that you and Goebbels planned and furnished the
incendiary materials, consisting of liquid phosphorus and
petroleum, which were deposited by you in a subterranean
passage for them to get, which passage led from your house
to the Reichstag building? You knew of such a statement, did
you not?

A. I do not know of any statement by the S.A. leader Ernst.
But I do know of some fairy tale published shortly after in
the foreign Press by Roehm's chauffeur. This was after 1934.

Q. But there was such a passage from the Reichstag building
to your house, was there not?

A. On one side of the street is the Reichstag building, and
opposite is the palace of the Reichstag President. The two
are connected by a passage along which run the wagons
carrying the coke for the central heating.

Q. And, in any event, shortly after this, Ernst was killed
without a trial and without a chance to tell his story, was
he not?

A. That is not correct. The Reichstag fire took place in
February, 1933. Ernst was shot on 30th June, 1934, because
with Roehm he had planned to overthrow the Government and
had plotted against the Fuehrer. He therefore had a year and
a quarter in which he could have made statements regarding
the Reichstag fire, if he had wished to do so.

                                                  [Page 196]

Q. Well, he had begun to make statements, had he not, and
you were generally being accused of burning the Reichstag
building? You knew that did you not? That was the ...

A. That accusation that I had set fire to the Reichstag came
from a certain foreign Press. That could not bother me
because it was not consistent with the facts. I had no
reason or motive for setting fire to the Reichstag. From the
artistic point of view I did not at all regret that the
assembly chamber was burned; I hoped to build a better one.
But I did regret very much that I was forced to find a new
meeting-place for the Reichstag and, not being able to find
one, I had to give up my Kroll Opera House, that is, the
second State Opera House, for that purpose. The opera seemed
to me much more important than the Reichstag.

Q. Have you ever boasted of burning the Reichstag building,
even by way of joking?

A. No. I made a joke, if that is the one you are referring
to, when I said that, after this, I would be competing with
Nero and that probably people would soon be saying that,
dressed in a red toga and holding a lyre in my hand, I
looked on at the fire and played while the Reichstag was
burning. That was the joke. But the fact was that I almost
perished in the flames, which would have been very
unfortunate for the German people, but very fortunate for
their enemies.

Q. You never stated then, that you burned the Reichstag?

A. No. I know that Herr Rauschning said in the book which he
wrote, and which has often been referred to here, that I had
discussed this with him. I saw Herr Rauschning only twice in
my life and only for a short time on each occasion. If I had
set fire to the Reichstag, I would presumably have let that
be known only to my closest circle of confidants, if at all.
I would not have told it to a man whom I did not know and
whose appearance I could not describe at all to-day. That is
an absolute distortion of the truth.

Q. Do you remember the luncheon of Hitler's birthday in 1942
at the Kasino, the officers' mess, at the Headquarters of
the Fuehrer in East Prussia?

A. No.

Q. You do not remember that? I will ask that you be shown
the affidavit of General Franz Halder, and I call your
attention to his statements which may refresh your
recollection. I read it:

  "On the occasion of a luncheon on the Fuehrer's birthday
  in 1942, the people around the Fuehrer turned the
  conversation to the Reichstag building and its artistic
  value. I heard with my own ears how Goering broke into
  the conversation and shouted 'The only one who really
  knows the Reichstag is I, for I set fire to it.' And
  saying this he slapped his thigh."

A. This conversation did not take place and I request that I
be confronted with Herr Halder. First of all I want to
emphasise that what is written here is utter nonsense. It
says, "The only one who really knows the Reichstag is I."
The Reichstag was known to every representative in the
Reichstag. The fire took place only in the general assembly
room, and many hundreds or thousands of people knew this
room as well as I did. A statement of this type is utter
nonsense. How Herr Halder came to make that statement I do
not know. Apparently that bad memory, which also let him
down in military matters, is the only explanation.

Q. You know who Halder is?

A. Only too well.

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