The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. Did you hear of any indecent assaults committed by German
soldiers in the East? Whenever cases of violations of
International Law were reported to you, did you take action
with all the means at your disposal?

A. At least I tried to do so, if only for the sake of
maintaining the reputation of the German Armed Forces and
the Armed Forces of our Italian allies. I therefore thought
it expedient to deal severely with any German soldier who
committed an offence. As I was mindful of the fact that war
is a brutal business and the longer it lasts the more brutal
it becomes, particularly if the leaders and sub-leaders are
no longer able to cope with their tasks, I had recourse to
preventive measures. The preventive regulations, which I am
sure were seen at many places by the Allied Forces during
their advance through Italy, my various announcements of the
penalties imposed which became generally known - these are
the best proof of what I have just said.

As a preventive measure I ordered whole towns, or, if this
was not possible, their centres, to be cleared of
headquarters, administrative offices, and soldiers, and
sealed off. Furthermore, as far as air-raid precautions
allowed, the soldiers were garrisoned and billeted in
confined areas. I also ordered individual soldiers, for they
are usually the cause of the trouble - soldiers, for
instance, going on and returning from leave - to be grouped
together and non-military vehicles to form convoys. For
control purposes I had cordons thrown by military police,
field police, gendarmes, with mobile courts and flying
squads attached to them.

The buying-up of Italian goods, which was partly the cause
of the trouble, was to be restricted by establishing stores,
in co-operation with the Italian Government, along the
return routes, and here the soldiers could buy something to
take home. This was enforced by penalties. German offenders
reported to me by the Italians, I had prosecuted, or I
myself proceeded against them. Whenever local operations
prevented my personal intervention, as, for instance at
Siena, I notified the Armed Forces that I would have the
case dealt with by court martial at a later date. In other
cases, when the situation was critical, I declared a state
of emergency and imposed the death penalty for looting,
robbery, murder, etc. The death penalty was, however, rarely
found to have a

                                                   [Page 33]

deterrent effect. I took action against officers who,
naturally disposed to shield their men, had shown too great

I understand all files are available here so that all
details can be seen from the marginal notes on the reports
sent in by the police gendarmes.

Q. Witness, do you also know of any violations of
International Law by the other side?

A. During my many visits to the front I did, of course, come
across a large number -

GENERAL RUDENKO: I protest against this question. From my
viewpoint, the witness is not the person to make any
statement as to whether Germany's enemies have violated
International Law. I think this question should be omitted.

DR. LATERNSER: May I explain my point? I am interested in
any answer to this question because I want to follow it with
the further question to the witness, whether, after he heard
of violations of International Law by his own men, he became
more lenient because of violations of International Law by
the other side. That is why I am anxious to have this
question answered.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal would like to know exactly what
your question is and why you say it is competent.

DR. LATERNSER: The exact wording of the question is as

I asked the witness: Do you also know of violations of
International Law by the other side?

According to his answer I intend to put the further question
to the witness, whether, in view of such violations of
International Law by the other side, he either did not
punish at all or dealt more leniently with violations of
International Law by his own men.

From the answer to this latter question I want to ascertain
the attitude of the witness as a member of the group, and
that is why I consider the answer to the first question to
be important.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal would like to hear what counsel
for the United States says about it.

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: If your Honour please, I believe it is
a well-established principle of International Law that a
violation on one side does not excuse or warrant violations
on the other side. There is, of course, a doctrine of
reprisal, but it is clearly not applicable here, on any
basis that has been shown.

In the second place, even if the treatment of the subject-
matter were competent, I think it is being improperly gone
into in this manner. Here is a broad question, "Did you hear
of violations of International Law?" It would at least, even
if the subject were proper, require that some particulars of
a case be given. A broad conclusion of a charge - a
violation of International Law would hardly be sufficient to
inform this Tribunal as to the basis on which this witness
may have acted.

If there were some specific instance, with credible
information called to his attention, there might be some
basis; but surely the question as asked by counsel does not
afford a basis here.

It seems to me we are getting far afield from the charges
here and that this is far afield from anything that is
involved in the case. I do not know what particular
atrocities or violations of International Law are to be
excused by this method. There must have been atrocities
committed, on the basis of which there are sought to be
excused atrocities committed by somebody else. Who else
committed them, or why they were committed, is a question we
might have to try if we went into this subject. It seems to
me that the enquiry is quite beside the point, and even if
it were not, if there were any way that it is within the
point, it is improperly put in this manner.

DR. STAHMER: This question, which is of fundamental
importance, was argued before this Tribunal some time ago.
This was when I applied for permission

                                                   [Page 34]

to be given to produce "White Books" containing reports on
atrocities. I think it was during the sitting of 25th

At that time Professor Exner defined his attitude to this
question and the Tribunal then permitted me to produce these
"White Books," with the proviso that I would still have to
state what I intended to present from these books.

On that occasion attention was drawn to the importance of
the question, whether atrocities were committed by the other
side as well, because this very point may contribute to a
more just and possibly to a more lenient judgement of the
German behaviour. The motive of an act has always a decisive
bearing on the findings and the view will be taken here that
an act on the German part will be judged differently if the
other side has really shown an entirely correct behaviour.

Furthermore, it is an important question whether measures
taken may have been reprisals. On the strength of these
considerations I hold that this important question should be

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn for 10 minutes.

(A recess was taken.)

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal have considered the questions
which Dr. Laternser proposed to put to the witness and have
also considered the objections made by General Rudenko and
Mr. Justice Jackson, and they hold the questions are

DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, I assume that I am allowed to
put the following question:

Q. Witness, did you either not punish at all or deal more
leniently with violations of International Law by your own
men when violations of this law by the other side were
reported to you?

THE PRESIDENT: That seems to me to be putting in one
question what before you put in two.

DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, this question is not meant to
cause the witness to give instances of violations of
International Law by the other side. From the answer, I
merely want to ascertain the fundamental attitude of the
witness, namely, whether he as C.-in-C. dealt most severely
with violations of International Law by his own men even if
violations on the other side were reported to him. I
withdraw the question.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal would see no objection in your
asking the witness whether he was anxious to avoid
violations of International Law; if you wish to put that
question to him there will be no objection. The question
which you have suggested putting is really identical with
the questions you put before.


Q. Witness, during this trial severe accusations have been
made because of atrocities committed by German soldiers. Was
not every soldier sufficiently enlightened and instructed
about the regulations of International Law?

A. I answer this question in the affirmative. The many talks
given by me and the commanders under me always contained
such admonitions and instructions.

Q. Did you, as C.-in-C. of an army group, spare art
treasures and churches as far as possible?

A. I regarded it, of course, as my duty to spare centres of
art and learning and churches. I gave orders to that effect.

Q. What do you know about the treatment of prisoners of war
who had fallen into German hands?

                                                   [Page 35]

A. Prisoners of war were treated according to International
Law; wherever inspections ordered by me revealed any
neglect, I had it redressed and reprimanded the commandant
in charge.

Q. I have still three more questions.

Were you, as Field-Marshal, informed that Italy would enter
the war?

A. No, I had not been informed about that. As far as I know,
the entry of Italy into the war was so spontaneous that even
the political leaders were surprised.

Q. And were you informed that war would be declared upon

A. No. I am unable to say anything about this question.

Q. And now the last question, What was the position
regarding the resignation of military leaders during the

A. Resignation from the Armed Forces of one's own free will
or an application for permission to resign from the Armed
Forces was not allowed. In 1944 there was an order
prohibiting this under threat of the severest penalties. The
Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces reserved for himself
the exclusive right to make changes of personnel in the
leading positions.

Q. Was there a written order to this effect?

A. Yes, I think so.

DR. LATERNSER: I have no further questions.

BY PROFESSOR DR. JAHRREISS (counsel for defendant Jodl):

Q. Witness, you said before that the Cs.-in-C. had, in
military matters, the right and the opportunity to present
their demands and views to Hitler, the Supreme Commander of
the Armed Forces. Did I understand that correctly?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you personally have differences of opinion with
Hitler about orders?

A. Considerable differences about operational and tactical

Q. Did it come to a real clash?

A. "Clash" is perhaps putting it too strongly; rather, a
divergence on either side.

Q. Shall we say disputes, were they frequent?

A. Yes.

Q. After all we have heard here, Adolf Hitler must have been
a rather difficult customer.

A. That must be admitted. On the other hand, I found him - I
do not know why - to show understanding in most of the
matters I put to him.

Q. Did you yourself settle these differences of opinion with

A . In critical cases, if he could not gain his point,
General Jodl called me in.

Q. If you could not gain the point?

A. No, if Jodl could not gain his point.

Q. If Jodl could not gain his point, you were called in?

A. Yes.

Q. Did Jodl's opinions, too, differ from Hitler's?

A. On the various occasions when I attended for reporting I
observed very definite differences of opinion between the
two gentlemen, and that Jodl - who was our spokesman at the
O.K.W. - put his point of view with remarkable energy and
stuck to it right to the end.

Q. What do you mean, he was your spokesman at the High
Command; whose spokesman?

A. My theatres of war, speaking as a General in the Armed
Forces, were so-called O.K.W. theatres of war, and the East
was an Army theatre of war.

Q. Had the O.K.W. no say regarding the Army theatres of war
in the East?

A. No.

Q. And the Army had no say regarding the O.K.W. theatres of

A. No.

                                                   [Page 36]

Q. I think not everybody will be able to understand this

A. It would be asking too much, because I myself cannot
understand it.

Q. So, you were at a O.K.W. theatre of war.

A. Yes.

Q. What does O.K.W. mean in this connection?

A. Oberkommando der Wehrmacht - Supreme Command of the Armed

Q. Yes, I know that.

A. It meant that the C.-in-C. was directly responsible to
Adolf Hitler, and the H.Q. to Jodl's operations staff.

Q. In a previous interrogation you spoke of orders from the
O.K.W., did you not?

A. Yes.

Q. Who is the O.K.W., who gave those orders?

A. Orders of a fundamental nature were issued by one person
only, and that was Adolf Hitler. All the others were only
executive officers. This did not prevent these executive
officers from holding views of their own or sharing the
views of the army groups under them, and they presented
these views energetically to Adolf Hitler.

Q. What you are saying now rather surprises me, since the
opinion had been voiced that Jodl, who you say was a kind of
spokesman for the Cs.-in-C., was a willing tool of Adolf

A. I think the one does not exclude the other. I cannot
imagine any marriage of six years standing without both
partners having tried to understand each other. On the other
hand, I can very well imagine that even in the happiest
marriage serious quarrels occur.

Q. But in the average marriage the husband does not
necessarily have to be a willing tool.

A. Here the situation is still a little bit different. As
with all comparisons, this comparison with marriage does not
go the whole way. In addition to this, in the Army there is
the principle of unquestioning subordination.

Q. Yes, but what you just told us about Jodl's position as
spokesman for the Cs.-in-C. sounds as if Jodl acted as an
intermediary, does it not?

A. Jodl represented our interests in an outstanding way and
thus acted as an intermediary for all of us.

Q. Did he also pit his opinions against those of Adolf
Hitler when he, in one of his famous fits of rage, had
issued an order?

A. I can only state that, on the occasion of my few visits
to the H.Q., I saw General Jodl - if I may say so - grow red
in the face, and in expressing his views he went very near
the limit of what is permissible for a military man.

MR. PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 13th March, 1946, at 10.00 hours.)

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