The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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DR. STAHMER, Continued:

There appeared in court a witness whose testimony was very
incriminating for the defendant. This was the witness Dr.

The defendant refuses to have anything to do with this
witness and his statement. He wants only to point out that
this statement is untrue in all points which incriminate
him. The conclusiveness of this statement depends on whether
this witness is considered to be trustworthy or not.

Dr. Nelte has agreed to deal with this question extensively,
so that, in order to avoid reiterated statements, I shall
refrain from further comment.

Of course, the assumption of power by the National Socialist
Party met with resistance, and particularly the leftist
parties were anything but satisfied with the political
situation thus created. The opponents were by no means weak,
neither numerically nor as to the combative means at their
disposal. The new rulers were, therefore, afraid of serious
dangers to their power if they allowed the opposition
parties to continue their activity without hindrance; they
had accordingly to take preventive measures against such
dangers in good time. In order to stabilise their own power
and to nip in the bud any possible source of unrest, the
defendant Goering considered it necessary for reasons of
State to subdue at one blow both leaders and officials of
the Communist Party and its organizations. The defendant
himself has spoken at length about his reasons for such
acts. For the removal of danger and to ensure the safety of
the State, the measures taken by the defendant were, for the
Government, a necessity caused by the unsettled nature of
the times. As it was a preventive measure, it was not
necessary for a provisional arrest that a criminal act
against the Government had already been committed, or was,
obviously, on the verge of being committed. The fact of
membership of and previous activity in the said party were
sufficient grounds for arrest, as it was a political act of
self-protection on the part of the Government.

Such considerations led, very soon after the assumption of
power, to the establishment of concentration camps, of which
there were two at the time when defendant Goering was at the
head of the police. The aim of such camps was to detain
provisionally politically unreliable persons, who might be
of danger to the new State, until they either had adapted
themselves to the new political conditions or until the
power of the State had become so great that such persons
could no longer endanger it. I can omit the next few pages
and I shall continue on Page 61, Paragraph 4.

                                                  [Page 129]

Those were the only considerations which influenced the
defendant Goering when he created concentration camps in
1933, and issued laws concerning the Secret State Police.
These were intended to be, as he conceived them, a means of
cleansing and strengthening the young community of the
people. He did not aim at a definite annihilation of
political enemies, but after a certain period of education
interceded generously for liberations, and discharged at
Christmas, 1933, about 5,000, and in September, 1934, about
2,000 prisoners.

He vigorously counteracted inevitable abuses and errors
which he openly admitted in the book he published in 1934,
The Building of a Nation, intended for the British public.
For example, he permitted the communist leader Thaelmann
personally to report to him about his complaints of the
concentration camp, and took care to remove their cause. He
dissolved the unauthorised camps of Stettin and Breslau,
punished the Gauleiter of Pomerania, who had organized the
latter without his knowledge and against his will, and had
those responsible for these unauthorised concentration camps
brought to trial for their infringements of the regulations.

This attitude of the defendant Goering denotes that he never
intended the actual physical annihilation of the prisoners.
If the prosecution establishes that this was all in
execution of a conspiracy which aimed at committing Crimes
against Humanity, such an interpretation has no bearing on
the reality of political life in the years in question. Such
a conspiracy did not exist, nor was it the intention of the
defendant to commit crimes against the principles of
humanity, nor has he committed any such crimes. As one of
the political trustees of the German Government, he felt
himself bound to safeguard it against dangerous disturbers
of the peace, and to contribute accordingly to the
permanence of the National Socialist way of life. Far from
looking upon such measures as criminal, he considered them
on the contrary to be the inevitable means of consolidating
the political order as a basis of all law.

In the year 1936, the leadership of the police and,
therefore, the management of the concentration camps, passed
from the defendant to the Reichsfuehrer SS Heinrich Himmler.
The defendant cannot be held responsible for the subsequent
development of the concentration camps; for the fact that
they became, especially after the outbreak of the war, more
and more gruesome places of torture and death, and led -
partly intentionally, partly through the chaotic war
conditions - to the death of countless numbers of people, so
that finally, in the last days before the breakdown of
Germany, they turned into one vast graveyard.

Of course he knew that concentration camps still existed,
also that the number of inmates had risen because of war
conditions, and that they also contained foreigners because
of the expansion of the war over the whole of Europe - but
the instances of outrages which have been disclosed in this
trial were unknown to him. He knew nothing of the
irresponsible experiments which were being carried out on
inmates through misinterpretation of the true spirit of
scientific research. The testimony of the witness Field-
Marshal Milch has shown that the Luftwaffe was not
interested in these experiments, and that the defendant
personally did not learn anything specific at all about this

By no means did the establishment of concentration camps as
such have anything to do with the later extermination of
Jews, which idea apparently originated in Heydrich's and
Himmler's brains, and was kept secret in a masterly manner,
and was disclosed after the collapse as the horror of
Auschwitz and Maidanek.

This brings me to the Jewish question:

The defendant Goering has expressed in detail his views on
the Jewish question during his interrogation as witness;
furthermore, he has explained fully the reasons which
influenced the National Socialist party, and, after the
seizure of power, the Nazi State, to take a hostile attitude
toward the Jews.

The defendant is reproached for having promulgated the
Nuremberg laws in the year 1935, which were intended to keep
the race pure, and that in his capacity as Commissioner for
the Four-Year Plan, he issued decrees during the years 1938

                                                  [Page 130]

and 1939 which had as their aim the exclusion of Jews from
the economic life of Germany.

Furthermore, he is blamed for a number of other laws which
meant a one-sided and serious limitation of the legal rights
of Jews.

The legal reason for this reproach is obscure.

For here it is a question of a purely domestic problem -
namely the regulation of the legal position of one's own
subjects; according to internationally recognized legal
opinion at that time, the German Reich as a sovereign State
could freely settle such a problem.

Even if these encroachments were harsh and the limitations
of citizenship rights were extremely severe, they
nevertheless in no way comprise an offence against humanity.

Such laws, which limit the legal position of a certain race
or a certain circle of citizens, have also been made by
other governments. of countries without offence being taken
at such measures by other States, and without their
considering themselves obliged to intervene. Reichsmarschall
Goering always rejected any illegal or violent action
against Jews. This is clearly shown by his attitude toward
the action against Jews during the night of 9th to 10th
November, 1938, instigated by Goebbels, of which he was
informed only after the deed had been done, and which he
condemned most severely. In this respect, he raised serious
objections with Goebbels, and Hitler. On this matter, the
precise statements of witnesses Bodenschatz and Korner are
available. The testimony of Dr. Uiberreither shows how
greatly Goering disapproved of this action. According to the
former, the defendant summoned all Gauleiter to Berlin
several weeks after this incident, and in his address
sharply censured this violent action which was not in
keeping with the dignity of the State, and which caused
serious damage to German prestige abroad. That the defendant
was no race fanatic became generally known by his
expression: "I decide who is a Jew." It has been established
definitely that he aided many Jews.

He was informed only at the end of the war about the
extermination of the Jews. He never would have approved of
such a measure, and opposed it with all his might. For he
had too much political insight not to recognize the
tremendous and, at the same time, senseless dangers which
would perforce result for the German people from such a
brutal and detestable act of extermination.

Goering had already proved by the above-mentioned speech to
the Gauleiter that he did not wish to ruin himself in the
eyes of the world because of the treatment of Jews.

It is, therefore, out of the question for Goering to have
agreed to such an undertaking or for him to have
participated in it in any way. It is understandable, if it
is held against the defendant, that he should have been
informed about such horrible measures as the second man in
the State.

Furthermore, it is no wonder if such statements of the
defendant, as that he knew nothing of these atrocities, are
met with a certain amount of distrust.

Despite such doubts, however, the defendant insists that no
information about such acts ever reached him.

This ignorance of the defendant - which can be completely
understood only by one familiar with German conditions - may
be explained by the fact, and this is the sole solution of
the riddle, that Himmler, as was also emphasized by General
Jodl during his interrogation, knew very cleverly how to
keep his actions secret, to obliterate all traces of his
atrocities, and to deceive the surrounding world and even
his own and Hitler's closer entourage.

In this connection, I also refer to the testimony of the
witness Hoess who confirms Himmler's instruction concerning
absolute secrecy toward everyone.

The question may come up here: Did not the legal obligation
exist for the defendant to instigate investigations about
this matter and to get reliable information as to the true
whereabouts of supposedly evacuated Jews, and as to their
fate? And what legal consequence results if he carelessly
refrained from such investigations

                                                  [Page 131]

and thus carelessly violated his legal obligation to act,
incumbent on him by virtue of his position? The decision of
this extremely complicated question of law and fact may be
left undecided because Goering, even as the second man in
the State, did not have the power to prevent such measures
if they were carried out by Himmler and were ordered, or at
any rate, approved by Hitler.

Mr. President, yesterday I stated that I still wished to
deal with the case "Katyn", and I intend to interpolate,
dealing with this matter, before I go on with my conclusion.
I am sorry I was not able to get any translations before
because the testimony was only given a few days ago.
However, this matter is not very long. The interpreters have
a copy. I shall begin with this report.

A rather decisive attitude has to be taken in the case of
the Katyn case, in which the taking of evidence was
concluded only a few days back. The Soviet prosecution based
their indictment on the findings of an investigation, which
are set down in Document USSR 54. The following conclusions
are drawn from the entire evidential material as presented:

(1) Polish prisoners of war, who were in three camps west of
Smolensk, were still there in these three camps when the
Germans came into Smolensk, up to and including September,

(2) In the Katyn woods, German occupation troops undertook
the mass shootings of the prisoners of war from these camps
in the autumn of 1941.

(3) The mass shooting of the Polish prisoners of war in the
Katyn woods was carried out by the German military
authorities who had hidden themselves under the code name
"Staff of the Engineering Battalion 537" at whose head was
Lt.-Colonel Ahrens, together with his collaborators, Lt. Rex
and Lt. Hodt.

The question is, did the prosecution prove this accusation?
This question must be answered in the negative. No
confirmation of guilt can be found from the contents of this
document. The accusation is made against a definite military
unit and names specific officers. The time mentioned for the
perpetration of this deed is September of 1941. The Katyn
forest is given as the scene of the crime. With the limited
material at hand, it was the task of the prosecution to
prove that these things did take place. But no evidence has
been produced which confirms the conclusions.

First of all, let us consider the persons involved.

Colonel Ahrens, who is obviously the Lt.-Colonel Ahrens
mentioned, is eliminated as the perpetrator because this
deed is said to have been committed in September, 1941, and
Ahrens did not take command of Regiment 537 until the end of
November, 1941. That was when Ahrens came to Katyn, and
until that time he had never been in the Eastern theatre of
war. Before Ahrens, Colonel Bedenek was in command of the
regiment, and he came to the regimental staff in August of
1941. Before Colonel Bedenek took over, Lt. Hodt, in July of
1941, immediately after the capture of Smolensk, went to the
little Dnieper Castle, together with an advance party of the
537th Regiment, and he remained there until the arrival of
the regimental staff, to which he did not belong at that
time. He was transferred to the regimental staff only in
September of 1941, and from that time on he lived in the
little castle constantly.

Special facts which could incriminate Hodt or Bedenek cannot
be derived from the document which has been submitted, and
such facts have not been presented here. Therefore, it is
not proved that Bedenck and Hodt could be considered as

The following circumstances contradict the theory that unit
537 or any other military unit had participated in this act:

The Polish prisoners allegedly fell into the hands of the
Germans in the three camps of Smolensk. In that way they
would have become German prisoners of war. The fact that
they had been captured would have had to have been reported
to the Army Group Centre. Such a report was not rendered, as
was testified to by the witness Eichborn. Considering the
tremendous number of prisoners, it is quite out of the
question that anyone responsible could inadvertently fail to

                                                  [Page 132]

make a report of that nature. Apart from that, the capturing
of 11,000 Polish officers could, under no circumstances,
have been concealed from the Army Group. As can be seen from
the testimony of General Oberhauser, the Army Group never
had any knowledge of this.

According to the statements of the two witnesses, Eichborn
and Oberhauser, it can be concluded that at the time of the
capture of Smolensk by the Germans, there could not have
been any Polish officers present in these camps. No
eyewitnesses who saw the officers at this period of time
were interrogated by the Soviet Commission.

The railway employee who was interrogated in this matter
knows nothing from his own observation.

Now, allegedly these 11,000 prisoners were taken from the
camps to Katyn. The knowledge of the transport of so many
Polish prisoners could not have been kept from the Russian
population, even if the transport had been carried out most
unobtrusively and secretly, and shootings on such a large
scale could also not have taken place without the Russian
population noticing them.

Even though this little forest was cordoned off, at a
distance of about 200 metres, there was a public highway
which was used daily, and to a great extent by the Russian
civilian population. Anything that took place in the little
forest of Katyn could be seen from this highway.

In the direct vicinity of the Dnieper Castle, there were
single farms which remained occupied by the owners during
the time of the German occupation, and there was constant
contact with the regimental staff. There are no reliable
statements and testimony dealing with either the transport
of prisoners or the observation of shootings. Never, even on
the part of the Germans, would such a site as this be chosen
for mass execution. This site was located between the main
road and the regimental quarters, and as such would have
been completely unsuitable for such a misdeed. As I have
already stated, there was lively traffic not only on the
near-by road, but also in the direct vicinity of the graves
which were near a small road connecting the regimental
headquarters with the main road. The act could also have
been observed by soldiers who had not participated.

Even the unit selected to carry out the deed would have been
very unsuitable. A technical unit, such as a signal corps
unit, is the least suitable for such a task.

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