The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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                                                  [Page 260]


MONDAY, 5th AUGUST, 1946

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, Dr. Pelckmann.



BY DR. PELCKMANN (counsel for the SS):

Q. Witness, on Saturday you said that the witness Rascher,
the accused witness Rascher, had finally been in a
concentration camp. Did you approve of this settlement of
the affair?

A. No. I was of the opinion that these criminal deeds should
be punished by a court trial.

Q. If you did not approve of this settlement without a
formal trial, what were you able to do against it?

A. I repeat that I never ceased applying to Himmler's office
and I made inquiries of the Supreme SS and Police Court. I
may point out that the binding regulations of the
Kriegsstrafverfahrungs Ordnung - the War Penal Code -
provided that Himmler alone was competent. All I could have
done was to make a complaint about Himmler to Hitler, but in
view of the existing situation, this was a practical
impossibility. Neither an oral nor a written complaint or
report from me would ever have reached Hitler.

I may explain that, despite my high position in the State
and the Party and the nine years of my official activity in
Munich, only on one occasion, for about ten minutes, was I
admitted to see Hitler because he wanted a report from me on
the cordoning-off measures on the occasion of a big
demonstration. That is the only time.

The only other thing I could have done was to resign.
Because of the existing regulations, this would doubtlessly
not have been accepted.

A last way out was either to commit dishonourable suicide or
to refuse obedience as a soldier, for I was a General of the
Waffen SS and was bound by my oath of allegiance to the
flag. Then I would have been court-martialed and sent to a
concentration camp even at that time.

Q. You just said that you were a General of the Waffen SS.
So far you have told the Tribunal only that you were a
member of the General SS. When and for what reason did you
become a General of the Waffen SS, although up to then you
had had nothing whatever to do with that body.

A. In the autumn of 1944 Himmler became Commander-in-Chief
of the Reserve Army. When he took over this office, the
Prisoner-of-War Department also came under his jurisdiction.
In the autumn of 1944 Himmler transferred to the Senior SS
and Police Chiefs the responsibility for safeguarding
prisoner-of-war camps against mass escapes and attempts from
the outside to liberate prisoners. For this purpose, the
Senior SS and Police Chiefs were made Senior Commanders of
Prisoners of War. According to international regulations
regarding prisoners of war, police could not be used to
guard them. The Senior SS and Police Chiefs were taken over
into the Waffen SS and appointed Generals of that

                                                  [Page 261]

THE PRESIDENT: If you could go a little bit faster, if you
could speak a little bit faster, I think it would be
convenient to the Tribunal.


Q. The prosecution construes the fact that Himmler, in
September of 1944, as Commander-in-Chief of the Reserve
Army, became chief of the Prisoner-of-War Department, to
mean that the SS was now in charge of prisoners of war; is
that true?

A. That is not true. Apart from the Senior Commander of
Prisoners of War, no other member of the SS had anything to
do with prisoners of war.

Q. The prosecution further asserts that through the transfer
of these prisoner-of-war tasks to Himmler or to the Senior
Commander of Prisoners of War in the autumn of 1944, the
inhuman treatment and destruction of allied prisoners of war
was systematically promoted by the SS. Is that true?

A. No, because the camp commandants of the Wehrmacht
continued to be responsible for the running and
administration of the camps from the inside. The task
assigned to us was security, which began only outside the
camp. Moreover, during the visits which I paid to the
individual camps during the six months of my competency, I
always asked the prisoners-of-war spokesmen themselves
whether they had any complaints. Not a single complaint of
this kind was made to me by these men.

Q. As Senior Commander of Prisoners of War from the autumn
of 1944 on, did you have anything to do with the employment
of prisoner-of-war labour?

A. No. The employment of Prisoner of War labour was
regulated by a Wehrmacht Staff for the Employment of Labour
in co-operation with the provincial labour offices or with
those parties needing labour. The Senior Commander of
Prisoners of War did not deal with this.

Q. From the autumn of 1944 on, was there any change in your
jurisdiction over concentration camps, or your lack of
jurisdiction over them, as you described it on Saturday?

A. In the autumn of 1944, as in the case of prisoner-of-war
camps, the Senior SS and Police Chief was made responsible
for safeguarding concentration camps from the outside, for
the reasons just mentioned, with a view to maintaining the
security of the State.

Q. Did the RSHA remain responsible for the delivery of
prisoners to the camps and did Amtsgruppe D of the Economic
and Administrative Main Office remain responsible for the
administration of camps?

A. Yes, Amt VI of the RSHA for internment and release, and
for the internal administration of the camp and the
inspection of concentration camps, Amtsgruppe D of the
Economic and Administrative Main Office.

Q. Can you give an example from the last phase of the war of
how difficult it was for you, because of your limited
powers, to prevent the death of thousands of concentration
camp inmates?

A. Yes. At the beginning of March, 1945, the Gauleiter and
Reich Defence Commissar Giesler in Munich ordered me to come
to him, and made the monstrous request to me that I should
use my influence with the Commandant of Dachau so that when
the American troops approached, the prisoners - there were
25,000 people there at the time - were to be shot. I refused
this demand with indignation, and I pointed out that I could
not give any orders to the Commandant, whereupon Giesler
said to me that he, as Reich Defence Commissar, would see to
it that the camp would be bombed to bits by our own forces.
I told him that I considered it impossible that any German
air force commander would be willing to do this. Then
Giesler said he would see to it that something would be put
into the soup of the prisoners. That is, he threatened to
poison them. On my own initiative I sent a teletype inquiry
to the Inspector of Concentration Camps and asked for a
speedy decision from Himmler as to what was to be done with
the prisoners in

                                                  [Page 262]

case the American troops approached. Shortly afterwards the
news came that the camps were to be surrendered as a whole
to the enemy. I showed that to Giesler. He was very
indignant because I had frustrated his plans and because I
was of a different opinion. Shortly after we had another
clash regarding the defence of Munich, which was completely
hopeless. The Wehrmacht Commander was thrown out eight days
before me, and on the 20th of April I was also dismissed and
all my offices were taken away from me, and I was without

THE PRESIDENT: The man you are speaking of, the Gauleiter,
was Gauleiter of what district? What Gau?

THE WITNESS: Munich and Upper Bavaria. He was also Bavarian
Prime Minister and Bavarian Minister of the Interior and
Reich Defence Commissar.


Q. Witness, you have just described the various
characteristics of Gauleiter Giesler. According to the
structure of the internal administration at the time, did he
formally have the right to take the actions which he
intended to carry out?

A. Yes. In all questions of the defence of the country, the
Reich Defence Commissar could impose his will, on the
strength of the existing regulations for the Reich Defence
Commissars. In addition, as I have already said, the man was
Bavarian Prime Minister, and as such the supreme powers in
the province were united in his person.

Q. In some of the final speeches of my fellow counsel for
the chief defendants it was said that in the course of the
war the SS - it was put in this form - the SS came to
represent the government in Germany. Will you please
describe in whose hands, according to your opinion and your
experience at the time in such a high position, in whose
hands the executive power was, from 1933 to 1945.

A. In any case, not in the hands of the SS. During the war,
important functions of the Reich were in the hands of the
Reich Defence Commissars, who could take part in everything
except the Reich Special Administration. I need only refer
to the Reich Law of, I believe, the 16th of November, 1942.
Moreover, through the influence of Martin Bormann,
everything inside the Reich was directed more or less by the
Gauleiter and the Reich Defence Commissars. The SS was at no
time a decisive factor. The General SS, as I testified on
Saturday, no longer existed in the country, and the troops
of the Waffen SS were at the front.

Q. One more question, witness. When and in what way did you
learn that members of the Jewish population in your district
were deported to the East?

A. I believe in 1941 I learned about it by accident, that
is, from a report of the Criminal Police of Munich - a
report on the following morning - that in the preceding
night a number of suicides had taken place in Munich. That
attracted my attention as being something quite unusual. I
tried to clear up the matter by asking the head of the
Criminal Police why there had been these suicides. I believe
there were six or eight in one night. He referred me to the
Gestapo. Through the Chief of the State Police I learned
that the deportation of, I believe, a few hundred Jewish
inhabitants of Munich or the district - I do not know
whether they were all from Munich - had been ordered for
that day. In answer to my question as to where they were to
be sent, I was told that it was a resettlement and they
would be put to work in the East, and I was told, and it was
credible, that the trains had already been arranged for with
the Reichsbahn Headquarters and that on instructions from
the RSHA to the Gestapo the selection of those concerned had
been effected after discussion with the Israelite Community.
The persons in question were in possession of certain.
amounts of money, food cards, and a certain amount of
baggage. The train included cars with implements for
fortifications, that is, picks, spades, etc. That is what I
learned at the time.

Q. How was it that you learned of these things in this way?
Should you not have been informed previously in one of your
official capacities?

                                                  [Page 263]

A. I should have been informed, but I can only describe how
it actually happened.

Q. Then if I understood you correctly, there was an
obligation on the Gestapo offices to inform you, was there

A. The Gestapo, no, but the Inspector of the Security
Police, yes.

Q. Witness, you have attempted, in answering my questions,
to say that you, as Leader of the General SS, committed no
crimes as the prosecution asserts - I have given some
examples - and that the members of the General SS did not
commit such crimes, so that in your opinion one cannot say
that the General SS was a criminal organization. But I must
now submit to you that in the course of a prolonged hearing,
proof of criminal deeds has been given. I remind you of the
thousands of deaths in the concentration camps, of the
thousands of Jews shot in the East by Einsatzgruppen and
Einsatzkommandos, and I remind you of the gas chambers at
Auschwitz. Now I ask you, what did you know of these things
up to 1945?

A. I knew nothing. During the whole war, without
interruption, I was in Munich, and was never sent to
occupied territory. I heard of the horrible mass murders and
of the gassings while I was in prison. Today I know that it
was impossible for a person who was not initiated to
penetrate into the secret places of this extermination camp.
There were indications here and there. In my official
capacity I now and then saw foreign papers which had been
confiscated, but they contained things which, according to
my opinion and experience, were not true. The result was
that I considered reports on such atrocities to be enemy
propaganda. I did not listen to enemy radio broadcasts. As
the Tribunal knows, this was forbidden to every German and,
since it was our job to punish people who broke this law, I
did not think I should do it myself. As for the mass of the
men of the General SS, I am firmly convinced that they
neither had a part in these atrocities nor did they know
about them. I am convinced that in view of the mutual
confidence that existed between my men and me, they would
certainly have asked me questions when they came to visit me
on leave. They would have asked me: "Obergruppenfuehrer, do
you know about these things? Is it true? " Not a single man
asked me anything like that.

Q. On the basis of your knowledge of the organization and
the facts that you learned after the beginning of the trial
or after the collapse, do you maintain that the mass of
members of the General SS, for whom you are testifying here,
had no part in these crimes?

A. Yes.

Q. At the wish of the Tribunal I have reduced the number of
witnesses to the absolute minimum of five. I will only bring
such witnesses who, because of their high position in the
organization, can give the Tribunal comprehensive answers on
organisational questions, that is, basic questions.
Therefore, notwithstanding your high rank, I must ask you
how much, according to your conviction, the mass of these
many thousands of unknown members of the SS knew? I will
submit affidavits, documents and other proof later.

A. If I, in my position and in spite of the general view I
had of things inside the country, knew nothing, how could
the men at the front or the few who remained at home know
about it. The horrible things that happened in the
concentration camps and that came to light after the
collapse and capitulation I personally can only explain by
the general state of things during those last months. People
lost their heads; hundreds of thousands of people were on
the move; thousands of detainees were brought from the
border territory into the few camps which were still
available. In Southern Germany, in Dachau, there was an
uninterrupted stream of people coming in throughout the
winter. There was a typhus epidemic which claimed many
victims. I learned of that also only by accident, through
the Gauleiter and Reich Defence Commissar asking for workers
to clear up after air attacks, and when the camp commander
told me on the telephone that these workers could not be
supplied because of the typhus epidemic.

                                                  [Page 264]

Later, I heard at a conference that this epidemic had
claimed many victims. Moreover, in the last few weeks,
railroad traffic was disconnected. The food supply was
completely blocked, and there was already a good deal of
hunger. The Commandant told me it was impossible to stop
this epidemic as there were no more medical supplies, the
pharmaceutical factories having been destroyed too. Only
thus can I explain the terrible pictures, about which we all
know, and which have been shown here. In any case, the mass
of the men of the General SS and the German population could
not have known about all this as no one could see over the
camps. The General SS, for which I am speaking here, and the
Waffen SS, too, could not have prevented it.

DR. PELCKMANN: Concerning the point which the witness
mentioned, about the secret places in the concentration
camps and the difficulty of penetrating into them, I refer
particularly to the contents of Affidavits Nos. 64 to 67 and
69, affidavits of SS judges who concerned themselves with
these things.

I have no more questions, Mr. President. Thank you.



Q. Witness, you denied on Saturday that the SS was the heart
of Nazism. Would you agree with me that it was the fist?

A. I did not quite understand. I beg your pardon.

Q. I will put the question to you again. You denied on
Saturday that the SS was the heart of Nazism. Would you
agree with me that it was the fist?

A. I still do not understand.

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