The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 2000/11/08

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THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will sit in closed session on
Thursday afternoon. That is to say, it will not sit in open
session after one o'clock on Thursday. It will sit in open
session on Saturday morning until one o'clock.




Q. Witness, was the Waffen SS a special fighting unit for
the combating of partisans, and was the fight against the
partisans considered to be a war of extermination?

A. The, fight against partisans is a general military and
political police measure, which can be assigned to any
troop; front-line troops of the Army, as well as of the
Waffen SS, were only used in exceptional cases, for instance
if they were in the rear areas. There were usually no
partisan fights in the operational areas; they mostly took
place in the rear areas only. This fighting was mainly the
task of the Security Division of the army and special
defence battalions, and besides that, police troops. Units
of the Waffen SS at the front were not especially trained to
this kind of fighting and were utilised just as little for
it as Panzer divisions of the Army, for instance. In the
East, units of my division were never used in the fight
against partisans at any time. Therefore it was not a
special task for SS units, and they were not especially
trained or instructed for this purpose.

Q. What relationship existed between the Waffen SS on one
hand and the Security Police and constabulary and the so-
called Einsatzgruppen and the Einsatzkommandos on the other?

A. These various branches of the organization of Heinrich
Himmler, unfortunately, wore the same uniform even though
they had different insignia. The only thing they had in
common was their chief - Himmler. The various branches were
completely separate from each other even before the war. The
separation was intensified more and more during the war.
Units of the Waffen SS were under the command of the army
officers. The other branches, SD., police, etc., were
subordinate to Himmler.

Q. Did you hear anything about the SD-Einsatzgruppen?

A. At the beginning of the campaign I had heard, by word of
mouth, about as much about the SD-Einsatzgruppen as the
Commanders-in-Chief -

Q. Please repeat that, witness.

A. At the beginning of the campaign I had heard, verbally,
about as much about the SD-Einsatzgruppen as the Commanders-
in-Chief of the army groups knew, namely, that they were
used in the rear areas alongside the secret field police
with the object of guarding the population and securing
material from the enemy administration centres. I never had
any personal contact with any of the branches. Therefore, I
cannot give you any further information about their

Q. Is it therefore true that only during your arrest did you
hear anything at all about the participation of small units
of the Waffen SS, altogether about three to four companies,
besides the police and gendarmerie?

                                                  [Page 300]

A. Only during my arrest here did I hear of these matters.

Q. Did the Higher SS and Police Leaders belong to the
officers corps of the Waffen SS?

A. The Higher SS and Police Leaders did not belong to the
Waffen SS. They had no authority to command and they had
nothing to do with us.

Q. Did the Waffen SS furnish the guarding units and the so-
called Kommandantur personnel for the concentration camps?

A. Units guarding the concentration camps and the personnel
in the Kommandantur did not belong to the Waffen SS. Only in
the course of the war were these units designated as Waffen
SS in order to release them from military service and give
them freedom to carry out their police duties. The members
of the Waffen SS considered this measure, which they learned
of only after the war, a deliberate deception on the part of
Himmler. We did not have anything to do with the men of the
concentration camps and the guard personnel.

Q. It is not quite clear, witness, just what you meant when
you said "to release them from military service." Will you
explain that in more detail.

A. All persons who served at home and in the police had to
be relieved of military service in the Wehrmacht by the
Wehrkreis district commander in order to carry out their
police tasks. That did not apply when all the units of
guards were designated as Waffen SS, for these were a part
of the Wehrmacht. In the main offices in Berlin these units,
in order to differentiate, were designated "nominal Waffen
SS." But all this I learned here later.

Q. The prosecution asserts that the Waffen SS was only a
part of the whole SS organization, and that as such, it was
needed for the carrying through of the total criminal
conspiracy. Please comment on this.

A. I believe that it can be seen from all my testimony that
the Waffen SS was a completely independent unit and
connected with other organizations only through the person
of Heinrich Himmler. This separation of the various branches
undoubtedly intensified itself during the war. Therefore, we
could not have harboured criminal plans with the others or
participated in carrying them through.

Q. You, in fact, felt yourself to be a part of the Army?

A. We were completely incorporated into the Army, and the
designation "fourth branch of the Army," although it was not
officially sanctioned, did apply basically.

Q. Apart from the accusation concerning the concentration
camps, the prosecution further asserts that the Waffen SS,
on the basis of its training, was a particularly cruel
military tool, and that is to be shown, allegedly, by the
participation of the Waffen SS men in the evacuation of the
Warsaw Ghetto, and, says the prosecution, in the violations
of International Law such as the murder of prisoners of war.
Is that correct?

A. I already testified, yesterday, that our training was not
directed to that end. Our method of fighting was supervised
and ordered by the Army, and we did not gain prestige
through cruel methods. The commanders who had personal pride
in leading a clean fighting unit against the enemy saw to
that. I only learned here of the participation of small
units of the Waffen SS in the evacuation of the Warsaw
Ghetto or in the executions which took place in Bohemia and
Moravia. This can only be a question of small parts of
replacement units which were temporarily subordinated for a
brief period of time.

Unfortunately, during my arrest I heard of two trials
against members of the Waffen SS. One of these proceedings
has not been concluded as yet, and in my own mind, I cannot
quite determine my attitude.

Q. You mean the killing of prisoners?

A. Yes. These incidents are not the results of training, but
rather the failure of individuals, nervous breakdowns when
in difficult positions in enemy territory. But these
accusations should not be generalised. Even if there had
been ten instead of only two cases, the ratio, as applied to
the entire membership of the

                                                  [Page 301]

Waffen SS of a million men, would be one case to every
100,000 men. Such incidents are the results of the
intensification of combat on the ground and in the air
during a long war; incidents which have occurred on both
sides and will continue to occur. You cannot hold the bulk
of the Waffen SS responsible.

Q. What effect did Heinrich Himmler actually have on the
internal attitude of the members of the Waffen SS?

A. Heinrich Himmler, most assuredly, tried in peace time to
exert his influence on the small special units. During the
war this was practically impossible. He did not address
troops of the Waffen SS. On occasion he did talk to some
officers and commanders of single divisions in the field. It
was generally known that Heinrich Himmler, who probably was
a soldier only for one year, was completely alien in his
relations with troops and that he underestimated the
military tasks involved. He liked to play the role of the
strong man through exaggeration and through superlatives. If
someone comes along with big words, the soldier on the front
does not pay much attention.

In that way the influence of Himmler was very insignificant
during the war. We wore his uniform of course, but the
reputation of the Waffen SS was established by its officers;
by the example they set and by their daily work.

Q. Was the influence of Himmler on the commanders perhaps
stronger than on the masses of SS soldiers?

A. Quite the contrary. The commanders, of course, were under
him so far as military obedience is concerned. But they had
the right to criticise through their own experience of life
and of the world, and as a fact this criticism was necessary
in face of Himmler's extravagant and romantic ideas. These
men had enough experience to be able to translate his
statements into the language and manner of thought of the
soldier. The critical attitude toward Heinrich Himmler
increased continually during the war. He believed that he
could usually dispense with the advice of an old soldier.
Objections were cut off short with the words: "This is the
typical attitude of a general" - an attitude which he always
fought against.

Q. Is it correct that Heinrich Himmler in his speeches broke
out into exorbitant invectives against the Jews and the

A. I only know about the speech at Kharkov in 1943, in which
he mentioned three points which evoked our criticism and
opposition. His statements in regard to the Jews, which were
in very bad taste, applied only to Germany and did not
indicate extermination in any way.

His references to the superior numbers of our enemy could
only be interpreted by the common soldier to mean that the
superior numbers of our enemy would have to be equalised in

Q. What were the special points of criticism of the officer
corps against Heinrich Himmler?

A. Without doubt he thought that after the war the various
organizations which were subordinate to him, the SS and
perhaps the police also, could be united into one
organization, which was just opposite to what the situation
was during the war, and it was against this that our
criticism was directed.

Q. To what extent were the crimes in concentration camps
such as the extermination of the Jews known to the Waffen
SS? I should like you to remember that you speak not only
for yourself as a highly placed general, but you also speak
for the simple SS man, based on your own experience, of

A. It sounds quite impossible, and foreign countries are
unwilling to believe it, but the members of the Waffen SS as
well as myself knew nothing of the crimes of which we have
heard here. This perhaps may serve as an explanation, that
at home only those who had relations in the concentration
camps learned anything about it, only the secret opposition
which was always present gathered whispered stories and
rumours. This was kept from the SS men. If one of them by
chance heard something, he thought that it was hostile
propaganda. Foreign radio

                                                  [Page 302]

broadcasts or newspapers were unknown to him, for they were
forbidden at home. The bulk of the Waffen SS was set up
against the enemy. The war tasks grew from year to year and
the efforts became more intense. An SS man did not have the
time or opportunity to check rumours, and like myself, he
was surprised and indignant about all these things which
Himmler had done contrary to what he had preached to us in
peace time.

Q. Do you know the speech of Himmler's made at Posen in
which he mentioned the fact that thousands and tens of
thousands of Jews had been killed?

A. I was not present at that speech at Posen, and only heard
of it here, during my arrest. As far as I know, the speech
was addressed to the leaders at horde and in the occupied
countries. The members of the Waffen SS were not present at
all, or if so, only in extremely small numbers.

Q. The units for the guarding of the concentration camps
were designated as Waffen SS as well, and ratings of the
Waffen SS were given to persons connected with the
concentration camp system. Did you know anything about these
matters during the war?

A. I have already mentioned that the designation of
concentration camp guards as Waffen SS men became known to
me only after the war. However, I must add that Heinrich
Himmler deliberately tried to efface the dividing lines
between these varied organizations before the eyes of the
public, and examples of that are in particular the
designation of the concentration camp guard units as Waffen
SS and the giving of ratings in the Waffen SS to persons who
had no connection with the fighting troops.

Q. Do you consider that the Waffen SS did, for the greater
part, participate in the crimes which indubitably were

A. No. The prosecution chains the Waffen SS to the fate of
Heinrich Himmler and a small circle of criminals around him.
The Waffen SS is taking this quite bitterly for it believes
that it fought decently and fairly. It is far removed from
these crimes and from him who caused them. I should like to
ask the High Tribunal to please listen to the statements and
the judgements of your own frontline soldiers. I believe
that they will not refuse us respect. Special incidents were
exceptions. The Waffen SS considers it quite unjust that it
is being treated differently from the mass of the German
Wehrmacht, and it does not deserve to be outlawed as a
criminal organization.

DR. PELCKMANN: Mr. President, I have no further questions to
this witness.



Q. Witness, you heard Himmler's Kharkov speech in April,
1943, to the commanding officers of the three SS divisions
in the East, did you not?

A. Yes, I heard that speech.

Q. And you remember that he ended his speech by saying:

  "We will never let that excellent weapon, the dread and
  terrible reputation which preceded us in the battle for
  Kharkov, fade, but will constantly add new meaning to

Do you remember him saying that?

A. Yes.

Q. And your units of the Waffen SS constantly added new
meaning to your reputation for terror, did they not?

A. No. I have already made statements, yesterday and today,
which entirely contradict this. I considered it as an insult
to say that our successes were dependent on terror. Quite
the contrary, I said that our successes resulted from the
brave fighting of officers and men.

Q. Yesterday you told the Tribunal that the relations of the
Waffen SS with the local population were good, and that your
Waffen SS troops did not take

                                                  [Page 303]

hostages or destroy villages as punishments, or commit war
crimes. That was your evidence, was it not?

A. I said that the relationships were unobjectionable and
good, that we did not displace any part of the population to
work at home.

Q. I want you to listen now to some documents I am going to
put in with regard to the SS generally and with regard to
the Waffen SS in particular; first, two documents from your
own sources.

MR. ELWYN JONES: The first, my Lord, is Document D-419, to
be Exhibit GB 552. I am not proposing to cross-examine the
witness as to these numerous documents, my Lord. It appears
to be the desire of the Tribunal that they should be put in
as speedily as possible.

THE PRESIDENT: If they are new documents, you can cross-
examine him upon them.

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