The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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That the Gestapo was unjustly accused of many crimes may be
shown by a few examples. One of the most disgraceful
individual crimes during the war was the murder of the
French General de Boisse at the end of 1944 or the beginning
of 1945. The French prosecution charges it to the Gestapo on
the basis of Documents 4048 to 4052-PS. According to 4050-PS, 
however, Panzinger, who was entrusted with the execution
of the plan, was at the time head of Amt V, of the RSHA,
that is head of the Reich Criminal Police Office. Schulze,
who is mentioned in 4052-PS, also belonged to the Reich
Criminal Police Office. Document 4048-PS, according to the
file note V, was also drawn up by the Reich Criminal Police
Office as Amt V of the RSHA. Amt IV of the RHSA - Gestapo
Office -  was thus not involved, but only the Reich Criminal
Police Office which included the section charged with
searching for prisoners of war. Himmler, who

                                                   [Page 63]

as Chief of the Replacement Army was also in charge of the
prisoner-of-war system, contacted Panzinger directly in this
matter; Amt IV did not have knowledge of this occurrence at
any stage. Whether Kaltenbrunner knew anything, he must make

These facts are proved by the Gestapo Affidavit 88.

In the report on the condemnation of participants in German
war crimes in the Russian city of Krasnodar (USSR 55), which
was submitted by the Russian prosecution, the commission of
these terrible crimes is charged against the Gestapo without
further proof. In reality, this was the activity of an
Einsatzkommando, not of the Gestapo. (See Gestapo Affidavit

1 would like to refer to the testimony of the witnesses Dr.
Knochen and Franz Straub. It proves that in Belgium and
France, as everywhere, the Gestapo was frequently unjustly
accused of crimes.

Through several witnesses (Dr. Knochen, Straub,
Kaltenbrunner) it has been established that frequently, both
in the occupied territories and in the home area, swindlers
and other shady characters appeared who falsely passed
themselves off as Gestapo officials. Himmler himself
demanded that such false Gestapo officials should be handed
over to the concentration camps. (See Gestapo Exhibit 34 and
Gestapo Affidavit 68.)

As indicated, the Supreme Commander of the Security Police,
Heydrich, was not entirely without responsibility for the
false opinion about the Gestapo. Thus he deliberately
furthered the rumour that the Gestapo knew everything
politically suspicious because it spied on the population.
That this could not be true is proved by the fact that the
approximately 15,000 to 16,000 Gestapo officials in
question, even if they had watched and spied on the people,
would have been far from adequate for this purpose (see
statement of Dr. Best).

The crimes which Gestapo members actually committed are not
to be excused in any way. But it is equally certain that
many things occurred for which the Gestapo officials are not
responsible, and that customarily no effort was made to
examine and differentiate whether certain deeds or misdeeds
were carried out by members of the Gestapo or the Kripo, the
SS or the SD, or even by native criminals. If, in the
interest of combating crimes, it is judged proper in passing
sentence at a trial to establish a form of selection as
regards the deed, in the sense that punishment is to be
inflicted according to whether the deed comes under this or
that penal law, such a selection can never be practised as
regards the person of the perpetrator. In other words, it
would not be just to ascribe a deed to the Gestapo if the
guilt of its members is not absolutely established.

As already stated the Gestapo is no union of persons in the
technical sense of the word and probably also not in the
sense of the Charter. Its constitution, its aims and tasks
and the methods employed by it, cannot fundamentally be
designated as 28 criminal. The position of the political
police, its special tasks and the measures to be taken by
it, of course demanded the form of organization especially
adapted to these purposes. In this connection I consider a
brief but still comprehensive presentation of the
organizational and personnel structure of the Gestapo all
the more important since the Tribunal in its decisions of
14th January and 13th March, 1946, showed that it might
possibly ascribe decisive importance, to the clarification
of this question.

Your Lordship, in order not to tire the Tribunal with the
presentation of the organizational structure and the
personnel structure, I shall not read the next nine pages,
but shall ask the Tribunal to take judicial notice of them.

I draw the special attention of the Tribunal to Pages 20 to
24. They deal with the fundamental difference between
administrative and executive officials, the technical
personnel, the employees, the emergency service workers, and
the groups of persons who were taken over as units into the
Gestapo - the Secret Field Police, the Customs Border Guards
the Military Counter-Intelligence, and affiliated units.

I now continue on Page 24 at the top.

                                                   [Page 64]

The above-mentioned State organism of the Political Police
with its character as a branch of the state administration
was outside the structure of the NSDAP and its
organizations. The Gestapo was not dominated by the Party;
on the contrary, its independence within the State and
outside the structure of the Party was in particular
intended to enable it to combat misdeeds of Party members
with governmental measures. If Himmler, as Reichsfuehrer SS,
became the chief of the Political Police in all States in
1933, and later in the Reich, then the State police agencies
were without influence in that connection. Nothing important
changed at first with regard to their activities. The
Political Police offices in the German States, when they
were reconstituted in 1933, were mostly staffed with
officials from the previous police agencies; not even the
directing officials were Party members in every case. Even
later these officials who had been taken over were not
replaced by Party members. Only to a small extent, and only
as employees and workmen for technical duties, such as
drivers, teleprint operators and office help, were persons
from the Party, the SS and the SA taken over.
This independence of the Party and its affiliated
organizations appears to be contradicted by the so-called
assimilation of the Gestapo into the SS. This assimilation
merely meant a nominal affiliation with the SS. The reason
for this assimilation was the following:

The system of professional civil servants had been
introduced and maintained in the Gestapo. But civil servants
were, in part, not particularly respected by the Party
because of their political or non-political past. In order
to strengthen their authority during the carrying out of
their duties, in particular when acting against National
Socialists, they were to appear in uniform, as the witness
Dr. Best has testified - who has described himself as the
"motor" of this assimilation. With this assimilation the
Gestapo officials - as, incidentally, also Criminal Police
officials who were also to be assimilated - were formally
listed among the SD formations of the SS, though they
remained solely under the jurisdiction of their own
superiors without doing any SS or SD duties. Besides, the
assimilation was only carried out slowly and to an
inconsiderable degree. At the outbreak of war in 1939 only
approximately 3,000 members of the Gestapo out of a total of
20,000 had been assimilated. It is significant that Himmler
by no means liked to see members of the Gestapo appearing in
public wearing SS uniforms, as becomes evident from Document
USA 447.

During the war even non-assimilated persons had to wear the
SS uniform on certain assignments, even without being
members of the SS. Apart from that the SS did not control
the police or exert any type of influence upon its
activities; it was only in Himmler's person that there was
personal union in the leadership of the two.

With reference to this statement I refer you to the
testimony of Dr. Best.

The Gestapo as a whole had nothing to do with the SD, which,
as is known, was purely an organization of the Party.
Personal union only existed in the person of the chief of
the Sipo and the SD (Heydrich, later Kaltenbrunner), which
were accidental, however, and did not signify an
organizational or function inter-connection. In no case was
the SD centralized with the Gestapo in order to form a
police system. The SD did not have to support the Gestapo in
its tasks; it had no police tasks whatever.

The officials of the Gestapo did not, by any means, consider
themselves members of a uniform organization with the SS and
the SD. Everyone in any of the three organizations knew that
he belonged to an independent institution serving
independent purposes.

Although the Gestapo was, therefore, in no way
organizationally or, from the point of view of duties,
connected with the Party, it was, nevertheless, not
altogether detached from the administrative tasks of the
State, being a State authority. To the contrary, on every
level interconnections existed with the general and interior
administration. The higher administrative organizations, the
Ministers of the

                                                   [Page 65]

Interior of the States, the Presidents (Oberprasidenten) and
Government Presidents (Regierungsprasidenten) were entitled
to receive reports and issue instructions. Evidence has,
indeed, shown that the majority of all State Police actions
were carried out by the district and local police
organizations and the Gendarmerie. This fact in particular
furnishes an indication of how serious and questionable it
is to indict the Gestapo as an institution of the State.
Because, thinking consistently, the officials of the
aforementioned administrative organizations, to the extent
that they worked in a State Police capacity, would have to
be indicted together with the Gestapo.

If it is impossible for these reasons to speak of a union of
persons in the case of the Gestapo, that is of membership in
the sense of the Indictment, the requirement of
voluntariness was even less fulfilled. Not one of the
witnesses examined was able to uphold the prosecutions
allegation in any way; on the contrary, all witnesses had to
testify that, as a matter of principle, membership of the
Gestapo, was generally not on a voluntary basis.

The assignment of officials to the Gestapo took place, to a
large extent, in that they were transferred to an agency of
the Gestapo from a previous organization. The order for
transfer had to be obeyed on the strength of the civil
service law. Severe disadvantages in one's profession would
without a doubt have been the result of a refusal and very
probably the loss of the position held; and had such a
refusal been based on the statement that for conscientious
reasons the official did not approve of the activities of
the Gestapo, then he, as any civil servant in a similar
case, would have become subject to disciplinary proceedings
or even regular penal proceedings, resulting in the loss of
his position and hard-earned privileges and, apart from
that, he would even have gone to a concentration camp.

Replacements of civil servants in the Gestapo were regulated
in such a way that, in accordance with the police civil
service law, 90 per cent were drawn from former regular
police officials who wished to become criminal police
officials, whereas only 10 per cent could be taken from
other professions.

Aspirants from the regular police could not, however, freely
decide whether to join the Gestapo or Kripo; they were
allotted by the "assignment department of the police," at
Potsdam, to the Gestapo or the Kripo, according to
requirements and even against their will. Incidentally, we
are here concerned with regular police officials with eight
to twelve years' service; that is, old police officials who
had been in the police service before 1933.

It was almost impossible for an official to break loose from
the Gestapo, apart from general reasons such as death,
sickness and dismissal because of malfeasance. During war
the Gestapo, just like the entire police, was considered as
being on active service and was subject to military
discipline, so that resignation was totally impossible. It
was even prohibited to volunteer for military service at the

The same principles of assignment and retirement also
applied to the institutions under the jurisdiction of the
Gestapo, such as Border Police, Military Counter-
Intelligence, and Customs Police, not to forget those
drafted to the numerous emergency services during the war
who, at times, represented nearly one-half the total
personnel strength.

From these statements mostly based on the testimony and
affidavits, particularly of the witnesses Best, Knoehen and
Hoffmann, the following becomes apparent: The Gestapo
consisted of a multitude of State agencies. But in the case
of an agency, one cannot speak of members of that agency in
the same way as of members of a private organization. For
that reason there was no "membership" in the Gestapo, much
less a voluntary one; there was only the official position
of a civil servant.

The question, also, whether the aim and task of the Gestapo
were criminal must be answered in the negative. The aim of
the Gestapo - just like that of any political police - was
the protection of the people and the State against attacks

                                                   [Page 66]

of hostile elements upon its existence and its unhampered
development. Accordingly, the task of the Gestapo is defined
in Article 1 of the Law of 10th February, 1936 (Gestapo
Exhibit 7), as follows. I quote:

   "The Secret State Police has the task of investigating
   all tendencies dangerous to the State and combating
   them, of collecting and exploiting the result of such
   investigations, of informing the national government and
   other authorities of findings important to them, keeping
   them informed and supplying them with suggestions."

These tasks of the Gestapo had the same character as those
of the Political Police before 1933, and as those of any
other Political Police forces in foreign countries. What is
to be understood by "tendencies hostile to the State"
depends upon the respective political structure of a State.
A change in the political leadership cannot retroactively
render illegal the activities of a political police force
which had been directed against other forces regarded as
hostile to the State. The activities of the Gestapo had been
regulated by legal instructions issued by the State. Its
tasks consisted, in the first place and mainly, of the
investigation of politically illegal activity in accordance
with the general penal code, in which connection the
officials of the Gestapo became active as auxiliary
officials of the Public Prosecutor's Department, and it
further consisted of warding off such activity through
preventive measures.

Now, of course, the methods of the Gestapo are made the
basis of serious accusations against it in three ways, even
held against it as crimes. One method is the protective
custody and transfer of persons to concentration camps. I
know that when I merely mention that name it radiates the
cold breath of the grave. Nevertheless, even the imposition
of protective custody was governed by exact regulations.
Protective custody, which, by the way, is not a specifically
German or specifically National Socialist invention, was
recognized as legal in several findings of the Reich Courts,
the Prussian Supreme Administrative Court; that is,
constitutional courts.

A second method - that of the so-called third degree
interrogation - must, to put it mildly, give rise to serious
misgivings. On the other hand, this method was only rarely
used (see particularly witness Dr. Best), and then only by
order from the highest authorities and never to force a
confession. This method as well, which we shall consider
further in connection with the discussion of the individual
crimes, was regulated by law, even during the time of the
war (compare Gestapo Exhibit 60).

And, finally, the prosecution accuses the Gestapo
particularly of the fact that it was not bound by law but
rather that it acted purely arbitrarily. In reply to this I
should like to say that if it is established in two laws
(dealing with the Anschluss of Austria and the annexation of
the Sudetenland) that the Chief of the German Police could
take measures going beyond the existing laws, arbitrary
police action is not legalized thereby; rather, we are
concerned with a typical legal transfer of the authority to
establish police law. The measures in the sense of this law
did not mean individual action but orders of a general sort
which could be issued even if in the annexed countries no
law existed as yet in this regard, but which were
nevertheless, binding on the population and the executive
power of the police, because the necessary authority had
been granted by the head of the State.

The principle that no individual action could be carried out
arbitrarily, but rather that exact regulations were to exist
and be observed in all executive actions, was strictly
adhered to. (The witness Dr. Best.)

It never even occurred to Gestapo officials, at least not
before the war, that they might be accused by the world of
arbitrary actions. The tasks and methods, which were well
known and legally limited not only for the members of the
Gestapo but for all the world, cannot be considered criminal
by the world, a world which not only formally recognized the
German Reich Government, which bore the sole

                                                   [Page 67]

responsibility in this matter, but a world which repeatedly
gave visible evidence of its recognition to the German

If foreign countries had objected to the aims pursued by the
Gestapo, it would not have been conceivable for numerous
foreign police systems to work in close collaboration with
the German Gestapo, a collaboration which was not negotiated
through diplomatic circles, obviously with the intention of
learning from it (compare Gestapo Affidavits 26 and 89). In
any event, because of this the individual Gestapo official
must have considered his activity internationally

The aims, tasks and methods of the Gestapo remained
basically constant even during the war. In so far as acts
other than the ones described were intended for it, they
must be evaluated as acts foreign to the police and outside
the organization. Later we shall deal particularly with the
Einsatzgruppen, their composition, their activity and their
relation to the Gestapo.

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