The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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DR. PELCKMANN: - which he, an expert, realized only in 1936,
remained hidden from the masses. In this connection I ask
you to read the summary of approximately 136,000 affidavits
which show why the membership of the General SS increased
within a few months from 50,000 on 30th January, 1933, to
approximately 300,000.

Hitler's great gamble for power, and with it the tremendous
betrayal of the German people, only begins - paradoxical as
it may sound - after the so-called seizure of power. After
one month of triumph over the Chancellery and this
parliamentary revolution, in the course of which, no doubt,
the Right did commit excesses, which however cannot be laid
to the charge of the masses as premeditated planning, the
pretext is created for the final elimination of all
opponents; the burning of the German Reichstag. The
prosecution does not assert that the German people, the
members of the organizations, the SS men, knew or even
suspected that this fire had been planned by the Nazis and
carried through by the Brown Shirts by using the tool van
der Lubbe. Such an assertion would, of course, be absurd.

                                                  [Page 103]

In order to understand the mentality of the SS men who,
after January, 1933, filled the ranks of the SS and formed
four-fifths of their strength, one must recall Hitler's
Reichstag speech of 17th March, 1933. When the new Reichstag
was elected, a large part of the opposition was eliminated,
after the fire, by the banning of the Communist Party and
the arrest of many of its members, and this with the
approbation of the enraged population, because they had
committed high treason by their alleged participation in the
crime of arson.

When Hitler, while observing all parliamentary forms, asked
for an Enabling Law (Ermachtigungsgesetz), the Social
Democratic members of the Reichstag asserted that this law
would undermine legal security.

In view of the true background portrayed above, it could
only be the act of a daring trickster when Hitler answered
in reply: "I really must say that had we not had an
understanding of what is legal, then we would not be sitting
here and you would not be sitting here - Gentlemen, it would
not have been necessary for us to embark on this election or
summon the Reichstag." (Reichstag Records 1933 Pages 65 and

But who, gentlemen of the Tribunal, among the mass of the
people, among the old and new members of the General SS,
knew at the time how audaciously Hitler was lying. These men
were misled by the cloak of legality with which Hitler
concealed his true self. And this speech is not all. Just
consider how the Supreme Court, made up of old, experienced,
former Republican judges, with scrupulous precision during
many months of the trial until 1934, sought to establish who
was guilty of the Reichstag fire. They acquitted the
Communists Torgler, Dimitroff and others, but sentenced the
Communist van der Lubbe and established publicly the
complicity of Communist circles who remained unknown. Could
the mass of SS members, as well as the rank and file of the
German people, think otherwise than that Hitler had really
saved the people and the State from a violent revolution for
which the Communists were blamed at that time? Who at that
time knew - as I knew, being a defence counsel - that the
charge which had been prepared for months, even years,
against Thaelmann, had to be withdrawn because of
insufficient evidence? These few who then, or soon after,
learned or guessed the truth, and who, in spite of the ever-
increasing danger of being arrested, in discussions with
friends and acquaintances, expressed doubts regarding the
authenticity of the official and popular thesis, these few
knew that, as against the semblance of legality supported by
unceasing propaganda, they would not be believed by the

The masses appreciated that in view of this threat to the
State the so-called "enemies of the State" were to be
rendered harmless in time. Seen from this angle, even the
concentration camps appeared justified. But I shall come
back to that later. All these were harsh and in many cases
even criminal measures which partly also incriminate SS
members but not the entire mass of the SS.

However, we must not lose sight of one thing. It did not
come to the use of force, typical in a revolution, until
after Hitler had assumed power. The cunning thing about it
was that these excesses - such as arrests and bodily
injuries - which were committed by members of Nazi
formations - in very few cases by members of the SS - were
committed in the belief, created by the deceiving of the
masses, that they were necessary in order to safeguard and
defend the power, which had been legally acquired, against
attacks or threats.

After the acquisition of power, this revolutionary mood,
created by the deception of the masses regarding the true
events, which, indeed, is unique in history, is typical of
all revolutionary excesses: Under the cover of factual or
alleged idealistic motives - such as love of the Fatherland,
love of humanity - crimes were committed. Just consider,
gentlemen of the Tribunal - since we have not yet sufficient
perspective of the many revolutions of the modern age just
consider the French Revolution: what crimes were committed
under the slogan of "Equality, Liberty and Fraternity." In
the light of the experience of modern

                                                  [Page 104]

psychology it seems to me to be quite out of the question
that mass movements can be unleashed or incited by inferior
moral aims. The masses cannot consciously be led to crime.
Even Gustave Le Bon inclines to this opinion. In the shadow
of the high ideals of the masses it frequently happens that
crimes are committed; but then, they are only instigated or
perpetrated by the few who deceive the masses about the true
reasons and events. This thought seems to me to be a
decisive factor when dealing later with the question of
concentration camps and the atrocities committed there and
establishing whether the mass of the SS were responsible or
not for these.

The concept of loyalty, too, belongs to those ideals which
inspire the masses. One must be acquainted with the German
mentality in order to be able to gauge what immense
opportunities this concept afforded the psycho-pathological
seducer of a people - Adolf Hitler - ignominiously to
deceive hundreds of thousands. We know how much the word
"loyalty" means to a German, educated as he is, and
influenced by romantic and retrospective contemplation of
history. Even Tacitus praised that trait in the ancestors of
the Germans. Hitler exploited this weakness of the Germans
and in this way was able to cause hundreds of thousands,
even millions, to link themselves with him and his destiny.
We know that what is permissible and understandable in
private life is fundamentally wrong for the State. By that I
mean unconditional devotion to a human being. In his work,
"The Question of Guilt," the Heidelberg philosopher Karl
Jaspers says in regard to this question:

  "The loyalty of followers in narrow circles and in
  primitive conditions is a feeling which has nothing to do
  with politics. In a free State all people are subject to
  control and change."

The German Socialist Bebel once expressed it in the
following manner:

  "Mistrust is a virtue of democracy."

These views are taken for granted by the free peoples of the
world. But for a people who wanted to create a modern State
according to retrospective historical dreams, they are a new
revelation. Quite justifiably Jaspers sees a twofold guilt.

  "First, the very fact of submitting oneself politically
  and without reservation to a leader, and secondly, the
  esteem of the leader to whom one subjects oneself. Even
  the atmosphere created by such subjection is a collective

Actually Jaspers means by that a moral and political guilt,
but not a criminal guilt.

In the individual case, however, this loyalty can render the
individual perpetrator criminally guilty. That becomes clear
when we listen to the secret speech of Himmler at Posen when
he addressed SS Obergruppenfuehrer of the home country and
of the rear army area. That was late in the war - October,
1943 (PS-1919, SS Document 98). After various statements
concerning obedience and the possibility of refusing to
execute orders, he says quite clearly:

  "But he who proves unfaithful, be it only in his
  thoughts, will be thrown out of the SS and I, Himmler,
  will see to it that he disappears from among the living."

This, gentlemen of the Tribunal, is an important fact when
considering the question of guilt in the individual case and
the question as to what extent coercion and obedience to
orders, during the war, eliminate the guilt and thereby the
criminality of certain individual persons or subordinated
groups. This is additional to the question of refusal of
military service and its consequences according to military

The supernatural, I can even say devilish, power of this
bond of loyalty was exemplified by Himmler himself in his
relations to Hitler during the last days of the war.

The Swede Count Bernadotte describes, from his own
experience, in his book The Curtain Falls, how Himmler could
not make the decision to save the German

                                                  [Page 105]

people from destruction by calling a halt to hostilities
because - and Bernadotte admits this - even in this hopeless
situation he dared not violate his loyalty to Hitler. We
also know how in all times and with all peoples it has
always been this loyalty that made soldiers fight to the
last drop of blood in the heaviest battles, just as the
Waffen SS did, who in so doing won the respect of their
opponents in this war. And from these two examples we see
how this hypnotic word, "loyalty," embraces alike criminal
madness and the highest virtue of the soldier.

So much for the question of how far the SS man had knowledge
of the points of the Party Programme - if indeed he knew
them sufficiently, which from the affidavits of 136,000 SS
men is doubtful - and how he viewed the ideals of his
organization. But did not the Nazi leaders plot war from the
very beginning? Mr. Justice Jackson asserts this, and I
answer: According to the knowledge that we have today, I
admit it, yes. But how could the SS man know of it?

The prosecution does not say why the conversion of an army
of professional soldiers into a people's army should signify
the planning of an aggressive war. Switzerland, the best
example of a country with a people's army, has not been
engaged in a war for a long time. Was the sponsoring of
physical training and sports activities of youth a
camouflaged plan for military training? In my opinion  Mr.
Justice Jackson failed to give us the proof for that
assertion. The training of the General SS was non-military.
Field sports as practised by the SA were completely lacking,
and - a typical example - the cavalry units of the SS, which
were numerically smaller than those of the SA, did not even
give their members the right to hold a horsemanship
certificate, as was the case with the SA. (Compare the
testimony of Weikowsky-Bideau before the Commission.)

We know today that Hitler wanted war; it is particularly
clear from the intimate conversations with Rauschnigg and
when we consider the events as a whole. But, gentlemen of
the Tribunal, please note: It is ex post.

It would have been a fruitless undertaking, especially in
view of the position in which the German people found
themselves after the First World War, to present a new war
as less shocking or bad, or even as a noble and necessary
undertaking, to use Justice Jackson's own expression.
Hitler, whom you can accuse of everything, but certainly not
of not knowing the facts of mass psychology, stressed again
and again before and after 1933 that he wanted peace, peace
and nothing but peace. He pointed out that he had
experienced the horrors of war on his own body, that war
always meant a selection detrimental to the most valuable
elements in any nation. And only by these means was he able
to win over ever-increasing numbers of the German people to
himself and to his ideas. With propaganda for war, however
carefully conducted, he would never have achieved it.

Rearmament was represented to the German people as being
merely a confirmation of the will for peace, as a defensive
measure against the non-disarmament of other nations and as
a counter to any attempts to interfere with the peaceful
rebuilding of Germany. The building of the West Wall
confirms it, and so do many utterances of foreign military
experts. The high-ranking major defendants and many
witnesses, including such a reliable witness as Gisevius,
have confirmed that not even in the leading circles a
planning of aggressive war was discussed. This applies to
the SS to an even greater degree. The entire training with
the organizations always centred around the idea that the
Party Programme would be carried through in a legal and
peaceful manner, that peace was absolutely necessary and
should be preserved at all costs. Not only was there no
psychological preparation for war in all the SS
organizations, but on the contrary, the peaceful aims of the
Reich were continually stressed.

In this connection, I would like to ask the High Tribunal to
read Documents SS-70, 71, 73, 75, 76, 77, 78, 80, 81, 82
from the years 1933 to 1935, particularly an article from
the Schwarze Corps entitled "The SS does not love war,"
written 1937, and other documents which I am not quoting.
That psychological

                                                  [Page 106]

preparations for war were lacking among the German people
and also among the SS was never more clearly demonstrated to
observers at home and abroad than by the reaction of the
masses to the Munich Pact in 1938. The jubilation of the
masses, including the SS who formed the cordons, was not
meant for the Adolf Hitler who had enforced the cession of
the Sudetenland, but rather for the Hitler and, to an even
greater degree, for those foreign statesmen who had saved
the peace.

For the German people and the soldiers did not want war, and
- this must be stated in this historical place for the sake
of historical truth - when war came in 1939 they accepted
this fate not with loud rejoicing as in 1914 but in solemn
silence, most of them in the erroneous belief that their
leaders did not desire this war - that it was not a war of

However, it would be unworthy of me and I should lose face
if I attempted to deny that the young Germans, particularly
in the SS, saw their ideals in the manly virtues, those same
virtues of self-assertion and refusal to take things lying
down - cherished by other nations too. It may be that the SS
men over-emphasized those virtues in a manner which was not
always good or wise. But none of the old soldiers, students
and farmers who had joined the SS imagined that war was for
a purpose even remotely akin to what Hitler had in mind. If
Hitler had ever dared to speak to those men of attacks on
other peoples with whom he had just concluded solemn pacts
of friendship, or of Einsatzkommandos in foreign lands, he
would never have found any followers, apart from a handful
of desperadoes. The war which the tall, blonde, and perhaps
intellectually not always very alert, typical SS man
imagined - and I must admit that he did not shrink from it -
was the kind of war which his ancestors before him had waged
during many centuries, and which, in the last resort, always
ended by an appeal to destiny - the great gamble of the
gods. It is true that we have to wean the Germans, and
particularly the younger Germans, from this atavistic
longing - and in this respect I am now more optimistic for
my fellow-countrymen than for many other peoples - but war,
which at present it does not appear possible to extirpate -
the Kellogg Pact and modern International Law do not ban war
as a means of defence and self-preservation - is essentially
different from that high treason, that betrayal of world
peace, that attack and robbery for the purpose of
extermination, which was invented by Hitler.

In addition to its general aims and tendencies, with which
the prosecution charges the SS since the very beginning of
its activities, and on the basis of which it seeks to
declare it to be a criminal organization, there is one
outstanding event which it is alleged, discloses its
criminal character in a striking manner - the killings which
took place on 30th June, 1934.

There are three pages, your Lordship (Pages 18 to 20 for the
interpreters), which furnish evidence on these events, and
which I pass over in order to save time.

The events of 30th June, according to my presentation of the
facts, are by no means as significant as the prosecution
would seek to assert. The members of the SS did not see in
them the beginnings of a criminal development.

I have reached a point in my review of the ideas held by the
SS and its activities where we should pause to consider what
the other factors were which led to the holding of these

We must look the true facts in the face. The SS man, unlike
an opponent, or an intellectual of our stamp, so ridiculed
at that time, did not examine with a critical eye everything
that was said about his Fuehrer, about his country. He felt
the need to believe in something - I will give proof of this
- his belief was not shaken by what was being said in the
world around him. Unfortunately, the world around him did
nothing to shake his belief.

                                                  [Page 107]

Your Lordship, I have just come to the end of a chapter.
Would it be in order to adjourn now?

(A recess was taken until 1400 hours.)

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