The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Through his personal allegiance to Hitler, and through his
acceptance of any and every new task, he gained the personal
confidence of Hitler and thus continually extended his
personal position of power within the Reich. It was peculiar
to this Reich that Hitler should have united an almost
inestimable number of offices and tasks in one single person
who had his confidence. As an example, I refer to Goering.
While Goering continued to lose Hitler's confidence,
Himmler's power rose like a meteor. But he had gained this
position of power for himself alone and without the help of
his SS, and quite independently of the fact that he was
their Reichsfuehrer. The witnesses Grauert, Reinecke and
Pohl have amply testified to this effect.

The SS, formerly so closely connected with Himmler, had
indeed, in the course of time, developed quite
independently, owing to the great number of the entirely
different sections which began to take shape. Unfortunately
the briefness of the available time does not permit me to
describe here this development in detail, although it is of
the greatest importance to the entire defence. But I have
added the necessary explanations, always in regard to the
furnished proofs, as an annexe to my plea, and I would ask
the Tribunal to take note of these arguments in the verdict.

To prove the unity it has asserted, the prosecution says
that the General SS was the basis upon which all the other
organizations had been established. The mere fact that
almost a million men have at one time been in the Waffen SS,
whereas the General SS had only counted 250,000 members,
refutes this statement. In the aforementioned annexe I have
shown how the individual organizations were built up, added
to and developed, according to their own intrinsic nature.
The General SS is not the source of life for the other
organizations, but an ancient

                                                  [Page 116]

vestige which at first succeeded in keeping alive, but which
during the war had to disappear altogether for lack of any
special task. (Witnesses Eberstein, Minderfeld, Jettner,

But the Indictment did not mention the most important
aspect. To my mind, this is an aspect which is particularly
valuable in shedding light upon the question of the
imaginary unity of the SS: Where lay the executive power in
the State? For an alleged conspiracy only such an instrument
could have been suitable which controlled some means of the
State authority, which had executive power in the State.
Neither the General SS nor the Waffen SS were such
organizations. At no time of their existence did a leader or
a simple member of the General SS have more extensive rights
in the public legal and especially police field than any
other German citizen. He could not and did not at any time
carry out arrests or house searchings without incurring
punishment. (Witnesses Reinecke, Eberstein.)

The fact that revolutionary excesses were committed,
immediately after the seizure of power, does not alter this
fact. They were at once successfully combated, as testified
by the witness Grauert. No member of the Waffen SS ever had
more extensive rights than any member of the Wehrmacht.
(Witness Hauser.) Indeed the executive power in the State
was alone in the hands of the police, the State Police, the
Criminal Police, combined as security police, and the
ordinary police. A policy of power in the sense of an
alleged conspiracy could logically have found support only
upon them.

The testimony of the witness Grothmann, who belonged to the
closest circle around Himmler, is particularly revealing for
the question as to which activities of the SS are to be
considered connected with the executive power. In this
testimony he tells us that Himmler was informed of the
affairs of the Waffen SS by adjutants of the Waffen SS, and
of police affairs by police adjutants, while the General
Secretariat had to inform him of the other affairs of the
General SS.

In this case as well, the sharp separation existing among
the various fields becomes very clear. The essential point
here is that all matters concerning the concentration camp
system and the totally different sphere of the SD were not
dealt with and reported on by the SS adjutant, but rather by
Himmler's own police adjutants. In this way the testimony
given by the witness Reinecke, who testified as to the
judicial basis for the separation into five independent
spheres of influence under Himmler in the sense of the
Indictment, into General SS, Waffen SS, SD concentration
camp system, and police, is again being reaffirmed.

Executive power is indeed the key for an understanding of
the charges raised under the Indictment and for a just
evaluation of this case. In the beginning, Himmler was on
the side of his SS and was entirely absorbed by it. After
the police power of the entire Reich had been transferred to
him alone, the only thing he concerned himself with was this
one sphere, the sphere of executive power. He played the
leading role in the rapid development of Germany into a
police State. Very soon he let every last vestige of regard
for any and every legal consideration go by the board. On
top of that he continued to follow the path he had chosen
for his organizations, General SS and Waffen SS, and
withdrew behind a heavy curtain of secrecy, hiding himself
and the excesses of his police activity from these
organizations as well as from the entire nation. It is quite
impossible to understand all this if one does not realize
and appreciate the fact that Himmler had a Jekyll and Hyde
personality. On the one hand he preached and fostered
ethical values, such as decency, manliness and courtesy,
using as his instruments his organizations, the General SS
and the Waffen SS. On the other hand, he exploited his
tremendous power by issuing the most uncompromising orders
and measures of a police State nature. Here I refer to
concentration camps, mass executions without trial, and the

Here and here alone he used the instrument of the executive
power in the Reich. It was not surprising, therefore, that
in the few speeches he made during the war in which he
showed his obsession with his State police troops of the
future, he

                                                  [Page 117]

met with opposition among the leaders and the troops of the
Waffen SS; for these men were soldiers and were fighting the
enemy. It is quite understandable that the prosecution
should consider this first side of Himmler's nature to be
but a whitewash for the second. But nothing could be more
erroneous than an assumption of this sort. It is not
coincidence either that the defendant Seyss-Inquart from his
complete knowledge of developments, and the witnesses
Hausser and Reinecke, who because of their former high
positions and their present knowledge have an overall
picture of events, describe Himmler as a man who had two
totally different faces. And when they say that, they are in
good company; for on the strength of his many conferences
with Himmler, Count Bernadotte says exactly the same thing
in his book, The Curtain Falls, which has been quoted

Himmler, therefore, is not the SS. The fact that he is
referred to as the "Reichsfuehrer SS" in all laws and
directives which gave him new missions to accomplish does
not alter this situation in the least. As the witnesses
Reinecke and Kubitz have stated quite correctly in this
regard, his official position and title had, to all
practical purposes, replaced his name in public life.
Specialized departments like the police and the
Reichskommissar for the Consolidation of German Nationalism
(Volkstum) or the position of Commander-in-Chief of the
Reserve Army, and the Chief of the Prisoner-of-War System,
did not become concerns of the SS just because they were
transferred to the person of the "Reichsfuehrer SS," that is

However, that is something asserted by the prosecution, and
in order to support their position, they state further that
as soon as Himmler took over new offices he immediately
started to infiltrate them with members of the SS. That is
equally wrong. The witnesses Zupke and Bader have confirmed
that some of the members of the Ordnungspolizei were taken
over into the General SS and not vice versa. An infiltration
of the police therefore never took place. As far as the
Security Police is concerned we can see from Himmler's
decree of 23rd June, 1938 (Document 1637-PS), that the
officials and employees of the Security Police were taken
over by the SD, and received police ranks commensurate with
their SS ranks and not vice versa. They never served in the
General SS for even one day.

The testimony of the witness Zupke, who was interrogated
before the Commissions on 20th May, 1946, and Affidavit SS
No. 82 prove that roughly twenty different categories of
members of the Ordnungspolizei became formal members of the
SS when, on the strength of ministerial directives, they
were granted ranks in the SS commensurate with their police
rank. This so-called "Co-ordination of Rank," however, did
not establish true membership, for the policemen involved
did not take the SS oath, did not pay dues, did not perform
SS functions, did not serve in the SS, had no privileges or
advantages of any kind because of their rank, and did not
even wear the SS uniform. Their police service remained
constant and unchanged.

Everywhere else in public life the same procedure was
followed. It was not that the SS filled key and other
essential positions but rather that the men holding such
positions were taken over by Himmler into the SS as honorary

The affidavits deposed by Herr Fuhrer, SS No. 63, and by
Herr Wunder, SS No. 42 give eloquent examples of the
appointment of honorary leaders; SS No. 49 and Bethke, No.
48, show that the Kreis and Ortsbauernfuehrer were taken
over as a group by the SS in that way, and the affidavits SS
No. 97 and SS No. 98 describe the taking over of the leaders
of the Reich Veterans' Society.

Therefore, it was not true that the SS infiltrated into the
State; on the contrary, elements foreign to the SS were
taken over by the organizations. The bulk of the membership
remained what it was, a unit of farmers, mechanics,
students, workers, and representatives of all the
professions. The tasks of the General SS were not changed in
any way because of this process.

                                                  [Page 118]

After studying this matter, we can see how little basis in
fact there is for the assertion made by some of the defence
counsel on behalf of individual defendants and organizations
to the effect that during the war the SS exercised all the
powers of government in Germany. Many witnesses and
affidavits prove that the activity of the General SS, which
must be described as typical club life, began to decrease at
the beginning of the war and disappeared altogether during
the course of the war. The Waffen SS was fighting at the
different fronts, receiving more and more draftees into its
ranks. It was under the supreme command of the Wehrmacht.
These two branches of the SS therefore could not rule
Germany during the war. As I shall demonstrate later, the
WVHA, which concerned itself with concentration camps,
belonged to the SS only nominally, and had no administrative
authority over any other institutions in Germany.

A reign of terror may well have been exercised through
arrests and the putting of individuals in concentration
camps, but that was not a matter of any branch of the SS
organization, but rather of the Ministry of the Interior, of
the police and the RSHA (Gestapo).

The setting up of Higher SS and Police Leaders does not
alter anything on these facts either, for the name is in
fact misleading. They had no authority over the police and
the Waffen SS. Only in the most infrequent cases where they,
like the Reichsfuehrer SS, simultaneously had State and
police positions - for instance, Police Commissioners - were
they authorized to give orders to the police, but only
because of their State position, not because of their
position as SS Leaders. This may be seen even more plainly
in the occupied Eastern territories, for there was no
General SS there.

The Higher SS and Police Leaders there did not have any
authority of command in the Waffen SS, so that the Higher SS
and Police Leaders exercised only the public police
functions. I am referring to the testimony given by the
witness von Eberstein, to Affidavits SS 86 and 87.

So we see the following: Himmler's power increased
tremendously during the war, but the power of the SS was not
increased. He did not receive this power because of his
position as Reichsfuehrer SS and he could not exercise this
power through the SS, but solely through State organs, that
is, through the various police organizations.

Competing with Himmler's authority were other power factors,
not of the State, but of the Party and exercised by the
Party (Reichs, Gau, Kreisleitung, etc.).

All branches of the SS were outside this struggle for power
between Himmler and Bormann.

From the description presented by me we can conclude the

Firstly, we cannot consider the organizations comprising the
SS to be a unified instrument of a conspiracy.

Secondly, the Tribunal can only examine separately the
question of criminal character for each branch of the

The accusations raised under the Indictment which I shall
have to deal with after these detailed statements - because
of the lack of time I can cover only the most important
aspects - become weightier the closer we approach the period
of the war and finally the collapse.

A very serious and comprehensive pattern of accusations
against the SS has been included in the term

Here, your Honours, I deal with the next five pages, 46 to
50, and I pass over the "enslavement." The following four
pages, 50 to 53, concern the forced displacement for slave
labour. The next page and a half deal with the
Einsatzgruppen, and the three pages 55 to 57 concern
partisan warfare. Because of lack of time I cannot read them
now. I ask you to consider them. Now I shall deal with the
difficult problem of the concentration camps.

Concentration camps existed from the very beginning of the
Hitler regime. Without them the Hitler State was
inconceivable. Hundreds of thousands went

                                                  [Page 119]

through these camps, were degraded and ill-treated there;
more than a hundred thousand died or were killed there.

It cannot be denied that the name of the SS is connected
with these murders and misdeeds. In the face of all the
world this confession must be made in this trial. And just
as every German must be ashamed that such horrible inhuman
things occurred in his country, even more should every SS
man search himself and examine to what extent he is
politically or morally guilty for these happenings. lie
should be concerned, not only with the defence against the
accusation of the prosecution that every SS man has become a
criminal through these crimes, but he should again look back
upon his whole life and study when, where and how he might
have deviated from the road of true humanity - perhaps only
in heart and mind. This he can do, he must do - even if he
denies his criminal guilt and says that he has four years in
the front lines engaged in hardest fighting, believing in
Germany and her just cause. And if he feels shame, genuine
shame - and even if only a little of it - then his
reflections, then this trial, were not in vain. Then that
purifying feeling of guilt is present, to which Pastor
Niemoeller, a man who has been misunderstood so profoundly,
has referred.

But even if that SS man should remain obstinate at heart,
even if all those SS men should remain unrepentant - and
from my visits to the camps I know that this is not the case
- even then, we would have to continue to serve earthly
justice, would have to examine whether, due to the
concentration camps and other atrocities, the SS is to be
considered a criminal organization, whether all SS men
became by those acts criminals.

We, therefore, have to occupy ourselves with the details of
those matters, even though millions of people bewail the
victims of the concentration camps, hundreds of thousands of
the surviving inmates suffer from the aftermath, and even
though the world accuses the SS in one single outcry of

When, in the beginning of March, I was charged with the
defence of the SS, I found a considerable amount of material
of the prosecution, evidence taken in the main proceedings,
and many documents which were assembled in the Document Book
"Concentration Camps." But on the other hand, upon calm
consideration - and that in spite of everything is essential
- it is clear that if during the entire period before and
during the war conditions in concentration camps were
actually as represented, for instance, in the picture
Concentration Camps, then it could not have been possible
that hundreds and thousands were discharged, that work could
have been carried on during the war as it was, and that
finally those things could have remained unknown to the
masses of people and to the mass of the detained SS men whom
I now interrogated.

There were contradictions which could not be eliminated; in
the American report on the development of the Buchenwald
camp from 1937 to 1943 (Document EC-168), the basis of which
I do not know, the following, which is taken from a letter
of the WVHA of 28th December, 1942, is attached as an

136,000 people were brought into all the concentration camps
within a half-year. During the same time 70,000 died. Though
it is obvious that not just half of those new inmates died,
but that 70,000 of a total population of some hundred
thousand inmates passed away in six months, yet that
mortality rate is frighteningly high.

Thus the prosecution seemed to be right by affirming that
the detainees were systematically exterminated or at least
killed through overwork.

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