The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 2001/03/02

DEFENDANT HESS: Mr. President, may I point out that I was
taking in account the fact that I am the only defendant who,
up to now, has not been able to make a statement here. For
what I have to say here I could only have said as a witness
if the proper questions had been put to me. But as I have
already stated -

THE PRESIDENT: I do not propose to argue with the
defendants. The Tribunal has made its order that the
defendants shall only make short statements. The defendant
Hess had full opportunity to go into the witness-box and
give his evidence upon oath. He chose not to do so. He is
now making a statement and he will be treated like the other
defendants and will be confined to a short statement.

DEFENDANT HESS: Therefore, Mr. President, I shall forgo
making the statements which I had wanted to make in
connection with the things I have just said. I ask you to
listen to only a few concluding words, which are of a mores
general nature and have nothing to do with the things that I
have just stated.

The statements which my defence counsel made in my name
before the High Tribunal I permitted to be made for the sake
of the future judgment of my people and of history. That is
the only thing which matters with me. I do not defend myself
against accusers to whom I deny the right to bring charges
against me and my fellow-countrymen. I will not discuss
accusations which concern things which are purely German
matters and therefore of no concern to foreigners. I raise
no protest against statements which are aimed at attacking
my honour and the honour of the German people. I consider
such slanderous attacks by the enemy as a proof of honour.

I was permitted to work for many years of my life under the
greatest son whom my country has brought forth in its
thousand-year history. Even if I could, I would not want to
erase this period of time from my existence. I am happy to
know that I have done my duty to my people, my duty as a
German, as a National Socialist, as a loyal follower of my
Fuehrer. I do not regret anything.

If I were to begin all over again, I would act just as I
have acted, even if I knew that in the end I should meet a
fiery death at the stake. No matter what human

                                                  [Page 385]

beings may do, I shall some day stand before the judgment
seat of the Eternal. I shall answer to Him, and I know He
will judge me innocent.

THE PRESIDENT: I call upon the defendant Joachim von

DEFENDANT VON RIBBENTROP: This trial should be conducted for
the purpose of discovering the historical truth. From the
point of view of German policy I can only say:

This trial will go down in history as a model example of
how, while appealing to hitherto unknown legal formulas and
the spirit of fairness, one can evade the cardinal problems
of twenty-five years of the gravest human history.

If the roots of our trouble lie in the Treaty of Versailles
- and they do lie there - was it really to the purpose to
prevent a discussion about a treaty which even the
intelligent men among its authors had characterized as the
source of future trouble, while some of the wisest men were
predicting that a new world war would be caused by some of
its faults.

I have devoted more than twenty years of my life to the
elimination of this evil, with the result that foreign
statesmen who know about this today write in their
affidavits that they did not believe me. They ought to have
written that in the interests of their own country they
could not believe me. I am held responsible for the conduct
of a foreign policy which was determined by another. I knew
only this much of it, that it never concerned itself with
plans for world domination, but rather, for example, with
the elimination of the consequences of Versailles and with
the food problems of the German people.

If I deny that this German foreign policy planned and
prepared for a war of aggression, that is not an excuse on
my part. The truth of this is proved by the strength that we
developed in the course of the Second World War and how weak
we were at its beginning.

History will believe us when I say that we would have
prepared a war of aggression immeasurably better if we had
actually intended one. What we intended was to look after
our elementary necessities of life, in the same way that
England looked after her own interests in order to make one-
fifth of the world subject to her and in the same way that
the United States brought an entire continent and Russia the
largest inland territory of the world under their hegemony.
The only difference between the policies of these countries
and ours was that we demanded parcels of land such as Danzig
and the Corridor, which were taken unjustly from us, whereas
the other Powers were accustomed to thinking only in terms
of continents.

Before the establishment of the Charter of this Tribunal,
even the signatory Powers of the London Agreement must have
had different views about International Law and policy from
those they have today. When I went to Marshal Stalin in
Moscow in 1939, he did not discuss with me the possibility
of a peaceful settlement of the German-Polish conflict
within the framework of the Kellogg-Briand Pact: but rather
he hinted that if, in addition to half of Poland and the
Baltic countries, he did not receive Lithuania and the
harbour of Libau, I might as well return home.

In 1939 the waging of war was obviously not yet regarded as
an international crime against peace, otherwise I could not
explain Stalin's telegram at the conclusion of the Polish
campaign, which read:

  "The friendship of Germany and the Soviet Union, based on
  the blood which they have shed together, has every
  prospect of being a firm and lasting one."

Here I should like to emphasize and stress the fact that
even I ardently desired this friendship at that time. Of
this friendship there remains today only the primary problem
for Europe and the world: Will Asia dominate Europe, or will
the Western Powers be able to stem or even push back the
influence of the Soviets at the Elbe, at the Adriatic coast
and at the Dardanelles?

                                                  [Page 386]
In other words, Great Britain and the United States today
face the same dilemma as Germany faced at the time when I
was carrying out negotiations with Russia. For my country's
sake I hope with all my heart that they may be more
successful in achieving a satisfactory solution than we

Now, what has already been proved in this Trial about the
criminal character of German foreign policy? That out of
more than 300 defence documents which were submitted, 150
were rejected without cogent reasons. That the files of the
enemy and even of the Germans were inaccessible to the
defence. That Churchill's friendly hint to me that if
Germany became too strong she would be destroyed, is
declared irrelevant in judging the motives of German foreign
policy before this forum. A revolution does not become more
comprehensible if it is considered from the point of view of
a conspiracy.

Fate made me one of the exponents of this revolution. I
deplore the atrocious, crimes which became known to me here
and which besmirch this revolution. But I cannot measure all
of them according to puritanical standards, and the less so
since I have seen that even the enemy, in spite of their
total victory, were neither able nor willing to prevent
atrocities of the most extensive kind.

One can regard the theory of the conspiracy as one will, but
from the point of view of the critical observer it is only a
makeshift solution. Anybody who has held a decisive position
in the Third Reich knows that it simply represents an
historical falsehood, and the authors of the Charter of this
Tribunal have only proved with their invention from what
background they derived their line of thought.

I might just as well assert that the signatory Powers of
this Charter had formed a conspiracy for the suppression of
the primary needs of a highly developed, capable, and
courageous nation. When I look back upon my actions and my
desires, then I can conclude only this: The only thing of
which I consider myself guilty before my people - not before
this Tribunal - is that my aspirations in foreign policy
remained without success.

THE PRESIDENT: I call on the defendant Wilhelm Keitel.

DEFENDANT KEITEL: I acknowledged on the witness-stand my
responsibility in connection with my official position, and
have explained the significance of this position in the
presentation of evidence and in the final plea of my defence

It is far from my intention to minimize my part in what took
place. In the interest of historical truth, however, it
seems advisable to correct a few errors in the final
speeches of the prosecution.

The American Chief Prosecutor said in his final speech:
   "Keitel, a weak, submissive tool, turned the Wehrmacht,
   the instrument of aggression, over to the Party."

A "turning over" of the Wehrmacht to the Party by me cannot
be reconciled with my functions, either up to 4th February,
1938, or after that time when Hitler made himself Supreme
Commander of the Wehrmacht, and thus ruled the Party and the
Wehrmacht absolutely. I do not recall that any sort of
evidence was presented in the course of this Trial which
could justify this serious allegation by the prosecution.

The presentation of evidence, however, has also shown that
the further contention "that Keitel led the Wehrmacht in the
execution of its criminal intentions" is wrong. This
allegation is in contradiction to the Anglo-American Trial
Brief, which says expressly that I had no authority to issue

Consequently, the British Chief Prosecutor is also mistaken
when he speaks of me as - and I quote - "a field-marshal who
issued orders to the Wehrmacht," and when he claims that I
said that I "had no idea what practical results were intend
by this" - that is the quotation. I believe that this is
something quite different from what I said on the witness-
stand, which was, and I quote the words I spoke on the
witness-stand: "But when an order was given, I acted
according to my

                                                  [Page 387]

duty as I saw it, without permitting myself to be confused
by the possible but not always foreseeable consequences."

Also, the contention that - and I quote: "Keitel and Jodl
cannot deny the responsibility for the operations of the
Einsatzkommandos, with which their own commanders co-
operated closely and cordially," cannot be reconciled with
the results of the testimony. The OKW was eliminated from
the Soviet-Russian theatre of war. There were no troop
commanders under its orders.

The French Chief Prosecutor said in his final speech: "Is it
necessary to recall the terrible words of the defendant
Keitel that 'human life was worth less than nothing in the
occupied territories'?"

These terrible words are not my words. I did not express
them and did not make them the contents of any order,
either. The fact that my name is connected with the
transmission of this Fuehrer order weighs heavily enough
upon me.

At another point M. Champetier de Ribes said:
  "This order was executed - it concerned anti-Partisan
  activities - by virtue of instructions from the commander
  of the army group, who, in his turn, acted according to
  the general instructions of the defendant Keitel."

Here again "instructions of Keitel" are mentioned, although
the French Indictment itself states that I, as chief of the
OKW, could not give any direct orders to the branches of the

In his final speech the Soviet Russian Prosecutor said:
  "Beginning with the documents on the executions of
  political persons, Keitel, this 'soldier,' as he likes to
  call himself, lied shamelessly to the American
  prosecution in the preliminary examination - disregarding
  his oath - by saying that this decree was in the nature
  of a reprisal and that political persons had been kept
  separate from the other prisoners of war at the latter's
  own request. He was exposed before the Tribunal."

The document in question is 884-PS.

The accusation that I lied is unfounded. The Soviet Russian
prosecution overlooked the fact that the transcript of my
preliminary examination on this question was not a subject
of evidence before this Tribunal. Therefore, its use in the
final speech of the prosecution should not have been
allowed. I did not see the transcript of the preliminary
interrogation and do not know the wording. If it is
complete, it will clarify the error which arose because the
document in question had not been shown to me. In the
examination by my defence counsel, on the witness-stand I
presented the state of affairs correctly.

In the last stage of the Trial the prosecution attempted
once more to incriminate me severely by connecting my name
with an order for the preparation of bacteriological
warfare. A witness, the former Brigadier-General Dr.
Schreiber, had said in his report:
  "The chief of the OKW, Field-Marshal Keitel, had issued
  orders to prepare for bacteriological warfare against the
  Soviet Union."

On the witness-stand here, to be sure, this witness did
speak of a "Fuehrer order." But this is not true, either.

The introduction of the testimony of Colonel Buerker, which
was approved by the Tribunal in agreement with the
prosecution, indicates that in the autumn of 1943 I,
according to Buerker, sharply and categorically rejected the
suggestion of the Army Medical Inspectorate and the Army
Weapons Office to begin experiments with bacteria with the
comment that that was completely out of the question, and
that it was indeed forbidden. This is true. General Jodl
also can confirm the fact that no order of the kind alleged
by Dr. Schreiber was ever issued; on the contrary, Hitler
prohibited bacteriological warfare, which had been suggested
by some departments. This proves the allegation to the
contrary by the witness Dr. Schreiber to be untrue.

I claim to have told the truth in all things, even if they
incriminated me; at least to have endeavoured, in spite of
the great extent of my field of activity, to

                                                  [Page 388]

contribute to the clarification of the true state of affairs
to the best of my knowledge.

So, at the end of this Trial as well, I want to present
frankly the avowal and confession I have to make today.

In the course of the Trial my defence counsel submitted two
fundamental questions to me, the first some months ago. It
was: "In case of a victory would you have refused to
participate in any part of the success?"

I answered: "No, I should certainly have been proud of it."

The second question was: "How would you act if you were in
the same position again?"

My answer: "Then I would rather choose death than allow
myself to be drawn into the net of such pernicious methods."

From these two answers the High Tribunal may see my
viewpoint. I believed, I erred, and I was not in a position
to prevent what should have been prevented. That is my

It is tragic to have to realize that the best I had to give
as a soldier, obedience and loyalty, was exploited for
purposes which could not be recognized at the time, and that
I did not see that there is a limit set even for a soldier's
performance of his duty. That is my fate.

From the clear recognition of the causes, the pernicious
methods, and the terrible consequences of this war, may
there arise the hope for a new future in the community of
nations for the German people.

THE PRESIDENT: I call upon the defendant Ernst

DEFENDANT KALTENBRUNNER: The prosecution hold me responsible
for the concentration camps, for the destruction of Jewish
life, for Einsatzgruppen and other things. All of this is
neither in accord with the evidence nor with the truth. The
accusers as well as the accused are exposed to the dangers
of a summary proceeding.

It is correct that I had to take over the Reich Security
Main Office. There was no guilt in that alone. Such offices
exist in governments of other nations too. Nevertheless, the
task and activity assigned to me in 1943 consisted almost
exclusively in the reorganization of the German political
and military intelligence service, not as Heydrich's
successor. It was almost a year after his death when I had
to accept this post at a time when suspicion fell on Admiral
Canaris of having collaborated with the enemy for years. In
a short time I ascertained the terrible extent of the
treason of Canaris and his accomplices. Amter IV and V of
the Reich Security Main Office were subordinate to me only
theoretically and not in fact.

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