The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 2001/03/02


It was never my intention to commit crimes against
International Law, the laws of war, or the laws of humanity.
Not for a single moment did I doubt the legality and
admissibility of my task, for I thought it completely out of
the question that the German Government would break
International Law.

If, however, you tell me that, in spite of that, German
labour laws could not be applied in the occupied
territories, then I beg to reply that even high-ranking
Frenchmen, Belgians, Poles, and also Russians have told me
that they were supporting Germany with labour in order to
protect Europe against a threatening Communist system, and
in order to prevent unemployment and mass suffering during
the war.

However, not only did I work for the fulfillment of my task
with the greatest zeal, but at the same time I tried
immediately upon assuming office, with all my might and with
all possible means, to eliminate the critical conditions in
the organization and care of foreign labourers, which had
developed through the winter catastrophe of 1941 to 1942 and
to do away with all shortcomings and abuses.

I also believed, as my documents prove, that we could win
the foreign workers over to our German cause by giving them
the proper treatment I demanded.

                                                  [Page 402]

Perhaps in the eyes of my foes, Himmler and Goebbels, I was
a hopeless Utopian, but I honestly fought for the foreign
workers to receive the same rights and conditions as the
German workers. This is also attested by the numerous
documents of my defence counsel, and has been confirmed by
all the statements of the witnesses before this Tribunal.

If my work was incomplete, nobody can regret it more deeply
and painfully than myself. Unfortunately, my power was

The evidence has shown that things happened in the occupied
territories on which I and the Labour Employment Office,
which was civilian-controlled, could exercise no influence
whatsoever. However, all German enterprises and agencies
requiring labour complained to me that I was always
delivering too few workers for the war effort, and that it
would be my fault if the war economy and food economy were
threatened by dangerous crises. These heavy responsibilities
and worries dominated me so much that I found I had no time
at all for other developments. This I regret.

I assume responsibility for my decrees and for my employees.
I never saw the records of the Central Planning Board before
this Trial; otherwise I would have corrected false or
unclear passages, as, for instance, the passage with
reference to the impossible figure of only 200,000 volunteer
workers. This also applies to a number of other statements
of mine which were incorrectly reported by third parties and
do not represent what I actually said.

Because I am a worker and have personally served on foreign
ships, I am grateful to the foreign workers who were in
Germany, for they helped us greatly and they worked well.
This, perhaps, is proof of the fact that on the whole they
were treated decently and humanely. I myself often visited
them. Because I was a working man, I spent the Christmas
celebrations of 1943 and 1944 with foreign workers in order
to show my attitude towards them.

My own children worked among foreign workers, under the same
working conditions. Could I, or German workers and the
German people, consider that as slavery? The necessity for
these conditions was our war emergency. The German people
and the German workers would never have tolerated around
them conditions comparable to slavery.

My defence counsel has presented the complete truth about my
case with extreme objectivity. I thank him for this from the
bottom of my heart. For his own part, he was strict and
correct in investigating my case. This was my wish.

The shortcomings and the necessities of the war, the
frightful conditions it produced, have touched my heart

I myself am prepared to meet any fate which providence has
in store for me, just as was my son, who fell in the war.

The Gauleiter whom I employed as Plenipotentiaries for
Labour Employment had the sole task of providing for the
proper treatment and care of the German and foreign workers.

God protect my people, whom I love above all else, and may
the Lord God again bless the labour of German workers, to
whom my entire life and effort were devoted, and may he give
peace to the world.

THE PRESIDENT: I call upon the defendant Alfred Jodl.

DEFENDANT ALFRED JODL: Mr. President, may it please the
Tribunal, it is my unshakable belief that later historians
will arrive at a just and objective verdict concerning the
higher military leaders and their assistants, for they and
the entire German Wehrmacht with them were confronted with
an insoluble task, namely, to conduct a war, which they had
not wanted, under a Commander-in-Chief whose confidence they
did not possess and whom they themselves only trusted within
limits; with methods which frequently were in contradiction
to their principles of leadership and their traditional,
proved opinions; with troops and police for which did not
come under their full command; and with an intelligence

                                                  [Page 403]

which in part was working for the enemy. And all this in the
complete and clear realization that this war would decide
the life or death of our beloved fatherland. They did not
serve the powers of hell and they did not serve a criminal
but rather their people and their fatherland.

 As far as I am concerned, I believe that no man can do
more than try to reach the highest of the goals which appear
attainable to him. That and nothing else has always been the
guiding principle for my actions, and for that reason,
gentlemen of the Tribunal, no matter what verdict you may
pass upon me, I shall leave this courtroom with my head held
as high as when I entered it many months ago.

But whoever calls me a traitor to the honourable tradition
of the German Army, or whoever asserts that I remained at my
post for personal and egotistical reasons him I shall call a
traitor to the truth. In a war such as this, in which
hundreds of thousands of women and children were annihilated
by layers of bombs or killed by bullets fired from low-
flying aircraft, and in which partisans used every, yes,
every means of violence which seemed expedient, harsh
measures, even though they may appear questionable from the
standpoint of International Law, are not a moral crime.

For I believe and avow that one's duty toward one's people
and fatherland stands above every other. To carry out this
duty was for me an honour and the highest law.

May this duty be supplanted in some happier future by an
even higher one, by the duty toward humanity.

THE PRESIDENT: I call upon the defendant Franz von Papen.

DEFENDANT FRANZ VON PAPEN: Your Lordship, may it please the
Tribunal, when I returned home in 1919 I found a people,
torn by the political struggles of parties, attempting to
find a new mode of existence after the downfall. In those
days of my country's misfortune, I believed as a responsible
German that I had no right to remain inactive.

It was clear to me that a rebirth of my country was only
possible by way of peace and intellectual understanding, an
understanding which did not deal only with political forms,
but was even more concerned with the solution of the
extremely urgent social problems, the first condition for
bringing about internal peace.

Against the onslaught of radical ideologies, it was
necessary - and this was my conviction - that Christianity
be maintained as the starting-point of the new political
order. On the issue of this question the maintenance of
European peace would have to depend.

The best years of my life-work were devoted to this
question, in the community, in Parliament, in the Prussian
State, and in the Reich. Anyone who is acquainted with the
facts knows that I did not aspire to high office in 1932.
Hindenburg's urgent appeal on behalf of the fatherland was
to me a command. And when, like countless other Germans in
the emergency of 1933, I decided to co-operate by occupying
a prominent position, then I did so because I considered it
to be my duty, because I believed in the possibility of
steering National Socialism into responsible channels, and
because I hoped that the maintenance of Christian principles
would be the best counterweight against ideological and
political radicalism and would guarantee peaceful domestic
and foreign development.

The goal was not reached. The power of evil was stronger
than the power of good and drove Germany inevitably into
catastrophe. But should that be a reason to damn those who
kept the banner of faith flying in the struggle against
disbelief? And does that entitle justice Jackson to claim
that I was nothing but the hypocritical agent of a godless
government? Or what gives Sir Hartley Shawcross the right to
say, with scorn, ridicule and contempt:
    "He preferred to reign in hell rather than serve in

                                                  [Page 404]

Gentlemen of the prosecution, it is not for you to judge
here, that is for another. But I should like to ask: Is not
the question of defending transcendental values, more than
ever the central issue today in the efforts to rebuild a

I believe that I can face my responsibility with a clear
conscience. Love of country and people was the only decisive
factor in all my actions. I spoke without fear of man
whenever I had to speak. It was not the Nazi regime but the
fatherland which I served, when in spite of the severest
disappointments at the failure of my hopes in the field of
domestic policy I attempted, from the vantage point of my
diplomatic posts, to save at least the peace.

When I examine my conscience, I do not find my guilt where
the prosecution has looked for it and claims to have found
it. But where is the man without guilt and without faults?
Seen from the historical point of view, this guilt may be
found on that dramatic day of 2nd September, 1932, when I
did not attempt to persuade the Reich President with all the
means at my disposal to abide by the decision he had made
the night before - despite the violation of the Constitution
and despite the threat by General von Schleicher to start a
civil war.

Does the prosecution want to damn all those who with honest
intentions offered to co-operate? Does it claim that the
German people elected Hitler in 1933 because they wanted
war? Does it really claim that the overwhelming majority of
the German people made their tremendous spiritual and
material sacrifices - including, even the sacrifice of their
youth on the battlefields of this war - merely for Hitler's
Utopian and criminal aims?

This High Tribunal faces this infinitely difficult task,
without yet having gained sufficient distance in time from
the catastrophe to recognize the causes and result of
historical developments in their true perspective.

Only if this High Tribunal recognizes and acknowledges the
historic truth will the historical meaning of this Tribunal
be fulfilled. Only then will the German people, in spite of
the destruction of their Reich, not only come to a
realization of its errors, but also find the strength for
its future task.

THE PRESIDENT: I call upon the defendant Artur Seyss-

DEFENDANT ARTUR SEYSS-INQUART: Mr. President, in my final
words I want, if possible, to make one more contribution
toward clearing up the matters which have been treated here,
by explaining the personal motives and considerations for my

I have little to say concerning the Austrian question. I
regard the Anschluss, apart from later events, as an
exclusively German domestic affair. For every Austrian the
Anschluss was a goal in itself and never, even remotely, a
preparatory step for a war of aggression. The idea of the
Anschluss was much too important a goal for that; indeed, it
was the most outstanding goal of the German people. "To the
German people I make a report of the greatest success of my
life." I believed these words of the Fuehrer when he spoke
on 15th March, 1938, in the Hofburg in Vienna. Moreover,
they were true. If, on 11th March, 1938, at about 8 o'clock
in the evening, and after the complete breakdown of every
other political and State authority, I followed the way
prescribed by Berlin, the reason was the following: The
unjustified opposition to the carrying out of orderly
elections had opened the doors to radical action,
practically as well as psychologically. I asked myself
whether I had the right to oppose these methods, after my
plan had apparently not been practicable.

However, if this procedure appeared justified, I felt it my
duty to lend such aid as I could under the circumstances. I
am convinced that it is due mainly to my aid that this
fundamental revolution, particularly during the night of
12th March, took place so quietly and without bloodshed,
although strong hatred was stored within the hearts of the
Austrian National Socialists.

I was in favour of the unity of all Germans, no matter what
form of government Germany had. I believe that the
prosecution has utilized documents of the

                                                  [Page 405]

period following the Anschluss in order to deduce from them
aggressive intentions on my part in respect to the
annexation. These are documents and remarks regarding the
Danube area and Czechoslovakia, dated after October, 1938,
and after the Munich agreement, and regarding the Vistula
area after September, 1939 after the outbreak of war. I
admit these statements and in the meantime their correctness
has been confirmed. As long as the Danube area was
incorporated in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, its
development was beneficial to all, and the German element
did not display any imperialistic activity but only
furthered and contributed to culture and industry. Ever
since this area was broken up by the integral success of the
nationalistic principle, it has never achieved peace.
Remembering this, I thought of reorganizing a common
Lebensraum, which, as I openly declared, should give, as the
most essential requirement, such a social order to all,
namely, Germans, Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians, and Rumanians,
as would make life worth while for every individual. I also
thought of Czechoslovakia with this in mind, recalling the
co-ordination of languages in Moravia, which I myself had

If I spoke of the Vistula area after 1st September, 1939, as
a German area of destiny, this was because of my endeavour
to prevent dangers for the future, which had become obvious
through the outbreak of war and which have today become a
terrible reality to every German. These statements can no
more serve as evidence of the intention to wage a war of
aggression than the decision of Teheran concerning the
German Eastern territories.

Then the war broke out, which I immediately recognized then
and afterwards as a life-and-death struggle for the German
people. To the demand for an unconditional surrender I could
only oppose an unconditional "no" and my unconditional
service to my country. I believe in the words of Rathenau:

  "Courageous nations can be broken but never bent."

In connection with the Netherlands, I should like to say
only the following with reference to the charge that I
interfered in the administration for political purposes.
Nobody in the Netherlands was forced into any political
allegiance or limited in his freedom or property if he
maintained anti-German ideas during the occupation, as long
as he did not engage in hostile activity.

I have already explained that I had serious humane and legal
scruples against the evacuation of the Jews. Today I realize
that there appears to be a fundamental justification for
large-scale and permanent evacuations, for such evacuations
are today affecting more than 10 million Germans, who had
been settled in their homes for many centuries.

After the middle of 1944, saboteurs and terrorists were shot
by the police, on the basis of a direct Fuehrer order, if
their activity was proved. At the time I only heard of
shootings of this kind, never of "shootings of hostages" in
the actual sense. The Dutch patriots who lost their lives
during the occupation are today rightly considered fallen
heroes. Does it not put this heroism on a lower plane to
represent them exclusively as the victims of a crime, thus
implying that their conduct would not have been so hazardous
at all if the occupying Power had conducted itself in a
proper manner? They all had a voluntary connection with the
resistance movement. They shared the fate of front-line

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