The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
November 20 to December 1, 1945

Ninth Day: Friday, 30th November, 1945
(Part 4 of 9)

[COLONEL AMEN continues]

[Page 279]

Q. Prior to your going to this conference, did Canaris make any other comment on those orders?

A. Even at the time when these orders were given, Canaris said to our circle - and when I say our circle I mean the section chiefs - that he had put himself in a position of sharp opposition to this command and protested through Burckner. I cannot say now whether that was done in writing or orally, whether that was communicated to Keitel in writing or orally, I don't know, but, at any rate, Burckner communicated it to Keitel; probably by both media.

Q. When you say "protested through Burckner", what do you mean?

A. When I say Burckner, I mean the group or perhaps even a representative in his office.

Q. Will you repeat that?

A. This protest or this counter-argument, and the question regarding the treatment of the Russian prisoners of war, was communicated by Canaris via the

[Page 280]

Foreign Office, Ausland-Amt, and, through Burckner, communicated further. The Ausland office had a section that dealt with questions of International Law. The expert in that section was Count Moltke who, like some other men, belonged to Oster's inner circle. After 20th July he was executed.

THE PRESIDENT: Would that be a convenient time to break off?


THE PRESIDENT: Until 2.00 o'clock.

(A recess was taken until 1400 hours.)

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, Colonel Amen.

(Erwin Lahousen resumed the stand and testified further as follows: )


Q. Prior to the luncheon recess you were testifying about a conference in 1941 with Reinecke and others. Prior to that conference did Canaris tell you what kind of appeal to make to those present at the meeting?

A. Before the discussion Canaris said, as I have already stated, that I should use arguments in order to ruin the case or to weaken its effects, but that otherwise I should not take it into my head to use arguments of a humanitarian nature, lest I should so make a fool of myself.

Q. And now will you explain to the Tribunal, to the best of your recollection, exactly what happened and what was said in the course of that conference?

A. The discussion was opened by General Reinecke, and he explained these orders in the manner in which I described them before the recess. He said that these measures were necessary, and that it was particularly necessary that this idea should also be made clear to the Wehrmacht, and above all to the officers corps, as they apparently still had ideas which belonged to the Ice Age and not to the present age of National Socialism.

Q. What views did you present at this conference?

A. According to my instructions from the Amt Ausland-Abwehr and as representative of Canaris, in the main I pointed out, first of all, the most unfavourable effect of such measures on the troops, namely, on the Front troops; that they would never understand such orders, particularly not the simple soldier. Besides, I said, we had reports that the executions were sometimes carried out before their eyes.

Secondly, I brought forward the objections of my office in regard to activities which referred to the office itself, the effect on the enemy of these measures which were, practically speaking, the hindering of deserters, to prevent Russians from deserting, who were surrendering without any opposition; and then the great difficulties which the Abwehr Division had in fighting agents, that is, people who for any reasons had voluntarily kept themselves prepared to help the Germans.

Q. In order that this may be clear on the record, because I think there was quite a bit of confusion in the translation, I want to point out one or two of those arguments again. What did you say at this conference about the effect of the execution of these orders on Russian soldiers?

A. I pointed out, first of all, that through these orders some elements among the Russian soldiers who were inclined to surrender were prevented from doing so. Secondly, that people who for any reason had offered their services to the Abwehr would also be prevented by these measures. And that, taking it all together, above all, the effect attained would be the opposite to that which they had desired, and that the resistance of the Russians would be increased to the utmost.

Q. And in order that we may be perfectly clear, what did you say about the effect of the execution of these orders on the German troops?

A. I said that, from several reports which we had from the Front, the effect on the morale and on the discipline of the troops was terrible, devastating.

[Page 281]

Q. Was there any discussion about International Law at this conference?

A. No. In this connection there was no discussion of International Law. The manner of selection of the prisoners of war was particularly stressed. It was completely arbitrary, apart from the order in itself, the general order itself.

Q. We will get to that in a moment. Were your views accepted at this conference?

A. My views, which were the views of the Amt Abwehr which I was representing, were opposed in the sharpest possible manner by Muller, who, with the usual cliches, rejected the arguments that I had produced, and who made the sole concession that the executions, in order to consider the feelings of the troops, should not take place in the face of the troops but at a secret place. He also made a few concessions in the question of the selection, which was completely arbitrary, and was just left to the Kommando leaders or their viewpoints.

Q. And subsequent to this conference did you learn whether an order was issued with respect to having these killings take place out of the sight of the German troops?

A. Except for Muller's promise, which I have just mentioned, I heard no more about it at the time. I found a confirmation of the results of this conference; and the promises then made to me, in an order which was submitted to me only now.

Q. Was there a conversation at this conference about the manner in which these orders for the killings were being executed?

A. Yes; in the course of discussions the entire problem was under discussion as well as the manner in which these orders were carried out by the riot-squads (Einsatzkommandos) of the S.D. - according to my recollection. These S.D. squads were in charge both of singling out of persons in camps, and in assembly centres for prisoners of war, and of carrying out the executions.

Reinecke also discussed measures regarding the treatment of Russian prisoners of war in the camps. Reinecke emphatically accepted the arguments put forth by Muller and not by myself, and voiced his conviction in very sharp words.

Q. Now, will you explain to the Tribunal, from what you learned at this conference, the exact manner in which the sorting of these prisoners was made and in what way it was determined which of the prisoners should be killed?

A. The prisoners were sorted out by commandos of the S.D. and according to peculiar and utterly arbitrary points of view. The leaders of these "Einsatzkommandos" were guided by racial characteristics; particularly if someone was a Jew or Jewish type or could otherwise be classified as racially inferior, he was picked for execution. Other leaders of the S.D. selected people according to their intelligence. Some had views all their own and usually most peculiar, so that I felt compelled to ask Muller, "Tell me, according to what principles does this selection take place? Do you determine it by the height of a person or the size of his shoes?"

Muller was very emphatic in rejecting these and any other objections, and Reinecke adopted rigidly the same point of view, instead of accepting my opinions, i.e., those of the Amt Ausland-Abwehr, which were offered him as a "golden bridge" for his acceptance. That was essentially the contents of the discussion in which I participated.

Q. Did you receive knowledge about the manner in which these orders were executed through official reports?

A. We were currently informed of all happenings by the organs either at the front or active in the camps. Officers of the Abwehr Division were active in these camps, and in this way, and through the normal service channels, we were informed by reports and oral presentation of all these measures and of their effects.

[Page 282]

Q. Was the information which you received secret and confidential information not open to others?

A. The information was confidential since almost all which took place in our offices was treated confidentially. De facto, however, it was known to large groups of the Wehrmacht that these things happened in the camps, respectively in due execution.

Q. Now, at this conference did you learn anything from Reinecke with respect to the treatment of Russian prisoners in prison camps?

A. In this discussion the treatment of Russian prisoners in the camps was discussed by Reinecke, and Reinecke was of the opinion that in the camps their treatment must not be the same as the treatment of other Allied prisoners of war, but that here too, according to the principles laid down, discriminating measures must be used. The camp guards should be furnished with whips, and, in case of an attempted escape or other undesirable act, the guards should have the right to resort to arms.

Q. Besides the whips, what other equipment were the Stalag guards given?

A. Those are details which I do not remember for the moment. I can only say what was mentioned in this discussion.

Q. What, if anything, did Reinecke say about the whips?

A. Reinecke said that the guards, i.e., the guard details, should make use of their whips or sticks or whatever other primitive instruments they had.

Q. Now, through official channels did you learn of an order for the branding of Russian prisoners of war?

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Amen, I think you should refer to them as "Soviet", not "Russian" prisoners.

COLONEL AMEN: Yes, Your Honour.


Q. Did you learn of such an order?

A. Yes, in one of the discussions at which most of the previously mentioned divisional chiefs were usually present. At least one of them must have been present.

Q. Do you know whether any protests were made with respect to that order?

A. When the intention was made known of branding these prisoners, a very sharp protest was voiced at once by Canaris, probably through Burckner himself.

Q. What, if anything, did Canaris tell you with regard to this order?

A. Canaris told us that the question had already been expounded in a medical opinion by some sort of physician; that there actually were people low enough to consent to giving a medical opinion on such madness. That was the main topic of this discussion.

Q. What information, if any, did you receive through official channels regarding plans to bring Soviet prisoners back to German territory?

A. Under similar circumstances, that is, during discussions between Canaris and the chiefs of his divisions, as well as in the General Staff talks, I heard that it had been planned to bring some Soviet prisoners into Germany, but that those projects were suddenly abandoned, and I remember that this was by direct order of Hitler. The reason for it was the conditions found in camps in the theatre of operations, where prisoners were crowded together and could not be adequately fed, housed or clothed, resulting in epidemics and cannibalism in these camps.

Q. I am not sure but what we missed some of your previous answer. Will you start again to tell us about the change which was made in these orders?

A. Will you please repeat the question once more?

Q. You referred to a change in the plans to take the Soviet prisoners back to German territory. Is that correct?

A. Yes, they were not brought back into Germany.

[Page 283]

Q. And what was the result of this action, namely, of their not being brought back, at the direct order of Hitler?

A. The result was as described just now.

Q. But I want you to repeat it because we lost some of the answer in the interpreting process. Please just repeat it again.

A. The greater number of prisoners of war remained in the theatre of operation, without proper care - care in the sense of PW conventions, with regard to housing, food, medical care; and many of them died on the bare floor. Epidemics broke out and cannibalism - human beings devouring each other - driven by hunger - manifested itself.

Q. Were you personally at the front to observe these conditions?

A. I made several trips with Canaris and I saw some of these things which I have just described with my own eyes. I made notes of my impressions at the time, which were found amongst my papers.

Q. Did you also obtain information as to these matters through official channels of the Abwehr?

A. Yes, I received this information through our own legal department and through the Ausland-Abwehr.

Q. From your official information, to what extent was the Wehrmacht involved in the mistreatment of these prisoners?

A. According to my information, the Wehrmacht was involved in all matters which referred to prisoners of war, except the executions, which were the concern of the "Kommandos" of the S.D. and the Reichssicherheitshauptamt.

Q. But is it not a fact that the prisoner-of-war camps were entirely under the jurisdiction of the Wehrmacht?

A. Yes, prisoners of war were under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Command of the Wehrmacht.

Q. But before they were placed in these camps, the Special Purpose Kommandos of the S.S. were responsible primarily for the executions and the selection of the people to be executed, is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you receive through official channels information regarding the existence of an order for the killing of British Commandos?

A. Yes.

Q. What action, if any, did Canaris or yourself take with respect to this order?

A. The order, as far as I remember, and even the intention that such an order was to be issued, was discussed in our circle, that is, between Canaris and his section chiefs. We all, of course, absolutely agreed on its rejection. The reasons, apart from the aspects of International Law, being that the Amt Ausland had under its jurisdiction a formation, which was attached to our section, named "Regiment Brandenburg", which had a task similar to that of the Kommandos. I immediately and most emphatically protested against this order, as the head of the section to which this regiment was attached, and for which I considered myself responsible, and also in view of the retaliation measures which were to be expected as a result.

Q. Did you personally assist in the drafting of these protests?

A. I know that twice a protest was lodged against this order by Canaris, and by Amt Ausland, through Burckner. The first time as soon as the order was issued orally or in writing, and the second time after the first executions had been carried out. I drafted one of these written protests - I do not know whether the first or the second; this very contribution was made in the interest of my section, and the Regiment Brandenburg, whose functions were similar, very similar, to those of the Kommandos.

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