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

Tenth Day: Saturday, 1st December, 1945
(Part 1 of 5)

[Page 307]

THE PRESIDENT: I will begin the session by reading the judgement of the Tribunal upon the application made by counsel for the defendant Hess.

The Tribunal has given careful consideration to the motion of counsel for the defence of the defendant Hess, and it has had the advantage of hearing full argument upon it both from the defence and the prosecution. The Tribunal has also considered the very full medical reports, which have been made on the condition of the defendant Hess, and has come to the conclusion that no grounds whatever exist for a further examination to be ordered.

After hearing the statement of the defendant Hess in Court yesterday, and in view of all the evidence, the Tribunal is of the opinion that the defendant Hess is capable of standing his trial at the present time, and the motion of the counsel for the defence is, therefore denied, and the trial will proceed.

Now the witness under examination should come back to the witness box.

(ERWIN LAHOUSEN resumed the stand.)

MR. ROBERTS: May it please the Tribunal, Sir David Maxwell Fyfe yesterday said he had no questions to ask this witness. He has now requested me very shortly to cross-examine this witness on one incident mentioned in the Indictment, namely, the murder of fifty R.A.F. officers who escaped from Stalag Luft 3 in March of 1944.

THE PRESIDENT: You said "to cross-examine."

MR. ROBERTS: I realise that this is a matter which falls in the part of the Indictment which is being dealt with the prosecutors for the U.S.S.R. My Lord, I have mentioned that matter to General Rudenko, who with his usual courtesy and kindness has said that he has no objection to my asking some questions on that matter.


Q. By MR. ROBERTS: Might I ask you this? Do you know anything of the circumstances of the death of fifty R.A.F. officers in March 1944, who had escaped from Stalag Luft 3 at Zagreb and were recaptured?

A. WITNESS: No, I have nothing to say because at that time I was at the East front, as commander of my regiment, and had no contact any longer with my former duties.

Q. Did you hear of the matter from any of your fellow officers?

A. No, I heard nothing about it whatsoever.

Q. You cannot assist the Court at all with the matter?

A. No; in no way.


By DR. EGON KUBUSCHOK (counsel for defendant von Papen):

Q. Witness, you stated yesterday that you were the intimate friend and collaborator of Admiral Canaris. Since I no longer can address my question directly to Admiral Canaris, I ask you to answer the following questions for me: Did Admiral Canaris know of defendant von Papen's attitude toward Hitler's war policies, and how did Admiral Canaris express himself to you on this point?

A. First, I should like to make a slight correction on the question addressed to me. I never asserted that I was the intimate friend of Canaris. Pieckenbrock was a friend of Canaris, while I was merely one of his confidants. From this

[Page 308]

relationship, however, I recall that von Papen's and Canaris' attitude towards the question, which counsel has just brought up, was negative.

Q. Was this negative attitude only towards the war policy, or was it also towards all the violent methods used in the execution of such a policy?

A. According to my recollection I have to answer this question in the affirmative in accordance with a conversation between Admiral Canaris and von Papen, during the latter's visit in Berlin and at which I was present.

Q. Did you know that von Papen told Canaris that from political quarters no resistance against Hitler's aggressive policies was possible, but that such resistance would have to be sought among the ranks of the military?

A. In this connection, that is to say, in the direct connection as it is now being presented, I personally do not know anything. In other words I personally was not witness at any such conversation between Canaris and von Papen touching this question; and I cannot recall today whether Canaris ever told me anything regarding such conversations with von Papen. It is quite possible, but I cannot recall it, and consequently my oath as witness does not permit me to make any statement other than I have made.

Q. Witness, do you conclude that Canaris believed von Papen to intentionally retain an exposed political office in order to exercise a mitigating influence?

A. I believe so, though I have no tangible proof through any of his statements, but that is my impression, from what I still recollect to-day.

By DR. OTTO NELTE (counsel for defendant Keitel):

Q. My client requested me to ask you the following questions: Since when have you known Canaris and Pieckenbrock?

A. I have known Canaris and Pieckenbrock since 1937 through my previous activity in the Austrian Intelligence.

Q. Did at that time any relationship of a military nature exist between the Abwehr, then headed by Admiral Canaris, and yourself?

A. Not only did such connections exist with the Austrian Intelligence, but the Austrian Federal Army and the German Wehrmacht maintained at that time an absolute legal and purely military exchange of information. Legal in the sense that this exchange and collaboration of military intelligence was carried on with the knowledge of the Austrian authorities. To state it clearly, this was purely military collaboration concerning intelligence exchange about Austria's neighbouring countries.

Q. May I ask if this contact between you and Canaris was also of a personal nature, i.e., to determine how the Austrian Army felt about the question of the Anschluss?

A. This and similar questions, that is to say, all questions of a political nature, particularly the question of the Anschluss, or the then very intense illegal Nazi activities, were and had to continue to be completely ignored in this connection. This agreement was essentially kept by Count Margona, the official liaison man - (he was also executed after the 2oth of July) - and by Canaris and Generaloberst Beck.

Q. Do I understand you to wish to say that the personal contact did not mean that the Austrian officers of the General Staff gave information on everything regarding their attitude to the idea of the Anschluss, or that they were willing or able to give this information?

A. This personal contact took place for the first time on the day, when I saw Canaris - (it was the first time) - while he was still an Austrian officer. It was in the Office for Defence of the Federal Government, where Canaris was with the then Chief of the Austrian General Staff.

THE PRESIDENT: Can you not hear what was said?


[Page 309]

THE PRESIDENT: Would you please repeat the question?


Q. I asked the witness to what extent a personal contact existed between the officers of the German General Staff and the Abwehr, and between the officers of the Intelligence Section and the German General Staff, for the purpose of determining the trend towards the Anschluss.

A. First of all, there was no such personal contact in the sense that the word is used here. The contact which actually did take place - (and there are witnesses in this room who can confirm this statement - von Papen must be thoroughly informed of this) - took place on a single day, during which I never spoke with Canaris alone, but always in the presence of my superior. officers. In any case, no questions relating to the Anschluss and no political questions which touched on internal Austrian problems were discussed there, naturally not by myself, and naturally not consciously and willingly by Canaris.

Q. What was your job in the Abwehr Office II?

A. In the Abwehr Section II, which I took over at the beginning of 19391 described it yesterday, and I am willing to repeat it if you wish-this particular job did not have its own designation; it embraced various functions and actions, which I can define very precisely: acts of destruction, acts of sabotage, or prevention of sabotage, or in general those activities that are carried out by commandos. It was the function of this division to co- ordinate these activities and to bring them into relationship with the military necessities, or the plans of the General Staff.

Q. Who, in general, gave you your orders as regards co- ordinating these activities with the military activities?

A. My orders were usually received from my Chief, Canaris.

Q. I was referring to the office, whether they came from the OKH or the OKW?

A. They did not come from the OKW as a rule. Usually they came through channels from the OKW represented by the then Chief of the OKW, Keitel, or the chief of the "Fuehrungsstab" of the Wehrmacht; and when the General Staff or the Air Force "Fuehrungsstab" were interested in any undertaking, the orders, as far as I can remember, were also transmitted by way of the Armed Forces Fuehrungsstab, and the representatives of the three Armed Forces, i.e., the Army, Air Force and Navy appointed to it. All these orders came through the same channels to the Ausland-Abwehr, and Canaris transmitted them to me, as my allotted task.

Q. Are you now describing the official channels through which you received the orders, or are you defining where the orders came from, whether they came from the OKW, the Army, the OKH, or the Fuehrungsstab; or whether they were simply transmitted by way of or via the OKW?

A. Speaking strictly for myself I can say that I was in touch with my immediate superior, Canaris, with regard to that question; also with Keitel and with the officers of the Army Fuehrungsstab. Sometimes I had to deal with officers of the General Staff of the Army in connection with questions concerning my section. I could mention specific cases from memory. But in general the procedure was such as I described it.

Q. Is it true that Keitel, as the Chief of the OKW, at first every year, and then from 1936 onwards, in shorter periods, spoke to the officials and section chiefs of the OKW; and on such occasions pointed out to them, specifically, that everyone who believed that something was being asked of him that his conscience would not allow him to carry out, should be so kind as to tell him, namely, Keitel?

A. It is true that the then Chief of the OKW spoke before the aforementioned circle several times, but I cannot, of course, remember his precise words, or that he made a statement which could be so interpreted. Whatever the wording of Keitel's statement, I definitely did not obtain the impression that one could have spoken to him as clearly and openly as I and others, who are still alive, were able to speak to Canaris at any time.

[Page 310]

Q. Do I understand you correctly to mean that you do not wish to challenge, in principle, the fact that Keitel actually said these words?

A. I can neither challenge it, nor can I add anything to it, because I do not precisely recall it. I do recall that these addresses or conferences took place, and it is altogether possible that the then Chief of the OKW might have used those words. I can only add what I have already said.

Q. Is it true that on several occasions, you, in the company of Admiral Canaris, as well as alone, were in the presence of the Chief of the OKW, in order to discuss plans or undertakings with Keitel, which were in the purview of your official duties?

A. Of course, I said a great deal about that yesterday; and I do not feel I have the right to talk about such things unless I personally was there.

Q. I had the impression, that in many respects you were being used as a mouthpiece for Admiral Canaris, among other things, through your quotations in his diary.

A. The impression is completely fallacious. I was not a mouthpiece, and am now as I was then, inwardly completely independent in what I state. I have never allowed myself, nor shall I ever allow myself, to become the mouthpiece of any conception, or to make any statements that are contrary to my inner convictions and to my conscience.

Q. You misunderstood me if you believe that I used the word "mouthpiece" derogatorily. I simply wanted to bring attention to the remarks that have their source in Canaris' diary.

A. Yes, I did assist Canaris, in matters which were of personal concern to him and which, being dead, he could not take up. Since I knew a great deal of it, and in great detail, I took it upon myself to say what I knew.

Q. Did the defendant Keitel ever ask the question, or communicate with Abwehr Section, as regards whether or not there were Nazis in that section?

A. He gave unequivocal answers to such questions at the aforementioned conferences, namely that there can be no doubt that in such an office as the OKW, no officers or trends of thought could be tolerated that did not have an unshakeable belief in a final victory, or give proof of complete obedience to the Fuehrer, etc.

Q Could not these statements be interpreted as requirements of a military nature, obedience in a military set, or must they be understood politically?

A Of course, they were military, but there could be no doubt that they were clearly also political, since no discrimination was recognised in this matter. The Wehrmacht was supposed to be a unit, the National Socialistic Wehrmacht. That touches the basic problem.

Q. Do you then believe that the basic attitude was still essentially military?

A. The basic attitude was or should have been a National Socialistic one, in the first place; and only in second place a military attitude, or anything else.

Q. You said "should have been".

A. Yes, because such was not actually the case.

Q. You said that in the first place it was military and not National Socialistic.

A. It should have been a purely military one, according to our interpretation, but according to the point of view represented by the then Chief of the O.K.W - whether he received an order in this matter or not, I am not in a position to say, as I wasn't there - the basic attitude should have been one of absolute obedience in a National Socialistic sense.

Q. Do you know anything about the attitude of the generals towards this problem?

A. Of course, I do, because immediately after such conferences, as has been mentioned here, a lively exchange of opinions took place on this subject and a large number of those who were present - I could name them and some of them are present here - took a negative attitude to the fact that the orientation should be so

[Page 311]

exclusively political in accordance with "regulations from higher quarters," as they were called then, and scarcely ever of a technical or military nature.

Q. Yesterday, on the occasion of the discussion of the meeting that took place in the Fuehrer's train, in September of 1939, as regards the communication of the Chief of the O.K.W. to you, you said that the defendant Keitel had expressed himself to you, or rather had expressed himself to the gentlemen present, as follows, viz.: "That these measures had been determined between the Fuehrer and Goering, and that he, Keitel, had no influence on them. You added that the Fuehrer and Goering telephoned frequently back and forth. Sometimes he knew something about it; sometimes you did, too."

A. That is correct. I have made a verbal transcript of everything which was said in my presence; and I repeated it here because it is true.

Q. May I ask whether your remark: "Sometimes I find out about it, sometimes I don't", relates to a concrete, specific case, or was that a general rule?

A. That was to be understood as a general statement, to the best of my present recollection.

Q. At this conference in the Fuehrer's train, on the 12th of September, 1939, you spoke further of the transmission of the political goals which, according to you, had their source in Ribbentrop.

A. That is correct.

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