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 2 of 5)

[DR. NELTE continues]

[Page 311]

Q. And you said that the defendant Keitel transmitted these political goals to those who were present; and the same way with respect to the order regarding Warsaw, namely, the bombardment of Warsaw.

A. According to my recollection this was true as far as the air bombardment of Warsaw was concerned; and in accordance with my notes. I can also state in this respect that as far as the matter of the shootings in Poland is concerned, Canaris took the initiative in these matters by provoking discussions during which he pointed out the terrible political international repercussions that such behaviour might have. The details are no longer quite clear in my mind.

Q. I should now like to ask you whether, on the occasion when the order to bombard Warsaw was made known, Keitel did not specifically point out that that action was planned only to take place if Warsaw did not surrender, after it had been approached through parliamentary channels; and that first of all, Warsaw should be given an opportunity to capitulate without being bombarded.

A. I cannot recall the precise words he used, but judging by my knowledge of that general situation, it is quite possible, indeed probable, that the Chief of the O.K.W., Keitel, did make this remark.

Q. Do you know that before the Polish War began, the Commander in Chief of the Army at that time, von Brauchitsch, and the Chief of the O.K.W., Keitel, specifically objected to the use of Commandos and Gestapo, and rejected their use; and in so doing, had the agreement of Hitler?

A. No, that is not known to me, and could not have been known to me, because of my subordinate position at that time. Please do not over-rate the importance of my official position at the time.

Q. There is also here a question of knowledge of a document, which was transmitted to all departments and sections of the O.K.W., as you probably remember from yesterday. They were the so-called directives; and in these directives, there appears, contrary to what happened later -

THE PRESIDENT: I think you were going a little bit too fast.

Q. (continuing) I said that in connection with such military actions, the orders and directives were mimeographed and generally made known, no doubt.

A. Yes, but these orders did not concern my specific department, I stress the word "specific", and I did not even see them.

Q. Since later you were brought into a discussion of these questions, and since you emphasise that the orders were not literally known to you -

A. Of course, a great deal was known to me, because I heard of it.

[Page 312]

Q. For that reason, I want to ask you whether you recall that the Gestapo and S.D. were used, contrary to the specific intentions and wishes of the O.K.W., in the matter of the Polish War?

A. I cannot remember. I can only refer to what I remember, and what is registered in the files, in which there is mention made of a remark of Hitler's, which was transmitted by Keitel at that time; stating that, if the Armed Forces objected to these measures, the latter as well as the O.K.W. would have to realise that the Gestapo and the S.D. would go ahead anyhow. That is probably what you are referring to. I know that because I was present at these discussions.

Q. During this conversation, were you not told that an objection to the behaviour of the S.S. was brought up, on the part of General Blaskowitz?

A. Whether or not this question was brought up in this conference, I cannot recall. I can hardly assume that it was so, since otherwise the question would have been registered in the minutes of that conference, particularly in the case of General Blaskowitz, whose attitude in such matters was quite clear cut. But apart from this conversation in the Fuehrer's train, I remember in its essence something about the subject - which was just brought up - namely, Blaskowitz' objections. I cannot say what form those objections took at the time, whether they were in writing or verbal, but I do remember the general theme, though I cannot recall whether it happened at one of the conferences which I attended.

Q. What appears to me to be important in this matter, is the fact that actually the Armed Forces, the troops, protested, or at least had a negative attitude toward the behaviour of the S.S.

A. That the Armed Forces did object, is, of course, quite evident.

Q. That is what I wanted to know.

A. One moment, please. When I say "the Armed Forces", I mean the masses of common soldiers, the ordinary human beings. Of course, there were in these Armed Forces - other men whom I wish to exclude. I do not wish to be misunderstood. The concept "Armed Forces" does not include everybody, but does include the greater majority of common soldiers and thinking human beings.

Q. You use the term "Wehrmacht" to differentiate between the common soldiers and the High Command.

A. As far as the then prevailing methods and conditions were concerned, which became apparent for the first time in this shape to the broad masses of the Wehrmacht, I think I have summed them up fairly accurately within the small section I have described.

Q. Who gave the order regarding the collaboration with the Ukrainian Group? You spoke yesterday of that group.

A. I have to go further back, and state first of all, that this group was composed of citizens from various countries; Hungarians, Czechs and Poles, who, because of their oppositionist attitude, had emigrated or gone to Germany. I cannot say who ordered this collaboration, because these matters came up quite a long time back, and because at that time, I was not even a member of the Abwehr Section, and was not in touch with the department, which I took over only in 1939. However, I remember the period after 1938 quite clearly. I should like to add to this connection, because it has been already mentioned yesterday, that these Ukrainians, as a whole, had no ties whatsoever with Germany. To be specific, a great many of these people with whom the Abwehr Division had any dealings were in German concentration camps, and some of them were fighting for their country in Soviet-partisan groups. Those are the facts.

Q. Did not Admiral Canaris say to you that the chief of the O.K.W.- when the demand was made on him for Polish uniforms and equipment, demands made by the S.S. - that Keitel specifically ordered that, the Abwehr Division should more or less let the matter drop?

[Page 313]

A. I mentioned this matter also yesterday, saying that it was treated altogether in a mysterious way. Until it actually happened, neither I nor others knew what game was being played. This can be clearly seen from the war diary of the section, which relates how one day so many uniforms were requested for an operation called "Himmler", by order of Canaris. My amazement and my question, how Himmler came to request new Polish uniforms, is registered in the diary by the officer who had the job of keeping it, and the question was answered to the effect that these uniforms would simply be picked up on such and such a day by somebody, without any further explanations, and that was the end of the matter as far as I was concerned.

Of course, this matter not only became immediately mysterious but also very suspicious, because of its connection with the name "Himmler". All of us, from the highest level to the non-com. who had to deliver the equipment to the S.S. Hauptsturmfuehrer, whose name has been recorded in the War-Diary, felt that way about it. Everybody had his own opinion on this matter; that could not be forbidden.

Q. You also made statements yesterday regarding the treatment of war prisoners. In what regard was Abwehr Section II concerned with this problem?

A. The functions of Abwehr II were such that it was of the greatest possible interest to see to it that these war prisoners were being treated decently; the same applies to any Intelligence Services in the whole world.

Q. Do I understand you to mean that the Division Abwehr II as such was not admittedly concerned with problems concerning war prisoners?

A. Not at all with prisoners of war.

Q. You spoke of this problem of the treatment of war prisoners in connection with the talk that took place the end of July, 1941.

A. Yes, and during this conversation I did not merely represent my section, but the whole department, "Ausland- Abwehr", namely, the section that has to concern itself mainly with general questions of International Law, military politics, and general questions on foreign territories common to all Abwehr groups. Abwehr Section III, rather than my own section, were, of course, interested in these matters because some of their officers served in P.W. camps, and from the point of view of counter-intelligence it was important to know about these things. For me the entire problem rather than the partial details were of importance, namely, that people in camps, for many reasons, should be treated decently, rather than mistreated or killed.

Q. You said yesterday that the war prisoner camps in the Eastern field were under the jurisdiction of the O.K.W.

A. Yes, what I said about the war prisoner camps, as I specifically said yesterday I learned from my talk with Reinecke and not from any direct knowledge of the orders themselves, which I did not see or read. This conversation with Reinecke, who as Chief of the P.W. Division and on behalf of the O.K.W. expounded the matter, elucidated the problem of war prisoners for me.

Q. My question dealt with the limits of the jurisdiction. Did you not know who in the Operation Section of the Army held responsibility for war prisoners, and that the O.K.W. took over this responsibility at the moment in which the war prisoners reached Germany?

A. Yes, as far as I recall, the General Staff of the Army had prepared everything to bring these people back; and an order originating with Hitler authorised the O.K.W. to overrule and cancel this, and the General Staff then made the O.K.W. responsible for all the consequences. What happened after that I do not know and have no right to judge; I can only repeat what I saw and heard.

Q. I thought that yesterday you expressed the conjecture that by Hitler's order the movement of P.W's. was stopped?

A. I did not express any conjecture; I simply repeated what I had heard at the time and what I knew - I could, of course, be wrong.

[Page 314]

Q. From whom had you heard this?

A. I learned it through the people with whom I was in daily contact, such as Canaris, the section chiefs, and others who were present at daily situation reports and conversations and that sort of thing where these matters were discussed. It was under such circumstances that I heard these things, which were frequently discussed, and as I have emphasised repeatedly in the past since my first interrogation, I told Reinecke to his face that what he himself at that time said regarding these matters.

Q. That does not apply to my questions.

A. I quite understand your question, but I wish to define it as clearly as possible so as to make plain to you what I said yesterday in order to describe the specific organisational limits.

Q. But you know that as a matter of principle the O.K.W. had charge of war prisoners only in Germany?

A. That is evident.

Q. Could it happen that the Abwehr office that had to do with commando activities took an attitude such as you defined it yesterday, insofar as you had to do with these things from the German side, but you were not officially concerned with these things?

A. No, not immediately. The Ausland Office had something to do with these things because somehow it received intelligence of any order that was under consideration, even before it was put into shape, and certainly as soon as it was drawn up. The Order in question had, of course, a bearing on an essential question of International Law, and the Ausland Section of the Abwehr Division or the "Sachbearbeiter" as it was called - was naturally concerned with it. My division was, as a matter of fact, directly concerned with these things, for reasons explained before, regarding the possible consequences arising thereof to persons for whom I was responsible.

Q. As regards the division for International Law in the Ausland-Abwehr, did it take an official position toward this?

A. I wrote, as I pointed out yesterday, a contribution on that subject from the point of view of my section, which was transmitted to Canaris and was to be part of the long document. I only learned from what Burckner said at the time what use was made of it. Whether he, i.e. his department, lodged these objections and counter objections, cognisance was taken of the danger these measures represented. This was done a second time and again I cannot say whether in writing or orally, after executions had already taken place and I had protested anew. This was the logical development.

THE PRESIDENT: It would help the interpreter if, when giving a very long answer like that that you pause between the intermediate parts of the answer.

THE WITNESS: Shall I repeat?

THE PRESIDENT: No, no; go on.


Q. You also spoke yesterday of some sort of branding used on Russian prisoners. Are you not aware that a scheme on this question, presented by the then chief of the O.K.W., who had gone to the Fuehrer's Headquarters, was cancelled by an order transmitted by telephone, and that owing to a terrible misunderstanding this order was issued in but a very few copies?

A. No, I do not know about this, because, in general, I heard merely of occurrences that took place within Canaris' Section in the Abwehr division. I knew of these occurrences either because I had promoted or directed them. What happened in higher quarters I only learned if I was appointed to collaborate with them.

Q. You yourself did not see the order?

A. Which order are you referring to?

[Page 315]

Q. The one concerning the branding of Russian prisoners.

A. No. As in the matter of the commando orders, I only attended the very lively discussion of this question with regard to the branding of Russian prisoners. I remember Canaris mentioning that a doctor had furnished a medical report as to how this could be done most efficiently.

Q. You stated yesterday that Admiral Canaris had said that the defendant Keitel had issued the order to do away with General Weygand. The defendant Keitel denies that. Now, he would like to ask whether there is in your possession any document or any written evidence that could serve as proof of the source of such a remark regarding General Weygand?

A. This order was not transmitted in writing, but was given directly to me. It was given to me because I was to carry it out through my department. To a certain circle round Canaris, a certain limited public, it was known, and I was initiated into this matter by a lecture which Canaris delivered at Keitel's O.K.W. after which I was spoken to by Keitel on this matter. I have noted this in my diary. It had not been an everyday occurrence. This took place on December 23rd 1940.

Q. Do you not remember the actual wording of the question that defendant Keitel asked you?

A. Of course I cannot remember the precise wording; the incident happened too long ago. I remember the meaning very well. The meaning was: "What has been done in this matter? How do things stand?"

Q. You said yesterday that you answered evasively.

A. I cannot remember the precise wording of my answer, but I certainly didn't say what I had said to Canaris, namely: "I wouldn't consider the execution of such a murderous order; my section and my officers are not an organisation of murderers." What I probably said to Keitel was something about how difficult the matter was; I gave any evasive answer that I may have thought of.

Q. If the Chief of the O.K.W. had ordered such an action on his own initiative or on higher orders, it would, because of the high rank of General Weygand, have amounted to an act of State. You didn't tell us whether after December 23rd, 1940, anything transpired in this matter, that is to say, whether the chief of the O.K.W. took up this question again.

A. No, I didn't say that yesterday, but I frequently mentioned during the cross examination, that after this nothing further happened on the part of the Chief of the O.K.W. Canaris' attitude made it obvious that nothing further had been heard of it, for in the hierarchy of commands, he would have had to transmit orders to me. On the other hand, the information which I received in the matter of Giraud was authoritative.

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