The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
7th January to 19th January, 1946

Thirty-sixth Day: Thursday, January 17th, 1946
(Part 6 of 10)


[Page 361]

The deportees were sent to Germany, almost always to concentration camps, but sometimes also to prisons.

Admitted to the prisons were those deportees who had been condemned or were awaiting trial. The prisoners there were crowded together under inhuman conditions.

Nevertheless, the prison regime was generally less severe than conditions in the camps. The work there was less out of proportion to the strength of the prisoners, and the prison wardens were less hard than the S.S. in the concentration camps.

It appears to have been the plan followed by the Nazis in the concentration camps, gradually to do away with the prisoners, but only after their working strength had been used to the advantage of the German war effort.

The Tribunal has been told of the almost inconceivable treatment inflicted by the S.S. on the prisoners. We shall take the liberty of going into still further detail, during the course of the statement of the French Prosecution, for it must be fully known to what extent of horrors the Germans, inspired by National Socialist doctrine, could stoop.

The most terrible aspect was perhaps the desire to create moral degradation and debasement in the prisoner until he lost, if possible, all semblance of a human individual.

The usual living conditions imposed on the deportees in the camps were sufficient to ensure slow extermination through inadequate feeding, bad sanitation, cruelty of the guards, severity of discipline, strain of work out of proportion to the strength of the prisoner, and haphazard medical service. Moreover, you already know that many did not die a natural death, but were put to death by injections, gas chambers or inoculations of fatal diseases.

But more speedy extermination was often the case; it was often brought about by ill treatment: communal ice-cold showers in winter in the open air, prisoners left naked in the snow, cudgelling, attacks by dogs, hanging by the wrists.

Some figures will illustrate the result of these various methods of extermination. At Buchenwald, during the first quarter of 1945 there were 13,000 deaths

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out of 40,000 internees. At Dachau, 13,000 to 15,000 died in the three months preceding the liberation. At Auschwitz, a camp for systematic extermination, the number of murdered persons came to several millions.

As to the total number of those deported from France, the official figure is as follows:

of 250,000 deported only 35,000 returned.
The deportees served as guinea pigs for numerous medical, surgical or other experiments which generally led to their death. At Auschwitz, at Struthoff, in the prison at Cologne, at Ravensbruck, at Neuengamme, numerous men, women and children were sterilised. At Auschwitz, the most beautiful women were set apart, artificially fertilised and then gassed. At Struthoff, a special barracks, isolated from the others by barbed wire, was used to inoculate men, in groups of 40, with fatal illnesses. In the same camp women were gassed whilst German doctors observed their reactions through a peephole arranged for this purpose.

Extermination was often directly effected by means of individual or collective executions. These were carried out by shooting, by hanging, by injections, by gas lorry or gas chamber.

I should not wish to stress further the facts, already so numerous, submitted to your High Tribunal during the preceding days by the American Prosecution, but the representative of France, so many of his people having died in these' camps after horrible sufferings, could not pass in silence over this tragic example of complete inhumanity. This would have been inconceivable in the twentieth century, had not a doctrine of return to barbarism been established in the very heart of Europe.

Crimes committed against prisoners of war, although less known, bear ample testimony to the degree of inhumanity which Nazi Germany had attained.

To begin with, the violations of international conventions committed against prisoners of war are numerous. Many were forced to travel on foot, almost without food, for very long distances. Many camps had no respect for even the most elementary rules of hygiene. Food was very often insufficient; thus a report from the O.K.W. of the N.F.S.P., dated 11th April, 1945, and annotated by the defendant Keitel, shows that 82,000 prisoners of war interned in Norway received the food strictly indispensable to the maintenance of life on the assumption that they were not working, whereas 30,000 of them were really employed on heavy work.

In agreement with the defendant Keitel, acting at the request of the defendant Goering, camps for prisoners belonging to the British and American Air Forces were established in towns which were exposed to air raids.

In violation of the text of the Geneva Convention, it was decided, at a conference held at the Fuehrers headquarters on the 27th January, 1945, in the presence of the defendant Goering, to punish by death all attempts to escape made by prisoners of war when in convoy.

Besides all these violations of the Geneva Convention, numerous crimes, were committed by the German authorities against prisoners of war: execution of captured Allied airmen, murder of Commando troops, collective extermination of certain prisoners of war for no reason whatsoever, for example the matter of 120 American soldiers at Malmedy on 27th January, 1945. Parallel with "Nacht und Nebel," an expression for the inhuman treatment inflicted on civilians, can be put down the "Sonderbehandlung," a "special treatment" of prisoners of war, in which these disappeared in great numbers.

The same barbarism is found in the terroristic activity carried out by the German Army and police against the Resistance.

The order of the defendant Keitel of 16th September, 1941, which may be considered as a basic document, certainly has as a purpose the fight against the Communist movements, but it anticipates that resistance to the Army

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of Occupation can come from other than Communist sources and decides that every case of resistance is to be interpreted as having a Communist origin. As a matter of fact, in carrying out this general order to annihilate the Resistance by every possible means, the Germans arrested, tortured and massacred men of all ranks and all classes.

To be sure, the members of the Resistance rarely complied with the conditions laid down by The Hague Conventions, which would qualify them to be considered as regular combat forces; they could be sentenced to death as francs-tireurs and executed. But they were assassinated without trial in most cases, often after having been terribly tortured.

After the Liberation, numerous charnel-houses were discovered and the bodies examined by doctors: they bore obvious traces of extreme brutal treatment, cranial tissue had been pulled out, the spinal column had been dislocated, the ribs had been so badly fractured that the chest had been entirely crushed and the lungs perforated, hair and nails had been pulled out.

It is impossible to determine the total number of the victims of German atrocities in the fight against the Resistance. It is certainly very high. In the department of the Rhone alone, for example, the bodies of 713 victims were discovered after the Liberation.

An order of 3rd February, 1944, of the Commander-in-Chief of the Forces in the West, signed "By order, General Sperrle," laid down for the fight against the terrorists immediate reply by firearms and the immediate burning down of all houses from which shots had come. "It is of little importance," the text adds, "if innocent people should suffer. It will be the fault of the terrorists. All commanders of troops who show weakness in repressing the terrorists will be severely punished. On the other hand, those who go beyond the orders received and are too severe will incur no penalty."

The war diary of von Brodowski, commanding the Liaison Headquarters, No. 588, at Clermont-Ferrand, gives irrefutable examples of the barbarous forms which the Germans gave to the struggle against the Resistance. Those caught resisting were almost all shot on the spot. Others were turned over to the S.D. or the Gestapo to be subjected first to torture. The diary of Brodowski mentions "the cleaning up of a hospital" or "liquidation of an infirmary."

The struggle against the Resistance had the same atrocious character in all the occupied territories of the West.

The last months of the German occupation were characterised in France by a strengthening of the policy of terrorism which multiplied the crimes against the civilian population. The crimes which we are going to consider were not isolated acts committed from time to time in this or that locality, but were acts perpetrated in the course of extensive operations, the high number of which can only be explained by general orders.

The perpetrators of these crimes were frequently members of the S.S., but the Military Command shares responsibility for them. In a directive entitled "Fight Against the Partisan Bands," dated 6th May, 1944, the defendant Jodl states that "the collective measures to be taken against the inhabitants of entire villages (including the burning down of these villages) are to be ordered exclusively by the division commanders or the heads of the S.S. troops and of the police."

The war diary of von Brodowski mentions the following:

"It is understood that the leadership of the Sipo and of the S.D. shall be subordinate to me."
These operations are supposedly measures of reprisal which were caused by the action of the Resistance. But the necessities of war have never justified the plundering and heedless burning down of towns and villages, nor the blind massacres of innocent people. The Germans killed, plundered, and burned ,down, very often without any reason whatsoever, whether in the regions and

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departments of the Ain, in Savoy, Lot, Tarn-and-Garonne, in Vercors, Correze or Dordogne. Entire villages were burned down at a time when the nearest armed groups of the Resistance were tens of kilometres away and the population of these villages had not made a single hostile gesture towards the German troops.

The two most typical examples are those of Maille (in Indre- et-Loire), where on 25th August, 1944, 52 buildings out of 60 were destroyed and 124 people were killed; and that of Oradour-sur-Glane (in the Haute-Vienne). The war diary of von Brodowski makes mention of the latter act in the following manner:

"All the male population of Oradour was shot. The women and children took refuge in the church. The church caught fire from explosives which were stored in the church. (This assertion has been shown to be false.) All the women and all the children perished."
In the scale of criminal undertakings, perpetrated in the course of the war by the leaders of National Socialist Germany, we finally meet a category which we have called: Crimes against Human Status (la condition humaine).

First of all it is important that I should clearly define for the Tribunal the meaning of this term: this classical French expression belongs both to the technical vocabulary of law and to the language of philosophy. It signifies all those faculties, the exercising and developing of which rightly constitute the meaning of human life. Each of these faculties finds its corresponding expression in the order of man's existence in society. His belonging to at least two social groups - the nearest and the most extensive - is translated by the right to family life and to nationality. His relations with the powers constitute a system of obligations and guarantees. His material life as producer and consumer of goods is expressed by the right to work in the widest meaning of this term. Its spiritual aspect implies a combination of possibilities to give out and to receive the expressions of thought, whether in assemblies or associations, in religious practice, in teachings given or received, by the many means which progress has put at his disposal for the dissemination of work of intellectual value: books, Press, radio, cinema. This is the right of spiritual liberty.

Against this human status, against the status of public and civil rights of the human beings in occupied territories, the German Nazis directed a systematic policy of corruption and demoralisation. We shall treat this question last because it is this undertaking which presents a character of the utmost gravity and which has assumed the most widespread prevalence. Man is more attached to his physical integrity and to life than to his property. But in all high conceptions of life, man is even less attached to life than to that which makes for his dignity and quality, according to the great Latin maxim: " Et propter vitam vitandi perdere causas. " On the other hand, if, in the territories occupied by them, the Germans did not, in spite of the importance and extent of their crimes, plunder all the property and goods, and if they did not kill all the people, there remains not a single man whose essential rights they did not change or abolish, and whose condition as a human being they did not violate in some way.

We can even say that in the entire world and as regards all people, even those to whom they reserved the privileges belonging to the superior race and even as, regards themselves, their agents and accomplices, the Nazi leaders committed a major offence against the conscience which mankind has to-day evolved from his status as a human being.

The execution of the enterprise was preceded by its plan: this is manifest in the entire Nazi doctrine and we shall content ourselves by recalling a few of its dominant features. The human status expresses itself, we say, in major statutes, every one of which comprises a complex apparatus of very different provisions. But these statutes are inspired in the laws of civilised countries by a conception

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essential to the nature of man. This conception is defined in two complementary ideas: The dignity of the human being considered in each and every person individually, on the one hand; and on the other hand, the permanence of the human being considered within the whole of humanity.

Every juridical organisation of the human being in a state of civilisation proceeds from this essential, twofold conception of the individual, in each and in all, the individual and the universal.

Without doubt, to Occidentals this conception usually appears connected with the Christian doctrine, but, if it is exact that Christianity is bound up with its affirmation and diffusion, it would be a mistake to see in it only the teachings of one or even of certain religions. It is a general conception which imposes itself quite naturally on the spirit: it was professed since ancient pre-Christian times, and, in more recent times, the great German philosopher Kant expressed it in one of his most forceful formulas, "A human being should always be considered as an end and never as a means."

The role, as we have already exposed, of the zealots of the Hitlerian myth was to protest against the spontaneous affirmation of the genius of mankind and to pretend to break at this point the continuous progress of moral intelligence. The Tribunal is already acquainted with the abundant literature of this sect. Without a doubt, nobody expressed himself more clearly than the defendant Rosenberg when he declared in the "Myth of the Twentieth Century," Page 539:

"Peoples whose health is dependent on their blood do not know individualism as a criterion of values any more than they recognise universalism. Individualism and universalism, in the absolute sense and historically speaking, are the metaphysics of decadence."
Nazism professes, moreover, that:
"The distance between the lowest human being still worthy of this name, and our higher races, is greater than that between the lowest type of mankind and the best educated monkey."
Thus it is not only a question of abolishing the truly divine conception which religion sets forth as regards man, but even of setting aside all purely human conceptions and substituting for it an animalistic conception.

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