The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
21st January to 1st February, 1946

Forty-Second Day: Thursday, 24rd January, 1946
(Part 2 of 7)

[Page 122]

THE PRESIDENT: In view of the motion which was made yesterday by Counsel for the defendant Hess, the Tribunal will postpone the presentation of the individual case against Hess, and will proceed with the presentation of the case by counsel for France.

M. DUBOST (Counsel for France): When exposing the charges which now weigh upon the defendants, my British and American colleagues put forward the evidence that these man conceived and executed a plan and plot for the domination of Europe. They have shown you the Crimes against Peace of which these men became guilty by launching unjust wars. They have shown

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you that, as leaders of Nazi Germany, they had all premeditated unjust wars, and had participated in the Conspiracy.

Then my friends and colleagues of the French Delegation, M. Herzog, M. Faure and M. Gerthoffer submitted documents establishing that the defendants who, in various positions all counted among the leaders of Nazi Germany, are responsible for the repeated violations of the laws and customs of war committed by the representatives of the Reich in the course of military operations. However, it still remains for us to show the atrocities of which men, women and children of the occupied countries of the West were victims.

We intend at this point to prove that the defendants, in their capacity as leaders of Hitlerite Germany, systematically pursued a policy of extermination the cruelty of which increased from day to day until the final defeat of Germany that the defendants conceived and prescribed these atrocities as part and parcel of a system which was to enable them to achieve a political aim. This political aim is the net which closely binds all the facts we intend to present to you. The crimes perpetrated against people and property, as presented so far by my colleagues of the French Prosecution, were in close connection with the war. Therefore they clearly featured as war crimes stricte sensu. Those which I shall present to you surpass them both in meaning and scope. They form part of the plans of a policy of domination, of expansion beyond war itself. It is Hitler himself who gave the best definition of this policy in one of his speeches in Munich on 16 May 1927. He was deceiving his listeners about the danger that France, an agricultural country of only 40 million inhabitants, might represent for Germany, which was already a highly-industrialised country with a population of nearly 70 millions.

That day Hitler said "There is only one way for Germany to escape encirclement, and it is by the destruction of the Country, which, by the natural order of things, will always be her mortal enemy: France. When a nation is aware that its whole existence is endangered by an enemy it must aim at one thing only: the annihilation of that enemy."

During the first months that followed their victory, the Germans seemed to have abandoned their plan of annihilation, but this was only a tactical pretence. They hoped to draw into their war against England and the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics the Western nations they had enslaved. By doses of treachery and violence, they attempted to make these Western nations go the way of collaboration. The latter resisted, and the defendants then abandoned their tactics and came back to their big game, the annihilation of conquered peoples, in order to secure in Europe the space necessary for the 250 million Germans whom they hoped to settle there in generations to come.

This destruction, this annihilation - I repeat the very words used by Hitler in his speech - was undertaken under various pretences: the elimination of inferior, or negroid races, the extermination of Bolshevism, and the destruction of Judeo-Masonic influences hostile to the founding of the pseudo "New European Order."

In fact, this extermination, this elimination, tended to the assassination of the elite and vital forces opposed to Nazism; it also tended to the reduction of the means of livelihood of the enslaved nations.

All of this was done, as I shall prove to you, in execution of a deliberate plan, the existence of which is confirmed among other things by the repetition and the constancy of the same facts in all the occupied countries.

Faced with this repetition and this constancy, it is no longer possible to claim that only the one who committed the crime was guilty. This repetition and this constancy prove that the same criminal will united all the members of the German Government, all the leaders of the German Reich.

It is from this common will that the official policy of terrorism and extermination which directed the strokes of the executioners, was born and it is for

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having participated in the creation of this common will that each of the defendants here present has been placed in the ranks of major war criminals.

I shall come back to this point when, having finished my presentation of the facts, I shall have to qualify the crime, in accordance with the legal tradition of my country.

Allow me to give you now some indications as to how, with your kind permission, I intend to make my presentation.

The facts I am to prove here are the results of many testimonies. We could have called innumerable witnesses to this stand. Their statements have been collected by the French Office for Research on War Crimes. It seemed to us that it would simplify and shorten the procedure if we were to give you extracts only from the testimony that we have received in writing.

With your permission, therefore, I shall limit myself to reading excerpts from the written testimonies collected in France by official organisations qualified to investigate War Crimes. However, if in the course of this presentation it appears necessary to call certain witnesses, we shall proceed to do so, but with constant care not to slow down the sessions in any way and to bring them speedily to the only possible conclusion; the one our people expect.

The whole question of atrocities is ruled by the German terrorist policy. Under this aspect it is not without precedent in the Germanic practice of war. We all remember the execution of hostages at Dinand during the war of 1914, the execution of hostages in the citadel of Laon and of hostages at Senlis. But Nazism perfected this terrorist policy; for Nazism, terror is a means of subjugating. We all remember the propaganda picture about the war in Poland, shown in Oslo on the eve of the invasion of Norway.

For Nazism, terror is a means of subjugating all enslaved people, in order to submit them to the aims of its policy.

The first signs of this terrorist policy during the occupation are fresh in the memory of all Frenchmen. Only a few months after the signing of the armistice they saw red posters edged with black appear on the walls of Paris' as well as in the smallest villages of France, proclaiming the execution of hostages. We know mothers who were first informed of the execution of their sons in this way. These executions were carried out by the occupant after anti- German incidents. These incidents were the answer of the French people to the official policy of collaboration. Resistance to this policy stiffened, became organised, and with it the repressive measures increased in intensity until 1944, the climax of German terrorism in France and in the countries of the West. At that time, the Army and the SS Police no longer spoke of the execution of hostages; they organised real reprisal expeditions during which whole villages were set on fire, and thousands of civilians killed, arrested and deported; but before reaching this stage, the Germans attempted to justify their criminal actions in the eyes of a susceptible public opinion. They published, as we shall prove, a real code of hostages, and merely pretended to comply with law every time they proceeded to carry out reprisal executions.

The taking of hostages, as you know, is prohibited by Article 50 of the Hague Convention. I shall read this text to you. It is to be found in the Fourth Convention: Article 50.

"No collective penalty, pecuniary or other, can be decreed against populations for individual acts for which they cannot be held jointly and severally responsible."
And yet, supreme perfidy! The German General Staff, the German Government, will endeavour to turn this regulation into a dead letter, and to set up as law the systematic violation of the Hague Convention.

I shall describe to you how the General Staff formed its pseudo-law on hostages, a pseudo-law, which in France found its final expression in the hostage

[Page 125]

code of Stulpnagel. I shall show you, in passing, which of these defendants are the most guilty of this crime.

On 15 February 1940, in a secret report, addressed to the defendant Goering, the OKW justifies the taking of hostages, as proved by the excerpt from Document 1585-PS, which I propose to read to you. This document is dated Berlin, 15 February 1940. It bears the heading: "Supreme Command of the Armed Forces. Secret." To the Reich Minister for Aviation; Supreme Command of the Air Force.

Subject: Arrest of Hostages.

"According to the opinion of the OKW, the arrest of hostages is justified in all cases in which the security of the troops and the carrying out of their orders demands it. In most cases it will be necessary to have recourse to it in case of resistance or an uncertain attitude on the part of the population of an occupied territory, should the troops be engaged in fighting or that a situation exists which renders other means of restoring security insufficient."

Further, paragraph 4: In selecting hostages, it must be borne in mind that their arrest should take place only if the refractory sections of the population are anxious that they should not be executed. The hostages shall therefore be chosen from sections of the population from which a hostile attitude may be expected. The arrest of hostages shall be carried out among persons whose fate, we may suppose, will influence the insurgents."

This document is filed by the French Delegation as Exhibit RF 267.

To my knowledge, Goering never opposed any objection to this thesis. Here is one more paragraph from an order, Document 508-F, from the Commander-in-Chief of the Ground Forces in France, administrative section, signed "Stroccius," 12 September 1940, three months after the beginning of the occupation. The hostages are defined therein as follows. I quote from Page two,:

"Hostages are inhabitants of a country who guarantee with their lives the faultless attitude of the population. The responsibility for their fate is thus placed in the hands of their compatriots. Therefore, the population must be publicly threatened that the hostages will be held responsible for the unfriendly acts of individuals. Only French citizens may be taken as hostages. The hostages can be held responsible only for actions committed after their arrest and after the public proclamation."
This order cancels 5 directives prior to 12 September 1940. This question was the subject of numerous texts, and two General Staff orders, dated, as indicated at the head of Document 510F, 2 November and 13 February, Page two:
"If acts of violence are committed by the inhabitants of the country against members of the occupation forces, if offices and installations of the Armed Forces are damaged or destroyed, or if any other attacks are directed against the security of German units and service establishments, and if, under the circumstances, the population of the place of the crime or the immediate neighbourhood can be considered as co- responsible for those acts of sabotage, measures of prevention and expiation may be ordered, by which the civil population is to be deterred in future from committing, encouraging or tolerating acts of that kind. The population is to be treated as co-responsible for individual acts of sabotage if, by its attitude, in general, towards the German Armed Forces it has favoured hostile or unfriendly acts of individuals; if, by its passive resistance against the investigation of previous acts of sabotage, it has encouraged hostile elements to similar acts, or otherwise created a favourable at-

[Page 126]

mosphere for opposition to the German occupation. All plans must be made in such a way that it is possible to carry them out. Threats without execution give the impression of weakness."
These last two lines are at the top of Page three of the French text. I submit these two documents as Exhibits RF 268 and 269.

Until now we have not found any trace in these German texts of an affirmation which might lead one to think that the taking of hostages and their execution constitutes a right of the occupying power; but here is a German text which explicitly formulates this idea. It is quoted in your document book as 507-F, dated Brussels, 18 April 1944. It is issued by the Chief Judge to the military Commander-in-Chief in Belgium and the North of France, and it is addressed to the German Armistice Commission in Wiesbaden. It reads in the margin: "Most Secret." Subject: Execution of 8 terrorists in Lille on 22 December 1943. Reference: Your letter of 16 March 1944." You will read in the middle of paragraph 2 of the text:

"Moreover, I maintain my point of view that the legal foundations for the measures taken by the Oberfeldkommandantur of Lille in compliance with the letter of my police group of 2 March, 1943, are, regardless of the opinion of the Armistice Commission, sufficiently justified, and further explanations are superfluous. The Armistice Commission is in a position to declare to the French if it wishes to go into the question in detail, that the executions have been carried out in conformity with the general principles of the law concerning hostages."
It is, therefore, quite obviously a State doctrine which is involved. Innocent people become forfeit. They answer with their lives for the attitude of their fellow-citizens towards the German Army. If an offence is committed of which they are completely ignorant, they are the object of a collective penalty, possibly entailing death. This is the official German thesis imposed by the German Armistice Commission in Wiesbaden. I repeat, it is a thesis imposed by the German High Command, and I will produce the evidence.

Keitel, on 16 September 1941, signed a general order which has already been read, and filed by my American colleagues under Document 389-PS, and on which I shall begin my comments. This order concerns all the occupied territories of the East and the West, as established by the list of addressees which includes all the military commanders of the countries then occupied by Germany: France, Belgium, Norway, Denmark, Eastern Territories, Ukraine, Serbia, Salonica, Southern Greece, Crete. This order was in effect for the duration of the war. We have a text of 1944 which refers to it. This order of Keitel, Chief of the OKW, is dictated in a violent spirit of anti-Communist repression. It aims at all kinds of repression of the civilian population.

This order, which concerns even the commanders whose troops are stationed in the West, points out to them that in all cases in which attacks are made against the German Army it is necessary to establish - I read the second paragraph of the text -

"that we are dealing with a mass movement uniformly controlled by Moscow, to which may also be imputed the seemingly unimportant sporadic incidents which may occur in regions which otherwise have remained quiet until now."
Consequently Keitel orders, among other things, that fifty to a hundred Communists are to be put to death for each German soldier killed. This is a political conception which we constantly meet in all manifestations of German terrorism; as far as Hitlerite propaganda is concerned, all resistance to Germany is of Communist inspiration, if not in essence Communist. The Germans thereby hoped to eliminate from the resistance the nationalists whom they thought hostile to Communism. But the Nazis also pursued another aim: they still hoped above all to divide France and the other conquered

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countries of the West into two hostile factions, and to put one of these factions at their service under the pretext of anti-Communism.

(A recess was taken)

M. DUBOST: We had stopped at this order of 16 September 1941, signed by the defendant Keitel, which governs, as I explained to you, the whole question of hostages. Keitel confirmed this order on 24 September 1941. We submit it as Exhibit RF 271 and you will find it in your document book as RF-554. I shall read you the first paragraph:

"Following directives of the Fuehrer, the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces issued on 16th September 1941, an order concerning the Communist revolutionary movement in the occupied territories. The order was addressed to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, for the attention of Ambassador Ritter. It also deals with the question of capital punishment in military tribunals.

According to the order, in future, most stringent measures must be taken in the occupied territories."

The choice of hostages is also indicated thus in Document 877-PS, which has already been read to you and which is previous to the aggression of Germany against Russia. It is necessary to remind the Tribunal of this document because it shows the premeditation of the German Command and the Nazi Government to divide the occupied countries, to take away from the partisan resistance all its patriotic character, and to substitute a political character which it never had. You will find on Page 2, paragraph 4 of Document 877-PS filed under Exhibit RF 273, the following sentence:
"In this connection it must be borne in mind that, apart from other adversaries with whom our troops have to contend, a particularly dangerous element of the civilian population, destructive of all order, the propagator of Judeo-Bolshevist philosophy, opposes them. There is no doubt that, wherever he possibly can, he uses this weapon of disintegration maliciously and in ambush against the German Armed Forces, whether in combat or liberating the country."

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