The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Fifty-Seventh Day: Tuesday, 12th February, 1946
(Part 8 of 18)

[Page 269]

BY DR. KUBUSCHOK (Counsel for the Reich Cabinet):

Q. A statement made by you yesterday has already been discussed again to-day; namely, how much knowledge did individual members of the German Government have, regarding important decisions? I gathered from your reply that you considered the Reich Cabinet one homogeneous body. In this Trial the difficulty repeatedly arises that one assumes normal conditions. One is especially prone to the conception that most important political and military decisions, as is otherwise customary, are made within a Government body composed of important persons, or within the Military Supreme Command; in other words, that questions are discussed and decided within a small group which is part of a large unit. Witness, from the knowledge you have gained in your high military rank, could one assume this to be true of Adolf Hitler's Government? Did not Hitler, in his personality and methods, and putting it politely, as being a man of an unusual type, chiefly employ a completely different procedure here? Did he not always make his decisions independently or, at most, in closest consultation with a very few assistants, and can we not deduce from that, that leading personalities in political and military fields had no knowledge of impending events?

A. I must answer to that, that my military service in the General Staff of the Army did not give me an insight into the working of the German Government. My concept of the governing body of a nation is that of a united group who, regardless of the methods the head of the State intends to use, have such a sense of responsibility toward the people for the acts of the Government, that they will not allow just anything to be done by even the head of the state (in this case Hitler, with his brutal and autocratic ways) but that they would, at the right moment, take necessary counter- measures, even if not required to do so, at least as soon as it was clear to the whole world that this Government was being led by an insane criminal.

Q. Witness, you belong to the second category of people which I mentioned. It is an established fact that you have not intervened, evidently for weighty reasons. I believe that it would be better if, as far as other persons are concerned, you did not pass judgment, but answered my questions only as to actual facts.

My question was whether, according to your knowledge, gained not only in your military but also in your leading public position -- whether your judgment was right or wrong is beside the point, you know the methods in military and political matters -- decisions were made by a large body of military and political personalities who met for that purpose or by a very small circle of people, probably sometimes by Hitler alone?

A. How decisions of the Reich Cabinet were made is not known to me. Therefore, in my previous answer, I have merely given you my concept on it, and I believe this answered the question. I cannot imagine that one man alone could have done everything that was done. In order to exert his

[Page 270]

influence in a small circle he needed the co-operation of his immediate assistants. In other words, it was quite impossible for him to achieve his aims otherwise.

Q. As to the co-operation of his closest assistants, do you believe that some specially qualified Minister, a Minister of Labour, or some other expert, was ever consulted by Hitler about his plans for aggression?

THE PRESIDENT: Counsel, the witness has already said that he does not know how the decisions of the Reich Cabinet were arrived at. What he may think about it is really not relevant. He does not know.


Q. Witness, is it your impression that plans for aggression were made by Hitler many years in advance, or are you of the opinion that they were made to meet certain circumstances, on the basis of the intuition which you say he had?

A. That is entirely outside my knowledge. My observations began on 3rd September, 1940, and continued from that time until January, 1942. What I observed during that period I explained yesterday. Concerning the time prior to that I am not informed.

BY DR. HORN (Counsel for defendant von Ribbentrop):

Q. Witness, you said just now that you were a member of a body which had the aim of saving Germany from disaster. My question is: What possibilities of carrying out this aim were at the disposal of yourself and the other members of that group?

A. We had the possibility of making ourselves heard and understood by the German people, and believed it our duty to make known to the German people our view, not only of military events but also of the events of 20th July, and to tell them of the convictions we had since arrived at.

In this connection the initiative came chiefly from the ranks of the army I had led to Stalingrad. There we experienced how, through the orders of those military and political leaders against whom we were now taking a stand, more than 100,000 soldiers died of hunger and cold. There we experienced the horrors and terrors of a war of conquest.

Q. Did you have any other possibility apart from propaganda?

A. Apart from the possibility of spreading propaganda through wireless and our newspapers, apart from that propaganda to the German people, we had no other facilities.

THE PRESIDENT: What has the Tribunal got to do with this?

DR. HORN: I merely wanted to ascertain what conclusions I could draw as to the credibility of the witness.

THE PRESIDENT: I cannot see that it has any bearing on his credibility.

DR. HORN: It is perfectly possible that we have knowledge of other possibilities which were available, which the witness has not mentioned.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal is of the opinion that what the witness thought or did when he was a prisoner of war in Russian hands has got nothing to do with his credibility, at least as far as the questions that you have asked are concerned, and they will not allow the questions to be put.

DR. HORN: May I have permission to ask the witness one more question?



Q. Did you, during the time you were a prisoner, have an opportunity to place your military experiences in any way at the disposal of anybody else?

A. In no way, in no case, and in no connection.

THE PRESIDENT: Then I understand that that concludes the cross-examination. Does the Soviet prosecutor wish to ask any more questions?

GEN. RUDENKO: No, Mr. President. We consider that the questions have been comprehensively explained.

[Page 271]


Q. General, you said that when you became Quartermaster- General of the Army on 3rd September, 1940, you found an unfinished plan for an attack against the Soviet Union. Do you know how long that plan had been in preparation before you saw it?

A. I cannot say exactly how long the period of preparation lasted, but I would estimate that it lasted two to three weeks.

Q. Do you know who had given the orders for the preparation of the plan?

A. I assume that they originated from the same source namely, the O.K.W. via the High Command of the Army. The Chief of the General Staff, Major-General Marx, had given them the same documents that he had given me.

Q. At the conference on the Plan "Barbarossa," how many members of the General Staff and High Command of the German Armed Forces were usually present?

A. The departments concerned, the Operational Department, the Quartermaster-General, and the Chief of Transportation. Those were generally the chief departments which were involved.

Q. How many members of the General Staff and High Command of the German Armed Forces were familiar with the orders and directives as they were being signed?

A. In the course of time, that is up to December, while the actual marching orders were being prepared, more or less all General Staff officers had knowledge of the plan. Just how many had been informed previously, in the initial periods, is something which I cannot now say exactly.

BY THE TRIBUNAL (General Nikitchenko):

Q. What exactly did the General Staff of the German Army represent? Did it deal exclusively with the elaboration of technical questions, was it the body elaborating technical problems according to instructions of the Supreme Command, or, again, was the General Staff an organisation which prepared, elaborated and submitted its findings to the Supreme Command independently?

A. According to my conception, it was a technical and executive body, which had the task of carrying out existing instructions.

Q. Therefore the General Staff was merely a technical body?

A. That is how it was in practice. The General Staff, as such, was an advisory organisation to the Supreme Commander of the Army and not an executive body.

Q. To what extent did the General Staff conscientiously carry out the instructions received from the Supreme Command?

A. Will you please repeat that. I am afraid I did not quite understand the first part of your question.

Q. To what extent did the General Staff conscientiously carry out the instructions received from the Supreme Command?

A. They carried out these instructions absolutely.

Q. Did any conflict exist between the General Staff and the Supreme Command?

A. It is a known fact that certain differences of opinion did exist, although I am unable to give any details. At any rate, I know through my immediate superior that he frequently had differences of opinion with the Supreme Command of the Army.

Q. Could such officers remain, did they, in fact, remain in the service of the General Staff if they disagreed with the policy of the Supreme Command?

A. Political questions did not arise in that connection. Generally speaking, political questions were not discussed in the circle of the Army Supreme Command.

[Page 272]

Q. I am not speaking of political questions in the narrow sense of the word. I am speaking of the policy of planning for war, of the policy of preparations and aggression; that is what I had in mind. Was it intended, in case you know about it, to transform that part of the Soviet Union, occupied by the German Forces...

A. I never did know what the plans in detail. My knowledge is restricted to a knowledge of such plans as were contained in the so-called "Green File," for the exploitation of the country.

Q. What do you mean by exploitation?

A. The economic exploitation of the country, so that by utilising its resources one could bring the war in the West to a close and also secure future supplies in Europe.

Q. Did the degree of exploitation differ from the economic exploitation applied inside Germany?

A. In that respect I have no personal impressions, since I only led that army in Russia for three-quarters of a year, and I was captured early, in January, 1943.

Q. What did you know of the directives issued by Government organisations in Germany and by the Supreme Command concerning the treatment of the Soviet population by the Army?

A. I remember that instructions did appear, but I cannot recollect the date at the moment. In those instructions definite rules were given for the conduct of the war in the East. I believe that this principal decree was included in that so-called "Green File," but there may have been separate and special orders to the effect that no particular consideration should be shown the population.

Q. What do you mean by "not to show particular consideration" -- or perhaps the translation is not quite correct?

A. That meant that only military necessities should be considered a basis for all measures that were taken.

THE PRESIDENT: Were there any divisions under your command consisting entirely of S.S. troops?

A. During the time I led the Army I had no S.S. troops at all under my command, so far as I remember. Even at Stalingrad, where I had 20 German infantry, armoured and motorized divisions and two Roumainian divisions, there were no S.S. units.

THE PRESIDENT: I understand that the S.A. did not form units did they? The S.A.?

A. I have never heard of S.A. units, but the existence of S.S. units is a known fact.

THE PRESIDENT: And did you have any branches of the Gestapo attached to your army?

A. No, I did not have those either.

THE PRESIDENT: General Rudenko, I did ask you whether you had any questions to ask, and you said no, I take it.


THE PRESIDENT: Then the witness can retire.

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