The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Fifty-Eighth Day: Wednesday, February 13, 1946
(Part 9 of 19)

COLONEL POKROVSKY: I take the liberty of starting from the point where I broke off. We now present to the Tribunal Exhibit USSR 263(a), consisting of the minutes of the interrogation, under oath, of the witness, Warlimont, given to Lieutenant-Colonel Hinkle of the American Army. I do not intend to read this document into thr record in full. Warlimont, in many cases, repeats Halder. The important thing is that he confirms two facts in their entirety:
(1) That it was Hitler who conducted the meeting of which we were informed by Halder's testimony.

(2) That, even before the war, Hitler had issued a directive to shoot prisoners of war; pointing out that special units were to be created for this purpose and that the SD would follow the Army.

Warlimont further testified -- I quote from Page 26:
"Hitler then added that he did not at all expect his officers to understand his orders. The only thing required of them was absolute obedience."
We have some more testimonies, those of Lieutenant-General of the German Army, Kurt von Oesterreich. He was the former Chief of the P.O.W. Section of the Danzig Military District. He personally handed his testimonies to the representatives of the Red Army on 29th December, 1945. His testimonies, registered as Exhibit USSR 151, are contained in your document book. I shall read certain excerpts into thr record:
"I began my work as Chief of the P.O.W. Section at the Headquarters of Danzig Military District on 1st February, 1941.

Prior to that I was the commanding officer of the 207th Infantry Division, located in France.

It was towards March, 1941, that I was summoned to Berlin to attend a secret meeting at the Headquarters of the Commander-in-Chief. This conference was conducted by Lieutenant-General Reinecke, then Chief of Headquarters' P.O.W. Section.

[Page 314]

Over twenty chiefs of the District P.O.W. sections from various regions attended this conference, as well as several staff officers. I cannot, at present, remember the names of these officers.

General Reinecke told us, as a great secret, that a tentative invasion of the Soviet territory had been planned for the beginning of summer 1941 and that in this connection the High Command had elabourated essential measures, including the preparation of camps for Russian prisoners of war expected after the

beginning of operations on the Eastern front." I omit 3 paragraphs and shall go on to several details of greater importance:
"On this occasion he ordered us to construct open-air camps surrounded only by barbed wire in such cases where there would be no time to construct roofed-in barracks for the Russian prisoners.

Moreover, Reinecke gave us instructions as to the treatment of Russian prisoners of war, directing us to shoot without any warning those prisoners who might attempt to escape..."

In my opinion, the next two long paragraphs can be omitted in order to save time.
... "After some time" (I pass on to Page 28 of your document book) "I received a directive from the Headquarters of the Supreme Command confirming Reinecke's instructions to shoot without any warning all Russian prisoners attempting to escape. I do not now remember who signed this directive."
The witness further testifies how he was called, either towards the end of 1941 or the beginning of 1942, to a conference in Berlin of the military district chiefs on P.O.W. affairs. The conference was conducted by Major- General von Graevenitz. The question under discussion was what to do with those Russian prisoners of war who were unable to work as the result of wounds or exhaustion.

I think it might be useful to quote a few lines. They are on Page 29 in your document book.

... "On the proposal of General von Graevenitz this question was discussed by several officers present, including doctors, who stated that such prisoners of war unable to work should be concentrated in one place -- either in camp or in hospital -- and killed by poisoning. As a result of this discussion Graevenitz ordered us to murder war prisoners incapable of work, using for this purpose the camp medical personnel."
The witness asserts that when he arrived on duty in the Ukraine in the summer of 1942, he learned there, as he says (you will find these two lines on Page 29):
"A method of murdering Russian prisoners of war by poisoning is already adopted there."
The witness quotes actual figures, actual facts connected with this crime. I think it important to note a reference to this fact quoted on the fourth page of the Russian text, third paragraph from the top, on Page 29 of your document book:
..."When I was in the Ukraine I received from headquarters a top-secret order signed by Himmler, directing that, as from August, 1942, Russian war prisoners must be branded with a special mark. Russian war prisoners were kept in concentration camps under severe conditions, were poorly fed, subjected to moral outrages and died of hunger and disease."
Oesterreich names facts which confirm this testimony. The following episode is revealingly characteristic. I quote the second paragraph of the fifth page; it is on Page 31 in your document book:

[Page 315]

"In the beginning of 1942, when an echelon of Russian war prisoners was being moved from the Ukraine to the city of Torn, approximately 75 people died there; their corpses were not taken away but left in the railway car together with the living. About 100 prisoners of war, who could not bear these conditions and tried to escape, were shot."
These and similar cases are known to the witness. He enumerates them, but I do not think it is necessary to cite all of them to the Tribunal. They are all alike.

Oesterreich also speaks about directives which provide for the shooting of all political workers of the Red Army, Communists, and Jews.

Such an arrangement practically opened the way for the extermination of any Soviet prisoner of war under the pretext that he was suspected of belonging to the Communist Party or if he looked like a Jew.

To complete General Oesterreich's testimony, it is necessary to quote a sentence mentioned, as I believe, by the Commander-in-Chief General Field Marshal von Reichenau in "The Conduct of the Army in the East." I submit this document to the Tribunal as our Exhibit USSR 12. This quotation is on Page 33 in your document book:

"Supplying the civilian population and the prisoners of war with food is an unnecessary humanitarian act."
I submit to the Military Tribunal this despicable directive of Hitler's Field Marshal and request it be accepted as evidence.

Three of Hitler's high-ranking officers confirmed that even at the beginning of the war, at a special conference...

THE PRESIDENT: Could you tell us if this order was issued by Field Marshal von Reichenau? By the General himself?

COLONEL POKROVSKY: The order is signed by General Field Marshal von Reichenau.

THE PRESIDENT: Was it captured or what?

COLONEL POKROVSKY: This document was one of the trophies captured by the Russian Army.

THE PRESIDENT: By the Russian Army?

COLONEL POKROVSKY: By the Russian Army.


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