The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
14th February to 26th February, 1946

Sixty-First Day: Monday, 18th February, 1946
(Part 2 of 7)


[Page 81]

I do not want the Tribunal to think that we are either unimaginative or unreasonable. We know, because we have seen the other side of the shield, that there are certain mechanical matters and matters of conclusion of preparation which have to be dealt with before a case is put forward. We quite appreciate that the defenders of Goering, of Hess, and of Ribbentrop may require a day or two to put their tackle in order, but I want to make clear that that, in our view, is quite different from a three-weeks' adjournment.

I respectfully agree with every word that Professor Krauls has said about the maintenance of the dignity of the trial, but it is not essential, in my respectful submission, for the maintenance of the dignity of the trial that the trial should take place in slow time. That would not only be wrong, but it would be directly contrary to the portion of the Charter to which General Nikitshenko referred at Berlin.

With regard to the witnesses, there are, as the Tribunal knows, certain difficulties, in that, to begin with, the defendants asked for many witnesses who were very largely repetitive, and they have, as I judge the application, begun recently to get clear as to who are the essential witnesses, and the Tribunal will rule on that finally, as it has indicated.

I take only one other example. Professor Kraus mentioned the question of certain documents for which Dr. Kranzbuehler was asking, which were, as I understand it, U-boat diaries. I have arranged that Dr. Kranzbuchler's assistant will be enabled to go to London and examine these documents at his leisure in the Admiralty. That is on paper in our reply. I respectfully submit that that sort of attitude is the best and most helpful attitude for letting the defence get what they wish.

[Page 82]

Mr. President, I have nearly exhausted my time, and I say only this in conclusion: The prosecution has had to collate and co-ordinate actions taking place over a long period, certainly twelve years, in some cases twenty years. We have collated and co-ordinated the evidence of these actions. We have presented a case which is founded mainly on the written statements or written records of statements made by the defendants themselves. The task before the defence is to give the explanation that what they say is the true colour of words that have been proved - and not disputed - to have come out of their own mouths.

They have had the time which I have stated, and which I shall not repeat, but that being so, it is the attitude of the prosecution, with, as I say, every desire to help in any way that is possible in the actual work, whether it be mechanical or preparing documents or otherwise, that the defence cannot rightfully ask for further time for general reflection and consideration on a case which has that basis. We therefore respectfully but firmly object to any adjournment other than a matter of a few days, not more than a week, certainly - we should say less than that-for the purpose of completing preparations and putting mechanical tackle in order.

That, Mr. President, is the attitude of all my colleagues.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will consider its decision on this matter and it will adjourn this afternoon at 4.00 o'clock in order to consider the other matters which are raised in Dr. Stahmer's memorandum.


Before I sit down, I am asked by my colleagues to make this clear. I, myself, did not tie myself in my argument to any number of days because a week-end may intervene and different considerations may arise, but my colleagues wish it to be before the Tribunal that their view is that, taking into account the time which will elapse before the Soviet case is concluded, and the argument on the organisation for which time has to be allowed, that two days is the figure they have in mind, although, as I say, a week-end may intervene which may add to that. I want to make it quite clear that we are quite definite.

I am very grateful.

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Smirnov, will you continue-your address.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: I continue with the presentation of evidence in regard to Yugoslavia.

In corroboration of the criminal system of hostages which was fully developed in Yugoslavia, the Government of Yugoslavia has submitted a series of originals and certified photostatic copies of different documents. I shall not submit my own comments on these documents which were incorporated into the report of the Yugoslav Government: I shall restrict myself to the presentation of the documents themselves, since they are definite and do not call for further comment.

I present as Exhibit USSR 256 the original of an announcement dated 12 August, 1941, which mentioned the shooting of ten hostages. The printed poster was signed by the German Police Commissioner in Lasko, Hrabetzky.

Further, as Exhibit USSR 148 I present a certified photographic copy of an announcement of the shooting of fifty-seven persons. This poster was printed on 13 November, 1941, and was signed by Kutschera.

Further, as USSR 144, I present a certified copy of an announcement of 21 January, 1942, relating to the shooting of fifteen hostages. The poster was signed by Roesner.

Then, as USSR 145, I present a certified photographic copy of a poster announcing the shooting of fifty-one hostages, and the date is 1942, month unknown. The poster is signed by Roesner.

[Page 83]

I present as USSR 146, an original announcement printed as a poster, signed by Roesner, which announced that on 31 March, 1942, twenty-nine hostages were shot.

Finally, I present as USSR 147 a certified photographic copy of the announcement, printed as a poster, which stated that on 1 July, 1942, twenty-nine hostages were shot.

I consider that the sum total of these documents is sufficient to prove that the system of hostages was widely applied in Yugoslavia.

To conclude my presentation of evidence in this particular field, I refer to Exhibit USSR 304, Report No. 6 of the Yugoslav Extraordinary State Commission for the Investigation of War Crimes. I read one paragraph of this document into the record.

"The group of hostages at Celje were strangled on hooks used by the butchers for hanging meat. In Maribor, the doomed, in groups of five, had to place the bodies of the hostages already executed in boxes and then load them into trucks. After that, they themselves were shot, while the next group of five, in their turn, continued with the loading. This went on continuously. The Sodna Street in Maribor was all soaked in blood pouring from the trucks."
I end my quotation here.

It seems to me that in submitting to the Tribunal a summary of the terroristic regime established in the countries of Western Europe, this summary would be incomplete without some mention of a country like Greece, a country which also was a victim of the terroristic regime which the German fascists had established. Therefore I present to the International Military Tribunal a report of the Government of the Greek Republic. This report is duly certified with the signature and seal of the Greek Ambassador in Great Britain, as well as of a member of the British Foreign Office.

This document is submitted to the Tribunal as Exhibit USSR 79 (UK 82), and I shall read into the record a few excerpts from this report which concerns the setting up of the fascist terror regime in Greece and which also deals with the same criminal system of hostages.

War against Greece was declared by Germany on 6 April, 1941, and already on 31 May the German commanding general in Athens had published a frankly terroristic order directed against the peaceful population of Greece. The direct pretext for publishing this was the fact that on 30 May the Greek patriots had torn down the swastika from the Acropolis.

I here quote this order of the commanding general of the German Armed Forces in Greece, from the report of the Greek Government, on Page 33 of the Russian translation. This order threatened severe punishment for the following reasons:-

"(a) Because in the night of 30-31 May, the German flag flying over the Acropolis was torn down by persons unknown. Those guilty of this act, as well as their accomplices, will be punished by death.

(b) Because Press and public opinion of all classes still express themselves with evident sympathy in favour of the English, now expelled from the Continent of Europe."

Therefore even sympathy for the English brought the same terrible punishment.
"(c) Because events in Crete were not only not condemned, but were even favourably commented on in many circles. (Here the commander of the German Armed Forces was evidently referring to the patriotic resistance of the inhabitants of the Island of Crete.)

(d) Because although absolutely forbidden, repeated gestures of sympathy were made to British prisoners, such as gifts, flowers, fruit, cigarettes, etc.,

[Page 84]

and these demonstrations were tolerated by the Greek police who did not intervene to stop them with the means at their disposal.

(e) Because the behaviour of large numbers of Athenians towards the German Armed Forces has again become less friendly."

From that time onwards, the same regime of Nazi terror was established in Greece that characterised the actions of the Hitlerite criminals in all the territories they occupied. In confirmation of that fact, I cite the report of the Greek Government on Page 34 of the Russian translation. I quote, beginning with line 4 from the top of the page:-
"In violation of Article 50 of the Hague Convention they systematically punished the innocent, adhering to the principle that the community as a whole must bear the responsibility in full for acts committed by individual persons.

They used starvation as an instrument of pressure and for weakening the spirit of resistance in the Greek population. Very few people were tried by courts- martial, and these, when held, were a mere parody of justice. They instituted a policy of reprisals, including the seizure and killing of hostages, mass murders and the destruction and devastation of villages, for acts committed in their vicinity by individuals unknown.

The great majority of those executed were taken at random from the prisons and camps, without any possible relation to the act, in reprisal for which they were executed. The life of every citizen depended on the arbitrary decision of the local commander."

It seems to me quite correct to consider the murder, in Greece, of thousands of people by starvation, as one of the most powerful factors of the terrorist regime established by the German fascists in that country. In connection with this subject, the following statement is made on Page 6 of the Russian text:
"It is an incontestable fact that the great majority of the Greek population lived on the verge of starvation for nearly three years. Many thousands suffered from real starvation for several months before relief shipments could reach them. As a result, the death rate increased by 500 or 600 per cent in the capital and 800 to 1,000 per cent in the Greek islands, as from September, 1941, to April, 1942. The infant mortality was 25 per cent, and the health of the survivors was greatly undermined."
The report of the Greek Government cites excerpts from reports of neutral missions. I quote one of these excerpts, which is on Page 38 of the Russian text of the Greek Government report. I begin the quotation:-
"During the winter of 1941-42, when famine reigned in the capital, conditions in the provinces were still tolerable. During the following winter, however, when Canadian relief for the larger towns had been swallowed up by the unrestricted market, the situation was very different. During our first tours of inspection, when investigating the situation in general, we met, in March, 1943, people literally weeping for bread. Many villages lived only on a substitute bread baked with 'Ersatz' flour, wild pears and acorns - food ordinarily suitable only for pigs. In many districts, the population had seen no other bread since December.

We were taken inside the houses and shown empty shelves and larders we saw people cooking grass without oil, only to fill their stomachs somehow or other.

The inhabitants of the poorer villages were all emaciated. The children, in particular, were often in a pitiful condition, with skinny limbs and swollen stomachs. They had none of the vitality and happiness natural to children. It was quite usual for half the children to be unable to attend school. (Report of the Swedish Delegates to the Peloponnesian Islands, January, 1944.)"

[Page 85]

In order to describe the hostage system established by the Hitler criminals in Greece, I shall also quote excerpts from the Greek Government Report. From the text of this report it is quite evident that shootings of hostages during the first weeks of the German occupation of Greece were carried out on a wide scale. I quote, for this reason, an excerpt from the Greek report on Page 411 begin at the third line from the top of the Russian text:-
"Hostages were taken indiscriminately and from every class of the population: politicians, professors, scientists, lawyers, doctors, officers, civil servants, clergymen, manual workers, women, all those labelled as ' suspect' or 'Communist', were thrown into local prisons or concentration camps.

Prisoners under interrogation were subjected to various ingenious forms of torture. Hostages were concentrated in places of confinement where the arrested persons were subjected to the most unbearable regime."

The report of the Greek Government (also on Page 41 of the Russian text) states with regard to this matter:
"The inmates were starved, beaten, and then tortured. They were made to live under perfectly inhuman conditions without medical help or sanitation. There they were subjected to the refined sadism of the S.S. guards. Many were shot or hanged. Others died from cruel treatment or starvation, and only a few were released and survived until the date of the liberation of the country.

Hostages were also deported to concentration camps in Germany Buchenwald, Dachau, etc."

The report gives the total number of hostages murdered. The same page contains the following statement:
"The number of hostages shot amounts to some 91,000."
In order fully to understand on what a tremendous scale the Hitlerites committed their crimes in connection with the physical extermination of the Soviet people in the territory of the USSR, I ask the Tribunal to refer to Page 299 in their document book.

THE PRESIDENT: You are now passing away from Greece, are you, Colonel Smirnov ?


THE PRESIDENT: We will take a recess then.

(A recess was taken.)

COLONEL SMIRNOV: With your permission, Mr. President, and in accordance with the instruction of the Tribunal, I shall omit a number of items in my statement. These items, which I shall exclude from the text, amount to a number of pages, and I request your permission to tell the interpreters how many pages I omit. I draw the attention of the Tribunal to a document dealing with the large-scale extermination of Soviet nationals in the temporarily occupied districts of the USSR. In confirmation of this fact I refer to a document which you, your Honours, will find on Page 291 of the document book, at the end of the last paragraph. This deals with the report of the Extraordinary State Commission concerning the destruction, plundering and atrocities of the German fascist invaders in the town of Rovno and the Rovno Region. I submit this document as Exhibit USSR 45.

[Page 86]

I quote the results of the examination by medico-forensic experts concerning the bodies of peaceful Soviet citizens murdered by the Germans and subsequently exhumed:
"In all investigated burial places in the city of Rovno and its surroundings, over 102,000 corpses of peaceful citizens, shot, or murdered by other methods were discovered, as well as the bodies of prisoners of war. Out of this figure:-

(a) In the city of Rovno, near the lumber yard on Beleya Street, 49,000 corpses were discovered.

(b) In the city of Rovno, on Beleya Street, in the vegetable gardens, 32,500.

(c) In the village of Sossenki, 17,500,

(d) In the stone quarries near the village of Vvdumka, 3,000.

(e) In the area surrounding Rovno prison, 500."

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