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-Fifth Day: Friday, 22nd February, 1946
(Part 1 of 8)

[Page 209]

THE MARSHAL: May it please the Court the defendant Fritzsche will be absent until further notice on account of illness.

GENERAL M. Y. RAGINSKY (Assistant Prosecutor for the USSR):

May it please your Honours.

May I begin the submission of evidence to prove the charge that the defendants are guilty of the destruction of cities and towns and the perpetration of other kinds of destruction. This charge is laid down in Section G of Count III of the Indictment.

We shall present evidence proving that the destruction of cities and towns was brought about neither by the hazards of war nor by military expediency.

We shall submit evidence that this deliberate destruction was carried out in accordance with the thoroughly prepared plans of the Hitlerite Government and orders of the German Military Command; that the destruction of towns and cities, of industry and means of transportation was an integral part of the conspiracy which aimed at enslaving the peoples of Europe and other countries, and to establish a world hegemony of Hitlerite Germany.

Wherever the German fascist invaders appeared, they brought death and destruction. In the flames of the fires were lost the most valuable machines devised by the genius of mankind; factories and dwellings giving work and shelter, to millions were blown up.

People themselves perished, especially old men, women and children, left without a roof over their heads or any means of existence.

With particular ruthlessness the Hitlerites plundered and destroyed the towns and cities in the territories of the Soviet Union which they temporarily occupied, where, acting on direct orders of the German High Command, they created a "wasteland ".

As proof, I read into the record an excerpt from the document which was submitted to the Tribunal as Exhibit USSR 51/2. This excerpt the members of the Tribunal will find on page 3 of the document book.

I read:

" ... An order recently seized near the town of Verkhovye, Orel Region, issued to the 512th German Infantry Regiment and signed by Colonel Schitnig stated with unparalleled shamelessness: 'A zone which in view of circumstances is to be evacuated, should, upon withdrawal of the troops, be left wasteland.... At points where complete destruction is to be carried out, all the houses shall be burned. To this end they should first be filled with straw, particularly if they are stone houses. Structures of stone are to be blown up, particularly cellars. Measures for the creation of wastelands are to be prepared beforehand and carried out ruthlessly and in their entirety.'"
So reads the order to the 512th German Infantry Regiment.

In razing our towns and villages, the German Command demands of its troops that a "wasteland " be created in all Soviet localities from which the invaders are successfully expelled by the Red Army.

This order to the 512th Regiment, which is mentioned in the document I just quoted, is submitted as Exhibit USSR 168.

THE PRESIDENT: Do you know the date of it?

GENERAL RAGINSKY: The date of this order is 10 December, 1941. From this document it is clear that the German Military Command prepared a ruthless and complete destruction of inhabited localities and that this destruction was planned and prepared in advance.

[Page 210]

A large number of documents and facts concerning this question are in the possession of the Soviet Prosecution. I will limit myself to reading into the record an excerpt from the verdict of the regional military court in the case of the German war criminals Lieut.-General Bernhardt and Major General Hamann. I submit this verdict to the Tribunal as Exhibit USSR 90.

The military court established that the Generals Bernhardt and Hamann had acted in accordance with the common plans and directives of the High Commands of the German Army and that they - I quote a short excerpt from the verdict (this excerpt your Honours will find on pages 24-25 of the document book)

" . . . had carried out a planned destruction of towns and inhabited localities, determined in advance, along with the destruction of industrial buildings, hospitals, sanatoria, educational institutions, museums, and other cultural and educational institutions, as well as dwellings. The latter were blown up without any warning being given to the Soviet citizens living in them, with the result that people perished as well."
As in the case of the destruction of inhabited localities, plants, factories, power stations and mines were also destroyed with premeditation and malice aforethought.

For confirmation of this statement I will draw the attention of the Tribunal to the report of the Extraordinary State Commission which was submitted to the Tribunal as Exhibit USSR 2. This document is on page 28 of the document book.

In this report is quoted the secret directive of the Leader of the Department of Economics of the Army Group South of 2 September, 1943, under No. 1/313/43, which ordered army leaders and leaders of the ordnance detachments to carry out a thorough annihilation of industrial institutions, emphasising particularly that: "The destruction must be carried out not at the last moment when the troops may be engaged in combat or in retreat, but ahead of time ".

The Note by V. M. Molotov, the People's Commissar of Foreign Affairs of USSR, of 27 April, 1942, deals with the orders of the German Supreme Command and with the manner in which these orders were executed. This Note was submitted to the Tribunal as Exhibit USSR 51/3.

I will now quote several excerpts from Part II of the Note just mentioned, which is entitled "The Devastation of Cities and Towns", excerpts which were not read into the record before. These excerpts will be found on pages 6 and 7, the reverse side of the document book which is in the hands of the Tribunal. I read:

"By direct order of its High Command the German fascist army has subjected Soviet towns and villages to unparalleled devastation upon seizure and in the course of the army's occupation."
I omit the end of page 4 and the beginning of page 5 of my report.

THE PRESIDENT: I do not think you ought to omit the first four lines on page 5.

GENERAL RAGINSKY: I omitted it inasmuch as I read this document into the record yesterday, but if you wish, I shall gladly do it.

THE PRESIDENT: If you read it yesterday, do not read it again. I do not remember. Was it read yesterday ?

GENERAL RAGINSKY : Yes, I read this into the record yesterday.


(A short pause.)

THE PRESIDENT: I am told that - and I think - that you did not read those lines, "from 10 October, 1941", at the top of page 5 - I think you had better read them. I am referring to the order of 10 October, 1941, which is set out in your expose.

[Page 211]

GENERAL RAGINSKY: This is the excerpt from the order given to the Sixth German Army, on 10th October, 1941, signed by von Reichenau. This document is presented to the Tribunal as Exhibit USSR 12. I quote:

"The troops shall be interested in extinguishing only those fires in buildings to be utilised for billeting military units. Everything else, including buildings, must be destroyed."

At the end of 1941 and the beginning of 1942 the German Command issued a number of orders instructing Get-man army units to destroy, in the course of their retreat under the pressure of the Red Army, everything that had survived unscathed during the occupation. Thousands of villages and hamlets, whole city blocks and even entire cities were reduced to ashes, blown up or razed to the ground by the retreating German fascist army. The organised destruction of Soviet towns and villages became a special branch of the criminal activity of the German invaders on Soviet territory. Special instructions and detailed orders of the German Command were devoted to methods of devastating Soviet populated centres. Special detachments, trained in this criminal profession, were set up for this purpose. These are some of the facts which are at the disposal of the Soviet Government.Once again I refer to the order of the 512th Infantry Regiment already presented to the Tribunal as Exhibit USSR 168.

This order is an exposition, consisting of seven typed pages, of the most precisely detailed plan for the methodical destruction of village after village, from to December to 14 December inclusive, in the area where the given regiment was stationed. This order, which follows a model used throughout the German army, states:

"Preparations for the destruction of populated centres must be carried out in such a way that:(a) No suspicions whatever be aroused among the civilian population prior to its announcement.(b) The destruction should begin at once, and be carried out at a single blow, at the appointed time.... On the day in question particularly strict watch must be kept to see that no civilians leave this place, especially after the destruction has been announced...."

An order of the Commander of the 98th German Infantry Division dated 24 December, 1941, after listing sixteen Soviet villages designated to be burned down, states:

"Available stocks of hay, straw, foodstuffs, etc., are to be burned. All the stoves in dwelling houses are to be wrecked by placing hand grenades in them, thus making further use of them impossible. Under no circumstance is this order to fall into the hands of the enemy."

The following order of 3rd January, 1942, issued by Hitler, is of the same nature. The order states:

"Cling to every populated centre; do not retreat a single step; defend yourselves to the last soldier and to the last grenade. That is the requirement of the present moment. Every point occupied by us must be turned into a base, which must not be surrendered under any circumstances, even if outflanked by the enemy. If, however, the given point must be abandoned on superior orders, it is imperative that everything be razed to the ground, the stoves blown up ....(Signed) Adolf Hitler."Hitler felt no embarrassment about publicly admitting that the devastation of Soviet towns and villages was carried out by his army. In his speech...

THE PRESIDENT: That order of 3 January, 1942, signed by Hitler, is that in the Official Soviet State Report? Where did it come from?

GENERAL RAGINSKY: This order is incorporated in the Note of the People's

[Page 212]

Commissar for Foreign Affairs, Molotov, I quote an excerpt from it. The document was presented to the Tribunal as exhibit USSR 5I/3.

THE PRESIDENT: That is M. Molotov's report?

GENERAL RAGINSKY: Yes, this is a Note of the Foreign Commissar, Molotov.


GENERAL RAGINSKY: In his speech of 30th January, 1942, Hitler stated:

"In those places where the Russians have succeeded in making a breakthrough and where they thought that they would once again be in possession of populated centres, these populated centres no longer exist; they are but heaps of ruins."

While retreating from the Kuban under the thrust of the Red Army, the German High Command worked out a detailed plan of operations which bore the code name of "Movement Krimhilde", and a considerable part of this plan, a whole section in fact, is devoted to the demolition plan. I omit one paragraph of my report.This plan is mentioned in a two-page secret document transmitted by telegraph to the chiefs of the higher staffs. The document is signed by Hitler and has the following notation on the first page: "Secret /A 2371. 17 copies."The document which we submit to the Tribunal as Exhibit USSR 115 is the seventeenth copy of Hitler's order. This document is listed as Document 117 C; in your document book it is contained on the pages 31-33.I will read into the record the second paragraph of this document:

"2. Demolitions in case of retreat.

(a) All structures, quartering facilities, roads, special constructions, dams, etc., should be demolished.(b) All railroads and military roads should be either demolished or completely destroyed.(c) All corduroy-constructed roads must be torn up and rendered useless.(d) All oil wells in the Kuban bridgehead must be entirely destroyed.

(e) The harbour of Novorossiysk will be so demolished and obstructed as to render it useless to the Russian Fleet for a long time.

(f) Extensive sowing of mines, delayed action mines, etc., also come under the heading of destruction.

(g) The enemy must take over a completely useless, uninhabitable wasteland where mine detonation will occur for months hence."

Many other documents bear witness of similar orders, but may I draw the attention of the Tribunal to just two of them: I refer to an entry in the diary of the defendant Frank which dealt with this subject, in particular, as well as to a directive issued by the general commanding the 118th German Anti-tank Division which operated in Yugoslavia.In Frank's diary, which had already been submitted to the Tribunal, there is the following entry for 17 April, 1944, contained in the volume which was started on 1 March, 1944, and ended on 31 May, 1944, entitled " The Business Meeting at Cracow on 12 April, 1944 ". Your Honours will find the quotation on page 45 of the document book. I read:

"It is important that the troops be given an order to leave only a wasteland to the Russians. In cases where it becomes necessary to withdraw from a certain area, no distinction should be made between the territory of the Government General and any other territory."

May I remind the Tribunal that Exhibit USSR 132, which is the secret instruction issued to the 118th German Jager Division over the signature of the German Major-General Kubler? It was captured in June, 1944, by the units of the Yugoslav People's Liberation Army. The troops were to treat the population "ruthlessly with cruel firmness", and to destroy the inhabited localities which were abandoned.

[Page 213]

May it please your Honours, in concluding this part of my report I deem it necessary to draw your attention to another circumstance.

The destruction of peaceful towns and villages was not only planned, not only carried out deliberately and with exceptional ruthlessness, but was executed by special detachments created by the German High Command for that very purpose.By way of evidence I will quote several excerpts not yet read into the record, from official Soviet Government documents.

In the Note of 27 April, 1942, is stated - I quote an excerpt which is on page 9 of the document book: "The special detachments set up by the German Command for the purpose of setting fire to Soviet population centres, and for the mass extermination of the civilian population, during the retreat of the Hitlerite Army, are perpetrating their bloodthirsty deeds with the cold-bloodedness of professional criminals. Thus, for instance, before their retreat from the village of Bolshekrepinskaya, Rostov Region, the Germans sent special flame-throwing machines down the streets of the village, which burned 1,167 buildings, one after the other. The large flourishing village was turned into a flaming bonfire which consumed the dwellings, the hospital, the school and various other public buildings. At the same time machine gunners, without any warning, shot inhabitants who approached their burning houses. Some of the residents were bound, sprayed with gasoline and thrown into the burning buildings."I omit part of page 9 of my report and pass on to the next, to the last paragraph of my report.The report of the Extraordinary State Commission which was presented to the Tribunal as Exhibit USSR 46, states:

"In their insane fury against the Soviet people, which was caused by defeats suffered at the Front, the Commanding General of the 2nd German Tank Army, General Schmidt, and Commander of the Orel administrative Region, the Military Commander of the city, Major General Hamann, had created special demolition detachments for the destruction of towns, villages and collective farms of the Orel Region. These Kommandos, plunderers and arsonists destroyed everything in the path of their retreat. They destroyed cultural monuments and works of art of the Russian people, burned down cities, towns and villages."

In the document submitted to the Tribunal as Exhibit USSR 279, the following facts are described. I read:

"In Viazma and Gjatsk, the Commanding Generals: Major General Merker of the 35th Infantry Division, Major General Schaefer of the 252nd Infantry Division, and Major General Roppert, of the 7th Infantry Division, organised special incendiary and demolition detachments to set on fire and blow up dwellings, schools, theatres, clubs, museums, libraries, hospitals, churches, stores and industrial plants, so that only ashes and ruins would be left in the wake of their retreat."

In the document which is presented to the Tribunal as Exhibit USSR 2, there are several depositions of German prisoners of war. I shall quote one of these depositions. I read at the foot of the page:

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