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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
27th February to 11th March, 1946

Seventy-Eighth Day: Monday, 11th March, 1946
(Part 5 of 12)

[MR. JUSTICE JACKSON continues his cross examination of General Field-Marshal Milch]

[Page 276]

Q. So he did know?

A. He himself had no cognizance of the subject. He had no time to receive me.

Q. Goering had no time to receive you?

A. No, Goering, at that time had many other matters on hand and he did not want to hear about these things.

Q. So he left that to Hitler, who was not busy, I take it. Is that true?

A. Hitler was interested in the matter.

[Page 277]

Q. I think you told us in interrogations that Goering was not very industrious. Is that correct?

A. I should be very reluctant to answer that question.

Q. Very well, I withdraw it. It was not a kindly question to begin with. When you found that Germany was going into a war which you, an informed officer considered a disaster, did you resign?

A. Resign? What from?

Q. Resign your commission as an officer or take any other steps to protest?

A. No, that was absolutely impossible. There was an order which ruled it impossible.

Q. And who gave that order?

A. Hitler himself.

Q. Now, you said you had experienced this yourself.

A. Not only in my own case. The order applied generally.

Q. You said on Friday that you experienced it yourself, that you could not resign.

A. No, one could not resign.

Q. Did you try it at any time?

A. I frequently applied for my discharge in peace time. My resignation, however, was not accepted, the reason being, that I had no right to ask for it, but that I would be told from above when I had to go. During the war I never applied for my discharge, because as a soldier in war time I could not apply for it.

Q. Did you not have some talk with Goering at one time about retiring from your position, in which he not only forbade you to leave, but also told you it would be no, use to feign ill health?

A. Yes. There was no possibility of giving this as the reason unless one was really ill. When retiring from a high position it had been customary in the past to plead ill health. Now this was no longer possible.

Q. And he did suggest to you in that discussion one way out, did he not?

A. No, he did not suggest a way out, but I did.

Q. What did you suggest? What talk did you have about suicide? Did Goering tell you that the only way you could get out was to commit suicide?

A. That would have been the only possible way out.

Q. Well, did Goering tell you that?

A. No, I said that, not he.

Q. And he did not disagree with you, I take it.

A. No. He did not care if I did or not.

Q. Now, you have the regulations with you, which you say were printed for the information of every soldier, about International Law and regulations. You have them with you this morning?

A. I have them with me; the regulations are contained in my service book, the same as for every soldier.

Q. You gave us a little information about that, but I would like you to get that out and give us exactly the text of those instructions or regulations, which you say reflect International Law, as you understood it.

A. Do you want me to read it out now? The quotation ...

Q. Not too fast.

A. No.

"Ten Commandments for the Conduct of the German Soldier in War.

1. The German soldier fights chivalrously for the victory of his people. Cruelty and needless destruction are unworthy of him.

2. The fighter must wear a uniform, or else he must be provided with insignia visible from a good distance. Fighting in civilian clothes without such insignia is prohibited.

3. No enemy in the act of surrendering shall be killed, not even a partisan or a spy. The courts will administer the just punishment.

[Page 278]

4. Prisoners of war must not be maltreated or insulted. Weapons, plans and notes are to be taken from them. Apart from these, none of their possessions may be taken from them.

5. Dum-dum bullets are prohibited. Bullets may not be transformed into dum-dum bullets.

6. The Red Cross is inviolable. Wounded enemies must be treated humanely. Medical orderlies and chaplains must not be hindered in the performance of their medical and spiritual functions.

7. The civilian population is inviolable. The soldier must not plunder or wantonly destroy. Historical monuments and buildings dedicated to religious service, art, science or charity must be treated with special care. Personal services and services in kind shall only be required of the civilian population against compensation, and if ordered by the superior officer.

8. Neutral territory must not be militarily involved by trespassing, by planes flying over it, or by gunfire.

9. If a German soldier is captured, he must state his name and rank when questioned. Under no circumstances may he say to what unit he belongs, or speak about military, political or economic conditions on the German side, neither may he allow himself to be induced to do so by threats or promises.

10. Any contravention of these orders while on active service is punishable. Breaches by the enemy of the fundamental laws listed sub 1 to 8 are to be reported. Reprisals are permissible only by order of the higher commanders."

Q. Now that, as you understand it, is the Military Law conforming with International Law, which was promulgated for the governance of the troops in the field?

A. Yes.

Q. And you understood, and it was generally understood in the German Army, that was International Law, was it not?

A. Every soldier could not help knowing that these were the German regulations because they were pasted on the first sheet of the pay book, issued to every soldier and which he had to carry on him. The common soldier, of course, did not know that they represented International Law.

Q. The higher commanders like yourself did, did they not?

A. Yes.

Q. That represented your understanding and interpretation of your duties and obligations as honourable men in combat?

A. Yes.

Q. Now, did you participate in the activities of Hermann Goering in collecting the art treasures of France and other occupied territories?

A. No.

Q. Did you participate in the removal of the civilian population for forced labour?

A. No.

Q. You know that was done, do you not?

A. I did not know that the workers who came from foreign countries had been deported; we were told that they had been recruited on a voluntary basis. In the case of France, I know that up to a certain date the French had wanted to come, but after that date they no longer wanted to come, and that the French Government itself had issued directives to deal with this.

Q. Apart from that, then, you did not know anything about involuntary or forced labour in Germany? Is that your testimony?

A. No. I only knew that ...

Q. Tell us what you did know about it and what you did about it.

A. I knew that those people had been recruited and that they had come voluntarily. I knew that many of them were very satisfied, but as time went on and the German military situation deteriorated, discontent began to set in among these

[Page 279]

foreign workers, although, according to the information which reached my ears, only a small group was affected. I would add that in a general way, we ascribed this ill- feeling to the fact that the food for these people was not everything they could wish; consequently, sundry organizations, with Speer's ministry at the head, made efforts to improve their living conditions.

Q. You have not yet answered my question. Did you know that forced labour was being brought from occupied territories and compelled to work in German industry? Did you know it? Answer that "yes" or "no".

A. I only knew that in the end Frenchmen were forced by their own French Government to come.

Q. Did you know that prisoners of war were forced to work in the aeroplane industry, and were actually forced to man guns? Did you know that?

A. I did hear about it.

Q. And you heard about it from your fellow officers, did you not?

A. At the moment I cannot say from whom I heard it. I believe there was a group which I think called itself "Volunteers" (Hilfswillige). As far as I know it was recruited on a voluntary basis from among those prisoners of war.

Q. And did you learn about - even if you did not participate in it - the plan for the collection of art treasures from the occupied countries?

A. No. I knew nothing of this plan as it then existed. I first heard about it here in Nuremberg through some of the witnesses.

Q. Now I want to ask you some questions about certain exhibits, I refer to Document 343-PS, Exhibit USA 463. I will ask to have that exhibit shown to you.

A. These letters are signed by me and they are also written on my stationery. They must have been drafted by the Medical Inspectorate. As I said a few days ago, I no longer remember the contents. I should only like to say that the answers were drafted in such a way as not to lead us, the Air Force, into any difficulties with Herr Himmler. For instance, I never read the statements made by Dr. Rascher and Dr. Romberg. They were read by the Medical Inspectorate. In this connection I acted, so-to-speak, as postman between the SS and our Medical Inspectorate.

Q. When you testified, on interrogation, you had no recollection of these letters, but on Friday you testified that you made some alterations in one of them before it went out. Do you want to tell us what that alteration was?

A. Yes, some of these letters were submitted to me during my interrogation and it was then that I first remembered it. The changes which I made were merely a matter of courtesy in style, in view of Herr Himmler's extreme susceptibility. I do not think that either of these two letters contains the alteration; that, I believe, was in another letter.

Q. It was the other letter in which there was a change, No. 1607?

A. I believe so, yes.

Q. Now, in your examination, your interrogation, you gave a reason why these were brought to you for signature instead of being signed by the bureau chiefs. Do you remember what that reason was?

A. Yes. I had the impression that the Medical Inspector did not wish to address his refusal to Himmler because he was afraid. Himmler had written to me because he always wrote only either to the Reichsmarshal or to me as he was unacquainted with the organization of the Luftwaffe in this particular sphere. The Medical Inspector was not subordinate to me.

Q. Well, I understand from your interrogation that you gave as the reason why these letters were brought to you for signature, that your office was in fear of Himmler and did not want to take the responsibility of writing a letter to him, is that right?

A. Not my office, but I think the Medical Inspectorate did not wish to place themselves in an awkward position vis-a- vis Himmler.

[Page 280]

Q. And I think you also said that the officials of that department were afraid of the SS.

A. That is what I wished to express.

Q. Were they engaged in any illegal conduct or any activity against the Government?

A. I did not quite understand that.

Q. Were those people who were afraid . . .

A. Who? The Medical Inspection Board? No.

Q. They were responsible officials doing their duty, as far as you know, is that right?

A. Yes, but one must bear in mind the things which had come to pass during the war.

Q. That is exactly what I want you to think about and tell about. Why were these people, who were performing their duties in a government office, afraid of Himmler or afraid of the SS? Explain that situation to us.

A. Not afraid of the SS as such but of the Secret Police. It was not easy for any of us. We were all convinced that we were being constantly watched, no matter how high our rank. There was probably not a single person concerning whom a dossier was not kept, and many people were subsequently brought to trial as a result of these records. The ensuing difficulties did not affect only these people or other people or me personally: they included everybody right up to the Reichsmarshal, who also was affected by them.

Q. So you mean that from the Reichsmarshal right down to the humblest citizen, there was fear of Heinrich Himmler and his organization?

A. Well, the degree of fear may have varied. It was perhaps not so great in the highest and in the lowest positions. But things were far more difficult in the intermediate grades, since it was quite clear that the intermediate grades criticised everything that occurred and these criticisms were not tolerated from above.

Q. I take it, from your testimony, that the reputation of the Gestapo was pretty well understood in Germany.

A. Particularly so in the later war years. I could not say how far this feeling was justified but, at all events, the feeling was there.

Q. Now, I think you also testified that some high military authorities did resign. I call your attention to your testimony in your interrogation by us about von Fritsch and Beck. They resigned, did they not?

A. No, they did not resign. They were removed.

Q. They were thrown out, is that it?

A. Yes. They were told they were no longer needed.

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