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 12 of 12)

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

[Page 303]

Q. Did not Himmler write you a letter - the reference is Shorthand Note 1852 - in November 1942 (that is Document 1617-PS) in which he says:-
"Dear Milch: Both high pressure and cold water experiments have been carried out . . .
" - and that he, Himmler, provided antisocial persons and criminals from concentration camps? Do you remember that letter?

A. This letter was shown to me, but I cannot remember this letter either. I do not know why Himmler wrote to me at all, These letters were always passed on direct by my office, without my seeing them, to the respective offices of the Medical Inspectorate and replied to via my office. I was not in a position to do anything in this respect because I did not know what it was all about nor had I any idea of the medical aspect.

Q. If you say you know nothing about letters which you signed I cannot carry the matter any further.

Now I want to deal with the last point.

A. During the course of the day I had to sign several hundred letters and I could not know what they dealt with in detail. In this particular case it was a

[Page 304]

question for a specialist and I merely signed in order to relieve the Medical Inspector of responsibility, who, for the reason mentioned this morning, did not want to sign himself.

Q. Very well, I am leaving that point.

Now then, the last point. You said on Friday that a German general had been executed for looting jewellery. Where did the looting take place?

A. I cannot say that. I seem to recollect that it was in Belgrade. The name of the general is General Wafer, this I still remember.

Q. It was jewellery looted from Belgrade?

A. That I cannot say. I only know what I said on Friday.

Q. So the German authorities regarded the death penalty as a suitable one for looting; apparently that is right.

A. I could not hear the question.

Q. Well, perhaps it was a comment. I will ask you the next question. What was the value of the jewellery which was looted?

A. I can only say I do not know how it was stolen or what was stolen or how valuable it was, but only that it was said to be jewellery which he had appropriated and that he was sentenced to death.

Q. Did Goering ever speak to you about his art collection he was getting from occupied countries?

A. I do not know anything about that.

Q. May I read you a piece of evidence, Shorthand Note 2317; it is an order of Goering signed on the 5th of November, 1940:-

"Goering to the Chief of the Military Administration in Paris and to the Einsatzstab Rosenberg: To dispose of the works of art brought to the Louvre, in the following order of priority:

First, those works of art ."

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Roberts, he has never seen this document and he says he knows nothing about it.

MR. ROBERTS: If your Lordship please, if you do not think I should put it to him ...

Q. You say Goering never discussed with you his art collection?

A. No.

Q. Did you not know that valuable art objects, according to an inventory, over 21,000 objects were taken from the Western occupied countries?

A. No, that is not known to me.

Q. What ought the general who looted the jewellery, perhaps from Belgrade, to have done with it? Given it to the Fuehrer, or given it to Goering?

A. I ask to be excused from answering this question.


Q. Will you please tell me when you heard of Hitler's plan to go to war with the Soviet Union? In January, 1941?

A. As I said on Friday, I heard in January from Reichsmarshal Goering, that Hitler had told him he expected there would be an attack on Russia. Then for several months I heard nothing more about the whole thing, until by chance I found out from a subordinate that war with Russia was imminent and preparations for the clothing of the troops were being made.

Q. Did you know about the Barbarossa Plan?

A. I had heard the name and I had heard the plan expounded at a Fuehrer conference with the Commanders of the various Army Groups and Armies, one or two days before the attack.

Q. And when did this take place, one, two days before the invasion?

A. I will let you know the exact date in a minute.

Q. Please do.

[Page 305]

A. On the 14th of June. That is about eight days before the attack which took place on the 22nd.

Q. And before that, you had neither heard of nor seen this plan?

A. I say that I had probably heard the name "Barbarossa" before.

Q. And how long before?

A. That I cannot say, because during the months of January, February, March and also in April I was outside Germany and I did not return until May. I was in Africa, Greece, Yugoslavia and the West.

Q. I am interested in the period when you were in the High Command of the German Air Force.

A. In December, 1940.

Q. So?

A. Only part of December, as during that month I was in France and also in Italy.

Q. And where were you in January, 1941?

A. I was in the West, and as far as I remember, not one day in Germany.

Q. But you just told us that in January 1941, you had a talk with Goering about the plan on war against the Soviet Union.

A. Yes, I ...

Q. In January 1941?

A. Yes, on the 13th of January, but I cannot say now whether I spoke with Goering in France, or whether it was over the telephone, or whether I was in Germany for a day or two. That I cannot say, I did not make a note of it.

Q. Excuse me. What has a telephone conversation to do with an attack on the Soviet Union?

A. Not an attack on Russia but an attack by Russia on Germany was mentioned at that time and we had . . .

Q. You mean to say, you discussed over the telephone the question of an attack by the Soviet Union on Germany?

A. No, I have not stated anything like that, but I said I do not know whether I received the information by special wire which could not be tapped, or whether the Reichsmarshal told me about it in France, or whether on that particular day I was in Germany.

Q. And when did you discuss this question with Goering, and when did Goering express his apprehension as to this war against the Soviet Union?

A. That was on the 22nd of May.

Q. The 22nd of May, 1941?

A. Nineteen-forty-one, yes.

Q. And where was this question discussed?

A. In Feldenstein near Nuremberg.

Q. Did you discuss this question with Goering alone, or was anybody else present at this conversation?

A. At that time only with Goering. We were alone.

Q. And you assert that Goering did not wish to go to war with Russia?

A. That was my impression.

Q. So. And why did Goering not want this war against the Soviet Union? This was a defensive war, was it not?

A. Goering was opposed to such a war because he knew ...

Q. He was opposed also to a defensive war?

A. He personally was against any war.

Q. That is strange. Maybe you will be able to give me precise reasons why Goering did not wish war against the Soviet Union?

A. Because a war on two fronts, especially a war against Russia, as I saw it, meant losing the war, and I believe that many fighting men and others thought as I did.

Q. So you too were opposed to a war against the Soviet Union?

[Page 306]

A. Yes, most definitely so.

Q. Strange. Your statements are not very consistent. On the one hand, you say that the Soviet Union was going to attack Germany, and on the other hand that German officers did not want a war with the Soviet Union.

A. May I explain again: On the 13th of January Goering told me that Hitler had the impression Russia intended to go against Germany. That was not Goering's opinion - neither was it mine - I assume it was Hitler's opinion which he had mentioned as his own.

Q. Excuse me. Do I understand that neither you nor Goering thought this opinion of Hitler's to be correct?

A. I can only speak for myself. I often expressed it as my view that Russia would not go against us. What Goering thought about it I could not say. He did not talk to me about it. You should ask him.

Q. Yes, and now I shall ask you. You mean to say that you personally did not share Hitler's opinion? And you mean that Goering too did not want a war against the Soviet Union?

A. On 22nd May when I spoke to Goering about this matter, and urgently requested him to do everything to prevent a war with Russia, he told me that he had used the same arguments with Hitler but that it was impossible to get Hitler to change his mind; he had made his decision and no power on earth could influence him.

Q. I see. You mean that Goering was opposed to a war with the Soviet Union, because he thought it impracticable while Germany was at war with England, and he wanted to prevent war on two fronts?

A. From a purely military point of view, yes, and I believe that if war had been avoided at that time, it would not have come about later.

Q. And you seriously maintain that it is possible to talk about a preventive war so far ahead, and at the same time to work out the Barbarossa Plan and all the directives to implement it? Do you seriously believe in the preventive character of such a war?

A. I do not understand the meaning of the question?

Q. Do you think one could give out that the Soviet Union was going to attack Germany, and at the same time work out an aggressive plan against the Soviet Union, and this already in December 1940, as appears from the dates of the official documents?

A. As I understand it, Hitler expecting an attack by Russia, if he really expected it, said that he had to meet a Russian invasion by a preventive war. This, however, has nothing to do with the opinion for which I have been asked here. Speaking for myself, I did not unreservedly hold the view that Russia would invade us. Without being able to judge the situation as a whole, I personally believed that Russia in her own interest, which I tried to visualize, would not do this.

Q. I understand. I should like to put a few questions to you with regard to the prisoners of war. The employment of prisoners of war, especially from the Soviet Union, on work in the aircraft industry has already been mentioned here.

A. Yes.

Q. What is your attitude to employing prisoners of war on work against their own country? What do you think of that?

A. It is, of course, not a nice thing, but so far as I know this has also been done with our prisoners of war in all the other countries.

Q. I am talking of Germany now. You say it is an ugly thing. Is that not a rather mild way of putting it?

A. It depends upon what the others do. All laws of warfare are based on reciprocity, as long as there is any reciprocity.

Q. I should like you to answer my question. What was the German High Command's attitude to this kind of employment? Do you consider that by this employment the regulations of International Law were being violated?

[Page 307]

A. This is a moot point which even now is not clear to me. I only know that orders were given to employ them, and in the struggle for our very existence, to use these men as well as women.

Q. Do you consider this to be a legitimate order?

A. I cannot judge that; that depends upon conditions and as I said, upon reciprocity.

DR. LATERNSER (counsel for the General Staff and the OKW): Mr. President, I ask to have this question and answer deleted from the record. The witness has been asked to give a legal opinion, and it is not for him to do so, and since the question is not admissible, the answer, too should be deleted.

THE PRESIDENT: General Rudenko?

GENERAL RUDENKO: I should like to say I did not realize that the witness did not know whether or not this was a violation of International Law. I had every reason to believe that the witness was competent to answer this question because, at the beginning of his statement today and on Friday, he mentioned the ten rules of International Law as known to the German soldiers. I thought, therefore, the witness could answer the question concerning a violation of these rules by the OKW.

As to the question of employment of prisoners of war - if the Tribunal considers this question to be inadmissible, I will of course withdraw it.

THE PRESIDENT: The question might have been framed differently, as to whether it was not a breach of the rules set out in the soldier's pay book. However, as to International Law, that is one of the matters which the Tribunal has got to decide, and upon that, of course, we do not wish the evidence of witnesses.


I still have two questions to put to this witness.

THE PRESIDENT: We wanted to rise at half-past four. If it is your intention to ask some more questions, perhaps we had better rise now, or have you finished?

GENERAL RUDENKO: We had better call a recess now, because I still have a few questions to put to this witness.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 12th March, 1946, at 1000 hours.)

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