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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
12th March to 22nd March, 1946

Eightieth Day: Wednesday, 13th March, 1946
(Part 5 of 10)

[Sir David Maxwell Fyfe continues his cross examination of Field-Marshal Albert Kesselring]

[Page 53]

Q. And you in turn issued an order on l7th June, 1944, when you were commanding in Italy? Do you remember that? I will show you in one moment, if I can get the German copy out of the file. I will just read a short passage again so that the Tribunal will have it in mind; but, Witness, please refer to any other passage because I want to give a fair impression of the order:
"(1) The Partisan situation in the Italian theatre, particularly central, Italy, has recently deteriorated to such an extent that it constitutes a serious danger to the fighting troops and their supply lines as well as to the war industry and economic potential. The fight against the Partisans

[Page 54]

must be carried on with all means at our disposal and with the utmost severity. I will protect any commander who exceeds our usual restraint in the choice of severity of the methods he adopts against Partisans. In this connection the old principle holds good that a mistake in the choice of methods in executing one's orders is better than failure or neglect to act."
Do you remember that, Witness?

A. Yes, I remember that order.

Q. Do you remember three days later, so that there will be no mistake as to what you meant, that you issued this further one, another "top secret" order; reading the third line after saying, "The announcement does not represent an empty threat," you say:

"It is the duty of all troops and police in my command to adopt the severest measures. Every act of violence committed by Partisans must be punished immediately. Reports submitted must also give details of counter- measures taken. Wherever there is evidence of considerable numbers of Partisan groups a proportion of the male population of the area will be arrested, and in the event of an act of violence being committed these men will be shot."
Now, I want to take only two examples, Witness, of the way that that was carried out. You remember when one of your officers, Colonel von Gablenz, was captured by Partisans; do you remember?

A. General von Gablenz?

Q. I think he was a colonel at this stage, it was 26th June, just after your order. You remember Colonel von Gablenz being captured, do you?

A. No.

Q. He was a colonel of the lines of communication; not a very important officer, but still a colonel.

A. Yes, I remember.

Q. Now, just look at these two documents. Is this right? - this is an extract from the daily situation report by the Commander-in-Chief of South-west Italy for 26th June.

"Partisan situation. North of Arezzo, Colonel von Gablenz, a member of the staff of the officer commanding lines of communication, area Tenth Army, was captured by bandits. The entire male population of the villages on the stretch of road concerned was taken into custody."
It was further announced that all these hostages would be shot, if the captured colonel were not set free within 48 hours. Remember that?

A. Not in detail, but in general -

Q. No, no, but do you remember the incident?

A. Yes.

Q. Look at the next bit, which is the two-day situation report, the report for two days later, 28th June, the second paragraph:

"As reprisal for the capture of Colonel Freiherr von Gablenz, so far 560 persons, including 250 men, have been taken into custody."
Is that your conception of what is meant by "steps necessary to deal with Partisan warfare," that 410 women and children should be taken into custody?

A. That was not necessary, but in connection with this I may -

Q. Let us take one other example. You remember Civitella? You remember what was done at Civitella by your forces, do you not?

A. At the moment, no.

Q. Well, just let me remind you what was done at Civitella - that was on 18th June, one day after your order:

[Page 55]

"Two German soldiers were killed and a third wounded in a fight with Partisans in the village of Civitella. Fearing reprisals, the inhabitants evacuated the village, but when the Germans discovered this, punitive action was postponed. On 29th June" - that, you will remember, Witness, was nine days after your proclamation to reinforce your order - "when the local inhabitants were returned and were feeling secure once more, the Germans carried out a well-organised reprisal, combing the neighbourhood. Innocent inhabitants were often shot on sight. During that day, 212 men, women and children in the immediate district were killed. Some of the dead women were found completely naked. In the course of investigations, a nominal roll of the dead has been compiled and is complete with the exception of a few names whose bodies could not be identified. Ages of the dead ranged from one year to 84 years. Approximately one hundred houses were destroyed by fire. Some of the victims were burned alive in their homes."
That is the report of the United Nations War Crimes Commission on the incident. Now, Witness, do you really think that military necessity commands the killing of babies of one and people of 84?

A. No.

Q. Well now, I just want to acquaint you with one subject which you have dealt with yourself, that is the position of the Hermann Goering Division. You mentioned one of the persons I have in mind, but let me, in order to make it clear to the Tribunal, just get clear who were your officers at that time.

Did General Vietinghoff - I am sorry, I think it was von Vietinghoff - did he command the 10th Army?

A. Yes.

Q. In 1944?

A. Yes.

Q. Was he directly under your orders?

A. Yes, he was under my command.

Q. Then I take it he is a fairly senior and responsible General? - I do not know his exact rank - full General or -

A. Full General.

Q. And under him was the 76th Corps, was it not, commanded by General Herr; is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. And under General Herr was a Hermann Goering Division, commanded by General Schmalz, whom you mentioned this morning; is that right?

A. General von Schmalz commanded, but previously I mentioned another name.

Q. I think it was Schmalz at this time. Now, the Hermann Goering Division had been concerned in a number of these - I call them incidents; what I mean by incidents is the sort of thing which I have been describing at Civitella. Let me remind you of one or two. Do you remember at Stia, on 13th to 18th April, 137 civilians were killed, including 45 women and children; do you remember that incident? Civitella, that was on 29th June. And do you remember Buchini on 7th and 9th July; do you remember an incident at Buchini?

A. It is possible, but I would have to study the details first.

Q. Perhaps you will remember this; I will put it to you generally, Witness, because it is a perfectly general course of conduct, and there were a number of these incidents in which the Hermann Goering Division was engaged. Do you remember that?

A. There were many incidents like that on both sides, and I would first have to study the exact details of the question.

[Page 56]

Q. Well, this is what I really want you to apply your mind to. Is it correct that the Hermann Goering Division was only under General Herr and General von Vietinghoff for tactical purposes, and reported each day to Berlin to Reichsmarschall Goering as to what they were doing?

A. The Hermann Goering Division was under the General Command of the Army for tactical purposes, and I must assume that subordination under the General Command of the Army actually did exist. Whether there were any matters operating outside that, I do not know.

Q. I will put the words exactly, and you can see where I have got the words from the way I put them:

"The First Airborne Divisions and the Hermann Goering Division, came under the Army Commanders only as regards tactics; for all other questions, on the other hand, directly under the Reichsmarschall, to whom they had to send daily reports. They were not permitted to receive orders from the Army Commanders concerning criminal proceedings, nor to report the results of such proceedings. Thus they carried on the war against guerrillas according to principles which to some extent deviated from those of the Army."
Is that a correct statement?

A. That conception is correct, but the point is, perhaps, that the expression "tactics" can, of course, be understood in a somewhat wider or narrower sense.

Q. The word what?

A. Tactics. That this tactical subordination can be understood either in a wider or a narrower sense.

Q. Witness, that is why I read the whole thing to you, because it is quite clear what the person's statement I am reading means there, is it not? He says that they were not permitted to receive orders from the Army Commanders on criminal proceedings or to report the results, and that they carried on the war against guerrillas according to principles which deviated from those of General von Vietinghoff, did they not?

A. This is the first time that I have heard of this, but if another officer has said so then I must assume it is correct.

Q. Well, are you sure it is the first time that you have heard about it? It is very difficult to remember every incident. Please do not think that I want to be offensive, but I want you to try to remember. Did not General Herr make numerous complaints to you about this anomalous position with regard to the Hermann Goering Division, and did you never give any official reply to General Herr's reports?

A. There were certainly not a number of reports from General Herr. There may have been verbal consultations.

Q. In your command post?

A. Yes. May I add once more that such definitions of attitude were in existence within the army group. With regard to the case concerned, I must add that I do not know whether this sector came under the heading "tactics" or belonged to another function.

Q. Well, I am not really putting the point to you quite clearly. What I am suggesting is this. If you disagree with "numerous," will you accept "some," that one some occasions General Herr reported to you that he was in difficulties through this anomalous position of the Hermann Goering Division?

A. That I can assume.

Q. Your Chief of Staff at this time was General Rottiger, was he not?

A. Yes.

Q. From 10th June onwards? About this time did not General Rottiger also talk to you about the position of the Hermann Goering Division being under the special protection of Reichsmarschall Goering in Berlin?

[Page 57]

A. Yes. We discussed that subject quite a lot.Q. Well, as far as the particular incident, in which the Hermann Goering Division was involved, is concerned, they took their orders from the defendant Goering, who is sitting in the dock, did they not, as to how they were treat the Partisans?

A. I could not tell you that. Those channels by-passed me.

Q. Yes. They by-passed you; they by-passed General Herr, they by-passed Vietinghoff; they by-passed you, and went straight to Berlin. That is right, is it not?

A. Yes certainly. That was the separate channel which applied to the S.S. and to the Hermann Goring Division.

Q. Yes. You see, at the moment the Tribunal is dealing with the case of the defendant Goering. That is why I ask you these questions.

Now, just one or two short points. You remember Dr. Laternser asking you one or two questions about the High Command and the General Staff. Do you remember Dr. Laternser asking you some questions?

A. Yes, I am aware of that.

Q. Well, I just wanted to clear one part out of the way altogether. You must have realised, Witness, that the body that is mentioned in this case has nothing to do with the Staff Corps of the Germany Army. I think you made that clear yourself yesterday.

A. With what did you say?

Q. With the Staff Corps. You had, both in the Army and the Air Force, a corps of officers who had gone through the Military Academy and were Staff officers of all ranks, I suppose down to Captain, had you not?

A. The question is not quite clear to me.

Q. I am sorry. You had in both the Army and the Luftwaffe a Staff Corps of officers who had been to the Military Academy and became thereafter Staff officers. They had, I think, the right of reporting directly to the Chief of Staff if they wanted to? Is not that so? Is that right or wrong?

A. That is not correct, except, as I said yesterday, as far as education was concerned. As far as the general attitude was concerned, the General Chief of Staff had the right to influence General Staff officers directly; but the other way around, no.

Q. Well, that Corps went right down, I suppose, to Captain or Lieutenant, did it not?

A. No, to Captain.

Q. I thought that was it. May I tell you, we are not interested in that Corps at all. The prosecution are not interested in that Corps at all.

Now, With regard to the persons who are named in the Indictment: you know there are nine Commanders-in-Chief or Staff positions named, and then the Oberbefehlshaber, who commanded in certain areas or commanded certain fleets of the Luftwaffe. You have looked at that, I suppose, have you?

A. Yes.

Q. I am trying to put it shortly, Witness, so that we will not take too much time. I just want you to consider this. Are not these people who are mentioned - that is, the heads of the O.K.W., O.K.H., O.K.M., O.K.L. and their deputies and the Oberbefehlshaber - the officers in the German Armed Forces who would have had most to do with the policy and planning of wars?

A. The Supreme Commanders of the branches of the Armed Forces were, of course, the advisory organs of the Supreme Head of the State in all military-political questions. The Supreme Commanders of Army Groups had no influence whatever.

Q. Well, I should like you to take two examples. I think you were present on both occasions. Before the attack on Poland there was a meeting on 22nd August, which has been mentioned here before. Did that consist of these

[Page 58]

higher officers that I mentioned, the heads of the various branches, and also of the Oberbefehlshaber?

A. It consisted of the commanding officers of the war in that military sector.

Q. Yes. Well, at that time the sector which was going to be the subject of war was Poland. At that time the main purpose was considering the Polish campaign, was it not? The main purpose of that meeting, I suppose, was to consider the Polish campaign with the possibility of a campaign against the Western Powers if they came in?

A. About that I can give you no information. Generally speaking, we only discussed Polish questions

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