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

Eighty-First Day: Thursday, 14th March, 1946
(Part 1 of 8)

[Page 81]



Q. Did you take part in laying down the Party Programme?

A. No. The Party Programme had been compiled and announced when I heard about the movement for the first time, and when I declared my intention of joining.

Q. What is your attitude toward these points of the Party Programme?

A. On the whole, positive. It is a matter of course that there is hardly any politically minded man who acknowledges and agrees with every point of the programme of a political Party.

Q. In addition to these generally known points of the Party Programme were there other aims which were kept secret?

A. No.

Q. Were these aims to be achieved by every means, even by illegal means?

A. Of course they were to be achieved by every means. The conception "illegal" should, perhaps, be clarified. If I aim at a revolution, then it is an illegal action for the State then in existence. If I am successful, then it becomes a fact and thereby legal. Until 1923 and the events of 9th November, I and all of us had the view that we would achieve our aim, even, if necessary, in a revolutionary manner. After this proved a failure, the Fuehrer, after his return from the fortress, decided that we should in the future proceed legally by means of a political fight, as the other Parties had done, and he prohibited any illegal action in order to avoid any setback in the activity of the Party.

Q. When and with what aims was the S.S. created?

A. The S.S. was created while I was abroad; I think it was in 1926 or 1927. Its purpose, as far as I remember, was to form, first of all, within the movement a specially picked body as a protection for the person of the Fuehrer. Originally it was extremely small.

Q. Did you at any time belong to the S. S.?

A. I never belonged to the S.S. in any way, at any time, neither actively nor passively.

Q. The assumption that you were a General in the S.S. is, therefore, incorrect?

A. Yes, absolutely incorrect.

Q. What did you understand by the expression "master race"?

A. I myself did not understand anything by that expression. In none of my speeches, in none of my writings, will you find it. It is my view that, if you are a master, you do not have to emphasise it.

Q. What do you understand by "living space"?

A. That conception is a very controversial one. I can fully understand that Powers - I refer only to the four signatory Powers - who call more than three-quarters of the world their own explain this concept differently. But for us, where 144 people live in one square kilometre, the words "living space" meant the proper relation between a population and its nourishment, its growth and its standard of living.

Q. A concept which is always arising is that of "accession to power."

[Page 82]

A. I should like to call "accession to power" a terminus technicus. We might just as well have used another phrase, but this one actually expresses as clearly as possible what actually did occur, that is to say, that we got hold of power.

Q. What is your attitude to the leadership principle?

A. I upheld this principle and I still uphold it positively and consciously. One must not make the mistake of forgetting that the political structure in different countries has different origins, different developments. Something, which suits one country extremely well would, perhaps, fail completely in, another. Germany, through the long centuries of the monarchy, has always had a leadership principle. Democracy appeared in Germany at a time when Germany was very badly off and had reached rock-bottom. I explained yesterday the total lack of unity that existed in Germany: the number of Parties, continuous disquiet caused by elections. In that connection a complete distortion of the concepts of authority and responsibility had arisen, and, indeed, had moved in the opposite direction. The authority was with the masses and responsibility was with the leader, instead of the opposite. I am of the opinion that for Germany, particularly at that moment of its lowest existence when it was necessary that all forces be welded together in a positive fashion, the leadership principle, that is, authority from above and responsibility from below, was the only possibility. Naturally I realise the fact that here, too, a principle that of itself is thoroughly sound can lead to extremes. I should like to mention, some parallels: The position of the Catholic Church rests now, as before, on the clear leadership principle of its hierarchy. And I think I can also say that, Russia, too, could not, without the leadership principle, have survived the great burden which was imposed on her by this war.

Q. The measures for strengthening your power which you described yesterday, did they take place in full agreement with Reichspresident von Hindenburg? A. As long as the Reichspresident was alive, and therefore active, they naturally did take place in agreement with him, and as far as his assent was constitutionally necessary, as in paragraph 48, that assent was also given.

Q. Was the National Socialist Government recognised by foreign Powers?

A. Our Government was recognised from the first day of its existence and remained recognised until the end, that is, except where hostilities caused diplomatic connections with separate States to be severed.

Q. Did diplomatic representatives of foreign countries visit your Party rallies in Nuremberg?

A. The diplomatic representatives were invited to the Party rallies, these being the greatest event and the greatest demonstration of the movement; and they all attended, even if not all of them attended every year. But one I remember very well.

Q. Up to what year did they attend?

A. Until the last Party rally, 1938.

Q. To what extent after the accession to power was the property of political opponents confiscated?

A. Laws were issued which decreed confiscation of the property of people hostile to the State, that is, property of parties we declared to be hostile to the State. The Party property of the Communist Party and of associated units - the property of the Social Democratic Party was confiscated - but not, and I want to emphasise that, the private property of the members or even of the leaders of these Parties. On the contrary, a number of leading Social Democrats who had been Ministers or civil servants were still paid their full pension. In fact, later on it was increased.

Q. How do you explain the actions against the trade unions? How do you explain the actions against free workers' associations?

[Page 83]

A. First of all, the trade unions: The important point about trade unions in Germany is that they were very closely connected with the Social Democratic Party, and also, to an increasing extent, with the Communist Party, because of the influence and the activity of the latter. They were in fact, if not in form, organs - indeed, very active organs of these Parties. I am not referring to the masses of the members of the trade unions, but to the leadership group of the trade unions. In addition there was also a smaller Christian trade union, an organ of the Centre Party.

These trade unions, because of their leaders and the close connection of these leaders with those Parties which we regarded as our opponents, were so much in sympathy with our opponents that they did not in any way fit into our new State. Consequently the organisation of trade unions was dissolved, and for the workers the organisation of the German Labour Front was created. This did not result in the destruction of the liberty of the German worker, in my opinion; on the contrary, I am convinced that we were the ones to give the German worker real freedom, for above all we made his right to work secure, and laid particular stress on his position in the State.

We did, of course, do away with two things which perhaps must be regarded as two characteristics of a freedom which I do not understand: strike on one side and lock-out on the other. These could not be consistent with the right to work nor with the duties which every citizen has towards the greatness of his nation. These two disquieting elements, which also contributed to the great number of unemployed, we removed and replaced with an enormous labour programme.

Creation of work was another essential point. Our social programme has also been adopted by others, though under a different name.

I do not propose to elaborate on this social programme.

But it was for the first time that the worker got the right to a holiday, and a paid holiday at that. Great recreation centres were created for the workers. Enormous sums were invested in new housing projects for them. Their whole living standard was raised. Up to then he had been used and exploited; he had hardly any property of his own because, during years of unemployment, he had had to sell everything or pawn it. Thus, without going into detail, I should like to say in conclusion that we did not destroy free workers but rather we liberated the worker from the misery of unemployment.

Q. You talked about the Roehm revolt yesterday. Who was Roehm and of what did the revolt consist?

A. Roehm since 1931 had been the Chief-of-Staff of the S.A., that is to say, he was responsible for the S.A. to the Fuehrer, who was himself the highest S.A. leader, and he led it in the Fuehrer's name.

The main controversy between Roehm and us was that Roehm, like his predecessor Pfeffer, wanted a revolution, whereas the Fuehrer, as I said earlier, had ordered lawfully conducted elections, in which a final victory could be expected.

After the accession to power Roehm desired, under all circumstances, to get into his hands the Reich Defence Ministry. The Fuehrer refused that point- blank, since he did not wish the Armed Forces in any way to be run on political lines, or to have any political influence brought to bear on them.

The contrast between the Armed Forces and the Roehm group - I do not mean between the Armed Forces and the S.A., since there was none - was merely in regard to the leadership group, which called itself at that time the S.A. leadership and which actually was that. Roehm wanted to remove the greater number of the Generals and higher officers who had been members of the German Armed Forces all this time, since it was his view that these officers did not offer a guarantee for the new State, because, as he expressed it, their

[Page 84]

backbone had been broken in the course of the years and they were no longer capable of being active elements of the new National Socialist State.

The Fuehrer, and I also, had an exactly opposite point of view on the subject.

Secondly, the aims of the Roehm-minded people, as I should like to call them, were directed in a different direction, towards revolutionary methods, and they were opposed to what we called reaction. They definitely desired to adopt a more Leftist attitude. They were also sharply opposed to the Church and also very strongly to the Jews. They did, at any rate, so far as a certain clique is concerned, want to gain their ends by revolutionary methods. It is well known that Roehm placed all his own people in leading positions in the S.A., and removed the decent elements.

If plots occurred at that time they always involved the same persons, first of all the Berlin S.A. Leader Ernst, secondly the Breslau Leader Heines, the Munich and Stettin Leaders, etc. A few weeks before the Roehm Putsch a low-ranking S.A. leader confided in me that he had heard that an action against the Fuehrer and his corps was being planned, in order that the Third Reich could most expeditiously be replaced by the final Fourth Reich, an expression which these people used.

I myself was urged and begged not only to place outside my house guards from a police regiment, but also to appoint an S.A. guard of honour. I had agreed and later on I heard from the commander of these troops that the purpose of that guard of honour was to arrest me at a given moment.

I knew Roehm very well. I had him brought to me. I put to him openly the things which I had heard. I reminded him of our mutual fight and I asked him unconditionally to keep faith with the Fuehrer. He raised the same arguments as I have just mentioned, but he assured me that, of course, he was not thinking of undertaking anything against the Fuehrer. Shortly afterwards I received further news to the effect that he had close connections with those circles that were strongly opposed to us. There was, for instance, the group around the former Reich Chancellor Schleicher. There was the group around Gregor Strasser, the former member of the Reichstag and organisational leader of the Party, who had been excluded from the Party. These were groups which had belonged to the former trade unions and were rather Leftist- minded. I felt it my duty to consult the Fuehrer on this subject. I was astonished when he told me that he, too, already knew about these things and considered them a great threat. He said that he wished, however, to await further developments and watch them carefully.

The next event occurred just as the witness Koerner described it here and therefore I can omit it. I was given the order to proceed immediately against those men of the Roehm group in Northern Germany. It was decided that some of them were to be arrested. In the course of the day the Fuehrer ordered the execution of the S.A. leader of Pomerania, Ernst, and two or three others. He himself went to Bavaria, where the last meeting of a number of Roehm leaders was taking place, and personally arrested Roehm and these people in Wiessee.

At that time this matter presented a real threat since a few S.A. units, through the use of false passwords, had already been armed and called up. At one spot only a very short fight ensued and two S.A. leaders were shot. I ordered the police, which in Prussia was then under Himmler and Heydrich, to make the arrests. When the headquarters of the S.A. leader Ernst in Berlin were searched we found in the cellars of these headquarters more tommy guns than the whole Prussian Police had in its possession.

After the Fuehrer had ordered, on the strength of the events which had been met with at Wiessee, who should be shot in view of the national state of emergency, the order for the execution of Ernst, Heidebrecht and some of the other Roehm collaborators was issued. There was no order to shoot the other

[Page 85]

people who had been arrested. In the course of the arrest of the former Reich Chancellor Schleicher, it happened that both he and his wife were killed. An investigation of this event took place and it was found that when Schleicher was arrested, according to the statements of the two witnesses, he reached for a pistol, possibly in order to kill himself, whereupon the two men raised their pistols and Mrs. Schleicher threw herself upon one of them to hold him, causing his revolver to go off.

We deeply regretted that event.

In the course of that evening I heard that other people had been shot as well, even some people who had nothing at all to do with this Roehm revolt. The Fuehrer came to Berlin that same evening. I learned this later that evening or night, and went to him at noon the next day, and asked him to issue an order immediately that any further execution was, under any circumstances, forbidden by him, although two other people who were very much involved and who had been ordered to be executed were still alive. These people were, in fact, left alive. I asked him to do that because I was worried that the matter would get out of hand as, in fact, it had already done to some extent, and I told the Fuehrer that under no circumstances should there be any further bloodshed.

As a consequence this order was given by the Fuehrer in my presence, and it was communicated at once to all officers. The action was then announced in the Reichstag, and it was approved by the Reichstag and the Reichspresident as an action called for by the national state of emergency. It was regretted that, as in all such incidents, there were a number of blunders.

The number of victims has been greatly exaggerated. As far as I can remember exactly to-day, there were about seventy- two people, the majority of whom were executed in Southern Germany.

[ Previous | Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.