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-Seventh Day: Thursday, 21st March, 1946
(Part 1 of 10)

[Page 289]



Q. Witness, do you remember telling me last night that the only prisoners of war handed over to the police were those guilty of crimes or misdemeanours?

A. I did not express myself that way. I said if the police apprehended prisoners of war they were those who committed a crime during the escape, and as far as I know those who were detained by the police were not returned to the camp. To what extent the police kept prisoners of war, without returning them to a camp, I was able to gather from interrogations and explanations here.

Q. Would you look at Document D-569? Would you look first at the top left-hand corner, which shows that it is a document published by the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht?

A. The document which I have before me has the following at the top left-hand corner: The Reichsfuehrer S.S. and the Inspector of Concentration Camps ...

Q. It is a document dated 22nd November, 1941. Have you got it?

A. Yes, I have it now.

Q. Now, look at the left-hand bottom corner, as to distribution. The second person to whom it is distributed is the Air Ministry and Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force on 22nd November, 1941. That would be you.

A. That is correct. I would like to make the following statement in connection with this ...

Q. Just for a moment I would like you to study the document and then make your statement upon it. I shall not stop you. I want you to look at the third sentence in paragraph one. This deals with Soviet prisoners of war, you understand. The third sentence says: "If escaped Soviet prisoners of war are returned to the camp in accordance with this order, they have to be handed over to the nearest service station of the Secret State Police."

"In any case" - and then paragraph 2 deals with the special position - "if they commit crimes, owing to the fact that at present these misdemeanours on the part of Soviet prisoners of war are particularly frequent, due most likely to living conditions still being somewhat unsettled, the following temporary regulations come into force. They may be amended later. If a Soviet prisoner of war commits any other punishable offence, then the commandant of the camp must hand the guilty man over to the head of the Security Police."

Do I understand this document to say that a man who escapes will be handed over to the Security Police? You understand this document says a man who escapes will be handed over to the Secret Police, a man who commits a crime, as you mentioned, will be handed over to the Security Police. Were not those the conditions that obtained from 1941 up to the date we are dealing with in March, 1944?

A. I would like to read the few preceding paragraphs so that no sentences will be torn from their context.


My Lord, while the witness is reading the document, might I go over the technical matter of the arrangement of exhibits? When I cross-examined Field-Marshal Kesselring I put in three documents, UK-66, which becomes Exhibit

[Page 290]

GB 274; D-39, which becomes GB 275; and TC-91, which becomes GB 276; so this document will become GB 277.

Q. Have you had an opportunity of reading it, Witness?

A. Yes, I have.

Q. Then I am right, am I not, in saying that the Soviet prisoners of war who escaped were to be, after their return to the camp, handed over to the Secret State Police? If they committed a crime they were to be handed over to the Security Police, is not that right?

A. Not exactly correct. I would like to point to the third sentence in the first paragraph. There it says, "If a prisoner-of-war camp is in the vicinity then the man who is recaptured is to be transported there."

Q. But read the next sentence, "If a Soviet prisoner of war is returned to the camp" - that is in accordance with this order which you have just read - "he has to be handed over to the nearest service station of the Secret State Police." Your own sentence.

A. Yes, but the second paragraph which follows gives an explanation of frequent criminal acts of Soviet prisoners of war, etc., committed at that time. You read that yourself, that is also related to this paragraph, No. 1, but this was a separate order and it was distributed to the Army, the Air Force and the Navy. I would like to give the explanation as to its distribution. In this war there were not only hundreds but thousands of current orders which were issued by superiors to subordinate officers and were transmitted to various departments. That does not mean that each of these thousands of orders was submitted to the Commander-in-Chief; only the most decisive and most important were shown to him. The others went from department to department. Thus it is that this order from the Chief of the High Command was signed by a subordinate department and not by the Chief of the High Command himself.

Q. This order would be dealt with by your Prisoner-of-War Department in your Ministry, would it not?

A. This department, according to the procedure adopted for these orders, received the order, but no other department received it.

Q. I think the answer to my question must be "Yes." It would be dealt with by the Prisoner-of-War Department - your Ministry. Is not that so?

A. I would say yes.

Q. It is quicker, you see, if you say "Yes" in the beginning; do you understand?

A. No; it depends upon whether I personally have read the order or not, and I will then decide about my responsibility.

Q. Well now, the escape ...

THE PRESIDENT: You were not asked about responsibility; you were asked whether it would be dealt with by your Prisoner- of-War Department.


Q. Now, the escape about which I am asking you took place on the night of 24th to 25th March. I want you to have that date in mind. The decision to murder these young officers must have been taken very quickly, because the first murder which actually took place was on 26th March. Do you agree with that? It must have been taken quickly?

A. I assume that this order, as I was informed later, was given immediately, but it had no connection with this document.

Q. No, no; we are finished with that document; we are going into the murder of these young men. The Grossfahndung - a general hue and cry, I think, would be the British translation - was also issued at once in order that these men should be arrested; is not that so?

A. That is correct. Whenever there was an escape and such a large number of prisoners escaped, automatically in the whole Reich a hue and cry was raised, that is, all offices had to be on the lookout to recapture the prisoners.

[Page 291]

Q. So that in order to give this order to murder these men, and for the Grossfahndung, there must have been a meeting of Hitler, at any rate with Himmler or Kaltenbrunner, in order that that order would be put into effect; is not that so?

A. That is correct. According to what I heard, Himmler was the first to report this escape to the Fuehrer.

Q. Now, General Westhoff, who was in defendant Keitel's Kriegsgefangenenwesen, in his prisoner-of-war organisation, says this, "On a date, which I think was 26th March, Keitel said to him, 'This morning Goering reproached me in the presence of Himmler for having let some more prisoners of war escape. It was unheard of.'" Do you say that General Westhoff is wrong?

A. Yes. This is not in accordance with the fact. General Westhoff is referring to a statement of General Field- Marshal Keitel. This utterance in itself is illogical, for I could not accuse Keitel because he did not draw my attention to it. The guarding was his responsibility and not mine.

Q. One of the defendant Keitel's officers dealing with this matter was a general inspector, General Rottich. I do not know if you know him.

A. No.

Q. Well, General Westhoff, as one could understand, is very anxious to assure everyone that his senior officer had nothing to do with it, and he goes on to say this about General Rottich:

"He was completely excluded from it by the fact that these matters were taken out of his hands. Apparently at that conference with the Fuehrer in the morning, that is to say, the conference between Himmler, Field-Marshal Keitel, and Goering, which took place in the Fuehrer's presence, the Fuehrer himself always took a hand in these affairs when officers escaped."
You say that is wrong? You were at no such conference?

A. I was not present at this conference, neither was General Westhoff; he is giving a purely subjective view, not a factual report.

Q. So that we find that - you think - Westhoff is wrong? You see, Westhoff - he was a Colonel at this time, I think, and now a Major-General Westhoff asks that the senior officers be questioned about it, and he says this: "It should be possible to find out whether Himmler made the suggestion to the Fuehrer or to find that out from Goering, who was present at the conference." Again and again Westhoff, who after all is a comparatively junior officer, is saying that the truth about this matter can be discovered from his seniors. You say that it cannot?

A. I would not say that; I would just like to say that General Westhoff was never present for even a moment, therefore he cannot say "I know" or "I saw that Reichsmarshal Goering was present." He is assuming this, or he may have heard it.

Q. What he says is, you know, that Keitel blamed him, as I have read to you; that Keitel went on to say to him at General von Gravenitz's, "Gentlemen, the escapes must stop. We must set an example. We shall take very severe measures. I am only telling you that, that men who have escaped will be shot; probably the majority of them are dead already." You never heard anything of that?

A. I was neither present at the conversation - Keitel- Westhoff-Gravenitz - nor at the conversation - Fuehrer- Himmler. As far as I know General Westhoff will be testifying here. Moreover, General Field-Marshal Keitel will be able to say whether I was there or not.

Q. Well then, I am bound to put this to you. I come on to your own Ministry. I suppose in general you take responsibility for the actions of the

[Page 292]

officers of your Ministry from the rank of field officer and above? - colonels and major-generals and lieutenant- generals?

A. If they acted according to my directives and my instructions, yes; if they acted against my directives and instructions, no.

Q. Well now, just let us see what happened in your own Ministry. Do you know that Colonel Walde made a personal investigation of this matter at the camp? Did you know that?

A. The particulars about this investigation, as I explained yesterday, are unknown to me; I know only that investigations did take place.

Q. Now, on 27th March, that was a Monday, did you know that there was a meeting in Berlin about this matter? Just let me tell you who were there before you apply your mind to it, so that you will know; Your Ministry was represented by Colonel Walde, because Lieutenant-General Grosch had another meeting, so he ordered his deputy to attend; the defendant Keitel's organisation was represented by Colonel von Reurmont; the Gestapo was represented by Gruppenfuehrer Muller; the Kripo was represented by Gruppenfuehrer Nebe. Now, all these officers were of course not on the policy level, but they were high executive officers who had to deal with the actual facts that were carried out, were they not?

A. They were not executive officers, in so far as it had not been definitely established that executive powers are within an officer's province. To the first question, whether I knew about this meeting, I would say no. Colonel Walde I do not even know personally.

Q. You mean to say, you are telling the Tribunal, that you were never told about this meeting at any time?

A. Yes, I am saying that.

Q. I just want you to look at - let him have Walde's statement - I want you to look at the statement of one of the officers of your own Ministry on this. point. This is a statement made by Oberst Ernst Walde, and - I am sorry I have not another German copy, but I will get one in due course-and in my copy, witness, it is at the foot of Page 2, the beginning of the paragraph which I want you to look at is as follows:

"As recaptured prisoners were not to be taken back to their camp, according to an order issued several weeks previously" - can you find it?
A. Where can I find that?

Q. Well, in the English version it is at the middle of the second page, and I want to ask you about the middle of that paragraph. I do not know if you see a name - it stands out in my copy - Major Dr. Huehnemorder; do you see that?

A. Yes, I have found it.

Q. Well, it is the sentence after the name Major Dr. Huehnemorder appears "On this Monday"-have you got that?

A. Yes.

Q. Thank you.

"On this Monday a conference took place at the Security Headquarters (Reichssicherheitshauptamt) at Berlin, Albrechtsstrasse. As far as I remember this conference had been called by the Director of Prisoners of War, O.K.W., Kriegsgefangenenwesen, and I attended as representative of 'Luftwaffe Inspektion 17,' since General Grosch was unable to attend in person, for reasons which I cannot remember; the Director of Prisoners of War, as far as I know, was represented by Oberst von Reurmont, while, the Security Office was represented by Gruppenfuehrer Muller and Gruppenfuehrer Nebe, the Chief of the Kriminalpolizei at that time. I find it impossible to give a verbatim account of the conversation or to state what

[Page 293]

was said by every single person. But I remember this much: that we were informed about a conference which had taken place on the previous day, that is Sunday, at the Fuehrer's Headquarters in connection with the mass escape from Sagan, in the course of which heated discussions had taken place between the participants. In this connection the names of Himmler, Goering and Keitel were mentioned. Whether Ribbentrop's name was also mentioned I do not remember. The Fuehrer was not mentioned. At this conference appropriate measures were said to have been discussed, or taken, to check any such mass escapes in future. The nature of these measures was not disclosed. Later and more or less in conclusion Gruppenfuehrer Muller declared that requisite orders had already been given and put into effect the previous morning. Regarding the search for escaped prisoners (Grossfahndung) he could or would not make any statement; he merely declared that according to reports so far received, shootings had taken place at some points for attempted escapes. I think he said that the number was ten or fifteen.

After these remarks by Gruppenfuehrer Muller, which unmistakably caused a shattering effect, it became clear to me that a decision had been made by the highest authority, and that therefore any intervention by subordinate departments was impossible and pointless."

Now, this was announced at a meeting of persons that I would call executives, that the shooting had already begun. Are you telling this Tribunal that this matter was made clear to these executives, including one of your own officers, and was never told to you? Are you still saying that?

A. I am still saying that. Firstly, that I have never heard anything about this conference. Secondly, that the officer in question is only surmising when he mentions the names. And thirdly, I would like to ask you also to mention the beginning of this statement, which is as follows:

"In this matter of the mass escape of British officers from prisoner-of-war camp No. 3, at Sagan on 24th or 25th March, 1944, I make the following statement:

'I have to point out that in view of the absence of any documents, I am forced to reconstruct entirely from memory events which happened almost a year and nine months ago. I therefore ask that this fact and the possibility thus arising of my making a mistake be taken into consideration, and that due allowances be made.'"

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