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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
4th April to 15th April, 1946

One Hundred and Fourth Day: Wednesday, 10th April, 1946
(Part 2 of 11)

[SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE continues his examination of Adolf Westhoff]

[Page 193]

Q. And is that correct; is that true?

A. There are a few things in it that are not entirely correct. For instance, on the first page there is ...

Q. Let me take it then. I will read it to you and see how far it is correct:

"I was in charge of the General Division (Abteilung Allgemein) when the shooting of the escaped R.A.F. prisoners of war from Stalag Luft 3 took place."
That is correct, is it not?

A. Here the phrase is missing, "When the shooting took place."

Q. Now:

"It was the first occasion on which Field Marshal Keitel had sent for me. I went with General von Gravenitz. He had been sent for, and I had to accompany him."
Is that right?

A. Yes.

Q. "A certain number of officers had escaped from the Sagan camp. I can't remember how many, but I believe about 80."
That is correct, too?

A. Yes.

Q. Now, the next sentence:

"When we entered, the Field Marshal was very excited and nervous and said, 'Gentlemen, this is a bad business.'"
Is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. Then

"We were always blamed. whenever prisoners of war escaped. We could not tie them to our apron strings."
That is your own comment. Then you go on as to what the Field Marshal said:
"This morning Goering reproached me in the presence of Himmler for having let some more prisoners of war escape. It was unheard of."
You go on with your comment that then they must have had a row because the camp did not come under us because it was a German Air Force camp. Is that correct - that the Field Marshal said:
"This morning Goering reproached me in the presence of Himmler for having let some more prisoners of war escape?"
A. Not in Himmler's presence, but in Hitler's presence. Hitler's presence.

Q. It ought to be in Hitler's presence?

A. Yes.

[Page 194]

Q. Now, the next sentence:
"All German Air Force camps came directly under the German Air Force itself, but the Inspector of Prisoner-of- War Camps was in charge of inspections of all camps. I was not yet an inspector at that time."
We have had all that explained. I do not think that there is any dispute about the organisation. I won't trouble you about that. We have gone into that in this Court in some detail. Unless the Tribunal wants it, I did not intend to trouble this witness again. You say:
"I was not Inspector yet. General von Gravenitz was Inspector, and all camps came under him in matters concerning the carrying out of inspections."
Then you say:
"Goering blamed Keitel for having let those men escape. These constant escapes make a bad impression. Then Himmler interfered. I can only say what the Field Marshal told us, and he complained that he had to provide another 60,000 to 70,000 men as Rural Guards (Landwache)," etc.
Is that right? Did the Field Marshal say that?

A. Yes.

Now, the second paragraph:

"Field Marshal Keitel said to us, 'Gentlemen, these escapes must stop. We must set an example. We shall take very severe measures. I can only tell you that the men who have escaped will be shot. Probably the majority of them are dead already.' Keitel said that to us at the conference."
Is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. Then you say:

"We were amazed at this conception which we had never heard of before. The affair must have happened in March. We were sent to the Field Marshal in Berlin a few days after the escape, not in regard to this affair but for some other business. We knew that the prisoners of war had escaped, and we were taken by surprise by that declaration during the conference."
Then you go on again with your account of the conference.
"General von Gravenitz objected at once and said, 'But, Sir, that's out of the question. Escape is not a dishonourable offence. That is specially laid down in the Geneva Convention.'"
Is that correct, that General von Gravenitz said these words?

A. General von Gravenitz made objections and referred to the Geneva Convention, but there is missing in this report the fact that the Field Marshal said to General von Gravenitz that this was a matter of a Fuehrer decree. That is missing here.

Q. Well, if you look at the next sentence that I was going to read to you, you say:

"He" - that is, General von Gravenitz - "raised these objections, whereupon Keitel said, 'I don't care a damn; we discussed it in the Fuehrer's presence and it cannot be altered.'"
Is that correct?

A. No. The Field Marshal said, "That is a matter of indifference to me."

I think it would be easier, General, if you told the Tribunal now, to the best of your recollection, what the Field Marshal did say after General von Gravenitz had made his objections.

[Page 195]

A. I have deposed a sworn statement to the Court on that subject, which I might perhaps read:
"Regarding the presence of General von Gravenitz and myself at the headquarters in March of 1944, Field Marshal Keitel ..."
Q. General Westhoff, the Tribunal may want that later. It would be easier if you would try to stick to this statement for the moment, whether it is right or wrong, and then we will deal with any other one later on. It is just this point, if you could direct your mind to it.

After General von Gravenitz had made his objection, as you have told us, on the ground of the Convention, what did the Field Marshal say? What did he say at that point?

If you would just try and do that, it would be a great help to us all.

A. The Field Marshal then said:

"It is now a matter of indifference; we must set an example."
Q. I thought you said that. Did he mention that there was a Fuehrer decree to that effect, or a Fuehrer order, or something of that sort. Did he mention that?

A. That he had already said at the very beginning, that this was a matter of a Fuehrer decree.

Q. In the next paragraph you point out, in this statement - and I think it is only fair to yourself to read it - it is the second sentence:

"But in this case none of our men" - that is, the men of the Wehrmacht - "had shot any of the prisoners of war. I made inquiries at once."
Then you say:
"None of them had been shot by a soldier, but by Gestapo men only or else police guards. That proves that probably Himmler made the suggestion to the Fuehrer, although I don't know how they arranged it. However, it should be possible to find that out from Goering who was present at the conference. Naturally, I don't know."
Do you remember making these answers?

A. Yes.

Q. Then, you say again:

"At any rate, it is clear that none of our men shot prisoners of war, they must all have been shot by policemen."
And you point out, in the last sentence:
"But in this particular case only those caught by our people were brought back to the camp - that is, those caught by soldiers."
Now, in the next paragraph you say that you had no authority to give the police orders, and you repeat that the members of the Wehrmacht did not shoot any of them. And then in the third sentence you say:
"I had a report sent to me at once, and told General von Gravenitz, 'Sir, the only thing we can do is to see that no foul business is carried out as long as we are in charge.'"
Is that right? Does that correctly describe what you did, General?

A. Yes.

Q. Now you go on to say, a sentence or two later, that you were faced with a fait accompli, and then you say - after repeating General von Gravenitz' protests to Field Marshal Keitel, when he had said:

"That is quite impossible, we can't shoot any people" - "How the shooting

[Page 196]

was carried out I heard from the representative of the Protecting Power, Herr Naville, of Switzerland."
Is that right?

A. No.

Q. How did you hear of the shooting?

A. I went to the Gestapo to obtain the particulars of the shootings for the Foreign Office, but I did not receive them. The representative of Switzerland, Herr Naville, whom I had sent to the camp, on his return visited me, and it was from him that I heard all that I ever heard about this matter, namely, that apparently a prisoner of war, who had returned to the camp, had seen the escaped airmen, heavily chained and strongly guarded, driven out of the Goerlitzer Prison on a truck. That is the only thing I learned about this affair at all, and I have up to now not found out in what way these airmen were killed. The Gestapo refused to inform me of this.

Q. But it is correct that generally what information you did receive you received from the representative of the Protecting Power. I don't know if you remember whether his name was Naville or not. But it is right, isn't it?

A. I didn't understand the question.

Q. What information you did receive - you tell us that it was very little - you received from the representative of Switzerland, of the Protecting Power. Is that right?

A. Yes.

Q. Well now, I want to deal with the next bit in the statement where you tried to get in touch with the Foreign Office, and if you look down the paragraph you will see that you say:

"At any rate, we did not get any news, and so it was pointed out to the Field Marshal that such a state of affairs was impossible, that we had to get in communication with the Foreign Office. Then he emphatically stated that it was forbidden to get in touch with the Foreign Office."
Is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. I will read on, two sentences:

"Then the affair was raised in the House of Commons in England, and then a note was sent by our side. I was, quite unexpectedly, called up by Admiral Buerkner of the Foreign Section of the O.K.W. He called me up by telephone at night and said: 'The Field Marshal has given me orders to prepare an answer for England immediately. What is it all about? I don't know anything about the case.' I said: 'Herr Admiral, I am sorry, General von Gravenitz received strict orders not to talk to anyone about it.' Nothing was allowed, to be put down in writing either. Apart from that, we ourselves were faced with an accomplished fact. This order was apparently issued by Himmler and the position was such that we could do nothing more at all about it."
Is that a correct account?

A. Here again the word "Himmler" stands where the word "Hitler" should stand.

Q. That should be Hitler. Apart from that, that is correct? I mean,, in substance, is that a correct account of the conversation between Admiral Buerkner and yourself?

A. Yes.

Q. You then go on to say that Admiral Buerkner wanted you to tell him about the affair, that you only knew what the gentleman from Switzerland had told you, and that you had made various attempts to approach the Gestapo.

[Page 197]

And then, if you look at just before the end of that paragraph:
"Then the Foreign Office itself stepped into the picture and took charge of this affair. Later one of my men, Oberstleutnant Krafft, went to Berchtesgaden while I was away. At that time a note to England was to be prepared. Then when we read this note in the English newspaper we were all absolutely taken aback. We all clutched our heads, mad. We could do nothing against it."
Is that correct? Did you say that, and is that correct?

A. The matter was then turned over to the Foreign Office, and the Foreign Office was charged with drawing up a note to England. At this discussion Lieutenant-Colonel Kraft was, apparently, called in as a specialist for the Sagan case, to clarify any doubts if any were still held. However, Lieutenant-Colonel Kraft was in no way concerned with the drawing up of the note; that was purely a matter for the Foreign Office. The Foreign Office had only called him in so that, if there were still any doubts about the matter, they could be clarified on the spot.

Q. Now, General, the next part of the statement I did not intend to read unless the Tribunal wanted it, because you are making quite clear that in your opinion the General Inspector, General Roettig, had nothing to do with the affair at all. And if you accept it from me that that is the substance of the next two paragraphs, I won't trouble you with it in detail. You are making clear that General Roettig had nothing to do with it. Is that right?

A. No.

Q. Well, I am sorry. If you will look at the first sentence - I thought it represented it fairly. Look at the first sentence:

"General Inspector Roettig had nothing to do with it, nothing at all. He did not have any hand in the affair. 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."
Is that right? I only wanted to put it shortly, that you were trying to, and quite rightly, if it is true, to give your view that General Roettig had nothing to do with it. Is that right; that is, that sentence I read to you?

Did you say "yes"?

A. The General Inspector was responsible for measures to prevent escape, but had nothing to do with this matter.

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