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 Sixth Day: Friday, 12th April, 1946
(Part 8 of 12)

[COLONEL AMEN continues his cross examination of Ernst Kaltenbrunner]

[Page 306]

Q. Were you acquainted with S.S. Colonel Ziereis, the same person we have just been speaking of?

A. Yes.

Q. And were you acquainted with Kurt Becher or Becker, a former colonel in the S.S.?

A. No.

Q. I ask to have the defendant shown Document 3762-PS, which will become Exhibit USA 798.

A. You asked, Sir, whether I knew Colonel Becker, and I answered "No," but the man is Kurt Becher.

Q. That's all the better. You do know him then, do you?

A. I know him, yes.

Q. Very good.

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Amen, have these documents been translated into all languages?

COLONEL AMEN: I believe they have, every one of them, yes. No, I am told that not all of them have; some of them have. This one is in English and German, your Lordship. We did not have time to get them translated into the Russian and French, although it is now in process.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, then it will be done?

COLONEL AMEN: Yes, sir, it is being done, yes.


BY THE DEFENDANT: May I reply to it?

THE PRESIDENT: In order that the record should be properly complete, the Tribunal would like the prosecution to state when the translation has been done, so that the matter should be thoroughly in order.

COLONEL AMEN: Precisely.

Q. Defendant, we will now read this document together:

"I, Kurt Becher, formerly a colonel in the S.S., born 12th September, 1900, at Hamburg, declare the following under oath:

Between the middle of September and the middle of October, 1944, I caused the Reichsfuehrer S.S. Himmler to issue the following order, which I received in two originals, one each for S.S. Generals Kaltenbrunner and Pohl, and a copy for myself:

By this order, which becomes immediately operative, I forbid any liquidation of Jews and order that on the contrary, care should be given to weak and sick persons. I hold you (and here Kaltenbrunner and Pohl were meant) personally responsible even if this order should not be strictly adhered to by the subordinate offices.

I personally took Pohl's copy to him and left the copy for Kaltenbrunner at his office in Berlin. In my opinion Kaltenbrunner and Pohl bear the responsibility after this date for any further killings of Jewish prisoners.

When visiting Mauthausen Concentration Camp on 27th April, 1945, at 9.00 a.m. I was told, in the strictest secrecy by the camp commandant, S.S. Colonel Ziereis, that 'Kaltenbrunner gave me the order that at least a thousand persons have still to die at Mauthausen each day.'

The facts mentioned above are true. This declaration is made by me volun-

[Page 307]

tarily and without coercion. I have read it through, signed it, and confirmed the statement with my oath.'
Is that true or false, defendant?

A. In part it is correct and in part it is not. I shall explain it sentence by sentence.

Q. No. Suppose you simply tell us what you claim to be false, because we must get on with this.

A. I quite believe that you want to save time, but this is a question of establishing my guilt or my innocence and to do that I must be given an opportunity to make a statement in detail. Otherwise neither you nor the Tribunal would know the truth, And that is what we want here, isn't it? I am glad that this witness Becher was found and that this statement is available, because it proves, firstly, that in September or October, 1944, Himmler was forced to issue this order, that same Himmler, about whom it has been established that since 1939 or 1940 he has committed the crime of killing Jews on the largest scale.

And now we must find out why in September or October Himmler had given such an order. Before I had seen this document I stated yesterday and today that this order was issued by Hitler through my intervention, and obviously this order from Himmler is based on another order which he received from Hitler.

Secondly, it is clear to me that Himmler gave such an order to Pohl as the person responsible for the concentration camps in which Jews were kept and that he gave the information to me as the person who had opposed him in this case. Where Becher is concerned, I should like to go into the question a little further.

Through this man Becher Himmler committed some of the worst possible crimes, crimes which have been exposed here. Through Becher and the Joint Committee in Hungary and Switzerland he released Jews in exchange, first, for war equipment, then, secondly, for raw material and thirdly, for foreign currency. I heard about this through the Intelligence Service and immediately attempted to stop it - not through Himmler, because there I would have failed, but through Hitler; - at the moment any personal credit Himmler might still have had with Hitler was at an end - for this action might have damaged the reputation of the Reich abroad in the most serious manner.

At the same time my efforts in connection with Burckhardt had been going on, and now you understand why the witness Schellenberg stated that Himmler had said to him: "I am alarmed now. Kaltenbrunner has got me under his thumb. This means that Kaltenbrunner has completely exposed the things I was doing in Hungary and has told Hitler about it."

This order was an attempt to camouflage the matter and to get out of the whole thing by pretending that the responsibility rested on Kaltenbrunner and Pohl. According to this document the responsibility rested on Himmler and Pohl, but, Kaltenbrunner had to be included and be told about it because otherwise he might bring the subject up with Hitler any day. That was the intention of the document.

This witness Becher is now in Nuremberg. Will you allow me to confront him here? I am quite able to prove to the world with the help of this witness that, starting with the transfer of the so-called Weiss AG. in Hungary up to that day, Himmler, Pohl and Becher, and the two committees in Hungary and Switzerland, were running this business. And I can prove how I fought against it.

There is yet another accusation in this document, that on 27th April I am supposed to have given a strictly secret order to Ziereis that a thousand Jews had to be destroyed in Mauthausen every day. I ask you to have the witness Hoettl, who is also held here, called in immediately, so that I may ask him on what day I dictated and sent by courier to Mauthausen the order that the entire camp, with all its inmates, be surrendered to the enemy. The witness will then confirm to you that this order was given several days before 27th April and that I could not have given orders to the contrary on the 27th.

[Page 308]

I ask you, sir, not to take me unawares and manoeuvre me into a position where I might go to pieces. I shall not go to pieces. I swear to you that I am determined to establish the truth.

Q. Defendant, you have heard evidence at this trial with respect to the meaning of the phrase "special treatment," have you not? Have you heard that in this court-room?

A. The expression has been used by my interrogators several times every day.

Q. You know what it means?

A. It can only be assumed, although I cannot give an accurate explanation, that this was a death sentence, not imposed by a public court but by an order of Himmler.

Q. Well, I believe the defendant Keitel testified that it was a matter of common knowledge. Have you not at all times known what was meant by special treatment? "Yes" or "No," please.

A. Yes. I have told you - an order from Himmler. I am referring to Hitler's order of 1941, therefore also an order from Himmler - that executions should be carried out without legal procedure.

Q. Did you ever discuss with Gruppenfuehrer Muller of Amt IV the application of "special treatment" to certain individuals? "Yes" or "No," please.

A. No; I know that the witness Schellenberg said -

Q. I ask to have the defendant shown Document 3839-PS, which will become Exhibit USA 799. By the way, were you acquainted with Joseph Spacil?

THE PRESIDENT: Answer the question.

Q. Were you acquainted with Joseph Spacil?

A. Spasp? No.

Q. He is the person who makes the affidavit now before you.

A. The name which is mentioned here is Joseph Spacil, and that man I know, yes.

Q. Now, will you look at the centre of the first page, a paragraph commencing "In regard to special treatment." Have you the place?

A. Not yet, no. In order to understand the document I shall have to read all of it.

Q. Well, if you have to read all these documents, defendant, we would never get through, because the first part has nothing to do with the part which I am interested in or with you.

A. I beg your pardon, sir, I am sure that you are interested in expediting this procedure, and as defendants, we are just as anxious not to delay the proceedings; but it is necessary for my defence that I should at least be allowed to read a document on which I have to make a statement.

Q. But, defendant, your lawyer is receiving copies of all these documents, and I am sure that whatever is there which should be brought out on your behalf he will see to it that it will be brought out at the proper time, which will be after I finish asking you these questions. Isn't that satisfactory?

A. No, that is not enough for me. I must know at any rate what is contained in that document, since you are asking me to make a statement on it now.

Q. Well, go ahead and read it then.

THE PRESIDENT: Defendant, not only your own counsel will look after your interests, but the Tribunal will look after your interests, and you must answer the question, please.

A. Yes.

Q. Very well. Now let's read along the centre of the page, commencing with:

"in regard to 'special treatment' I have the following knowledge:

At the meetings of the section heads, Gruppenfuehrer Muller frequently consulted Kaltenbrunner as to whether this or that case should be 'specially treated' or if 'special treatment' was to be considered. The following is an example of how the conversation went:

[Page 309]

Muller: 'Case A, please, "special treatment" or not?'

Kaltenbrunner: 'Yes, or submit it to the Reichsfuehrer S. S. for decision.'

Muller: 'Obergruppenfuehrer, no answer has arrived from the Reichsfuehrer S.S. in regard to "special treatment" for Case A.'

Kaltenbrunner: 'Ask for one.'

Or Muller would hand a paper to Kaltenbrunner and ask for instructions, as described above.

When such a conversation between Muller and Kaltenbrunner took place, only the initials were mentioned, so that the persons present at the table never knew who was involved."

And then the last two paragraphs:
"Both Muller and Kaltenbrunner, when certain cases were brought up in my presence, proposed 'special treatment,' or submission to the Reichsfuehrer S.S. for approval of 'special treatment.' I estimate that in approximately 50 per cent of the cases 'special treatment' was approved."
Are the contents of that affidavit true or false, defendant?

A. The contents, when given the interpretation you are giving to the document, are not correct. You will see immediately that the tragic expression "special treatment" here becomes rather humorous. Do you know the Winzerstube in Godesberg, or the Walsertraum in the Walsertal, and their relation to the term "special treatment"? The Walsertraum is the smartest and most fashionable Alpine hotel of the whole German Reich, and the Winzerstube is a very famous hotel in Godesberg in which many international meetings were held. Especially qualified and distinguished personalities - I would mention M. Poncet and M. Herriot and many more - were accommodated there. They had three times the normal diplomatic ration, which is nine times the ration of the ordinary German during the war. They were daily given a bottle of champagne. They were allowed to correspond freely with their families in France and to receive parcels. These detainees were allowed to receive visits on several occasions, their wishes and requirements were cared for wherever they were. That is what is meant here by "special treatment."

I can only state here that it may well be that Muller may have talked about this to me, since I was extremely anxious from the point of view of foreign policy and intelligence that the Reich should follow my suggestion and treat foreign persons in a more humane manner. It is in this connection that Muller may have spoken to me, but Winzerstube and Godesberg, the final achievement of this "special treatment," were the places where honourable political detainees were accommodated and received preferential treatment.

Q. Did you have frequent meetings with your section heads, including Muller, as indicated in this document?

A. I stated yesterday and today that, of course, I met Muller when we were lunching together, which we had to do because all our thirty-eight buildings in Berlin had been destroyed or damaged by bombs, but I did not talk to him about matters concerning Department IV.

This document makes it clear that these were matters of extreme interest to me as Chief of Intelligence.

May I ask you not to leave this document just yet? It must be put on record before this Tribunal that these two establishments were used for the preferential and improved treatment which I, as a German, had advocated. That is of importance to me for my defence, and I am asking you - I shall ask you through my counsel - to make detailed inquiries about these two hotels, and I also request that you ask M. Poncet, as the leading French detainee, about the treatment he received there. He had such a good time there that he gave French lessons to

[Page 310]

the wife of a criminal investigation official, and taught her French when they went for walks for hours without being guarded.

Q. Defendant, did you or did you not issue instructions to Muller, as Section Chief IV, as to whether certain individuals who were in confinement at Berlin should be transported to Southern Germany or be shot? And for your assistance, I will suggest to you that it was in February, 1945, when the Russian Armies were closing in on Berlin. "Yes" or "No," if you can.

A. The Russian Army was not very near to Berlin in February, 1945. I think military officials would be able to give you more precise information as to where the fighting was going on at the time. I do not believe that the evacuation of any camps to the South was proposed at that time.

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