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

Ninety-Ninth Day: Thursday, 4th April, 1946
(Part 6 of 7)

[Page 22]

DR. NELTE: And UK-25?


DR. NELTE: And 1588-PS?

THE PRESIDENT: We have got them all. The only thing that I was pointing out to you was that the description of them is inadequate to explain to us what they mean and what they are. Perhaps by a word or two you can indicate to us, when you come to the document, what it is about.

DR. NELTE: Document UK-25, regarding which the defendant Keitel is about to testify, is an order signed by him of 16th September, 1941, regarding "Communist Uprisings in the Occupied Territories." It contains, among other things, the sentence: "The Fuehrer has now ordered that most severe measures should be taken everywhere in order to crush this movement as soon as possible."

The French Prosecution asserted that on the basis of this order, Hostage Legislation was promulgated in France. This is contained in Document 1588-PS. If

[Page 23]

you have this document, you will find on the third page regulations regarding the taking and treatment of hostages.


Q. The defendant is to state whether such a connection did exist and to what extent the O.K.W. and he himself were competent in these matters at all.

A. Document UK-25, the Fuehrer Order of 16th September, 1941, is, as you have just heard, concerned with Communist uprisings in occupied territories, and the fact that this is a Fuehrer order has already been mentioned. I must clarify the fact that this order, so far as its contents are concerned, was directed solely to the Eastern regions, particularly the Balkan countries. I believe that I can prove this by the fact that there is attached to this document a distribution list, i.e. a list of the regions to which it pertains, beginning: "Wehrmacht Commanders, Southeast, for Serbia, Southern Greece and Crete." This was, of course, transmitted also to other Wehrmacht commanders and also to the O.K.H. with the possibility of passing it on to its subordinate officers. I believe that this document, which, for the sake of saving time, I shall not read here, has several indications that the assumption on the part of the French Prosecution that the basis for the hostage law is to be found in Document 1588-PS is false, and that there is no basic connection between the two. Also, the date of this hostage law is September, the number is hard to read, but, as can be seen from its contents, these two matters are, in my opinion, not connected. Moreover, the two military commanders in France and Belgium never received this order from the O.K.W. but they may have received it through the O.K.H., a matter which I cannot check on because I do not know.

Regarding this order of 16th September, 1941, I should like to say that its considerable strictness can be traced back to the personal influence of the Fuehrer, and the fact that it is concerned with the Eastern region, which is to be seen already in the introduction, and does not need to be substantiated any further. It is correct to say that this order of 16th September, 1941, is signed by me.

Q. We come now to the second individual fact: "Nacht und Nebel." The prosecution charges you with having participated in the "Nacht und Nebel" decree of 12th December, 1941, Document L-90 -

A. May I say one more thing regarding the other question?

Q. Please, if it appears to be necessary. In the order of 2nd February, 1942, we find the words: "A decree of the Fuehrer of 7th December, 1941." You wanted to say something more; if it is important, please, have you Document L-90?

A. L-90, yes.

Q. What was the cause for this order, so terrible in its consequences?

A. I must state that it is perfectly clear to me that the connection of my name with this so-called "Nacht und Nebel" order is a serious charge against me, even though it can be seen from the order that it is a Fuehrer order. Consequently I should like to state how this order came about. From the beginning of the Eastern campaign and in the late autumn of 1941 until the spring of 1942, the resistance movement, sabotage and everything connected with it, increased to a very great extent in all the occupied territories. From the military angle it meant that the security troops were tied down, having to be kept on the spot by the unrest. That is how I saw it from the military point of view. And day by day, through the daily reports we could picture the sequences of events in the individual occupation sectors.

It was impossible to handle this summarily; rather, Hitler demanded that he be informed of each individual occurrence, and he was very displeased if such matters were concealed from him in the reports by military authorities. He got to know about them all the same.

In this connection he said to me that it was very displeasing to him and very unfavourable to pacification; that, owing to this, death sentences by court-martial against saboteurs and their accomplices were increasing; that he did not wish this

[Page 24]

to occur, as from his point of view it merely made pacification and relations with the population more difficult. He said that pacification could only be achieved if sabotage decreased; that, instead of death sentences - if, as stated in the decree, a death sentence could not be expected and carried out - and instead of lengthy court- martial proceedings with numerous witnesses, the suspect or guilty persons concerned (if one may use the word "guilty") should be deported to Germany without their families knowing, and be interned or imprisoned.

I expressed the greatest misgivings in this matter and know very well that I said at that time that I feared exactly the opposite results to those apparently hoped for. I then had serious discussions with the legal adviser of the Wehrmacht, who had similar scruples, because there an ordinary legal procedure was excluded. I tried again to prevent this order being issued, or to have it modified. My efforts were in vain. The threat was made to me that the Minister of Justice would be commissioned to issue a corresponding decree, should the Wehrmacht not be able to do so. May I refer to details only in so far as this order L-90 contains the possibilities of preventing arbitrary application, and these were as follows:

The general principles of the order provided that such deportation or abduction into Reich territory should take place only after a regular court-martial proceeding, and that in every case the judge, that is, the divisional commander, together with his legal adviser, must deal with the matter in the legal way, after preliminary. proceedings.

I must say that I believed then that every arbitrary and excessive application of these principles was avoided by this provision. You will perhaps agree with me that the words in the order, "It is the will of the Fuehrer, after long consideration...," were not written in vain and not without the hope that the military commanders concerned would also recognise from this that this was a method of which we did not approve and which I did not consider to be right.

Finally we introduced a verification procedure into the order so that through the higher channels of appeal, i.e. the Military C.-in-C. in France and the Supreme Command or Commander of the Army, it would be possible to try the case legally by court-martial if the verdict seemed open to question within the meaning of the decree. I learned here for the first time the full extent of the tragedy, viz.: that this order, which was only intended for the Wehrmacht and for the sole purpose of determining whether a criminal who faced a sentence in jail might be made to disappear by means of this "Nacht und Nebel" procedure, was obviously applied universally by the police, as testified by witnesses whom I have heard here, and according to the indictment which I also heard; and so the horrible fact of the existence of whole camps full of people deported through the "Nacht und Nebel" procedure has been proved.

In my opinion, the Wehrmacht, at least, I and the military commanders of the occupied territories who participated, did not know of this in the drafting of this order. At any rate I was not informed of it. Therefore, this order, which in itself was undoubtedly very dangerous and disregarded certain requirements of law such as we understood it, was able to develop into that formidable affair of which the prosecution has spoken.

The intention was to take those who were to be deported from their home country to Germany, because Hitler was of the opinion that penal servitude in war-time would not be considered by the persons concerned as dishonourable, in cases where it was a question of so-called patriots. It would be felt as a short detention which would end when the war was over.

These reflections have already been made in part in the note. If you have any further questions, please put them.

[DR. NELTE] Q. The order for the carrying out of this "Nacht und Nebel" policy, states that the Gestapo was to carry out the transportation of the condemned to Germany. You stated that the people who came to Germany were to be turned over to the Minister of Justice, that is, in normal custody. You will understand that by your

[Page 25]

reference to the Gestapo certain suspicions are raised that it was known from the start what happened to these people. Can you say anything in elucidation of that matter?

A. Yes. The order that was given at that time was that these people should be turned over to the German legal authorities. This document signed "by order of ." and then the signature, was issued 8 weeks later than the decree itself by the Amt Auslands-Abwehr, as I can see from my official correspondence. It indicated the agreements, which had to be reached at that time, regarding the method by which these people were to be taken from their native countries to Germany. They were apparently conducted by this Amt Abwehr which evidently ordered police detachments as escorts.

I might mention in this connection - as I must have witnessed it - that it did not seem objectionable at that time, because I had no reason to assume that these people were being turned over to the Gestapo - frankly speaking - to be liquidated, but that the Gestapo was simply being used as the medium in charge of the transportation to Germany. I should like to emphasise that particularly, so that there can be no doubt that it was not our idea to do away with the people in the way that it was carried out later in that "Nacht und Nebel" camp.

Q. We come now to the question of parachutists, sabotage troops, and commando operations. The French Prosecution treats in detail the origin and effect of the two Fuehrer orders of 18th October, 1942, regarding the treatment of commandos.

DR. NELTE: (to the Tribunal) Has the Tribunal a copy of this Fuehrer order? It is 498 -

THE PRESIDENT: We haven't got a copy of the order. You mean 553-PS or 498?

DR. NELTE: The second is 553-PS

THE PRESIDENT: We have got that, "Combating of individual parachutists, Decree of 4.8.42."

DR. NELTE: Could you please repeat your statement? What you just said did not come through.

THE PRESIDENT: 553-PS, "Combating of individual parachutists, Decree of 4.8.42." That is what we have, nothing else. You also have 498 -

Q. 553-PS is a notice signed by Keitel. The French Prosecution has assumed correctly that there is some connection between this document and the Fuehrer order of 18th October, 1942. The defendant is to testify what were the reasons that lay behind this Fuehrer order and this notice.

A. First of all, Document 553-PS, the notice: This notice was published by me in August, 1942. As in the description given by me in connection with the "Nacht und Nebel" decree, sabotage acts, the dropping of agents by parachute, the parachuting of arms, ammunition, explosives, radio sets and small groups of saboteurs reached greater and greater proportions. They were dropped at night from aircraft in thinly populated regions. This activity covered the whole area governed by Germany at that time. It extended from France over to Czechoslovakia and Poland, and from the East, as far as the Berlin area.

Of course a large number of the people involved in these actions were captured and much of the material was taken. This memorandum was to rally all establishments outside the Wehrmacht, police and civilian authorities to the service against these methods, these new methods, which were, to our way of thinking, illegal, a sort of "war in the dark." Even today, after reading this document through again - it has already been given to me here - I consider this memorandum unobjectionable. It expressly provides that members of enemy forces, if captured by the police, should be taken to the nearest Wehrmacht office after being identified.

I know that in the French sector, the French police did their full share in arresting these troops and putting them in safe custody. They collaborated in preventing these acts of sabotage. It will perhaps make clear how extensive these activities were if I mention that on certain days there were as many as a hundred railroads blown up in this way. That is in the memorandum.

[Page 26]

Now, as to the Fuehrer's orders of 18th October, 1942, which have been mentioned very often here and which I may describe as the further development of the regulations mentioned in this memorandum. These illegal methods of fighting kept on increasing, and individual parachutists grew into small commando units who landed from heavy aircraft or by parachute, and were systematically employed not to create disturbances or destruction in general but to attack specific, vital and important military objectives. In Norway for instance, I recall that they had the task of blowing up the aluminium works. It may sound strange, but during this period, half to three-quarters of an hour of the daily discussion on the situation was devoted to the problem of how to handle these incidents. These incidents in all sectors caused the Fuehrer to demand other methods, vigorous measures, to combat this activity, which he characterised as "terrorism" and said that the only method that could be used to combat it was severe counter-measures. I recall that in reply to our objections as soldiers, the following words were spoken: "As long as the paratrooper or saboteur runs the danger only of being taken captive, he incurs no risk; in normal circumstances he risks nothing; we must take action against this."

These were the reasons behind his thoughts. I was asked several times to express myself on this subject. General Jodl will also recall this. We did not know what we, as soldiers, were to do. We could make no suggestion.

If I may sum up briefly, we heard Hitler's temperamental explosions on this subject almost every day, but we did nothing, not knowing what we could do. Hitler declared that this was against the Hague Convention and illegal, that it was a method of waging war not envisaged in the Hague Convention and which could not be foreseen. He said that this was a new war with which we had to contend and that new counter-measures would be needed.

Then, to make it short, as I have already testified in the preliminary investigation, these orders - this order itself and the well-known instructions, that those who did not carry out the first order should be punished - were issued in a concise form and signed by Hitler. They were then distributed, I believe, by the Chief of the Operations Staff. I might add that many times the commanders who received these orders asked questions about how they were to be applied, particularly in connection with the threat that they would be punished if they did not carry them out. The only reply we could make was: "You know what is in the orders," for we were not in a position to change these signed orders.

Q. The prosecution has accused you personally of having issued the order to kill the English saboteurs captured in the commando operations at Stavanger. In this connection I submit to you Documents 498-PS, 508-PS, and 527-PS.

DR. NELTE: This, Mr. President, was a commando mission in the neighbourhood of Stavanger. The troops who fell into German hands alive had to be killed, according to the Fuehrer decree. There was a remote possibility of interrogating these persons if that was demanded by military necessity. In this case the Commander-in-Chief in Norway, General von Falkenhorst, dealt with the matter. He turned to the O.K.W., as he has already testified in the minutes of an interrogation.

Q. Would you make any statement in this connection?

A. I was interrogated on this subject, and in the course of the interrogation, I was confronted with General von Falkenhorst. As far as I can remember he did not ask me questions regarding the carrying-out of this order. I did not know of it. Even the event itself was no longer in my memory, and I remembered it again only after I had seen the documents. During the interrogation, I told the interrogating judge that I had no authority to change that order; that I could only refer any one concerned to the order, as such.

As regards General Falkenhorst, I should like to say only what is stated here in the minutes: "He obviously shelved the questions, and altered his earlier statements, but did not deny them." He said, "Keitel did not deny having had this talk with me but he denied that the subject of it was what I said."

[Page 27]

DR. NELTE: Mr. President, I can only say that this is a summary of the interrogation of Falkenhorst, a document which was submitted by the prosecution without having a document number.

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