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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
16th April to 1st May, 1946

One-Hundred-and-Twelfth Day: Tuesday, 23rd April, 1946
(Part 5 of 10)

[COLONEL SMIRNOV continues his cross examination of Joseph Buehler]

[Page 159]

Q. Does this mean that you deny participation in rendering that cruel decree effective?

A. Yes, the decree comes from the police.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: The passage I should like to quote, Mr. President, is on Page 35, of our document book, and in paragraph 4 of the English translation.

Q. Did you not, together with Dr. Web, at a time when even Frank was undecided about signing, succeed in persuading him to do so and bring into force a decree of a frankly terrorist nature to legalise mob-law by the police?

I quote Page 142 of the minutes on the conference with State Secretary Dr. Buehler (he evidently means you) and with Dr. Weh, concerning the order issued by Dr. Weh for combating attacks on the German work of reconstruction in the Government General:-

"After some brief statements by the State Secretary Dr. Buehler and Dr. Weh the Governor General withdraws his objections and signs the drafted decree."
Was it not you?

A. I request the interpreter to repeat the question.

Q. I am asking you: was it you who persuaded Frank to sign that decree as quickly as possible?

A. No.

Q. Does that mean that the entry is false?

A. No.

Q. In that case, how am I to understand you, if you answer "no" to both questions?

A. I can explain that to you quite clearly. The draft for this decree had been submitted to the Governor General by S.S. Oberfuehrer Bierkamp, who had recently been assigned to the Government General.

The Governor General ...

Q. (Interposing) I must ask you to excuse me ...

THE PRESIDENT (Interposing) He is in the middle of his answer. You must let the man answer. What were you saying? You were saying the draft had been made by somebody?

THE WITNESS: This draft had been submitted to the Governor General by Bierkamp who had just recently come to the Government General. The Governor General returned this draft and had it revised in the legislative,

[Page 160]

department. When it was presented to the Governor General, the objections of the Governor General were as to whether the legislative department had revised it or not. I do not assume material responsibility for this draft, and I did not have to.


Q. You simply explained to Frank that the project of the decree had been sufficiently worked on by the competent technical department?

A. Yes, by the legislative department.

Q. And after that the Governor General signed the decree?

A. Obviously.

Q. Were you not the person who, at the meeting of 23 October, 1943, when a letter from Count Ronokier, a person evidently known to you, was discussed, referred to the practical interpretation of this cruel decree of 2 October and stated that the application of the decree would, in the future, allow the camouflaging of the murder of hostages by giving the shootings of hostages the semblance of a legal sentence? Were you that person?

A. I ask that the question be repeated. I understood only part of it.

Q. Were you the person who, at the meeting of 23 October, 1943, stated that the application of the decree of 2 October would, in the future, allow the camouflaging of the shooting of hostages, since it would give them the semblance of a legal sentence?

A. It is not quite clear to me. May I repeat what I understood?

Q. If you please.

A. You want to ask me whether I was the one who, on the occasion of a conference on 23 October, 1944 ...

Q. 1943.

A. 1943 - who, on the occasion of a conference on 23 October, 1943, stated - stated what?

Q. You stated that the application of the decree of 2 October would help to camouflage the shooting of hostages.

A. No.

Q. The part which I wish to quote now, your Honours, is on Page 26 of the English translation of Exhibit USSR-223, paragraph 4. I shall now quote your own words to you:-

"State Secretary Dr. Buehler considers it advisable that all those Poles who are to be shot shall first be tried by drumhead court-martial. In the future one should also refrain from referring to such Poles as hostages for the shooting of hostages is always a deplorable event and merely provides foreign countries with evidence against the German leadership in the Government General."
A. I said that, and thus in this way I objected to the shooting of hostages and to executions without drumhead court-martial.

Q. So you consider that a court consisting of high ranking police officials represents justice and is not a travesty of the very idea of justice?

A. Which court do you refer to? I pleaded for drumhead courts-martial.

Q. That is the very court I am talking about, the "Standgericht" or drum-head court-martial, composed of Gestapo officials centralised in the Government General, according to the decree of 2 October.

A. I can give you information about the reasons which may have led to this aggravation of the drumhead court-martial order of 2 October, so you can understand how, psychologically, such a decree came about.

Q. I am not interested in psychology. I am interested in knowing if a court, composed of secret police officials and considered to be a court, is not in fact sheer mockery at the very idea of a court of justice?

A. The drumhead courts-martial had to be composed exactly according to the decree. I am not of the opinion that a drumhead court-martial, simply because

[Page 161]

it is staffed exclusively by police people, cannot be considered a court. But I did not make these statements, which you have held against me now, in reference to this decree of 2 October; rather I demanded, in general, sentences by drumhead courts-martial and termed the shooting of hostages a regrettable fact.

Q. You are not giving me a direct answer to my question. Perhaps you will remember paragraph 3 of the decree, which stipulates how these courts were to be composed. Show the defendant paragraphs 3 and 4. I am reading paragraph 4 into the record:-

"Drumhead courts-martial of the Security Police are to be composed of one S.S. Fuehrer of the office of the Commander, of the Security Police and the S.D., and of two members of these organisations."
Would a court of this composition not determine, a priori, the perfectly definite nature of the sentence which it would impose?

A. You are asking me whether I consider a drumhead court- martial a court? I think you are asking me about things which have nothing to do with my field of activity. I do not know what reasons were given for composing these courts in this fashion. I cannot therefore say anything about it.

Q. Perhaps you will look at the signature to that decree. It is signed by Frank, and it was you who persuaded Frank to sign it.

A. I thought that I had corrected that error before. I did not persuade Herr Frank to sign that order. Rather, I told him that that order had been worked out in the legislative department. As before I must now deny any responsibility for this order, because it did not belong to my sphere of activity.

Q. I shall pass on to another series of questions. Do you recollect the following sub-paragraph of that decree, particularly the report of Obergruppenfuehrer Bierkamp at the conference of 27 October, 1943, in Cracow?

A. I cannot remember without any notes.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: Please show him the passage which I wish to quote.

The passage I wish to quote, your Honours, is on Page 26 of our document, last paragraph of the text. It reads:

"Pursuant to the decree of the same date the Security Police has detained many people who since 10 October have committed criminal acts. They have been condemned to death and will be shot as an expiation for their crimes. Their names will be made known to the population by means of posters, and the population will be told that such and such people might expect a pardon, provided there are no further murders of Germans. For every murdered German 10 Poles will be executed ..."
Does it not testify to the fact that from the very first days of the enforcing of Frank's decree, it merely served to camouflage the mass executions of hostages?

A. No.

Q. Then what does it testify to if for each slain German 10 Poles, entirely unconnected with the crime, were to be executed, in accordance with these so-called "verdicts"?

A. In my opinion it testifies that 10 Poles would be shot who had committed crimes punishable by death and who had been sentenced to death.

Q. For each German killed?

A. It is possible that these Poles were called hostages. That is possible.

Q. That means that the decree camouflaged the system of taking hostages?

A. No, it was rather that real shootings of hostages did not occur any more. Real shootings of hostages occur when people who are not criminals, who are innocent, are shot because of an act committed by someone else.

THE PRESIDENT: Do you think this will be a convenient time to break off?

(A recess was taken until 14.00 hours.)

[Page 162]

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal has heard with the deepest regret of the death of Chief Justice Harlan F. Stone, of the Supreme Court of the United States of America. His loss will be most deeply felt in America, where he had proved himself to be a great public servant. It is fitting that this Tribunal, upon which the representatives of the United States sit, should express its sympathy with the American people in their great loss.

After serving as Dean of the Law School of Columbia University he was appointed Attorney General of the United States in 1923 and two years later he became Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. In 1941 he became Chief Justice and discharged the duties of that high office with great ability and in accordance with the highest traditions.

The Tribunal desires that I should express its sympathy in acknowledgement of the great loss the American people have sustained.

Mr. Justice Jackson, the Chief Prosecutor of the United States, is a member of the Supreme Court over which the Chief Justice presided and perhaps he would like to add a few words.

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: May it please the Tribunal:

It is not only because he was the head of the judicial system of the United States that the news of the passing of Chief Justice Stone brings sadness to every American heart in Nuremberg, but because he was the personal friend of so many of us. He had a rare capacity for personal friendship. No one was more kind to and thoughtful of the younger men who from time to time came to Washington and they found in him a guide, philosopher and friend.

Now, I know that not only do I feel the loss of a personal friend but that the American representatives on the Tribunal, Mr. Biddle and Judge Parker, feel the same way, and many of the younger men on the staff had intimate contact with the Chief Justice, which you might not expect if you had not known Harlan Stone.

As Attorney General he took over the Department of Justice at one of its most difficult periods and imparted to it the impress of his integrity, an impress which stayed with it and was traditional in the department, as we well know.

As a Justice of the Court he was a far-seeing man, open- minded, always patient to hear the arguments of both sides and to arrive at his decision with that complete disinterestedness and detachment which is characteristic of the just judge. He presided with great fairness and with kindness to his associates and to those who appeared before him.

It is the passing of a man who exemplified in public life those sturdy qualities which we have come to associate with the New Englander.

The consolation of his friends lies in this: He died exactly as he would have chosen to die, in full possession of his faculties and in the discharge of his duties.

I express great appreciation that this Tribunal has seen fit to take note of his passing and to allow us to record on behalf of the American Bar our appreciation of his talents and character.

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Smirnov.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: Mr. President, before proceeding to a further examination of the witness, I feel that I ought to make the following statement:

During the examination of the witness by counsel for the defence, Dr. Seidl, it was stated that the document which is an official appendix to the report of the Government of the Polish Republic, was a forgery. This document sets out the losses suffered by the Polish Republic in Cultural valuables. The Soviet Prosecution does not wish to enter into any controversies on the subject, but it does request the Tribunal to note that this is an official appendix to the report of the Government of the Polish Republic, and that it considers the statement of the witness as libellous.

THE PRESIDENT: Did you say anything then?

[Page 163]

WITNESS BUEHLER: I was going to ask something. Was it a document that contained a list of art treasures?

THE PRESIDENT: Is that the document, Colonel Smirnov, a document which contains a list of art treasures?

WITNESS BUEHLER: No, I do not mean that.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: No, Mr. President. It is a list of losses in cultural treasures. It is a list of libraries and of the losses suffered by these libraries during the reign of the Germans in Poland.

THE PRESIDENT: It is Exhibit USSR-93, is it not, the document you are referring to?

COLONEL SMIRNOV: It is an appendix to that Exhibit, an official report by the Polish Government.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, it deals with certain directives. That was the evidence that was given this morning.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: No, Mr. President. This is a list of losses sustained. It is an official appendix to the report of the Polish Government. It contains no directives, but it does state the sum total of the losses sustained by the public libraries in Poland.

THE PRESIDENT: Is there anything you want to say about it?

WITNESS BUEHLER: Yes. I do not think the description just given applies to the document which I had in mind. The document which I question contains directives regarding German cultural policy in the Government General. It does not concern itself with art treasures or a listing of library property.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. What I took down that you said this morning was that the directives which you thought were referred to in the document did not appear to have been made, or at any rate you had not heard of them, and you thought they might be forgeries.

WITNESS BUEHLER: I questioned the document.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will consider the document.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: May I proceed to the next question?





Q. You state that you personally, and the Administration of the Government General had no close connection with the activities of the police. Have I understood you correctly?

A. May I hear that question again, please.

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