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-Fourteenth Day: Thursday, 25th April, 1946
(Part 1 of 10)

[DR. DIX continues his direct examination of Hans Bernd Gisevius]

[Page 227]


Q. Dr. Gisevius! Yesterday we got as far as January, 1938. You had returned to Berlin to an ostensible position which Schacht had arranged for you and you were now in continuous contact with your political confidants, Schacht, Oster, Canaris and Nebe. You testified last that within your circle at that time you all had the impression that a coup was imminent.

Now, we really come to the so-called Fritsch crisis; in my opinion the decisive, inner-political preparatory step before the war. Will you please describe the entire course and the background of that crisis, especially with regard to the fact that in the course of that crisis the march into Austria was made, and always bearing in mind - that goes without saying - Schacht's position and activities, which were most decisive factors.

A. First, I shall describe the course of the crisis as such; and it is correct that all my friends considered it the decisive preparatory step before the war.

I shall assemble the facts one by one. I consider it better, in order not to confuse the picture, to leave Schacht out for the time being, because the facts are sufficiently complicated by themselves.

Furthermore, I shall not indicate the course of our information or describe my own experiences, rather I shall wait until I am questioned on those subjects.

On 12 January, 1938, the German public was surprised by the report that Field Marshal von Blomberg, at that time Reich War Minister, had married. There were no details about his wife, nor any photographs published. A few days later one lone picture appeared, a photo of the Marshal and his wife in front of the monkey cage at the Leipzig Zoo. Malicious rumours began to circulate in Berlin, about the past of the Marshal's wife. A few days later, on the desk of the Police President in Berlin, there appeared a thick file which showed the following: Marshal von Blomberg's wife had been a previously convicted prostitute who had been registered in the files of seven large German cities; she was in the Berlin Criminal Files. I myself have seen the fingerprints and the pictures. She had also been sentenced by the Berlin Court for distributing pornographic pictures. The President of the Police in Berlin was obliged to send these files, by official channels, to the Chief of Police Himmler.

Q. Excuse me, please; who was the Police President in Berlin at that time?

A. The Police President in Berlin was Graf (Count) Helldorf. Count Helldorf realised that to have that material transmitted to the Reichsfuehrer S.S. would place the Wehrmacht in an embarrassing position; if that were done Himmler would have in his possession the material which he needed in order to ruin Blomberg's reputation and career and for a coup against the leadership of the armed forces. Helldorf took these files to the closest collaborator of Marshal Blomberg, the Chief of the Armed Forces, Keitel, who, at that time, had just become related to Marshal Blomberg through the marriage of both children. Marshal Keitel or Colonel-General Keitel at that time, looked through these files carefully and demanded that Police President Helldorf cover up the entire scandal and suppress the files.

Q. Perhaps you will tell the Tribunal the source of your information.

A. I got my information from Count Helldorf who described the entire affair to me, and from Nebe, Oberregierungsrat of the Police Presidium in Berlin at that time and later Reich Criminal Director.

Keitel refused to make Blomberg take any of the consequences. He refused to inform the Chief of the General Staff, Beck, or the Chief of the Army,

[Page 228]

General Fritsch. He sent Count Helldorf to Goering with the files. Helldorf submitted the entire file to defendant Goering. Goering asserted he knew nothing about the compartments of the Criminal Files and the previous sentences of Blomberg's wife, but nevertheless in that first conversation and in later discussions he admitted that he had already known the following:-

First, that Marshal Blomberg had already asked Goering several months before whether it was permissible to have an affair with a woman of low birth, and shortly thereafter he had asked Goering whether he would help him to obtain a dispensation to marry this lady "with a past" as he put it. Later Blomberg came again and told Goering that this lady of his heart unfortunately had another lover and he had to ask Goering to help him, Blomberg, to dispose of that lover.

Q. Excuse me. Goering told that to Helldorf and you discovered it from Helldorf?

A. Yes, that is what Goering said and, in the further course of the investigation, we learned of it from other sources too. Goering then disposed of that lover by giving him foreign currency and shipping him to South America. In spite of that Goering did not inform Hitler of this incident. Moreover, together with Hitler, he went as a witness to the wedding of Marshal Blomberg on 12 January. I should like to point out here -

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Dix, the Tribunal would wish to know how you suggest that these matters which appear to be personal are relevant to the charges and in what way they affect the defendant Schacht or the defendant Goering or the defendant Frick?

DR. DIX: I am here only to serve the interests, the rightful interests of the defendant Schacht. It is necessary to present that crisis in all its gruesomeness in order to conceive what an effect, what a revolutionary effect it had on Schacht and his circle in their regard for the regime. I have said earlier that the Fritsch crisis was the turning point in the transformation from a follower and admirer of Hitler to a deadly enemy who had designs on his life. The Tribunal cannot understand this about-face if the Tribunal does not get the same impression which Schacht had at that time. Indeed, in no way do I desire to wash dirty linen here unnecessarily. My decision to put these questions and to ask the witness to describe the Fritsch crisis in the necessary detail is motivated by the fact that the further development of Schacht and of the Fritsch crisis, or let us say, the Oster-Canaris circle to which Schacht belonged, cannot be understood if one does not realise the enormity of that crisis. In the face of these facts, however disagreeable, one must decide to bring these sometimes very personal matters to the attention of the Tribunal. Unfortunately I cannot dispense with it in my defence. It is the alpha and omega of my defence.

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: If the Tribunal please:

It might be helpful at this time to know our position in reference to this line of testimony if it is to be considered whether it is admissible or not now.

I should desire, if this incident were not brought out, to bring it out upon cross-examination. For one thing, it shows the background of the incident of yesterday, which I think is important in appraising the truthfulness of testimony in this case.

Another thing is that it bears upon the conspiracy to seize power. There were certain men in Germany that these conspirators had to get rid of. In some cases killing was a safe method, but in others, as we see from the Roehm purge, killing aroused some opposition, and they bad to eliminate them by other means. The means they used against Fritsch and Blomberg show the conspiracy to seize power and to get rid of the men who might stand in the way of aggressive warfare. It will appear, I think, that the German people, in allowing these Nazis to get

[Page 229]

as far as they did, had faith in Fritsch and Blomberg, among others, believing that here at least were two men who would guard their interests; and the method by which those men were stricken down and removed from the scene we would consider an important part of the conspiracy story, and I would ask to go into it on cross-examination.

That might perhaps be material to the Court in deciding whether it should proceed now.

DR. DIX: May I add one more thing?


The Tribunal thinks, in view of what you have said and what Mr. Justice Jackson has said, that your examination must continue and you will no doubt try to confine it as much as you can to the political aspects of the matter.

DR. DIX: Of course. But the personal matters are of such political importance in this case that they cannot be omitted.


Q. Dr. Gisevius, you understand the difficulties of the situation. We want only to give evidence, and not to bring in anything sensational as an end in itself. However, when it is necessary to speak on such subjects in order to explain the development to the Tribunal, I ask you to speak quite frankly.

A. I ask the Tribunal also to realise my difficulties. I myself do not like to speak about these things.

I must add that Goering was the only Chief of the Investigation Office; that is that institution which took over all the telephone supervision in the Third Reich. This Investigation Office was not satisfied, as has been described here, only to tap telephone conversations and to decode messages, but it had its own intelligence service, all the way down to its own employees, who could make investigations and obtain information. It was, therefore, also quite possible to obtain confidential information about Marshal von Blomberg's wife. When Helldorf gave the file to Goering, Goering considered himself compelled to give these files to Hitler. Hitler had a nervous breakdown and decided to dismiss Marshal Blomberg immediately. Hitler's first thought, as he told the generals later in a public meeting, was to appoint Colonel General Fritsch as Blomberg's successor. The moment he made his decision known Goering and Himmler reminded him that it could not be done since Fritsch was badly incriminated, according to a file from the year 1935.

Q. Excuse me, Doctor. What is the source of your information regarding this conservation between Hitler and the generals and also Goering's statement?

A. Several generals who took part in that meeting told me about it and I have said already that in the course of events, which I have yet to describe, Hitler himself made many statements, and we also had in our possession until 20 July the original documents of the Supreme Court-Martial which convened later.

The file of 1935, which was submitted to Hitler in January, 1938, referred to the fact that in 1934 the Gestapo had decided to prosecute homosexuals as criminals. In the search for evidence the Gestapo visited the prisons and asked convicted inmates who had blackmailed homosexuals for evidence and for the names of the latter. One of the inmates reported a terrible story, a story so horrible that I will not repeat it here. It will suffice to say that this prisoner believed the man in question had been a Herr Fritsch or Frisch. The prisoner could not remember the correct name. The Gestapo then turned over these files to Hitler in 1935. Hitler was indignant about the contents. Talking to the generals, he said he did not want to know of such obscenities, and he ordered these files to be burned immediately. Now, in January, 1938, Goering and Himmler reminded Hitler of these files, and it was left to Heydrich to present them, though they had, allegedly, been burned in 1935, to Hitler again, com-

[Page 230]

pleted in the meantime by extensive investigations. Hitler believed, as he said to the generals at the time, that after having been so disappointed in Blomberg, many nasty things could be expected from Fritsch also. The defendant Goering offered to bring the convict from the prison to Hitler and the Reich Chancellery. In Karin Hall Goering had previously threatened the prisoner with death if he did not abide by his statements.

Q. How do you know that?

A. That was mentioned in the Supreme Court-Martial. Then Fritsch was ordered to the Reich Chancellery and Hitler pointed out the accusations which had been made against him. Fritsch, an absolutely honourable man, had received a confidential warning from Hitler's adjutant, but it had been so vague that Fritsch came to the Reich Chancellery extremely alarmed. He had no idea of what Hitler was accusing him. Indignantly he denied the crime he had allegedly committed. In the presence of Goering, he gave Hitler his word of honour that all the accusations were false. But Hitler went to the nearest door, opened it, and the prisoner entered, raised his arm, pointed to Fritsch and said, "That is he."

Fritsch was speechless. He only managed to ask that a judicial investigation be made. Hitler demanded his immediate resignation, and said that if Fritsch kept silent about the matter, he (Hitler) would be willing to leave things as they were. Fritsch appealed to the chief of the General Staff, Beck, and the latter intervened with Hitler. A hard struggle for judicial investigation of these terrible accusations against Fritsch ensued. That struggle lasted about a week. There were dramatic disputes in the Reich Chancellery which ended on the famous 4 February when the generals, who until that day - that is to say, ten days after the dismissal of Blomberg and the release of Fritsch - were completely unaware of the fact that both their superiors were no longer in office, were ordered to come to Berlin. Hitler personally presented the files to the generals in such a way that they too were completely confused and were satisfied that the affair should be investigated by the courts. At the same time Hitler surprised the generals ...

Q. You know of this only through the participants of that meeting?

A. Yes.

At the same time Hitler surprised the generals with the report that they had a new commander-in-chief, General von Brauchitsch. Some of the generals had in the meantime been relieved from duty, and also on the previous evening a report appeared in the newspapers in which Hitler, under the pretence of drawing together the reins of government, had dismissed the foreign minister, von Neurath, effected a change in the Ministry of Economics, and had relieved a number of diplomats of their posts. An appendix to that report announced a change in the War Ministry and in the Leadership of the army.

Then a new struggle arose, which lasted several weeks, regarding the convening of the court-martial which would have to decide for or against the rehabilitation of General Fritsch. This was for all of us the moment when we believed we would be able to prove before a supreme court the methods the Gestapo used to rid themselves of their political adversaries. This was the only opportunity to question witnesses under oath regarding the manner in which the entire intrigue had been contrived. Therefore we set to work to prepare for our parts in this trial.

Q. What do you mean by "we"?

A. There was above all one man, who as an honest judge, took part in this Supreme Court-Martial. This was the Reich Judge Advocate at that time and later Chief Judge of the Army, Ministerial Director Dr. Sack. This man believed that he owed it to the spirit of law to contribute in every possible way toward exposing these matters. This he did, but he also paid with his life after 20 July.

[Page 231]

In the course of this investigation the judges of the Supreme Court-Martial questioned the Gestapo witnesses. They investigated the records of the Gestapo, they made local investigations, and it was not long before, with the aid of the criminologist Nebe, they discovered definitely that the entire affair had concerned a double; not General von Fritsch, but Captain von Frisch, who had been pensioned long before.

In the course of that investigation the judges discovered one thing further they could prove that the Gestapo had been in the apartment of this double of von Frisch as early as 15 January and had questioned his housekeeper. May I refer to the two dates once more. On 15 January the Gestapo had proof that Fritsch was not guilty. On 24 January the defendant Goering brought the prisoner and witness for the prosecution into the Reich Chancellery in order to incriminate Fritsch, the General. We believed that here indeed we were confronted with a plot of incredible proportions and we believed that now even the most sceptical generals must see that it was not only in the lower echelons of the Gestapo that there was scheming and contriving, invisible and secret, without the knowledge of any of the ministers or the Reich Chancellery, such as would force any man of honour and justice to intervene. We were now a group of some strength and size. We saw that now we need no longer collect material about the Gestapo in secret. That had been our great difficulty up to then. We had heard a great deal, but if we had passed on that evidence, we would in every case have exposed those men who had given it to us to the Gestapo terror.

Now we could proceed legally and thus we started our struggle to persuade General von Brauchitsch to submit the necessary evidence of the Reich Court-Martial.

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