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 3 of 10)

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

[Page 235]

Q. May I ask you once more - from what observations or conversations did you get to know these facts?

A. From continued discussions I had at that time with Beck, Oster, Goerdeler, Schacht, and many others, and later, the question of why Beck did not publicise his resignation depressed him to such an extent that it was a continual subject of discussions between us to the end.

Q. That deals with Beck's resignation, but probably the possibility of Schacht's resignation was also brought up at these discussions. To your knowledge and from your observation was the question of the necessity or

[Page 236]

the suitability of Schacht's resignation discussed between Schacht and Beck?

A. Yes, it was discussed in great detail.

It was Beck's opinion that his resignation alone might not be sufficiently effective. He approached Schacht therefore and asked him whether he would not join him and resign also. This subject was discussed in great detail both between Beck and Schacht personally, and between Oster and myself, who were the two intermediaries. During these discussions, I must confess that I, too, was of the opinion that Schacht should retire under any circumstances and I advised him to that effect. It was Oster's opinion, however, that Schacht should in any case remain in office and he asked him to do so, on the grounds that in order to carry weight with the generals Schacht was needed as an official with a ministerial title. In retrospect I must say here that my advice to Schacht was wrong. The events which I have yet to describe have proved how important it was to Oster and others that Schacht should remain in office.

Q. That, of course, was a serious question for Schacht's conscience. You have told the Tribunal what were your and Oster's opinions. How did Schacht's conscience react to the situation? What were the pros and cons on which he had to decide? Did he discuss his final decision with you?

A. Yes.

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: I don't object to the defendants putting their case in their own way, but I do think we are passing beyond the limits of profitable inquiry here. Schacht is present; he is the man who can tell us about his conscience, and I know of no way that another witness can do so, and I think it is not a question to which the answer would have competent value, and I respectfully object.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Dix, I think you had better tell us what Schacht actually did - or, rather, get from the witness what Schacht did.

DR. DIX: If I may, I should like to make a brief remark. It is true, of course, as Mr. Justice Jackson said, that Schacht knows his own reasons best and can tell them to the Tribunal, but on a question as difficult as this, where the prosecution as it seems to me, is inclined to consider the train of thought which led to Schacht's decision to be unacceptable - it appears to me that at least, on the basis of our rules for evidence, it is relevant for the Tribunal to hear from an eye and ear witness what the considerations were and whether they really existed at the time, or whether Schacht now in the defendants' dock, is thinking up an explanation, as every defendant is more or less suspected of doing.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal thinks that the witness can tell us what Schacht said and what Schacht did, but not what Schacht thought.


Q. Very well then, what did Schacht say to you regarding the reasons for his resignation?

A. Schacht told me at the time that after everything we had experienced the generals could not be relied upon to ever really revolt. For that reason as a politician he considered it his duty to think about possibilities other than, a revolt, of bringing about a change in conditions in Germany. He therefore evolved a plan which he explained to me at the time. Schacht told me, "I have got Hitler by the throat." He meant by that, as he explained to me in great detail, that now the day was approaching when the debts which had been incurred by the Reich Minister of Finance, and thus by the Reich Cabinet, would have to be repaid to the Reichsbank. Schacht doubted whether the Minister of Finance, Schwerin- Krosigk, would be Prepared without further ado to make good the moral and legal obligation of repaying the credits which had been extended.

Schacht thought that that was the moment in which he should tender his resignation, with a collective report of the Reichsbank Directorate, and he

[Page 237]

hoped that in that case the other ministers of the Reich, of whom the majority were still civic minded at the time, would join him.

That is what he meant when he said to me, "I have still got one arrow which I can shoot, and this is the moment when even von Neurath, Guertner, and Seldte cannot refuse to follow me."

I answered Schacht at that time that I doubted that there would ever be such a meeting of the Cabinet. In my opinion, the steps which would be taken to dispose of his person would be much more commonplace. Schacht did not believe me, and told me he would be certain to achieve one thing; these matters would have to be discussed in the Cabinet, and then he would cause a situation in Germany as alarming as the one which existed in February, 1938, at the time of the Fritsch crisis. He therefore expected a radical reformation of the cabinet which would provide the proper psychological atmosphere for the generals to intervene.

Q. You said at the beginning that Schacht had said or hinted that he could not absolutely rely on the generals to bring about a putsch. Which generals was he referring to, and what did he mean?

A. Schacht meant at the time the first revolutionary situation which had arisen in Germany, during the months of May to September, 1938, when we drifted into the Czechoslovakia war crisis. Beck had assured us at the time of his resignation - by us I mean Goerdeler, Schacht and other politicians - that he would leave to us a successor who was more energetic than he himself, and who was firmly determined to precipitate a revolution if Hitler should decide upon war. That man whom Beck trusted, and to whom he introduced us, was General Halder. As a matter of fact, upon taking office General Halder, immediately took steps to start discussions on the subject with Schacht, Goerdeler, Oster, and our entire group. A few days after he took over his office, he sent for Oster and informed him that he considered that we were drifting towards war, and that he would then undertake an overthrow of the government. He asked Oster what he, for his part, intended to do to include the civilians in the plot.

Q. Who were the civilians in question, aside from Goerdeler and Schacht?

A. Halder asked Oster that question too. We were only a small circle at that time, and Oster replied that to the best of his knowledge he only knew two civilians of importance with whom Halder could have preliminary political conversations; one was Goerdeler, the other, Schacht.

Halder refused to speak personally to a man as suspect as Goerdeler, because he felt that it was too dangerous for him to receive a man whom he did not yet know. While he could find some official reason for a conference with Schacht, Halder asked Oster to act as intermediary in that matter.

Through my agency, Oster approached Schacht. Schacht was prepared. A private meeting was to be arranged, and I warned Schacht and told him, "Have Halder come to your apartment so that you are quite sure of the matter."

Halder then visited Schacht personally at the end of July, 1938, in his apartment, and informed him that matters had reached a stage where war was imminent, and that he, Halder, would precipitate a putsch. He then asked Schacht whether he was prepared to play a leading part in aiding him politically.

That is what Schacht told me at the time.

Q. And Oster told you?

A. Yes, since I continually acted as an intermediary in these discussions. Schacht replied, as he assured me directly after Halder's visit, that he was prepared to do everything that was necessary if the generals decided to remove Hitler.

The following morning, Halder sent for Oster. He told him of the conversation, and he asked Oster whether the police preparations had been made for such a revolt. Oster suggested that Halder talked to me personally about

[Page 238]

these matters, and we had a long conference in the dark of the night. I believe that it is important for me to state here what Halder told me of his intentions at that time. First he assured me that in contrast to many other generals he had no doubt, that Hitler wanted war: he described Hitler to me as being bloodthirsty and he referred to the bloodbath of 30 June. But he told me that it was, unfortunately, terribly difficult to explain to the generals, in particular to the junior officers corps, Hitler's real intentions, because outwardly the slogan with which the officers corps was being influenced was that it was all only a colossal bluff that the army could be absolutely certain that Hitler did not want to start a war, but rather that he was merely preparing a diplomatic manoeuvre of blackmail on a large scale.

For that reason, Halder believed that it was absolutely necessary to prove even to the last captain that Hitler was not bluffing at all, but had actually given the order for war. Halder, therefore, decided at that time that for the sake of informing the German nation and the officers, he would even tolerate the outbreak of war. But even then Halder feared the Hitler myth; that is why he suggested to me that the day after the outbreak of war Hitler should be killed by means of a bomb, and the German people should be made to believe as far as possible, that Hitler had been killed by an enemy bombing attack on the Fuehrer's train. I replied to Halder that perhaps I was still too young to understand, but at any rate I could not see why, at least afterwards, he would not wish to tell the German people, what the generals had done.

Then, for a few weeks there was no news from Halder. The Press campaign of hatred against Czechoslovakia assumed a more threatening character and we felt that now it would be only a few weeks or perhaps months before the outbreak of war. At that very moment Schacht decided to visit Halder at his apartment once more and remind him of what he had said. I thought it best that a witness should be present during that conversation and therefore I simply accompanied Schacht. I did not have the impression that Halder was too pleased about the presence of a witness. He once again declared his firm intention to effect a revolt, but again he wished to wait until the German nation had received proof of Hitler's intentions to wage war by means of a definite order for war. Schacht pointed out to Halder the tremendous danger of such an experiment. He made it clear to Halder that a war could not be started simply to destroy the Hitler legend in the eyes of the German people.

In a detailed and very excited conversation Halder now declared that he was prepared to start the revolt, not after the official outbreak of the war, but at the very moment when Hitler gave the armed forces the final order to march.

We asked Halder whether he would then still be able to control the situation or whether Hitler might not surprise him with a blitz-action. Halder replied literally:

"No, he cannot betray me. I have designed my general staff plans in such a way that I shall know them forty- eight hours in advance."
I think that this is important, since during the later course of events the period of time between the order to march and the actual march itself was considerably shortened.

Halder assured us that apart from his preparations in Berlin there was an armoured division ready in Thuringia under the command of General von Hoeppner, which would possibly have to halt the Leibstandarte (Bodyguard Regiment) which was in Munich, on the march to Berlin.

Although Halder had told us all this, Schacht and I retained a somewhat bitter impression of that conference. Halder had told Schacht that he, Schacht, seemed to be urging him to effect this revolt prematurely, and Schacht and I were of the opinion that Halder might abandon us at the last moment. We informed Oster immediately of the bad impression which we had had and we told him that something absolutely had to be done to win over another general

[Page 239]

if Halder should not act at the last minute. Oster agreed, and what follows shows how General Field Marshal von Witzleben first joined our circle of conspirators.

Q. Who won von Witzleben over?

A. Schacht did.

Q. Who did?

A. Schacht won Witzleben over.

Oster visited Witzleben and told him everything that had happened. Thereupon Witzleben sent for me and I told him that in my opinion the police situation was such that he, as commanding general of the Army Corps in Berlin, could chance a revolt. Witzleben asked me the question which every general put to us at that time whether it was true that a diplomatic incident in the East would really lead to war, or whether it was not true, as Hitler and Ribbentrop had repeatedly told the generals in confidence, that there was tacit agreement with the Western powers giving Germany a free hand in the East. Witzleben said in the event of such an agreement really existing, then, of course, he could not start a revolt. I told Witzleben that Schacht could no doubt give him comprehensive information, based on his excellent knowledge of the Anglo-Saxon mentality.

A meeting between Schacht and Witzleben was arranged. Witzleben brought with him his Divisional-General von Brockdorf, who was to carry out the putsch in detail. Witzleben, Brockdorf and I drove together to Schacht's country house, and had a conference which lasted for hours. The final result was that Witzleben was convinced by Schacht that the Western powers would under no circumstances allow Germany to move into the Eastern Territories and that now Hitler's policy of surprise had come to an end. Witzleben decided that he, on his part and independently from Halder, would make all preparations which were necessary if he wanted to act.

He issued me false papers and he gave me a position in his army district command so that there, under his personal protection, I could make all the necessary police and political preparations. He delegated General von Brockdorf to me, and he and I visited by car all points in Berlin which Brockdorf had to occupy with his Potsdam Division. Frau Struenk was at the wheel and by our tour we were able to determine exactly what had to be done.

DR. DIX: That is the witness Struenk.

A. I believe I owe you a brief explanation as to why Witzleben's co-operation was absolutely necessary. It was not so easy to find a general who had the actual authority to order his troops to march. For instance, there were some generals in the provinces who could not give their troops such an order.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Dix, is it necessary to go into the matter in such detail as to why General Witzleben should be brought in?

DR. DIX: The reasons why Witzleben was needed are perhaps not essential for our case. We can therefore drop the subject.


Q. Will you please tell me Dr. Gisevius: was Schacht kept informed of these military and police preparations which you have described?

A. Schacht was kept informed about all these matters. We met in the evening in the apartment of von Witzleben and I described everything that I had worked out in writing during the day. It was then discussed in full detail.

Q. Aside from these military and police measures which you have mentioned, were there any political measures?

A. Yes, of course. We carefully had to decide what the German nation were to be told in such a case from an inner political point of view, just as there were certain preparations which had to be made regarding the outside.

Q. What do you mean by outside - foreign political?

[Page 240]

A. Yes, of course, foreign political.

Q. Why, "of course?" Was the Foreign Office included or what do you mean when you say "foreign political?"

A. It is very difficult to give an explanation because the contact with foreign countries during the time of war or immediately before a war is a matter which is very difficult to discuss, since we are touching upon a very controversial subject. If I am to talk about it then it is at least as important for me to state the reasons which led these people to carry on these discussions with foreign countries as it is to give times and dates.

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