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 6 of 10)

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

[Page 248]


Q. Will you please tell us whether you saw the letter and knew its contents?

A. I am sorry that I did not say so at once but I helped in drafting the letter. I was there when the letter was drafted and written.

DR. DIX: Then I believe Justice Jackson will withdraw his objection.



Q. Will you please answer my question; what is meant by those cryptic words?

[Page 249]

A. We wanted to suggest that we in Germany were interested in forcing certain developments and that we now expected an encouraging word from the other side - I do not, however, want any misunderstanding to arise here. In this letter it also states very clearly that President Roosevelt had in the meantime been disappointed many times by the Germans, so that we had to urge, even to beg him to take such a step. It is also a fact that President Roosevelt had already taken various steps for peace.

Q. Let us go on. Now, if I were to give you the cue "Vatican action?"

A. In addition to this attempt to enter into discussions with America, we believed we should ask for a statement from the British Government. Again it was our aim solely to -

THE PRESIDENT: Is the original of this letter still available or is this only given from memory?

DR. DIX: The original document, yes, that is, a letter signed by Schacht, is here. It was kept during the war in Switzerland and was brought back to us from Switzerland by this witness.


Q. Now, let us turn to the "Vatican Action."

A. We tried in every possible way to prove to General Halder and General Olbricht that their theory, that there could be no more dealings with a decent German Government, was wrong. We believed that we could now follow a very sure road. The Holy Father was personally interested in finding a solution, since the British Government had, quite justifiably, become uncertain whether there existed in Germany a trustworthy group of men with which one could talk. It was soon afterwards that the Venlo incident took place when, with the excuse that there was a German oppositional group, officials of the British Secret Service were kidnapped at the Dutch border. Therefore, we wanted to prove that here there was such a group, which was honestly trying to do its best and which, if the occasion arose, would stand by its word, under all circumstances. I believe that we kept our word regarding the things we proposed to do, in that we said quite frankly that we could not bring about this putsch as we had said previously we hoped to do.

These negotiations began in October or November, 1939. They were only concluded later in the spring and if I am asked I shall continue.

Q. Yes, please describe the conclusion.

A. I believe I must add first that, during November of 1939, General Halder actually had plans for a putsch, but that these plans came to naught, when at the very last minute Hitler called off the Western Offensive. Strengthened by the position of Halder at that time, we believed that we should continue these discussions at the Vatican. We reached what you might call a gentleman's agreement on the basis of which I believe that I am entitled to state that we could give the generals unequivocal proof, that in the event of the overthrow of the Hitler regime, terms could be made with a decent civil German Government.

Q. Did you read the particulars yourself?

A. These were oral discussions which were then put into a comprehensive report. This report was examined by the Ambassador, von Hassel and by Dr. Schacht before it was given to Halder by General Thomas. Halder was so taken with the contents that he gave the report to von Brauchitsch. Brauchitsch was enraged and threatened to arrest the intermediary, General Thomas, and thus this action which had every prospect of success, failed.

Q. Doctor, you have testified -

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Dix, the last notes that I have got down in my notebook are these: "that we knew that if Holland, Belgium and the other countries were attacked, it would have very grave consequences, and we therefore negotiated with Halder and Brauchitsch and they weren't prepared to help us to stop the war at that time. We wanted peace with honour, eliminating politics.

[Page 250]

We took all possible steps." Well, now, since I took these notes down, I think we spent nearly ten minutes in details which are utterly irrelevant about further negotiations. If they took, all possible steps, what is the point of giving us these details about it?

DR. DIX:. Your Lordship, when a witness is called in a matter of such importance as this, he, as well as the defendants' counsel must always take into account that people who hold contrary views will say "these are just generalities, we want facts and particulars"; then, I cannot forgo having the witness testify, at least in outline, that for example, a detailed action had been undertaken through his Holiness in the Vatican. If he merely says that the result of this action was a comprehensive report, if with Halder and Brauchitsch the above-mentioned -

THE PRESIDENT: I agree with you that the one sentence about some negotiations with the Vatican may have been properly given but all the rest of it were unnecessary details.

DR. DIX: Anyway we have already concluded this chapter, your Lordship.


Q. You have already testified that the putsch which was planned for November did not occur because the, Western Offensive did not take place. Therefore, we need not pursue this subject any further. I merely would like to ask you at this point: Did your group of conspirators remain inactive during the winter, and particularly during the spring, or were further plans followed and acted upon?

A. Constant attempts were made to influence all generals within our reach. Besides Halder and Brauchitsch we tried to reach the generals of divisions in the West. For instance, there was a discussion between Schacht and General Hoeppner.

Q. Hoeppner?

A. Hoeppner. We also tried to influence Field Marshal Rundstedt, Beck, and Leeb. Here, too, General Thomas and Admiral Canaris were the intermediaries.

Q. And how did the generals react?

A. When everything was ready, they did nothing.

Q. Now, we come to the summer of 1940. Hitler is in Paris. The air offensive against England is imminent. Tell us about your group of conspirators and their activity during this and the following period.

A. After the fall of Paris, our group had no influence for months. Hitler's success deluded everyone, and it took much effort on our part through all channels open to us to try at least to prevent the bombardment of England. Here again the group made united efforts and we tried, through General Thomas and Admiral Canaris and others, to prevent this disaster.

Q. Do I understand you correctly when you use the word "group" you mean the group which was led by Beck, in which Schacht participated?

A. Yes.

Q. Now, at that time did Schacht have a discussion or discussions on the same lines in Switzerland?

A. That was a little bit later. We have now come to the year 1941, and on this trip to Switzerland, Schacht tried to plead for a peace conference as soon as possible. We knew that Hitler was thinking about the attack on Russia, and we believed that we should do everything to avert, at least this disaster. It was with this end in view that Schacht's discussions in Switzerland were conducted I myself took part in arranging a dinner with the President of the B.I.Z., Mr. McKittrick, an American in Basel, and I heard Schacht when he tried to express the opinion that everything possible would have to be done to initiate negotiations.

DR. DIX: In this connection I would respectfully like to remind the Tribunal

[Page 251]

of the article in the "Basler Nachrichten," the gist of which I gave when we discussed the admissibility of documents. It deals with a conversation between Schacht and an American economist and refers to the same journey which the witness is now discussing. I will take the liberty to refer again to this article later.


Q. Now, the war continued. Have you anything to say about Russia about, the imminent war with Russia?

A. I can say only that Schacht knew of all the many attempts which we undertook to avert this catastrophe.

Q. Now let us go further to the time of Stalingrad. What was done by your group of conspirators after this critical period of the war?

A. When we had not succeeded in persuading the victorious generals to engineer a putsch, we then tried at least to win them over to it when they had met with what was, obviously, a great disaster. This disaster, which found its first visible expression in Stalingrad, had been predicted in all its details by General Beck since December of 1942. We immediately made all preparations to organise a military putsch to coincide with the day when Paulus' forces, completely defeated, would be forced to capitulate. The day of this defeat could be predicted with almost mathematical accuracy. I myself was called back from Switzerland and participated in all discussions and preparations. I can only testify that this time a great many preparations had been made. Contact was made with the Field Marshals in the East, and with Witzleben in the West but again, things turned out differently, since Field Marshal Paulus capitulated without giving us as arranged, the cue for Kluge to start the putsch in the East.

Q. This was the time of the so-called Schnaberndorf attempt?

A. No, a little later.

Q. Then I shall interpose another question. Until now you have always described the group led by General Beck and supported by Schacht, Goerdeler, etc., as a putsch movement, that is, a group which wanted to overthrow the government. Didn't this group now more and more lean towards an attempt on Hitler's life?

A. Yes, from the moment when the generals again deserted us, we realised that a putsch was not to be hoped for, and from that moment on we took All the necessary steps to an assassination.

DR. LATERNSER (Counsel for the General Staff and O.K.W.): Mr. President, I must object at this point to the testimony of the witness. Dr. Gisevius by his testimony has incriminated the group which I represent. However, some of this testimony is so general that it cannot be referred to as fact. Furthermore, he has just testified that the Field Marshals in the East had "deserted" the group of conspirators. These statements are opinions which the witness is giving, but they are not facts, to which the witness must limit his testimony and therefore I ask - Mr. President, I have not yet finished. I wanted to conclude with the request for a resolution by the Tribunal that that part of the testimony of the witness, in which he asserted that the general had "deserted" the group of conspirators be stricken from the record.

DR. DIX: May I please reply briefly? I cannot agree with the opinion of my esteemed colleague Dr. Laternser that the statement "the generals deserted us" was not a statement of fact -

THE PRESIDENT: I don't think we need to hear further argument upon it. It certainly won't be stricken from the record until we have had time to consider it, and Dr. Laternser will have his opportunity of examining this witness and he can then elucidate any evidence he wants to.

DR. LATERNSER: But, Mr. President, if I make the motion for the reason that the witness is giving testimony which is beyond his scope as a witness,

[Page 252]

and that he is merely giving his opinion, then to that extent it is inadmissible testimony, and should be stricken from the record.

THE PRESIDENT: If you mean that the evidence is hearsay, that is perfectly obvious to the Tribunal, and does not make the evidence inadmissible. You will be able to cross examine him about it.

DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, I have been misunderstood. I am not basing my request to strike the testimony from the record on the allegation that the witness made statements from hearsay, but I maintain that it is not a statement of fact but an opinion which the witness is giving when he says: "The generals in the East deserted the group of conspirators."

DR. DIX: May I answer briefly to that. If I try to influence a group of generals to organise a revolt and if they do not do so, that is a fact and I can state this fact with the words "They deserted me. " Naturally I can also say, "They did not revolt," but that is merely a matter of expression. Both are fact and not an opinion. He is not evaluating the action of the generals in an ethical, military or political sense, he is merely pointing out: "They did not wish to do so."



Q. If I recall correctly, you were just about to tell us that now the policy of the conspirator group changed from a putsch to an attempt on Hitler's life Is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you wish to state anything further?

A. You had asked me about the first step in this direction after General Beck had given up all hope of being able to win over other generals to a putsch. It was said at that time: "Now there is nothing left for us but to free Germany, Europe, and the world, through a bomb attack." Immediately after this decision, preparations were started. Oster spoke to Lahousen and Lahousen furnished the bombs from his arsenal. The bombs were taken to the headquarters of Kluge at Smolensk, and with every possible means we tried to bring about the attempt on Hitler's life. This was unsuccessful only because at the time when Hitler visited the front, the bomb which had been put in his airplane did not explode. This was in the spring of 1943.

Q. Now, an event took place in the Abwehr, O.K.W., which as a result of further developments, strongly affected Schacht's further attitude and also your remaining in Germany. Will you please describe that?

A. Gradually even Himmler could not fail to see what was happening in the O.K.W. and upon the urgent request of General of the S.S. Schellenberg a thorough investigation of the Canaris group was started. A special commissar was put in office and on the first day of this investigation Oster was relieved of his office and a number of his assistants arrested. A short time thereafter Canaris was also dismissed from his post. I myself could no longer remain in Germany, and thus this group which until now had in a certain sense been the brains and management of this conspiracy was eliminated.

Q. During that time, that is January, 1943, Schacht was also relieved of his position as Reich Minister without portfolio. Did you meet Schacht after that time?

A. Yes. By chance I was in Berlin on the day when this letter of dismissal arrived. It was an unusually sharp letter and I remember that during the night Schacht asked me to come and see him at his country estate, and since the letter simply stated that Schacht was to be dismissed we wondered whether he was also going to be arrested.

DR. DIX: I would like to remind the Tribunal that I read this letter into the record when Lammers was examined and showed it to him. This letter is

[Page 253]

already - I mean Schacht's letter of dismissal signed by Lammers - has been read into the record and is probably contained in my document book.

[ Previous | Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.