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 8 of 10)

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

[Page 257]

Q. Witness, you just mentioned the military oath. Do you know whether Blomberg and General Beck opposed or tried to oppose the pledge the armed forces gave to Hitler?

A. I know only that Beck until the last day of his life considered the day he rendered his pledge to Hitler as the blackest day of his life, and gave me an exact description of how surprised and miserable he felt on that occasion. He told me that he had been summoned to a military roll call; and that suddenly it was announced that an oath of allegiance was to be given to the new head of State; that unexpectedly a new form of oath was to be used. Beck never rid himself of the awful thought that at that time he perhaps should not have given his oath. He told me that while he was on his way home, he said to a comrade: "This is the blackest day of my life."

Q. Witness, in your testimony, you also mentioned that between the Polish campaign and the Western campaign, or with the beginning of the Western campaign, a further military putsch was to be tried, and that this putsch failed because Halder and Fieldmarshal von Brauchitsch shirked it. You used the term "shirked" previously in your testimony. Now I ask you to tell me on the basis of what facts did you arrive at this opinion that both these generals shirked -

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: I do not raise an objection that this is harmful to us if we have plenty of time, but this evidence as to these putsches and threatened putsches and rumoured putsches is all admissible here in our view only as bearing on the attitude of the defendant Schacht. We are not trying these generals for being or not being in a putsch. For all purposes it is just as well they should not be in a putsch. I do not know what purpose there can be in going over it all again. I call the Tribunal's attention to the limited purpose for which this historical material was admitted, and I suggest that it is serving no purpose in this connection to review it.

THE PRESIDENT: What is the answer to that, Dr. Laternser?

DR. LATERNSER: Since the witness talked about this complex of questions and testified that Halder as well as Brauchitsch "evaded" and I cannot establish whether in the witness' judgement "shirked" is correct on the basis of the facts, I believe I am obliged to clarify this point. In a general sense I would like to add further that the prosecution is also justified in entering into this point. I refer to the contention of the French Prosecutor in which he stated that in the light of all these circumstances it was beyond comprehension that Halder as well as the entire German people did not rise to a man against the regime. Therefore, if I start from the viewpoint of the prosecution, then my questions

[Page 258]

on this point, as I have just put them, are undoubtedly of importance, and I, therefore, ask that this question be permitted.

THE PRESIDENT: The charge against the High Command is that they were a criminal organisation within the meaning of the Charter; that is to say that they planned an aggressive war or that they committed War Crimes or Crimes Against Humanity in connection with an aggressive war. Well, whether or not they took part or were planning to take part in a putsch to stop the war does not seem very material to any of those questions.

DR. LATERNSER: I agree with you entirely, Mr. President, that it cannot actually be considered of special importance, but on the other hand -

THE PRESIDENT: I did not say that it was not of special importance. I say that it was not material to the relevancy. The Tribunal does not think that any of these questions are relevant.

DR. LATERNSER: Then I will withdraw that question. I have one final question.


Q. Witness, can you tell me the names of those generals who participated on 20 July?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, what has that got to do with any charge against the High Command?

DR. LATERNSER: The General Staff is accused of having participated in a conspiracy. The question -

THE PRESIDENT: We are not here to consider the honour of the High Command. We are here to consider whether or not they are a criminal organisation within the meaning of the Charter, and that is the only question with which we are going to deal so far as you are concerned.

DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, the General Staff and the O.K.W. is accused of having participated in a conspiracy. If I prove, as I am trying to do with this question that, on the contrary, instead of participating in a conspiracy, part of the General Staff took part in an action against the regime, then the answer to this question will indicate that precisely the opposite was true; and, for that reason, I ask that the question be permitted.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal does not think that what the General Staff did in July, 1944, when the circumstances were entirely different to what they were in September, 1939, has any relevancy to the question whether they took part, either before or in September, 1939.

DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, if I put myself in the place of the prosecution I must assume that the prosecution assumes that the conspiracy continued. It cannot be inferred from testimony by the prosecution or from anything that has been submitted that the conspiracy was to have stopped at a certain period of time. So that the answer to this question would be of importance, I believe of decisive importance. Mr. President, I would like to supplement my statement.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, Dr. Laternser.

DR. LATERNSER: I would like to add that it is precisely for the membership of the group I represent that the period of time between 1938 and May, 1944, is considered decisive.

THE PRESIDENT: You mean the group changed; therefore, they might be different in 1944?

I DR. LATERNSER: I wish, to add that a particularly large number of the membership of this group only joined this group in the course of 1944 on the basis of their official positions, and that I do consider this point important.



Q. Witness, my question was: Can you give me the names of those generals who participated in the attempted assassination of 20 July, 1944?

[Page 259]

A. Generaloberst Beck; General Fieldmarshal Witzleben, General Hoeppner.

Q. One question: General Hoeppner was previously supreme command of an army?

A. I believe so. In addition there was General von Haase, and certainly a large number of other generals whom I cannot enumerate off-hand. Here I have mentioned only the names of those who were at the Bendlerstrasse that afternoon.

Q. One question, witness: Do you know whether Fieldmarshal Rommel also participated in the affair of 20 July, 1944?

A. I cannot answer by merely saying "yes" for it is a fact that Rommel, as well as Fieldmarshal von Kluge, did participate. However, it would give a wrong picture if Fieldmarshal Rommel were suddenly to appear in the category of those who fought against Hitler. Rommel, as a typical Party general, sought to join us very late, and we had a very painful impression when suddenly, in the face of his own military catastrophe, he proposed to us to have Hitler assassinated, and then, if possible, Goering and Himmler as well. And, even then, he did not wish to appear at the first but to stay somewhat in the background in order that we might profit by his popularity later on. Therefore, it is extremely difficult to know whether these gentlemen, when they joined our group, came as the defeated might, as people who wished to save their reputation, or as people who, from the beginning, stood for decency and honour.

Q. Did you yourself ever speak to Fieldmarshal Rommel about this?

A. No. I never considered it worth while to make his acquaintance.

Q. A further question: Did officers of the General Staff participate on 20 July?

A. Yes, a large group.

Q. About how many would you say?

A. I cannot give you the number, for at that time I was not informed of how many of the General Staff Staufenberg had on his side. I do not doubt that Staufenberg, Colonel Hansen and several other stout-hearted men had discovered a number of clean, courageous officers of the General Staff, and that they could count on the support of very many decent members of the General Staff though they naturally could not initiate them all into their plans beforehand.

Q. That will be sufficient for this point. Another question has occurred to me. You mentioned General von Treskow previously. Did you know von Treskow personally?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you know anything about the fact that after he learned that the commissar decree had been issued, General von Treskow remonstrated with von Rundstedt, and that these remonstrances contributed to the fact that the commissar decree was not transmitted in Field Marshal von Rundstedt's sector?

A. Treskow belonged to our group for many years and there was no shameful action of this sort to which he did not, from the very start, courageously call the attention of his superiors. I remember how at that time we learned of the famous commissar decree through hearsay, and immediately sent a courier to Treskow to inform him of the bare purpose of such an outrage. Then, after the decree had been published, Treskow, at a time which had been pre-arranged, remonstrated with von Rundstedt in the sense you described.

THE PRESIDENT: You said awhile ago that you were just going to ask your last question.

[Page 260]

DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, I am sorry I could not keep to that. A number of questions arose from the testimony of the witness, but this was my last question.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn.

(A recess was taken.)

THE PRESIDENT: Does any other member of the defendant's counsel wish to ask any questions of the witness?

(No response.)

Then does the prosecution desire to cross-examine?



Q. May it please the Tribunal, I have a few questions to ask you, Dr. Gisevius, and if you will answer them as nearly as possible by "yes" or "no," when you are capable of giving a truthful answer, you will save a great deal of time.

The Tribunal perhaps should know your relations with the prosecution. Is it not a fact that within two months of the surrender of Germany I met you at Wiesbaden, and you related to me your experiences in the conspiracy that you have related here?

A. Yes.

Q. And you were later brought here, and after coming here were interrogated by the prosecution as well as by the Counsel for Frick and for Schacht?

A. Yes.

Q. Now, your attitude and viewpoint is, as I understand you, that of a German who felt that loyalty to the German people required continuous opposition to the Nazi regime. Is that a correct statement of your position?

A. Yes.

Q. And you had a very large experience in police matters in Germany.

A. Yes.

Q. If your putsches or other moves to obtain power in Germany were successful, it was planned that you would be in charge of the police in the reorganisation, was it not?

A. Yes, indeed.

Q. Either as Minister of the Interior or as Police Commissioner, whatever it might be called.

A. Yes, certainly.

Q. Now, you represented the belief that it was not necessary to govern Germany with concentration camps and with Gestapo methods; is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. And you found all the ways of presenting your viewpoint to the German people cut off by the Gestapo methods which were used by the Nazi regime; is that a fact?

A. Yes.

Q. So that there was no way open to you to obtain any change in German policy except through revolt or assassination, or means of that kind?

A. No. I am convinced that until 1937 or the beginning of 1938 conditions could have been changed in Germany by means of a majority in the Reich cabinet or by means of pressure from the armed forces.

[Page 261]

Q. Then, you fix 1937 as the time when it ceased to be possible by peaceful means to effect a change in Germany; is that correct?

A. That is how I would judge it.

Q. Now, it was not until after 1937 that Schacht joined your group; is that not a fact?

A. Yes, as I said, the group was not formed until 1937 or 1938, but Schacht had already introduced me to Goerdeler in 1936, and Schacht and Oster had known each other since 1936. Naturally Schacht also had known a large number of other members of the group for a long time.

Q. But Schacht did not become convinced, as I understand your statement to us, until after 1937, until the putsch affair, that he wouldn't be able to handle Hitler in some peaceful way; is that not correct?

A. In what manner? In a peaceful manner or ...

Q. In a peaceful manner.

A. Yes, until the end of 1937 Schacht believed t1hat it should be possible to remove Hitler legally.

Q. But by the end of 1937, as you now say, the possibility of a peaceful removal of Hitler had ceased to exist.

A. That is what we thought.

Q. Yes; now, there was, as I understand your object in going to the generals, there was no power in Germany that could stop or deal with the Gestapo except the army.

A. Yes. I would answer that question in the affirmative.

Q. In addition to the Gestapo, this Nazi regime also had a private army in the S.S., did they not, and for a period in the S.A.?

A. Yes.

Q. And if you were to combat successfully the Nazi regime, you had to have manpower which only the army had; is that right?

A. Yes, this manpower could be found only in the army, but at the same time we also attempted to influence people in the police, and. we needed all the decent officials in the administrations, and, generally speaking, the broad masses of the people.

Q. But the Wehrmacht was the source of power capable of dealing with the S.S. and the Gestapo if the generals had been willing?

A. That was our conviction.

Q. And that is the reason you kept seeking the help of the generals and felt let down when finally they wouldn't give you their assistance?

A. Yes.

[ 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.