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 10 of 10)

[MR. JUSTICE JACKSON continues his cross examination of Hans Bernd Gisevius]

[Page 266]

Q. But notwithstanding the estimate he made of those men as dangerous persons, did he not thereafter appoint them both in his Ministry of Interior?

A. Well, of course, they were actually appointed by Hitler. However, I can only say that when I took leave of Frick at the time I left the Ministry of Interior in May, 1935, Frick told me that the eternal scandal which was attached to me had taught him from now on to take only Party members in his Ministry, and as far as possible those who had the Golden Party Emblem. He said that it was possible that in the course of events he might even be forced to allow Himmler into his Ministry but in no case would he accept the murderer Heydrich. Those were the last words I exchanged with Frick.

Q. Both were put in charge of matters that were under his legal control, were they not?

A. Yes, they became members of the Reich Ministry of the Interior and Frick remained their superior.


Q. Did you say that those were the last words which you exchanged with the defendant Frick?

A. Yes. That was in 1935 and I have not met him or talked to him since.


Q. Now, after 1934 Frick was the Minister in charge of the running and controlling of concentration camps, was he not, Dr. Gisevius?

A. In my opinion the Reich Minister of the Interior was responsible from the beginning for all police matters in the Reich and therefore also for the concentration camps, and I do not believe that one can say he had that responsibility only after 1934.

Q. Well, I am willing to accept your amendment to my question. I ask that you be shown Document 3751-PS, which has not yet been offered in evidence.

(Witness handed document.)

Now, this purports to be a communication from Dr. Guertner, the Minister of Justice, to Reich and Prussian Minister of the Interior. That would be from your friend Dr. Guertner to Frick, would it not?

A. I believe I heard you say "friend," Guertner, during the time he acted as Minister, did not conduct himself in such a way that I could call him my friend.

Q. Well then, tell us about Guertner. Tell us about Guertner's position in this situation, because we have a communication here, apparently from him.

A. Guertner?

Q. Yes.

A. At, that time Guertner without doubt, made many attempts to uncover the cruelty in the camps and to initiate criminal procedure. In individual cases Guertner did make many attempts, but after 30 June he signed the law which legalised all these dreadful things, and also in other respects Guertner never obtained the logical results of his views. But this document which you submit

[Page 267]

to me was such an attempt by Guertner and the decent officials in the Ministry of Justice to bring the question of the Gestapo terror to discussion. As far as I recollect this is one of the letters which we discussed unofficially beforehand, which was written in order to provoke discussion.

Q. I now desire to read some parts of this into the record. It becomes Exhibit USA 828. I will offer it as such. Will you kindly follow the German text and see if I am quoting correctly:-

"My dear Reichsminister:

Enclosed you will find a copy of a report of the Inspector of the Secret State Police, dated 28 March, 1935.

This report gives me the opportunity to state my fundamental attitude toward the question of corrective treatment of internees. The numerous instances of ill- treatment which have come to the knowledge of the Ministry of Justice point to three different reasons for such ill-treatment:-

1. Beating as a disciplinary punishment in concentration camps.

2. Ill-treatment, mostly of political internees, in order to make them talk.

3. Ill-treatment of internees arising out of sheer wantonness: or for sadistic motives."

I think I will not take the Tribunal's time to read his comment on number one or number two.

About number three - you will find in the German text:-

"The experience of the first revolutionary years has shown that the persons who are charged to administer the beatings generally lose their sense of the purpose and meaning of their action after a short time, and permit themselves to be governed by personal feelings of revenge or sadistic tendencies. Thus, members of the guard detail of the former concentration camp at Bredow near Stettin completely stripped a prostitute who had an argument with one of them, and beat her with whips and cowhides in such a fashion that the woman two months later still showed two open and infected wounds.

In the concentration camp at Kemna near Wupperthal, prisoners were locked up in a narrow clothing locker and were then tortured by blowing in cigarette smoke, upsetting the locker, etc. In some cases the prisoners were first given salt herring to eat, in order to produce an especially strong and torturing thirst.

In the Hehenstein concentration camp in Saxony, prisoners had to stand under a dripping apparatus especially constructed for this purpose until the drops of water which fell down in even intervals caused seriously infected wounds on their scalps.

In a concentration camp in Hamburg four prisoners were lashed in the form of a cross to a grating for days, once without interruption for three days and nights, once for five days and nights, and fed so meagrely with dry bread that they almost died of hunger.

These few examples show a degree of cruelty which is such an insult to every German sensibility, that it is impossible to consider any extenuating circumstances.

In conclusion, I should like to present my opinion about these three points to you, my dear Herr Reich Minister, in your capacity as cabinet member in charge of the establishment of protective custody and the camps for protective custody."

[Page 268]

And he goes on to make certain recommendations for action by the Minister.

I do not know whether the Tribunal cares to have more of this read.

Q. Was any improvement in conditions noted after the receipt of that communication by Frick?

A. The letter was received at the time I left the Ministry of the Interior. I should like to say only one thing concerning this letter. What is described therein is really only a fraction of what we knew. I helped to prepare this letter, in that I spoke to the officials concerned in the Ministry of Justice. The Minister of Justice could only bring up those matters which had by chance become known legally through some penal measure. But there can be no doubt that this communication was used as a motive for a very bold letter from Heydrich to Goering, dated 28 March, 1935, in which he disputed the right of the Minister of Justice to prosecute in cases of mistreatment. The letter, therefore, does not add anything new to my descriptions and no doubt you have all been convinced that these conditions which started at that time never ceased but become worse as time went on.

Q. Now, there came a time when Heydrich was assassinated in Prague, did there not?

A. Yes, some very brave Czechs were able to do what we unfortunately could not achieve. That will always be to their glory.

Q. Now, I suppose the Czechs, and perhaps you too, expected that the assassination of Heydrich would result in some improvement in this condition?

A. We asked ourselves, we, Canaris, Oster, Nebe and the others of the group, whether it was at all possible that an even worse man could be found to succeed such a monster as Heydrich; and we really did think that the Gestapo terror would now subside and that perhaps we would have a certain amount of honesty and integrity or that at least the cruelties might be reduced.

Q. And then came Kaltenbrunner. Did you notice any improvement after the appointment of Kaltenbrunner? Tell us about that.

A. Kaltenbrunner came and things become worse from day to day. Once more we learned that perhaps the impulsive actions of a murderer like Heydrich were not as bad as the cold, legal logic of a lawyer who took over the administration of such a dangerous instrument as the Gestapo.

Q. Can you tell us whether Kaltenbrunner took an even more sadistic attitude than Himmler and Schellenberg had done? Were you informed about that?

A. Yes. I know that Heydrich, in a certain sense, had something like a bad conscience when he committed his crimes. At any rate, he did not like it if, in the circles of the Gestapo, these things were discussed openly. Nebe, who, as Chief of the Criminal Police, had the same rank as the Chief of the Gestapo, Muller, always told me that Heydrich took care to conceal his crimes.

Upon the entry of Kaltenbrunner into that organisation, this practice ceased. All these things were now openly discussed among the department chiefs of the Gestapo. Of course, the war had started and these gentlemen lunched together, and Nebe often came to me completely exhausted from such luncheons, so that he had a nervous breakdown. On two occasions Nebe had to be sent on sick leave for lengthy periods because he simply could not stand the open cynicism with which mass murder, and the technique of mass murder, were discussed.

I remind you only of the gruesome chapter of the installation of the first gas chamber, which was discussed in detail in this circle, as were the experiments as to how one could most quickly and most efficiently remove the Jews. These were the most horrible descriptions I have ever heard in my life, since of course,

[Page 269]

it is so much worse when you hear them from some one who is still under the direct impression of such discussions, and who because of this is almost at the point of collapsing physically and mentally, than when you hear of it from documents. Nebe became so ill, that actually as early as 20 July he had a persecution mania and became a human wreck as the result of everything he had gone through.

Q. Was it the custom to have daily luncheon conferences of the chiefs of the Main Security Office, those who happened to be in town?

A. Daily conferences; everything was discussed at luncheon. This was of particular importance to us, because we heard details of the methods used by the Gestapo in the fight against our group.

To prove my statements, I can report that, for instance, the order issued for the arrest of Goerdeler on 17 July was decided upon during such a luncheon conference, and Nebe warned us at once. That is the reason why Goerdeler was able to escape at least for a while, and why we were able to learn to what extent the Gestapo knew of our plot.

Q. And who were the regular attendants at those luncheon conferences?

A. Kaltenbrunner presided. Then there were Gestapo Leader Muller, Schellenberg, Ohlendorf, and Nebe.

Q. And do you know whether, at those meetings, the new kinds of torture and the technique of killing by gas, and other measures in the concentration camps, were discussed?

A. Yes. They were discussed in great detail, and sometimes I received the description only a few minutes later.

Q. Now, what was the situation with reference to the information of the Foreign Office about the conduct of the Gestapo? Will you tell us what was done to inform the Foreign Office from time to time of the crimes that the Gestapo were committing?

A. The Foreign Office, particularly during the earlier years, was continually kept informed, since nearly every day some foreigner was half beaten to death or robbed. Then came the diplomatic missions, with their complaints, and these complaints were sent to the Ministry of the Interior by the Foreign Ministry. All this went through my office, and sometimes I had four or five such notes a day from the Foreign Office regarding perpetrations and excesses of the Gestapo, and I can testify that in the course of the years there were no crimes of the Gestapo which were not set forth in these notes.

Q. Did you make certain reports to the Foreign Office which were so dispatched that you are reasonably certain they would reach Neurath?

A. Ribbentrop was not yet the Foreign Minister at that time ...

Q. No, Neurath.

A. I very often discussed these matters personally with the advisers of the Foreign Office, because they were of a very particular nature, and they were most indignant. I asked them repeatedly to put these matters before the Minister through the official channels. In addition, I gave as much material as I could to one of the closest collaborators of the Foreign Minister, the Chief of Records, Ambassador von Buelow-Schwandte, and, according to the information I received from Buelow-Schwandte, he very often submitted that material to Neurath.

Q. Now, were certain of the collaborators close collaborators of von Papen? Was von Papen subject to action by the Gestapo?

A. To start with, the entire group around von Papen was continuously under surveillance by the Gestapo because in the earlier years there was the impression

[Page 270]

among wide masses of the people that von Papen was a special spokesman for decency and right. A large group collected around von Papen, and, of course, that was most carefully watched by the Gestapo. Since the complaints which von Papen received by the score were carefully filed in his office, and since no doubt von Papen quite often took these papers either to Goering or to the Hindenburg palace, the closest collaborators of von Papen were, of course, suspected by the Gestapo; and so, on 30 June, 1934, Oberregierungsrat von Bose, the closest assistant of von Papen, was shot dead in the doorway of von Papen's office. The two other assistants of von Papen were imprisoned and the man who wrote von Papen's radio speeches, Edgar Jung, was arrested weeks before 30 June, and on the morning of 1 July, he was found murdered in a ditch along the highway near Oranienburg.

Q. Did von Papen continue in office after that?

A. I have never heard that he resigned, and I know that very soon after the Austrian Chancellor Dollfuss was murdered he was sent to Vienna as Hitler's Ambassador.

Q. Did he ever make any protests that you know of?

A. I personally heard of none at the time, although, of course, we were extremely keen to hear which minister would protest. However, no letter from Papen arrived at the Ministry of the Interior.

Q. Were some of his collaborators murdered after the Anschluss in Austria?

A. On the day of the Anschluss, when the S.S. entered Austria, von Papen's closest collaborator, Legation Councillor Freiherr von Ketteler, was kidnapped by the Gestapo. We looked for him for weeks, until three or four weeks later his body was washed up on the banks of the Danube.

Q. After that, did Papen continue to serve as a part of the Hitler Government, and accept further offices from Hitler's hands?

A. He was no longer a member of the Government at the time. Immediately after the march into Austria von Papen was disposed of as Ambassador. However, it didn't take long before he continued his activities as ambassador at Ankara.

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: Does the Tribunal desire to rise at this point?

THE PRESIDENT: You would like a little more time, wouldn't you, with this witness?

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: It will take a little more time, your Honour.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. We will adjourn now.

(The Tribunal adjourned until Friday, 26 April, 1946, at 10.00 hours.)

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