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-Fifteenth Day: Friday, 26th April, 1946
(Part 2 of 8)

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

[Page 275]

Q. Did the reports to Keitel mention the forced enslavement of millions of foreign workers and their deportation or importation into Germany?

A. Yes, indeed.

Q. And those enslaved labourers are the displaced persons of today who are now a menace in Germany; are they not?

A. Yes, indeed. In this connection I would also like to say that in our reports it was mentioned just what responsibility the Wehrmacht would have to bear if these ill- treated people should be freed some day. We had an idea of what was to come, and those who made the reports at that time can understand what has now taken place.

Q. Did the reports to Keitel mention the persecution of the churches in the occupied countries?

A. Yes, they did. I would like to cite as a special example how we even once sent leading churchmen to Norway in the guise of agents. They established contact with Bishop Bergrad, and brought back very detailed reports of what Bishop Bergrad thought about the persecution of the churches in Norway and other countries. I can still see this report before me, because Keitel also wrote one of his well known National Socialist Party phrases on this document.

Q. Now, these reports consisted both of information furnished by Canaris and Oster and of the reports coming in from outside under this plan?

A. Yes.

Q. I want to ask you a few questions about the S.A. and the S.S. organisa-

[Page 276]

tions. In your book, which you have been asked about, I think you have characterised the S.A. as a private army of the Nazi organisation. Is that a correct characterisation?

A. Yes, certainly.

Q. During the early part of the struggle for power the S.A. constituted a private army for carrying out the orders of the Nazi Party; did it not?

A. Yes.

Q. They took in a good many people in the S.A. and it grew steadily in numbers, and there came a time when there was some danger it would break away from the Party. Is that the case?

A. Yes, that is correct.

Q. And the murder of Roehm and his associates was a struggle for power, was it not, between Goering and Himmler and the Nazi crowd associated with them on one hand and Roehm and his associates on the other?

A. Yes, indeed.

Q. After the murder of Roehm, this S.A. organisation, which was very big at the time, rather lost importance, didn't it?

A. Yes, completely.

Q. And the S.S., which was a smaller and more compact organisation, came in to take its place as a private army, didn't it?

A. Yes, as the decisive private army.

Q. Now, let's go back to the S.A. during the period before the struggle for power resulting in the Roehm purge. What part did the S.A. play in the battle for power, the seizure of power?

A. As is said in the song, "it cleared the streets for the Brown Battalions," and without a doubt the S.A. played a dominant role in the so-called seizure of power. Without the S.A. Hitler would undoubtedly never have come to power.

Q. Now, let's examine their methods. Perhaps I can shorten this by quoting from your book. I think you say that:

"Whoever had not entirely made up his mind, had it made up for him unequivocally by the S.A. Their methods were primitive, therefore all the more effective. For instance, one learned the new Hitler salute very quickly when, on the pavements, beside every marching S.A. column - and where were there no parades in those days - a few stalwart S.A. men went along giving pedestrians a crack on the head right and left, if they failed to perform the correct gesture at least three steps ahead of the S.A. flag. And these Storm troopers acted the same way in all things."
Is that a correct account of their activities and influence?

A. I hope so.

Q. Well, you know it to be so, don't you?

A. Yes, yes, of course, for it is my own description. I cannot criticise it.

Q. Yes. But you saw these things yourself, did you not? You were in Germany at that time?

A. Yes, certainly.

Q. You see, it is very difficult for us, with all the documents we have, Doctor, to get the picture of the day to day events. You were there, and we were, not.

Now, let me make another quotation:

"The chronicle of that private army is colourful and stirring. It teemed with beer hall brawls, street fights, knifings, shootings, and, fist-fights, altogether a mad rough and tumble affair, where naturally there was no question of crises of leadership or of mutinies. In this brotherhood of the wild men of German nationalism there was undoubtedly much idealism, but at the same time the S.A. was the repository for political derelicts. The failures of all classes found refuge there. The discontents, the disinherited, the desperados streamed to it wholesale. The core, the paid permanent group, and particularly the leaders, were recruited, as time went

[Page 277]

on, more and more from the riffraff of a period of political and social decay."
Is that a correct statement of your observations of the S.A. at that time?

A. Yes, quite.

Q. May I call your attention to another quotation:-

"The S.A. organised huge raids. The S.A. searched houses. The S.A. confiscated property. The S.A. cross-examined people. The S.A. put people in jail. In short, the S.A. appointed themselves permanent auxiliary police and paid no attention to any of the customs from the so-called 'system period' (Weimar Republic). The worst problem for the helpless authorities was that the S.A. never returned its booty at all. Woe unto anyone who got into their clutches!

From this time dated the 'Bunkers,' those dreaded private prisons of which every S.A. Storm Troop had to have at least one. 'Taking away' became the inalienable right of the S.A. The efficiency of a Standartenfuehrer was measured by the number of arrests he had made, and the good reputation of an S.A. man was based on the effectiveness with which he educated' - in quotation marks, the quotation marks being yours - 'educated' his prisoners. Brawls could no longer be staged in the fight for power, yet the 'fight' went on, only the blows were now struck in the full enjoyment of power."

Is that a correct statement of your observations of the S.A.?

A. Yes, absolutely correct.

Q. I think you also used the term "Bunker," and it is a slightly technical term with which some of us are not familiar. Will you tell the Tribunal what this Bunker system of the S.A. was?

A. Bunkers were those cellars, or other dungeons, with thick walls, in which the poor prisoners were locked up, where they were then beaten, often, indeed, beaten to death. They were those private jails in which, during the first months, the leaders of the leftist parties and of the unions were systematically rendered harmless, which explains the phenomenon that the leftist groups did not act again for so long a time, for there, at the outset and most thoroughly, the entire leadership was done away with.

Q. You also use the expression "'Taking away' became the inalienable right of the S.A.," and "taking away" is in quotation marks. Will you tell us about this "taking away," what it means?

A. That was the arbitrary arrest, whereby the relatives, often for periods of weeks or months, did not know where the poor victims had disappeared to, and had to be thankful if they ever returned home.

Q. I think you also make this observation in your book:-

"Every excess, pardoned as 'over-zealousness in the cause of the National Socialist revolution' was a demonstration of official sanction, and necessarily drew in its wake a new excess. It was the bestiality tolerated during the first months that later encouraged the sadistic murders in the concentration camps. The growth in brutality and insensibility of the general public, which toward the end of the revolution extended far beyond the domain of the Gestapo, was the unavoidable consequence of this first irresponsible attempt to give free rein to the Brown Shirts for their acts of violence."
Does that, too, represent your observation of the S.A.?

A. Yes - not of the S.A. alone but also of general conditions in Germany.

Q. Now, will you tell us about - as I understand you, after the Roehm purge the S.A. was rather abandoned as the private army, and a more reliable and smaller and more compact private army was created under Himmler.

A. A guard which had been established by Himmler long before this time now actually came into action. I do not doubt that Himmler and his closest

[Page 278]

circle for years had worked toward this very objective so that one day, with their Schutztruppe (protective guard), they could establish the terror system in Germany. But until 30 June the S.S. had been a part of the S.A., and Goering - excuse me, Roehm - was also the chief of the S.S. The road for Himmler to police chief in Germany, to police chief of evil, was only open after Roehm had been eliminated with his much larger S.A. But the will to power of the S.S., and all the confused and unscrupulous ideas connected therewith must be assumed to have existed in the leadership of the S.S. for many years previous to that.

Q. Now, this S.S. organisation selected its members with great care, did it not?

A. Yes, certainly.

Q. Will you tell us something about the qualifications for membership?

A. The members had to be so-called Nordic types. Actually I always considered these questionnaires as a good subject for a humorous paper, and for that reason I am not in a position today to give you exact particulars, except that, if I am not mistaken, the distinguishing characteristics of men and women went as far as underarm perspiration. I recall that Heydrich and Himmler, in selecting S.S. men who were to do police duty, decided only after a picture had been submitted to them of the future victim who would be charged with carrying out their evil commands. I know that, for example, Nebe repeatedly saved officials in the criminal police force (Kripo) from being transferred to the ranks of the Gestapo by having poor photographs taken of these people so that, as far as possible, they did not look Nordic. In that case, of course, they were turned down immediately. But it would be going too far afield to relate more about these dismal things in this courtroom.

Q. Well, was the membership of the S.S. recruited only from what we may call fanatical Nazis, reliable Nazis?

A. I think we must make a distinction. In the first years, many decent German people, especially farmers and people in the country, felt drawn to the S.S., because they believed Himmler's assurance that the S.S. was to bring order to Germany and to be a counter-balance to the S.A. terror. In that way, to my knowledge, some people in the years before 1933, and even in 1933 and 1934, entered the S.S., because they hoped that here would be a nucleus standing for order and right, and I believe it is my duty to point out the tragedy of these people. Each and every case should be examined before deciding whether, later on, a member was guilty or whether he remained decent.

But from a certain period of time on - I believe I specified yesterday 1935 - no one could have any doubts as to the real S.S. objectives. From then on only fanatical National Socialists, that is, "super" National Socialists, entered the S.S.

Q. And from 1935 on, in your judgement as one who was on the spot, those who entered the S.S. must have known what its actual activities were?

A. Yes: what he was entering into and what orders he had to expect.

Q. Now, the Tribunal has asked me to inquire in reference to the incident referred to, in connection with what you heard Dr. Stahmer saying to Dr. Dix. Was there anything further, in reference to the threat made. Is there anything that you wish to add about that incident in order to make it clear to the Tribunal, anything that hasn't been told about it?

A. I would like to make clear that Dr. Dix informed me about a discussion he had with Dr. Stahmer. That morning I arrived in the counsels' room, and I do not wish to state further particulars, but the atmosphere there was not exactly cordial to begin with. Then I went up to Dr. Dix to report something else. Dr. Stahmer approached, obviously very excited, and asked Dr. Dix for an immediate interview. Dr. Dix refused, on the ground that he was talking to me. Dr. Stahmer said in a loud voice that he must speak to Dr. Dix im-

[Page 279]

mediately and urgently. Dr. Dix took only two steps aside and the conversation that followed was carried on by Dr. Stahmer in such a loud voice, that I was bound to hear most of it. I did hear it and said to attorney Dr. Kraus who was standing nearby: "Just listen how Dr. Stahmer is carrying on." Dr. Dix then came over to me, very excited, and after all this fuss, in response to my questions as to what precisely was the demand of the defendant Goering, he told me what I had already half heard anyway. I would like to underline that if I had had the opportunity to tell the story first in my own way I would have emphasised that I was under the impression that Dr. Stahmer had merely transmitted a statement, or rather what I would call a threat, by the defendant Goering.

Q. Now, in this Nazi regime, after Hitler came to power, will you state whether there was, as far as you could see, a systematic practice of the Nazi ministers and Nazi officials enriching themselves by reason of their confiscation of property of Jews and others?

A. Yes. This became more cynical from year to year, and we kept lists as to which of the civil ministers and above all which of the generals and field marshals participated in this system. We planned to inquire of all the generals and ministers at a later date whether these donations had been put into a bank account or whether they had possibly used this money for their own personal interests.

Q. And will you state to the Tribunal which of the defendants were engaged in self-enrichment in the manner that you have indicated?

A. I am sorry I am only able to give a negative reply. We repeatedly asked the defendant Schacht -

THE PRESIDENT: Perhaps this will be a good time to adjourn for ten minutes.

(A recess was taken.)


Q. Dr. Gisevius, I have just a few more questions which I would like to put to you in reference to the war and the resistance movement of which you were a part.

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Justice Jackson, there is just one question I should like to ask the witness. You said that you kept lists of the ministers and generals who participated in this system of spoils. What was your source of information?

THE WITNESS: We had information from the various ministries, from ante-chambers of ministries, and from the Finance Ministry. But I did not finish the answer before. I said that I could answer the question as to which of the defendants had enriched himself only in the negative.

Concerning the defendant Schacht, I wanted to continue saying that I personally did not look into these lists, and that I questioned only the defendant Schacht on the matter, and that he personally had not enriched himself. I did not intend to say in any sense, therefore, that all the defendants, especially defendants von Papen or von Neurath, to name only those two, had enriched themselves. I do not know. I only wanted to say that about Schacht we know, or rather I know, that he did not take part in that system.

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