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 6 of 8)

[DR. KUBUSCHOK continues his redirect examination of Hans Bernd Gisevius]

[Page 292]

Q. But, witness, you are forgetting that he was a retired vice-chancellor and had already been out of office for several weeks.

(4) You start with the premise that von Papen attended the Reichstag session at which the measures taken on 30 June were justified. Do you know that von

[Page 293]

Papen did not attend that session in spite of Hitler's summons to him to do so?

A. I believe you have already asked me that.

Q. No, this is not the Cabinet session this is the Reichstag session.

A. Yes, then I must be misinformed.

DR. KUBUSCHOK: Thank you.

GENERAL RUDENKO: Mr. President, it seems to me that the defence has had every opportunity to interrogate this witness. After the witness was examined by the prosecution, after his cross-examination, the defence makes a further application to cross-examine the witness.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal thinks, at any rate, that it is perfectly able to manage its own proceedings without any interruptions of this sort. We can deal with Dr. Laternser when he makes his application to cross-examine.

GENERAL RUDENKO: I understand, Mr. President. I merely wanted to say that we would like to shorten the duration of the proceedings as much as possible, and the prosecution would like the defence to consider that the same way.

DR. LATERNSER (Counsel for the General Staff and the O.K.W.): Mr. President, I have several further questions to put to the witness, arising from his cross-examination; I assume that the Tribunal has no objection to my questioning him.

THE PRESIDENT: No. You may question him.


Q. Witness, yesterday, in answer to a question of the American Prosecutor, you expressed the opinion that a putsch against the then existing regime would have been possible only with the co-operation of the generals, but that the many discussions which took place did not achieve this co- operation. I should like to ask you, witness, to which generals you spoke personally about the existing plans for a putsch on the part of your group?

THE PRESIDENT: You aren't concerned with every general in the German Army; you are only concerned with those who are charged with being a criminal group.


THE PRESIDENT: Your question must be addressed to them, or with reference to them.

DR. LATERNSER: Yes, Mr. President. Then I ask the Tribunal's permission to describe to the witness the O.K.W. and General Staff circle so that he can answer my question.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you can put to him, I think, whether he had contact with any members of the General Staff who are charged with being a criminal group. You know who the generals are.

DR. LATERNSER: Yes. I should like to make a few preliminary remarks to the witness and then put the question. Witness ...

THE PRESIDENT: Now, what is the question you want to put?

DR. LATERNSER: So that the witness can answer the question within the limits prescribed by the Tribunal, I should like to give the witness a brief explanation as to the circle of persons actually belonging to this group, and then ask him with which of these persons he talked personally in order to win them over for the putsch intended by his groups. Otherwise ...

THE PRESIDENT: If you do it shortly.


Q. Witness, the group General Staff and O.K.W. is held to include the holders of certain appointments from February, 1938, to May, 1945. These appointments are as follows: The Commanders-in-Chief of the various branches of the Armed Forces ...

[Page 294]

THE PRESIDENT: You are not going through the whole lot, are you, 130 of them?

DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, the list is really quite short and otherwise I cannot restrict my question as desired by the Tribunal.

THE PRESIDENT: I don't know what you mean. What I said was, are you proposing to go through the whole 130 generals, or officers?

DR. LATERNSER: No, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Very well, go on.


Q. The group includes those holding certain appointments; briefly, all those who were commanders-in-chief during the period February, 1938, to May, 1945. Now, I ask you, with which generals of this group did you personally discuss the subject of plans for a putsch, in order to obtain their co- operation in a putsch, if such were made.

A. You mean commanders-in-chief of groups?

Q. Of armies, of army groups, branches of the Wehrmacht, and General Staff Chiefs of the Wehrmacht branches.

A. I have already mentioned Halder and Brauchitsch.

Q. One question, Witness; did you discuss with Field Marshal von Brauchitsch an intended putsch against the regime or only against the Gestapo?

A. I discussed both with him; and in both cases he answered in the affirmative and acted in the negative.

I spoke to Halder and Witzleben. I knew Kluge well from the old times. I do not know at what period he entered the category to which you refer. At any rate my connection with Kluge was never broken off. I may have talked to other individuals falling within this category.

Q. Yes, but to discuss plans for a putsch with a high- ranking military leader is an event of some importance; if you had had a discussion of this kind with a Field Marshal you would surely remember it.

A. It wasn't such an important event as all that. Field Marshals weren't such important people in the Third Reich.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Laternser, the fact that these generals were spoken to and refused to join a putsch is not a crime within the meaning of the Charter.

DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, yesterday I explained that this point is very important because it would exclude the assumption of a conspiracy.

THE PRESIDENT: I am afraid, Dr. Laternser, it is no good answering me that a point is very important. What I asked you was, how is it relevant to show that these generals discussed a revolt against the regime? That, putting to you, is not a crime within the meaning of the Charter.

DR. LATERNSER: Yes, but this circumstance would exclude the assumption of the conspiracy alleged by the prosecution.

THE PRESIDENT: But does it preclude the possibility of a conspiracy to make aggressive war? It has nothing to do with it.

DR. LATERNSER: I did not quite understand that.

THE PRESIDENT: The question of a revolt against the regime in Germany is, it seems to me, not necessarily connected with the conspiracy to carry out aggressive war; therefore, anything which has got to do with a revolt against the regime in Germany is not relevant to the question which you have to deal with.

DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, the conspiracy is assumed precisely in connection with the wars of aggression; and if the high military leaders turned against the regime to such an extent that they discussed and even attempted a putsch, there would be no question of conspiracy.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Laternser, the Tribunal thinks the proper way of putting the question, which they understand you want to put, is to ask which of the generals were prepared to join in a revolt. You may put that question.

[Page 295]

DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, in order to decide how far the circle as a whole was willing to take part I must ask the witness how many of them he spoke to and how many of those declared themselves ready to act with him.

THE PRESIDENT: I think you might put that to him - how many. Ask him how many.

DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, that was the question I asked at the beginning.

THE PRESIDENT: I said you may put it.

DR. LATERNSER: Yes, Mr. President.


Q. Witness, with how many generals of this group did you discuss the matter?

A. In the course of years it may have been a dozen or several dozen, but I should like to say that it was the task of Colonel General Beck and Oster or Canaris to talk to these gentlemen rather than mine. As regards names, I cannot give you much of the information you want; on the other hand I can shorten your question by saying that, unfortunately, very few of the leading generals in the appointments, referred to by the prosecution, ever seriously declared their intention of helping to overthrow the system.

Q. Witness, that is exactly what I want to know. You spoke to Field Marshal von Brauchitsch, Halder and Witzleben?

A. And Olbricht.

Q. He did not belong to this group. You did speak to these three, then?

A. Also to Kluge.

Q. Regarding the intended putsch?

A. Yes, of course.

Q. And of these four that you mentioned did Field Marshal von Witzleben agree?

A. They all agreed to begin with. Witzleben was the only one who stuck to his word.

Q. Then he did participate in this putsch?

A. Yes.

Q. Did I understand you correctly when you said yesterday that the putsch of 20 July originated mainly with the Wehrmacht, that is, with the generals and the officers of the General Staff, and that they intended to cut down as far as possible the number of those taking part?

A. No, I did not make such an exact statement as that. Under a terror regime, only the military circles are in a position to carry out a putsch to this extent and it is true to say that these few generals who participated were the mainstay of the putsch. But on 20 July the main weight lay with the wide front of the civilians who for years had fought for the generals and were invariably disappointed by them. For the simple reason that generals had repeatedly broken their word, we decided this time that on 20 July we would wait until the generals had really taken action, in order not to raise the hopes or burden the conscience of many civilians all to no purpose. That is what I meant by limitation.

Q. Then the only putsch which was actually attempted was effected by generals and General Staff officers?

A. And civilians.

Q. Yes. And the head of this group was, as you testified, Colonel General Beck?

A. Yes.

Q. And he also belonged to the group indicted under the name "General Staff and O.K.W." Now, I have a further question: Do you know of relations between these military leaders and the Minister of Finance Popitz, who also had designs for a putsch and is even said to have negotiated with Himmler for the

[Page 296]

purpose of doing away with Hitler; and do you know anything about that?

A. Yes, that is true. Popitz made great efforts to incite the generals to make a putsch and to assassinate Hitler. I regret that I did not mention his name at the right time. He too was one of those who, from 1938 or 1939 on, did their best to overthrow the regime.

Q. Did you discuss that with Popitz?

A. Yes, repeatedly.

Q. Did he tell you anything about the identity of the high military leaders he had contacted for this purpose?

A. Popitz was in contact with Beck in particular. He is certain to have been in contact with Witzleben; he was in touch with Halder and Brauchitsch. The list of his disappointments is no shorter than the list of disappointments which all the rest of us had.

Q. Did he himself call it a disappointment?

A. Yes, he was bitterly disappointed. This bitter, everlasting disappointment was our one topic of conversation, and that was the difficulty confronting the civilians.

Q. There was no other possible ways of doing away with Hitler?

A. No. Since, through the fault of the generals, there was no other means of power, constitutional or otherwise, left in Germany, and the generals, who were the only armed power of the nation, took their orders from Hitler, it was impossible to organise opposition through any other circles. I may remind you that after 1938, every attempt made by the Leftists to organise a strike was punishable in the same way as mutiny in time of war.

Q. Now, a different subject: When ...

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal thinks that this matter has been fully covered and is really not relevant. You have already cross-examined this witness at some length before this, and the Tribunal does not wish to hear any further evidence on this subject in any further cross-examination.

DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, I have just finished.


Q. Witness, as regards the Fritsch crisis, when did you ...

THE PRESIDENT: I thought you said you had finished?

DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, I am afraid I have been misunderstood. I have finished those questions referring to an intended putsch and I should like to pass on to another point now and put a question.

THE PRESIDENT: What question?

DR. LATERNSER: As regards the Fritsch crisis I should like to ask the witness when he learned of the exact date of affairs, and whether he transmitted his knowledge to high military leaders or caused that knowledge to be transmitted to them.

THE PRESIDENT: But the Fritsch crisis has nothing to do with the charges against the High Command. The charges against the High Command are crimes under the Charter, and the Fritsch crisis has nothing whatever to do with that.

DR. LATERNSER: Then I will withdraw that question.


Q. Witness, today in cross-examination ...

THE PRESIDENT: What are you going to put to him now?

DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, I should like to ask the witness now about some points which he made in reply to the American Chief Prosecutor's questions. I believe that some clarification is necessary here.

THE PRESIDENT: The principle is not whether you think the clarification is necessary, but whether the Tribunal thinks it, and, therefore, the Tribunal wishes to know what points you wish to put to him.

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