The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
27th May to 6th June, 1946

One Hundred and Forty-Seventh Day: Wednesday, 5th June, 1946
(Part 7 of 10)

[DR. LATERNSER continues his direct examination of ALFRED JODL]

[Page 359]

Q. Then there is Affidavit 18, by the same SS leader Rode, which the prosecution has submitted as Exhibit USA 563. Rode states as follows in this affidavit:
"As far as is known to me, the SD Einsatz groups attached to the various army groups were completely under the jurisdiction of the latter, that is to say, tactically, as well as in every other way. For that reason, the tasks and methods of these units were fully known to the commanders. They must have approved of these, seeing that they never raised any decisive objections to them."
Do you know SS leader Rode?

A. No, I do not know him. I do not think it is necessary to say much about this, because the General of the Police, Schellenberg - who led such an Einsatz group himself, and who really must know - has stated quite clearly, in this witness stand, what jurisdiction he was under and from whom he received his orders.

Q. That was not the witness Schellenberg, that was Ohlendorf.

A. Ohlendorf? Yes.

Q. Now, I have a few questions about the Commissar Order. Were you present at the discussion when Hitler gave the Commissar Order to the Commanders-in-Chief by word of mouth?

A. As far as I remember, right at the beginning he spoke only to the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, or the Chief of the General Staff and a few officers of the OKW about this Commissar Order. As far as I recollect he referred to that instruction of his at a later date when addressing the Commanders-in-Chief. I believe that it was during that second conference that he used the words: "I cannot expect that my Generals understand my orders, but I must demand that they obey them."

Q. Do you know any commanders who resisted that order?

A. Later on someone told me - and I do not know whether it is true - that Field Marshal Rommel had burned the order.

[Page 359]

Q. Does not that recollection of yours refer to the Commando Order? General Field Marshal Rommel was -

A. Oh yes, that was the Commando Order. You are talking about the Commissar order, are you not?

Q. Yes, that is right.

A. I remember that there were constant objections from the Army High Command which, unfortunately, had to carry out this order, and these went on for a long time. Officers of the General Staff told me, confidentially, that for the most part it was not being carried out. I know of one official application made to the Fuehrer, to have this order officially withdrawn. That was done, although I cannot remember when.

Q. Who made that application?

A. The Army High Command. Whether it was the Chief of the General Staff or the Commander-in-Chief, I cannot say.

Q. When was this application made?

A. I believe it was in the Spring of 1942.

Q. The Spring of 1942. And to that application -

A. I know for certain, the order was withdrawn.

Q. Did you talk to any commander who approved of that order?

A. No. All the officers to whom I spoke considered firstly, that the order should be turned down from the human point of view, and secondly, that it was wrong from the practical point of view.

Q. You have told us some of the reasons which Hitler gave verbally for this order. He is supposed to have mentioned additional reasons for issuing it. I should like you to tell us what they were so that we may get this matter quite clear.

A. He gave a lengthy explanation, as he always did when he felt it necessary to convince somebody.

Q. Did he state -

THE PRESIDENT (Interposing): Have not these reasons already been given?

DR. LATERNSER: As far as I am informed, Mr. President, they have not yet all been given.


Q. During that conference did Hitler state -

THE PRESIDENT (Interposing): One moment. Have you not already given the reasons which, you say, Hitler gave for this order?

THE WITNESS: ... I hear the English.

THE PRESIDENT: Have you not already given the reasons which Hitler gave for making this order?

THE WITNESS: I have not given some very important additional reasons, which the Fuehrer also pointed out. They were -

THE PRESIDENT: Walt a minute.

Dr. Laternser, I have already had to ask you to be more brief on many occasions in which you have examined witnesses, and really you have spent over an hour already on the High Command and General Staff. Every witness who comes to the box you take a very long time over, and the Tribunal thinks that a great deal of their time has been wasted by you. Now, this witness can give any further reasons, but I do not want any argument about it. He can give his explanation now.

THE WITNESS: I have only to add that the Fuehrer said on that occasion:

"If you do not believe what I am telling you, then read the reports from Counter Intelligence which we have received regarding the behaviour of the Russian Commissars in the occupied Baltic States. Then you will get a picture of what can be expected from these Commissars."

[Page 360]

Q. I should like to put a question to you about the report in Document PS-884, submitted as Exhibit R-351.

THE PRESIDENT: Repeat the number, please.

DR. LATERNSER: PS-884; it is a document submitted by the Soviet prosecution on 18th December and it is on Page 151 of the second Document Book for General Jodl. Under II of this report, Page 153, there is the following statement:

"To this, Reichsleiter Rosenberg, in Memorandum 3, suggests ..."
I would like to ask you for what reason this No. II was brought out in this report.

A. I can only make a guess, because I did not write it. But I have no doubt

THE PRESIDENT (Interposing): We do not want his guesses, you know. If he can only guess, then he had better not guess. We want evidence, not guesses.

DR. LATERNSER: Yes, I will dispense with this question. I assumed that the witness would have personal knowledge about that.


Q. Witness, you said yesterday that the Commando Order of 18th October, 1942, had been changed, that is, partially revoked on the application of the Commander-in-Chief West. Who was that Commander-in-Chief West who had applied for that alteration?

A. General Field Marshal Rundstedt, and he applied to have the entire order withdrawn.

Q. You know the order by General von Reichenau, which the Soviet prosecution submitted on 13th February as Exhibit USSR 12? It is dated 10th October, 1941. Do you know the reasons why this order was issued?

A. Yes. Reichenau at that time was Commander of the Sixth Army, and in his army sector was the town of Kiev. This morning I started to describe events that took place in Kiev at the end of September and that was the reason for this order.

Q. How did the Commanders-in-Chief exercise their jurisdiction. Strictly, or not so strictly?

A. I know this because Dr. Leymann -

THE PRESIDENT (Interposing): That has nothing to do with the charge against the High Command. There is no charge against the High Command for having arranged courts-martial or administering their courts-martial improperly.

DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, I fear I am of a different opinion on this point. If the commanders heard of any breaches of discipline or atrocities -

THE PRESIDENT (Interposing): Do you know of anything in the indictment or anything in the evidence which charges the High Command or any member of the High Command with improper behaviour at a court-martial, or in connection with a court-martial?

DR. LATERNSER: No. I merely want to discover the typical attitude of the High Command.


Q. What do you know about the reasons

THE PRESIDENT: I cannot hear you.


Q. What do you know about the reasons for the mass deaths which occurred among Russian prisoners-of-war during the winter of 1941?

A. I was informed on this subject, because several adjutants of the Fuehrer were sent there personally, and they reported to the Fuehrer in my presence. We

[Page 361]

were mostly concerned with the mass deaths after the last great battle for the Viasma pocket. The reason for the mass deaths was described by these adjutants as follows. The encircled Russian armies had put up fanatical resistance during the last eight or ten days without any food whatever. They literally lived on the bark of trees and roots, because they had retreated to impenetrable wooded country, and when they fell into our hands they were in such a condition that they could hardly move. It was impossible to move them. The situation as regards supplies was critical because the railway system had been destroyed, so that it was impossible to take them away. There was no accommodation nearby. Only immediate careful hospital treatment could have saved the majority of them. Soon afterwards the rain started and then the cold set in, and that is the reason why such a large number of those prisoners, particularly these prisoners of Viasma, died.

That is the report of the Fuehrer's adjutants who had been sent there to investigate. Similar reports came from the Quartermaster General of the Army.

Q. What do you know about the shelling of Leningrad by German artillery? You remember that a witness has been examined here on that point?

A. I was present during two conferences which the Fuehrer himself had with the German artillery commander who was in charge of the artillery before Leningrad. He brought along his target charts and these showed a very carefully worked out system, according to which only key sectors in Leningrad were marked as targets which it was necessary to shell, so as to cripple the resistance of the fortress. They were mostly factories which were still producing munitions. The ammunition for this heavy artillery, only a small portion of which could reach the centre of Leningrad, was so scarce that one had to be extremely economical in its use. They were mostly captured guns from France, and we only had as much ammunition as we had captured.

Q. You know that the witness has mentioned that in his opinion the artillery deliberately destroyed castles in Leningrad. You have seen the target charts for this artillery?

A. Yes; I had the artillery target charts in my briefcase for many weeks. Only the armament plants were marked on them. It would have been insane to shoot. at anything else. Of course, every artillery man knows that through dispersion the shots can fall elsewhere.

What do you know about the order from Hitler and the OKH to destroy dwellings and stoves during the retreat in the winter of 1941? What was the reason for that order?

A. The reasons are that -

Q. I refer to the Order R-130. Unfortunately I have not been able to ascertain on what day the prosecution presented this order. I shall ascertain it later and have the Tribunal informed.

A. During that frightful winter battle, when there were up to forty-five degrees of frost, the commanders at the front reported to the Fuehrer in his headquarters that this battle was exclusively a battle for warm shelter. Those who did not have some sort of heating arrangement - that is to say, a village with serviceable stoves - could not hold out, and would not be able to fight the following day. One could say it really was a fight for stoves; and when, because of this, we were forced to retreat, the Fuehrer then ordered that those stoves must be destroyed; not only the houses, but also the stoves were to be blown up, because in such a critical situation that alone would prevent the Russians from pursuing. Since, in accordance with The Hague regulations for land warfare, every type of destruction is permissible which is absolutely necessary from the military point of view, I believe that for this type of winter warfare-and it only happened during the winter - that order can be justified.

What do you know about the case of Katyn?

A. Regarding the finding of these mass graves, I received the first report through my propaganda department, which was informed through its propaganda company attached to the Army Group. I heard that the Reich Police Criminal

[Page 362]

Department had been given the task of investigating the whole affair, and I then sent an officer from my propaganda department to the disinterment and the examination by the foreign experts. I received a report which, in general, tallies with the report which is contained in the White Book issued, I think, by the Foreign Office. I have never heard anyone raise any doubts as to the facts as they were presented.

Q. You have also seen the film which the Soviet prosecution has shown in this courtroom and which showed atrocities committed in the Yugoslav theatre of war. Can you explain any of the pictures which you perhaps still recollect?

A. I believe that every picture shown in this courtroom is and was perfectly truthful as a picture. These were captured photographs. But it has never been said what the photographs represented. It was not clear from the film whether the dog that was mauling a human being was not photographed in an army dog training centre.

THE PRESIDENT: That is mere argument.

DR. LATERNSER: I was about to stop him.


DR. LATERNSER: I was thinking of certain photographs which you might be able to clarify, so that - For instance, I remember one photograph where a police dog is jumping at a human being or a dummy. Can you say -

THE PRESIDENT: You asked him about these photographs and he says that they were all true; in his opinion, true pictures; and he didn't take them, he does not know anything about them, and anything that he can say upon them appears to us to be argument.

DR. LATERNSER: I will withdraw that question.

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