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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
7th June to 19th June 1946

One Hundred and Forty-Ninth Day: Friday, 7th June, 1946
(Part 10 of 10)

[DR. JAHRREISS continues his examination of General Horst Freiherr von Buttlar Brandenfels]

[Page 36]

Q. Do you know, witness, whether there were many Jews in these guerrilla groups in the South and South east?

A. I do not remember that among the hundreds of reports I received on the partisan operations there was ever any mention of Jews. If there were Jews in these groups it can only have been to a very limited extent.

Q. But it has been asserted here that one of the main objects of the operations against the guerrillas was to exterminate the Jews, is that true?

A. I never heard anything about that.

Q. Or the extermination of the Slavs?

A. There again, I never heard so much as a hint of such a thing. Such an interpretation would have been quite contrary to the intentions of the military leaders.

Q. Why?

A. The military command had a very definite interest in seeing a peaceful country and a productive population behind every front; and every measure which aimed at this was always welcomed by it. Every soldier we had to use in guerrilla fighting was urgently needed at the front.

Q. Was the policy in the East carried out as the Wehrmacht command wished for their purposes?

A. No doubt that was not the case, because the Wehrmacht would have been very glad to see a different policy in the East for the very sake of its volunteer units. We ourselves, with our own methods, tried to cope with the partisan problem in a manner to pacify the land without bloodshed. Big propaganda campaigns were

[Page 37]

undertaken there to induce the partisans to stop fighting. In certain cases there were special negotiations with individual groups and, although they were limited to certain occasions and periods, these were most successful.

Q. Do you know General von Pannewitz?

A. Yes. General von Pannewitz was the Commander of the 1st Cossack Division.

Q. When, please?

A. It must have been during 1943.

Q. Is it correct that this General, as Commander of the 1st Cossack Division, the Volunteer Division, once complained to the OKW about the difficulties he was having in his division?

A. Yes. General von Pannewitz is a friend of mine from my old regiment. He came to see me at headquarters, and on that occasion, in the summer of 1943 or maybe during the autumn, talked to me in detail about the state of affairs and the difficulties he was experiencing with the morale of his unit, particularly because of the Government's policy in the East. At that time he complained particularly about the fact that the Government's policy held out no national aims for his division, and he made other complaints about the difficulties incurred by the dependants who were trekking with his division and had to be settled.

Q. Did Jodl take care of the affair?

A. Yes. After the visit I reported the subject of our conversation to the General and asked him to use his influence in the interest of our volunteer units.

Q. Influence on whom, do you mean?

A. Influence on the Fuehrer.

Q. But you told me that Jodl was not competent for this?

A. General Jodl -

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Jahrreiss, what is the relevancy of this, about some general who commanded a Cossack Division and that he had difficulties with morale? What has that got to do with this case?

DR. JAHRREISS: Mr. President, that was a preparatory question. I am now coming to the real question. It is the question of the dividing up of competency and responsibility. I was just about to ask the witness the decisive question.

Q. General -

THE PRESIDENT: What relevancy have the preparatory questions to the decisive question? How can a visit of this general have anything to do with it? What is the decisive question?

DR. JAHRREISS: Mr. President, if I am to give you the reason for that, then I will have to tell the witness what I want him to tell me. Then my question will become a leading one.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, that is not an unusual thing in this Court.

DR. JAHRREISS: Yes, but I did not want to make that mistake.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, go on, Dr. Jahrreiss. The Tribunal hopes that you will not take up too much time over these preliminary questions which are leading to decisive ones.

DR .JAHRREISS: I am sorry, but I did not understand.

THE PRESIDENT: I said the Tribunal hopes that you will not take up too much time with these preparatory questions before the decisive one.

DR. LATERNSER (counsel for the General Staff and the OKW): Mr. President, I can abbreviate the examination of the witness a great deal because I am in possession of an affidavit by this witness.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Laternser, why are you at the microphone?

DR. LATERNSER: I thought, my Lord, that Dr. Jahrreiss had finished with his interrogation, that he had no more questions to put to the witness. [Page 38] DR. JAHRREISS: Mr. President, there is a misunderstanding. The witness has, in fact, already answered my question.

THE PRESIDENT: He has answered it, has he?

DR. JAHRREISS: Yes, he has answered it. I merely wanted to enlarge on it a little further but -

THE PRESIDENT: Then you have finished, have you, Dr. Jahrreiss?

DR. JAHRREISS: Yes. I now have no further questions to put to the witness.

DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, I can abbreviate the examination to an extraordinary extent because I have an affidavit from the witness which he made on 20th May, 1946. If it is my turn, I propose to submit this affidavit to the Tribunal. But so that I may not be reproached for not having ascertained the facts when the witness was available in the courtroom, I will now ask the witness whether the contents of the affidavit of 20th May, 1946, are correct.


Q. Witness, are the contents of the affidavit which was given me, dated 20th May, 1946, correct?

A. They are.

Q. Witness, do you know General Hausinger?

A. Yes, I know General Hausinger.

Q. The prosecution, in their case against the General Staff, submitted Affidavit 20 Exhibit USA 564, and on Page 2, figure 4, this general makes the following statement; I quote: "It has always been my personal view that the treatment of the civilian population and the methods of anti-partisan warfare in operational areas presented the highest political and military leaders with a welcomed opportunity of carrying out their plans, namely, the systematic extermination of Slavism and Jewry." I want to ask you now, can you explain how General Hausinger could have arrived at that view?

A. I worked closely with General Hausinger and very often I talked to him about questions concerning the guerrilla fighting.

Q. Yes.

A. He never said anything to me which might express this view and I cannot explain this statement of his because it is entirely contrary to the basic views of the military leaders as regards the conduct of guerrilla warfare.

Q. Thank you. Why was the general command over the guerrilla fighting in the East in 1943, as well as in Italy at the end of 1943 and the beginning of 1944, transferred to Himmler by the Fuehrer's order?

A. The Fuehrer always held the view that guerrilla warfare was predominantly a task for the police and that police forces were more suited to carrying it out than the somewhat out-of-date security forces of the Army which we could muster for these tasks. Just how far Himmler wanted to obtain an increase of power in this connection I do not know, nor how far he might have suggested it to the Fuehrer.

Q. What was the attitude of the OKW and especially of the Armed Forces. Operations Staff to this decree of Hitler?

A. It must be emphasized first of all in this connection that so far as operational areas were concerned, there was no change. The operational area remained until the end, in the case of anti-Partisan warfare too, under the orders of the commanders-in-chief. In the remaining areas the Armed Forces Command Staff did not altogether disagree with this arrangement because we hoped that in these zones the Reichsfuehrer SS would be in a position to use his reserves and we should then have some forces released for the front.

Q. Do you remember, witness, that the military commander in the South-west made an urgent request to be excepted from this measure involving the transfer of his authority as regards anti-partisan warfare to Himmler?

[Page 39]

A. These cases were discussed with General Westphal several times over the telephone and I consider it possible that he might have made such a suggestion at that time.

Q. You yourself did not discuss it with the commander-in-chief in the Southwest?

A. With the chief?

Q. With the chief, yes. As you have just said, before the war you were in the Central Department of the Army General Staff, and as I know the filling of the higher command positions was dealt with there too. Now I want to ask you on what principles they based their selection of commanders of army groups and armies?

A. These appointments were made according to ability and length of service and the peace-time appointments formed the basis of the military organization on mobilization..

Q. Were these appointments of the higher commanders carried out strictly from a military standpoint?

A. These nominations took place entirely on the strength of military considerations, and retired officers, some of whom I am convinced left because of political pressure, were again placed in responsible positions for the event of a mobilization. I should like to instance for example General von Leeb, General von Kressenstein, General von Kleist, General von Hammerstein.

Q. And these officers you have just mentioned had already retired before the outbreak of the war but were meant to take over higher positions of command in the event of a mobilization?

A. Yes.

Q. Did the Central Department which had to fill these positions ever learn that the military leaders had formed a group with the aim of carrying out aggressive wars and of disregarding international law in these wars of aggression?

A. In the Central Department we knew nothing of the formation of such a group. Perhaps I may state in this connection that during the years 1937 to 1939 quite a number of General Staff officers came to see Lieutenant-Colonel von Ziehlberger and myself, as personnel administrators of the General Staff officers, and talked to us. The majority of these officers were chiefs of regimental general staffs and they were therefore the confidential and responsible advisers of the commanders. These officers, just like their commanders, had fought in the First World War, and the hope they always expressed to us was that the German nation would be spared a second war. In spite of their high appreciation of the Fuehrer's successes, there was a certain anxiety about his policy and particularly about the rapid rearmament of the forces, which made careful work difficult.

After the negotiations (Munich) confidence increased a great deal and it was the general opinion of the officers that the Fuehrer would continue to be successful in maintaining peace.

Q. What was the attitude of the higher commanders towards Hitler after the Munich agreement?

A. After the Munich agreement I concluded from my talks with General Staff officers that there was a general conviction amongst them that, thanks to his policy, the Fuehrer would continue to preserve peace. I remember that as late as 25th or 26th August, I saw the Fuehrer at headquarters, in Zossen having a conversation with Lieutenant-Colonel von Ziehlberger and several other officers. At that time these officers were still of the opinion that a war would not occur and that to accomplish the Fuehrer's political aims it was only necessary to keep the troops firmly under control so that no political catastrophe should be produced by the laying down of arms.

Q. I think that is enough as far as this question is concerned. Now, regarding the Ardennes offensive in December, 1944, at what time were the preparations for that offensive begun?

A. So far as I can remember -

[Page 40]

THE PRESIDENT: How can that have any relevance after about five years of war?

DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, in my next question I should like to ask the witness who of the supreme commanders were informed of this intended offensive and when. It is important to ascertain what co-operation there was among the group. I beg you to allow me to put this question. It is the last but one. The one I just mentioned is the last.

THE PRESIDENT: Very well, go on.


Q. When were the preparations for the Ardennes offensive begun?

A. As far as I can remember, the first preparations were begun in about September, 1944.

Q. When were the supreme commanders informed of these intentions and were commanders, who did not take part in the offensive, informed before it began?

A. To the last question I can answer "No." The first question I cannot answer as far as the date is concerned, but I do know that in the area in which it was proposed to launch the offensive there had already been troop movements ordered by the supreme command before the commander in the West who was responsible was informed, and that he therefore made frequent inquiries at my department asking for an explanation of these movements.

Q. The supreme commander in the West, who later on had to direct the offensive, was not previously informed about the movements and transfer of divisions for the offensive, all of which took place in his area?

A. Yes. Later on, of course, he was informed.

DR. LATERNSER: Thank you. I have no further questions.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 8th June, 1946, 1000 hours.)

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