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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
20th June to 1st July 1946

One Hundred and Fifty-Ninth Day: Thursday, 20th June, 1946
(Part 7 of 10)

[DR. FLAECHSNER continues his direct examination of Albert Speer]

[Page 27]

Q. And did you prevent them?

A. The Commander-in-Chief of the West was responsible for carrying out this decree, since these orders were to be carried out in his operational zone. But I informed him that, as far as I was concerned, this destruction had no sense and no purpose, and that I, in my capacity of Armament Minister, did not consider this destruction necessary. Thereupon no order to destroy these things was given.

Q. When was that?

A. By this, of course, I made myself responsible to Hitler for the fact that no destruction took place.

Q. When was that?

A. About the beginning of July, 1944.

Q. How could you justify your position?

A. All the military leaders whom I knew said at that time that the war was bound to end in October or November, since the invasion had been successful.

I myself was of the same opinion in view of the fuel situation. This may be clearly seen from the memorandum which I sent to Hitler on 30th August, in which I told him that in view of this development in the fuel situation, no operational actions by the troops would be possible by October or November. The fact that the war lasted longer than that can be ascribed only to the halt of the enemy offensive in 1944. This made it possible to decrease our fuel consumption and to give the Western Front new. supplies of tanks and ammunition. In these circumstances I was perfectly willing to accept responsibility for abandoning the industries in the Western countries to the enemy in an undamaged condition, for they could be of no use to them for at least nine months, the transport system having been destroyed beforehand. This memorandum coincides with the protection of the unemployed workers in the blocked industries - a matter which I dealt with this morning.

Q. Did Hitler sanction these measures?

A. He could not sanction these measures for he knew nothing about them. It was a period of such hectic activity at Headquarters that he never thought of checking up on the measures taken for destruction. Later, in January, 1945, reports appeared in the French Press on the rapid reconstruction of their undestroyed industries. Then, of course, serious charges were raised against me.

Q. The French prosecution has submitted a document, RF-132. This is a report by the Field Economic Officer attached to the Wehrmacht Commander for the Netherlands. According to this report, a decree by the Commander-in

[Page 28]

Chief for the West was still in existence in September, 1944. This said that destructive measures were to be taken only in the coastal towns and nowhere else, and the Field Economic Officer for the Netherlands stated, as may be seen from the document, that the order issued by the Commander-in-Chief for the West was obsolete, and that he himself had therefore decreed, on his own initiative, that the industries in Holland should be destroyed. How was this possible and what did you do about it?

A. As a matter of fact, over-enthusiasm on the part of some of the junior officers caused the basic decrees not to destroy in the West to be ignored. Our means of ensuring that orders were carried out had been destroyed through bombing attacks. Seyss-Inquart had drawn my attention to the fact that destruction was to take place in Holland. He has already testified that I authorized him not to take destructive measures. This was in September, 1944. In addition, in order to prevent such destruction on 5th September, 1944, acting on my own initiative, I directed the managers of the coal and iron production and the chief of the civilian administration in Luxembourg to prevent destruction in the Minette ore mines, in the Saar coal mines, and the coal mines of Belgium and Holland, etc. In view of the hopeless war situation at that time, I, as the person responsible for supplying electric current, continued to furnish current to the undertakings on the other side of the front so that the pumping stations in the coal mines would not have to stop working, because, if these pumping stations had stopped, the mines would have been flooded.

DR. FLAECHSNER: In this connection, I am submitting a copy of a letter from Speer to Gauleiter Simon at Koblenz. This is Speer Exhibit 16 - Page 57 of the English text in my Document Book.


Q. Herr Speer, with regard to the other occupied countries - those outside France, Belgium and Holland - did you use your influence to prevent destruction?

A. From August, 1944, in the industrial installations in the General Government, the ore works in the Balkans, the nickel works in Finland; from September, 1944, the industrial installations in Upper Italy; beginning with February, 1945, in the oil fields in Hungary and the industries of Czechoslovakia. I should like to emphasize in this connection that I was supported to a great extent by General Jodl, who quietly tolerated this policy of non-destruction.

Q. What were Hitler's intentions with regard to the preservation of industry and means of existence for the German population at the beginning of September, 1944, when enemy troops approached the frontiers of the Greater German Reich from all sides?

A. He had absolutely no intention of preserving industry. On the contrary, he ordered the scorched earth policy with special application to Germany. That meant the ruthless destruction of all installations on the approach of the enemy. This policy was backed by Bormann, Ley and Goebbels, while the various branches of the Wehrmacht and the competent Ministries opposed it.

DR. FLAECHSNER: As these efforts by Speer to prevent the application of destructive measures - measures which had been considerably intensified - also applied to areas then considered part of the German Reich - such as Polish Upper Silesia, Alsace and Lorraine, Austria, Poland, the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia - I should like to have this matter admitted as part of my evidence.


Q. Herr Speer, did the Commanders-in-Chief of the Army in the greater German Reich, in the areas that I have just defined, have executive powers to carry out orders of destruction?

A. No. As far as industries were concerned, those executive powers were vested in me. Bridges, locks, railway installations, etc., were the affair of the Wehrmacht.

[Page 29]

Q. In your measures for the protection of industry, did you differentiate between the territories of the so-called old Reich and those which were added after 1933?

A. No. The industrial region of Upper Silesia, the remaining districts of Poland, Bohemia and Moravia, Alsace Lorraine and Austria, of course, were protected against destruction in the same way as the German areas. I made the necessary arrangements by personal directives on the spot-particularly in the Eastern territories.

Q. What steps did you take against the "scorched earth" policy?

A. I returned from a trip to the Western Front on 14th September, 1944, and found the decree awaiting me that everything was to be destroyed ruthlessly. I immediately issued a counter-decree officially prescribing the protection of all industrial installations. At that time, I was very much upset about the fact that industries were now to be destroyed in Germany, especially as the war situation was hopeless, and I was all the more upset because I thought I had succeeded in saving the industries in the occupied Western countries from destruction.

DR. FLAECHSNER: I should like to submit a document in this connection - a decree by Speer dated 14th September, 1944, for the protection of industries. It is on Page 58 of the English text of my Document Book - Exhibit 17.


Q. Herr Speer, did you succeed in getting this order carried out?

THE PRESIDENT: What is the date of it? The 14th of September, did you say?

DR. FLAECHSNER: 14th September, Mr. President, 1944.

THE PRESIDENT: What page is it?

DR. FLAECHSNER: It is Page 58 of the English text.


Q. Did you succeed in carrying out this order of yours, Herr Speer?

A. The scorched earth policy was officially proclaimed in the Volkischer Beobachter at the same time, in an official article by the Reich Press Chief, so that I realised quite clearly that my counter-decree could not be effective for any length of time. In this connection I used a method which is, perhaps, typical of the means employed by members of Hitler's immediate circle. In order to dissuade him from the "scorched earth" policy, I made use of the faith which he instilled into all his co-workers, that the lost territories would be recaptured. I made him decide between the two situations: firstly, if these industrial areas were lost, my armament production would drop if they were not recaptured; and secondly, if they were recaptured, they would be of value to us only if we had not destroyed the factories and other industrial installations.

Q. You thereupon addressed a letter to Bormann.

DR. FLAECHSNER: I should like to submit this letter as Exhibit 18, Mr. President - Page 59 of the English text of the Document Book. This teleprint -

WITNESS: I think we can dispense with the quotation.


Q. Yes. You sent this teleprint message to Bormann before you discussed the contents with Hitler?

A. Yes. I should like to summarize

THE PRESIDENT (interposing): Would you give the French page as well so that the French members may have it.

DR. FLAECHSNER: It is Page 56 of the French text of the Document Book.

A. (continuing): Hitler approved of the text which I suggested to him, in which I gave him alternatives, either of considering the war as lost or of leaving the areas intact. For the time being, there was in any case no danger, because

[Page 30]

the fronts remained stable. Hitler demanded the destruction of the Monet mines in France, but in this case too, I was successful, as may be seen from the document, in preventing the destruction of these mines - again by exploiting Hitler's hopes of a successful counter attack.

DR. FLAECHSNER: Mr. President, the document to which the defendant has just referred is an extract from the Fuehrer decree of 18th-20th August, 1944, and I submit it as Speer Exhibit 19. It is reproduced in the supplement of my Document Book - Page 101.


Q. Herr Speer, how did this order originate?

A. I have already told you.

Q. The term "paralysis" frequently occurs in your document in connection with industrial installations, etc. Will you tell the Tribunal just what you mean by the use of this term?

A. I can only say briefly that this concerns the removal of essential parts, which put the plant temporarily out of commission; but these parts were not destroyed, they were merely concealed.

Q. You emphasized a few minutes ago that, up to January, 1945, you tried to achieve the highest possible degree of armament. What were your reasons for giving up the idea after January, 1945?

A. From January, 1945, onward, a very unpleasant chapter begins, namely, the last phase of the war, and the realization that Hitler had identified the fate of the German people with his own. From March, 1945, onward, I further realised that Hitler intended deliberately to destroy the means of life for his own people if the war were lost. I have no intention of using my actions during that phase of the war to help me in my personal defence, but this is a matter of honour which must be defended, and for that reason I should like to tell you briefly about this period of time.

Q. Herr Speer, what was the production situation in the various areas under your jurisdiction at the end of January, 1945?

A. The fuel production had been quite inadequate since the beginning of the attacks on fuel plants in May, 1944, and the situation did not improve afterwards. The bombing of our transportation centres had eliminated the Ruhr area as a source of raw material for Germany as early as November, 1944, and with the successful Soviet offensive in the coal areas of Upper Silesia, most of our supply of coal from that region had been cut off since the middle of January, 1945.

Thus we could calculate precisely when the economic set-up must collapse. We had reached a point at which, even if there were a complete cessation of operations on the part of the enemy, the war would soon be lost, since the Reich, because of its lack of coal, was on the verge of an economic collapse.

DR. FLAECHSNER: In this connection, I submit a memorandum which Hitler received from Speer on 11th December, 1944. Mr. President, you will find an extract on Page 64 of the English Document Book - Page 61 of the German and French books. It states:

"In view of the whole structure of the Reich economy, it is obvious that the loss of the Rhenish-Westphalian industrial area will, in the long run, spell ruin for the whole German economy, and of any chance of further successful prosecution of the war. This would mean, in fact, the total loss of the Ruhr territory as far as the German economy is concerned. It is superfluous to discuss the consequences resulting for the whole German Reich if it is deprived of the Ruhr territory."
On 15th December, 1944, in connection with the Ardennes offensive which was then imminent, Speer pointed out to Hitler in detail the consequences entailed by a possible loss of Upper Silesia.

In this connection I submit Speer's memorandum - Page 102 of the supplementary volume of my Document Book, English text, and the same page in the French

[Page 31]

text. This is an extract from a memorandum addressed to the Chief of the Army General Staff, dated 15th December, 1944 - Exhibit 21.

THE WITNESS: This memorandum was addressed to Hitler as well.

DR. FLAECHSNER: It is not necessary to quote from this memorandum. It points out that a possible loss of Upper Silesia would make fighting impossible even after a few weeks and that the armed forces could in no way be supplied with armaments. A large part of Upper Silesia was actually lost shortly afterwards. On 30th January, 1945, Speer again sent a memorandum to Hitler - Page 67 of the English text of the Document Book - Page 64 in the French text. I submit this document as Exhibit 22, and I quote only the following:

"After the loss of Upper Silesia, the German armament production will no longer be in a position to cover even a fraction of the requirements of the front as regards munitions, weapons and tanks, losses on the front and equipment needed for new formations."
By way of special emphasis, there follows this sentence:
"The material superiority of the enemy can therefore no longer be counterbalanced, even by the bravery of our soldiers."
BY DR. FLAECHSNER: Q. Herr Speer, what did you mean by the last sentence I quoted?

A. At that time Hitler issued the slogan that in defence of the Fatherland the soldiers' bravery would increase tremendously, and that - vice versa - the Allied troops, after the liberation of the occupied territories, would have less will to fight. That was also the main argument employed by Goebbels and Bormann to justify the use of all means to intensify the war.

[ Previous | Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.