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 8 of 10)

[Page 31]

Q. Herr Speer, did others advise Hitler in the same way that you yourself did?

A. Guderian, the Chief of Staff of the Army, reported through Ribbentrop at that time to Hitler that the war was lost. Hitler then told Guderian and myself at the beginning of February that pessimistic statements of the nature of those contained in my memorandum, or the step I had taken in regard to the Reich Minister for Foreign Affairs, would in future be considered as high treason and punished accordingly. In addition, some days later, in a situation report, he forbade his other close collaborators to make any statements about the hopelessness of the situation, and warned us that anyone who disobeyed would be shot without regard for position or rank and his family would be arrested.

The statements which Guderian and I made to Hitler about the hopelessness of the war situation had precisely the opposite effect to that which we desired. Early in February, a few days before the beginning of the Yalta Conference, Hitler sent for his Press expert and instructed him in my presence to announce in the entire German Press, and in the most uncompromising terms, the intention of Germany not to capitulate. He declared at the same time that he was doing this so that the German people would in no case receive any offer from the enemy. The language used would have to be so strong that statesmen of the hostile nations would lose all hope of driving a wedge between himself and the German people.

At the same time Hitler once again proclaimed to the German people the slogan "Victory or Collapse." All these events took place at a time when it should have been clear to him and every intelligent member of his circle that the only thing that could happen was collapse.

At a meeting of Gauleiter in the summer of 1944 Hitler had already stated - and Schirach is my witness for this - that if the German people had to be defeated in the struggle it must have been too weak, it had failed to stand its trial before history and was destined only to collapse. Now, in the hopeless situation existing in January and February, 1945, Hitler made remarks which showed that these earlier statements had not been mere flowers of rhetoric. During this period he attributed the outcome of the war in an increasing degree to the failure of the German people; but he never blamed himself. He criticized severely this alleged failure of our people, who made so many brave sacrifices in this war.

[Page 32]

Q. General Jodl has already testified before the Tribunal that both Hitler and his co-workers saw quite clearly the hopelessness of the military and economic situation.

Was no unified action taken by some of Hitler's closer advisers in this hopeless situation to demand the termination of war?

A. No. No unified action was taken by the leading men in Hitler's circle. A step like this was quite impossible, for these men considered themselves either as pure specialists, or else as people whose job it was to receive orders, or merely resigned themselves to the situation. No one took over the leadership in this situation for the purpose of bringing about at least a discussion with Hitler on the possibility of avoiding further sacrifices. And of course, there was an influential group which tried, with all the means at its disposal, to intensify the struggle.

That group consisted of Goebbels, Bormann, Ley, Fegelein and Burgdorf. This group was also behind the move to induce Hitler to withdraw from the Geneva Convention. At the beginning of February, Dr. Goebbels handed to Hitler a very sharp memorandum demanding our withdrawal from the Geneva Convention. Hitler had already agreed to this proposal, as Naumann, who was State Secretary to Goebbels had told me. This step meant that the struggle was to be carried on with all available means and without regard for international agreements. This was the sense of the memorandum addressed by Goebbels, to Hitler.

It must be said that this intention of Hitler and Goebbels failed on account of the unanimous resistance offered by the military leaders, as Naumann told me later.

Q. Herr Speer, the witness Stahl said in his written interrogatory that, about the middle of February, 1945, you had demanded from him a supply of the new poison gas in order to assassinate Hitler, Bormann and Goebbels, Why did you intend to do this then?

A. I thought there was no other way out. In my despair I wanted to take this step as it had been obvious to me since the beginning of February that Hitler intended to go on with the war at all costs, ruthlessly and without consideration for the German people. It was obvious to me that in the loss of the war he connected his own fate with that of the German people, and that in his own end he saw the end of the German people as well. It was also obvious that the war was lost so completely that even unconditional surrender would have to be accepted.

Q. Did you mean to carry through this assassination yourself and why did it fail?

A. I do not wish to testify to the details here. I could only carry it through personally because, since 20th July, only an intimate circle had access to Hitler. I met with various technical difficulties ....

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal would like to hear the particulars, but will hear them after the adjournment.

(A recess was taken.)


Q. Herr Speer, will you tell the Tribunal what circumstances hindered you in your undertaking?

A. I am most unwilling to describe the details, because there is always something repellent about such matters. I do it only because it is the Tribunal's wish.

Q. Please do.

A. In those days, Hitler, according to the military situation, often had conversations in his shelter with Ley, Goebbels, and Bormann, who were particularly close to him then because they supported and co-operated in his radical course of action.

Since the 20th of July, it was no longer possible even for Hitler's closest associates to enter his shelter without their pockets and briefcases being examined by the SS for explosives. As an architect, I knew this shelter intimately. It had an air-conditioning plant similar to the one installed in this courtroom.

[Page 33]

It was not difficult to introduce the gas into the ventilator of the air-conditioning plant, which was in the garden of the Reich Chancellery. It was then bound to disperse through the entire shelter in a very short time. Thereupon, in the middle of February, 1945, I sent to Stahl, the head of my department for munitions, with whom I had particularly intimate relations, since I had worked in close co-operation with him during the war years. I frankly told him of my intention, as his testimony shows. I asked him to procure some of the new poison gas for me from the munitions production. He inquired of one of his associates, Lieut.-Col. Soyka, of the Army Ordnance Branch, as to how to get hold of this poison gas; it turned out that this new poison gas was only effective when made to explode, as a high temperature was necessary to render it effective. I am not sure whether I am going too much into detail.

An explosion was not possible, however, as this air-conditioning plant was made of thin sheets of tin, which would have been torn to pieces by the explosion. Thereupon, I had conferences with Hanschel, the chief engineer of the Chancellery, starting in the middle of March, 1945, and I managed to arrange that the anti-gas filter should no longer be switched on continuously. In this way I would have been able to use the ordinary type of gas. Naturally, Hanschel had no knowledge of the purpose for which I was conducting the talks with him. When the time came, I inspected the ventilator in the garden of the Chancellery, along with Hanschel, and there I discovered that on Hitler's personal order this ventilator had recently been surrounded by a chimney four metres high. That can still be ascertained today. Due to this it was no longer possible to carry out my plan.

Q. I shall now come to another problem. Herr Speer, you have heard the testimony of the witnesses Riecke and Milch in this courtroom, and they have testified as to your activities, after the middle of February, 1945, to secure the food position. What have you yourself to say in regard to your work in that direction?

A. I can say quite briefly that the system of preferential food supplies which I finally put into effect was arranged at the time for the purpose of planned re-conversion from war to peace. This was at the expense of armaments, which I personally represented. The tremendous number of measures which we introduced would be too extensive to describe here. All of the relevant decrees are still available. It was a system of arranging, contrary to the official policy, that shortly before their occupation by the enemy, large towns should be sufficiently supplied with food; and of arranging that, despite the catastrophe in transportation, the 1945 crops should be ensured by sending seed in good time, which was a burning problem just then. Had the seeds arrived a few weeks late, then the crops would have been extremely bad. These measures had, of course, a direct disadvantageous effect on armament production. We were only able to maintain production of armaments through stock reserves until the middle of March, after which there was no armament production worth mentioning. This was owing to the fact that we only had 20 to 30 per cent of the transport capacity at our disposal which I mainly used for the transport of food. Therefore, transport of armaments was, practically speaking, out of the question.

Q. Was it possible to carry out such measures, which were openly against the official war plans of "Resistance to the Last," on a large scale? Were there any people at all who were prepared to approve such measures as you suggested, and to put them into practice?

A. All these measures were not so difficult and they were not so dangerous as one might perhaps imagine, because in those days - after January, 1945 - any reasonable measure could be carried out in Germany against the official policy. Any reasonable man welcomed such measures and was satisfied if anyone would assume responsibility for them. All of these conferences took place amongst a large circle of specialists. Every one of these participants knew the meaning of these orders, without explanations being given. During those days I also had close contacts with reference to other similar measures with the Secretary of State of the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Food, the Ministry of Propaganda,

[Page 34]

and later, even with the State Secretary of the Party Chancellery, that is, Bormann himself. They were all old Party members, and in spite of that, they did their duty to the nation at that time differently from the way in which many leading men in the Party were doing it. I kept them currently informed, in spite of Hitler's prohibition, of the developments in the military situation, and in that manner there was much that we could do jointly to stop the insane orders of those days.

Q. In which sectors did you see a danger for the greater mass of the German people through the continuation of the war?

A. In the middle of March 1945, the enemy troops were once more on the move. It was absolutely clear by then that quite soon those territories which had not yet been occupied would be occupied. That included the territories of Polish Upper Silesia and others outside the borders of the old Reich. The ordered destruction of all bridges during retreat was actually the greatest danger because a bridge blown up by engineers is much more difficult to repair than a bridge which has been destroyed by an air attack. A planned destruction of bridges amounts to the destruction of the entire life of a modern State. In addition, beginning with the end of January, radical circles in the Party were making demands for the destruction of industry, and it was also Hitler's opinion that this should be so. In February, 1945, therefore, I stopped production and delivery of the so-called industrial dynamiting materials. The intention was that the stocks of explosives in the mines and in private possession should be diminished. As a witness of mine has testified, these orders were actually carried out. In the middle of March, Guderian and I tried once more to stop the ordered destruction of bridges or to reduce it to a minimum. A suggested order for the stoppage was submitted to Hitler, which he refused bluntly, and demanded, on the contrary, intensified orders for the destruction of bridges. Simultaneously, on the 18th of March, 1945, he had eight officers shot because they had failed to do their duty in connection with the destruction of a bridge. He announced this fact in the Armed Forces Bulletin so that it should serve as a warning for future cases. Thus it was extremely difficult to disobey orders for the destruction of bridges. In spite of this, I sent a new memorandum to Hitler on the 18th of March, 1945, the contents of which were very clear and in which I did not allow him any further excuses for the measures he had planned. The memorandum was brought to the attention of several of his associates.

DR. FLAECHSNER: The Tribunal will find extracts from that memorandum on Page 69 of the English text of the Document Book.


Q. Will you continue, please? A. I shall quote something more from that memorandum on Page 69, Mr. President:

"The enemy air force has concentrated further on traffic installations. Economic transportation has thereby been considerably reduced. In four to eight weeks, the final collapse of German economy must therefore be expected with certainty. After that collapse, the war cannot even be continued militarily. We at the head have the duty to help the nation in the difficult times which must be expected. In this connection, we must soberly, and without regard for our fate, ask ourselves the question as to how this can be done even in the more remote future. If the enemy wishes to destroy the nation and the basis of its existence, then he must do the job himself. We must do everything to maintain, even if perhaps in a most primitive manner, a basis of existence for the nation to the last."
Then there, follow a few of my demands, and I shall summarize them briefly. I quote:

[Page 35]

"It must be guaranteed that, if the battle advances farther into the territory of the Reich, nobody has the right to destroy industrial plants, coal mines, electric plants, and other supply facilities, or traffic facilities and inland shipping routes, etc. The blowing up of bridges to the extent which has been planned would mean that traffic facilities would be more thoroughly destroyed than the air attacks of the last weeks have been able to achieve. Their destruction means the removal of any further possibility for existence of the German nation."
Then, I shall quote briefly from the end of the memorandum:
"We have no right, at this stage of the war, to carry out destructions on our part which might affect the life of the nation. If the enemies wish to destroy this nation, which has fought with unique bravery, then this historical shame shall rest exclusively upon them. We have the obligation of leaving to the nation all possibilities which, in the more remote future, might be able to insure for it a new reconstruction."
This expressed clearly enough something which Hitler would have to know in any case, because there was not the need for much economic insight to realize the results of such destruction for the future of the nation.

On the occasion of the handing over of the memorandum, Hitler knew of the contents since I had discussed it with some of his associates. Therefore, his statements are typical of his attitude towards this basic question.

I would not have uttered the severe accusation which I have made here by saying that he wanted to draw Germany into the abyss with him, if I had not confirmed his statements in that respect in the letter of 29th March, 1945.

THE PRESIDENT: Are you meaning May or March?

THE WITNESS: March, 1945, Mr. President.

DR. FLAECHSNER: Mr. President, you will find this document on Page 75 of the English text of the Document Book, and it is Page 72 in the French text. I submit it as Exhibit 24. It is Speer's letter to Hitler, dated the 29th of March, 1945.


Q. Will you continue, please?

THE PRESIDENT: Ought you not to read this letter?

DR. FLAECHSNER: The defendant wants to read it himself.


Q. Will you read it?

A. I quote:

"When on 18th March I transmitted my letter to you, I was of the firm conviction that the conclusions which I had drawn from the present situation for the maintenance of our national power would find your unconditional approval, because you yourself had once determined that it was the task of the Government to preserve a nation from a heroic end if the war should be lost. However, during the evening you made declarations to me, the tenor of which, unless I misunderstood you, was clearly as follows: If the war is lost, the nation will also perish. This fate is inevitable. There is no necessity to take into consideration the basic requirements of the people for continuing a most primitive existence. On the contrary, it would be wiser to destroy these things ourselves, because this nation will have proved to be the weaker one and the future belongs solely to the stronger Eastern nation. Besides, those who remain after the battle are only the inferior ones; for the good ones have fallen."
I go on to quote:
"After these words I was profoundly shaken, and when on the next day I read the order for destruction, and shortly after that the strict order of evacuation, I saw in this the first steps towards the realization of these intentions."

[ 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.