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 9 of 10)

[Page 36]

DR. FLAECHSNER: Mr. President, may I in this connection submit as a "Speer document" the destruction order of Hitler, dated 19th March, 1945, which the Tribunal will find on Page 73 of the French and Page 76 of the English text of the Document Book.

I also submit to the Tribunal the order for the traffic and communication systems which you will find on Page 78 of the English text, and Page 75 of the French text. They become Speer Exhibit 26.

Then there is the order for destruction and evacuation by Bormann dated 23rd March, 1945, which is contained on Page 102 of my Document Book. The latter document is Speer Exhibit 27.


Q. Herr Speer, since these are orders with technical expressions, will you please summarize the contents briefly for the Tribunal?

THE PRESIDENT: You said that last one was at Page 102 of the second volume. In my copy that is a document of General Guderian of December 13, 1944.

DR. FLAECHSNER: Mr. President, I beg to apologise, I have made a mistake.

It is not Page 102, it is Pages 93 and 94. I beg to apologise. I have only just received the document today.


Q. Herr Speer, will you briefly elucidate these orders?

[Albert Speer] A. I can summarize them very briefly. They gave the order to the Gauleiter to carry out the destruction of all industrial plants, all important electrical facilities, water works, gas works, and so on, and also the destruction of all food and clothing stores. My jurisdiction had specifically been excluded, by means of that order, and all my orders for the maintenance of industry had been cancelled.

The military authorities had been given the order to destroy all bridges, all railway installations, postal systems, communication systems in the German railway, also the waterways, all ships, all freight cars and all locomotives.

The target was, as is stated in one of the decrees, the creation of a traffic desert.

The Bormann decree aimed at bringing the population to the centre of the Reich, both from the West and the East, and the foreign workers and prisoners of war were to be included. These millions of people were to be sent upon their trek on foot. No provisions for their existence had been made, nor was it possible to do so in view of the situation.

The carrying out of these orders alone would have resulted in an unimaginable hunger catastrophe. Add to this that on the 19th of March, 1945, there was a strict order from Hitler to all army groups and all Gauleiter, that the battle should be conducted without consideration for our own population.

With the carrying out of these orders, Hitler's pledge of the 18th of March would be kept, namely, that it would not be necessary to consider the basis which the nation would need to continue its existence, even on a most primitive scale, on the contrary, it would be better to destroy these things ourselves. Considering the discipline which existed in Germany in connection with every order, no matter what its contents, it was to be expected that these orders would be carried out. These orders also applied to those territories which had been included in the Greater German Reich.

Now, during journeys into the most endangered territories, and by means of discussions with my associates, I quite openly tried to stop the carrying out of these orders. I ordered that the high explosives which were still available in the Ruhr should be dropped down the mines, and that the stores of high explosives which were on the building sites should be hidden.

We distributed automatic pistols to the staffs of the most important plants so that they could fight against destruction. All this, I know, sounds somewhat theatrical, but the situation at the time was such that if a Gauleiter had dared to approach the coal mines in the Ruhr and there had been a single automatic pistol available, then it would have been fired.

[Page 37]

I tried to convince the local army commanders of the nonsensical character of the task of destroying bridges which had been given to them, and furthermore, by talking to the local authorities, I succeeded in stopping most of the evacuation which had been ordered. In this connection the secretary of the Party Chancellery, Klopper, deserves credit in that he held up the evacuation orders which were to be sent to Gauleiter.

When I came back from this journey, I was called before Hitler at once. This was on the 29th of March, 1945. I had intentionally resisted his orders so openly, and I had discussed the lost war with so many of his Gauleiter that my insubordination must have become known to him. With regard to this period, witnesses are available who know that this is what I wanted to achieve.

I did not want to betray him behind his back. I wanted to put the alternative before him. At the beginning of the conference, he stated that he had had reports from Bormann to the effect that I considered the war as lost, and that I had openly expressed this view contrary to his prohibition. He demanded that I should make a statement to the effect that I did not consider the war lost, and I replied, "The war is lost." He gave me twenty-four hours to think, and it was during those twenty-four hours that the letter was written from which the extract has been quoted, and which has been submitted to the Tribunal in full.

After this period of reflection, I intended to hand him this letter as my reply. But he refused to accept it. Thereupon, I declared to him that he could rely on me in the future, and in that way I was able to get him to hand over to me once more the carrying out of the destruction work.

DR. FLAECHSNER: In this connection, may I submit Hitler's order dated 30th March, 1945, which the Tribunal will find on Pages 83 of the English text and 79 of the French text in the Document Book? It will be Exhibit 28.


Q. Then, what did you do on the strength of this new order which you had?

A. I had the text of it drawn up and it gave me the possibility of circumventing the destruction which had been ordered. I issued an order at once re-establishing all my old orders for the protection of industry. In this connection, I did not submit this new order of mine for Hitler's approval, although he had expressly made this proviso in his order.

Contrary to the promise which I had given him, namely, that I would stand behind him unconditionally, I left the following day to see Seyss-Inquart, who has testified to that here, and two Gauleiter to tell them, too, that the war was lost, and to discuss the consequences with them.

On that occasion I found Seyss-Inquart very understanding. Both my decrees for the prevention of destruction, as well as my discussion, were contrary to the promise I had given Hitler on the 21st of March. I considered that this was my natural duty.

DR. FLAECHSNER: I submit as Speer Exhibit 29 the instructions issued by Speer on the 30th of March for carrying out the order which has already been mentioned. In the French and German texts of the Document Book they appear on Page 81, and in the English Document Book on Page 85.

THE WITNESS: In spite of this, the orders for the destruction of bridges still remained in force, and everywhere in Germany, Austria and Poland and elsewhere you can see the result today. I made numerous journeys to the front, and had many conferences with the commanders of the front-line troops. Perhaps that may have brought about relief in some form or other. Finally, I succeeded in persuading the Commander-in-Chief of the Corps of Signals, on the 3rd of April, 1945 to forbid at least the destruction of the signals, postal, railway and wireless installations by means of a new order.

Finally, on the 5th of April, I issued six OKW orders under the name of General Winter, who has been a witness in this courtroom. These orders were to ensure the preservation of important railway lines. The orders are still in existence.

[Page 38]

I issued these orders through my command channels and the channels of the Reich railways, and considering the tremendous confusion of orders at the time, such orders, which I was not empowered to give, had at least a distracting effect.


Q. Herr Speer, a number of attempts on your part to shorten the war became known to the Press. Could you please describe summarily to the Tribunal the problem which has been hinted at in the Press.

A. I do not want to spend too much time on things which did not succeed. I tried repeatedly to exclude Himmler and others from the Government and to force them to make themselves responsible for their deeds. To carry that and other plans out, eight officers from the front joined me, all of whom had received high decorations. Among them were the two best-known pilots in Germany, Galland and Baumbach. The Secretary of State of the Propaganda Ministry made it possible for me on the 9th of April to speak briefly over the entire German radio system. All preparations were made, and at the last moment Goebbels heard about it and demanded that Hitler should approve of the text of my speech. I submitted to him a very modified text. But he forbade the broadcasting even of this very modified version.

On the 21st of April, 1945, an opportunity was offered me to record a speech at the broadcasting station at Hamburg. This was to be broadcast as the instructions for the final phase. The recording officials, however, demanded that this speech should be broadcast only after Hitler's death, which would relieve them of their oath of allegiance to him.

Furthermore, I was in contact with the chief of staff of an army group in the East, the Army Group Weichsel. We were both aware that a fight for Berlin ought not to take place, and that contrary to their orders the armies should by-pass Berlin. To begin with, this was carried out, but later there were several persons empowered with special authority by Hitler and sent outside Berlin who succeeded in leading some divisions into Berlin. The original intention, however, that entire armies should be led into Berlin, was, therefore, not carried through. The Chief of Staff with whom I had these conferences was General Kinsler.

Q. Were these attempts still of any avail at the beginning of April, and later on?

A. Yes. We expected that the war would last longer, because Churchill, too, predicted at the time that the end of the war would come at the end of July, 1945

Q. You have described here how much you did to preserve industrial plants and other economic installations. Did you also act on behalf of the foreign workers?

A. My responsibility was the industrial sector. I felt it my duty, therefore, to hand over my sector undamaged. As regards the foreign workers in Germany, several of my actions were in their favour. For example, these foreign workers and prisoners of war, through the steps which I had taken to secure the food situation, were quite obviously the beneficiaries of my work during the last phase.

Secondly, through local discussions, I prevented a certain amount of destruction, contrary to the evacuation orders which had been received from the Party. I also made it possible for the foreign workers and prisoners to remain where they were. Such discussions took place on the 18th of March in the Saar district, and on the 28th of March in the Ruhr district. At the beginning of March, I made the proposal that five hundred thousand foreigners should be transferred from the Reich to the territories which we still held; that is to say, the Dutch to Holland, the Czechs to Czechoslovakia. The railways, however, refused to take responsibility for their transportation, since the traffic system had already been so destroyed that the carrying out of this plan was no longer possible. Finally, in the speech I intended to deliver over the German broadcasting system on the 9th of April, and in the one I had hoped to broadcast from Hamburg on the gist of April, I pointed out the duties which we had towards the foreigners, the prisoners of war and the prisoners from concentration camps during this last phase.

[Page 39]

DR. FLAECHSNER: Mr. President, may I draw your attention to Page 88 of the English text in this connection; it is Page 84 of the French and I submit it as Speer Exhibit 30.


Q. Herr Speer, you have described to us how much during the last phase of the war you were opposed to Hitler and his policies. Why did you not resign?

A. I had the possibility to resign on three occasions; once in April, 1944, when my powers were considerably limited; the second time in September, 1944, when Bormann and Goebbels were in favour of my resignation; and the third time on the 29th of March, 1945, when Hitler himself demanded that I should go on permanent leave, which was equivalent to resignation. I turned down all these possibilities because, from July, 1944, I thought it was my duty to remain at my post.

Q. There has been testimony in this courtroom to the effect that the last phase of the war, that is, from January, 1945, was tactically justified from the point of view that the nation was, in reality, spared unnecessary sacrifices. Were you of that same opinion?

A. No. It was said that military protection in the East was necessary to protect great numbers of refugees until they reached Germany. In reality, until the middle of April, 1945, the bulk of our last reserves of armoured vehicles and munitions was used for the fight against the West. The tactical principle, therefore, was different from the one it would have been if the fight had been carried on with those aims which have been stated here. The destruction of bridges in the West and the destruction orders against the foundations of life of the nation show the opposite. The sacrifices which were made on both sides after January, 1945, were senseless. The dead of this period will be the accusers of the man responsible for the continuation of that fight, Adolf Hitler, and the ruined cities which, in this last phase, lost tremendous cultural values and in which a colossal number of dwellings were destroyed. Many of the difficulties under which the German nation is suffering today are due to the ruthless destruction of bridges, traffic installations, trucks, locomotives and ships. The German people remained faithful to Adolf Hitler until the end. He betrayed them knowingly. He finally tried to throw them into the abyss. Only after the 1st of May, 1945, did Donitz try to act with reason, but it was too late.

DR. FLAECHSNER: I have one last question.


Q. Was it possible for you to reconcile your actions during the last phase of the war with your oath and your conception of loyalty to Adolf Hitler?

A. There is one loyalty which everyone must always keep and that is loyalty towards one's own people. That duty comes before everything. If I am in a leading position and if I see that acts are being committed against the interests of the nation, I must oppose them. That Hitler had broken faith with the nation must have been clear to every intelligent member of his circle, certainly at the latest in January or February, 1945. Hitler had been given his mission by the people; but he had no right to gamble away the destiny of the people with his own. Therefore, I fulfilled my natural duty as a German. I did not succeed in every way, but I am proud today that with my achievements I was able to render one more service to the workers in Germany and the Occupied Territories.

DR. FLAECHSNER: Mr. President, I have now reached the end of my examination of the defendant Speer.

May I perhaps draw the attention of the Tribunal to the fact that statements have been made on the theme which was the subject of this afternoon's session, by the witness Kehrl in his interrogatory under 10 and 12; Rohland under 5, 6, and 8; witness Schieber under 25; witness Guderian under 1 to 3, 7 to 9, and on point 6; the witness named by Speer, Stahl under points 1 and 2 of his testimony; the witness Kempf under 10 of her testimony.

[Page 40]

Still outstanding are the interrogatories of the witness, Malzacher, and, which is most important to the defence, of the witness von Poser, since he was the liaison officer between the General Staff of the Army and Speer's Ministry. These will be handed in when received. Furthermore, still outstanding is the interrogatory of General Buhle, who was the Chief of the Army Staff, and that of Colonel Baumbach, who was the commander of a bomber wing. The remaining documents I shall submit to the Tribunal at the end of the final examination of the defendant Speer.

THE PRESIDENT: Do any of the other defendants' counsel want to ask any questions?

DR. SERVATIUS: Dr. Servatius, counsel for Sauckel.


Q. Witness, during the negotiations which Sauckel had in 1943 and 1944 with Laval in Paris, were there representatives present who came from your department and did they support Sauckel's demands?

A. During these conferences, representatives from my departments were sometimes present. They were present for the purpose of protecting the blocked industries, and also to see to it that there were no encroachments on the production interests for which I had provided protection.

Q. So that these representatives were therefore not acting to support Sauckel's demands, but they were against them?

A. It was not the task of these representatives to act for or against Sauckel's demands because Sauckel stated his demands in such definite language that a smaller official was not in a position to speak either for or against these demands in any way. This would have been a task which I would have had to carry out myself.

[ 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.