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 Sixtieth Day: Friday, 21st June, 1946
(Part 3 of 12)

[Page 53]

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: I am told that I am wrong about that, and that it is new. 892 is a new number.


Q. Leaving the part of your personal participation in this programme -

THE PRESIDENT: Could you tell us what the document is and where it comes from? I see it is 60-EC; so it must be captured. But ...

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: It is one of the economic documents. It is a very large document.

THE PRESIDENT: Could you tell us what it is or who signed it? It is a very long document, apparently, is it?

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: It is a long document, and it is a report of the Oberfeldkommandant L-I-L-L-E is the name of the signer.


Q. Now, coming to the question -

THE PRESIDENT: Let me look at the document, will you?

You see, Mr. Justice Jackson, my attention has been drawn to the point that as far as the record is concerned, we have only this extract which you read. We have not got the date, and we do not have the signature, if any, on the document.

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: I was merely refreshing his recollection to get out the facts, and I was not really offering the document for its own sake. I will go into more detail about it, if your Honour wishes. There is a great deal of irrelevant material in it.

THE PRESIDENT: If you do not want to offer it, then we need not bother about it.

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: A great part of it is not relevant.


MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: The quotation is adequately verified.

THE PRESIDENT: In that case, you may refer to it without the document being used. Then we need not have the document identified as an exhibit.


Q. Leaving the questions of your personal participation in these matters and coming to the questions dealt with in the second part of your examination, I want to ask you about your testimony concerning the proposal to denounce the Geneva Convention.

[Page 54]

You testified yesterday that it was proposed to withdraw from the Geneva Convention. Will you tell us who made the proposal?

[Albert Speer] A. This proposal, as I already testified yesterday, came from Dr. Goebbels.

It was made after the air attack on Dresden, but before this, from the autumn of 1944 on, Goebbels and Ley had often had conversations to the effect that the war effort should be increased in every possible way, so that I had the impression Goebbels was merely using the attack on Dresden, and the excitement it created, as an excuse to renounce the Geneva Convention.

Q. Now, was the proposal at that time to resort to poison gas warfare, was the proposal made at that time?

A. I was not able to make out from my own direct observations whether gas warfare was to be started, but I knew from various associates of Ley and Goebbels that they were discussing the question of using our two new combat gases, Tabun and Sarin. They believed that these two gases would be of particular efficacy and they did in fact produce the most frightful results. We made these observations as early as the autumn of 1944, when the situation had become critical, and many people were seriously worried about it.

Q. Now, will you tell us about these two gases and about their production and their effects, their qualities, and the preparations that were made for gas warfare?

A. I cannot tell you that in detail. I am not enough of an expert. All I know is that both these gases had a quite extraordinary effect, and that there was no protection against them that we knew of either by respirator or other means, so that the soldiers would have been unable to protect themselves against this gas in any way. For the manufacture of these gases we had about three factories, all of which were undamaged and which, until November, 1944, were working at full capacity. When rumours reached us that gas might be used, I stopped its production in November, 1944. I stopped it by the following means. I blocked the so-called preliminary production, that is the chemical supplies for the making of gas. So that the gas-production, as the Allied authorities themselves ascertained, after the end of December or the beginning of January, actually did run down and finally came to a standstill. First of all, with the letter you have that I wrote to Hitler in October, 1944, I tried to obtain his permission for these gas factories to stop their production. The reason I gave him was that for air raids the preliminary products, mostly Zian, were needed urgently for other purposes. Hitler informed me that the gas production would have to continue whatever happened, but I gave instructions for the preliminary products not to be supplied any more.

Q. Can you identify others of the group who were advocating gas warfare?

A. In military circles there was certainly no one in favour of gas warfare. All the sensible army people opposed gas warfare as being utterly insane, for, in view of the enemy's superiority in the air, it would not have been long before it brought the most terrible retribution upon German cities which were completely unprotected.

Q. The group that did advocate it, however, consisted of the politicians most intimate with Hitler, did it not?

A. A certain circle of political people, very limited in number. It was mostly Ley, Goebbels and Bormann, always the same three, who by every possible means wanted to increase the war effort, and a man like Fegelein certainly belonged to a group like that, too. Of Himmler I would not be too sure for, at that time, Himmler was a little out of favour with Hitler because he indulged himself in the luxury of running an army group, although he knew nothing about such a task.

Q. Now, one of these gases was the gas which you proposed to use on those who were proposing to use it on others, and I suppose your motive was -

A. I must say quite frankly that my reason for this plan was the fear that under certain circumstances gas might be used, and the thought that we might get the idea of using it ourselves led me to make the whole plan.

[Page 55]

Q. And your reasons, I take it, were the same as those of the military, that is to say, it was certain Germany would get the worst of it if Germany started that kind of warfare. That is what was worrying the military, was it not?

A. No, not only that. It was because at that stage of the war it was perfectly clear that under no circumstances should any international crimes be committed which could be held against the German people after they had lost the war. That was what decided the matter.

Q. Now, what about the bombs, after the war was obviously lost, aimed at England day after day; who favoured that?

A. You mean the rockets?

Q. Yes.

A. From the point of view of their technical production, the rockets were a very expensive affair for us, and their effect, compared to the cost of their output, was negligible. In consequence we had no particular interest in developing their production. The person who kept urging it was Himmler. He gave Obergruppenfuehrer Tammler the task of firing off these rockets over England. In army circles they were of the same opinion as I, namely, that the rockets were too expensive; and in air force circles, the opinion was the same, because with the outlay for one rocket one could build a fighter plane. It is quite clear that it would have been much better for us if we had not gone in for this nonsense.

Q. Going back to the characteristics of this gas, was one of the characteristics of this gas an exceedingly high temperature? When it was exploded it created exceedingly high temperature so that there could be no defence against it?

A. No, that is an error. Actually, ordinary gas evaporates at a normal atmospheric temperature. This gas would not evaporate until very high temperatures were reached and such very high temperatures could only be produced by an explosion; in other words; if the explosives detonated a very high temperature was set up and the gas evaporated. The solid substance turned into gas but the effects had nothing to do with the high temperature.

Q. Experiments were carried out with this gas, were they not, to your knowledge?

A. That I cannot tell you. Experiments must certainly have been carried out with it.

Q. Who was in charge of the experiments with the gases?

A. As far as I know it was the research and development department of the OKH in the Army Ordnance Office. I cannot tell you for certain.

Q. And certain experiments were also conducted and certain researches made with regard to atomic energy, were they not?

A. We had not got as far as that, unfortunately, because the finest experts we had in atomic research had emigrated to America, and this had thrown us back a great deal in our research, so that we still needed another one to two years in order to achieve any results in the splitting of the atom.

Q. The policy of driving people out who did not agree with the German Government had not produced very good dividends, had it?

A. Just in this sphere it was a great disaster to us.

Q. Now, certain information has been placed in my hands of an experiment which was carried out near Auschwitz, and I would like to ask you if you ever heard about it or knew about it. The purpose of the experiment was to find a quick and complete way of destroying people without the delay and trouble associated with shooting and gassing and burning, the methods being used. This was the experiment, as I am advised. A village, a small village was provisionally erected, with temporary structures, and in it approximately twenty thousand Jews were put. By means of this newly invented weapon of destruction, these twenty thousand people were eradicated almost instantaneously, and there was no, trace left of them; the explosive used developing temperatures of from four to five hundred degrees centigrade.

Do you know about that experiment?

[Page 56]

A. No, and I consider it utterly improbable. If we had had such a weapon under preparation I would have known about it. But we did not have such a weapon. It is clear that in the chemical field experiments were made and research work carried on by both sides in attempts to develop all possible weapons, because one did not know which side would start chemical warfare first.

Q. The reports, then, of a new and secret weapon were exaggerated for the purpose of keeping the German people in the war?

A. That was the case mostly during the last phase of the war. From August on ... June or July, 1944, rather, I very often went to the front. I visited about forty front divisions in their sectors and could not help seeing that the troops, just like the German civilian population, were given hopes of a new weapon coming, new weapons even, and miracle weapons which, without requiring the use of soldiers, without military forces, would achieve victory. In this belief lies the secret why so many people in Germany continued to sacrifice their lives, although common sense told them that the war was over. They believed that within the near future this new weapon would arrive. I wrote to Hitler about it and tried in different speeches, even before Goebbels's propaganda leaders, to counteract these hopes. Both Hitler and Goebbels told me, however, that it was not propaganda, but that it was a belief which had grown up amongst the people. Only in the dock here in Nuremberg did I learn from Fritzsche that this propaganda was spread systematically amongst the people through certain channels, and that SS Standartenfuehrer Berg was responsible for it. Many things have become clear to me now because this man Berg as a representative of the Ministry of Propaganda had often taken part in meetings, in big sessions of my Ministry, as he was writing articles about these sessions. There he heard of our future plans and then used this knowledge to tell the people about them with more fantasy than truth.

Q. When did it become apparent that the war was lost? I take it that your attitude was that you felt some responsibility for getting the German people out of the war with as little destruction as possible. Is that a fair statement of your position?

A. Yes, but I did not only have that feeling with regard to the German people. I knew quite well that one should equally avoid destruction in the occupied territories. That was just as important to me from a realistic point of view for I said to myself that, after the war, the responsibility for all these destructions would not only fall on us, but on the next German Government, and the coming German generations.

Q. Where you differed with the people who wanted to continue the war to the bitter end was that you wanted to see Germany have a chance to restore her life. Is that not a fact? Whereas, Hitler took the position that, if he could not survive, he did not care whether Germany survived or not?

A. That is true, and I would never have had the courage to make this statement before this Tribunal if I had not been able to prove it on the strength of some documents, because such a statement is so monstrous. But the letter which I wrote to Hitler on the 29th of March, and in which I confirmed this, shows that he said so himself.

Q. Well, if I may comment, it was not a new idea to us that that was his viewpoint. I think it was believed in most of the other countries that that was his attitude.

Now, were you present with Hitler at the time he received the telegram from Goering suggesting that Goering take over power?

A. On the 23rd of April I flew to Berlin in order to take leave of several of my associates, and - as I frankly admit - after all that had happened, also in order to place myself at Hitler's disposal. Perhaps this will sound strange to you, but the conflicting feelings I had about the action I wanted to take against him, and about the way he had of doing things, still did not give me any clear grounds or any clear inner conviction as to what my relations should be to him, so I flew

[Page 57]

over to see him. I did not know whether he knew of my plans, and I did not know whether he would order me to remain in Berlin. But I felt that it was my duty not to run away like a coward, but to stand up to him again. It was on that day that Goering's telegram to Hitler arrived. This telegram ... not to Hitler, but from Goering to Ribbentrop. I mean, it was Bormann who submitted it to Hitler.

Q. Submitted it to Hitler?

A. Yes, to Hitler.

Q. What did Hitler say on that occasion?

A. Hitler was unusually excited about the contents of the telegram, and said quite plainly what he thought about Goering He said that he "had known for some time that Goering had failed him, that he was corrupt, and that he was a drug addict." I was extremely shaken, because I felt that if the head of the State had known this for such a long time, then it showed a lack of responsibility on his part to leave such a man in office, when the lives of countless people depended on him. It was typical of Hitler's attitude towards the entire problem, however, that he followed his statement up by saying: "But he can negotiate the capitulation all the same."

Q. Did he say why he was willing to let Goering negotiate the capitulation?

A. No. He said in an off-hand manner: "It does not matter anyway who does it." In the manner he said this, he expressed all his disregard for the German nation.

Q. That is, his attitude was that there was nothing left worth saving, so let Goering work it out. Is that a fair statement of his attitude?

A. That was my impression, yes.

Q. Now this policy, of driving Germany to destruction after the war was lost, troubled you so much that you became a party to several plots, did you not, in an attempt to remove the people who were responsible for the destruction, as you saw it, of your country?

A. Yes. But I want to add -

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