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 Sixty-Fourth Day: Wednesday, 26th June, 1946
(Part 9 of 10)

[Page 235]

THE PRESIDENT: I call on counsel for the defendant Fritzsche.

DR. FRITZ (counsel for defendant Fritzsche): Mr. President, I intend to present the case of the defendant Fritzsche as follows:

First I should like to call the defendant Fritzsche to the witness stand and then the witness von Schirmeister. In the course of these two examinations I intend to present to the tribunal a few affidavits and to refer to these and to the rest of the contents of my two document books.

[Page 236]

In its decision of 8th March, 1946, the Tribunal granted as witnesses for my case: first Herr von Schirmeister, and second, Dr. Krieg; and as documents: the text of all radio speeches of the defendant Fritzche from 1932 to 1945 and the archives of "Deutscher Schnelldienst" (German Express Service) of the Propaganda Ministry. Of all this evidence, in spite of the efforts of the General Secretary, unfortunately only the witness von Schirmeister could be brought here. Therefore, I had to rearrange my case, and I must ask for the indulgence of the Tribunal if I go into a somewhat greater detail than originally intended in examining the defendant Fritzche and the witness von Schirmeister.

With the approval of the Tribunal I shall now call the defendant Fritzsche to the witness stand.

HANS FRITZSCHE, a witness, took the stand, and testified as follows:


Q. Will you state your full name, please?

A. Hans Fritzsche.

Q. Will you repeat this oath after me:

I swear by God, the Almighty and Omniscient, that I will speak the pure truth and will withhold and add nothing.

(The witness repeated the oath.)

THE PRESIDENT: You may sit down.



Q. Herr Fritzsche, will you please describe briefly your career up to the year l933?

A. As to that, may I refer to my affidavit, Document 3469-PS, points one, and three to eight. In addition, I can limit myself now to a broad outline.

DR. FRITZ: Mr. President, I should like to remark at the beginning of the examination that my document books, of which I have two, have not yet been completely translated. This affidavit, which the defendant has just mentioned, is also contained in the document book for the prosecution. I do not know whether the Tribunal now has this document book.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you can go on.

A. (continuing): I was born on 21st April, 1900. My father was a civil servant. (I went to a school specialising in classical languages.) Then I was a soldier in the First World War; returned to school and studied, at various universities, philosophy, history and political economy.

After the First World War, my life and my work were determined by the distress of my people. We called this distress "Versailles.'' Enough has been said here about the Versailles Treaty, therefore I need add nothing in that connection.

Q. You were striving then in your journalistic work before 1933 for a change of the Versailles Treaty?

A. Yes, of course.

Q. Did you seek this change through war?

A. No, I sought it through the means of law, political and economic common sense, which were at that time all on the German side. Together with this, certain restoration of the power of the German Reich would have been desirable because I saw in the weakness of the Reich a potential danger of war. But to resort to war to change the Treaty of Versailles did not seem to me to be possible, expedient or desirable. The same view prevailed later under the Hitler Government.

On this very point, Adolf Hitler gave assurances which for me, and for millions of other Germans, were especially impressive. The first was: "I myself was a simple soldier, and therefore know what war means." The second was the statement: "In all the bloody wars of the last thousand years, not even the

[Page 237]

victors gained as much as they had sacrificed." These two assurances sounded to German ears like holy and binding oaths. Whatever in Hitler's policy violated these two assurances was a betrayal of the German people.

Q. When, how and why did you come to the NSDAP?

A. After my entry into the Propaganda Ministry I joined the Party. I refer again to my affidavit, to points nine to thirteen.

I did not join the NSDAP on account of the Party programme, nor through Hitler's book Mein Kampf; nor did I join because of the personality of Hitler, whose suggestive power, which has frequently been mentioned here, escaped me entirely. I rejected the harsh radicalism of the methods of the Party. This harsh radicalism was contrary to the practice of my whole life and my personal principles. Because of this, I even came into conflict with the Party in 1932.

I joined the Party when it had, without doubt, won over the majority of the German people. This party had overcome at the time the discord of the German people and brought about its unity after Bruening's great attempt at recovery on a democratic basis had failed because of the foreign political resistance, not because of the resistance of the German people. After the Cabinets also had failed to find a foundation amongst the people, the appointment of Hitler, as Reich Chancellor, meant a return to democratic principles. Much has been said here about these matters. I ask for permission to cite one circumstance which, to my knowledge, has not yet been mentioned here and which does have a certain significance.

When I joined the NSDAP, I did not believe I was really joining a party in the true sense of the word, for the NSDAP did not have a party theory similar to those of the Marxist parties which had a developed and mature theory; all theorists of the Party were disputed. The theoretical writings of Gottfried Feder had been prohibited. The theorist Rosenberg was disputed in the Party to the very end. The lack of a theory for the Party was so great that even the printing of the bare Party programme was forbidden for the German papers. The German papers were even forbidden a few years after 1933 to quote arbitrarily any part of Hitler's Mein Kampf.

At that time, then; I did not believe that I was joining a strictly limited party, but a movement, a movement which united in itself contrasts such as those between Ley and Funk, between Rosenberg and the Reich Bishop; a movement which was variable in its choice of methods; which at one time prohibited the labour of women and at another solicited it. I believed I was joining such a movement because one group within the NSDAP saw in the swastika flag nothing but a new combination, a new form for the colours black, white and red, while another group saw in this banner the red flag with a swastika. It is a fact that there were whole groups of the former German Nationalist Party or of former Communists in the NSDAP. Thus, I hoped to find in this wide- flung movement a forum for intellectual discussions which would no longer be carried on with the murderous animosity which had previously ruled in Germany, but which could be carried on with a certain discipline dominated by Nationalist and Socialist conceptions.

For this reason, and by making constant compromises, I put aside my own wishes, my own misgivings, my own political beliefs. In many conversations I advised my friends to do the same, when they complained that they and their interests were not given proper consideration during the time of the Gleichschaltung (Nazification). I came to the, conviction that millions of Germans had joined the Party only for this reason and in this expectation. They thought they were serving a good cause. Out of pure idealism, they were willing to sacrifice everything to this cause, everything except their honour. Meanwhile, I had to realize that the leader of this cause accepted the sacrifice of these idealists, that he exploited it and that, besides, he stained their honour with a senseless and inhuman murder, unique in history, a murder which no war necessity could have justified, for which one could not even find any reason in any necessity of war.

[Page 238]

Q. Now, the prosecution accuses you of having "sworn the customary oath of unconditional loyalty to Hitler" in 1933. For whatever reason you did this, the fact that you took this oath is true, is it not?

A. Yes, I also twice swore an oath to the Weimar Constitution, in 1933 and 1938. Let me add something. It was always and still is my conviction that no oath relieves a human being of his general duties to humanity. No one is made an irresponsible tool by an oath. My oath would never have made me carry out an order if I had recognized it to be criminal. Never in my life did I obey anyone blindly. For that reason, I do not refer for any of my actions to my duty to obey.

Q. Did you keep the oath which you took?

A. Yes. No actions were expected of me which I could have considered criminal or a violation of written or unwritten laws. Moreover, I kept the oath which I took, not to Hitler, but to the German people.

Q. How long did you keep the oath?

A. I kept it to the end. Then, it is true, I remained in Berlin, in violation of the order which I was given. When Hitler and his entourage took the way of suicide or fled toward the west, I was, to my knowledge, the only higher official to remain in Berlin. At that time I gathered together the employees of the high Reich agencies, who had been left to their fate, in the ruins of my office. Hitler had left behind an order to fight on. The Berlin battle commandant could not be found. Therefore, I, as a civilian, felt obliged to offer to the Russian Marshal Zhukov the capitulation. As I was sending off the emissaries who were to go across the battleline, the last military adjutant of Hitler appeared - General Burgsdorff - and wanted to shoot me in compliance with Hitler's order. Nevertheless, we capitulated, the document being signed by the battle commandant, who had been found in the meantime. Thus, I believe I kept my oath, the oath which I had taken to the German people in the person of Hitler.

Q. Did you hold an office in the Party?

A. No.

Q. Were you a political leader?

A. No.

Q. Were you in the SA or the SS or any one of the other organizations which are accused here?

A. No.

Q. Did you ever take part in a Party rally?

A. No.

Q. In one of the 9th November celebrations in Munich?

A. No.

Q. Then, please describe briefly your position and your work from 1933 to 1945.

A. Here, again, I may refer to my affidavit, that is, to the rest of it. Thus I may again limit myself to a very brief presentation to supplement what is said in the affidavit.

At the seizure of power by National Socialism, I remained what I had been previously, Chief Editor of the Wireless Service ("Drahtloser Dienst"). That was the name of the German radio news service. I held that position for a further five years.

In May, 1933, this wireless service, which had been a part of the Reich Broadcasting Company, was incorporated into the Propaganda, Ministry in its Press section. As I was a specialist in journalistic news service, I soon was entrusted with the news agencies - first, the smaller ones, such as "Transozean" or "Europa-Presse" or "Eildienst." Later I was entrusted with the big "German News Service."

At that time, I had no power to issue orders to the agencies, for I was still an employee of the Ministry and not yet an official. I also had no right to determine the contents of the news. I had only the organisational supervision, but I believe that my advice was respected at the time. In those days I also gave other advice

[Page 239]

of a journalistic nature. Then in December, 1938, I became head of the section, "German Press." I became Ministerialdirigent. As an official, I still felt like the journalist I had been for decades previously. I continued to direct the German Press Section until the spring of 1942.

I did not agree, among other things, with the highly coloured Press policy of my superior, Reich Press Chief Dr. Dietrich. For that reason, I became a soldier and went to the Eastern Front.

In the autumn of 1942, I was called back by Dr. Goebbels. Dr. Goebbels approved my previous criticism, of which he knew. He offered me the direction of the Radio Section of his Ministry. I answered that I could return to the Propaganda Ministry only if I had the certainty that a political termination of the war would be sought and that total military victory would not be striven after, which from the first day of the war I had considered impossible. I told Dr. Goebbels at that time literally: "I am not going to participate as a propagandist in a fight of self-destruction such as was fought by the Goths at Mt. Vesuvius." Dr. Goebbels answered that Hitler and he, also, were seeking a political termination of the war on the basis of reaching some sort of understanding. He promised me that he would inform me in time if he noticed that the Fuehrer was changing his intentions. Goebbels repeated this promise at intervals of a few months, up to the end of the war, and each time that he repeated it, he always gave me substantiated indications about the political efforts in progress at the moment. Today, I have the feeling that he broke his promise.

Then I took over the radio section of the Propaganda Ministry, and I became Ministerial Director.

Q. Those were your official positions. But they were less known to the public. Better known were your radio speeches. What about them?

A. Since 1932 I spoke once a week, for ten to fifteen minutes, on some German stations and on the Deutschlandsender. At the beginning of the war I spoke daily on all the stations, I believe for three or four months. Then I spoke three times a week, then twice a week, and finally once a week again. At first, these radio speeches were just reviews of newspaper articles, that is a collection of quotations from domestic and foreign newspapers. After the beginning of the war, however, these speeches, of course, became polemics on the basis of quotations mostly from foreign papers and foreign radio stations.

Q. Did your speeches have an official character? The prosecution says that they were, of course, under the control of the Propaganda Ministry.

A. That is not correct. The speeches were not official. At the beginning, they were decidedly private work. Of course, I could not prevent, as time went on, the private speeches of a man holding a position in the Propaganda Ministry being no longer considered as private, but semi-official.

Q. You just mentioned private work, which was later considered semi-official. For clarification I ask, could one criticise these speeches, or was one arrested for so doing?

A. Criticism was not only allowed, but actually made. I had an extensive correspondence with my critics, although only with those who signed their names. There were of course also anonymous critics, but I may add that the anonymous critics had only general complaints.

After the outbreak of the war, a Southern German Office of Public Prosecution, and later the Ministry of Justice, offered me a certain protection for my publications, apparently on the assumption that they were official or semi- official. It was suggested to me to appear as plaintiff in possible libel actions. I categorically refused this, stating, as I have often done, both privately and publicly, that people must be allowed to criticise something. If they are forbidden to criticise the State and the Government, then they must be allowed, at least, to criticise the Press, the radio, and me.

Q. How did you prepare these speeches? Were they put down in writing and censored beforehand?

[Page 240]

A. I always refused to let them be censored beforehand. The material was gathered very carefully. It was kept in the so-called "Archiv-Schnelldienst" which has been applied for and approved by the Tribunal to be brought here, but which could not be found.

The material consisted of cuttings from papers, reports of news agencies, and reports from foreign broadcasts. The investigation of doubtful matters was done by a special official (Referent). A rough draft of the speech was then dictated and then delivered freely. Therefore, this procedure was different from that of writing an article; not every sentence had to be polished, because in written matter, every word counts, whereas in a speech it is more the total impression which is decisive.

Q. Now, you worked in the Propaganda Ministry; Dr. Goebbels was the Minister. His name has been mentioned here frequently in connection with his various positions as Reich Minister for Propaganda, Reich Propaganda Director of the NSDAP, Reich Plenipotentiary for the Total War Effort, and Gauleiter of Berlin. In which of these capacities did you deal with him?

A. Exclusively in his capacity as Propaganda Minister.

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