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-Fifth Day: Thursday, 27th June, 1946
(Part 2 of 5)

[DR. FRITZ continues his direct examination of Hans Fritzsche]

[Page 248]

Q. The prosecution has said that the Propaganda Ministry was the most fabulous lie factory of all times. What do you have to say about this?

A. First, for myself personally, I should like to make the following quite clear. I state under oath: in really serious questions of policy and the conduct of war I did not commit a single falsification and did not consciously tell a single lie.

How often I myself was the victim of a falsehood or a lie I cannot say after the revelations of this trial. The same is true, as far as I know, of all my fellow-workers, but I do not by any means want to deny that I and my fellow-workers

[Page 249]

selected news and quotations according to a tendency. It is the curse of propaganda during war that one works only with black and white. Only a few great spirits remain independent. I believe that this painting in black and white is a luxury which also cannot be afforded any more.

As to the Propaganda Ministry itself, as such, I must say that I can only judge of the one-twelfth, that is the one section of which I was in charge at any time. But to my knowledge it is a mistake to believe that in the Propaganda Ministry thousands of little lies were thought out. In details we worked quite cleanly and honestly, technically even perfectly. If we had lied in a thousand small things, the enemy would have been able to deal with us more easily than was the case. But decisive for such a news machine is not the detail but the final fundamental basis on which propaganda is built. Decisive is the belief in the incorruptibility of the leaders of the State, on which every journalist must rely, and this basis is shaken by what has become known today of mass murders, of senseless atrocities and by the doubt in the honesty of Hitler's protestations for peace, the factual details of which I am in no position to judge.

Q. In this trial it has been pointed out that there are no regulations under International Law on the methods of propaganda in war and peace.

A. I know very well that International Law places no limitations on propaganda, especially propaganda during war. I also know very well that only in a very few individual treaties between States are there regulations about the use of propaganda; for example in the German-Polish treaty and in the German-Soviet Union treaty. But in all my life as a journalist I have emphasized that the lack of international regulations as to propaganda is no excuse for lies. I always emphasized the moral responsibility of the journalist and newsman. I did so long before the war in an international discussion with Radio Luxembourg, but I need not go into that here.

If last May I did not seek death, one of the reasons for this was my wish - I wanted to render an account of where, in that system, there were the pure idealism and the heroic sacrifices of millions and where there were lies and the brutality which did not shrink from committing crimes.

Q. Please give us examples of cases wherein you felt you were deceived.

A. During this trial the news was discussed which occurred at the beginning of the Polish war about the attack on the Gleiwitz radio station. At that time I firmly believed in the correctness of the official German news. I need say nothing about this case.

Then, in December of last year, here in the prison in Nuremberg, I realised from a talk with Grand Admiral Raeder that it was actually a German submarine which sank the Athenia. Up to that time I had firmly believed in the truth of the official German report that there had been no German submarine in the neighbourhood. I have asked my lawyer to pick out the most caustic statements I made in my radio speeches about the Athenia case and include them in my document book. They are utterances which would really speak against me but which, on the other hand, show that I worked not only on the basis of the official German news, but that I also collected the news which supported the official German version; for example, the fact which was not at first made public and therefore was suspicious, that the wreck of the Athenia, one day after the catastrophe, was sunk by being shelled by British destroyers, which is a matter of course in the interest of shipping but which at the time seemed to me to be a cause for suspicion. I also used American news on the same subject. But the most impressive false news of which I was a victim was given out in the last few days of the war. I must describe it for the sake of clearing matters up.

In the days when Berlin was surrounded by the Russian Army the people of Berlin were told that a relief army, the army of General Weng, was marching on Berlin; that there was no more fighting on the Western Front. The news was given out that Ribbentrop had gone to the Western Front and had concluded a

[Page 250]

treaty there, and handbills were printed in Berlin which contained approximately this text:
"Soldiers of the Weng Army, we Berliners know that you are at Potsdam. Hurry, come quickly, help us."
These handbills were printed at a time when the Weng Army no longer existed and had already been captured. These handbills were apparently dropped over Berlin inadvertently and were to give the inhabitants of Berlin new courage. That was done in the days when Hitler, according to Speer's testimony, had already told his entourage that there was no use trying to do anything for the rest of the German people.

DR. FRITZ: Mr. President, the two radio speeches which the defendant Fritzsche has mentioned dealing with the Athenia case are in the document Fritzsche Exhibit which I submitted yesterday. I refer only to the contents of these radio speeches.


Q. Please give examples of untruths which you knew and which you did not consider lies.

A. One example is the so-called "V" drive. Colonel Britton, a British colonel, proclaimed this "V" drive, this "Victory" drive on the British radio. On the same evening I stood before a German microphone and said, apparently harmlessly - "We will have a 'V' drive, the 'V' stands for 'Victoria."'

Then Colonel Britton said that I had stolen the "V" from him. I said that that was not the case, that I thought of it first.

Q. If you thought you were operating only with the truth, why your sharp language, why the prohibition against listening on the radio to foreign stations?

A. I have already emphasized in my affidavit that in my opinion the sharpness of my language was always less than that of my opponents. The prohibition against listening to foreign radio stations was issued decidedly against my will. This prohibition was only a hindrance to me in my discussions with my foreign opponents in the various countries. In this type of prohibition my enemy was, so to speak, in half shadow; I could not speak to him officially, but, on the other hand, I knew that many of my listeners had heard him. May I mention here that I always advocated a mild judgement on the violators of this prohibition against listening to foreign radio stations. Legal officials often consulted me as an expert. I may emphasize that, particularly after Stalingrad, I established my own monitoring service for the Russian radio in order to learn the names of German soldiers captured at Stalingrad which were mentioned on the Russian radio, and report them to the relatives, because it seemed cruel to me to deprive the relatives of such a source of information about the fate of their people.

Moreover, there was only one alternative to the prohibition against listening to the radio. That was either to confiscate all radios and stop the whole German radio system - the Party often demanded this - or the prohibition against listening to foreign stations, which seemed to me the lesser of the two evils.

Lastly, we were in a war, and the enemy was not too particular in his methods. I should like to give an example. That was the station Gustav Siegfried 2, which at the beginning of its work gained listeners in Germany with stories that I do not want to characterise more precisely but which caused me to prohibit my own monitoring station from receiving this broadcast.

Q. You have been charged with urging a policy of ruthless exploitation of the occupied territories. Do you acknowledge such a policy?

A. No. The aim of all my propaganda work in Europe was, and had to be, to win over the peoples of Europe to the German cause. Anything else would have been illogical. All the radio broadcasts in all European languages, which were made under my direction for years, had only one aim, that was to win the voluntary co-operation, especially of the occupied territories, for the fight of the Reich.

[Page 251]

Q. Were you of the opinion that the German administration in the occupied territories recruited voluntary co-operation?

A. At the beginning, certainly, with one single exception. That was Koch in the Ukraine. Otherwise, as far as I could see, all administrations of occupied territories sought this collaboration more or less skilfully. I saw the gigantic efforts which the Allies made to interfere with this German collaboration policy, which was very dangerous for them. I saw these efforts of the Allies, who at first used their means of propaganda. This alone would not have worked. Then I saw how they used other means, attacks and sabotage. These latter efforts had great success. Attacks always called for reprisal and reprisals always called forth new outrages.

I hope I will not be misunderstood, and this is not meant cynically, if I say the following: I, as a propagandist, considered for example the murder of Heydrich a minor success. The destruction of Lidice, carried out by the Germans, however, was a tremendous success for the Allies. In other words, I always was and had to be an opponent of reprisals of all kinds.

Q. Did you know of the reprisals? How did you deal with them in your propaganda?

A. I learned of Lidice, which I just mentioned, only after months, because at that time I was at the Eastern Front. I learned - and this is significant - only of the destruction of the houses of Lidice and the driving out of the inhabitants. I learned only here in the courtroom of the killing of a part of the inhabitants. I learned that hostages were taken, but not that they were killed. The killing of hostages was made public only in the occupied territories. If shootings occurred anywhere, I was told that they had been of persons condemned to death on account of outrages or conspiracy. The "Nacht and Nebel" decree was also unknown to me. On the other hand, I frequently learned of fines which had been imposed on States or districts. In our propaganda, we always referred to the causes of such reprisals.

Q. And how did you describe the work of the German administrations in your propaganda?

A. I always referred to the constructive work which, in spite of all difficulties and all resistance, was being done in the various occupied territories, especially - and far ahead - the work for the intensification of agriculture; and the increase of industrial production. I had references made to the supplying of the occupied territories with food, often, as I should like to emphasize, from scant German supplies. I had reports made of the creation of schools, and I received at times very impressive reports and had them worked on, for example, on the supplying of cities such as Paris, in spite of the attacks of the enemy against railway lines or other means of communication. I had such reports collected in permanent files and had speeches and whole series of speeches made on them. There were many such reports. I must emphasize that, as far as I know, in not a single German occupied territory was there an infant mortality of 80 per cent, and in none were there fields lying fallow, and it is simply not true, as the prosecution said here once, that Germany and the Germans were well fed and happy during the war while the occupied territories starved. That is not true.

Q. What did you know about bad conditions in the occupied territories?

A. Above all, they were caused by the failure to call on the population for their own administration and the lack of decisive political concessions in the countries which administered themselves. Immediately after the French campaign, I had repeatedly demanded the establishment of Magna Charta for Europe, laying down the basic rights of the European peoples. I prepared many memoranda on this subject, which were accepted by Dr. Goebbels and taken to Hitler; and when, in the autumn of 1942, I decided to return to the Propaganda Ministry one of the promises which Dr. Goebbels gave me was that now finally that Magna Charta for Europe would be proclaimed.

[Page 252]

DR. FRITZ: Mr. President, on this occasion I should like to quote a passage from the Scharping affidavit, document Fritzsche Exhibit 2. Page 13 of the affidavit.
"After the occupation of various European countries, Fritzsche issued directives for news releases to the effect that the peoples of Europe were to form a league of States on the basis of equality with Germany. He told me to work out a series of speeches to this effect in which this point of view was to play the decisive role, and which at the same time should give the authorities hints for a healthy reconstruction in the occupied territories."

Q. Did you know what has been said here by the prosecution about the activity of the police in the occupied territories?

A. No.

Q. At this point I should like to interpolate a question: I have already asked the witness Paulus about your conduct after you learned of the Commissar Order. How about that?

A. I learned of the order to shoot captured Soviet Commissars at the beginning of May, 1942, when I came to the Sixth Army. I immediately opposed it. Whether it was carried out or not, I do not know. Field-Marshal Paulus, no doubt, is correct when he said that he had already prevented in his army the execution of this order. At any rate, I made it my business to have the order as such rescinded, and I achieved this. The Sixth Army at my advice gave certain information to the High Command of the Wehrmacht or to the operations staff. I am moreover convinced that many army leaders acted in the same way as the leader of the Sixth Army and simply did not carry out the order. At any rate, it was expressly rescinded afterwards.

Q. The prosecution quotes two paragraphs from your radio speech of 5th July, 1941.

DR. FRITZ: Mr. President, that is in the English record of Captain Sprecher, Pages 32-33.


Q. The prosecution concludes from this presentation that you had agitated for ruthless measures against the population of the Soviet Union. You are said to have vilified the people of the Soviet Union.

THE PRESIDENT: We cannot find it here. What is the PS number?

DR. FRITZ: It is in the transcript, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: We have not got the transcript here. We have the document book. The document book does not contain 32 and 33 pages. It only contains 32 - or 31 and a little bit.

DR. FRITZ: I can give the document number, which is 3064-PS, Exhibit USA 723 and -

THE PRESIDENT: It is Page 14 in our book. Well, did you say 5th July?

DR. FRITZ: 5th July, 1941.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I have got 7th and 10th July but not 5th. What page in the shorthand notes was it? You know it?

DR. FRITZ: On Page 32, Page 33 in the English transcript. I have the English transcript here.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you had better read it then.

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