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-Sixth Day: Friday, 28th June, 1946
(Part 1 of 10)

[Page 265]

DR. FRITZ: Mr. President, the defendant Fritzsche, towards the end of yesterday morning's session, testified as to how he tried to aid persecuted persons, in so far as he could, with the very small means which were at his disposal. In order to conclude this subject, and with the approval of the prosecution, I submit Fritzsche Exhibit 6, an affidavit of Count Westarp, which is to be found in my Document Book 2 on Pages 23 to 25, dated 15th June, 1946. I beg the Tribunal to take judicial notice of the contents of this document.

Furthermore, as another piece of evidence, I should like to offer another affidavit made by a Frau Kruger, Berlin, which is to be Fritzsche Exhibit 8. This affidavit has not yet been included in my document book. However, the original was made by Frau Kruger in German as well as in English and both copies have been affirmed and sworn to. I should like to refer to the contents of this affidavit, especially to the last two paragraphs. From the last paragraph but one we can see that apart from individual cases Frau Kruger has a general knowledge of the defendant's activities and the last paragraph is quite interesting. It deals with the sort of life led by the defendant.

Apart from that, I also refer here to the entire contents of this affidavit and I ask the High Tribunal to take judicial notice of it.

Finally, in this connection, I should like to refer to an affidavit made by Dr. Scharping which has been frequently quoted, Fritzsche Exhibit 2, which is to be found in the document book, Fritzsche Exhibit 2, Pages 6 to 15. I refer particularly to the bottom of Page 13, and the top of Page 14.


Q. Herr Fritzsche, I should like to put two more general questions to you on this topic. During the last period of the war, didn't you try to find out something about the final fate of the Jews?

[Hans Fritzsche] A. Yes. I made the most of an opportunity to which I will briefly refer later on. I asked a colleague of Obergruppenfuehrer Gluecks, in Oranienburg-Sachsenhausen, about the Jews. Briefly summarised, his answer was as follows: The Jews were under the special protection of the Reichsfuehrer SS, who wished to make a political deal with them. He looked upon them in the light of hostages, and he did not wish a single hair of their heads to be harmed.

Q. Some of the prosecution's witnesses have asserted during this trial that the German public knew about these murders. Now I just want to ask you, as a journalist who worked in the National Socialist State, what was, as far as you know, the attitude of the broad mass of the German people to the Jews? Did the people know about the murder of the Jews? Please be brief.

A. Leaving out all those matters which have already been mentioned in this trial, I should like to pass only a few remarks which, to me, seem important. I shall omit the period shortly after the First World War, which has already been described, during which certain anti-Semitic feelings were current in Germany. I should only like to state that in 1933, at the time of the Jewish boycott, which was organized by the NSDAP, the sympathies of the German people clearly turned again in favour of the Jews. For a number of years the Party tried hard to prevent the public from buying in Jewish stores. Finally, they even had to resort

[Page 266]

to threats. A profound and decisive factor in this development was the promulgating of the Nuremberg Laws. As a result of these (Nuremberg Laws) the fight against the Jews was taken for the first time out of the sphere of pure agitation, that is the kind of agitation from which one could remain aloof, and formed part of a State policy.

At that time a deep feeling of fear ran through the German people, for now there were dissensions which spread even to individual families. At that time many human tragedies resulted, tragedies which were obvious to many, probably to everyone, and there was only one justification for these racial laws; there was only one excuse for them and one explanation. That was the assertion and the hope: Well, now that the separation of the two peoples is being carried out, although painfully, at last an end will be made to the wild and unbridled agitation, and through this separation, there will be tranquillity where formerly only unrest reigned.

When the Jews were forced to wear the emblem of a star, and when, for instance, in Berlin they were prohibited from occupying seats in trams, the German people openly took up the cause of the Jews, and it happened again and again that Jews were ostentatiously offered seats.

In this connection I heard several declarations by Dr. Goebbels, who was extremely bitter about this undesired effect of this marking of the Jews.

I, as a journalist who worked during that period, am firmly convinced that the German people were unaware of the mass murders of the Jews, and it was always asserted that these were rumours; and reports which reached the German people from outside were officially denied again and again. As these documents are not in my possession I cannot quote from memory individual cases of denial, but one case I do remember with particular clearness. That was the moment when the Russians, after they had recaptured Kharkov, started legal proceedings, in the course of which killing by gas was mentioned for the first time.

I ran to Dr. Goebbels with these reports and asked him just what was going on here. He stated he would have the matter investigated and would discuss it with both Himmler and Hitler. The next day he sent me notice of denial. This denial was not made public, and the reason stated was that in German legal proceedings, it is necessary to state in a much plainer manner matters that need clarification.

However, Dr. Goebbels explicitly informed me that the gas vans mentioned in the Russian legal proceedings were a pure figment of the imagination and that there was no actual proof to support it.

It was not without reason that the people who operated these vans were put under the ban of strictest secrecy. If the German people had learned of these mass murders, they would certainly no longer have supported Hitler. They would probably have sacrificed five millions for a victory, but never would the German people have wished to bring about victory by the murder of five million people.

I should like to state further that this murder decree of Hitler's seems to me the end of every race theory, every race philosophy, every kind of race propaganda, for after this catastrophe, any further advocacy of race theory would be equivalent to approval in theory of further murder. An ideology in the name of which five million people were murdered is one which cannot continue to exist.

Q. Now I shall turn to a different topic. You are accused by the prosecution of having incited atrocities, and of having by your propaganda influenced every phase of the conspiracy, including abnormal and inhuman treatment arid behaviour. In this connection, I shall therefore have to ask you about the whole question of concentration camps.

Did you know that the concentration camps existed?

A. Yes, the fact of their creation was announced publicly, I believe in 1933, and the concentration camps were mentioned later in official communiques.

Q. What, in your opinion at that time, was the purpose of these camps?

A. As far as I can recollect, the people to be taken to these camps were those who could not be restrained from taking an active part against the new State.

[Page 267]

It was stated that the reason for these camps being established was the abnormal internal political situation prevailing at that time; a weak Central Party and two strong extreme parties, one of which had now assumed power. Steps were taken to put matters on a proper legal basis. Only later was it mentioned that habitual criminals were to be brought to the concentration camps to prevent them from reverting to crime.

Q. Did you know anything about the number of concentration camps which were established over the period in question?

A. Before the war, I had heard about three camps. During the war, I suspected there were five or six, and the chart of a large number of camps which was exhibited here was quite a surprise to me.

Q. Did you know anything about the number of prisoners in these camps?

A. Nothing definite. At the beginning of the war, foreign reports mentioned millions of prisoners. At that time, together with a few journalists, I asked Obergruppenfuehrer Heydrich to arrange an interview with members of the local and foreign Press in order to discuss the matter. He did so. As far as I can recollect, he did not give any definite figures, but rather he compared them with the number of inmates in prisons and penitentiaries in former days. This comparison did not seem to be unfavourable. That was in the winter of 1940 or 1941.

Q. Did you not have any doubts as to the accuracy of those figures?

A. Not at that time.

Q. Did you know anything about the conditions in the concentration camps? Did you speak to anyone who had ever been in a concentration camp?

A. Yes. Even as early as 1933 or 1934 I spoke to a journalist who had been interned for a few weeks in the Oranienburg concentration camp, which was the old Oranienburg camp. He informed me that he himself had not been tortured but that he had seen and heard how others had been beaten and how their fingers had deliberately been squeezed in a door.

Q. Did you just accept these reports and do nothing about them?

A. On the contrary. I made quite a row. This journalist - I believe his name was Stolzenberg, as far as I remember - did not wish to have his name mentioned. I wrote three letters, one to Dr. Goebbels, and he informed me that he would look into the matter. I wrote a letter to Frick as Minister of the Interior, and one to Goring as Prussian Minister President.

Senior officials from both these offices rang me up and told me that an investigation was being carried out. Shortly afterwards, I heard that this old camp Oranienburg had been dissolved, that the commandant had been sentenced to death. This report was given to me by a Herr von Luetzow, who was Press reporter for Diehls or Diehl who at that time was chief of the State Police.

Q. After this first successful protest against ill- treatment, did you receive any further reports about atrocities in concentration camps?

A. No. I received no further reports about ill-treatment. On the contrary, I frequently made individual inquiries of members of the Gestapo or of the Press section of the Reichsfuehrer SS. All the individuals whom I asked declared the following: Beastliness (Schweineri) in the concentration camps had occurred only in 1933 or at the beginning of 1934 at the time these camps were guarded by members of the SA who had no profession, that is to say by those members of the SA who had the whole day at their disposal; and some of them were far from being the best type. In this connection I was told further that on the 30th of June a purge had taken place, resulting in the removal of those Gauleiter and those SA leaders who had abused their power. They declared finally that the concentration camps now were being guarded by SS guards who were professional guards, professional administrators, and officials expert in dealing with criminal matters, and prison control officials. I was told that this would be a guarantee against abuses.

Q. Did you inquire about certain individuals who were in concentration camps?

[Page 268]

A. Of course, I inquired about well-known personalities such as Father Niemoeller or Schuschnigg, also about Leipkin, Hess's private secretary, who had been arrested, and in each case I received information which was reassuring.

Q. They, of course, may have been exceptions because they were well known and were prominent people. Did you not try to speak to other people in concentration camps?

A. Yes. In April, 1942, I met a former official of the Communist Party, whose name was Reintgen. We had been soldiers together for six months and therefore he reported quite frankly to me, without keeping anything back.

He said that he had been ill-treated in 1933, having been lashed on his back, but not afterwards. This information fully coincided with my observations.

Q. Did you yourself visit concentration camps?

A. No, I have never been inside the compound of a concentration camp. However, during the winter of 1944-1945 I was frequently in the administrative building near the Oranienburg-Sachsenhausen camp. Apart from that, I spoke to prisoners as often as I was able to do so, when I happened to see them either on the march or at work.

Q. With whom did you speak at Oranienburg?

A. With a colleague of Obergruppenfuehrer Gluecks and twice also with him. These people told me that the foreign reports regarding cruel treatment were false. They said that the treatment was not only humane but extraordinarily good as, after all, the prisoners were valuable labourers. I spoke at some length about the working hours, for at that time a rather silly decree had been issued in connection with working longer hours everywhere. The attitude taken by Gluecks was very reasonable, and it was to the effect that longer working hours would not necessarily result in more work being produced. Therefore the working hours of eight to ten hours a day remained as before. He did not mention anything about extermination through overwork. That is something I heard about for the first time in Court.

Q. And how about your question which you put to the prisoners direct?

A. Well, first of all, there was always a guard present and quite naturally the prisoners were suspicious, but eventually I always received positive replies to positive questions. Briefly, the gist of these replies was always the same: that they had been unjustly arrested. Their food was really better than in prison and I frequently heard this phrase - "Well, anyway we are not soldiers here." The weapons carried by the guards were only rifles or revolvers, I did not see any truncheons.

Q. Did you not become more and more suspicious about these concentration camps, after listening to foreign radio reports?

A. Not for a long time, for the reasons which I gave yesterday. Reports from English members of Parliament regarding the Buchenwald case were first mentioned in April, 1945. But this case is so very recent that for brevity's sake I do not need to describe particulars of the incidents that occurred in the Ministry of Propaganda.

Q. How can you explain the fact that crimes and ill- treatment of the worst kind undoubtedly took place in concentration camps?

A. I am on the horns of a frightful dilemma, as I only heard the first reliable reports about these things since I have been in prison. Only a part of these terrible conditions which were found to exist can be explained through the stoppage of traffic and communications at the end of the war. The rest is more than enough. Obviously, the decree for the secret murder of masses of people had brutalised to a terrible extent those people who were entrusted with the execution of this decree.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal does not know whether this explanation is of any value to us as evidence. We have already heard all about this matter. He had given us his explanation as to why he says he did not know.

[Page 269]

DR. FRITZ: Mr. President, I have but two more questions I should like to put to the defendant.


Q. Herr Fritzsche, it has been said here in Court that conditions in concentration camps were generally known to the German people. As a journalist, will you give us your opinion and the reasons on which it is based.

THE PRESIDENT: Has he not given us that already?

DR. FRITZ: No, I beg your pardon, Mr. President. He gave his opinion when it was a question of the ill-treatment and destruction of Jews, but on the topic of the extermination of Jews, I asked him -

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you are asking him what his opinion as a journalist was. I do not see that that is of any importance to us.

DR. FRITZ: Mr. President, I should be grateful if you would allow me to put the question, as this is my last question but one. I expect an answer from the defendant, an answer which would assist the Tribunal in arriving at a judgement.

THE PRESIDENT: On what matter do you want his opinion as a journalist?

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