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 2 of 10)

[Page 269]

DR. FRITZ: The defendant Fritzsche would like to repeat a few statements such as some made by Dr. Goebbels.

THE PRESIDENT: All right, you may ask the question.


Q. Did you understand the question?

[Hans Fritzsche] A. I believe a confusion has arisen, inasmuch as I do not wish to quote Dr. Goebbels in this connection but rather in relation to our last series of questions which seem to me more important than the question you have just put to me now.

Q. In any event, I should like you to give me a brief answer to my question. Shall I repeat the question?

A. Thank you, no.

In this connection I should like to refer briefly to the statements I already made about the murders; that there were many, many rumours but those were denied. Undoubtedly an iron ring of silence surrounded these terrible events and the only thing I observed in the course of my work and which appears to me to be important is that in the RSHA and some of its branches there must have existed groups who worked systematically with the view of concealing these atrocities and who issued reassuring statements and denials to those groups who represented the public.

Q. Now I should like to put a last comprehensive question: In the course of your examination by me, you made statements about Hitler and his policies which were entirely different from those you made long ago in your radio broadcasts, etc. Can you briefly tell us the date and the reason for your change of opinion?

A. I would like to answer this question very precisely. The first factor on the road to this realization was not due to the German defeat, for right or wrong is independent of victory or defeat. The fact was that Hitler tried to use this defeat for the self-destruction of the German people, as Speer has now horribly confirmed, and as I was able to observe during the last phase of the conflict in Berlin when, through deceit by raising false hopes, boys of 15, 14, 13 or even 12 years of age were equipped with small arms to fight against tanks, and called into battle, boys who otherwise might have been the hope of the period of reconstruction. Hitler found escape in death, leaving behind him the order to keep on fighting. He also left behind him the official report that he had died in battle.

I learned that he had committed suicide, and thus my last public statement, on 2nd May, 1945, was to let everybody know of this suicide, for I wanted to nip a Hitler legend in the bud.

[Page 270]

Then, whilst in prison, I heard from a fellow-prisoner, a German major named Sforner, that he had been arrested by the Gestapo, that he had been tortured in order to obtain a confession from him and that in his presence his wife had been beaten. That was factor number two which made me change.

The third factor concerned another co-prisoner, the world- famous geographer, General Niedermeier, who proved to me that the reasons given by Hitler for the attack on Russia were false, at least in one important point. After he had talked with the interpreter, he could tell me that in the decisive discussion between Molotov and Ribbentrop in 1941, Molotov had not put forth any new demands but that, rather, he demanded that the assurances which had been given in 1939 should be effective. Therefore, a part of the reasons given, and I stress this point, that our attack on Russia was to prevent a Russian attack, was no longer valid.

The fourth factor was the proof submitted in Court here of the murder of five million Jews. I have already spoken about this matter.

I consider it my duty to testify to one statement, a statement which Dr. Goebbels made in my presence on Saturday, 21st April, 1945. Dr. Goebbels, who was in a state of great excitement, speaking about the last decisive break- through of the Russians near Berlin, said, "After all, the German people did not want it otherwise. The German people, by a great majority, decided through a plebiscite on the withdrawal from the League of Nations, and against a policy of surrender, and chose, instead, a policy of courage and honour. Thus," concluded Dr. Goebbels, "the German people themselves chose the war which they have now lost."

These were the last words which I heard spoken by Dr. Goebbels, and these words are untrue. I declare on oath that Dr. Goebbels, had never previously given such significance to that plebiscite. Never had he given it that interpretation. The exact opposite was the case.

At the time of this plebiscite, the German people were explicitly assured once again that it was a solemn assurance of the will for peace on the part of Hitler and his associates.

According to this, I am convinced that Hitler and at least some of his colleagues had deliberately lied to the people, in some important instances, right from the beginning of their political career, and, something that is not so important to history, I personally consider that, on these points, I have been deceived.

DR. FRITZ: Mr. President, I have no further questions to put to the defendant Fritzsche.

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

BY DR. STAHMER (counsel for the defendant Goering):

Q. Witness, did you ever hear or ascertain at the beginning, when the concentration camps were being organized, that in addition to the regular camps, other unauthorised camps existed which had been established by the SA leaders without the knowledge of the competent authorities?

A. No. I heard nothing about it at that time. I heard about this difference in the concentration camps for the first time here in Court.

Q. On the basis of your present-day knowledge, to which you have referred today, can you assert whether these abuses occurred in these unauthorised concentration camps?

A. I can give you a very precise answer to that question. These abuses about which I learned occurred in the old camp Oranienburg, a camp situated in the Berlinerstrasse. I do not know to which category that camp belonged. However, these abuses were stopped, and I emphasized in my testimony that almost immediately after I sent my letter to the Prussian Minister President, I was called in by a ministerial counsellor or director and I was assured that an investigation would be made - a promise which was kept, but in any case I do not remember whether a final report was sent me from this office.

DR. STAHMER: I have no further questions.

[Page 271]

BY DR. KUBUSCHOK (counsel for the defendant von Papen):

Q. In June, 1934, the publication of von Papen's Marburg speech was forbidden. Is it correct to say that from that time onward any statement on the part of the defendant von Papen could only be published with the previous approval of the Ministry of Propaganda.

A. That is correct, and in even a narrower sense. Confiscation of the Marburg speech, as I remember distinctly, was carried out at the instigation of Berndt, who later became Ministerialdirektor. This man drew Dr. Goebbels's attention to the speech, also with regard to any other of Papen's announcements; the principle was that not even the Ministry of Propaganda had the right to release them for publication but, rather, that they had to be forwarded either to the Minister personally or to the Fuehrer.

Q. In your testimony you mentioned that you had known the defendant von Papen for some time and that you got to know him when you visited Turkey. Just when did you visit Turkey?

A. In January, I believe it was 1944.

Q. What was the purpose of your visit?

A. I delivered a speech to the German colony in Istanbul and Ankara on 30th January.

Q. Did von Papen have anything to do with this speech and with this festivity?

A. No, less than nothing. I received an official request from Berlin to see to it that von Papen did, not ostentatiously depart before the celebration of the 30th January, as he was wont to do. On the contrary, I did not try to persuade him to stay and so he left his office in order to go skiing.

DR. KUBUSCHOK: That is all.

BY DR. KLEFISCH (counsel for the SA):

Q. Witness, you just now said that it had been reported to you that at the end of the year 1933 and at the beginning of 1934 SA men, without any special instructions, were guarding certain concentration camps and that certain abuses were to be traced back to that fact. I have but one question: Who reported that to you? Who was the author of that report?

A. The then Press chief or Press expert of Reichsfuehrer SS Himmler, whose name was Gerhard Ratke.

DR. KLEFISCH: Thank you very much.

BY DR. SAUTER (counsel for the defendant Funk):

Q. Witness, the day before yesterday you stated that the defendant Funk was not concerned with propaganda in the Propaganda Ministry, but that, in the main, he was concerned with organisational and financial matters. Now I should like to ask you to answer several questions regarding the activities of the defendant Funk in the Propaganda Ministry.

You know, witness, that a Press Department of the Reich Government existed and that it was a State institution. How long did this Press Department exist, and what became of it?

A. It had existed for quite some time, at least until March, 1933, during which time it was a branch of the Foreign Office. From then on it became a branch of the Propaganda Ministry, and it had a dual mission to carry on - first of all to be the Press Department of this Ministry, and secondly, to continue functioning as the Press Department for the Reich Government.

Q. Witness, can you tell me who, beginning with March, 1933 - that is, from the incorporation of the Press Department into the Propaganda Ministry - was the chief of that department and, for all practical purposes, was the chief of the whole Press system? Was it Funk or someone else?

A. No, that was Ministerial Counsellor Jahnke, successor to Ministerial Director Berndt. This Press Department was then divided into three sections: German Press -

[Page 272]

Q. I am not interested in that, witness, I am interested only in knowing whether the chief of this department was the defendant Funk, or whether it is correct to say that he had nothing to do with these matters.

A. Nominally, of course, he was the chief, but he had nothing to do with the practical work. That was taken care of by Dr. Goebbels and Jahnke.

Q. And later Berndt?

A. Yes.

Q. Witness, I have another question. Who had the management of the Press policy in the Propaganda Ministry? I am still referring to the State organ. Did the defendant Funk have anything to say in this connection, or just who was it? Who directed the Press policy?

A. At that time Dr. Goebbels himself exercised that function. Later on it was the Reich Press Chief, Dr. Dietrich.

Q. The defendant Funk was State Secretary in the Propaganda Ministry, or at least he had the title of State Secretary. Now, looking at this matter rather generally, I would be interested in knowing this. Did he, in fact, have the position of a State Secretary and exercise authority as such, or did another official exercise the function of State Secretary as the regular deputy of the Minister?

A. As a matter of course, naturally, he had the position, the power, the prestige and the salary of a State Secretary, but the practical work was distributed a little differently.

Q. Just how was it handled?

A. I have already mentioned that. Practically, Funk concerned himself with organization and finance as they applied to the gigantic cultural concern which was being developed at that time; whereas the actual policy was devised by Dr. Goebbels with the chief of his ministerial office, Jahnke, who was the successor of Funk as State Secretary.

Q. I have one final question, witness, which refers to another topic.

Do you know what Minister Dr. Goebbels in November, 1938, or later, said about the Jewish pogroms of 9th November, 1938, as far as Funk was concerned?

A. Much later, Dr. Goebbels stated in my presence that, on occasion, radical measures would just simply have to be taken, especially since Funk had constantly declared that the Jews could not be eliminated from economic life; but he, Dr. Goebbels had to prove the contrary to Funk by organising the grim affair of 9th November.

Q. In this connection did he say anything about the fact that this Jewish action, for which Dr. Goebbels was responsible, was also instigated with the purpose of discrediting Dr. Funk and confronting him with a fait accompli? Did he state anything like that?

A. That was the sense of the answer that I have just given you.

DR. SAUTER: I have no further questions, Mr. President.

BY DR. SIEMERS (counsel for the defendant Raeder):

Q. Herr Fritzsche, in this Court we have heard what grave accusations are made against the defendant Raeder because of an article in the newspaper Der Volkischer Beobachter. The article I refer to is "Churchill Sinks the Athenia," which was published on 23rd October, 1939.

DR. SIEMERS: Mr. President, this is Document 3250-PS, Exhibit GB 218.

Q. (continuing): I should like to put a few questions to you pertaining to the Athenia case.

Herr Fritzsche, when did the Propaganda Ministry receive the report about the torpedoing of the Athenia, and through what channels?

A. I cannot give you the date from memory, but I do know that we received this report by wireless; that is, we listened in to a foreign broadcast.

Q. This wireless report came in shortly after the sinking of the Athenia, is that right?

A. Without doubt.

[Page 273]

Q. Did the Propaganda Ministry get in touch with the Chief of the Naval War Staff in order to learn the details of this matter?

A. Yes, I personally did that because, quite by accident, I had a liaison officer from the Naval War Staff in my office, for censorship purposes.

Q. Whom did you get in touch with in the Naval War Staff, and what did you learn?

A. First of all, I spoke to the officer who was with me, whom I have just mentioned - Lieutenant Hahn. Then he telephoned, and in all probability I phoned too, to the OKN, the Navy G.H.Q. As far as I recall, I spoke to Lieutenant- Commander Wolf.

Q, And what did he tell you?

A. Even at this early stage he told me that no German U-boat was in the area in question.

Q. I should like to remind you that the Athenia was sunk on 4th September, 1939.

What did the Propaganda Ministry do after the Navy G.H.Q. had stated that it was not a German U-boat which had sunk the ship?

A. This report was announced.

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