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 7 of 10)

[GENERAL RUDENKO continues his cross examination of Hans Fritzsche]

[Page 290]

Q. Very well. You will now be handed Exhibit USSR 493. It is your radio speech in connection with the aggression against Poland. This speech was made on 29th August. Its purpose was to explain beforehand the reasons for the German attack on Poland. I do not intend reading it, but the gist of this speech is that on that day you spoke of a series of unexpected events which were imminent. Have you acquainted yourself with this document?

A. Yes, indeed.

Q. You do not deny that on 29th August, 1939, you made this speech?

A. No, I do not deny that. I should just like to refer to the fact

Q. Excuse me. Please answer my question first and give your explanations later. This was on 29th August? You do not deny it. I am asking you, did you yourself believe in these explanations of the inevitability of war with Poland? Did you yourself believe this at that moment?

A. Whether at that moment I considered a war unavoidable, that I am not in a position to tell you. But I am able to tell you one thing: I did not believe that Germany was to blame. That if this tension should lead to a war -

Q. That is enough -

A. I ask to be allowed to add -

Q. But please be brief.

THE PRESIDENT: General Rudenko, let the man answer.

GENERAL RUDENKO: If you please.

THE WITNESS: At that time it was a matter of great satisfaction to me that in the weeks that followed I could see from the Soviet Press that Soviet Russia and its Government shared the German opinion of the question of war guilt in this case.


Q. I believe that you should not say that now and I did not ask you that. You did not answer my question, but let us pass on to another question. On 9th April, 1940, you made a speech concerning the reasons for a possible occupation of Norway. You will now be handed an extract from this speech.

GENERAL RUDENKO: Mr. President, this is Exhibit USSR 496.


Q. You have that document, defendant Fritzsche. It is Excerpt No. 4.

A. No, I have not it before me. Yes, I have found it. It is Page 4.

Q. Very well. Yes, it is Excerpt No. 4. I will read a short passage:

"The fact that German soldiers had to carry out their duty because the English violated Norwegian neutrality did not end in a warlike but in a peaceful action. No one was injured, not a single house was destroyed; life took its daily course."
This was a lie. Do you admit it or will you deny it?

A. No, that was not a lie, for I had just been in Norway myself and I had seen these things. Here everything will be quite clear if you will permit me to read the next sentence, which says - the next sentence reads as follows -

Q. Defendant Fritzsche, wait a minute. You will be able to read it

THE PRESIDENT: But, General Rudenko, you must let the man explain. He wants to read the next sentence in order to explain this sentence.

A. The next sentence reads:

"Even there where Norwegian troops, instigated by the misguided former Norwegian Government, put up resistance, the civilian population was hardly affected by this, for the Norwegians fought outside the cities and villages ...."
Q. Well. Now I will show you a document, "An Official Report of the Norwegian Government," which has already been submitted to the Tribunal by the French prosecution as Exhibit RF 72.

[Page 291]

GENERAL RUDENKO: Mr. President, in my document book this document is wrongly numbered Exhibit USSR 78. It is Document PS-1800 and it has been submitted by the French prosecution as Exhibit RF 72.


Q. Listen, defendant Fritzsche, how correctly you described the situation in Norway; listen to what the "Official Report of the Norwegian Government" says about it. I quote:

"The German attack on Norway on 9th April, 1940, brought war to Norway for the first time in 126 years. For two months war raged throughout the country, causing destruction to the amount of 250,000,000 kronen. More than 40,000 houses were damaged or destroyed and about 1,000 civilians were killed."
Now that described the situation as it really was. Do you admit that your speech on 2nd May, 1940, was full of the usual lies?

A. No, I do not admit that, but I assert that you, sir, in submitting this extract, are not taking into consideration the fact that I, in my introduction, reported that I wanted to describe what I had seen myself, when I made a journey into the Goldbraun Valley and which I remember took me nearly as far as Atta. It does not in any way prove my description to be incorrect, if, according to the facts ascertained by the Norwegian Government, such loss and damage actually did occur in connection with this undertaking.

Q. I believe that the Norwegian people and the Norwegian Government had sufficient experience of the weight of the German occupation, and the Government report states the actual facts and not the sort of facts which you stated in your propaganda. This document has been submitted according to Article 21 as indisputable evidence, and I do not intend to argue with you. The Tribunal will take note of it. I have a few questions to put to you in connection with a matter which has already been dealt with in detail here. It is the case Athenia. I will not question you in detail on this matter, as it has already been ascertained with sufficient accuracy. I am simply asking you: do you admit now that Fascist propaganda gave out to the public slanderous and false information about the Athenia case?

A. Whether this was done by Fascist propaganda in Italy, that I do not know. National Socialist propaganda did it in good faith, as I have clearly described.

Q. I have already spoken here for nearly an hour about what occurred and what has been ascertained. Do you agree that your speech was a slanderous one or do you still deny it?

A. No, I have already admitted that, and I also showed clearly how these statements came about.

Q. Very well. I am only interested in the personal part you played in this matter. Why did you take such an active part in this matter, and why were you the first man to spread this slander?

A. I do not believe that I was the first one to bring this matter before the public. However, it is a fact that I spoke very frequently about the case of the Athenia, on the basis of official reports which I believed. I spoke about this case because I happened to be the man who, at the beginning of the war, spoke on the radio in the evenings.

Q. Are you trying to assert that the first report on the Athenia appeared in the Volkischer Beobachter in October, 1939?

A. I never claimed that.

Q. Very well. Then I will remind you that you dealt with the Athenia as early as September, 1939; is that right?

A. Yes, of course, the question of the Athenia -

Q. And you spoke about it before the report was published in the Volkischer Beobachter?

A. Many weeks before that, yes.

[Page 292]

Q. Therefore, you were the first to spread those slanderous assertions?

A. No, I cannot confirm that, but rather -

Q. Very well. In this connection I will only put one other question to you. You will not deny that in 1940 you were still spreading this version? I will repeat the question. I am asking you, you will not deny that even in 1940 you continued to propagate this slander?

A. It is the essence of every form of propaganda that it repeats good and effective things as frequently and for as long a time as possible. I have explained already that in December, 1945, here in the prison, I heard from Grand Admiral Raeder for the first time that it was really a German U-boat that had sunk the Athenia.

Q. Very well. I will pass on to a group of questions regarding your participation in the carrying out of propaganda connected with the preparation of aggression against the Soviet Union. You assert that you had no knowledge of the preparation of aggression against the Soviet Union until five o'clock on the morning of 22nd June, 1941 - that is to say, when the German troops had already entered Soviet territory - when you were called by Ribbentrop to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where a Press conference was being held. Did I correctly understand your testimony?

A. No. Several hours before that, on the evening of the day preceding the entry, Dr. Goebbels had called some of the division chiefs of the Ministry to his house at Wannsee and told them these facts and forbade them to leave or to telephone. That was the first real knowledge that I had of this fact.

Q. Very well. You also claim that you got to know of Germany's aggressive aims with regard to the Soviet Union only in 1942, and this according to your own observations, is that right?

A. I do not know what you mean by that. I tried this morning to make it clear that I began to have doubts as to the validity of the official German reasons given for this attack only when I became a prisoner. I explained that this morning. A second point, which I emphasized earlier in Moscow when I was interrogated, was that I observed in 1942, or it may have been in 1941, after the war with the Soviet Union had broken out, that preparations of all kinds must have been going on for a considerable time before 22nd June.

Q. I will recall to your memory an excerpt from your statement, a document which you confirm in full. It is Document 3469-PS. In paragraph 42 we read:

"At the beginning of 1942 I was a soldier in the eastern theatre of war. I saw the extensive preparations which had been made for the occupation and administration of territories extending as far as the Crimea. On the basis of my personal observations, I came to the conclusion that the war against the Soviet Union had been planned a long time before it broke out."
Is this statement right?

A. Yes, certainly.

Q. Well, then, I have no further questions to put to you regarding this matter.

I would like to recall to your memory two further documents connected with the carrying out of propaganda, in view of the preparation of war and the actual attack against the Soviet Union. I am referring to the minutes of a conference held by Hitler dated 16th July, 1941.

GENERAL RUDENKO: This document, Mr. President, is 221-L and has already been submitted.

Q. This document will be handed to you and I will quote one or two paragraphs on the first page.

"Now it is essential that we do not publicise our aims to the whole world. There is no need for that; the main thing is that we ourselves know what we want. But on no account should we render our task more difficult by making superfluous declarations. Such declarations are superfluous because

[Page 293]

if we have sufficient power we can do everything, and what is beyond our power we will not be able to do anyway."
And further:
"What we tell the world about the motives for our actions must be governed by tactical considerations. We must act here in exactly the same way as we did in the case of Norway, Denmark, Holland, and Belgium. In those cases we did not say anything about our aims, and we shall have the prudence to follow the same procedure in the future."
Had you any knowledge of such directives of Hitler?

A. No, I did not know of any such directive, but the fact that such statements and directives have been submitted in this court-room has made me realize, as I have said, that some of the premises of our propaganda had no foundation.

Q. Very well. You also had no knowledge either of the instructions issued by the OKW and signed by the defendant Jodl regarding the carrying out of propaganda in the "Case Barbarossa"?

A. I cannot say that without seeing these documents; the case "Barbarossa" as such meant nothing to me until this trial.

GENERAL RUDENKO: Mr. President, this document is 26-C and has already been submitted to the Tribunal. I will deal with it only in connection with the matter of propaganda. It is 477 in your document book, Mr. President.


Q. I will quote only one excerpt, defendant. These instructions say:

"Propaganda directed towards the dismemberment of the Soviet Union into single States is not to be used for the time being. In the various parts of the Soviet Union German propaganda must employ the language in use. But this should not be done in such a way that the various propaganda texts might give the impression that it is intended to dismember the Soviet Union at an early date."
Were you acquainted with these directives?

A. I knew neither the document nor the contents of the directive which you have just read.

Q. Yes, but I hope you will not deny that this was the spirit in which the propaganda was carried on.

A. No. As far as I could observe, the propaganda which was carried on in the Soviet Union had just the reverse tendency. It tried to educate the various nationalities, such as the Ukraine, White Russia, Baltic States and so forth, for independence.

Q. Very well. I would like to ask you now: When did you meet the defendant Rosenberg for the first time, and when did you get his information concerning the tasks of German propaganda in the East?

A. I doubt whether before this trial I ever spoke with Herr Rosenberg, though I believe I met him socially. However, never in my life have I had an official conversation with him.

Q. Very well. You will be handed Document 1039-PS. This is Rosenberg's report on the preparatory work concerning matters connected with the eastern countries. This document has already been submitted to the defendant Rosenberg and he did not deny it but confirmed it.

I would like you to turn to the second quotation which is marked. In order to shorten this cross-examination, I will not read the whole quotation. This report states:

"Apart from these negotiations" - about which we spoke before - "I received the responsible representatives of the entire propaganda organization, namely Ministerial Director Fritsche, Ambassador Schmidt, Reich Superintendent of Broadcasting Glasmeier, Dr. Grothe for the OKW, and others. Without going into details as to political objectives, I instructed the above-mentioned persons in confidence about the necessary attitude, with the

[Page 294]

request to tone down the whole terminology of the Press, without issuing any statements.

The scheme for dealing substantially with questions concerning the eastern countries, which was prepared a long time ago, is now in my Department and I have passed it on to the Propaganda representatives."

Did defendant Rosenberg correctly describe these events which occurred in 1941, before the attack against the Soviet Union?

A. No. I do not recall ever having been received by Rosenberg. In any case I never received before 22nd June from Rosenberg, or from any of his colleagues, any report about the planned attack on the Soviet Union.

On the other hand, and this perhaps may clarify matters, I do recall that a colleague of Rosenberg's frequently came to see me or my colleagues. I also recall his name; he was chief of a Press group, Major Kranz, formerly an editor of the Volkischer Beobachter. This man frequently came to see me and my colleagues, and transmitted certain wishes of Rosenberg's pertaining to Press propaganda. But in any case this was not before 22nd June.

[ Previous | Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.