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 10 of 10)

[DR. FRITZ continues his direct examination of Moritz von Schirrmeister]

[Page 302]

Q. In what way did Dr. Goebbels confer with his associates?

A. After the war broke out there were daily conferences at 11 a.m., which were presided over by Dr. Goebbels personally, and at which he gave all necessary propaganda instructions.

Q. How many people attended these 11 o'clock meetings?

A. At the beginning, that is to say, up to the beginning of the Russian campaign, about twenty people. Later the circle grew to about fifty people.

Q. Were there discussions during these conferences or was it more or less a handing out of orders?

A. There was no discussion during these conferences. First of all, the liaison officer from the OKW would give a survey of the military situation, and then Dr. Goebbels would give his instructions regarding propaganda, mostly for the Press, the radio, and the newsreels.

Q. Who presided over the conferences when Dr. Goebbels was not present?

A. Normally the State Secretary.

Q. And who presided when the State Secretary was not there either?

[Page 303]

A. Usually Herr Fritzsche, sometimes also the head of the foreign Press department or the foreign department, but mostly Herr Fritzsche.

Q. Did Fritzsche in these cases give the daily propaganda instructions on his own initiative or how was that done?

A. No; if the Minister was not in Berlin, he was kept informed about news material coming in from abroad. He would then give the instructions to me or to one of my deputies in the same way as he did during the conferences. I had to pass these instructions on by telephone. In Berlin, they were taken down by stenographers and then read out during the conference verbatim as instructions coming from the Minister. One should, moreover, be able to see that from the minutes of the meetings. They were always called "Instructions from the Minister."

Q. If Fritzsche used written instructions such as you have described, which came from Dr. Goebbels, did he not try to clear up questions which Goebbels had dealt with, by bringing them up for discussion?

A. When Dr. Goebbels was very far from Berlin, it might happen that the latest news did not get to him in time. In these cases Herr Fritzsche would bring things up for discussion, consider the pros and cons, and then give instructions on his own initiative. That was then put down in writing; the Minister read it afterwards and he either approved it or altered it.

Q. But then, surely, apart from the big conferences with thirty or fifty people present at which Goebbels gave his instructions, there must have been more confidential conferences as well.

A. In the course of the morning, of course, individual department chiefs also came for official discussions with the Minister.

Q. Was Fritzsche also called to these more confidential conferences?

A. Generally, no. The Minister used the conferences at which all departments were represented to summarize whatever he had to say for the Press, radio and newsreels. The heads of those departments whose special functions were not of interest to the others came for individual conferences.

Q: How often was Herr Fritzsche consulted as compared with, say, the State Secretaries Hancke, Gutterer and Dr. Naumann?

A. The State Secretaries could always be present during these individual conferences and so could the personal experts who were always there. Herr Fritzsche was very rarely present.

Q. What was the position of the twelve department heads of the Ministry of Propaganda, one of whom was the defendant Fritzsche?

A. These department heads can be divided into experts on the one side, such as, for instance, the head of the budget department, Dr. Ott, and confirmed Party men on the other side as, for instance, Herr Berndt. Officially it was quite impossible for them to consult with one another, as a department head in a ministry normally does. It was generally known that the Minister was using them as tools and that when he did not need them any more he would throw them out. That did not apply only to the department chiefs; I remember the unworthy manner in which he threw out State Secretary Gutterer after the latter had done his job.

Q. The Indictment accuses Fritzsche of having made of Germany's news agencies, radio and Press instruments that played an important part in the hands of the so-called conspirators in carrying out their plans. Was Fritzsche responsible for the organization of the Press in the National Socialist State and what can you say to this charge?

A. When Herr Fritzsche entered the Ministry, this Press department had been set up and organized for some time. Moreover, I can also say that even Dr. Goebbels, himself cannot be regarded as belonging to this circle of conspirators as defined by the Indictment, for, after all, he did not want to drive us into war, but always advocated the conquest of countries without bloodshed.

Q. So that the organization was already set up when Fritzsche took over the department "German Press" in the winter of 1938-1939?

[Page 304]

A. Yes, already completely organized.

Q. As the head of that department was Fritzsche independent? If not, who was his superior?

A. Unfortunately Fritzsche was not only subordinate as department chief to Dr. Goebbels, but he also stood between two fires. On the other side there was the Reich Press Chief, Dr. Dietrich, and the entire German Press knew about this split between the two. The Reich Press Chief, as State Secretary, was at the same time a member of the Ministry of Propaganda, but in spite of this he demanded the right to be able to give orders independently in his capacity of Reich Press Chief. If, therefore, the Minister and the Reich Press Chief did not agree on a certain point, then it was the unfortunate chief of the department "German Press" who bore the brunt of this.

Q. In what way was Fritzsche active in the Press organization? Did he tighten the fetters or did he try to loosen them?

A. I have already said that Herr Fritzsche was the only real expert of any calibre who worked in the Press department. He knew the needs, the worries and the requirements of the Press. He knew that an editor could work only if you gave him a certain amount of freedom, and therefore always and at every opportunity he fought to have the fetters loosened. He did much more than was apparent to the outside world, for the Minister would make such and such a decision, and the outside world would come to know only what the Minister wanted.

THE PRESIDENT: Do you think he has answered the question?

Q. Did Dr. Goebbels, have any objections to the way the Press worked? Was it severe enough for him? Please be very brief.

A. No, it was not severe and not obdurate enough for him.

Q. And how did Fritzsche react to such demands both with reference to individual journalists and with reference to the newspapers as a whole?

A. Again and again, at every opportunity, both during the conferences presided over by the Minister and at private meetings with the Minister, he spoke on behalf of the Press and the journalists and tried to represent their point of view to the Minister.

Q. Can you mention a few names of journalists or papers whom Fritzsche tried to protect in the manner described?

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Fritz, why should he give the names of individual journalists and papers? Is it not too detailed to go into that?

DR. FRITZ: Very well; but Mr. President, may I, in that case, at least offer an affidavit in connection with this question as Fritzsche Exhibit 5. It is in my Document Book 2 on Page 22. It comes from the chief editor of the Frankfurter Zeitung, Dr. Wendelin Hecht, and I should like to quote it very briefly:

"I herewith make the following affidavit for submission to the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg:

1. It is true that several years prior to a ban against the Frankfurter Zeitung the defendant Hans Fritzsche also helped to protect it by withholding copies of the Frankfurter Zeitung from the Fuehrer's headquarters.

2. In the numerous attacks directed against the Frankfurter Zeitung because of its political attitude, the defendant Hans Fritzsche repeatedly intervened in favour of its continued publication.

Leutkirch, 6th March, 1946. Dr. Wendelin Hecht."


Q. What other influential persons, apart from Dr. Goebbels, were there in the Ministry of Propaganda?

A. After State Secretary Hancke's departure there was only one man in the Ministry of Propaganda who had any real influence on the Minister, only one man

[Page 305]

with whom Dr. Goebbels had some personal relations, and that was his first personal expert, Dr. Naumann, who later became his State Secretary.

Q. Did Fritzsche come to you frequently to learn more about the Minister's views because the Minister did not inform him?

A. Very often, because Herr Fritzsche knew that I also had many private conversations with the Minister and he always complained that he was left in suspense and all at sea, and he asked me if I could tell him the Minister's view about this or that matter. I did succeed in helping him by occasionally arranging for him to be invited by Dr. Goebbels to private meetings in which I spoke openly about Herr Fritzsche's needs.

Q. Did Goebbels keep the radio strictly under his own control?

A. During the war the radio was for Dr. Goebbels the most important instrument of propaganda. He did not keep such a strict watch on any department as he did on the radio department. At meetings over which he presided he personally decided the most minute details of the artistic programme.

Q. That is enough, witness. Was Fritzsche really the leading man of German broadcasting, as he appeared to the outside world?

A. By no means. The leading man was Dr. Goebbels himself. Apart from that, Fritzsche here again was between two stools, because on the other side demands came in from the Foreign Office with reference to foreign broadcasts.

Q. Was Fritzsche in his radio speeches perhaps too ineffective for Dr. Goebbels?

A. I myself, by order of the Minister, repeatedly had to reprimand Fritzsche because the former claimed that his broadcasts were much too weak.

Q. Did Goebbels also praise him and, if so, in what manner?

A. If, as was often the case, the Minister did praise Fritzsche -

THE PRESIDENT: We have not any interest in whether Goebbels praised him.


Q. Then another question: Did defendant Fritzsche ever contradict the Minister?

A. Herr Fritzsche was one of the few people in the Ministry of Propaganda who did contradict the Minister, both during conferences and in his apartment. He was always calm and determined and often it had a certain effect.

DR. FRITZ: Mr. President, may I have your permission to draw your attention at this point to a document, an affidavit by Scharping, Fritzsche Exhibit 2, which has already been mentioned frequently. It is at the end of Page 7 and the beginning of Page 8, in my Document Book 2. Might I perhaps quote one short sentence:

"During the so-called ministerial conferences it was Fritzsche alone who contradicted Goebbels in political questions."

Q. Witness, who was responsible for the definitely erroneous or exaggerated news in the German Press during the Sudeten crisis?

A. That was Alfred Ingmar Berndt, the head of that department. At that time he spent whole nights poring over General Staff maps, address books and lists of names, and he used these to manufacture atrocity reports from the Sudetenland. Herr Fritzsche watched this with anxiety. He came to me once and asked me "What are we drifting into? Are we not drifting into war? If only we knew what they at the top really want and what is behind it all."

Q. And then another question on the same subject. Did Goebbels in connection with any military or political actions which were being carried out or were to be carried out, ever consult beforehand with the defendant Fritzsche?

A. Not only did he not consult with Herr Fritzsche but with nobody else either. The Minister never had any such consultations.

[Page 306]

Q. Fritzsche states that he did not hear of Dr. Goebbels's instigation of the anti-Semitic excesses in November, 1938, until much later, and that he heard of it then only through a remark made by Dr. Goebbels. That does not sound very credible, because, after all, defendant Fritzsche was a close associate of Dr. Goebbels.

Can you give us an explanation?

A. In 1938 not all of us in the Ministry realised that Dr. Goebbels was the instigator. During the night in question Dr. Goebbels was not in Berlin. As far as I remember, just before that he had been to see the Fuehrer and he was still in Southern Germany. The conversation which you have just mentioned did not take place until the middle of the war. It took place at Lancke, where the Minister had a house, and it was on an occasion when Herr Fritzsche had been invited. Someone put the direct question to the Minister as to the cause of these excesses of November, 1938. Thereupon Dr. Goebbels. said that the National Socialist economic leadership had come to the conclusion that the elimination of Jewry from Germany's economy could not be carried out further -

Q. Witness, excuse me, that is enough. We have heard about it already today. Did Fritzsche later on - I believe it is supposed to have been in June, 1944 - talk to you about his general attitude toward the Jewish problem?

A. In May or June, 1944, I talked to Fritzsche in his apartment about the fact that on the day of these outrages he had said to me: "Schirrmeister, can one go on with this sort of thing and still be a decent human being?" And then Herr Fritzsche said to me: "You know, admittedly, I have always been against the Jews, but only in the way that some of the Jews also were." And he mentioned a Jewish newspaper, I believe the C.V. Newspaper.

Q. That is enough, witness. Then how do you explain Fritsche's anti-Semitic statements in various of his radio speeches?

A. They had been ordered by the Minister. We had seen from the British Press that a certain anti-Semitic current in Britain was growing, but a law in England stopped this from appearing in the papers. Now the Minister tried to find a common factor against which our propaganda abroad could be directed. This common factor was the Jew.

To give support to the foreign propaganda from the Reich, Herr Fritzsche received orders that in Germany, too, he should touch upon this subject in some of his broadcasts.

THE PRESIDENT: How long do you think you will be in concluding the case of the defendant Fritzsche?

DR. FRITZ: I think three-quarters of an hour at the most, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, then, after that the Tribunal will continue the case of the defendant Bormann until I o'clock tomorrow.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 29th June, 1946, at 1000 hours.)

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