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-Eighth Day: Monday, 1st July, 1946
(Part 5 of 10)

[DR. STAHMER continues his direct examination of Reinhard von Eichborn]

[Page 342]

THE WITNESS: I am speaking of both staffs, because the moving of large staffs, such as that of an army group, could not be undertaken in one day; usually a period of two to three days was needed for that. The operations of the signal corps had to be assured, and therefore the regiment had to leave some of the staff behind until the entire staff had been moved.


Q. Where was the advance unit accommodated?

A. At least part of the advance unit was accommodated in the Dnieper Castle. Some of the others were in the neighbourhood of those places where later on the companies were billeted. The reason for that was to keep the billets ready for this regiment, until the bulk of it had been moved.

Q. How about the Regimental Staff 537?

A. In the Dnieper Castle.

Q. Can you give us the names of the officers who belonged to the regimental headquarters staff?

A. At that time there was Lieutenant-Colonel Bedenck, the commanding officer; Lieutenant Rex, adjutant; Lieutenant Hodt, orderly officer; and a Captain Schaefer, who was a signal expert. It may be that one or two others were there as well, but I can now no longer remember their names.

Q. The preceding witness has already told us about the tasks of the regimental staff. How were the activities of the regimental staff controlled?

A. The regiment, which consisted of ten to twelve companies, had to give an exact report each evening as to what work had been allotted to the various companies. This was necessary as we had to know what forces were available in case of emergency, or for undertaking any new tasks.

Q. How far away from the Dnieper Castle were you billeted?

A. Approximately four to five kilometres. I cannot give you the exact distance, as I always made it by car, but it would be about four to five kilometres.

Q. Did you frequently go to Dnieper Castle?

A. Very frequently, when I was off duty, as I had belonged to this regiment, I knew most of the officers, and was on friendly terms with them.

Q. Can you tell us about the kind and extent of the traffic which came to the Dnieper Castle?

A. In order to judge this, you have to differentiate between persons and things. So far as people were concerned, the traffic was very heavy because the regiment had to be very centrally organized in order to be equal to its tasks. Therefore, many couriers came, and commanders of the various companies frequently came to visit the regimental headquarters staff.

On the other hand, there was a heavy traffic of lorries s and passenger cars, because the regiment tried to improve its billets there, and after we remained there for some time, all sorts of constructional alterations were made in the house.

Q. Did you hear anything about there being three Russian camps with captured Polish officers, twenty-five to forty- five kilometres west of Smolensk, which had allegedly fallen into German hands?

A. I never heard anything about any kind of Polish officers' camps or prisoner-of-war camps.

Q. Did your army group receive reports about the taking of such Polish officers as prisoners?

[Page 343]

A. No. I would have noticed that, since the number of prisoners, and especially the number of officers, was constantly in the evening reports of the armies which took these prisoners, and these reports were submitted to me. It was our responsibility to receive these signal reports and we therefore saw them every evening.

Q. You did not receive a report to that effect?

A. I neither saw such a report from an army, which would have issued it, nor did I ever receive a report from an army group which would have had to transmit this report in their evening bulletin to the Armed Forces High Command (OKW).

Q. Could a report like that have been handed in from another source or been sent to another office?

A. The official channel in the Army was very stringent, and the staffs saw to it that official channels were strictly adhered to. In any case, the army group always required the reports, which they had to fill out according to forms, to be completed with exactitude, and this especially included the figures concerning prisoners. Therefore, it is quite out of the question that if such a number of officers had fallen into the hands of an army group, it would not have reported the matter through the appropriate channel.

Q. You said, just a little while ago, that you were in particularly close relationship with the officers of this regiment. Did you ever hear anything about Polish officers who were prisoners of war having been shot at some time or other in the Katyn Forest at the instigation of Regiment 537 under Colonel Bedenek or under Colonel Ahrens?

A. I knew nearly all the officers of the regiment, as I myself had been over a year with the regiment and I had such a close relationship with most of the officers that they told me everything that took place, even matters of an unofficial nature. Therefore, it is quite out of the question that such an important matter should not have come to my knowledge. It is quite impossible that there was not at least one who would have come to tell me about it immediately.

Q. Were all the operational orders for Regiment 537 officially known to you?

A. The operational orders for this army group signals regiment were twofold; orders which applied to the wireless company and those which applied to the nine telephone companies. Since I was a telephone expert, it was quite natural for me to draft these orders and submit them to my superior, General Oberhauser. Therefore, each order which was issued had either been drafted by me, or I had seen it beforehand.

Q. Was there ever at any time an order given out by your office to shoot Polish prisoners of war?

A. An order like that was neither given to the regiment by our office nor by any other office. Neither did we have a report to this effect, nor did we hear about things like that through any other channel.

Q. If an order like that had arrived through official channels, it could only have come through you?

A. This order would have necessitated a great many members of the regiment being taken away from their own duties which were to safeguard the system of communications; as we were very short of signallers, we had to know what almost every man in the regiment was doing. It would have been quite out of the question for any member of the regiment to have been taken away for such a duty without our knowledge.

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

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Kranzbuehler, for whom are you appearing?

DR. KRANZBUEHLER: For Grand Admiral Donitz, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: There is no charge made against Grand Admiral Donitz, in connection with this offence at all.

DR. KRANZBUEHLER: Mr. President, the exhumations and the propaganda connected with them occurred during the period when Grand Admiral Donitz, was

[Page 344]

Commander-in-Chief of the Navy. The prosecution alleges that at that time Grand Admiral Donitz was a member of the Cabinet and had participated in all acts taken by the Government. Therefore, I must consider him as being implicated in all the problems arising out of the Katyn case.

THE PRESIDENT: That would mean that we should have to hear examination from everybody who was connected with the Government. And the Tribunal has already pointed out, with reference to Admiral Raeder, that his case was not connected with this matter. It is only when a case is directly connected with their clients that counsel for the individual defendants are allowed to cross-examine, in addition to the defendant's counsel who calls the witness. If there is any suggestion that you want to make to the counsel who is calling the witness, you make it to him, but you are not entitled -

DR. KRANZBUEHLER: But I am asking your permission to put two or three questions to this witness.

THE PRESIDENT: If you have any special questions to put, you may suggest them to Dr. Stahmer, and Dr. Stahmer will put them.

Dr. Kranzbuehler, if you want to put any questions, you may put them to Dr. Stahmer, and he will put them to the witness.

DR. KRANZBUEHLER: Mr. President, I did not quite understand. Shall I write those questions down for Dr. Stahmer?

THE PRESIDENT: If you cannot do it verbally, you may do it in writing, and you may do it later on. But I really do not think there can be any question which it is so difficult to suggest to Dr. Stahmer as all that.

DR. KRANZBUEHLER: They can also be put through Dr. Stahmer. I was only thinking that I would save some time by putting the questions myself.

THE PRESIDENT: I told you, if you wish to ask any questions, you must ask them through Dr. Stahmer.

DR. KRANZBUEHLER: Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: In the meantime, the Tribunal will go on with the cross-examination, and any questions which you wish to put can be put in re-examination.

Does the prosecution wish to cross-examine?



Q. Witness, I am interested to know your exact function in the Army? Were you in charge of teleprinter communications at the headquarters of Army Group "Centre"?

A. No, Mr. Prosecutor, you are wrong. I was the telephone expert of Army Group "Centre," not the wireless expert.

Q. That is exactly what I am asking you. The translation was evidently incorrect. So you were in charge of telephone communications, were you not?

A. Yes; you are right.

Q. Ordinary telegrams, or ciphered telegrams?

A. The task of a telephone expert connected with an army group consisted in keeping open communications on the telephone -

Q. No, I am not interested in the tasks in a general way. I would like to know whether these were secret ciphered telegrams or current army mail, army communications which were not secret.

A. There were two kinds of telegrams, open and secret.

Q. Were you in charge of the secret telegrams, too?

A. Both passed through me.

Q. Consequently, all communications between the Wehrmacht, between army units and the highest police authorities also passed through you; is that correct?

[Page 345]

A. The telephone experts received the more important telegrams, and especially the secret ones.

Q. Yes. Consequently, the communications between the police authorities and the Wehrmacht units passed through you; is that correct? I am asking you this question for a second time.

A. I must answer with this reservation that all messages did not pass through the telephone specialist, but only the more important secret teletype matters were submitted to him - not all communications, because much was sent by mail service as well as by couriers.

Q. That is clear. Do you know that, in September and October, 1941, there were special detachments in Smolensk, whose duty, in close co-operation with the Army, was to carry out the so-called purge of the prisoner-of-war camps and the extermination of prisoners of war?

DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, I must decisively object to this questioning of the witness. This questioning can have only the purpose of determining the relations between the OKW, High Command of the Armed Forces, and possibly the commandos of the Security Service. Therefore, they are accusing the General Staff and the High Command of the Armed Forces, and if I, Mr. President, as defence counsel for the High Command of the Armed Forces am not permitted to put questions then on the basis of equal treatment, the same rules must apply to the prosecution as well.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: May I, Mr. President, make a short statement -

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Smirnov, the question is competent.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: I beg your pardon?

THE PRESIDENT: I said the question was competent. You may ask the question.


Q. I would like to ask you the following question, witness. Since all secret messages, that is to say, secret telephoned messages, passed through you, did you ever come across among these messages any from the so-called "Einsatzgruppe B." That was the so-called First Task-Force. Did you also ever come across amongst these telephoned messages, any from the Special Task-Force, which at that time was located at Smolensk and kept in reserve in anticipation of better times; or from the Special Task-Force "Moscow," whose duty it was to perpetrate mass murders in Moscow. Both commandos were located at Smolensk at that time. Did you ever receive any such communications?

A. No such reports came into my hands. I can fully explain this to you, Mr. Prosecutor. Had any detachments of this sort been established in the "Centre" Army Group area, these detachments would have had their own wireless stations. It was only later on, in the course of the Russian campaign, that these posts had teletype communications as well, then their activity was based on the army group network. However, that only happened later.

Q. Consequently, the telegrams of those special units, which in accordance with instructions of high police authorities were assigned to carry out special actions in co-operation with military units, did not pass through your hands in September and October of 1941?

A. That is correct. At that time, there were no teletype connections and offices for such special units, if ever they were in that area at all.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: Mr. President, this document has already been presented to the Tribunal together with the Extraordinary State Commission Report, No. USSR 3. If the High Tribunal will permit it, I should like to present to the Tribunal and to the defence photostatic copies of one of the documents which was attached to the report of the Extraordinary State Commission. If the Tribunal will look at Page 2 of this document, it will see that the Special Task- Force

[Page 346]

"Moscow" and the Task-Force "B" were both located in Smolensk. It says on the first page that these detachments, together with the Wehrmacht units, were assigned to carry out mass killings in the camps. If the Tribunal will permit me, I shall submit this document now -

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Smirnov, that is a matter of argument. We shall take judicial notice of it, of course, of everything which is in the Soviet Government's publication. And I understand you to say that this document is a part of the Soviet Government communication or Soviet Government report.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: Yes, Mr. President; but I would like to ask permission to present an original German document, a secret document, which states that in the Smolensk area there were two large Special Task-Forces whose duties were to carry out mass murders in the camps, and that these actions had to be carried out together with Wehrmacht units, which had to co- operate with them.

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Smirnov, is this document which you have just handed up to us a part of the Report USSR 3?

COLONEL SMIRNOV: Yes, Mr. President, it is a part of the Report USSR 3, called "Special Instructions of the Hitler Government concerning the Annihilation of Prisoners of War." I would like to ask the Tribunal to allow me to present one of the original documents even if the Report USSR 3 has been already submitted in full.

It says there that these special units were located in Smolensk and were assigned together with Wehrmacht units to carry out mass killings in the camps.

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