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 6 of 10)

[COLONEL SMIRNOV continues his cross examination of Reinhard von Eichborn]

[Page 346]

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, Colonel Smirnov. This document is already in evidence, if the Tribunal understands correctly.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: Thank you, Mr. President.


Q. Consequently, we may consider it as an established fact that the correspondence, the telegraphic messages of these special detachments did not pass through your hands; is that correct?

THE PRESIDENT: He has said that twice already.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: Excuse me, Mr. President.


Q. Why did you assert with such certainty that there were no reports about the killing of the Poles? You know that the killing of the Polish prisoners of war was a special action, and notification of which would have to pass through your hands? Is that correct?

A. I answered the prosecutor - rather, I answered Dr. Stahmer - that if in the area of the Signal Regiment 537 killings of that sort had taken place, I would undoubtedly have known about them. I did not state what the prosecutor is now trying to ascribe to me.

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Smirnov, the Tribunal thinks you had better read this passage from this document, which is in the German language, to the Tribunal so that it will go into the record.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: In this document, Mr. President, it is stated -

THE PRESIDENT: Go on, Colonel Smirnov.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: Thank you, Mr. President.

This document is dated: Berlin, 29th October, 1941. It is headed: "The Chief of the Security Police and of the Security Service." It has a classification: "Secret, State matters, Operational Order No. 14," reference is made to decrees of 17th July and 12th August, 1941. I shall now read a few short sentences, and I shall begin with the first sentence:

[Page 347]

"In the appendix, I am sending directions for the evacuation of Soviet civilian prisoners and prisoners of war out of permanent prisoner-of-war camps and transient camps to the rear of the army.

These directives. have been worked out in collaboration with the Army High Command. The Army High Command has notified the commanders of the armies in the rear as well as the local commandants of the prisoner-of-war camps and of the transient camps.

The Special Action Groups, depending on the size of the camp in their territory, are setting up Special Task- Forces in sufficient strength under the leadership of an SS leader. Special Task-Forces are instructed immediately to start work in the camps."

I will now read from the last paragraph:
"I emphasize especially that orders Nos. 8 and 14 as well as the appendix are to be destroyed immediately, in the case of imminent danger."
I now turn to the distribution list. On Page 2, it says that the Task-Force B, consisting of the Special Task-Forces 7-A, 7-B, 8, and 9, was located in Smolensk; and in addition to this there was already located in Smolensk a Special Task- Force, which had been rather prematurely named "Moscow" by its organisers.

These are the contents of the document, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal directs that the whole document shall be translated. We will now recess until five minutes past two.

(A recess was taken until 1405.)

COLONEL SMIRNOV: Mr. President, I have no more questions to put to this witness.




Q. Witness, do you know who owned that little castle near the Dnieper before the occupation by German troops; who owned it, who lived there?

A. I cannot say that for certain. We noticed that the little castle was astonishingly well furnished. It was very well laid out. It had two bathrooms, a rifle range and a cinema. We drew certain conclusions therefrom, when the events became known, but I do not know anything about the previous owner.

Q. The Soviet prosecutor submitted to you a document dated 29th October, 1941, "Directives to the Chief of the Sipo for the detachments in the Stalags." With reference to that document, I want to ask you whether you had an opportunity personally to ascertain the attitude of Field-Marshal Kluge, your Commander-in-Chief of Army Group "Centre," regarding the shooting of prisoners of war?

A. By accident, I overheard a conversation between Bock and Kluge, who were both army group commanders. That conversation took place about three or four weeks before the beginning of the Russian campaign, I cannot tell you the exact time. At the time, Field-Marshal von Bock was the Commander-in-Chief of Army Group "Centre," and Field-Marshal von Kluge was Commander of the 4th Army. The army group was in Posen, and the 4th Army at Warsaw. One day I was called by the aide-de-camp of Field-Marshal von Bock, who was Lieutenant-Colonel Count Hardenberg. He gave me the mission -

THE PRESIDENT: These details are entirely irrelevant, are they not? All you want to ask him is: What was the attitude of von Kluge? That is all.

DR. STAHMER: The answer did not come through. I did not understand, Mr. President, what you said.

THE PRESIDENT: I said that all these details are irrelevant.

DR. STAHMER: It still is not coming through. Yes, now, Mr. President.

[Page 348]

THE PRESIDENT: What I said was, that all these details about the particular place where von Kluge met some other army group commander are utterly irrelevant. All you are trying to ask him is: What was von Kluge's attitude towards the murder of war prisoners? Is that not all?



Q. Will you answer the question briefly, witness? Please just tell us what von Kluge said.

A. Von Kluge told von Bock, during a telephone conversation, that the order for the shooting of certain prisoners of war was an impossibility and could not be carried out, especially with regard to the discipline of the troops. Von Bock shared this point of view, and both these gentlemen talked for half an hour about the measures which they wanted to adopt in this connection.

Q. According to the allegations of the prosecution, the shooting of these I 1,000 Polish officers is supposed to have been carried out some time in September, 1941. The question now is: Do you consider it possible, in view of local conditions, that such mass shootings and burials could have been carried out next door to the regimental headquarters without you yourself having heard about it?

A. We were very busy in preparation for the move of the army group to Smolensk. We had employed a number of signal troops for setting up the proper installations. The entire site was continuously used by these troops for the laying of cables and telephone lines. It is out of the question that any such event could have occurred in that particular area without the regiment and therefore myself obtaining knowledge of it.

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

THE PRESIDENT: The witness can retire.

DR. STAHMER: Mr. President, before calling my third witness, Lieutenant-General Oberhauser, may I ask your permission to make the following remarks? The prosecution has up to now only alleged that Regiment No. 537 was the one which had carried out these shootings, and that under Colonel Ahrens's command. Today, again, Colonel Ahrens has been named by the prosecution as being the perpetrator. Now apparently this allegation has been dropped, and it has been said that, if it was not Ahrens, then it must have been his predecessor, Colonel Bedenek, and if Colonel Bedenek did not do it, then apparently, and this seems to be the third version, it was done by the SD. The defence had solely taken the position that Colonel Ahrens was accused as the perpetrator, and it has refuted that allegation. Considering the changed situation, and the attitude adopted by the prosecution, I shall have to name a fourth witness in addition. That is First Lieutenant Hodt, who has been mentioned today as the perpetrator, and who was with the regimental staff right from the beginning and who was, as we have been told, the senior of the advance party which arrived at the Dnieper castle in July. I heard the address of First Lieutenant Hodt by chance yesterday. He is at Glucksburg near Flensburg, and I therefore ask to be allowed to name First Lieutenant Hodt as a witness who will give evidence that during the time between July and September such shootings did not occur.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Stahmer, the Tribunal will consider your application when they adjourn at half-past three with reference to this extra witness.

DR. STAHMER: Yes, Sir. Then I shall now call as witness Lieutenant-General Oberhauser.

EUGEN OBERHAUSER, a witness, took the stand and testified as follows:


Q. Will you state your full name, please?

A. Eugen Oberhauser.

[Page 349]

Q. Will you repeat this oath after me:

I swear by God, the Almighty and Omniscient, that I will speak the pure truth and will withhold and add nothing.

(The witness repeated the oath.)

THE PRESIDENT: You may sit down.



Q. General, what position did you hold during the war?

A. I was the signals commander in an army group, first of all during the Polish campaign, in Army Group North; then, in the western campaign, Army Group B, and then in Russia, Army Group Centre.

Q. When did you and your staff reach the neighbourhood of Katyn?

A. Some time during September, 1941.

Q. Where was your staff located?

A. My staff was located in the immediate vicinity of the commander-in-chief of the army group; that is to say, about twelve kilometres west of Smolensk, near the railway station of Krasnibor.

Q. Was Regiment No. 537 under your command?

A. Regiment 537 was directly under my command.

Q. What task did that regiment have?

A. That regiment had the task of establishing both telegraph and wireless communications between the command of the army group and the various armies, and other units which were directly under its command.

Q. Was the staff of that regiment stationed near you?

A. The staff of that regiment was located about three, perhaps four kilometres west from my own position.

Q. Can you give us more detailed information regarding the exact location of the staff headquarters of No. 537?

A. Staff headquarters of 537 were in a very nice Russian timber house. Commissars were supposed to have been living there before. It was on the steep bank of the river Dnieper. It was somewhat off the road, perhaps four to five hundred metres away. It was, from my place, four kilometres west of the main highway Smolensk to Vitebsk.

Q. Who was the commanding officer of the regiment after the capture of Smolensk?

A. After the capture of Smolensk, Colonel Bedenck was the commander of the regiment.

Q. For how long?

A. Until about November, 1941.

Q. Who was his successor?

A. His successor was Colonel Ahrens.

Q. How long?

A. Approximately until September - it may have been August, 1943.

Q. Were you near Katyn as long as that, too?

A. I was there until the command of the army group transferred its headquarters farther west.

Q. What were your relations with the commanders of this regiment?

A. My relations with the regimental commanders were most hearty, both officially and off duty, which is due to the fact that I had been the first commander of that regiment. I myself had formed the regiment, and I was most attached to it.

Q.. Did you personally visit the little Dnieper castle frequently?

A. I went to the Dnieper castle frequently; I should say, in normal times, about once or twice a week.

Q. Did the commanders visit you in the meantime?

A. The commanders came to see me more frequently than I went to see them.

[Page 350]

Q. Did you know anything about the fact that near Smolensk, about twenty-five to forty-five kilometres to the west, there were three Russian camps which contained Polish prisoners of war? -

A. I knew nothing of that.

Q. - who had fallen into the hands of the Germans?

A. I never heard anything about it.

Q. Was there an order, which is supposed to have come from Berlin, that Polish officers who were prisoners of war were to be shot?

A. No, there was never such an order issued.

Q. Did you yourself ever give such an order?

A. I have never given such an order.

Q. Do you know whether Colonel Bedenek or Colonel Ahrens ever caused such shootings to be carried out?

A. No, and I consider it absolutely impossible.

Q. Why?

A. (1) Because such a drastic order would necessarily first have gone through me, for I was the senior commander of the regiment; and (2) because if such an order had been given and transmitted to the regiment through a channel which was outside my control, then the commanders would most certainly have rung me up or come to see me and said: "General, they are asking something here which we cannot understand."

Q. Do you know First Lieutenant Hodt?

A. Yes, I know him.

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