The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
2nd July to 15th July 1946

One Hundred and Seventy-Fourth Day: Tuesday, 9th July, 1946
(Part 9 of 11)

[Page 240]

DR. KAUFFMANN, Continued:

If, therefore, the direct immediate danger to his own life and that of his family cannot excuse him, it does diminish his guilt, and Kaltenbrunner only means to point to this moral and legal evaluation of his position. Thus he emphasises a fact, historically proven, which was one of the deeper reasons for the collapse of the Reich; for no living man can bring liberty, peace, and welfare to a country who himself carries chains reluctantly and has lost that freedom which is the decisive characteristic of all human beings.

I believe Kaltenbrunner would like to be reborn and I know that he would fight for that freedom with his life's blood. Kaltenbrunner is guilty; but he is less guilty than he appears in the eyes of the prosecution. As the last representative of an ominous power of the darkest and most anguish-laden period of the Reich's

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history, he will await your judgement and yet he was a man whom one could not meet without a feeling of pathos.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn now.

(A recess was taken.)

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, Dr. Thoma.

DR. THOMA (counsel for defendant Rosenberg): May it please the Tribunal, Mr. President, the documentary film which was shown in this room and which was supposed to illustrate the "Rise and Fall of National Socialism" begins with a speech delivered by Rosenberg concerning the development of the Party up to the taking over of power. He also describes the Munich putsch and says that on the morning of 9th November, 1923, he saw police cars with machine-guns assembling in the Ludwigstrasse in Munich and he knew what risks were involved in the march to the Feldherrnhalle. Nevertheless he marched in the first lines. Today also, my client takes the same position in face of the Indictment formulated by the Prosecutors of the United Nations. He does not want to be pictured as though nobody paid any attention to his books, his speeches and his publications. Even today he does not want to appear as a person other than what he was once before, a fighter for Germany's strong position in the world, namely a German Reich in which national freedom should be linked to social justice.

Rosenberg is a German, born in the Baltic provinces, who learned to speak Russian as a young boy, passed his examination in Moscow after the Technical College in Riga moved to Moscow during the First World War, took an interest in Russian literature and art, had Russian friends, and was puzzled by the fact that the Russian nation, defined by Dostoievsky as "the nation with God in its heart", was overcome by the spirit of materialistic Marxism. He considered it inconceivable and unjust that the right of self determination had indeed often been promised but never voluntarily granted to many nations of Eastern Europe which had also been conquered by Tzarism in the 19th century.

Rosenberg became convinced that the Bolshevik revolution was not directed against certain temporary political phenomena only, but against the whole national tradition, against the religious faith and against the old rural foundations of the Eastern European nations, and generally against the idea of personal property. At the end of 1918 he came to Germany and saw the danger of a Bolshevistic revolution in Germany too; he saw the whole spiritual and material civilisation of the Occident endangered, and believed to have found his life- work in the struggle against this danger as a follower of Hitler.

It was a political struggle against fanatic and well- organized opponents who had at their disposal international resources and international backing and who acted according to the principle: "Strike the Fascists wherever you can." But as little as one can deduce from the latter slogan that the Soviet entertained intentions of military aggression against Fascist Italy, just as little can one say that the struggle of the National Socialists against Bolshevism meant a preparation for a war of aggression against the USSR.

To the defendant Rosenberg, a military conflict with the Soviet Union, especially a war of aggression against the latter, seemed as likely or as unlikely as to any German or foreign politician who had read the book Mein Kampf. It is not right to maintain that he was initiated in some way into plans of aggression against the Soviet Union; on the contrary, he publicly advocated proper relations with Moscow (Document Rosenberg-7b, Page 147). Rosenberg never spoke in favour of military intervention against the Soviet Union. However, he did fear the entry of the Red Army into the border States and then into Germany.

When, in August, 1939, Rosenberg learned about the conclusion of the Non-Aggression Pact between the German Reich and the Soviet Union - he was as little informed about the preliminary discussions as he was about the other foreign political measures taken by the Fuehrer - he might have gone to see the Fuehrer

[Page 242]

and protested against it. He did not do so and he did not object to it with a single word which the witness Goering confirmed as being a statement of Hitler.

In the witness-box Rosenberg himself described how he was then suddenly called to Hitler at the beginning of April, 1941, who told him that he considered a military clash with the Soviet Union inevitable. Hitler offered two reasons for it:

1. The military occupation of Romanian territory, namely Bessarabia and North Bukowina.

2. The tremendous increase of the Red Armies along the line of demarcation and on Soviet Russian territory in general, which had been going on for a long time.

These facts were so striking, he said, that he had already issued the appropriate military and other orders and he said that he would appoint Rosenberg in some way as a political adviser. As he further stated in the witness-box, Rosenberg found himself confronted with an accomplished fact, and the very attempt to talk about it was cut short by the Fuehrer with the remark that the orders had been issued and that hardly anything could be changed in this matter. Thereupon Rosenberg called some of his closest collaborators together because he did not know whether the military event would take place very soon or later on, and he made or had made some plans concerning the treatment of political problems. On 20th April, 1941, Rosenberg received from Hitler a preliminary order to establish a central office to deal with questions concerning the East and to contact the competent highest Reich authorities with respect to these matters (Document PS-865, Exhibit USA 143).

If this statement made by Rosenberg in itself is not sufficient to refute the assertion made by the prosecution according to which Rosenberg is "personally responsible for the planning and execution of the war of aggression against Russia" (M. Brudno, on 9th January, 1946) and was aware of the "aggressive predatory character of the imminent war" (General Rudenko, on 17th April, 1946); if, above all, one does not want to admit that Rosenberg was convinced of an imminent aggressive war waged by the Soviet Union against Germany, then I would like to bring up four more points in order to prove the correctness of the statements made by the defendant.

1. Rosenberg was not called to the well-known conference at the Reich Chancellery on 5th November, 1937 ("Hoszbach document", Document 386-PS, Exhibit USA 25) when Hitler disclosed for the first time his intentions of waging war. This was at the time when Rosenberg still had political influence, or at least seemed to have it. Then, if ever, he should have played the part of the intimate political instigator.

2. Lammers, as a witness, stated before this Tribunal that Hitler made all important decisions quite alone; thus also the decision concerning war against Russia.

3. Upon my question about Rosenberg's influence on Hitler's decisions concerning foreign policy, Goering replied before this Tribunal, on 16th March, 1946:

"I think after the accession to power the Fuehrer did not once consult the Party's Office of Foreign Affairs about questions concerning foreign policy, and that it was created only as a centre for dealing with certain questions concerning foreign policy which came up within the Party. As far as I know, Rosenberg was certainly not consulted about political decisions after the accession to power."
This was also confirmed by the witness Neurath on 26th June, 1946, in this courtroom.

As my fourth argument, I would further like to refer to the " brief report concerning the activity of the Office of Foreign Affairs of the NSDAP" (Document 003-PS, Exhibit USA 603). Brief mention is made in it of the "Near East" in such a harmless manner that no word can be said about it. Also, in the confidential reports, Documents 004-PS and 007-PS, nothing is said about any preparations against the Soviet Union.

[Page 243]

Administration in the East.

It would be an easy, too superficial, and therefore an unjust procedure, if one were to say:

1. The Eastern territories were occupied in a war of aggression, and therefore anything the German administration did there was criminal;

2. As Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories, Rosenberg was the responsible minister and therefore he must be punished for all crimes which have occurred there, at least for what happened within the scope of the jurisdiction and authority of the administrative bodies. I will have to demonstrate that this conception is not correct for legal and factual reasons.

Rosenberg was the organiser and the highest authority of the administration in the East. On 17th July, 1941, he was appointed Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories. According to instructions, before that time he performed preparatory work on questions concerning Eastern Europe by contacting the Reich agencies concerned (Document 1039-PS; Exhibit USA 146). He planned and set up his office for dealing centrally with questions concerning Eastern Europe (Document 1024-PS, Exhibit USA 278). He had provisional instructions for the Reich Commissars drawn up (Document 1030-PS, Exhibit USA 144); he delivered the speech on his programme of 20th June, 1941 (Document 1068-PS, Exhibit USA 143) and, above all, he took part in the Fuehrer conference of 16th July, 1941. (Document L-221, Exhibit USA 317).

In the presence of Rosenberg, Lammers, Keitel, and Bormann, Hitler said at that time that the real aims of the war against Russia should not be made known to the whole world, that those present should understand clearly that "we will never withdraw from the new Eastern Territories; whatever opposition appears will be exterminated; never again must a military power develop west of the Urals; nobody but a German shall ever bear a weapon."

Hitler proclaimed the subjection and the exploitation of the Eastern Territories, and in making these statements he placed himself in opposition to what Rosenberg had told him before - without being contradicted by Hitler - concerning his plans for the East.

Thus Hitler probably had a programme of enslavement and exploitation. Nothing is so natural and nothing is easier than to say: Even before Rosenberg took over his Ministry he knew Hitler's aims for the East; namely, to rule it, to administer it, to exploit it. Therefore he is not only an accomplice in a crime against peace, he is also jointly responsible for the crimes against humanity perpetrated in the Eastern Territories, since Rosenberg held the complete power, the highest authority in the East.

I shall deal later, de jure and de facto, with the question of Rosenberg's automatic responsibility in his capacity as supreme chief of the Eastern Territories. First I would like to consider the question of his individual responsibility. One could deduce it from two facts:

1. Because he allegedly participated in the preparation of the war of aggression against the Soviet Union; I have already stated that this assertion is not correct; Rosenberg neither ideologically nor actually participated in the preparation of the war of aggression;

2. Because he supported Hitler's plan of conquest by making plans, delivering speeches, and organising the administration. When a minister or general, following the instructions of the head of the State, elaborates plans or takes preparatory measures of an organisational nature for later eventualities, this activity cannot be considered as criminal even when the interests of other countries are affected thereby, and even when the plans, preparations and measures are intended for war. Only when the minister or general in question directs his activity towards things which have to be considered as criminal according to common sense and an international sense of decency and justice, can he be held individually responsible. Rosenberg has continuously proved in words and deeds that the traditional conceptions of right were also his conceptions, and that he was willing to stand up for

[Page 244]

them. But his position was particularly difficult since his supreme chief finally moved beyond the limits in his ideas, aims and intentions, and since other strong forces like Bormann, Himmler and Gauleiter Erich Koch were also involved, which nullified and sabotaged Rosenberg's good and fair intentions.

Thus we witness the strange spectacle of a minister who governs but who partly cannot understand and approve, partly does not know at all the intentions of the head of the State, and on the other hand that of the head of a State who appoints a minister to take office who is certainly an old and loyal political fellow-combatant, but with whom he has no longer any spiritual contact whatsoever. It would be wrong to judge such a situation without further examination according to the democratic conceptions of the responsibility of a minister. Rosenberg could not simply resign, for he also felt inwardly the duty of fighting for the point of view which appeared to him as being right and decent.

In his speech of 20th June, 1941, Rosenberg said that it was the duty of the Germans to consider that Germany should not have to fight every twenty-five years for her holdings in the East. He by no means, however, desired the extermination of the Slavs, but the advancement of all nations of Eastern Europe, and the advancement, not the annihilation, of their national independence. He demanded (Document 1058-PS, Exhibit USA 147), "friendly sentiments" towards the Ukrainians, a guarantee of "national and cultural existence" for the Caucasians; he emphasized that, even with a war on, we were "not enemies of the Russian people", whose great achievements we fully recognize. He advocated "the right of self-determination of peoples" - one of the first points of the whole Soviet revolution. This was his idea, tenaciously defended till the end. The speech in question also contains the passage which the prosecution holds against him in particular, that the feeding of the German people during these years will be placed at the top of German demands in the East, and that the southern territories and North Caucasus would have to make up the balance in feeding the German people. Then, Rosenberg continues:

"We do not see at all why we should be compelled to feed the Russian people also from these regions of surplus. We know that this is a bitter necessity which lies beyond any sentiment. Without a doubt extensive evacuation will be necessary, and there are very hard years ahead for the Russians. To what extent industries are to be kept up there is a question reserved for future decision."
This passage comes quite suddenly and all by itself in the long speech. One feels distinctly that it has been squeezed in; it is not Rosenberg's voice; Rosenberg does not proclaim here a programme of his own, but only states facts which lie beyond his will. In the directives of the Eastern Ministry (Document 1056-PS) the feeding of the population, as well as supplying it with medical necessities, is described as being especially urgent.

On the contrary, the true Rosenberg emerges in the conference of 16th July, 1941, when, regarding Hitler's plans, he called attention to the university of Kiev and to the independence and cultural advancement of the Ukraine, and when he took a stand against the intended full power of the police and above all against the appointment of Gauleiter Erich Koch in the Ukraine (Document L-221).

One will say: What is the use of opposition and protests, what is the use of secret reservations and of feigned agreement with Hitler's intentions, Rosenberg did co-operate all the same. Therefore he is responsible too. Later on I will outline in detail how and to what extent Rosenberg took part in the policy in the East - what things he did not do, and how he opposed them, what he planned and desired himself - in order to defend him against the grave charge of being responsible for the alleged exploitation and enslavement of the East. Here I would only like to point out the following: It was in no way a hopeless task to begin by accepting even Hitler's most passionate statements without contradiction in the hope and with the intention of nevertheless attaining a contrary result later on. In opposition to Hitler's statement: "No other than a German may ever bear weapons in

[Page 245]

the East," it was not long, for example, before, on Rosenberg's recommendation, legions of volunteers were formed from the peoples of the East, and in opposition to Hitler's wish, an edict of tolerance was issued at the end of 1941 for the Churches of the East (Document 1517-PS).

If, at first, Rosenberg could achieve nothing for the autonomy of the Eastern nations, he still adhered to his plans for the future in this respect too. First he took care of the urgent agrarian question. An agrarian programme was drawn up, which it was possible to present to the Fuehrer on 15th February, 1942, and which was authorized by him in unchanged form. It was not an instrument of exploitation, but an act of liberal formation of the agrarian constitution in the midst of the most terrible of wars. Right in the middle of the war the Eastern countries not only received a new agrarian constitution but also agricultural machines. The witness Professor Dencker, in his affidavit, has borne witness to the following deliveries to the occupied Soviet territories including the former border States:

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