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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
16th July to 27th July 1946

One Hundred and Eighty-Fifth Day: Wednesday, 24th July, 1946
(Part 10 of 11)

[DR. FRITZ continues.]

[Page 329]

Dr. Goebbels, one of the oldest and closest of Hitler's collaborators, and Dr. Dietrich, Hitler's permanent escort - during the war he was present almost uninterruptedly in his headquarters - never allowed the leadership of the Press and radio to be taken out of their hands, especially by a man who, like Fritzsche, had no connections of any kind with Hitler, and had not even had a single conference with him. Ultimately, Hitler's will was decisive here, too.

We have furthermore heard what influence - it is of no importance here whether it was due to Hitler, Goebbels or Dietrich - other governmental agencies too successfully exercised on the Press and radio. Here I will mention the Foreign Office, the High Command of the Wehrmacht and other ministries, the heads of which were much more closely connected with the three aforementioned personages than, for instance, Fritzsche.

In order to avoid a misunderstanding, I would like to point out that the assertion of the Indictment that Fritzsche was in some way closely connected with the Party propaganda apparatus, e.g., with the so-called Reich Press Agency of the NSDAP or the radio department of the Party, has been positively withdrawn by the prosecution in the course of the trial.

With this, I think that I have sufficiently established the limits of the defendant's responsibility. This limitation shows the inaccuracy of the widely spread opinion that Fritzsche occupied a very important and influential position in the "gigantic propaganda apparatus" of the Third Reich. This limitation not only takes into account the legal but also the moral facts, which have been clearly exposed by the hearing of evidence.

Thus to a certain extent I have already taken a stand against the charge that Fritzsche was a member of the alleged conspiracy. The prosecution has repeatedly tried to incorporate Fritzsche's work, at its different stages, in the alleged group of conspirators and has drawn from it conclusions which go so far as to say that Fritzsche was therefore also responsible for war crimes, for crimes against humanity and even for crimes against peace.

[Page 330]

Already in the arguments of the Indictment, these attempts seemed to have little relevant justification. It is hardly any improper criticism if I declare here that it caused the prosecution a certain embarrassment to display Fritzsche's subordinate position as an official as so important and full of meaning. Today, now that the hearing of evidence is complete, it seems to me that the attempt to include Fritzsche in the circle of conspirators has miscarried.

Fritzsche cannot be found, at any of the sessions at which Hitler discussed any plans or actions with the closer or wider circle of his collaborators. And apart from this, he never actually took part either in any discussions which might have been capable of plunging the world into the blood bath of wars of aggression. He was neither an "old Party fighter" nor was he decorated later on with the golden Party badge. He did not belong, as I had to emphasize especially, to any of the organizations which are to be declared here as criminal. Up to the end he fulfilled the functions of an official in a ministry and received directives like any other official. He could never be a political adviser.

In view of the circumstances, the bridge between himself and the alleged conspiracy could have been spanned only by the person of Dr. Goebbels. The witness von Schirrmeister has repudiated such an assumption. According to his testimony, Fritzsche did not even belong to the closer circle around Dr. Goebbels. Indeed, von Schirrmeister could even state that Fritzsche often had to apply to him because he could not get Dr. Goebbels's opinion on any question other than through him, as he was Dr. Goebbels's personal Press assistant. Communicating through the State secretaries - e.g., Dr. Dietrich, Dr. Naumann, to mention only a few - also involved certain difficulties. That is not the manner in which conspirators usually communicate.

Moreover, the witness von Schirrmeister has said that it was out of the question that Fritzsche could even have embarked on an exchange of ideas with Dr. Goebbels with a view to forming plans. Now, it would have been the task of the prosecution to prove to the defendant Fritzsche where his participation in the conspiracy can be seen. I say that one cannot consider any count of the Indictment as proved.

I think that it was not Fritzsche's official position at all which led to the bringing of an Indictment against him. I rather assume that the latter is solely to be traced back to his broadcast speeches which made him and his name known - but only during the war - both in Germany and perhaps also in a part of the rest of the world.

All the serious charges levelled against him can be traced back, therefore, only to these radio addresses. The other assertions concerning his position within the State or Party apparatus are based only on assumptions or combinations without any factual basis, which is especially evident, for example, from the purely personal and refuted statements of Schorner, Foss and Stahel. But his name became so well known only because of the technical means he utilised. Only the great significance of the radio for the modern transmission of news made him appear in a special light. It cannot be denied that in this way he had a great influence on the German people, but from our own experiences of Nazi-ruled Germany, I can well say that every Gau speaker (Gauredner) and many a district leader (Kreisleiter) used much stronger language. But, as a rule, their speeches were published only by the local Press.

With respect to these radio addresses, the defence was handicapped in so far as not all of them; and not the complete text of all of them, could be made available. Unfortunately, the excerpts quoted during cross-examination by the Russian prosecution could not be supplemented either by the entire text of the respective speech. Thus there was no possibility of reproducing the sense which the respective address had at the time of delivery. I shall come back to this and give an example later. To submit only single passages or quotations to the Tribunal is especially inadequate because such excerpts do not show that in his speeches so Fritzsche always put the events of the day in the foreground. It was only rarely

[Page 331]

and incidentally that he drew any general ideological conclusions. But even what Fritzsche has said here about those of his addresses which the prosecution was able to produce in their entirety shows a completely different picture of the cause and motives of his broadcast speeches. From 1932 - that is, already before the seizure of power by National Socialism - up to 1939, these speeches were nothing but a political Press review. And that is what they were called! They were therefore a collection of quotations from domestic and foreign newspapers.

Fritzsche does not dispute the fact that these collections were made on the basis of the interests of the National Socialist State. Only during the war - but right up to the end they were still based on quotations also from the foreign Press - did these speeches become the platform for the polemical controversy which in time of war is naturally carried on from both sides. Without any doubt, they greatly contributed toward the formation of political opinion in Germany, but there is also no doubt that many people in Germany listened to Fritzsche's speeches not for their polemics but in order to learn from his quotations at least something about the opinions expressed abroad. For years these speeches constituted private work carried out alongside his official position. Only during the war did they come to be considered as semi-official because of their increasing political news value. Thus - to make it clearer - they assumed approximately the character of editorials in a newspaper, which - as one says - is closely connected with the Government. It would have been easy for the defence to submit to the Tribunal tomes of newspapers dating from the same time, the editorials of which showed the same trend, and even - this can be said quite definitely - used considerably stronger language.

Fritzsche has been able to repudiate most decidedly - and in my opinion quite rightfully - that these addresses constituted an incitement to race hatred, to murder or violence, to hatred among nations or to wars of aggression. If such an effect could really have been produced by these speeches, absolutely the same reproach should fall upon any editor of the Third Reich who received the "Daily Directives" from the Reich Press Chief. Fritzsche seems to be accused before this Tribunal only because through technical means he could be heard over a wide range. But it is, especially in war time - and only since 1939 did his speeches have a political news value at all - in the nature of things that the controversialist becomes himself the subject of controversy, especially the one whose influence, considered from the standpoint of political news value, extended farther technically than the influence of an article in a local paper. Only in this manner did his name become better known to outsiders than names of people who were much more powerful than the publicist.

How far the prosecution went in its accusations against Fritzsche in his capacity as a publicist is shown by the fact that not only is he supposed to have belonged to the plotting group of conspirators, but that he is also accused of crimes against peace. If a propagandist is subjected to such an accusation, there immediately arises the question whether public radio speeches would not be the least proper means for carrying through criminal aims of a secret conspiracy. Speeches which can be heard all over the world could at best be suitable for camouflaging such aims and for misleading the world. But actually, just the opposite reproach is levelled against Fritzsche: he is supposed to have incited other people. I think I have now dealt at sufficient length with the nature and the character of these speeches. Their importance had to be adjusted to the proper scale in view of the far-reaching conclusions of the prosecution.

Before going into the details of the charge that by radio speeches or by other means Fritzsche contributed towards the various wars of aggression, it is necessary, in a case in which accusations to that effect, pertaining to criminal or International Law, are raised against a publicist, to deal with a legal problem. At no point - as far as I can see - did the prosecution consider the question of whether and to what extent propaganda, i.e., the attempt to influence minds, especially during

[Page 332]

war, was or still is subject to the rules of International Law. Perhaps the problem did not come up only because this question, once it was asked, would have had to be definitely denied. While it is true that the Indictment speaks of the "gigantic propaganda apparatus" during Hitler's dictatorship, which was created as a consequence of the supervision and control of all cultural activity, it does not draw any conclusions for a judgement according to International Law. For, as a matter of fact, no generally or specially valid rules concerning this field have ever been established; no sort of common law either developed in this sphere.

In this connection, it is interesting that in the text-books of International Law no attention at all - as far as I could find out - is paid to this problem. A certain number of text- books, however, especially those with a hint of natural law, regularly contain in their catalogues of fundamental International Law a section on national honour or national dignity. These chapters deduce from the equality of nations and their living together in a community governed by International Law the demand that the nations treat each other with respect. And they furthermore demand that insults directed against other countries by private persons from their own sphere of influence be prevented, and that if committed such excesses be punished. But this idea found its positive legal expression only in a number of national criminal codes in which - naturally in peace time only - the insulting of foreign chiefs of State, for instance, is made a punishable offence. Another doctrine, which is based less upon natural law, holds that this is not a question of legal obligation but one of international courtesy only. Be that as it may, an International Law precisely defined in some way does not exist, not even for times of peace, especially not as far as private propaganda through Press and writings is concerned. And as to war, any directive in this respect is lacking altogether as I have already pointed out. According to existing rules of International Law there are no limits to propaganda against foreign countries in time of war. Consequently, there is only one barrier to this propaganda, namely, the great barrier which governs all the rules of warfare that everything and only that is permitted "quod ad finem belli necessarium est".

In view of the tremendous importance of moral influence upon the will of individuals and nations, it is beyond doubt that propaganda can be an important and in certain cases even decisive means of war, not less important than, for instance, economic warfare or even warfare with weapons. Propaganda in this sense has a double task: Firstly, to serve as a means for increasing the power of resistance of one's own nation, and secondly, to undermine the fighting powers of the opponent. This influence - rosy-colouring on one side, slandering on the other, concealment of facts, etc. - is essentially nothing else but a stratagem which, within the framework of the rules of land warfare, has been expressly declared as a permissible instrument of warfare, according to Article 24 of the Hague Rules of Land Warfare. In this connection, it may be pointed out that spying - also a form of war stratagem - had likewise been declared as a permissible instrument of warfare by the Hague Rules of Land Warfare.

What has been said here is in complete accord with what is practised by all countries; defamation of the opponent and his statesmen, making the opponent contemptible, falsifying the motives and intentions of the enemy, slanderous assumptions, assertion of unproved statements, all this belongs unfortunately to the means of propaganda which during a war are used on all sides and at an increasing rate.

Small attacks, but only for the purpose of preventing war, are known from the time before the First World War. At that time they had an even further aim, namely, to contribute in general to an understanding among nations by means of a general moral and spiritual disarmament ("Desarmament moral"). However, this goal was not reached before the first world conflagration of this century. After 1918, it though, as a reaction after the great armed conflicts, this aim received a stronger uplift and became known to the world through the tasks imposed upon the League

[Page 333]

of Nations in this respect. This was indeed the first real attempt to start an intellectual disarmament. At the 5th session of the League of Nations in 1925 in Paris it was decided to found an institute for intellectual co-operation (co-operation intellectuelle).

Further investigations which lasted for years resulted in numerous proposals, in the establishment of general committees and sub-committees, of sections and committees of experts, with an incalculable wealth of documents. But nevertheless none of these great efforts converted the idealistic impulse and the longing of the nations for a "moral disarmament" and for intellectual co-operation into sober and concrete legislation which would have imposed legal obligations on the individual States as well as on their nationals. No results were achieved in pointing a way which in time of war would prevent hatred, incitement, distortion of facts, and provocation of other nations or of the nationals of other countries in all the possible modern forms of expression.

Even such well-defined and comprehensive propositions for a moral-intellectual disarmament as those presented by the Polish Government to the League of Nations in two memoranda of 17th September, 1931, and 13th February, 1932, had the same fate. These propositions aimed at using national legislation to prohibit any propaganda which might become dangerous for peace, and even any propaganda which aimed at a mere disturbance of the good relations between nations. Influence was to be exerted not only upon the big public news media but also upon the vast ramifications in the administration of every modern State, including even the revision of school-books. These propositions which advised member States not to recoil even from censorship and measures of prohibition finally came to nothing because they stood in direct contradiction to the deeply rooted conception that freedom of expression of opinion in intellectual matters could not be undermined by such exceptionally far-reaching police measures; this freedom of expression had to be preserved as an "inalienable right" granted by the Creator.

And this opposition on fundamental principles ended matters; we have in the course of the trial seen ample evidence of the effect which censorship and control of the Press, radio and films may have.

The few bilateral agreements which were concluded after the failure of the Polish propositions of 1931 and 1932 are not worth mentioning here. They concern themselves solely with periods of good international relations. We can only express the hope therefore that on the basis of international solidarity it will in the future be possible to reconcile these two opposing theses on a higher level.

In the course of this trial a secret order was produced which had been issued by the High Command of the Wehrmacht on 1st October, 1938. This document showed that the division for International Law in the OKW had drawn up a chart for the event of an armed conflict, and this chart listed the principles for dealing with any possible violation of the rules of warfare by friend and foe. With the knowledge of the legal vacuum existing in the field of propaganda in its broadest sense, it is stated there that from the point of view of International Law it is absolutely permissible to render the opponent contemptible and to try to undermine his strength "regardless of how many lies and falsehoods are used for this purpose", and that from the legal standpoint a rule for the future could even be established to the effect that if the enemy employed such propaganda, defence by means of "counter-attacks" would be legally possible, and "naturally the propagation of atrocity lies" must be used. This may sound cynical and brutal. But unfortunately it fitted in with the customs of war, or rather, this undisguised statement originated in the legal lacuna which could actually be found in international agreements and in common law. Dr. Kranzbuehler rightly stated here: In war the duty to tell the truth does not exist.

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