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-Seventh Day: Friday, 26th July, 1946
(Part 6 of 12)

[Mr. JUSTICE R. H. JACKSON continues.]

[Page 404]

It may well be said that Hitler's final crime was against the land he had ruled. He was a mad "messiah" who started the war without cause and prolonged it without reason. If he could not rule he cared not what happened to Germany. As Fritzsche has told us from the stand, Hitler tried to use the defeat of Germany for the self-destruction of the German people. (154.) He continued the fight when he knew it could not be won, and continuance meant only ruin. Speer, in this courtroom, has described it as follows:
"... The sacrifices which were made on both sides after January, 1945, were senseless. The dead of this period will be the accusers of the man responsible for the continuation of that fight, Adolf Hitler, and the ruined cities which in this last phase lost tremendous cultural values and in which a colossal number of dwellings were destroyed .... The German people remained faithful to Adolf Hitler until the end. He betrayed them knowingly. He finally tried to throw them into the abyss ...." (155.)
Hitler ordered everyone else to fight to the last and then retreated into death by his own hand. But he left life as he lived it, a deceiver; he left the official report that he had died in battle. This was the man whom these defendants exalted to a Fuehrer. It was they who conspired to get him absolute authority over all of Germany. And in the end he and the system they had created for him brought the ruin of them all. As stated by Speer in cross-examination:
"... the tremendous danger of the totalitarian system, however, only became really clear at the moment when we were approaching the end. It was then that one could see what the principle really meant, namely, that every order should be carried out without criticism. Everything that has become known during this trial, especially with regard to orders which were carried out without any consideration, has proved how evil it .was in the end.... Quite apart from the personality of Hitler, on the collapse of the totalitarian system in Germany it became clear what tremendous dangers there are in a system of that kind. The combination of Hitler and this system has brought about these tremendous catastrophes in the world." (156.)
But let me for a moment turn devil's advocate. I admit that Hitler was the chief villain. But for the defendants to put all blame on him is neither manly nor true. We know that even the head of the State has the same limits to his senses and to the hours of his days as do lesser men. He must rely on others to

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be his eyes and ears as to most that goes on in a great empire. Other legs must run his errands; other hands must execute his plans. On whom did Hitler rely for such things more than upon these men in the dock? Who led him to believe he had an invincible air armada if not Goering? Who kept disagreeable facts from him? Did not Goering forbid Field- Marshal Milch to warn Hitler that in his opinion Germany was not equal to the war upon Russia? (157.) Did not Goering, according to Speer, relieve General Gallant of his air force command for speaking of the weaknesses and bungling of the air force? (158.) Who led Hitler, utterly untravelled himself, to believe in the indecision and timidity of democratic peoples if not Ribbentrop, von Neurath, and von Papen? Who fed his illusion of German invincibility if not Keitel, Jodl, Raeder, and Donitz? Who kept his hatred of the Jews inflamed more than Streicher and Rosenberg? Who would Hitler say deceived him about conditions in concentration camps if not Kaltenbrunner, even as he would deceive us? These men had access to Hitler and often could control the information that reached him and on which he must base his policy and his orders. They were the Praetorian Guard, and while they were under Caesar's orders, Caesar was always in their hands.

If these dead men could take the witness stand and answer what has been said against them, we might have a less distorted picture of the parts played by these defendants. Imagine the stir that would occur in the dock if it should behold Adolf Hitler advancing to the witness box, or Himmler with an armful of dossiers, or Goebbels, or Bormann with the reports of his Party spies, or the murdered Roehm or Canaris. The ghoulish defence that the world is entitled to retribution only from the cadavers is an argument worthy of the crimes at which it is directed.

We have presented to this Tribunal an affirmative case based on incriminating documents which are sufficient, if unexplained, to require a finding of guilt on Count One against each defendant. In the final analysis, the only question is whether the defendants' own testimony is to be credited as against the documents and other evidence of their guilt. What, then, is their testimony worth?

The fact is that the Nazi habit of economising in the use of truth pulls the foundations out from under their own defences. Lying has always been a highly approved Nazi technique. Hitler, in Mein Kampf, advocated mendacity as a policy. Von Ribbentrop admits the use of the "diplomatic lie". (159.) Keitel advised that the facts of rearmament be kept secret so that they could be denied at Geneva. (160.) Raeder deceived about rebuilding the German Navy in violation of Versailles. (161.) Goering urged Ribbentrop to tell a "legal lie" to the British Foreign Office about the Anschluss, and in so doing only marshalled him the way he was going. (162.) Goering gave his word of honour to the Czechs and proceeded to break it. (163.) Even Speer proposed to deceive the French into revealing the specially trained among their prisoners. (164.)

Nor is the lie direct the only means of falsehood. They all speak with a Nazi double meaning with which to deceive the unwary. In the Nazi dictionary of sardonic euphemisms "Final solution" of the Jewish problem was a phrase which meant extermination; "Special treatment" of prisoners of war meant killing; "Protective custody" meant concentration camp; "Duty labour" meant slave labour; and an order to "take a firm attitude" or "take positive measures" meant to act with unrestrained savagery. Before we accept their word at what seems to be its face value, we must always look for hidden meanings. Goering assured us, on his oath, that the Reich Defence Council never met "as such". (165.) When we produced the stenographic minutes of a meeting at which he presided and did most of the talking, he reminded us of the "as such" and explained this was not a meeting of the Council "as such" because other persons were present. (166.) Goering denies "threatening" Czechoslovakia. He only told President Hacha that he would "hate to bomb the beautiful city of Prague". (167.)

[Page 406]

Besides outright false statements and those with double meanings, there are also other circumventions of truth in the nature of fantastic explanations and absurd professions. Streicher has solemnly maintained that his only thought with respect to the Jews was to resettle them on the island of Madagascar. (168.) His reason for destroying synagogues, he blandly said, was only because they were architecturally offensive. (169.) Rosenberg was stated by his counsel to have always had in mind a "chivalrous solution" to the Jewish problem. (170.) When it was necessary to remove Schuschnigg after the Anschluss, Ribbentrop would have had us believe that the Austrian Chancellor was resting at a "villa". It was left to cross-examination to reveal that the "villa" was Buchenwald concentration camp. (171.) The record is full of other examples of dissimulations and evasions. Even Schacht showed that he, too, had adopted the Nazi attitude that truth is any story which succeeds. Confronted on cross-examination with a long record of broken vows and false words, he declared in justification - and I quote from the record:
"I think you can score many more successes when you want to lead someone if you don't tell them the truth than if you tell them the truth." (172.)
This was the philosophy of the National Socialists. When for years they have deceived the world, and masked falsehood with plausibilities, can anyone be surprised that they continue that habit of a lifetime in this dock? Credibility is one of the main issues of this trial. Only those who have failed to learn the bitter lessons of the last decade can doubt that men who have always played on the unsuspecting credulity of generous opponents would not hesitate to do the same now.

It is against such a background that these defendants now ask this Tribunal to say that they are not guilty of planning, executing, or conspiring to commit this long list of crimes and wrongs. They stand before the record of this trial as bloodstained Gloucester stood by the body of his slain King. He begged of the widow, as they beg of you: "Say I slew them not." And the Queen replied, "Then say they were not slain. But dead they are ...." If you were to say of these men that they are not guilty, it would be as true to say that there has been no war, there are no slain, there has been no crime.

THE PRESIDENT: I call upon the Chief Prosecutor for the United Kingdom of Great Britain.

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: Would it be agreeable, your Honours, if Sir Hartley Shawcross should start his address after the recess?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Then we will sit again at a quarter to two.

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: And may I add this for the purpose of the record. I have filed with the Tribunal and furnished to counsel copies of the summation with footnotes to the record. [NB. See appendix.] These footnotes are designed, of course, to direct the attention of adversaries and of the Tribunal to the supporting data in the record. I thought they might be helpful in reading it.


THE PRESIDENT: I call on the Chief Prosecutor of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

SIR HARTLEY SHAWCROSS: May it please the Tribunal; like my distinguished colleague whose succinct, able and eloquent speech I cannot hope to emulate, I desire on behalf of the British Prosecutors at this trial to lay before the Tribunal some comment, I am afraid it is of some length, on those salient and outstanding features of the evidence which, in our submission, make clear the guilt of these defendants. Although throughout these proceedings the representatives of the prosecuting powers have worked in the closest co- operation and

[Page 407]

agreement and although there are certain matters which I shall be laying before the Tribunal on behalf of all of us, we all thought it right at this final stage, even at the cost of some inevitable repetition and overlapping, that we should prepare our final submissions quite independently, so that the Tribunal and our own countries might know exactly the grounds on which we seek the condemnation of these men; and if it turns out that several of us point to the same evidence or reach similar conclusions, as no doubt it will, that very coincidence reached independently may perhaps add force to our submissions that each of these defendants is legally guilty.

I say "legally guilty".

That these defendants participated in and are morally guilty of crimes so frightful that the imagination staggers and reels back at their very contemplation is not in doubt. Let the words of the defendant Frank, which were repeated to you this morning, be well remembered: Thousands of years will pass and this guilt of Germany will not be erased". Total and totalitarian war, waged in defiance of solemn undertakings and in breach of treaties; great cities, from Coventry to Stalingrad, reduced to rubble, the countryside laid waste, and now the inevitable aftermath of war so fought - hunger and disease stalking through the world; millions of people homeless, maimed, bereaved. And in their graves, crying out, not for vengeance but that this shall not happen again, ten million who might be living in peace and happiness at this hour, soldiers, sailors, airmen and civilians killed in battles that ought never to have been.

Nor was that the only or the greatest crime. In all our countries when, perhaps in the heat of passion or for other motives which impair restraint, some individual is killed, the murder becomes a sensation, our compassion is aroused, nor do we rest until the criminal is punished and the rule of law is vindicated. Shall we do less when not one but on the lowest computation twelve million men, women and children are done to death. Not in battle, not in passion, but in the cold, calculated, deliberate attempt to destroy nations and races, to disintegrate the traditions, the institutions and the very existence of free and ancient States. Twelve million murders. Two-thirds of the Jews in Europe exterminated, more than six million of them on the killers' own figures. Murder conducted like some mass- production industry in the gas chambers and the ovens of Auschwitz, Dachau, Treblinka, Buchenwald, Mauthausen, Maidanek and Oranienburg.

And is the world to overlook the revival of slavery in Europe, slavery on a scale which involved 7,000,000 men, women and children taken from their homes, treated as beasts, starved, beaten and murdered?

It may be that the guilt of Germany will not be erased, for the people of Germany share it in large measure, but it was these men who, with a handful of others, brought that guilt upon Germany and perverted the German people. "It is my guilt" - confessed the defendant Schirach - "that I educated the German youth for a man who committed murders a millionfold."

For such crimes these men might well have been proceeded against by summary executive action, and had the treatment which they had been parties to meting out against so many millions of innocent people been meted out to them, they could hardly have complained. But this Tribunal is to adjudge their guilt not on any moral or ethical basis alone, but according to law. That natural justice which demands that these crimes should not go unpunished, at the same time insists that no individual should be punished unless patient and careful examination of the facts shows that he shared the guilt for what has been done. And so, during these many months, this Tribunal has been investigating the facts, and has now to apply the law in order both that justice may be done to these individuals as to their countless victims, and also that the world may know that, in the end, the predominance of power will be driven out and law and justice shall govern the relations between States.

[Page 408]

For the effects of this trial will reach out far beyond the punishment of a score or so of guilty men. Issues are at stake far greater than their fate, although upon their fate those issues, in some measure, depend. In the pages of history it will count for nothing whether this trial lasted for two months or for ten. But it will count for much that by just and patient examination the truth has been established about deeds so terrible that their mark may never be erased, and it will count for much that law and justice have been vindicated in the end.

Within the space of a year evidence far exceeding that previously presented to any Tribunal in history has been collected, sifted and placed before you. Almost all that evidence consists of the captured records and documents of the Government to which these men belonged, and much of it directly implicates each one of them with knowledge of, and participation in, one or other aspect of the crimes committed by the Nazi State. This evidence has not been refuted and it will remain for ever to confront those who may hereafter seek to excuse or mitigate that which has been done. Yet now that this mass of evidence has been presented to you, I shall invite you for a little to detach your minds from its detail to consider the cumulative effect and to review this overwhelming case as a whole. It is only by chance that their own captured papers have enabled us to establish these crimes out of the very mouths of the criminals. But the case against these men can be established on a broader basis than that, and must be looked at in the light of its historical background.

When one considers the nature and the immensity of the crimes committed, the responsibility of those who held the highest positions of influence and authority in the Nazi State is manifest beyond doubt. For years, in a world where war had itself been declared a crime, the German State was organized for war; in a world where we proclaim the equality of men, for years the Jews were boycotted, deprived of their elementary rights of property, liberty, life itself; for years honest citizens lived in fear of denunciation and arrest by one or other of the organizations, criminal as we allege them to be, through which these men ruled Germany; for years throughout the German Reich millions of foreign slaves worked in farm and factory, were moved like cattle on every road, on every railway line.

These men, with Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels and a few other confederates, were at once the leaders and the drivers of the German people; it was when they held the highest positions of authority and of influence that these crimes were planned and perpetrated. If these men are not responsible, who are? If minions who did no more than obey their orders, Dostler, Eck, Kramer and a hundred others, have already paid the supreme penalty, are these men less responsible? How can it be said that they and the offices of State which they directed took no part? Lammers, their own witness, Head of the Reich Chancellery, said in 1938:

"Despite the total basic concentration of power of authority in the person of the Fuehrer, no excessively strong and unnecessary centralisation of administration in the hands of the Fuehrer results in the governmental administration ... The subordinate leaders, the Unterfuehrer authority directed downwards, forbids interference with every individual order he may issue. This principle is manipulated by the Fuehrer in his governmental leadership in such a way that, for example, the position of Reich Ministers is actually much more independent today than formerly, even though today the Reich Ministers are subordinated to the Fuehrer's unlimited power of command. Willingness to bear responsibility, ability to make decisions, aggressive energy and real authority - these are the qualities which the Fuehrer demands primarily of his subordinate leaders. Therefore he allows them the greatest freedom in the execution of their affairs and in the manner in which they fulfil their tasks."
Let them now, accused murderers as they are, attempt to belittle the power and influence they exercised. how they will, we have only to recall their ranting,

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as they strutted across the stage of Europe dressed in their brief authority, to see the part they played. They did not then tell the German people or the world that they were merely the ignorant, powerless puppets of their Fuehrer. The defendant Speer has said:
"Even in a totalitarian system there must be total responsibility ... it is impossible after the catastrophe to evade this total responsibility. If the war had been won, the leaders would also have assumed total responsibility."

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