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 7 of 12)


[Page 409]

Had the war been won is it to be supposed that these men would have retired to the obscurity and comparative innocence of private citizenship? That opportunity was not denied to them before the war, had they wished to dissociate themselves from what was taking place. They chose a different path. From small beginnings, at a time when resistance instead of participation could have destroyed this thing, they fostered the Hitler legend, they helped to build up the Nazi power and ideology and to direct its activities until, like some foul octopus, it spread its slime over Europe and extended its tentacles throughout the world. Were these men ignorant of the ends sought to be achieved during that period of the rise to power? Paul Schmidt, Hitler's interpreter, a witness of great knowledge, has testified:
"The general objectives of National Socialism were known from the start - namely, the domination of the European continent, to be achieved first by the incorporation of all German-speaking groups into the Reich, and secondly, by territorial expansion under the slogan of 'Lebensraum'."
That slogan "Lebensraum" - that entirely false idea that the very existence of the German people depended upon territorial expansion under the Nazi flag - was from the earliest days an openly avowed part of the Nazi doctrine - yet any thinking person must have known that it would lead inevitably to war.

It was the justification Hitler offered to his fellow- conspirators at those secret meetings on the 5th November, 1937, 23rd May and 23rd November, 1939, at which the fate of so many countries was sealed.

Although less concrete it was no less false than the demand for a revision of the Treaty of Versailles. The so-called injustice of Versailles, so cunningly exploited to provide a popular rallying-point under the Nazi banner, had succeeded in uniting behind the Nazis many Germans who would not otherwise have supported some of the rest of the Nazi programme.

And the effect of that propaganda can be judged from the repeated efforts here made by the defence to develop the alleged injustice of the Treaty. Unjust or not, it was a treaty, and no government content to live at peace need have complained of its provisions. Even if the complaints were justified, there was comparatively soon no ground left for them. The provisions of the Treaty could have been - in some respects they were - revised by peaceful negotiations. By 1935, four years before the world was plunged into war, these men had publicly renounced the Treaty, and by 1939 not only were they free of nearly all the restrictions of which they had complained, but they had seized territory which had never belonged to Germany in the whole of European history. The cry of Versailles was a device for rallying men to wicked and aggressive purposes. But it was a device less diabolical than the cry of anti-Semitism and racial purity, by which these men sought both to rally and cement the various forms of public opinion in their own country and to sow discord and antagonism amongst the people of foreign lands. Rauschning reports Hitler's statement:

"Anti-Semitism is a useful revolutionary expedient. Anti- Semitic propaganda in all countries is an almost indispensable medium in the extension of our political campaign. You will see how little time we shall need in order to upset the ideas and criteria of the whole world, simply and solely by attacking Judaism. It is beyond question, the most important weapon in my propaganda arsenal."

[Page 410]

And as a result of this wicked propaganda, I would remind you of the words of Bach Zelewski who, when he was asked how Ohlendorf could admit that the men under his command had murdered 90,000 people, replied:
"I am of the opinion that if for decades a doctrine is preached to the effect that the Slav race is an inferior race and Jews not even human at all, then such an explosion is inevitable."
And so, from the earliest day, the aims of the Nazi movement were clear and beyond doubt: expansion, European domination, elimination of the Jews; ultimate aggression, ruthless disregard of the rights of any people but themselves.

Such were the beginnings. I shall not pause to trace the Nazi Party's growth to power; how, as the writer of the history of the SA has said, they found that:

"Possession of the streets is the key to power in the State."
or how, by the organized terror which the witness Severing has described, the storm troops of Blackshirts terrified the people whilst the Nazi propaganda, headed by Der Sturmer, vilified all opponents and incited people against the Jews.

I shall not examine that period, grave as are the lessons which democratic peoples ought to learn from it, for it may not be easy to say exactly at what date each of these defendants must have realised, if, indeed, he had not known and gloried in it all from the beginning - that Hitler's apparently hysterical outpourings in Mein Kampf were intended in all seriousness and that they formed the very basis of the German plan. Some, no doubt, such as Goering, Hess, Ribbentrop, Rosenberg, Streicher, Frick, Frank, Schacht, Schirach and Fritzsche realised it very early. In the case of one or two, such as Donitz and Speer, it may have been comparatively late. Few can have been ignorant after 1933: all must have been active participants by 1937. When one remembers the apprehension caused abroad during that period there can be no doubt, in our submission, that these men, almost all of whom were the rulers of Germany from 1933 onwards, Hitler's intimate associates, admitted to his secret meetings, with full knowledge of plans and events, not only acquiesced in what was taking place but were active and willing participants.

May I then examine in a little more detail the period of the "build-up" - the position of domestic government in Germany between 1933 and 1939; because what happened then makes clear the criminal involvement of these men in what was done later. What I say now has some special reference to the first Count in the Indictment, for it is against this general background that must be considered the allegation that these men were common conspirators to commit the crimes (such as Crimes Against Peace, and the Crime Against Humanity) which are more specifically charged in the later counts.

Totalitarian government brooks no opposition. Any means justifies the end, and the immediate end was ruthlessly to gain complete control of the German State and to brutalise and train its people for war. What stood in the way in January, 1933? Firstly, the members of the other political parties; secondly, the democratic system of election and of public assembly, the organization of trade unions; thirdly, the moral standards of the German people, and the Churches which fostered them. Accordingly, the Nazis set out, quite deliberately, to eliminate this opposition firstly, by imprisoning or terrorising their opponents; secondly, by declaring illegal all elements of tolerance and liberalism, outlawing trade unions and opposition parties, reducing the democratic assembly to a farce and controlling elections; thirdly, by systematic discouragement and persecution of religion, by replacing the ethics of Christianity with the idolatry of the Fuehrer and the cult of the blood and by rigidly controlling education and youth. Youth was systematically prepared for war and taught to hate and persecute the Jews; the plans for aggression required a nation trained in brutality, and taught that it was both necessary and heroic to invade other countries.

[Page 411]

it is a measure of the wickedness and effectiveness of this domestic policy that, after six years of rule, the Nazis found little difficulty in leading a perverted nation into the greatest criminal enterprise in history. It is perhaps worth considering from the evidence a few examples of how this policy developed during these six years. They are examples of what was happening in every German town and village: it must be remembered here that in the need to avoid cumulative evidence you have, in the result, been deprived of its cumulative effect.

First, then, the elimination of political opponents. Within six weeks of the Nazis coming to power in January, 1933, the German newspapers were quoting official sources for the statement that 18,000 Communists had been imprisoned whilst the 10,000 prisoners in the jails of Prussia included many Socialists and intellectuals. The fate of many of these men was described by Severing, who estimated that at least 1,500 Social Democrats and a similar number of Communists were murdered in concentration camps recently established by Goering as Chief of the Gestapo.

These camps, controlled by the Party organizations, were deliberately so run as to strike terror throughout the country. In the words of the witness Severing, the concentration camps represented for the people "the incarnation of all the terrible".

Goering has said:

"We found it necessary that we should permit no opposition to us,"
and he admitted that there were arrested and taken into protective custody people who had committed no crime.

It might have been well if at that time they had read the maxim of which they spoke yesterday, nulla poena sine lege. Goering added:

"If everyone knows that if he acts against the State he will end up in a concentration camp ... that is to our advantage."
The camps were at first run indiscriminately by the SA and the SS, and according to Goering were created "as an instrument which at all times was the inner political instrument of power".

Gisevius, who at that time had recently joined the Gestapo, you remember, gave the following description:

"I was hardly more than two days in that new police office when I had discovered already that incredible conditions existed there. There was no police which interfered against crimes, against murder, against arrests, against burglary. There was a police organization which protected just those who committed such crimes. Those arrested were not those who were guilty of such crimes, they arrested those who sent their cries for help to the police. It was not a police which interfered for protection but a police whose task, it seemed, was in fact to hide, to cover up and to sponsor crimes; those commandos of the SA and SS who played police were encouraged by that so-called Secret State Police and all possible aid was given to them ....

Special concentration camps for the Gestapo were installed, and their names will remain for a terrible shame in history. They were Oranienburg and the private prison of the Gestapo, in the Papenstrasse, the Columbia House, or, as it was called cynically, the 'Columbia Diele' .... I asked one of my colleagues, who was also a professional civil servant ... 'Tell me, please; am I here in a police office or in a robbers' cave?' The answer that I received was: 'You are in a burglars' cave and you can expect that you will see much more yet."'

Gisevius went on to describe Goering's order to murder the National Socialist Strasser, and how he gave "blank warrants" for murder to the political police, by signing a form granting amnesty to the policeman, leaving a blank space for the name of the murdered person in respect of whom the amnesty had been granted.

[Page 412]

If confirmation of the evidence of these defence witnesses were required, it is to be found in the series of reports dated in May and June, 1933, from the Munich Public Prosecutor to the Minister of Justice, which are in evidence recording a succession of murders by SS officials in the concentration camp at Dachau.

In 1935 the Reich Minister of Justice is writing to Frick. He is protesting against numerous instances of ill-treatment in concentration camps including:

"Beating as a disciplinary punishment ... ill-treatment mostly of political internees in order to make them talk" and "ill-treatment of internees arising out of sheer fun or sadistic motives".
He went on to complain that "the beating of the Communists held in custody is regarded as an indispensable police measure for a more effective suppression of Communist activities ". And after citing instances of torture, he concludes:
"These few examples show a degree of cruelty which is an insult to every German sensibility."
Frick's sensibility was apparently not so tender - the very next year he received a similar protest from one of his own subordinates and shortly afterwards he issued a decree making all police forces subordinate to Himmler, the very man whom he knew to be responsible for these atrocities.

These brutalities, well known to Ministers, as we suggest they were, were not confined to the privacy of concentration camps. It is perhaps worth quoting one instance from the thousands who suffered from the policy which was being pursued.

The Tribunal will remember the account by Sollmann, a Social Democrat, and member of the Reichstag from 1919 to 1933. He spoke of the incident on 9th March, 1933, when, to quote his own words:

"Members of the SS and SA came to my home in Cologne and destroyed the furniture and my personal records. At that time I was taken to the Brown House in Cologne, where I was tortured, being beaten and kicked for several hours. I was then taken to the regular Government prison in Cologne where I was treated by two medical doctors and released the next day. On 11th March, 1933, I left Germany."
The second object, the suppression of all democratic institutions, was comparatively simple. The necessary laws were passed to outlaw trade unions: the Reichstag became a farce directly the opposition parties had been dissolved and their members had been put in concentration camps. The witness Severing has spoken of the treatment of the Reichstag members. In 1932, on von Papen's order, he, who was chief of the Prussian Ministry of the Interior, was forcibly removed from his office. It was not long after the 30th January, 1933, that the Communist and Social Democratic parties were decreed illegal and all form of public expression, other than by the Nazis, was prevented. This action resulted from deliberate planning. Frick had said as long before as 1927:
"The National Socialists longed for the day when they could put an inglorious but well-deserved end to this infernal sham of a parliament and open the way for a racial dictatorship."
At this time, when democratic government is seeking to re- establish itself throughout the world, the Nazi attitude to elections is not to be forgotten. Free elections could not, of course, be permitted. Goering had told Schacht in February, 1933, when seeking money for the Party from industry:
"The sacrifices asked for will surely be so much easier for industry to bear if it is realised that the election of 5th March will be the last one for the next ten years, probably for the next hundred years."
In these circumstances it is not surprising to find that thereafter, as the evidence such as the SD report on the conduct of the plebiscite at Kappel makes clear; the occasional votes of the people, always announced as triumphs for the Nazis, were conducted dishonestly.

[Page 413]

I turn to the third class of opposition, the Churches. Bormann's memorandum, sent in December, 1941, to all Gauleiter and distributed to the SS, sums up the Nazi attitude to Christianity:
"National Socialist and Christian concepts are irreconcilable .... If therefore in the future our youth learn nothing more of this Christianity whose doctrines are far below ours, Christianity will disappear by itself ... All influences which might impair or damage the leadership of the people exercised by the Fuehrer with the aid of NSDAP must be eliminated. More and more the people must be separated from the Churches and their organs, the pastors."
The persecution of the Churches makes a melancholy story. From the abundance of evidence which has been submitted to the Tribunal it is perhaps permissible to quote from a complaint to Frick made early in 1936:
"Lately half the political police reports concern clerical matters. We have untold petitions from all kinds of cardinals, bishops and dignitaries of the Church. Most of these complaints concern matters under the jurisdiction of the Reich Ministry of the Interior, although the respective rules were not decreed by it ..."
And then, after referring to the chaos resulting from the division of authority between the various police forces, the report goes on to refer to the results of the religious struggle:
"Instances of gross disturbances of congregations are mounting terribly fast lately, often necessitating the intervention of the emergency squad .... After discarding the rubber truncheon, the idea of exposing executive officials to situations in which during gross interruption of meetings they may be forced to use cold steel, is unbearable."

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