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-Eighthth Day: Saturday, 27th July, 1946
(Part 6 of 8)


[Page 458]

But it is above all the air of mystery which gives rise to the thought that something is happening which is contrary to justice and ethics and cannot therefore be defended by the Government. This point is continually stressed by simple people as well as in the numerous oral and written statements which come to us."
Frick's ears were deaf to pleas for justice and ethics such as that. A year later, in August, 1941, the Bishop of Limbourg wrote to the Reich Ministries of the Interior, of Justice and Church Affairs:
"About 8 km. from Limbourg in the little town of Hadamar, on a hill overlooking the town, there is an institution which formerly served various purposes and of late has been used as a nursing home. This institution was renovated and furnished as a place in which, by consensus of opinion, the above-mentioned euthanasia had been systematically practised for months, approximately since February, 1941. The fact has become known beyond the administrative district of Wiesbaden .... Several times a week buses arrive in Hadamar with considerable number of such victims. School children of the vicinity know this vehicle and say: 'There comes the murder box again.' After the arrival of the vehicles citizens of Hadamar watch the smoke rise out of the chimney and are tortured with the thoughts of the misery of the victims, especially when repulsive odours annoy them. The effects of the principles at work here are that children call each other names and say: 'You are crazy, you will be sent to the baking ovens in Hadamar.' Those who do not want to marry or find no opportunity say: 'Marry, never! Bring children into the world so that they can be put into the bottling machine!' You hear old folks say: 'Don't send me to a State Hospital: after the feeble- minded have been finished off the next useless eaters whose turn it will be are the old people' ... Officials of the Secret State Police, it is said, are trying to suppress discussion of the Hadamar occurrences by means of severe threats. In the interests of public peace this may be well intended, but the knowledge and the conviction and the indignation, of the population,

[Page 459]

cannot be changed by it. The conviction will be increased with the realization that discussion is prohibited with threats but that the actions themselves are not prosecuted under penal law. Facta loquantur."
If the common people of Germany knew and were complaining of these relatively insignificant murders, when the Ministries of Justice, of the Interior and of Church Affairs were receiving protests from the Bishops of two districts far removed from each other, on what was common knowledge in their dioceses, how much greater were the security problems of the Einsatz Commandos in the East. In May, 1942, an SS leader reporting to Berlin on a tour of inspection of the progress of the extermination drive wrote of the gas vans:
"By having small windows introduced, one on each side of the smaller van and two on each side of the bigger van, such as one sees often on peasants' houses in the country, I have had the vehicles in group D disguised to look like vans for living in. The cars are so well known that not only the authorities but also the civilian population allude to it as the 'Death Car' as soon as one of these vehicles appears. In my opinion even with camouflage it cannot be kept secret for any length of time."
Can these defendants have remained in ignorance? What peculiar dispensation of providence was there that protected them from knowledge of these matters, matters which were their concern?

This slaughter of the aged and imbeciles - the subject of gossip throughout Germany and of articles in the world Press - must have been known to every one of these men. How much more then must they have known of the concentration camps which, during those years, covered like a rash the whole of Germany and the occupied territories. If only they could acquiesce in the mercy killings, with what favour they must have regarded the extermination of the Jews.

In 1939 there had been six main concentration camps - Dachau, Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald, Mauthausen, Flossenburg and Ravensbruck. Frick's budget for the Ministry of the Interior for that year includes a sum of RM. 21,155,000 for armed SS and concentration camps - no less than a fifth of the total budget. By April, 1942, there had been added to those six camps nine more, and more were to follow afterwards.

But these were only the core of the system. Like planets, each of them had its attendant satellites. Ziereis has given you some idea of the extent of this system. He describes the subsidiary camps that were based on Mauthausen alone. Thirty- three of them he mentioned by name, giving the numbers of prisoners at each - a total of over 102,000. Besides those thirty-three, there were another forty-five, also all under the authority of the Mauthausen commandant.

You have seen the map of Europe showing the location of as many of these main subsidiary concentration camps as are known. Over 300 of them are marked on that map.

By August, 1944, there was a total of 1,136,000 prisoners, which included 90,000 from Hungary, 60,000 from the police prison and ghetto of Litzmannstadt, 15,000 Poles from the Government General, 10,000 convicts from Eastern territories, 17,000 former Polish officers, 400,000 Poles from Warsaw, and between 15,000 - 20,000 continually arriving from France.

These were only the physically fit and therefore permanent residents - permanent, at least, until through physical exhaustion their productive capacity was no longer worth the nuisance that their continued existence meant. Then they took their place in the daily detail for the gas chambers.

Day after day the chimneys of the crematoria belched their nauseating stench over the countryside. When the Bishop of Limbourg could write to Frick of the repulsive odours from the comparatively insignificant ovens at Hadamar, can we doubt the evidence of Hoess that I mentioned?

[Page 460]

"The foul and nauseating stench from the continuous burning of bodies permeated the entire area and all the people living in the surrounding communities knew that exterminations were going on at Auschwitz."
Day after day trainloads of victims travelled over the railways of the whole Reich on their way to the extermination centres or their own slavery. Many arrived dying and even dead through the appalling conditions under which they journeyed. An official at the railway station at Essen has described the arrival of workers from Poland, Galicia and the Ukraine:
"They came in goods wagons in which potatoes, building materials and also cattle had been transported. The trucks were jammed full with people. My personal view was that it was inhuman to transport people in such a manner. The people were squashed closely together and they had no room for free movement. It was enraging to every decent German to see how the people were beaten and kicked and generally maltreated in a brutal manner. In the very beginning, as the first transports arrived, we could see how inhumanly these people were treated. Every wagon was so over-full that it was incredible that such a number could be jammed into one wagon .... The clothing of prisoners of war and civilian workers was catastrophic. It was ragged and ripped and the footwear was the same. In some cases they had to go to work with rags round their feet. Even in the worst weather and bitterest cold I have never seen that any of the wagons were heated."
Those men were not destined for concentration camps, that was certain. How much worse the conditions of those who were! Great columns, too, trekked on foot along the highways of the Reich. They walked until they could walk no more; then they died by the side of the road. Ziereis, Commandant of Mauthausen, in his dying confession said:
"In the presence of Baldur von Schirach and others I received the following order from Himmler:
"'All Jews of localities in the south-east, working on the so-called fortification commands, are to be sent on foot to Mauthausen.'
"In consequence of this order we were expecting to receive 60,000 Jews at Mauthausen, but in fact only a small fraction of this number arrived. I remember that out of one convoy of 4,500 Jews which started out from somewhere in the country, only 180 arrived. The women and children had been without shoes and clothes and were very verminous. In that convoy complete families had started out together but an immense number had died on the way from exposure, weakness, etc."
Now whatever may have been hidden from view behind the stockades of the concentration camps, these things were open for all to see. Every one of these defendants must have seen them and the thousands of concentration camp prisoners working in the fields and factories adorned in their striped pyjamas - a uniform that was as familiar as any other in Germany.

How possibly could any one of these defendants, had he even a spark of human pity, have continued to take active part in support of a system that was responsible for such suffering? But they had no pity - and by their ideology and teaching they had deprived the German people of pity.

Ziereis describes the frightful end that Kaltenbrunner contemplated for the concentration camps and their inmates when the advancing Allied armies brought with them the danger of capturing those dumps and of disclosing the guilt of the Nazi Government:

"Prisoners were to be led into the tunnels of the factory Bergkristall and the only entrance was to be blown up by the use of explosive and the death of the prisoners was to be effected in this manner."
Even Ziereis, murderer of Mauthausen's 65,000 dead, objected to and refused that order.

[Page 461]

That evidence is corroborated beyond question by the written order issued by the Commandant of the SIPO and SD in the Government General, which has been put in as evidence:
"Should the situation at the front necessitate it, early preparations are to be made for the total clearance of prisoners. Should, the situation develop suddenly, in such a way that it is impossible to evacuate the prisoners, the present inmates are to be liquidated and their bodies disposed of as far as possible (burning, blowing up the building, etc.). If necessary, Jews still employed in the armament industry or on other work are to be dealt with in the same way. The liberation of prisoners or Jews by the enemy, be it the Western enemies or the Red Army, must be avoided under all circumstances. Nor may they fall into their hands alive."
And Kaltenbrunner himself saw to it that these orders should be carried out. With this evidence before us, there can be only one meaning to that teleprint message which was found among his papers on his arrest:
"Please inform the Reichsfuehrer SS and report to the Fuehrer that all arrangements against Jews, political and concentration camp internees in the Protectorate have been taken care of by me personally today."
The proposition which you are asked to accept is that a man who was either a Minister or a leading executive in a State which, within the space of six years, transported in horrible conditions some 7,000,000 men, women and children for labour, exterminated 275,000 of its own aged and mentally infirm and annihilated in the gas chambers or by shooting what must, at the lowest computation be 12,000,000 people, remained ignorant of or irresponsible for these crimes. You are asked to accept that the horrors of the transports, of the conditions of this slave labour, deployed as it was in labour camps throughout the country, the smell of the burning bodies, all of which were known to the world, were not known to these twenty-one men by whose orders such things were done. When they spoke or wrote in support of this horrible policy of genocide you are asked to accept that their utterances were made in ignorance of the facts, as part of their general duty to support the policy of their Government, or finally, should be regarded merely as tactical - that is to say, that only by talking or writing in such a way could they divert Hitler from cruelty or aggression. It is for you to decide.

Goering, Hess, Ribbentrop, Keitel, Kaltenbrunner, Rosenberg, Frank, Frick, Streicher, Funk, Schacht, Donitz, Raeder, Schirach, Sauckel, Jodl, Von Papen, Seyss-Inquart, Speer, Von Neurath, Fritzsche, Bormann - these are the guilty men.

Let me make brief comments upon each one of them, but in particular upon those whose close complicity in the most sordid crimes of all, the bestial murders, has possibly been less manifest.

Goering's responsibility in all these matters is scarcely to be denied. Behind his spurious air of bonhomie, he was as great an architect as any in this satanic system. Who, apart from Hitler, had more knowledge of what was going on, or greater influence to affect its course? The conduct of government in the Nazi State, the gradual build-up of the organization for war, the calculated aggression, the atrocities - these things do not occur spontaneously or without the closest co-operation between the holders of the various offices of State. Men do not advance into foreign territory, pull the trigger, drop their bombs, build the gas chambers, collect the victims, unless they are organized and ordered to do it. Crimes on the national and systematic scale which occurred here must involve anyone who forms a part of the necessary chain, since without that participation, plans for aggression here, mass murder there, would become quite impossible. The Fuehrer principle by which the Nazis placed their bodies and their very souls at the disposal of their leader was the creation of the Nazi Party, and of these men. When I addressed you at the opening of this trial, I remarked that there comes a time when a man must choose between his conscience and his leader. No one who

[Page 462]

chose, as these men did, to abdicate their consciences in favour of this monster of their own creation can complain now if they are held responsible for complicity in what that monster did.

And least of all, Hess. The role Hess played in the Nazi Party is well established. But not content with creating the monster, he aided it in every aspect of its monstrous work.

I mention only one instance. You will recall, in connection with the extermination of the Eastern peoples, his direction to Party officials to support recruitment for the Waffen SS. He said:

"It consists of National Socialists who are more suitable than other armed units for the specific tasks to be solved in the occupied Eastern territories, owing to their intensive, National Socialist training in regard to questions of race and nationality."
Ribbentrop's part, also, is clear. No one in history has so debauched diplomacy: no one been guilty of meaner treachery. But he, like the rest of them, is just a common murderer. Ribbentrop it was who, since 1940, had been directing the minions in his embassy and legations throughout Europe to accelerate the execution of such "political measures," that is, measures of racial extermination. It was not Himmler, but the Reich Foreign Minister, who proudly reported to the Duce in February, 1943, that:
"All Jews had been transported from Germany and from the territories occupied by her to reserves in the East."
His bald recommendations to Horthy two months later and the record of the conference called by Steengracht, his permanent Under Secretary of State, betray the meaning of these ghastly euphemisms.

No one was more insistent on merciless action in the occupied territories than Ribbentrop. You will remember his advice to the Italians on how to deal with strikes:

"In such a case only merciless action is any good. In the occupied territories we would not get anywhere with soft measures in the endeavour to reach an agreement."
Advice which he proceeded to reinforce by referring with pride to the successes of "brutal measures" in Norway, "brutal action" in Greece, and in France and Poland the success of "Draconian measures".

Were Keitel and Jodl less involved in murder than their confederates? They cannot deny knowledge of or responsibility for the operations of the Einsatz Commandos with whom their own commanders were working in close and cordial co-operation. The attitude of the High Command to the whole question is typified by Jodl's remark about the evacuation of Danish Jews:

"I know nothing of this. If a political measure is to be carried out by the Commander, Denmark, the OKW must be notified by the Foreign Office."
You cannot disguise murder by calling it a political measure.

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