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 8 of 8)


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In 1934 Papen was writing sycophantic letters to Hitler and shortly afterwards we find him in Austria working for a man he knows to be a murderer undermining a regime for which he professed outward friendship. Even after the Anschluss he was still working for a regime which he knew used murder as an instrument of policy and after losing yet another secretary by murder he was ready to accept a post in Turkey. The Concordat with his own Church which he had himself negotiated is treated as "a scrap of paper", to use his own words, and Catholics from archbishops to simple believers were outraged. He has said:
"Hitler was the greatest crook that ever lived."
The case for the prosecution in a sentence is that, knowing this only too well, von Papen gave Hitler his support and co- operation because his greed for power and office made it "better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven".

Defence counsel have sought to portray Papen as an advocate of peace. If he preferred to attain the objects of the conspiracy by the methods of assassination, bullying and blackmail rather than open war, the reason may be that provided by him in his own evidence, namely that he feared that:

"If a world war were to break out, Germany's situation would be hopeless."
As to Seyss-Inquart, you will remember Goering's instructions to him on the 26th March, 1938, to institute anti-Semitic measures in Austria, followed by the Progress Report on 12th November by one of his officials. As far as concerns the Jews in the Netherlands, he admits that he knew they were being deported but says he was powerless to stop it as it was ordered from Berlin. He has further said that he knew they went to Auschwitz but he says he sent there to inquire about them, was told they were well off and arranged for them to send mail from Auschwitz to Holland. Is it likely that Seyss-Inquart who admits knowledge of large- scale crimes against the Jews in the Netherlands, for example:
"A drive to force the Jews to be sterilised",
who admits that many and grave excesses occurred in the Netherlands concentration camps and indeed that in war time he:
"Considered that almost inevitable",
who pleads that in comparison with camps elsewhere:
"It was perhaps not quite so bad in the Netherlands,"
is it possible that he was really deceived as he says into thinking the people in Auschwitz were:
"Comparatively well off"?
One comes next to the defendants Speer and Fritzsche, who have appeared in this trial as experts. Speer has admitted that his responsibility for conscription of labour helped to bring up the total number of workers under him to 14,000,000. He stated that when he took over office in February, 1942, all the perpetrations or violations of International Law of which he could be accused had already been realised. Nevertheless he went on to say:
"The workers were brought into Germany against their will. I had no objection to their being brought to Germany against their will. On the contrary, during the first period until autumn of 1942 I certainly used my energy that as many workers as possible should be brought to Germany in this manner."
Further, workers were placed at his disposal by Sauckel and he was responsible for their allocation priorities.

He acknowledged the receipt of 1,000,000 Soviet labourers in August, 1942. On 4th January, 1944, he demanded 1,300,000 workers for the coming year. Speer produced no defence of this conscription of labour but he did assert that from 1943 he had supported the retention of French workers in France, which is a mere matter of mitigation. The moderation of Speer's manner ought not to hide the

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fact that this policy, which he cheerfully adopted and applied, was one that meant the most appalling misery and suffering for millions of Soviet and other families.

It displays once again the complete disregard of the fate of other people which s runs like a sordid thread through the evidence in this trial, and no moral awakening regarding the interest of the German people (I repeat "the German people") at the end of the war can offset the participation in this horrible action.

With regard to the treatment of foreign workers Speer's general point was that the evidence for the prosecution is simply that of individual bad instances and should not be taken as the general condition. If it were the general condition he would accept responsibility. The prosecution submit that their evidence, viewed as a whole, is conclusive evidence of general bad conditions.

Neurath, who has told the Tribunal that he joined Hitler's Government to keep it peace-loving and respectable, knew within a few weeks that the Jews were being persecuted, that reputable foreign papers and reputable German papers too, for that matter, were quoting official figures of ten to twenty thousand internees. He knew that the opposition, the Communists, the trade unionists and Social Democrats were being destroyed as political forces. The blood purge followed, yet he went on and seconded Hitler in his breaches of the Treaty of Versailles. We have the evidence of Paul Schmidt that the murder of Dollfuss and the attempted putsch in Austria seriously disturbed the career personnel of the Foreign Office, whilst they regarded the mutual assistance pact between France and the Soviet Union as a further very serious warning as to the potential consequences of German foreign policy:

"At this time the career officials at least expressed their reservation to the Foreign Minister Neurath. I do not know whether or not Neurath in turn related these expressions of concern to Hitler."
Yet when Raeder was issuing orders about the danger of showing "enthusiasm for war", von Neurath would have you believe that he had failed to realize its growth. He, as much as Raeder, saw and took part in the events which followed, the secret meetings, the treatment of von Blomberg and von Fritsch, he it was at the time of the Anschluss who, though no longer Foreign Minister, gave the support of a name, not yet notably tarnished, to Hitler's action by transmitting untruths in denial of the British Note and by reassuring the Czechs. That reassurance ought never to be forgotten-there can be few things more grimly cynical than von Neurath who had listened to the Hoszbach meeting solemnly telling M. Mastny that Hitler would stand by the Arbitration Treaty with Czechoslovakia. As soon as Hitler had marched into Prague, he it was who became protector of Bohemia and Moravia. You have heard his admission that he applied all decrees for the treatment of the Jews which had appeared in Germany between 1933 and 1939.

Fritzsche's work was to organize the entire German Press so that it became "a permanent instrument of the Propaganda Ministry". Propaganda was the most: potent factor in all Nazi strategy. Here in turn that factor made all the Press its most potent weapon. The fact that he knew and participated in the use of his organization is shown by his attempt to whitewash the successive propaganda actions which led up to each of the various aggressions mentioned in his affidavit. As he said:

"All news checked by me was full of tendency while not invented."
It is incredible that when he was called upon time after time to conduct what was specifically referred to as actions and when each time he saw the practical results he did not realize the dishonesty with which the German policy was being conducted or that the aim of the Nazi Government was aggressive war. His personal ability as a broadcaster caused him to become virtually an official commentator. To quote his own words:
"May I add that it is known to me that in the far corners of German colonies abroad my radio speeches were, shall we say, the political comments."

[Page 469]

He has emphasized that in these comments he had a free hand. Is it to be doubted that this was because he was prepared to broadcast whatever lie Goebbels wanted? He himself says, in dealing with the uses to which his influence was put:
"Again and again I was requested to awaken hatred against individuals and against systems."
You have seen a sample in his broadcast on the Athenia. As early as 1940 he broke far enough away from the restraint which he tried to picture in the witness box to call the Poles "under people" and "beasts in human form".

On the 18th December, 1941, he referred to the fate of European Jews in the following words:

"The fate of Jewry in Europe has turned out to be as unpleasant as the Fuehrer predicted it would be in the event of a European war. After the extension of the war instigated by the Jews, this unpleasant fate may also spread to the New World, for you can hardly assume that the nations of the New World will pardon the Jews for the misery of which the nations of the Old World did not absolve them."
There were few more dreadful or hate-provoking accusations among the whole miasma of Nazi lies against the Jews than that of instigating the war which brought such misery to humanity, yet this educated and thoughtful defendant deliberately made it.

It is difficult to imagine any more fulsome or callous adulation of Hitler's aggression than his speech on 9th October, 1941, which contained the words:

" ... and we are particularly grateful for these lightning victories because - as the Fuehrer emphasized last Friday - they gave us the possibility of embarking on the organization of Europe and of lifting the treasures of this old continent even in the middle of a war, without having to keep millions and millions of German soldiers on guard ...."
Perhaps the key to Fritzsche's readiness to conceal the war crimes of his masters is revealed by the basic principle of his propaganda. I quote:
"But the decisive for us for such a news machine is not the detail but the final fundamental basis on which propaganda is built. Decisive is the belief in the purity of the leaders of the State on which every journalist must rely."
Fritzsche maintained until practically the very end the most excellent relation with Dr. Goebbels. When the Tribunal considers the picture of total extremism and violent anti- Semitism which the other defendants have painted of Goebbels, it is difficult to imagine that the worship of his closest collaborator could have been based on innocent ignorance.

The prosecution submits that it is laughable that such a man should try to persuade you that it was in ignorance of these horrors that he went on exhorting and persuading the German people to tread the path to their doom. Fritzsche shares with Streicher, Rosenberg, Schirach the responsibility for the utter degradation of the German people so that "they shut the gates of mercy on mankind." It was because of them that such scenes as that in the Jewish cemetery at Schwetz on that Sunday morning in October, 1939, occurred, when 200 of Keitel's decent Wehrmacht soldiers watched without a murmur the murder of that lorry-load of women and children. You will remember the story as three of them have told it:

"On Saturday evening I heard from a comrade in my company that on that day a number of Poles had been shot in the Jewish cemetery. The talk about these facts went through the whole company like lightning. On the following morning ... I went to the cemetery at 8 o'clock with two of my comrades from my company. There I found a great number of soldiers belonging to the companies of our battalion and also from troops who were stationed in Schwetz. There were roughly 200 to 300 soldiers at the cemetery .... At 9.30 hours the bus arrived loaded with women and

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children. I stood near the mass graves which had been prepared beforehand and I saw a woman holding one little boy by the right hand and one or two girls by the other, walking from the bus to the grave. I then saw a few seconds later how the woman stood in the grave and one of the boys was handed down to her by the SS men. We then turned round and left because I did not want to, nor could, witness the shooting of these children. Immediately after that I heard the shots .... Shortly after that another bus arrived, loaded with Poles. An SS man shouted to the soldiers who stood around, 'Now you can all come in and watch.' Then I went in once more and saw a group of four men step into the same mass grave in which the woman had been shot previously. They were ordered to lie down and then they were liquidated by shooting through the back of their heads from a very short distance. Flesh, brains and sand were flung around over the grave and dirtied the uniforms of the soldiers who were watching. About eighty soldiers stood too close to the edge of the grave. These happenings could also be seen by the civilian population from the windows of their houses opposite the Jewish cemetery."
You are asked to believe that these twenty-one ministers and leading officers of State did not know about these matters - were not responsible. It is for you to decide.

Years ago Goethe said of the German people that some day fate would strike them:

"Would strike them because they betrayed themselves and did not want to be what they are. It is sad that they do not know the charm of truth, detestable that mist, smoke and berserk immoderation are so dear to them, pathetic that they ingenuously submit to any mad scoundrel who appeals to their lowest instincts, who confirms them in their vices and teaches them to conceive nationalism as isolation and brutality."
With what a voice of prophecy he spoke - for these are the mad scoundrels who did those very things.

Some it may be are more guilty than others; some played a more direct and active part than others in these frightful crimes. But when those crimes are such as you have to deal with here - slavery, mass murder and world war, when the consequences of the crimes are the deaths of over 20,000,000 of our fellow-men, the devastation of a continent, the spread of untold tragedy and suffering throughout the world, what mitigation is it that some took less part than others, that some were principals and others mere accessories? What matters it if some forfeited their lives only a thousand times whilst others deserved a million deaths?

In one way the fate of these men means little: their personal power for evil lies for ever broken; they have convicted and discredited each other and finally destroyed the legend they created round the figure of their leader. But on their fate great issues must still depend, for the ways of truth and righteousness between the nations of the world, the hope of future international co-operation in the administration of law and justice are in your hands. This trial must form a milestone in the history of civilisation, not only bringing retribution to these guilty men, not only marking that right shall in the end triumph over evil, but also that the ordinary people of the world (and I make no distinction now between friend and foe) are now determined that the individual must transcend the State. The State and the law are made for man, that through them he may achieve a fuller life, a higher purpose and a greater dignity. States may be great and powerful. Ultimately the rights of men, made as all men are made in the image of God, are fundamental. When the State, either because as here its leaders have lusted for power and place, or under some specious pretext that the end may justify the means, affronts these things, they may for a time become obscured and submerged. But they are immanent and ultimately they will assert themselves more strongly, still, their immanence more manifest. And so, after this ordeal to which mankind

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has been submitted, mankind itself - struggling now to re- establish in all the countries of the world the common, simple things - liberty, love, understanding - comes to this Court and cries: "These are our laws - let them prevail."

Then shall those other words of Goethe be translated into fact, not only, as we must hope, of the German people but of the whole community of man:

" ... thus ought the German people to behave - giving and receiving from the world, their hearts open to every fruitful source of wonder, great through understanding and love, through mediation and the spirit - thus ought they to be; that is their destiny."
You will remember when you come to give your decision the story of Gruber, but not in vengeance - in a determination that these things shall not occur again.
"The father" - do you remember? - pointed to the sky, "and seemed to say something to his boy."
THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn.

(The Tribunal adjourned until Monday, 29th July, 1946, at 10.00 hours.)

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