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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
29th July to 8th August 1946

One Hundred and Eighty-Ninth Day: Monday, 29th July, 1946
(Part 1 of 12)

[Page 1]

THE PRESIDENT: I call on the Chief Prosecutor of the Provisional Government of the Republic of France, M. Champetier de Ribes.

M. CHAMPETIER DE RIBES: Mr. President and gentlemen of the Tribunal:

On presenting the final address of the French Public Prosecutor, I beg the Tribunal to permit me to express the admiration and the gratitude of my country for the objectivity and calm with which these proceedings have been conducted.

In the course of the last nine months, the events of more than fifteen years of history have been evoked at this bar.

Germany's archives, those of them that the Nazis were unable to burn before their defeat, have yielded up their secrets.

We have heard numerous witnesses, whose testimony would have been lost to history but for the present trial.

All the facts have been presented with strict objectivity, leaving no room for passion nor even for sentiment. The Tribunal has excluded from the proceedings everything that in its opinion seemed insufficiently proved, everything that might have appeared to be dictated by a spirit of vengeance.

For the chief concern of this trial is above all that of historical truth.

Thanks to it the historian of the future, as well as the chronicler of today, will know the truth of the political, diplomatic and military events of the most tragic period of our history; he will know the crimes of Nazism as well as the irresolution, the weaknesses, the omissions of the peace-loving democracies.

He will know that the work of twenty centuries of a civilization was almost destroyed by the return of ancient barbarism in a new guise, all the more brutal because more scientific.

He will know that the progress of mechanical science, modern means of propaganda, and the most devilish practices of a police which defied the most elementary rules of humanity, enabled a small minority of criminals within a few years to distort the collective conscience of a great people, and to transform the nation described by Dr. Sauter, at the conclusion of his speech in defence of von Schirach, as loyal, upright and full of virtue, into that of Hitler, Himmier, and Goebbels.

He will know that the real crime of these men was the conception of the gigantic plan of world domination and the attempt to realize it by every possible means.

By every possible means - that is, of course, by the breaking of pledges and by unleashing the worst of all wars of aggression, but, above all, by the scientific and systematic extermination of millions of human beings and more especially of certain national or religious groups whose existence hampered the hegemony of the Germanic race.

This is a crime so monstrous, so undreamt of in history throughout the Christian era up to the birth of Hitlerism, that the term "genocide" has had to be coined to define it and an accumulation of documents and testimonies has been needed to make it credible.

The perfect collaboration of the four Public Prosecutors has enabled it to be proved that this crime was possible; and, within the limits of those counts of the

[Page 2]

Indictment reserved for herself, France believes that she has done her part in the common task.

While the defendants and their counsel have said a great deal before the Tribunal regarding the protection to which the innocent civilian population is entitled, and have referred to this as to an obvious principle, we have established the fact that the defendants have deliberately violated this principle by treating these civilian populations with the most complete disregard for human life. Is it necessary to recall the terrible words of the defendant Keitel, "human life is worth less than nothing in the occupied territories"?

By reverting to the taking of hostages the defendants revived a tradition which symbolizes the most primitive practices of warfare. They put their signatures to general orders decreeing the capture and execution of thousands of martyrs. In France alone, 29,000 hostages were shot. We know that the champions of the resistance movement, whose patriotism is now admired by the defendants, were massacred, tortured and imprisoned with a view to their slow extermination. We know, too, that, on the pretext of reprisals, in execution of orders or by the cruelty of individuals covered by the complicity of the authorities, civilians were taken at random and executed and that whole villages were burnt down:

Oradeur-sur-Glane, Maille in France, and Putten in Holland have, not risen again from their ruins.

The atrocious orders issued in Marshal Kesselring's operational sector, for combating partisan activity by terror, are in all our minds. There we saw that one officer ordered the execution of 50 or 100 men or even of the entire male population of a region as a reprisal for isolated acts directed against the German Army. The execution of that order was authorized by instructions from the commander of the theatre of operations, who was himself acting on more general instructions issued by the defendant Keitel. This is an example of the perfect collaboration existing between the National Socialist cadre and the State and is an argument, if such be still necessary, for the joint responsibility of the leading personalities of the regime.

We know that thousands of men were forcibly taken from their homes and compelled to make arms to be used against their own country.

The harsh treatment given to soldiers shocked us even more deeply, because Germany, be it the traditional Germany, the Nazi Germany when it was in power, or the Germany which is now presenting the paltry arguments for its defence in the prisoners' dock, has always claimed to uphold the universal rules governing military honour and the respect due to all combatants. In spite of this, we have seen Keitel himself, who championed these ideas to such a degree that he even referred to them again at the conclusion of his testimony in the witness box, urge the Wilhelmstrasse and.his co-defendant Goering to approve his criminal proposals for the treatment of airmen who fell into their hands.

Documents such as the testimony of Grunner leave no room for doubt that criminal orders to exterminate and lynch airmen were given in the customary way and transmitted to those responsible for their execution.

No doubt is possible as to the principles which governed the drafting of the order concerning the commandos, nor as to the execution of this order in the various theatres of operations. The prosecution has produced a striking collection of evidence on this point.

Our consternation was even greater when it was ascertained with certainty that cruel decrees had been issued for execution or imprisonment for the purpose of extermination of men already reduced to a state of helplessness by their internment in prisoner-of-war camps. The sinister affair of Sagan, often evoked in the course. Of this trial, is present in our mifids. The defendants themselves attempt only to evade personal responsibility without denying the atrocity or the truth of the facts. We have shown how rebellious escaped officers and non-commissioned officers, whose past records and attitude are proof of their moral strength, were exterminated by "action Kugel."

[Page 3]

At length, Nazi Germany unveiled her plans for expansion and world domination by organizing the systematic extermination of the peoples whose territories she had occupied.

This operation was carried out at first, as we have shown, by the political, economic and moral destruction of the occupied countries. The methods employed were the brutal or gradual seizure of power, or carefully calculated infiltration of German authority in every sphere, the preparation of a programme of economic pillage and its pitiless execution, so as to lead to the exhaustion of the occupied country and to put it at the absolute mercy of the occupying Power; in a word, the Nazification of the State and the people, as well as the destruction of cultural and moral values.

But this methodical extermination was carried out also in a concrete way by the systematic massacre of the people.

Is it necessary to recall the mass extermination of groups considered impossible of assimilation into the National Socialist world, the vast graveyard of the concentration camps, where 15,000,000 people perished, the abominable achievements of the "Einsatzgruppen" (special purposes groups), described with irrefutable precision by General Ohlendorff ? We consider we have also established proof of those pernicious attempts at extermination, which on examination are seen to be one of the most perfect examples of the defendants' policy. I refer to the deliberate under-nourishment to which were subjected those non-Germans who for any reason whatsoever came under Nazi authority - whole nations starved by way of reprisal - civilian rations in occupied territories ruthlessly cut to enable the plan for the pillage of the territory to be carried out. The Tribunal will recall Goering's speech to the Gauleiter:

"It is absolutely immaterial to me if you say that your people are fainting from hunger. Let them faint, as long as no German starves."
And again, with reference to Holland:
"It is not our mission to feed a nation which turns from us in spirit. If its people are so weak that they cannot even raise a hand where they are not employed to work for us, so much the better ..."
Famine, bodily misery and the resulting reduction of the potential of life are all included, together with the slow exhaustion of political internees and prisoners of war, in the plan for the extermination of populations in order to free German living-space.

The same idea is behind the detention in captivity or semi-captivity, as in the case of labour deportees, of healthy young men whose presence at home was of vital importance for the future of their country. All this has been confirmed by the latest census results.

These reveal that all the countries occupied by Germany show a decrease in their population varying from 5 per cent to 25 per cent, whereas Germany herself is the only country in Europe which shows an increase. We have proved all these crimes. After the submission of our documents, the hearing of the witnesses, the projection of films which the defendants themselves could not see without shuddering with horror, nobody in the world can possibly claim that the extermination camps, the executed prisoners, the slaughtered peoples, the mounds of corpses, the human herds maimed in body and soul, the instruments of torture, the gas chambers and crematoria - no one can claim that all these crimes existed only in the imagination of anti-German propagandists.

Indeed, none of the defendants have challenged the truth of the facts we have reported. Unable to deny them, they try only to evade their own responsibility by placing the gnilt on those of their accomplices who committed suicide.

"We knew nothing of those horrors," they say, or else: "We did everything we could to prevent them, but Hitler, who was all-powerful, gave the orders and allowed no one to disobey or even resign from office."

[Page 4]

What a poor defence! Who is likely to believe that they alone were ignorant of what the whole world knew and that their monitoring stations never reported to them the solemn warnings which were broadcast repeatedly - by the heads of the United Nations?

They could not disobey Hitler's order, they could not even resign from office? Indeed! Hitler might have governed their bodies but not their souls. By disobeying him they might perhaps have lost their liberty or even their lives, but they would at least have saved their honour. Cowardice has never been an excuse, nor even an extenuating circumstance.

The truth is that having taken part in its elaboration, they all knew perfectly well the doctrine of National Socialism and its will to universal domination. They were very well aware of the monstrous crimes to which it inevitably led its adepts and its exponents, and that all accepted the responsibility in the same way that all accepted the material and moral advantages which it lavished upon them.

But they thought themselves sure of impunity because they were certain of victory, and that in the face of force triumphant no questions would be asked about the justice of the cause. They persuaded themselves, as they had done after the war of 1914, that no international jurisdiction could ever indict them. They thought that Pascal's pessimistic judgment on human justice in international relationship would always be true: "justice can be disputed; force is easily recognizable and cannot be disputed. So, as right cannot be made into might, might has been made into right."

They are mistaken. Since Pascal's day, the concepts of morality and justice have slowly,but surely taken shape and been incorporated in the international customs of civilized nations.

The Tribunal will doubtless remember that at the conclusion of his presentation of the charges made in the Indictment, the French Prosecutor stated in precise terms the responsibility of all the defendants, who are "guilty of having, in their role as the chief Hitlerian leaders of the German people, conceived, willed, ordained or merely tolerated by their silence that assassinations or other inhuman acts should be systematically committed, that violent treatment should be systematically imposed on prisoners of war or civilians, that devastations without justification be systematically committed as a deliberate instrument for the accomplishment of their purpose of dominating Europe and the world through terrorism and the extermination of entire populations, in order to enlarge the living-space of the German people."

All that is left to us now is to demonstrate that.the proceedings which have taken place before you have served only to confirm and reinforce the accusations and the statements formulated at the beginning of these proceedings against the major criminals, whom, in execution of the Charter and to satisfy the demands of justice, the United Nations have cormmitted for trial by your Tribunal.

I ask the Tribunal to allow M. Dubost, the Chief Prosecutor, to present his final statement.

M. DUB0ST: Such are the facts set forth by the French Delegation. It was necessary to recall them in order to establish our contribution to the trial. We do not intend, however, to deal with our own work apart from the whole resulting from the presentations of the other three delegations and the general proceedings. It is on the basis of this work as a whole that we shall proceed with our Indictment and examine the personal responsibility of the defendants.

Taking one by one the deeds for which they are responsible,, there are found to be murder, indictable theft and other serious offences against persons and property which are always punishable in civilized countries. M. de Menthon has already shown this in his introductory address.

The defendants did not actually commit the crimes, they were content to decree them. According to our French law, they are therefore accomplices in the technical sense of the term. Allowing for certain differences which are mostly only differ-

[Page 5]

ences of form, the perpetrators of serious offences and their accomplices are subject in most countries to capital punishment or to very severe penalties, such as forced labour or solitary confinement.

That is the Anglo-Saxon practice. This also holds good in France from the application of Articles 221 ff, 379 fF, 59 ff of the French Penal Code. In Germany, Article 211 provides for the punishment of homicide; Article 212 relates to murder; Articles 225 to 226 to torture, Article 229 to poisoning and murder by gas. Article 234 covers slavery, reduction to serfdom, incorporation with a view to military service abroad; Articles 242 and 243 cover theft and pillage; Article 130 deals with the incitement of the populace to violence. The position of accomplices and co-originators is covered by Articles 47 and 49 of German law.

Similar provisions exist in Soviet legislation as well as in the legislation of all great civilized countries.

The fact that, as leaders of the Reich and accomplices of the Fuehrer, these men are all responsible for the. crimes committed under their regime, and that in the eyes of all men of conscience their responsibility is heavier than that of those who carried out their orders, has been admitted by two of the defendants: Frank and Schirach.

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