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 Ninety-First Day: Wednesday, 31st July, 1946
(Part 3 of 11)

[Page 117]

Will you call your next witness, Dr. Servatius?

DR. SERVATIUS: With the permission of the Tribunal, I call the next witness, Wegscheider, an Ortsgruppenleiter.

HANS WEGSCHEIDER, a witness, took the stand and testified as follows:


Q. Will you state your full name, please?

A. Hans Wegscheider.

Q. Will you repeat this oath after me:

I swear by God, the Almighty and Omniscient, that I will speak the pure truth and will withhold and add nothing.

(The witness repeated the oath.)

THE PRESIDENT: You may sit down.



Q. Witness, when were you born?

A. On 30th October, 1885.

Q. You were Ortsgruppenleiter out in the country for twelve years, from 1933 to 1945, in Hirschdorf, near St. Lorenz?

A. Yes.

Q. That is in the Kreis Kempten-Allgau?

A. No, that is in the Kreis Kemptenland.

Q. And there you were also mayor from 1933 on?

A. Yes.

Q. You were a blacksmith and veterinary at the same time?

A. Yes.

Q. And as such, you travelled a great deal in Allgau?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you then have insight into conditions in the other Ortsgruppen in Allgau? Please pause so that a translation can be made and then reply.

A. Yes, I knew the 36 Ortsgruppen in the Kreis Kemptenland fairly well.

Q. How many people were there?

A. There were about 40,000 inhabitants.

Q: When did you enter the Party?

A. On 28th March, 1933.

Q. How did you become an Ortsgruppenleiter?

A. On the occasion of the assembly of the founding of the Ortsgruppen on 28th March, 1933, I was appointed Ortsgruppenleiter.

Q. Did you take an oath?

A. Yes. As Ortsgruppenleiter I took an oath once.

[Page 118]

Q. You said before the Commission that in twelve years you took the oath twelve times. Is that a mistake?

A. That is a mistake.

Q. How did you become the local mayor?

A. In April, 1933, the new community council was set up. At about the end of the month the community council elected a mayor, and I had not only the votes of the NSDAP, but also four votes of the Social Democratic Workers' Party and one vote of the Bavarian People's Party, and thus I was elected mayor.

Q. As Ortsgruppenleiter, did you receive a salary?

A. No.

Q. And how about the Ortsgruppenleiter who were not mayors?

A. They did not receive any salary either.

Q. For what reason was the office of Ortsgruppenleiter and mayor united in the hands of one man?

A. In the Kreis Kemptenland there were only country communities, farm communities, and probably there was no suitable person available. Thus in ten communities of our Kreis, the mayor and Ortsgruppenleiter were the same person, and in the last analysis it was more expedient.

Q. How was your Ortsgruppenleitung made up?

A. First came the Ortsgruppenleiter, then the propaganda and organization, then the treasurer, a Press office leader, and later an auxiliary office leader, then two Zellenleiter and about eight Blockleiter.

Q. What was the activity of the Block- and Zellenleiter?

A. The activity of our Zellenleiter in the small country communities proved to be futile so that in most of the Ortsgruppen they were abolished. But the activity of the Blockleiter can be considered purely technical in that they did only auxiliary work.

Q. Did you consider the Block- and Zellenleiter as political leaders and Hoheitstraeger (head officials)?

A. No, since the work of the Blockleiter in the small country communities was meaningless, politically, they could in no wise be called Hoheitstreiger.

Q. Why did you enter the Party and when did you take over your office as Ortsgruppenleiter?

A. In 1929, I believe. In the following years of 1930, '31, and '32, as I was a blacksmith by profession and as I had very close contact with the peasants, I saw with my own eyes how German agriculture declined year by year. In our district of Allgau the majority of us had joined the Bavarian Peasant Group, a few had gone with the German People's Party, still less belonged to the Bavarian People's Party, and the few workers who were in the community joined the Social Democratic Party, while a very small number were Communists.

Q. We would like to hear your personal reasons for entering.

A. I have already emphasized how I personally suffered in my own district through this decline.

Q. They were social reasons?

A. Purely social reasons.

Q. What was the attitude of the other political leaders in Allgau? Did they have other reasons for joining, perhaps the fight against the Jews or the acquisition of Lebensraum?

A. The need was equally great in all agricultural regions and so the attitude might well have been the same.

Q. What was the attitude of the Kreisleiter and the Gauleiter?

A. The Gauleiter and Kreisleiter were both patriots and probably they considered their activity and their work in the Party as beneficial to the welfare of our people and our country.

[Page 119]

Q. Witness, in the Party programme other aims are set forth outside of the purely social ones, such as the solution of the Jewish problem. What was the attitude of the political leaders to that question?

A. Since there were no Jewish businesses in our district and therefore no Jewish people lived there, this question was not an urgent one for us and hardly came into consideration.

Q. Were there not any Jewish cattle dealers?

A. No, not in the country. However, in the city of Kempten, there was a wholesale firm of cattle dealers, Loew Brothers, and our peasants sold and exchanged cattle there.

Q. Were not steps taken against this and voices of protest raised?

A. No, for a long time after the assumption of power our farmers traded with this wholesale firm of cattle dealers.

Q. The Party programme also contained a demand for settlement space. Could this be done only through conquest and did you receive directives which indicated a preparation for war?

A. I did not receive any directives such as that and we, in the country, saw the solution of this settlement and living-space problem in the return of our colonies, and we were of the firm conviction that this could be achieved in a peaceful manner.

Q. Did not the political leaders also see that a large rearmament programme was in progress?

A. We on the land saw but little of the rearmament. Only at a Reichsparteitag - I do not recall the exact year - did we see that there were somewhat more aeroplanes and more tanks. We became convinced that a country and a people like Germany would have to protect her borders for the sake of her own internal reconstruction and we considered this rearmament a necessary evil.

Q. Were there not aims which could be realized only through wars of aggression, such as characterized by the slogans, "Away from Versailles" and "Germans unite"?

A. We discussed this point of the programme as well and we saw the union of all German-speaking peoples in line with a plebiscite and in line with the self-determination rights of the German-speaking peoples.

Q. Did not trouble arise with the Church soon because of the Party's attitude towards this matter? There were attacks on the Church, you know.

A. No, not in the country, especially as amongst the Party members, Ortsgruppenleiter and Blockleiter no discrimination was made as to whether they were Catholics or not. We went to church and in my particular district I and my eight political leaders sang in the church choir. The other church musicians and singers, about thirty in all, were also Party members, and belonged to some organization, such as the NS Women's Group, the BDM and the Hitler Youth. That applied in my district and I believe more or less the same conditions applied in other districts as well.

Q. Did not the clergymen protest against the steps being taken by the Party in the Jewish question and did not this lead to disputes?

A. As I have already mentioned, there were no Jews in our locality. Therefore, this problem was hardly dealt with at all.

Q. Was there not unrest because of the seizing of political opponents and their being taken to concentration camps?

A. In our whole area I have never had any knowledge of the fact that anyone was taken to a concentration camp. In my community, and this probably happened right after the assumption of power, only two individuals were sent to Dachau, but what the cause and the reason for this was I do not know, for at that time I was neither Ortsgruppenleiter nor mayor. My attention was called to this matter when in the year 1933 a woman, Frau Daer from Rottach near Kempten, came to me and asked me to make application for the release of her husband, who

[Page 120]

had been interned in Dachau for some months, as it was not possible for her to cultivate her large vegetable garden. . . .

Q. You need not give us the details. just tell us what steps you took and what information you gave.

A. I made inquiry and for several months did not hear anything at all of the matter.

Q. Was the man released?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you speak with him?

A. Yes.

Q. What did he tell you?

A. He told me: "I was treated fairly well, the food and living conditions were quite good and the treatment as well."

Q. Did the Kreisleiter and Gauleiter tolerate this more or less static attitude or did they demand severe measures against all who were not Party members or people who had interests other than those of the Party?

A. Both Gauleiter and Kreisleiter were tolerant. They both rejected severe measures and both of them at meetings always repeatedly made clear to us that we must gain the good will and the confidence of the people through our good example.

Q. Were not SA and SS units formed in your community so that political opponents could be terrorized?

A. No. There were very few groups of the SA in the country districts. Those close by remained in units in Kempten, and in remote communities, such as Oberguensburg, for instance, the members of these two organizations were united into smaller units. Their activity was purely propagandistic.

Q. Was there a unit of the SS there too?

A. In Kempten there was a small SS cavalry unit but you can hardly call it a unit for this group had only eight or ten horses. It also served propaganda purposes.

Q. Did not the Party Press make known to you the extensive Party demands, as, for instance, in the Jewish question through Der Sturmer, or in other questions through Das Schwartz Korps? You know both of these newspapers?

A. Both of these newspapers went far beyond the ordinary Party programme in this point. The Party programme merely specified that the Jews were to be taken out of influential positions. Apart from that these papers were hardly read in the open country.

Q. Did you not have to realize that activity of that sort would lead to an aggressive war and to war crimes, such as are the basis of the Indictment today?

A. No; the activity of an Ortsgruppenleiter or of a Blockleiter which was carried on out in the country was of such a nature that it could hardly give grounds for a supposition of that kind. Our work was purely socialistic.

Q. During the war instructions were given regarding the lynching of aviators who had made emergency landings. There was a letter of Bormann and Goebhels which gave directives over the radio and through the Press. Did you learn of such directives from the Kreisleiter?

A. Directives of that sort never reached my hands.

Q. Did aviators make emergency landings in your territory and were they lynched?

A. No.

Q. What happened to them?

A. I, myself, had the opportunity to take in an American flyer who had landed about a hundred metres behind my home. I took him into my house and fed him, and after perhaps a quarter of an hour he was called for by the Kempten police in a car. In March, 1945, I cannot tell you the exact day, four American prisoners of war who had escaped from a camp at Eidrunk near Kaufbeuren were

[Page 121]

captured after 12 o'clock by the guard who had been stationed on the Iller bridge at Hirschdorf and brought to me.

Q. Was that the general attitude toward this question and the ordinary way of procedure in your region of Allgau?

A. Yes, that was the general way we handled this. The population of Allgau are very good Catholics and we were all of the opinion that such prisoners of war must actually be treated as prisoners of war.

Q. In your Ortsgruppe and in your Kreis, foreign workers were employed. Did you receive directives concerning the treatment of these workers which were contrary to human dignity?

A. No, I cannot say that I received such directives, for the entire matter of foreign workers, there were about sixty of them, Polish and Ukrainian civilian workers, was handled by the Ortsbauemfuehrer, and in our area it was customary that the Bauernftihrer discussed all matters of this kind with me.

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