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 9 of 11)

[Page 140]

PRESIDENT: What is the next organization we will deal with?

DR. MERKEL (on behalf of the Secret State Police-the GESTAPO)

Mr. President, may it please the Tribunal, first of all I should like to submit documentary proof. For the first one I am submitting my two document books, Document Book I, containing Nos. 1 to 31, and Document Book 2, Containing Nos. 32 to 62.

[Page 141]

Mr. President, shall I give my opinion on the individual documents now or only after the conclusion of the hearing of witnesses?

THE PRESIDENT: When it is convenient to you.

DR. MERKEL: I should prefer to do it after the hearing of witnesses.


DR: MERKEL: First of all, I would like to submit a list of thirteen witnesses who nave been heard before the Commission. Furthermore, I should like to submit a German copy of these thirteen records and would ask you first of all to accept them as evidence. I will then deal with the argumentation myself at the conclusion of the hearing of witnesses. Finally I should like to submit a list of the names and a summary of the affidavits given to the Commission, numbered i to 85, which I should also like to offer in evidence.

The three records of the Commission sessions, in which these affidavits were discussed, I shall submit later as soon as I have them.

Further, I have still about fifteen hundred affidavits to submit, which I would like to hand over in one collective affidavit. As the summary has not yet been quite completed, I should like to ask permission to submit this after the conclusion of the hearing of witnesses.

With the permission of the Tribunal, I should like to call the witness Dr. Best.

THE PRESIDENT: Bring in the witness.

DR. KARI, RUDOLF WERNER BEST, witness, took the stand and testified as follows:


Q. Will you state your full name?

A. Dr. Karl Rudolf Werner Best.

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.)

DIRECT EXAMIN.ATION of the witness Dr. Karl Best


Q. Witness, please describe your professional career.

A. I am a jurist and a professional civil servant. I have been a judge since the beginning of 1929 and since 1933 I have been an administrative official, and since 1942 I have been a diplomat.

Q. When and how did you join the Gestapo?

A. From 1st January, 1935, onward as Oberregierungsrat and departmental chief (Abteilungsleiter) for administration and law, I was employed in the Gestapo in Berlin from 1936, in the Reich Ministry for the Interior and in the Special Department of the Security Police, until 1940. From 1940 and until 1942 I was a military administrative official, and since 1942 Reich Plenipotentiary in Denmark.

Q. Was the Gestapo a union of people?

A. No.

Q. What was the Gestapo?

A. The Gestapo was a multiplicity of State offices.

Q. However, the prosecution seems to consider the Gestapo as a union of people joined together voluntarily in order to realize certain aims; what have you to say about it?

Witness, you must always leave a slight pause between question and answer.

[Page 142]

A. An organization has members. The officials of the Secret State Police were officials employed by the State, and they occupied a public position. An organization sets its own aims. The officials of the Secret State Police received their orders from the State and from the State leaders.

Q. Did the Gestapo belong in any way to the NSDAP or to the National Socialist organization?

A. No, the officials of the Gestapo were purely and simply State officials.

Q. Witness, please speak a little more slowly. Otherwise, the interpreters cannot keep up.

A. Very well.

Q. Was there a uniform Secret State Police set up in January, 1933, throughout the territory of the German Reich?

A. No. In the individual German States, political police systems were set up which were created by the various State governments concerned.

Q. Were these police systems entirely new?

A. No, they were brought about through the regrouping and reorganization of the political police systems which already existed.

Q. In what way did this take place?

A. Through the orders or decrees of the State governments concerned.

Q. For what reasons were these new authorities created by the State governments?

A. I can state from my own personal experience that in the State of llesse a State police system was created, as the authority of the police had been shaken by the events that occurred before 1933, and the authority of these officials had to be restored once more, through a new kind of political police, especially in relation to the members of the National Socialist movement. I assume that this motive also carried weight in other German States.

Q. Were these new authorities issued with new instructions?

A. No. No, they were issued with the same duties as the political police had been given in the past.

Q. What were these duties

A. In the first place, the prosecution for political crimes, that is to say, for actions which were actually political or with a political motive which were in violation of the criminal law, and in the second place, the taking of police measures as a precaution against such crimes.

Q. What do you understand by "Precautionary police preventive measures "?

A. Precautionary police preventive measures are those which influence groups of perpetrators or individual perpetrators in such. a way that they do not undertake the feared criminal act.

Q. When and how did Himmler become political police chief of the German States (Polizeikommandeur)?

A. Between March of 1933 and March of 1934 Himniler gradually came to an agreement with the governments of the various German States regarding his appointment as political Chief of Police of each individual State in Germany.

Q. Did Himmler's power arise from his police work or from his political work on the whole?

A. He had never had anything to do with the police, and he also never went into the matter of police ideas and methods.

Q. Were the authorities and the officials of the various political police responsible for Himmler's coming to power?

A. No, they were notified of the appointment as a fait eccompli.

Q. When and how were the political police systems of the various German States formed into a uniform German Secret State Police?

A. After Himmler's appointment in 1936 as Chief of the German Police in the Reich Ministry of the Interior, the political police systems of the various

[Page 143]

German States were formed into a uniform Secret State Police, by means of several orders and decrees issued by the Reich Ministry of the Interior.

Q. Did the NSDAP establish a political police anywhere in the German Reich?

A. No, nowhere.

Q. Was there anywhere an establishment or an organization of the Party taken over by the Staie as a political police system?

A. No, nowhere.

Q. Were the political police posts of the German States occupied by Party members in 1933?

A. No, those posts were occupied by former police. Only a few officials were newly taken on at that time.

Q. Were the leading officials members of the Party?

A. That varied in the various States. There were even officials who had formerly held quite different views and belonged to other parties.

Q. Can you give an example of this?

A. There are several well-known examples. It is well known that Herr DiehIs, the Chief of the Prussian Secret State Police, had formerly held other political opinions.

The closest colleagues of Himmler and Heydrich from Munich, who were taken with him to theoffice of the Secret State Police in Berlin -- such as Mueller, who later was head of (Dept.) Amt IV; Huber, Fresch, Beck -- they were formerly adherents of the Bavarian People's Party, and even the Chief of my small Hessian State Police Office was a former Democrat and Freemason, whom I considered quite suitable for this post.

Q. Why, then, did these officials continue in the police service under National Socialist rule?

A. For a German official it was a matter of course to keep on serving the State, even though the Government changed -- as long as he was in a position to do so.

Q. Were these officials removed and later on replaced by National Socialists?

A. No, these gentlemen had mostly a very successful career and obtained good posts.

Q. How did the additional recruiting of personnel for the political police take place in the years that followed?

A. Officials from the German police agencies were transferred to the offices of the political police. In the course of time new candidates were also enlisted and were trained to become officials according to the general rules which were applicable for the appointment and the training of officials.

Q. Were people taken on from the Party, from the SS and the SA?

A. Only in a relatively small way, as service in these police agencies brought in very little in wages and therefore was not very much sought after.

Q. Did the officials volunteer to enter the political police?

A. The officials were transferred from one office to another.

Q. Did the officials have to comply with these transfers?

A. Yes, according to civil service laws they were bound to do so.

Q. What would have been the consequence of a refusal?

A. Disciplinary action, with the result that they would have been dismissed from office, with the loss of their acquired rights; for instance, their right to a pension.

Q. Do you know of any such refusal?

A. No, I have not heard of any.

Q. Was the political police completely separated from the general administrative set-up of the State?

A. No, on all levels there was a close liaison with the general interior administration. The chiefs of the State police agencies were at the same time the political experts of the district presidents. The inspectors of security police

[Page 144]

were personaily responsible to the district presidents or to their Ministers of the Interior and had to comply with their instructions.

Q. Besides the Gestapo authorities were there still other authorities also carrying out political police duties?

A. Yes, the district and local police authorities also carried out police duties.

Q. In what way?

A. The district and local police authorities, the Landraete (the ~hief magistrates of the district), that is to say the gendarmerie, and the municipal police administration carried out these duties, either on the basis of information which came in to them, or they carried out the orders of the competent political police, that is to say the State police authorities.

Q. What part of the entire political police work did the district and local police agencies carry out?

A. As far as volume is concerned, the district and local police authorities handled the major part of the individual State police cases as the State police offices only sent out their officials for their own information in special cases; above all, in cases of treason and high treason.

Q. Did the district and local police agencies also receive the general decrees issued by the State secret police?

A. Yes, they received these decrees unless they were excluded in some cases by special request.

Q. From what point of view did the officials of the political police take up certain cases?

A. Almost without exception on the basis of reports which were sent in from private persons or other agencies outside the police.

[ Previous | Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.