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 10 of 11)

[DR. MERKEL continues his direct examination of Dr. Karl Rudolf Werner Best]

[Page 144]

Q. And in what lines did this apply?

A. These reports applied to all spheres which might have interested the political police. The police, therefore, were not in a position to investigate these cases and to check whether they actually existed. A special information service was only created where organized groups were suspected of carrying out their activities such as the illegal Communist Party or for espionage of enemy intelligence. In these cases they tried to,firid these groups and to expose them through agents or by some other means.

Q. If the Gestapo did not have its own information services, how did arrests and other measures come about against people who had made subversive political statements or the like?

A. It is not the case, as it often has been and still is being asserted, that the Gestapo was a net of spies and information agencies which kept track of the entire people. With the few officials, who were always busy, anything like that could not be carried out. Single reports dealing with subversive political statements came to the police from outside and were not sought for, for ninety per cent. of these cases could not be dealt with anyway.

Q. Please speak a little slower. Was there a special class of Gestapo officials which was completely different from the other classes of officials?

A. No. The officials of the secret police belonged to the same categories as the corresponding officials of other police authorities.

Q. What categories of officials were there in the Gestapo?

A. First of all, a big distinction must be made between administrative officials and executive officials.

Q. How did these categories differ?

A. They were differentiated through their tasks, through their legal status, and through their training.

Q. To what extent did the legal status differ?

A. The administrative officials were subordinate to the Reich civil service laws and to the general civil service law. But for executive officials there was a special law created within the framework of the police civil service law.

[Page 145]

Q. How did they differ in training?

A. The administrative officials were trained according to their position as higher or lower or medium administrative officials, in keeping with the procedure set up in the general and internal administrative agencies and in the police administrative agencies, headquarters, directorates and so forth. The executive officials, on the other hand, were trained only in the so-called "Fuehrerschools," of the security police and in the agencies of the Secret State Police and the criminal police.

Q. What tasks did the administrative officials in the Gestapo have?

A. The same tasks as may be found in all other administrative agencies -- especially police agencies. That is, dealing with personnel records, with internal economic matters concerning the budget, supplies, and also dealing with legal problems, such as in my department, e.g., German passport laws or the police laws concerning foreigners.

Q. Could the administrative officials look into and control the activities of the executive officials?

A. Only if there was an administrative official appointed to keep a card index of an executive agency. For the rest they were neither concerned with the handling of records nor did they carry out sentences.

Q. Could they receive knowledge about the executive tasks in any other way?

A. No. That was almost impossible, for each official was bound to keep the matters which he dealt with secret, which anyway was an old custom of the police, that individual cases being dealt with were not discussed.

Q. Did the administrative officials join the Gestapo voluntarily?

A. No. Administrative officials were transferred from other internal administrative agencies or from other police agencies to the Secret State Police.

Q. Did all executive officials of the Gestapo carry out the same activities?

A. No. Each one carried out the tasks dealt with by the department to which he had been assigned.

Q. What departments were there?

A. Beside the political police, strictly speaking, there were the defence police and the border police; later the defensive part of the military counter-intelligence (Abwehr) and the Customs Frontier Service were incorporated into the Gestapo so that they became also an integral part of it later on.

Q. Were the special tasks of the various departments dealt with by the Gi~tapo after 1933 for the first time?

A. No. Even before 1933 this was done. They were mainly carried out by the same officials who were later on taken over into the Gestapo, the officials who had been active in the so-called central police agencies and in the offices of the border police.

Q. You mentioned the counter-intelligence (Abwehr) police as a part of the Gestapo. What were the tasks of the Abwehr police?

A. The criminal investigation of treason cases, and all of these cases, without exception, were handed over to the courts for sentence.

Q. And you mentioned the border police, also. What were their tasks?

A. The border police were active at the border, checking passports. They checked the so-called small border traffic. They gave legal assistance to the neighbouring foreign police, by supervising deportations, repressing international traffic in narcotics and carrying out searches for crirpinals and goods at the border.

Q. What were the tasks of the so-called military counter-intelligence, which was also a part of the Gestapo?

A. As I have already said, the defensive part of the military counterintelligence, which was assigned to the Gestapo during the war, had the task of gaining information about the enemy intelligence service which was directed against Germany and of rendering it harmless through their reconnaissance.

Q. A further part of the Gestapo was the so-called "Zollgrenzschutz" (Border and Custom Protection). What were its tasks?

[Page 146]

A. The Customs and Border Police, before and after they were assigned and incorporated into the Gestapo, had the task of patrolling the so-called " green border, " that is, all the border, where there were no crossings. In these border towns and crossings where no border police were stationed they took over their tasks.

Q. Beyond the executive and the administrative officials, were there other categories of Gestapo members?

A. Yes; there were technical officials, and beyond that there were a large number of people, employees who worked in the offices and on the technical staffs.

Q. What percentage of the entire personnel was made up of these employees?

A. Depending on the particular year, this percentage varied from thirty-five to forty-five per cent.

Q. Did the employees know what tasks were carried out by the executive members?

A. As far as the people, for instance typists and clerical staff, were needed in the preparation of specifications, they only learned of the action affecting their work without being told of the incidents or reasons connected with it.

Q. Did the Gestapo pay especially large salaries to its employees?

A. No; the salaries were in accordance with the various civil service wage laws and tariffs, and they were so small that it was hard to replace officials and employees.

Q. And where did you get your replacements for the Gestapo?

A. According to the law, ninety per cent. of the candidates for the executive and administrative services had to be taken from regular police candidates who wanted to make police work their life work. Only perhaps ten per cent. of the new officials, according to the law, could be taken from other sources, professions, etc.

Q. Did the candidates from the regular police work for the Gestapo of their own will or not?

A. The members of the regular police had their names put down on a list at Potsdam, and without their being asked they were assigned either to the Secret State Police or to the criminal police.

Q. How were the candidates for the executive positions trained?

A. These candidates were trained in the so-called Fuehrer school, which was a school for experts of the Security Police. The training courses, to a large extent, were the same for the criminal police as for the Gestapo, and they received practical training in the various offices and agencies as well.

Q. Were the officials who were in office indoctrinated and influenced politically?

A. No. It may well have been a plan of Himmier in 1939 or so for the Rasse and Siedlungs Hauptamt (The Mainoffice for Race and Settlement of the SS) to undertake a unified political training programme for all the agencies and departments, subordinate to Himmler. As long as I was in office, that is, until 1940, this was not done, however.

Q. Were not the officials of the Gestapo to carry through their tasks according to political views?

A. No; it would have been most undesirable if a minor law official, such as a criminal police assistant, used political judgment in the course of his duty and took his own political decisions. The executive official was to act only according to the general official directives and the orders of the superiors without interfering in politics himself in any way.

Q. And what means the co-ordination of the Gestapo officials with the SS?

A. That meant---

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Merkel, are you summarizing the evidence that has been given before the Commission? I ask that because, you see, we do not want

[Page 147]

to have it all over again. We have ourselves a written summary. We have the evidence taken before the Commission, and all we want you to do is to bring out the really important points and to call the witnesses before us so that we may see them and form our opinion of their credit and hear them cross-examined in so far as it is necessary. We do not want to go through all the evidence over again that has been given before the Commission.

DR. MERKEL: Yes, indeed, Mr. President; and for that very reason I asked at the outset for only two witnesses. I directed the examination of this witness in such a way that now an essential summary will be given by the witness of those points which he has already been questioned on.

MR. DODD: Mr. President, I think we have gone into much more detail than we went into before the Commission, into matters that have been inquired about here before the Tribunal. I think counsel may be under some kind of a misunderstanding, because before he started his examination I asked him about how long he thought he would be. I thought he was being whimsical when he told me between four and a half and five hours, as he took only two hours or so before the Commission. I fear that if he has in mind a four-and-a-half or five-hour examination when he took only two or two and a half hours before the Commission, then he must be under a misunderstanding as to what is in the minds of the Tribunal.

THE PRESIDENT: I hope, Dr. Merkel, I have made it quite clear what we want. You have only got two witnesses. We shall no doubt read the evidence before the Commission of these two witnesses. We want to see the witnesses in order to see what credit is to be attached to their evidence, and we want to give you the opportunity of bringing out any particularly important points. We do not want you to go through the whole thing over again.

DR. MERKEL: Yes, indeed, Mr. President.


Q. What is meant by the co-ordination of the Gestapo officials with the SS?

A. That meant that the official, because he was an official of the Gestapo, was taken over into the SS and received SS rank commensurate with his position.

Q. Was only the Gestapo to be co-ordinated?

A. No, the officials of the criminal police were to be co-ordinated as well.

Q. When.and how did the Reichsicherheitshauptamt, the Reich Main Security Office, originate?

A. The Reich Main Security Office was first created in September, 1939, when the then chief of the Security Police, Heydrich, in exploiting the situation caused by the war, merged the various departments into one. Up to that time, the Reich Ministry of the Interior and the SS, too, had opposed this unifying move.

Q. Did the concentration camps fall under the jurisdiction of the Gestapo?

A. No.

Q. Were there not any legal directions in this regard?

A. In a Prussian decree, dealing with the execution of the police decree of 1936, concerning the Prussian Gestapo there was a sentence to the effect that the Secret State Police system was to administer the concentration camps. That was one of the aims of the then Chief of the Gestapo office, Heydrich. Himmler, however, never carried out this decree, for he wanted the same situation to prevail as before, that is, that the inspector of the concentration camps remained directly subordinate to him.

Q. Did the officials of the Gestapo have to assume that in the concentration camps the health and life of the inmates were being endangered?

A. I can only speak for the time up to the war, and I remember that during that time the officials of the Secret State Police did not think that..the life and health of the inmates were being endangered in the concentration camps. The

[Page 148]

officials were constantly occupied both with the inmates' families, who were looked after by the Secret State Police, and with released internees, for whom work was procured, so that they were in a position to obtain an overall picture of the experiences and life of the internees in the concentration camps.

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