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-Second Day: Thursday, 1st August, 1946
(Part 3 of 11)

[LT.-COMMANDER WHITNEY HARRIS continues his cross examination of Dr. Karl Rudolf Werner Best]

[Page 160]

3. Other possibilities, such as poisoning of food or drink, have been considered but have been discarded again as too unsafe.

Provisions for the completion of the subsequent work in accordance with plans, such as report, post-mortem documentation, and burial, have been made.

Convoy leader and drivers are to be supplied by the RSHA and will appear in army uniform and with pay-books delivered to them.

Concerning the notice for the Press, contact has been established with Geheimrat Wagner of the Foreign Office. Wagner reports that the Reich Foreign Minister expects to speak with the Reichsfuehrer about this matter.

In the opinion of the Reich Foreign Minister, this action must be co-ordinated in every respect.

In the meantime, it has been learned that the name of the man in question has been mentioned in the course of various long-distance calls between Fuehrer Headquarters and the Chief of PW Matters; therefore, the Chief of PW Matters now proposes the use of another man with the same qualifications. I agree with this and propose that the choice be left to the Chief of Prisoners-of-War Matters."


Q. Now, by whom is this letter signed, Dr. Best?

A. At the foot there are the typewritten words: "Signed Dr. Kaltenbrunner."

Q. Signed Dr. Kaltenbrunner. Now, we will pass to the last document, 4051-PS. This is a report on a telephone conversation which carries us to 12th January, 1945, and it says that - repeats that: "A French prisoner-of-war general is going to die an unnatural death by being shot in flight, or by poisoning. Subsequent matters, such as reports, post- mortem examination, documentation and burial have been taken care of as planned." It says that: "The Reich" Foreign Minister's instruction states that 'the matter is to be discussed with Ambassador Albrecht in order to determine exactly what legal rights the protecting power could claim in this matter in order to make our plans accordingly.'"

Now, who is Ambassador Albrecht?

A. He was the head of the juridical department in the Foreign Office.

Q. Now, did you know, Dr. Best, that General Mesne, a Frenchman, was killed on this road at about this time?

A. I knew nothing about this matter, for at that time I was active in Denmark and heard nothing about matters of this kind.

LT.-COMMANDER HARRIS: That concludes my cross-examination, if the Tribunal please. However, I have two documents which the French Delegation ask to be submitted. These are both documents signed by or on behalf of this

[Page 161]

defendant, Dr. Best, and with your permission, sir, I will offer them in evidence now as on behalf of the French Delegation.

The first is Document F-967. This relates to the deporting of Jews and Communists from France, and states that they have to hold up these deportations for a while because of lack of transportation.


Q. I ask you to identify your signature on that document if you will, Dr. Best, please?

A. Yes.

LT. COMMANDER HARRIS: That will become Exhibit USA 916.

THE PRESIDENT: I did not hear the number.


The next is Document F-972, which is also a document relating to the fight against Communists in France, and I ask that the witness identify that as coming from him and having been signed on his behalf.

A. Yes.

LT.-COMMANDER HARRIS: That becomes Exhibit USA 917.

If the Tribunal please, I am informed that we have just discovered a new document which is of the utmost importance but which has not yet been in any way processed, and we would like the permission of the Tribunal to submit this document later on in the course of the proceedings if and as it is ready for submission.

THE PRESIDENT: Can it not be got ready today?

MR. DODD: Mr. President, I think it may be. It was just handed to me in a hand-written translation. It was discovered in the Document Centre in Berlin and I think it is of such a nature that the Tribunal should know about it. I will try to have it translated before the close of the session today, but I think it is the kind of thing that should not escape the attention of the Tribunal.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Well, perhaps you will make further application when you have got the document ready.


THE PRESIDENT: Do you wish to re-examine?

DR. MERKEL: First of all, two brief questions relating to the questions of the defence for the SD.



Q. Who was at the head of the Intelligence Service after Canaris was dismissed?

A. I, as an outsider, learned that at that time the Intelligence Service of the Wehrmacht, which in the past had been led as a whole by Canaris, was divided up into various offices of the Chief of the Security Police. The defensive branch was turned over to Office 4, the so-called Gestapo branch: a further part to Branch 6, Foreign Intelligence Service; and then, finally, the office Mil was set up as something new.

Q. Did Himmler head the entire Security Police, especially after Heydrich's death?

A. Here also I can only state, as an outsider, that I learned that Himmler, after Heydrich's death, took over the leadership of the Security Police.

Q. One question relating to Denmark. What was the organisational difference between the Gestapo in the Reich itself and the Security Police units which were deployed beyond the boundaries of the Reich?

[Page 162]

A. Within the Reich there were established State agencies of the Gestapo having a scope of tasks laid down in laws, decrees, orders and regulations. In the occupied areas there were task forces composed of members of the Gestapo, the Criminal Police, the SD, and numerous other auxiliaries, whose scope of activities was not the same and was not already delineated, but varied according to instructions of the Centre Office, in, Berlin and partially according to the directives received from Higher SS and Police Leaders, Reich Commissioners, and so forth.

Q. For how long have you known the witness Naujocks?

A. I believe that I met him some time before I left my job with the Security Police, but I saw him very seldom and had no personal connections with him at all.

Q. Do you know that Naujocks, about six months before the end, of the war, deserted to the Americans?

A. I was told about that here.

Q. The murders, as described by Naujocks, were they murders by the Gestapo?

A. No. The Gestapo proper, that is the Executive Branch of the Commander of the Security Police, did not carry out these deeds. Rather, they were carried out by special forces who were directly responsible to the Higher Police and SS Leader.

Q. Were the executions of Russian prisoners of war in German concentration camps known generally to the public?

A. No. At any rate, I can say that despite my prominent position it is only now, in the course of this trial, that I have learned of these matters.

Q. Does, the recommendation of your book by the Reich Minister of the Interior mean that the book received an official character?

A. I do not believe so, for without doubt, in the same office and in the same way numerous books were recommended, books which in no way were published by a State agency or published on behalf of that agency.

DR. MERKEL: Your Honour, I have no further questions.

DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, I should like to clarify a question which has arisen during the cross-examination.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, Dr. Laternser.


Q. Witness, you were shown Document R-178. On Page 26 of this document, in the centre of the page, you will find that the Reich Commissioner for Defence in the defence areas (Wehrkreis) agreed with the selection of the Russian prisoners of war and their murder. Then the prosecutor asked you just who this Reich Commissioner for Defence was at the time and you said that you did not know. Now I should like to ask you, who usually was the Commissioner for Reich Defence. Was not that the Gauleiter?

A. Sometimes it was the Gauleiter and sometimes, if I remember correctly, it was a senior official, Oberpresident or someone of that kind - the ministers of the various States.

Q. The Commissioners for Reich Defence, therefore, were not military officers, purely military agencies under the OKH, is that right?

A. No. As far as I remember the construction at that time, the answer is no.

DR. LATERNSER: Thank you very much. I have no further questions.

THE PRESIDENT: The witness can retire.

DR. MERKEL: I have another witness, and perhaps, for the sake of a continuous interrogation, it would be better to have our recess now, your Honour.


(A recess was taken.)

[Page 163]

DR. MERKEL: With the permission of the Tribunal, I call the witness Karl Heinz Hoffmann.

THE PRESIDENT: Will you state your full name, please?

THE WITNESS: Karl Heinz Hoffmann.

THE PRESIDENT: 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. When and how did you come to the Secret State Police?

A. After I passed the senior juridical State examination in the year 1937, I applied to three administrative offices for a job. The first offer of employment I received was from the State Police, and I accepted it. After one year on trial at the State Police office in Coblenz, I was appointed Deputy of the Chief, and Government Political Adviser. A year later, in 1939, I was transferred, in the same capacity, to Dusseldorf. There I was appointed to the position of Reich Defence Adviser to the Inspector. Then when the Security Police were put to work in Holland I went there as a leading administrative executive. In September, 1940, I was transferred to the Reich Ministry of the Interior, Gestapo office, and there I was put in charge of the Department for Western European occupied territories. In September, 1943, I was sent to the BDS, Denmark, in charge of Department IV.

Q. You say that you were with two State police offices. That was Coblenz and Dusseldorf as Deputy Chief?

A. Yes.

Q. What was the relation of these Gestapo offices to the internal administration?

A. The chief was political expert -

DR. MERKEL: Witness, between my question and your answer, you have to make a short pause.

WITNESS: The chief was political expert to the Regierungsprasident (President of the Government) and Leitstelleniter (chief of the office) of the Oberpresident. In towns and districts in which there were no branch offices of the State Police, its lower levels were represented by the Kreis - and the local police officials, and the Gendarmerie. Approximately 80 per cent of all matters came from these police offices.

Q. Could the NSDAP issue any directives to the State Police?

A. According to existing laws they could not. Only in places where the Gauleiter held also the position of Oberpresident or Reichsstatthalter (Governor) it was possible.

Q. How was it in practice? How did it work out?

A. In practice, the medium and lower offices tried to interfere. But the police rejected that, and it occurred mostly when Party members were involved in proceedings.

Q. Was it not the task of the Gestapo to further the ideological aims of the Party?

A. No. The tasks of the State Police were purely counter- intelligence against attacks directed against the State, and that within the legal provisions and regulations.

Q. The basic tendency and work of the Gestapo, therefore, was it aggressive or purely defensive?

[Page 164]

A. It was defensive and, not aggressive. That could be seen, first of all, from the following fact: When, in 1944, the duties of the counter-intelligence offices were transferred to police and SD offices, the State Police received only the purely counter-intelligence tasks, whereas active espionage and sabotage were transferred to Amt Mil, or Amt VI (Department VI).

Q. Did officials of the Gestapo generally have any special advantages, for instance, owing to their having had an opportunity to acquire articles which had been confiscated by the Gestapo and put to auction?

A. It had been prohibited by a decree that officials of the State Police could acquire articles which had been confiscated and put to auction. In the same way, the officials had no opportunity to participate in the aryanization of business establishments in any way, and the immediate acquisition of Jewish property was also prohibited for them.

Q. You took part as a leading administrative official when the Sipo entered Holland, dial you not? Was there any special training of the employees for that purpose?

A. No. There had been no mobilization measures taken, such as the procurement of interpreters or the increase of the number of officials by any additional assistants. Also, the regulations about pay and other economic regulations were not clear and we were not prepared to cover such tasks.

Q. Did the Gestapo take part in a conspiracy the purpose of which was the planning, preparing and waging of aggressive war?

A. I have to deny that. As adviser for defence to the Inspector of Wehrkreis (district) VI who was the head of six State Police offices, I had no previous knowledge of an aggressive war being prepared. When Norway and Denmark were occupied, I learned the news from the newspapers. As deputy leader of the Gestapo office in Dusseldorf, I did not have any previous knowledge of the date set for the offensive in the West. The morning of that day I heard of it by radio and the newspapers. When the campaign against Russia was started, I was an expert in the Gestapo office. Several days later, it may have been three or four days, we were informed of the beginning of the offensive. Before that we had no idea whatsoever about such plans, that is to say, not any more than any German could have gathered from the political tension.

Q. What was in principle the composition of the personnel of a State Police office in Germany?

A. The Gestapo office at Coblenz, the personnel of which I have reconstructed in my mind, consisted of about forty-five to fifty agents in the criminal department who were mostly taken from the Security Police and Criminal Police, or else from the old I-A; and in addition, about fifteen to twenty administrative and technical officials; apart from that, clerks and assistants, bringing the estimated total for the entire office to about one hundred persons.

Q. Was the employment of all these people on a voluntary basis in general or not?

A. On the whole, they were employees who had entered the police before 1933 and had been detailed or transferred to the State Police. According to my recollection, there were at the most 10 to 15 per cent of them who had entered the organization voluntarily after 1933.

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