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 5 of 11)

[DR. MERKEL continues his direct examination of Karl Heinz Hoffmann]

[Page 168]

Q. Upon whose directive was the harbour district of Marseilles demolished?

[Page 169]

A. That was a directive by the Reichsfuehrer, sent directly to the Higher SS and Police Leaders who, especially in France, had worked out a close connection with him by- passing the Gestapo. In Berlin we heard about this order only later on.

Q. Did Himmler frequently issue such directives without first telling the police about it?

A. While I was in Berlin that happened rather frequently. He did it on the basis of reports which he received from some other office or as a spontaneous reaction to some act of sabotage or an attempted assassination.

Q. Do you know of any cases of excessive methods during interrogations in the Western occupied territories?

A. In the main, we knew officially at the time only about the Norwegian White Book which caused an investigation in Oslo; and then the basis of our reports to the Reichsfuehrer was to obtain the recall of Terboven.

Q. What do you know about the deportation of French ministers and generals to Germany?

A. This particular deportation was ordered by the Reichsfuehrer evidently after deliberation with only the Higher SS and Police Leaders in France. The Secret State Police office (Gestapo), however, did not know anything beforehand and was confronted with the order that Prime Minister Reynaud and Minister Mandel were to be put into prison cells. The Gestapo office, after much correspondence, succeeded in getting a different kind of quarters for the French statesmen and an understanding that there would be better quarters from the beginning for those people who were later transferred to Germany.

Q. Did you know that one of the French generals at Koenigstein was to be executed upon the orders of Panzinger in November, 1944?

A. No.

Q. And that the general was to be taken away from Koenigstein in a car and then shot when allegedly trying to escape?

I put before you the documents which have just been presented by the American Prosecution, 4048-PS to 4052-PS, and I want you to state your opinion as to what you know about this.

DR. MERKEL: I only have an English copy, but the witness understands English very well.

THE PRESIDENT: Is it in your document book?

DR. MERKEL: No, Mr. President, it is not in the document book and I could not put it in because these documents have just been presented by the American prosecution during the session. The numbers are 4048 to 4052-PS. They have just been presented during the cross-examination of Dr. Best.


Q. Witness, I believe it is not necessary for you to read all the documents now. I only want you shortly to refer to these documents and answer my question, that is, if you know anything at all about this incident?

A. The dates of the documents are January, 1945 and December, 1944. At both those times I was in Denmark and I was not in the Secret State Police office.

Q. Generally, was the deportation of foreign workers to Germany carried out by the Gestapo?

A. No. I recall that even the arrests of escaped workers in the Western occupied territories were not carried out by the Gestapo. I remember particularly that in 1940 Reich Commissioner Seyss-Inquart stressed specifically that such things should not be done.

Q. Was the so-called "Nacht und Nebel" decree of the OKW brought before you in order to make it known to the State Police offices and commanders?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you agree with that decree?

[Page 170]

A. The "Nacht und Nebel" decree had been issued by the OKW in conjunction with the Reich Ministry of Justice. The Gestapo office had nothing to do with the drafting of it. There were, to begin with, great difficulties in the way of technical and police administration, because the act which had been committed abroad had to be clarified in Germany. If only for these reasons we rejected it as being difficult to carry out.

Furthermore, its effect proved to be negative, for the relatives did not know anything about the person arrested, and this was in contradiction to our fundamental tendencies. The difficulties arose immediately when the first people were arrested and transferred to the State Police offices, which had to clarify the proceedings. They showed that innocent people too were brought to Germany. We then succeeded in spite of the terms of this decree, in getting these people returned to their native country.

Q. Were the so-called "Kugel" decree, the commando order, and the "N.N. decree" applied in Denmark while you were there?

A. No.

Q. What do you know about the application of these decrees in the other. Western occupied territories?

A. All these were decrees which were issued after I left Berlin and therefore I cannot say anything about them.

Q. Do you know whether the Gestapo in the Western occupied territories had special groups in the prisoner-of-war camps so as to select and execute those men who were racially or politically undesirable?

A. I cannot say anything about that because the decree was not known to me before the surrender.

Q. Did the decrees mentioned have the character of State Police decrees?

A. These decrees did not originate as the work of professional police, but they were ordered from above. The normal State Police officials therefore could not expect that such decrees would ever be issued, and besides, owing to the regulations on secrecy, the contents of these decrees were really not known to the great majority of State Police officials.

DR. MERKEL: I have no further questions to put to the witness.

THE PRESIDENT: Does the prosecution wish to cross-examine?



Q. Dr. Hoffmann, you were a member of the Nazi Party, were you not?

A. Yes.

Q. Since when?

A. Since 1st December, 1932.

Q. And when you became a candidate for Government service, and in particular the police, you indicated too that you were a member of the Party, did you not?

A. I beg your pardon; I did not quite understand the question.

Q. When you became a candidate for Government service, and in particular the police, you indicated that you were a member of the Nazi Party, did you not?

A. Yes, of course.

Q. You said a short while ago that there was no connection between the Gestapo and the Nazi Party, did you not?

A. Yes, that is correct.

Q. Is it correct, though, that police officials were subjected to political screening?

A. I did not quite understand the sense of the question, I am sorry, I did not quite understand the question.

Q. "Political screening" is a special term which you probably know; in German it is called "Politische Beurteilung."

[Page 171]

A. Yes.

Q. It is true, is it not, that important officials of the police, before being appointed, were subjected to this political screening by the Party?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you know the circular of the Party Chancellery according to which the authorities of the National Socialist Party were not obliged to consult the USC cards, when it was a question of appointing new police officials, or of giving promotion?

A. Each official who entered was examined regarding his political attitude, and each one who was promoted was screened again.

Q. You were a member of the SS, were you not?

A. Under the assimilation decree I became a member of the SS in November, 1939, after the outbreak of war.

Q. You had to send in an application, did you not?

A. We were directed by the office to make a formal application.

Q. And this application was similarly subjected to a political screening, was it not?

A. I assume so.

Q. And when you were in Dusseldorf, as delegate of the Chief of the Gestapo services, you had under your orders some Frontier Police offices?

A. Yes.

Q. Is it correct that these offices had exactly the same functions as the branch offices of the Gestapo?

A. No, not at first, they had only the duties of frontier police. In my time, the political tasks of the police were the business of the Landrat.

Q. You are speaking of what period?

A. I am speaking of the period of 1939 to 1940 - until September, 1940.

Q. I remind you of a circular of the Ministry of the Interior for Prussia and the Reich, of 8th May, 1937, published in the bulletin of 1937 of the Ministry of the Interior for the Reich and Prussia, Page 754; which stipulates in its third article that the police tasks at the frontier of the Reich are taken over by the frontier office and posts.

A. Yes, that is correct. You must distinguish between the inner political tasks and counter-intelligence work. Counter- intelligence, of course, was handled by the Frontier Police, but not tasks of inner political nature, because most of the officials of the Frontier Police did not have the necessary training to make criminal investigations independently.

Q. The same paragraph continues that the frontier offices of the police are considered as being Gestapo offices and are assimilated to the "Aussendienststellen."

A. I cannot understand the word. Oh, yes - "Aussendientstelle". The Frontier Police were subordinated to the State Police office, Department III, which dealt with counter-intelligence tasks. As the purpose of counter- intelligence work is to counter aggression coming from abroad, it goes without saying that the Frontier Police had the most urgent task of all police units along the frontier. I have explained that the Frontier Police essentially were not entrusted with the inner political tasks of the police.

Q. You said to us just now that people were sent to concentration camps at the request of the local Gestapo services. Is that true?

A. If an individual was to be sent to a concentration camp, the State Police office in Berlin had to make a request to the Gestapo office. It was only if the Gestapo office or, later on, the Chief of the Security Police, decided for protective custody that the individual could be sent to the concentration camp, because internments were obtained through the usual channels of police administration.

Q. So it is a fact, witness, that internments in concentration camps were made on the initiative of the local offices of the Gestapo?

[Page 172]

A. On the demand of the local office of the State Police.

Q. And the local Gestapo services, when making such a request, at the same time arrested the individual?

A. Yes.

Q. Did frontier posts also have the right to make requests for internment in concentration camps?

A. The Frontier Police had only the duty of intervening at the frontier. They did not take any decisions independently. If the Frontier Police arrested a person, all they did was to hand him over with a report to the State Police office, which continued to investigate the matter. The officials of the Frontier Police were mostly beginners who were not yet able to carry out any criminal investigations. The Frontier Police office was not an independent office that could make such requests. The duties of the Frontier Police were in no way different from those before 1933.

Q. I would like to show you, witness, a document which nevertheless dates from 1944 and which comes from the Dusseldorf Gestapo office. That is 1063-PS. Is it a fact that this letter was also sent to the frontier offices to inform them that there was no reason to send arrested Eastern workers to Buchenwald concentration camp?

A. Excuse me; I did not quite understand the question because I was reading.

Q. Is it correct that this letter addressed to the frontier offices informs them -

A. That can be seen from the contents. It is clear, of course, that a State Police office also sends its principal directives to the frontier, for the contents of this letter deal with the treatment of individuals who had been caught and that, of course, happened at the frontier. The letter also states that a police office, having picked up such an individual, has to pass on all information when they hand over the case to the State Police office, that is the principal office.

Q. It is correct, is it, that this document indicates that requests for transfer to concentration camps which would come from frontier offices have to pass via Dusseldorf?

A. Yes, of course. To my knowledge, the Frontier Police office could not have any direct connection with the Gestapo.

Q. So it is also correct that the frontier office could itself file requests for internment in concentration camps?

A. Only to the State Police office at Dusseldorf. But I must add that the document is dated 1944, and that since 1940 I was no longer engaged in State Police work in Germany; and I cannot say whether there were any changes in the directives given for the Frontier Police offices during my absence. This document does not give any cause to suppose there were, because I assume that the same decree was also sent to the Landrate.

THE PRESIDENT: In general, the Tribunal thinks that there is no use cross-examining the witness about documents which are not his own documents and about which he knows nothing. You can put the documents in.


Q. Do you know the institution of the Secret Field Police?

A. In the country there was only the gendarmerie, and in the smaller towns, the so-called Communal Criminal Police.

Q. I believe there is a mistranslation here. I mean the "Geheime Feldpolizei."

A. That institution is known to me, yes. I did not understand the question at first.

Q. Is it correct that most of the members of Field Police came from the police?

A. The units of the Secret Field Police (Geheime Feldpolizei) were composed of a few police officials, but mostly of soldiers who had been detailed for that purpose. In the groups, of the Secret Field Police which were transferred to

[Page 173]

Denmark, I estimate that within one unit there were about ten to fifteen per cent. of police officials, and the remainder were soldiers who had been detailed for that duty, and who previously had never had anything to do with the police.

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