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-Fifth Day: Monday, 5th August, 1946
(Part 9 of 9)

[DR. PELCKMANN continues his direct examination of Paul Hauser]

[Page 293]

Q. Let us go back to the initial stages. When was the Verfugungstruppe created? How strong was it, and how did it increase in numbers?

[Page 294]

A. The beginnings of the Verfugungstruppe go as far back as the year 1933. In this year, the Leibstandarte was created as a sort of bodyguard for Adolf Hitler. Following that, individual battalions were formed for representational purposes. Only at the very beginning, in 1933 and 1934, were men of the General SS used. Later the very youngest of the age-groups subject to military duty were recruited.

Q. What was the strength in 1936, and, for instance, in 1939?

A. In 1936, there were three infantry regiments and three technical battalions. In 1939 there were four infantry regiments, one artillery regiment, and three technical battalions.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal thinks this would be a convenient time to break off.

(A recess was taken.)

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn at half-past four this afternoon.


Q. Witness, what was the purpose and the task of the so- called Verfugungstruppe? Was it to serve as a new armed force alongside the Wehrmacht?

A. The purpose and the task were laid down in the basic decree of Adolf Hitler of August, 1938. According to that decree the Verfugungstruppe was to belong neither to the Wehrmacht nor to the police. It was a standing troop at the disposition of Adolf Hitler, and it was paid from State funds. The training was supervised by the High Command of the Army and replacements were taken from volunteers of the youngest age groups.

Q. Was the Verfugungstruppe, therefore, meant to be a political nucleus? The prosecution accuses it of being a special instrument for the oppression and elimination of political opponents and of having aided realization of the Nazi ideology by use of weapons.

A. That is not true. The Verfugungstruppe had neither political nor police tasks. It developed gradually into a test troop which had to combine all the old soldierly virtues with the requirements of the Socialist age. Especially as concerns the relationship between officers and men, advancement from the bottom up without special examinations; and the doing away with any and all exclusiveness.

Q. Were the members of the Verfugungstruppe expected to give blind obedience?

A. No. They swore obedience and loyalty to Adolf Hitler and to their superiors. An unconditional obedience which would have included crime was not expected and was not sworn to.

Q. The prosecution is particularly accusing the Verfugungstruppe that incitement of racial hatred and persecution of the Jews belonged to its special tasks. Was the troop trained for these purposes?

A. The political and ideological education could only have been carried through by training. I, personally, as leader of the candidate school and as an inspector, have supervised this training, for I myself was a new man and had to work myself into the new way of thinking. I can testify that race hatred and extermination of Jewry or of the Eastern peoples were never taught and were never demanded.

Q. According to the prosecution, this troop served the purpose of preparation for an aggressive war. Was the striving for predominance in Germany through terror and the conquest of all Europe taught?

A. These young troops needed time and peace for fulfilment of their tasks Their commanders were veterans of the First World War without exception. They knew war and they knew that it had brought misery and misfortune to us once already. Terror in German domestic life and domination in Europe were never contemplated by this small, young troop.

[Page 295]

Q. Can it be deduced from the setting up of this Verfugungstruppe, already before the re-establishment of conscription in 1936, that this meant a breach of the Treaty of Versailles?

A. Before the re-establishment of conscription, this troop had consisted at the most of 4,000 to 5,000 men and could not be used for either a defensive or an offensive war. And later, too, it was not prepared for war, as it had no divisional staff, no general staff, no replacement of men or officers. It was far from being ready for a war of aggression.

THE PRESIDENT: Witness, could you speak in a slightly lower tone of voice? The sound of your voice interferes with the sound of the interpreter's voice coming through to us.

THE WITNESS: Yes, sir.


Q. What tasks did you personally have as inspector of the Verfugungstruppe?

A. I was not a commander with the power to issue orders but rather I was an inspector responsible for the training and education of the troop. Beyond that, I received executive orders from Heinrich Himmler on questions of organization.

Q. Did the replacements consist of volunteers and where did they come from? What were the motives for their joining?

A. Until the beginning of the war replacements came from volunteers only. In the first years, that is in 1933 and 1934, they came from the General SS.

THE PRESIDENT: Witness, may I remind you once more to speak a little lower and a little less loud. Otherwise, the voices will cross in the translation. And please speak a little more slowly as well.

A. The volunteers were recruited in the entire country. Their applications, which were sent in in large numbers, were not determined by questions of ideology. They were men who wanted to do their military service in a well-known and highly motorized unit.

Q. What relationship existed between the Verfugungstruppe and the many other various branches of the organization which were under Heinrich Himmler's uniform command?

A. I mentioned already that only at the time of the establishment of the troop did we have local contacts with the Oberabschnitte of the General SS. These contacts decreased, especially when the inspectorate was established as a central office, and they ceased to exist altogether even before the war started. There were neither official nor personal contacts with the Death's Head Units, which had the task of guarding the concentration camps, a task belonging more to the police sphere - not even in the joint garrison at Dachau. Neither were there any official or private contacts with the SD. The tasks of the SD were not known. I might mention that in peace time I hardly spoke a dozen words to Obergruppenfuehrer Heydrich, the chief of the SD, when I once met him in the antechamber of Heinrich Himmler's office.

Q. What can you tell us about the tasks of the Death's Head Units?

A. The tasks of the Death's Head Units were contained in the basic decree of August, 1938. At times they furnished guards for the concentration camps, although they had no entrance to the inside of the camp. Their replacements were recruited among the German youth or among men who had already served their period of military service. Their training was not supervised by the armed forces but it was soldierly all the same.

Q. Was service in the Death's Head Unit equal to service in the armed forces?

A. No, it did not count as service in the armed forces.

Q. And these young volunteers who were recruited, did they know that they were to be used to guard concentration camps?

[Page 296]

A. I did not have an insight into the recruiting of the Death's Head Units, but I do not believe that they were told the aim.

Q. What do you know about the participation of these Verfugungstruppe in the incidents of 30th June, 1934, and 9th November, 1938?

A. I cannot speak about the participation on 30th June, 1934, for at that time I was not in the Verfugungstruppe, but I do know that men of the Verfugungstruppe were convinced that the executions which were being carried out there had been ordered by acts of the State executive power. The Verfugungstruppe was in no way connected with the excesses of 9th November, 1938. The large majority, such as the Leibstandarte and the regiment at Munich, and all the recruits, had gathered at Munich for the annual swearing-in programme.

Q. Now, what do you understand by under the Waffen SS?

A. After the beginning of the campaign in the autumn of 1939 three divisions at first were set up containing men recruited from the Verfugungstruppe, the Death's Head Units, and from men who had been trained for the police, and, grouped together with various other smaller units, they received the name of Waffen SS. These few divisions proved their worth and with the growing need for more troops for the war they were gradually increased up to more than thirty- five divisions. The main reason for this unplanned growth is due to the fact that all racial Germans who volunteered from the North, from the East, and from the South-east of Europe served in this Waffen SS. The total strength, with all losses reckoned, might be said to be about 900,000 men. Only one-third to one-half would have been Reichsdeutsche (Reich Germans).

Q. At the end of the war?

A. Yes, at the end of the war.

Q. The prosecution asserts that the Waffen SS deliberately participated in a war of aggression. Is that assertion correct?

A. Members of the Waffen SS did not have the impression that they were participating in a war of aggression, and that they were being used for that purpose. They lacked any and all insight as to whether the war was one of aggression or one of defence. Their oaths bound them to their duties. It was not possible for them to refuse to participate in a war.

Q. Was there a uniform or unified SS chief command during the war? To whom were the divisions subordinate during the war?

A. A unified SS chief command post did not exist during the war. The main office leadership in Berlin was an administrative agency. All divisions of the Waffen SS were incorporated into the army and fought under the command and, in the final analysis, under the responsibility of the army. I personally, in the five and a half years of the war, received orders only from the armed forces offices and agencies.

Q. Did Heinrich Himmler have any influence on the divisions of the Waffen SS, and if so, what influence did he have?

A. The divisions which had been incorporated into the army were subordinate to Heinrich Himmler only in matters dealing with personnel and replacements, with judicial questions and fundamental problems of organization.

Q. The prosecution states that the Waffen SS used special means of combat and that they deliberately fought cruelly, used terror methods, and carried out mass exterminations.

A. I must give you a straight no. The troop was young, it had no tradition, and it had no name. It had to prove itself first. The commanders took personal pride in achieving a high standing and reputation for this troop through courageous but fair methods of combat. Since some of the divisions fought together with the army the generals of the army would not have tolerated any methods deviating from ordinary fighting, and just as they took steps in tactical matters they would have stepped in if this accusation of a terrorist method of fighting had been justified. They would have noticed it just as I would have noticed it, for in critical periods

[Page 297]

the commanders are on the road for days on end and they see how the troops are fighting and can judge what methods are being used.

Q. Were the officers and men instructed about adhering to International Law?

A. Even in peace time as part of their training the officers and men were informed of the Hague Convention and the Hague Rules of Land Warfare. Further instruction, of course, took place constantly during the war.

Q. Is it correct that Himmler once said that the successes of the Waffen SS were to be credited to terroristic measures?

A. Heinrich Himmler once used this expression in a speech. I reported to him that it was completely wrong, that we had not gained our successes through terror methods, but only through the courage of officers and men who were ready to sacrifice themselves to the last man if necessity arose.

Q. What basic principles were applied by the troop for the treatment of prisoners of war?

A. The prisoners of war were treated according to the rules which applied in the army - welfare work, food, treatment, just as in the army. I myself while lying wounded in different field hospitals noted that friend and foe were treated alike, and the old manner of dealing with prisoners did not apply.

Q. Was the nomination of Himmler to the rank of Commander-in- Chief of the Replacement Army and its organization, and with that his nomination as chief of the prisoner-of-war system, the cause of any changes in this policy?

A. Regarding the Waffen SS, no. But the prisoner-of-war system was put under his authority since Heinrich Himmler was Supreme Commander of the Replacement Army, and he decreed that the Higher SS and Police Leaders at home be charged with the supervision of the security measures of the prisoner-of-war camps. I do not know, however, the details. I can only state that, thereupon, the Higher SS and Police Leaders were made generals in the Waffen SS.

Q. The prosecution asserts that the Waffen SS, because of their will to destroy, committed crimes against humanity and crimes against the laws of war in the occupied countries and arbitrarily destroyed cities and villages. Did the Waffen SS participate in those measures?

A. I had occasion to see these troops during the war. I lived with the population in the East and West. The relationship was always a good one. It was based on mutual aid and assistance. Where we had to call the population to help us, of course, for instance, in road-building, they received food for their services. The arbitrary destruction of villages would only have made it more difficult for us to get accommodation. I do not remember a single case in which the front troops of my division had ever taken hostages or destroyed villages as a punishment.

Q. Before the Eastern campaign, had you known of a decree of Hitler's which allegedly said that excesses of the troops toward the civilian population were not to be punished?

A. That was not the wording of the order. Rather, it left the decision as to whether the troops, in their excesses towards the civilian population, were legally to be prosecuted to the court itself, whereas formerly the court was under obligation to prosecute. I personally had ordered in my report that, as an aid to discipline, such excesses were to be prosecuted by the law, and the judgements which were reported to the Reichsfuehrer show that excesses were punished very severely.

Q. Do you know the Kommissar order or decree?

A. The Kommissar order or decree was addressed only to the corps of the Waffen SS. In 1941 we did not have any corps, that is General Kommandos. Accordingly this decree was and is unknown to me and, therefore we could not have been guided by it. I recall only having seen a later decree which demanded the segregation of the Kommissars. The troops, in reality, were not too concerned

[Page 298]

with this order, for the Kommissars, as such, were not recognized by the fighting troops.

Q. Was the fight against the partisans a special task of the Waffen SS, and was this to be considered a fight of extermination?

A. The fight against partisans was a purely military, political, police -

(At this point there was a mechanical breakdown.)

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn for today.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 1000 hours, 6th August, 1946.)

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