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-Sixth Day: Tuesday, 6th August, 1946
(Part 8 of 10)

[Page 329]


Q. This is the order given by Himmler or by Hitler about the future tasks of the SS. I cannot show it to you, because it is in English. But I shall quote the following from it:

[Page 330]

"The Greater German Reich, in its final form, will not within its boundaries contain only racial. units which are from the beginning well disposed to the Reich, but in our Reich of the future, police troops will be in possession of the necessary authority only if - "
Please describe this order, on the basis of what you know of it, and tell us to whom and to what period of time these statements actually refer.

A. This order was only a verbal one. It was transmitted to the military commands apparently in order to assuage their misgivings about the expansion of the Waffen SS. It refers only to the future. It speaks of the Greater German Reich as the Reich of the future. But naturally what in particular Hitler meant by this, is beyond my knowledge.

Q. This directive seems to indicate that the Waffen SS was to receive police tasks in the future. Was that the basic principle of the Waffen SS during the war?

A. No. I must deny that. Perhaps Hitler at the time thought of something like the military boundary which used to exist in Austria; the men worked there, and in emergencies formed the border defence unit.

Q. In your questioning by the Russian Prosecutor, among a list of alleged crimes committed by Waffen SS units, one particular unit was mentioned, and you were asked whether you knew its commander, General Steiner. You answered yes to that question?

A. Yes.

Q. I want to read an affidavit, one of the affidavits which I shall submit later on. This is SS Affidavit No. 1, which shows what strict views this Lieutenant-General Steiner had on the discipline of his troops. I quote from the middle of this affidavit, signed by Walter Kallweit:

"Our attention had been called to an alleged spy.

We tried to open the door of the neighbouring house, but we were unsuccessful. Thereupon we broke a window, entered the house, and investigated it. thoroughly, without, however, finding a Soviet spy. Since we were forced to realize that we had made a mistake, we left the house by the way in which we had entered it, and regretted very much having broken a window pane.

Two hours later, two Oberscharfuehrers of the Field Police Force of the divisional staff 'Wiking' arrested us. On our way to the divisional court, we asked the policemen for the reason of our arrest. They replied that the Ukrainian woman owner of the house which we had searched had complained to the divisional staff on account of the broken window pane, and that the commander of the division, General Steiner, had decreed an immediate strict investigation of this case before the Divisional Court, and Ernst Gugl and I were interrogated singly by a judge holding the rank of Hauptsturmfuehrer.

The judge told me that an order of the day of General Steiner had instructed members of the SS Division 'Wiking' that it was their duty to behave decently towards the Ukrainian civilian population. My comrade Gugl and I had violated this order, since without permission or instruction, we had forced our way into a Ukrainian home by destroying a window pane."

I omit a few sentences.
"After the case had thus been cleared up, the judicial officer drew up a record of the interrogation and charged me with taking it to General Steiner's ordinance officer, Hauptsturmfuehrer von Schalburg, who commented on the report, as follows; these were his words:

'It is well that your behaviour was clean; otherwise you could have counted on severe punishment. General Steiner charged me with reporting to him personally the result of the investigation, and I am happy that I do not have to give him bad reports about his 'Wiking' men. Tell all your comrades, the 'Wiking' division is fighting chivalrously and cleanly.' "

[Page 331]

Q. After hearing this example, witness, can you confirm firstly, that this was the basic attitude of General Steiner and of his troops, and secondly, that it was the basic attitude of the Waffen SS, both at the front and in the rear zones?

A. Steiner was one of the first commanders under me who helped to build up the fighting units. I know his strict views where others are concerned. Whether it was necessary to have judicial proceedings on account of a window pane may be doubtful. But as a basic principle, this view was held by the old leaders of the fighting units right from the beginning of the Waffen SS.

DR. PELCKMANN: I am sorry, Mr. President, there are so many documents, I am just searching for a last one which I wanted to make the subject of my re-examination.

Of the numerous affidavits submitted by the British prosecution, one was deposed by Dr. Stanislaw Piotrowski, on 29th July, 1946, here in Nuremberg. May I request that this witness be called for cross-examination before the Tribunal. It is obvious that the witness is present here and no reason therefore exists why we should be satisfied with an affidavit.

THE PRESIDENT: What is the number of the document?

DR. PELCKMANN: No. D-939, your Lordship.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Pelckmann, had you not better finish with the witness first and then make your motion afterwards, if you want to make a motion about cross-examination?

DR. PELCKMANN: I have no further questions to put to this witness, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: The witness can retire.

DR. PELCKMANN: I am sorry, Mr. President, I made a mistake. It is not Dr. Piotrowski; it is Israel Eisenberg. That is the name of the witness.

THE PRESIDENT: D-939? Is it?


M. FUSTER: Mr. President, might I ask a question to make one point clear?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it is very inconvenient to do it at this late stage. Why did you not do it before?

M . FUSTER: It is not very important, my Lord. I will withdraw it.

THE PRESIDENT: Very well. The Tribunal will adjourn now.

(A recess was taken.)

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Elwyn Jones, the Tribunal understands that the witness, who is -

MR. ELWYN JONES: Israel Eisenberg.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Is he present in Nuremberg?

MR. ELWYN JONES: He is now in Stuttgart, my Lord, and is available to be called if the Tribunal thinks it is necessary.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, the Tribunal thinks, unless there is some particular objection, in view of the nature of the evidence, that possibly he ought to be called for cross- examination.

MR. ELWYN JONES: The prosecution has no objection to make at all, provided that we have additional time to get the witness here.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, then, will you have him brought here as soon as possible?

MR. ELWYN JONES: Yes, your Lordship.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, Dr. Pelckmann.

[Page 332]

DR. PELCKMANN: I shall now call the witness Reinecke.

GUENTHER REINECKE, a witness, took the stand and testified as follows:


Q. Will you state your full name, please?

A. Guenther Reinecke.

Q. Will you repeat this oath after me?

I swear by God - it is usual to hold your hand up when you are sworn - the Almighty and Omniscient, that I will speak the truth and will withhold and add nothing.

(The witness repeated the oath.)

THE PRESIDENT: The witness may sit down.



Witness, what positions did you hold in the SS?

A. I was an SS Oberfuehrer, Chief of Department in the Amt "SS Courts," and Chief Judge of the Supreme SS and Police Court.

Q. Did you have legal training?

A. I had my legal training at the universities of Innsbruck and Munich. In 1931 I passed my first State examination and in 1934 I passed the second State examination which entitled me to occupy the position of a judge. In 1933 I became Doctor of Law at Munich.

Q. Did you or the other SS judges have any special training at all in special schools?

A. Neither I nor the other SS judges had special training at special schools. The SS judges came from positions in the legal profession and before the war were high-ranking legal personalities, public prosecutors or lawyers, or some of their were during the war transferred from courts of the Wehrmacht to courts of the SS.

Q. Did you, on the strength of your activities, gain insight into the construction and work of the units and groups which were headed by Himmler, and which one generally describes as the SS?

A. Yes. For nearly ten years I worked in the legal system of the SS. In that sphere I had to deal extensively with the development, the construction and the activity of the entire SS, the chief of which was Himmler. From that angle I gained very considerable insight and from that angle I can give my testimony here.

Q. According to the prosecution, the SS infiltrated into the entire life of the State. In this connection, the prosecution referred to the numerous offices and powerful positions which the so-called Reichsfuehrer SS Himmler occupied. It is true that the actions of the Reichsfuehrer SS meant, generally speaking, the actions of the SS?

A. No. Heinrich Himmler united in himself a number of powerful positions in the Party and the State, and finally the armed forces. He was Reichsfuehrer SS, Chief of the German Police, Reich Minister of the Interior -

Q. Please speak more slowly, witness, these are difficult names.

A. - He was Reich Commissioner for the Strengthening of German Nationalism, Chief of the Reserves of the armed forces, Chief of the Office for Prisoners of War, and finally, supreme commander of two army groups. All of these positions had nothing to do with his post as Reichsfuehrer SS. His nomination to these positions of power took place on orders from above, and for reasons which can be traced back to his person, but not to the fact that he was Reichsfuehrer SS. Any connection between the SS acid these positions of power which Himmler held does not exist.

In particular, certain powerful positions which Himmler held are emphasized in the Indictment as indicating that the SS was acting through his person. These

[Page 333]

were his positions as Reichsfuehrer SS, Chief of the German Police, Reich Commissioner for the Strengthening of German Nationalism, and Chief of the Office for Prisoners of War.

Q. Do the tasks involved in these four positions form part of the activities of the organization of the SS?

A. No, activities of the organization of the SS are those in which Himmler, in his capacity as Reichsfuehrer SS, is acting in connection with the SS: As Chief of the German Police, he had been given a task which lay entirely in the sphere of the State. His commission for the Strengthening of German Nationalism was entirely a matter of the Reich. And his position as Chief of the Office for Prisoners of War was entirely a task connected with the armed forces.

Q. The wording of former German decrees which transferred these tasks to Himmler always referred to him as Reichsfuehrer SS. What was the reason for that?

A. That is correct. Reichsfuehrer SS was the first position held by Himmler at the beginning of his career. It is typical of the usage of language in the National Socialist Reich not to refer to a person by name, but by the title of his position. That usage can be found in numerous decrees, but it refers only to the person and not the organization with which the person's title may be connected. Many laws of economic political content have references, to give an example, to Hermann Goering as Reichsmarschall, but that did not mean that the German air force was active in an economic- political sphere.

Q. You have just mentioned organizations - plural - of the SS. As you know, your testimony before the Commission is already in the hands of the Tribunal, and in that testimony you said that one had to distinguish between five different independent spheres of activity which the prosecution wrongly combined under the heading "SS"; they are: General SS, Waffen SS, SD, police, and the concentration camps organization. Will you explain your statement that these were independent organizations? Will you start with the Allgemeine SS - the General SS?

A. The General SS was a formation of a political party and nothing else. It remained a formation of a political party until 1939, when it disappeared at the beginning of the war. At that time, 70 per cent of the members of the General SS changed over to military service, mostly in the Wehrmacht, a smaller percentage in the Waffen SS. But even the remainder were almost all drafted into the armed forces in the course of the following war years, so that the General SS practically disappeared during the war. At no time did the General SS receive tasks of the State, and it was never active in the execution of such tasks. Its members were and remained civilians who only wore uniforms when on duty - namely, twice weekly, quite often on Sundays - their duty consisted of standing guard during Party meetings of sport and of training.

Q. It is alleged by the prosecution that the General SS was the backbone of the entire SS, consisting of General SS, Waffen SS, police and concentration camps service. Is that correct?

A. No, that is not correct, and it is in contradiction to the historical development of the General SS. Nor was the General SS a reserve from which the other organizations which were mentioned drew their replacements. The General SS had either very loose or no connections at all with the other organizations named.

Q. Furthermore, the prosecution stated that the General SS had not only infiltrated into the organizations of the State, but into the apparatus of the State, as such; is that correct?

A. No, that again is not correct. It is correct - that is true - that high-ranking persons in the General SS were promoted to positions in the State, such as the positions of the Presidents of Police. It is also correct that such persons came to occupy economic positions, directors of industries and so on. These are nevertheless appointments connected with the individuals nominated, but not with the

[Page 334]

organization to which they belonged. Might I draw attention to the fact that particularly the positions of Police Presidents were, during the first years after 1933, mostly not at all occupied by members of the SS, but by members of the SA, But on the contrary, in the course of time, a development in the opposite direction is to be noted, in so. far as the General SS was infiltrated by persons and organizations completely alien to the character of the SS. Himmler appointed people in positions in the State and economy to be honorary members of the SS without their being connected with the SS in any way. In 1936, for instance, the so-called "Kyffhauser Union," a union of soldiers, was taken over into the SS by Himmler, but it had never before at any time had anything to do with the SS and it never became an organic entity of the General SS. The same applied in 1938. In that year, Himmler suddenly awarded honorary ranks both to the Regular Police and to the Security Police; both were given uniforms of the SS, though they were entirely separate organizations with tasks quite different from those of the General SS.

Q. Were these persons whom Himmler awarded ranks in the General SS the so-called honorary leaders?

A. Yes, those were the honorary leaders of the SS, to whom I referred just now.

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