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-Seventh Day: Wednesday, 7th August, 1946
(Part 2 of 10)

[DR. PELCKMANN continues his direct examination of Guenther Reinecke]

[Page 348]

Q. But could you not easily have removed these obstacles by reporting them; for instance, to Himmler? Pohl, as far as I know, was directly subordinate to Himmler so that Himmler could have given him the necessary orders?

A. Oh, no, this man Pohl did not proceed as clumsily as that. Outwardly he pretended to welcome and with all means support the investigating work of the head office "SS Courts." And that was how he represented the matter to Himmler after we had drawn Himmler's attention to Pohl's somewhat doubtful role. In reality, Pohl sabotaged with all the means of his tremendously powerful position the investigations we were making and worked hand in glove with the detainees and the criminal commandants, as was clearly proved by reliable evidence.

In 1941, to mention one outstanding example, when our first investigation in the Buchenwald concentration camp failed, as I have described, Pohl wrote a letter to the camp commandant Koch, which I have read myself, and which contained the following:

"I shall use all the power of my position to protect you if some unemployed lawyer should again stretch out his greedy hangman's hands towards your innocent, blameless person."
That is how Pohl always worked, because he was not only caught in the death machinery of the concentration camps, but in the same manner involved in other affairs and became one of the most corrupt persons in the whole Reich. Of that we found evidence towards the end of the war; evidence which we obtained through the many proceedings against organizations which he headed in private business. As head of that criminal clique, he actually tried to destroy the system of confidence men among the detainees, which he knew might endanger his own person. One of our confidence detainees in the camp of Sachsenhausen, his name was Rothe, was locked up at his command, and Pohl tried by false pretences to obtain an order from the RHSA, or rather the Reich Criminal Police Department, to have the man hanged: publicly before all the detainees of the camp, so as to intimidate them and at the same time make the investigation work of the legal system impossible. One of our investigating officers heard of this in time and was able to prevent it at the last moment.

[Page 349]

Q. More slowly, please, witness, much more slowly. These are important statements, and the translation is not simple.

A. That was how this criminal Pohl worked. The most important support for his fight against the legal system was the Fuehrer Order No. 1, regarding secrecy, which was posted in every office of the SS and police. According to that order, matters which had to be kept secret could only be communicated to the persons immediately concerned, and even those could be told only as much as they absolutely had to know, and even then, only in the period in which they were actively concerned with the particular matters involved.

Everything in the concentration camps was secret; only with special passes and authority was it possible to enter them. The work done by the detainees was secret, supposedly because "V" weapons were being produced. The life led by the detainees was secret, supposedly for reasons of counter- intelligence. Correspondence on concentration camps was a "Secret Reich Matter," and for that reason not available at all. For years Pohl could easily withdraw to the other side of this screen of close secrecy, and he surrendered to the advancing investigation of the legal system only step by step, whenever, on the basis of individual revelations, he was systematically cornered.

Q. Then, witness, do you believe that with the results you have just described, you came near to discovering the real extent of the crimes, as it - and this we now know from the proceedings here - as it actually existed?

A. As I know it today, no. And the reason for that is that the legal system of the SS and police dealt with all these crimes as individual crimes, and the system of criminality which has now been revealed could not be penetrated for a number of years. When towards the end of 1944 the legal system succeeded, on the strength of the evidence in these individual cases, in cornering the criminal Pohl and also Grawitz, and Muller from the Gestapo, who was covering up many of the crimes, it was then for the first time that these men spoke of "orders from above." The investigations which the legal system then commenced along a new line collapsed together with the German war machine.

Q. Did you then towards the end of 1944 come near to discovering the actual extent of the crimes, the mass exterminations?

A. It was clear at the end of 1944 that orders from above had to exist, but that mass exterminations of a tremendous extent were being carried out, that was not recognizable even then.

Q. According to the outcome of the investigations you have just described, who was responsible for the crimes which were revealed?

A. Of the highest ranking, Pohl, next to him the former Reich Medical Officer of the SS and Police, Grawitz, and next to him the Chief of the Gestapo, Muller. Apart from these, commandants of concentration camps, members of the commandants' staffs, medical officers in concentration camps, and, to a considerable extent, criminal detainees in the concentration camps.

Q. Would it therefore be correct to say that, without distinction, all members of the groups of persons which you have just mentioned participated in the crimes?

A. No, that is not correct. The investigations which we carried out proved clearly that certain camps were perfectly in order, that not every commandant was a criminal, and that many members of the commandants' staffs and many medical officers knew nothing about the crimes, that most of all the guards in the concentration camps had nothing whatever to do with the crimes, because they themselves were unable to gain knowledge of the real happenings within concentration camps.

Q. Earlier you spoke of the commandant of the concentration camp of Buchenwald, Koch. His case has already been mentioned in the course of these proceedings, and the prosecution at that time alleged, on the basis of testimony given by the detainee Blaha, that Koch had been sentenced for embezzlement and for the murder of three persons whose existence was inconvenient to him. The prosecution

[Page 350]

described the case in a way which gave the impression that at that time the SS Court had simply ignored the numerous other cases of killings. Is that correct, as far as you know?

A. No, that is not correct. The proceedings against Koch were based on a charge of corruption, and on that charge he was sentenced to death. The actual contents of the findings against Koch, that is, the reason for the death sentence imposed on him, was the system of murder in many instances, a system which Koch invented and pursued. This type of findings had to be chosen, because there was evidence of so many crimes which Koch had committed in the distant past, and of which the traces had meanwhile been eliminated, that if it had been possible at all, it would have taken long months and years to clear up such individual cases. It was for that reason that, using the shortest possible means of proof to put a stop to Koch's activities at once, these three cases were taken up as being typical, but he was, in fact, sentenced for the system of murder in the Buchenwald concentration camp.

DR. PELCKMANN: The testimony of this witness on these events is supported by the Affidavits SS 64, 65, 66, 67, 68 and 69. No, not 68, I listed that by mistake; not 68, but 64 to 67, and 69. These affidavits were deposed by the investigating judge, Dr. Morgen, who was to have appeared here as a witness. Unfortunately, he only arrived at the beginning of July, just before the hearings before the Commission were completed, and I was not able to prepare him for his examination in time. I have submitted his affidavit, however, and the High Tribunal will be able to judge whether it might possibly be necessary to hear Dr. Morgen in person, since his testimony concerns the most important matters.


What was Himmler's attitude with regard to these investigations?

A. When the crimes were discovered at Buchenwald, at the end of 1943 Himmler was given a report on the matter at once, and he was throughout kept informed of the progress of the investigations. Himmler displayed very considerable activity, and he himself ordered that the investigations were to be carried out in the strictest manner. Only with his authority was it possible at all to pass through the gates of the concentration camps. Then in the middle of 1944 he suddenly issued an order to the contrary. As appointing authority, he ordered that the proceedings against Koch should mark the end of all judicial investigations in concentration camps. Koch had been sentenced to death and was to be hanged publicly before the assembled detainees. Pohl was to direct the execution personally, and was to address the guards who would attend in an appropriate manner. The remaining perpetrators were to report their crimes voluntarily, and in the event of such a voluntary report, he, Himmler, might possibly pardon or reprieve them. Anyone who failed to report his crimes could only expect the court's sentence of death. The chief of the head office "SS Courts" protested against this order from Himmler. He did not, however, obtain a final decision from Himmler, though Himmler tolerated the future proceedings. The head office "SS Courts" at that time intentionally delayed the completion of the case against Koch so as to have an opportunity of extending the investigating activities to other camps, and that was actually achieved. The investigating commissions of the Reich Criminal Police Department, which had already been withdrawn as a result of Himmler's order, resumed their activities, and from the autumn of 1944 the investigations were continued on a broad basis. Authoritative powers, which were necessary in view of Pohl's continuing resistance, were issued by the personal judge of the Reichsfuehrer, and could not be ignored even by Pohl.

DR. PELCKMANN: The details of this dramatic exchange between Pohl, Himmler and the SS legal system are also described in Dr. Morgen's affidavits Nos. 65 to 67.

[Page 351]

Q. Did you, witness, in the course of these investigations, find measures or orders from Himmler or Hitler for the biological extermination of Jewry?

A. No. We neither saw such orders at any time, nor did we succeed, in the course of our investigations, in getting hold of them or in gaining knowledge of them in any other way. Such monstrous Orders we could not imagine. Himmler had always shown us only an ideal face: cleanliness, decency, fight against crime at all costs. At the end of 1943, on the occasion of a conference, he confirmed these principles to me personally and in detail. That a system of mass extermination could exist was an idea which, under the circumstances, no one could possibly imagine. We found horrifying conditions in the concentration camps, and we learned many things which shocked us, but that idea was never in our minds. Names like Hoess and Eichmann did come up during our investigations and proceedings were, in fact, instituted against both, but at the end of the war they were still in their initial stages. But Hoess and Eichmann were to us names like Brown or Jones. No one could possibly guess that behind these men the henchmen of a dreadful system of extermination were hiding. Even when, at the end of 1944 and the beginning of 1945, we came near to establishing the actual cause of the crimes committed in concentration camps, namely, that crimes were being carried out by order, this line of defence of Pohl, Muller and Grawitz still appeared incredible, because if there really had been orders from above, carried out by these three persons, then it should have been easy for them to go to Himmler and to demand the exclusion of the legal system from these matters.

And so we ourselves, in spite of these painfully achieved results of the investigations, had no clear judicial evidence that mass exterminations on a large scale, not to mention the biological extermination of Jewry, had been carried out, and we continued, as before, to investigate the crimes from the point of view that they were individual perpetrations, although we knew that they had been carried out to an alarming extent and in alarmingly large numbers.

Q. There exists a pamphlet called SS in Dachau, issued by the American CIC, by a Colonel Quinn. Unfortunately, I cannot submit it to the Tribunal at this time, because I had to return it. But it is in the library and is generally known. It contains testimony given by an anonymous inmate and signed -

THE PRESIDENT: You should have taken a copy of the document. You cannot testify or tell us what the document is if you cannot produce it. The fact that it had to go back to the library is no reason why you do not have it. There would have been no objection to your bringing a copy of it.

DR. PELCKMANN: May I try to bring a copy after the recess, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, if you would like to.

DR. PELCKMANN: It contains a statement by an anonymous -

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we do not want to know what it contains. We do not accept from you what it contains.

DR. PELCKMANN: In that case, I shall postpone this question.


Q. Witness, evidence has been submitted to this Tribunal that in the gas chambers at Auschwitz and other places millions of Jews were murdered. You, however, discovered in your investigations that individual persons and a small circle of persons committed the crimes which you described. Is it possible, as far as you know, that this comparatively small circle of persons is also responsible for the extermination of these millions?

A. Investigations of the head office "SS Courts," particularly the final stages of the investigations just before the end of the war, show that individual persons and a small circle of persons are also exclusively responsible for these things. Otherwise, these outrageous things could not possibly have escaped the attention of the legal system for so long.

[Page 352]

Q. Did you, in your conversations with Dr. Morgen, gather any further information which might support this assertion?

A. Dr. Morgen was a judge before me, who, during the whole period, was attached to the Reich Criminal Police Department in order to carry out investigations of the concentration camps from there. Dr. Morgen has extensive knowledge. I know, today, that he himself talked with those responsible for these mass exterminations, and he gained a clear insight into all these matters. He can prove that the origin of the exterminations of the Jews is not to be found in the SS, but in the Chancellery of the Fuehrer.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Pelckmann, I understood from you that you put - that you were putting in two affidavits from Dr. Morgen, is that right?

DR. PELCKMANN: Three, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, three - five, if you like, but this witness cannot tell us what Dr. Morgen says. Dr. Morgen must speak for himself from his affidavits.

DR. PELCKMANN: In that case, perhaps I may return to this, when I submit the affidavits.


Q. It is alleged by the prosecution that these acts could not have been perpetrations of individuals, but that the logical application of the Party programme regarding the Jewish question had to lead to these crimes at Auschwitz. What can you say to that from your own knowledge and experience of the fight against, these crimes?

A. I have already said that Himmler always showed the SS only his ideal side, and these principles which he showed the SS were considered by the SS as principles of the Party programme. Hitler's order for the biological extermination of Jewry, as I know it today, is an absolute -

THE PRESIDENT: He said that over and over again about Himmler showing his ideal side to the SS. He said it before, you know. He should not have to say it more than once.

DR. PELCKMANN: May I ask him, Mr. President, what his attitude is on the allegation of the prosecution that the extermination of Jews in Auschwitz was considered by members of the SS as a logical outcome of the principles which the SS had learned.

THE PRESIDENT: How can he give evidence about that? He can tell us what he saw and what he did. He has not told us yet whether he has ever been in the concentration camps.

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