The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
9th August to 21st August 1946

Two Hundred-First Day: Monday, 12th August, 1946
(Part 4 of 10)

[DR. LATERNSER continues his direct examination of Gert von Rundstedt]

[Page 88]

Q. What was the attitude of the military leaders to domestic and foreign politics?

A. We generals did not concern ourselves with politics. We did not take part in any political discussions, and we did not hold any political discussions among ourselves.

I should like in this connection to quote the famous English Field-Marshal Montgomery, who said, "As a servant of the nation, the Army is above politics, and that must remain so."

Q. Did the Reichswehr in 1933 help Hitler to power?

A. No.

Q. What was the attitude of the generals toward the Party and its methods?

A. The generals either rejected the Party or were indifferent. As for the methods regarding the Jewish question, they absolutely rejected them, particularly because many comrades were severely affected by the Aryan laws. The so-called "Master Race" is an absurdity. There is a mixture of Slav, Roman and Dinaric races in Germany. We also rejected the attitude in the Church question, and we succeeded in retaining chaplains in the Army up to the end.

Q. Was this attitude also true of the younger generals who, in the course of the war, became chargeable under the Indictment?

A. As far as my own near acquaintances are concerned, absolutely.

Q. Did you, as the senior officer in 1934, have an opportunity of doing anything to demand from Hitler punishment of the murderers of Schleicher?

A. No. In the first place, Reich President von Hindenburg was still at the head of the State. In the second place, I was not the senior officer. We had a Commander-in-Chief of the Army and a Minister of War for a purpose of that sort.

Q. Did the troop manoeuvres, or the tours of the General Staff after 1935 indicate any intention or plan for wars of aggression?

A. No, in no way. The big manoeuvres and the General Staff or Fuehrer tours were always concerned with war in our own country.

Q. Were you, as resident Commander-in-Chief in Berlin, consulted before the declaration of Wehrhoheit (armed sovereignty)?

A. No.

Q. Did you know Colonel-General von Fritsch well?

A. Very well; he was my subordinate for a time.

Q. Did he tell you, as his representative after 1937, of Hitler's intention to wage wars of aggression?

A. No, he could not do that, because there is such a thing as an official secret.

Q. You were his representative, were you not, when he went on prolonged leave to Egypt in the winter of 1937-1938? Did he on that occasion tell you of Hitler's intention, contained in the minutes of the meeting of the 5th of November, 1937?

[Page 89]

A. I only deputized for Colonel-General von Fritsch; his official representative was the Chief of the General Staff Beck. Colonel-General Fritsch did not give me any information at that time, nor did Colonel-General Beck.

Q. What were the results of the measures, which Hitler took on the 4th of February, 1938, in the military field?

A. Hitler eliminated the Minister of War as intermediary between himself and the Wehrmacht; thus, he himself now had command over all three branches of the Wehrmacht. In addition, he took the opportunity of dismissing high military leaders who were unwelcome to him.

Q. In February of 1938 you had a private conference with Hitler alone. What did he tell you about the attitude of the German generals?

A. He complained very bitterly about the supreme military leaders. He said that he alone had been the one who had forced rearmament through. The supreme leaders had always resisted and said it was going too fast. In the occupation of the Rhineland, he charged the leaders with a certain cowardice when they asked for withdrawal of the troops behind the Rhine because France was not taking up a threatening attitude.

Q. Did you in this talk discuss the question of a successor to Fritsch?

A. Yes. Hitler first suggested to me General von Reichenau. That suggestion I turned down in the name of the Army. He then suggested General von Brauchitsch, whose appointment I entirely approved in the name of the Army.

Q. When did you, as Commander-in-Chief in Berlin, learn of the planned march into Austria?

A. I was suddenly assigned to represent General von Brauchitsch in Breslau, at a commemoration celebration of the Iron Cross, and it was only there that I officially learned that the occupation of Austria had actually taken place.

Q. How were the Commanders-in-Chief informed of existing intentions?

A. We were told of the intentions of the Supreme Command by our Commander-in-Chief, von Brauchitsch, but he was only allowed to tell us what concerned us.

DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, I should now like to question the witness on Affidavits three and five of Field-Marshal von Blomberg and Colonel-General von Blaskowitz. They are USA 536 and 537, in the first document books of the prosecution. In this connection I should like to call the attention of the Tribunal to the fact that these affidavits, in the paragraphs in question, agree, word for word, although they were made on different days by different persons.


Q. Field-Marshal, the two affidavits of Field-Marshal von Blomberg and Colonel-General von Blaskowitz say that the groups of German staff officers - that is the way in which it is put - considered the solution of the Polish question by war indispensable and that that was the reason for secret armament. Is that true?

A. In the first place, a group of German staff officers never existed

Q. What is meant by staff officers?

A. A staff officer is an officer holding the rank of major, lieutenant-colonel, or colonel, then come the generals.

Q. Please continue.

A. Even if the statement of Blomberg means that a German war of aggression against Poland was indispensable, that is not true. On the other hand, if he means that we had to expect an attack from Poland at any time, I can say that in the first years after the World War I also counted on this possibility. Hence the frontier protection and fortifications on the Eastern frontier of the Reich against Poland. But as I said no sensible person thought of a war of aggression. We were in no position to wage such a war.

[Page 90]

Q. General von Blaskowitz, at the end of this Affidavit No. 5, Exhibit USA 537, says that the Commanders-in-Chief at the front were the actual advisers in the OKW, and as an example he gives the battle of Kudno. Is this correct?

A. That is not correct. The Commanders-in-Chief never assumed an advisory role. The Commander-in-Chief of the Army was the only one who held council with the supreme authorities. As for the battle of Kudno, advice to Hitler is absolute nonsense. The orders for the battle of Kudno were given by me as Commander-in-Chief of the Army Group South, according to the instructions which I had from von Brauchitsch, and von Blaskowitz only had to obey and could not have given any sort of advice to Hitler. No, no, that must be a mistake.

Q. What impression did the discussion on the 22nd of August, 1939, at the Obersalzberg make on you, Field-Marshal?

A. When we left the conference, we thought that this undertaking would end just like the so-called Sudeten war in 1938, primarily because Russia was on our side. When on the 26th of August the movement for the beginning of operations, which had been ordered, was suddenly stopped, and was to begin again on the 1st of September, we said, " Aha, that is the same kind of bluff which we had in 1938." We did not take the decision for war seriously.

Q. Did you, after the conference of the 22nd of August, talk to other Commanders-in-Chief and exchange ideas on the impressions gathered at this discussion?

A. I remember with certainty that I talked to General Field- Marshal von Bock about it. I left Obersalzberg very quickly. With Manstein and later with my staff I exchanged the same views which I have just mentioned.

Q. Did you have knowledge of the attack on the Gleiwitz radio station?

A. No.

Q. In what way did you learn of the intention of occupying Denmark and Norway?

A. I learned of the accomplished fact through official channels.

Q. How about the entry into Yugoslavia and Greece?

A. It was the same.

Q. You participated in the conference in March, 1941, when Hitler spoke of the necessity of attacking the Soviet Union?

A. Yes.

Q. What were you told about Soviet preparations?

A. Until a short time before that I had been in France, and I had no knowledge whatever of the ostensible preparations of the Russians. At the conference, to our surprise, we were told that the Russians were very strongly armed, were concentrating troops and preparing to attack us. If I am not mistaken, information from the Japanese military attache was referred to, and a map of the Russian distribution of forces on the frontiers of Poland was shown to us so that we had to assume that these facts were actually true.

Q. Was this impression confirmed after the entry into Russia?

A. Yes. The resistance at the frontier was not too great, but it grew continually as we advanced into the interior of the country. Very strong tank forces, tanks of a better type, far superior to ours appeared, and an enormous number of airfields, troop camps, munitions dumps, newly built roads through impassable territory were encountered. Maps were also found, showing German territory as far as Silesia, so that we had the impression that Hitler must have been right.

Q. At the conference in March, 1941, Hitler announced the Commissar Order. What was your attitude toward this order?

A. Our attitude was unanimously and absolutely against it. Immediately after the conference we approached Brauchitsch and told him that this was impossible. Our Commanders-in- Chief of the armies were of the same opinion. The order was simply not carried out, and as I learned afterwards, it was later

[Page 91]

rescinded. General von Brauchitsch, to make this order more or less ineffective, issued a very strict order to the troops on the correct conduct of German soldiers in the coming war. I know of no case in which this order was used in any way.

Q. Was the intention to remove the Jewish population in the East announced at this conference?

A. No. Hitler would never have expressed such intentions to officers.

Q. According to the Russian prosecution 33,000 Jews were shot in November, 1941, in Kiev. Where were the armies of Army Group South in November, 1941?

A. My armies were on the line Rostov-Stalino, along the Donetz to the district east of Kharkov. The rear border between the army area and the Ukraine district under civil administration followed a line east of Kiev along the Dnieper.

Q. Then Kiev was not at that time in any operational area of the army under your command?

A. No.

Q. Did the Commanders-in-Chief of the army groups of the armies in the East have any powers outside this area of operations?

A. No.

Q. Was the operational area kept as small or as large as possible?

A. The operational area of the Army was kept as small as possible, firstly, in order to trouble the Army as little as possible with affairs in the rear, and secondly to make the Ukraine district, etc., which was under the civil administration, as large as possible and thus remove it from the influence of the Army.

Q. And now for the Commando Order. What was your attitude toward the Commando Order?

A. We military commanders were absolutely opposed to the Commando Order and in oral discussions among our staffs we agreed to make it ineffective.

Q. Did you, as Commander-in-Chief West, receive a report of any case in which the order was applied?

A. Not a single case was reported to me, and my chief of staff, whom I asked about it here in Nuremberg, also knew of no case. I must assume that this Commando Order had an intimidating effect on the enemy, for I know of no commando operation undertaken afterwards, apart from that on the island of Sark, where illegal acts did take place, but no prisoners were taken.

Q. Illegal acts on whose part?

A. On the part of those who had undertaken the commando operation.

Q. Now, the invasion came, or it was expected. Document 531- PS shows that you asked to have the Commando Order rescinded. For what reason?

A. During the invasion, strong air landings far behind the front, perhaps as far as Paris, had to be expected, and a distinction between commando troops and fighting troops would not have been possible. Moreover, it was at least a goad opportunity to do away with this order altogether, all the more since the majority of the new divisions did not even know it.

Q. But you said in your request to have it rescinded that the order had been obeyed up to that time. How do you explain that?

A. I had to express it in that way. I had evaded the order, but I could not have said: Paragraph I. "I have not carried out the Commando Order." Some sort of pretence had to be kept up.

Q. Now a few questions about the struggle against the resistance movement in France.

What agencies were responsible for peace and order in the occupied area in France?

A. The military commander was responsible for Peace and Order in occupied France. In Petain's France - shall I say - that is in the south of France, the military commander had a special general in Lyons who was to work in close co- operation with the Petain government. As the resistance movement in southern

[Page 92]

France became even stronger and developed into a tremendous threat to the troops fighting in the Mediterranean area-that was in the winter of 1943 and 1944 - the Commander-in-Chief West was made responsible for the southern part of France. Thereupon I placed this general in Lyons under the Army Group "Gustav" which was at Toulon, and was responsible for creating order in the south of France.

Q. Were the French Government and the French population warned?

A. The French Government was repeatedly warned and asked to oppose this movement with all its strength, for the sake of the inhabitants. We issued to the population proclamations which in a loyal manner were always first submitted to the French Government for scrutiny. When the invasion threatened, I, personally, asked the old gentleman to warn and ask his people on the radio that in their own interests they should not do such things. He promised to do so. Whether he did it, I do not know.

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