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 6 of 10)

[MR. CALVACORESSI continues his cross examination of Gert von Rundstedt]

[Page 96]

Q. And in any case, the Norwegian invasion was not the affair of the OKH, but of the OKW?

A. I cannot tell you whether it was an affair of the Navy or of the OKW.

Q. Now, in general, before the war, you would say your picture is: the generals were left alone to occupy themselves with training exercises and the training of relatively small details and units. Is that a fair summary of the evidence you gave before the Commission?

A. That probably is a misunderstanding. The smaller training exercises were a matter for the divisional commanders and commanding generals, and only General von Fritsch asked the supreme commanders that they too should concern themselves with smaller details occasionally.

Q. Anyhow, during this period when the boundaries of Germany were rapidly expanding, you say that the problem of defence came first in the minds of the military leadership of Germany?

A. I did not quite understand that. Did you say the borders of Germany were expanding? That was not the case. It was only in 1938 through the Sudeten affair and until -

Q. I mean from the beginning of the period of the Anschluss until tile outbreak of the war with Poland?

A. Yes, certainly.

Q. And you said this morning that the exercises which were held at that time were defensive exercises, defensive manoeuvres?

[Page 97]

A. I did not hold any manoeuvres any more. After the Sudeten war in 1938, I was pensioned. Whether and to what extent manoeuvres were carried out in 1939 is beyond my knowledge.

Q. And you referred this morning to pre 1939 manoeuvres, and as I understand it, you spoke of these manoeuvres as simply defensive exercises?

A. Yes. These were the manoeuvres in 1936 and 1937. During the latter, I myself, as an army commander, was leading an army in Pomerania against an enemy attack on Germany.

Q. Would you describe as defensive exercises those which were held with Stukas and other forces at Guernica in Spain?

A. About that I cannot give you any information. When the rearmament had been decided upon in 1935 or 1936, I think the air force introduced Stukas too. But I do not know that. At any rate, I considered that at that time any type of weapon was justified within the rearmed Army.

Q. We will pass on to another point. You told us that German officers were severely aloof from politics?

A. Yes.

Q. Is it not the case that this policy is very closely associated with the name of General von Seeckt?

A. General von Seeckt took the greatest care in the Reichswehr that no officer concerned himself with political matters. What he himself did politically, that is another story, and about that I cannot give you any information.

Q. Is it not true to say that the reason why General von Seeckt was determined to keep the Army out of politics is the fact that at the time when he took over there had just been the Kapp Putsch?

A. That I do not believe. It is a very ancient Prussian tradition that an officer does not concern himself with politics. And General von Seeckt was just as loyal to the right - as in the Kapp Putsch - as to the left - the Communist revolt in the Ruhr, for example - always supporting the constitution of the Weimar Government. That was our general attitude.

Q. I have no doubt that all is perfectly true, but I suggest to you that this whole Prussian policy was revised and insisted upon by von Seeckt because as a result of the Kapp Putsch he saw how important it was to keep the Army out of entanglements with incompetent politicians.

A. That is entirely my view too. All the more since the Hitler Putsch in 1923 placed the Army in a very difficult position because the Bavarian division was commencing to detach itself from Seeckt.

Q. Now, Kapp was a failure, was he not? He tried unsuccessfully to overthrow the Republic?

A. No. Seeckt never tried to overthrow the Republic.

Q. I said Kapp.

A. I beg your pardon then; I misunderstood you.

Q. I will repeat that Kapp was a failure, was he not? He tried unsuccessfully to overthrow the Republic?

A. Kapp was a failure and a very stupid one at that, a very stupid putsch which could never succeed.

Q. But after 1933 or 1934 Hitler was not a failure, was he?

A. I shall have to state that Hitler, under Hindenburg's Government, by legal means, namely, by the majority of the people, was called into the Government, as the leader of the strongest party. That was a perfectly democratic way in keeping with the constitution, and not by means of a putsch.

Q. I am not concerned with the forms of democracy or anything like that. I was only asking you whether, after 1933-1934, it was plain that Hitler was not a failure; he was doing very well, was he not?

A. He had the majority of the people behind him.

[Page 98]

Q. That is an ascent to success which we pass over. Colonel- General Reinhart has said that there was no single officer who did not back up Hitler in his extraordinary successes. Do you agree with that?

A. No.

Q. Von Blomberg has said that you and your colleagues in the Army had at that time no reason to oppose Hitler because he produced the results you desired? Do you disagree with that, too?

A. That is not quite correct. We did our duty because Hitler had been legally made Chancellor by Hindenburg, and because, after his death, he appeared as Fuehrer.

Q. Well, the answer is no, you do not agree with the Field- Marshal?

A. I have never agreed with Field-Marshal von Blomberg at any time.

Q. Have you at any time agreed with Generaloberst Blaskowitz?

A. How am I to understand that? He was one of my subordinates; but I cannot confirm what he has said in the affidavits in that form.

Q. Well, I am only putting to you the fact that when Hitler's power was assured and there was no more danger of his being a failure, the political, as well as the non- political opponents began to disappear.

A. We always remained non-political. Of course there were active National Socialists, like Reichenau and Blomberg, who were in the Army, but the bulk was politically quite indifferent.

Q. Surely it is common ground, is it not, that there was a lot in common between Hitler's policy and the general aspirations of you and your colleagues immediately after 1933?

A. Yes; that is to say the equality aimed at by Hitler and achieved by him was welcomed by us, and that which was good in the National Socialist movement, as I have already emphasized, and which was mostly taken over from old Prussian ideologies, we of course welcomed also; but we all disapproved of the excesses which I have mentioned earlier, the older generation at any rate.

Q. When you say that there was a certain amount that was good in National Socialist ideas and that that was taken over from the old Prussian times, are you not saying that Hitler revived the old Prussian policy of Nationalistic expansion and that you were glad about it?

A. That had very little to do with politics as such. The principles are important: care for the worker, just as under Bismarck, social welfare, common good which takes precedence over all personal interest-those are the things I am referring to.

Q. Now before the war did you and your colleagues at the head of the Army discuss the question of the neutrality of Belgium, for instance?

A. To my knowledge, no. We were not thinking of Belgium. We always believed, as I said earlier today, that Poland would some day attack Germany.

Q. Did you not say before the Commission that you used to have discussions about the neutrality of Belgium?

A. No, that must be a mistake. Answering the question put by the American Prosecutor, I only replied that a march through Belgium, into the Ruhr was considered possible by us.

Q. Well, I have here a copy of the transcript of what was said before the Commission.

I only need to read one sentence and it is at Page 1352 of the English version. According to what I have here you said that "The opinion concerning the neutrality of Belgium and the Netherlands was very much doubted within the higher military circles." Now this is what I want to ask you about that: if you discussed that question, was that not a political discussion?

A. May I just correct that? This statement before the Commission was made concerning 1939, when we had drawn up our troops in the West, and when the

[Page 99]

question arose whether Holland and Belgium would remain neutral or not. My answer was given in that connection at the time.

Q. Very well. You have also said that you opposed or you fought Nazi totalitarian ideas; is that right?

A. May I ask you to repeat that question to me, please?

Q. You have said, I believe, that you opposed Nazi totalitarian ideas?

A. We could not put up any resistance. I opposed it, as so many of my comrades did.

Q. Well, was not that a political attitude, a political standpoint?

A. Everybody can have a political standpoint for himself but a soldier cannot participate in political activities. That is what I understand by a political standpoint.

Q. A soldier, then, in your view, has political views but may not express them; is that right?

A. Yes, that could be applicable. Of course one could speak to a good friend about such questions and discuss them, but there was never a meeting or a body called together for the purpose of discussing political questions.

Q. Now I want to move on to the late 1930's. When you say that all the generals - I forget your exact words this morning, but most of the generals, you said, do maintain the old non-political attitude. I want to show you a document.

MR. CALVACORESSI: My Lord, this is 4060-PS and it will be Exhibit USA 928.


Q. Now this is a draft of a speech which General Reinecke proposed to give in the autumn of 1938 to some of the up and coming military people. General Reinecke held a very high position in the German Army, did he not?

A. At the end he was the Supreme Chairman of that National Socialist leadership training outfit; in 1938 he must still have been a junior staff officer, a very low grade of staff officer.

Q. What do you mean by a junior staff officer; by the middle of the war he was one of the few people who were immediately subordinated to Keitel, was he not?

A. About that I cannot give you any information.

Q. But, anyhow, at this time he was a colonel. It is Page 2.

A. Yes.

Q. After all, he was a very high ranking officer.

A. Yes. But still one of the younger officers. About this entire subject I cannot give any testimony. I have never at any time had anything to do with it. As I have mentioned, I was no longer active in November, 1938, and so I cannot give you any information about these training courses.

Q. All I am asking you to do is to look at certain passages in this document which I shall indicate to you and which, in my submission, show that the extreme non-political attitude of the generals was not maintained at this time.

A. That will be applicable in so far as Hitler tried everything to make the armed forces National Socialist minded -

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Calvacoressi, the witness has said that he was retired at the time and has never seen the document. You can put it in if it is a new document.

MR. CALVACORESSI: Should I read from this point or would it be more convenient at the end of the cross-examination?

THE PRESIDENT: I think we can look at it ourselves.

MR. CALVACORESSI: If your Lordship pleases. My Lord, there is another document which bears on the same subject and which I will also put in at this point. That is 4065-PS, and will be Exhibit USA 929.

THE PRESIDENT: What is the number of the PS?

[Page 100]

MR. CALVACORESSI: 4065, my Lord.


Q. Now, Field-Marshal, I want to ask you a few questions about the rearmament of Germany. You have told as that that was purely defensive. Do you maintain that?

A. I had said before that the measures against Poland, mentioned in Blomberg's affidavit, were of a purely defensive nature. After the rearmament was carried out up to thirty-six divisions, the German Army alone was still too weak to conduct an aggressive war against Poland, not to speak of aggression against a Western or an Eastern neighbour. I still maintain my opinion that we are here concerned with a defensive measure. If Hitler had planned a war of aggression, he would at least have been compelled to have three to four times as many divisions. This was utterly impossible.

Q. Well, if you are defending yourselves, you must be defending yourselves against somebody, and you said before the Commission that you were, among other things, taking defensive measures against the Lithuanians.

A. Yes.

Q. Are you still asking the Tribunal to believe that you were very much concerned with the defence of Germany against the Lithuanians?

A. May I give my answer? I called it, at the time, the basis for the various games of war. Lithuania was menacing the isolated province of East Prussia, because at that time there was only one, and later three divisions. The Poles and Czechs added together were fully in a position to attack entire eastern Germany, not to mention that the French might have crossed the Rhine in the West. Those were the statements which I made, and which were the basis for our manoeuvres. How were we going to defend ourselves against an invasion from the East and West, or from the East alone, or from the West alone?

Q. Well, now, we have already had that. You have never agreed with General von Blomberg on any point, but I think I will draw your attention to the fact that in June, 1937, Marshal von Blomberg - who was, after all, War Minister and Commander-in-Chief at that time - issued a directive in which he said that Germany need not consider an attack from any side. That is already in evidence, my Lord. It is a quotation from Document C-175, Exhibit USA 69.

Now, you said that you thought Germany ought to rearm apart from any war. Was it your opinion that Hitler was rearming too fast?

A. No, on the contrary.

Q. He was not arming fast enough?

A. Well in a sense he was rearming too fast and he accused Generals von Fritsch and von Blomberg of trying to slow down the speedy rearmament. Many divisional commanders adopted the same attitude. We could not keep pace with the rearmament programme as we did not have enough trained reservists.

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