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 7 of 10)

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

[Page 100]

Q. Then it is fair to say that what you objected to about Hitler in this matter were his methods?

A. That I do not understand. I do not understand what you mean.

Q. What aims did you and your colleagues hope to gain through Hitler on the question of rearmament if not through the methods Hitler himself was using?

A. The aim itself achieved by rearmament was to protect ourselves from an aggressive war, particularly coming from the East. This had been attempted earlier by the Stresemann Government, by peaceful means through Geneva. What I said regarding the speed of the rearmament was in answer to a question by the defence counsel whether Hitler ever criticized the generals. I myself have never discussed rearmament with Hitler giving him my point of view.

Q. Now, you knew; from reading the newspapers, did you not, that Hitler was adopting what I would call a diplomatic offensive?

[Page 101]

A. I do not know what you mean by that. He effected a diplomatic offensive at Munich and at Godesberg. Is that what you mean by it?

Q. Let me put it in a slightly different way. Was it not clear to any reasonably well-informed citizen that a strong military machine was an essential part of Hitler's general foreign policy, was it or was it not clear?

A. That was evident, for with Hitler's creation of this military machine Germany could feel secure against any attack from abroad. What we had not succeeded in doing by peaceful means, Hitler achieved with a stroke of his pen; that is, the rearmament programme. But I stress the fact once more, for an attack on Poland, these limited thirty-six divisions were far too weak.

Q. Now is it your opinion that Schuschnigg would have given in to Hitler if he had not known that Hitler had a strong military machine?

A. That, I do not believe

DR. LATERNSER: I object, Mr. President. This question is not permissible because the witness does not know what Schuschnigg thought at the moment and he cannot testify as to what was in the mind of Schuschnigg. I request that this question be ruled out.

MR. CALVACORESSI: My Lord, I should have thought it was a question of common knowledge and that everyone was discussing this matter at the time. I am not asking him what was in Schuschnigg's mind, but I am asking whether in his mind he thought Hitler could have achieved what he did achieve without a strong arm. He can give an answer to that question.

THE PRESIDENT: Perhaps the Tribunal can judge for themselves about it.

MR. CALVACORESSI: If your Lordship pleases. I do not want to go over ground that has already been very well covered, but I only want to draw your attention to this matter which, of course, has not been gone over in connection with this particular part of the case. My Lord, if the Tribunal wish to refresh their minds on this point, I would ask them to refer to that part of the transcript from Page 6876, where the defendant Ribbentrop was cross-examined on matters concerning it.

THE WITNESS: I am very willing to answer the question.


Q. I do not think, witness that the Tribunal is interested in hearing any more on this point. Now, the last point with which I want to deal is the question of the conduct of the war. You know, of course, about the Commando Order and it is not necessary for us to look at it again. You had said today that it was never carried out in your area when you were in the West?

A. Yes.

Q. And you told the OKW in 1944 that it had been carried out?

A. Yes.

Q. Will you please state, categorically, which of those two statements is true, because they cannot both be true.

A. They do not conflict because I told the defence counsel that the Commando order was not carried out by us, it was put through without comment. Since, however, it went to the Army from Hitler and had been announced in the Army bulletin, one would have had to say at that time: "No, I will not carry out that order," and then one would have been dismissed. We simply did not carry out the order, and when I asked to have it rescinded, I wrote in paragraph I: "The order has been followed." That was, as I will call it openly, an insincerity. I told you why I said so, I cannot explain it in any other way. Anyhow, I beg you to believe me that it was not carried out.

Q. Whether it was issued or not, there is no doubt, is there, whether it was carried out or not, and there is no doubt that it was issued through regular Army channels and whatever may be the true picture of the number of men who may have

[Page 102]

lost their lives as a result of the issuance of this illegal order, it is clear, is it not, that the mere issuing of this order through regular Army channels shows that there was something wrong with, something rotten in the military leadership of Germany?

A. There was not a single person in the West who lost his life on the strength of that Commando Order.

Q. The German soldier is well known for his discipline, is he not?

A. Yes.

Q. And you would not suggest, I suppose, that he is more liable to commit excesses than any other soldier?

A. That never happened in this case either. I want to tell you again that in the West not a single man was killed on account of that Commando Order.

Q. Well, I want to leave the Commando Order now. In general, supposing for the sake of argument that we find that the German soldier is normally well-disciplined and well- behaved, if he would act and behave with unnecessary brutality, would you not feel compelled to look for some extraordinary outside motive?

A. Within my field of authority no brutalities occurred.

Q. If they did occur, you would have to look for some such motive, would you not?

A. If the Commando Order was carried out elsewhere in another theatre of war, then the commander of the unit in question acted in accordance with Hitler's order, which they had to assume as founded on International Law.

Q. I have already said that we are not talking about the Commando Order any more. I am going to suggest to you that if German soldiers, for the sake of argument, behaved badly in occupied territory, a logical reason for it would be the knowledge by them that their commanders had a ruthless disregard and indifference for the sufferings of the population.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal thinks it is too hypothetical a question to put to him.

MR. CALVACORESSI: If your Lordship pleases.


Q. You commanded the Army Group South in Russia in the autumn of 1941, did you not?

A. Yes, the Army Group South.

Q. And one of your subordinate commanders was Field-Marshal von Reichenau?

A. Yes.

Q. And you no doubt heard many times about the order which Field-Marshal von Reichenau issued to the 6th Army about how to behave in Russia?

A. I never discussed that with him nor do I recollect that I had seen that order and had spoken about it as Chief of Staff before I was taken to England. Von Reichenau had repeatedly given orders which the army group never received and which did not apply to it either. I do not recollect having seen the so-called severity order (Haertebefehl) but I do not deny on the other hand that through some channels it may have reached my army group and probably got into the office. At any rate, my former first general staff officer, who is also interned here in Nuremberg, cannot recollect either that we received that order for our information. It was a matter of course that one could not approve of that order, particularly since it was in contradiction of the clear order -

Q. Well, just a minute, please. I only asked if you knew of its existence, and I take it from what you have been saying that you did not know of its existence. Are you saying that Reichenau was exceptional in these matters?

A. Yes, correct.

Q. That he was exceptional?

A. Considering Reichenau's entire attitude and his character, I assume that to be the case. General von Manstein, General von Kleist, General Schobert,

[Page 103]

General von Stuelpnagel would never have issued such an order on their own, especially since ... may I go on? - General von Brauchitsch had given the strictest orders that the conduct of the war in the East was to be carried out in an absolutely soldierly manner and in accordance with the rules and regulations.

Q. You see, yesterday we had put in evidence an order of General Field-Marshal von Manstein which was strikingly similar to the "Rundstedt" order. In some passages -

A. The "Reichenau" order, you mean.

THE PRESIDENT: You said the "Rundstedt" order.

MR. CALVACORESSI: I beg your pardon, my Lord.


Now, you commanded three, or was it four, armies in Army Group South?

A. I had four armies under my command and the Roumanians besides.

Q. And of these four armies which fought so far away so many years ago, we have recovered orders of this kind from two. I put it to you that any soldier of the 6th Army or the 11th Army who received this order would be justified in assuming that his Commanders-in-Chief were encouraging or at least tolerating excesses, and now, just to show you that these matters were not confined to the one army group or even to one front, I want you to look at this signal, Document 4067- PS, and it will be Exhibit USA 930.

My Lord, it is convenient to put this in at this point: I am not suggesting that the witness is himself personally concerned with it. This is a signal that was made to the Panzer Army Africa in June, 1942, and I will read it, as it is pretty short, in full


"For Panzer Army Africa via the German General with the Supreme Command of the Italian Armed Forces in Rome. - OKH/Quartermaster-General for information - Supreme Command of the Air Force/Quartermaster-General for information-OKW/WR for information. Top Secret, only to be transmitted via officers. According to information received, numerous German political refugees are supposed to be amongst the Free French units in Africa. The Fuehrer has ordered that they are to be treated with the greatest severity. They are therefore to be disposed of without mercy in battle. Where this has not happened, they are to be shot nevertheless on the command of the nearest German officer immediately and without further ado, as long as they do not have to be kept back for the time being for purposes of intelligence. Handing a written copy of this order is forbidden. Commanders are to be informed verbally."
It is unsigned.

You see, whoever sent this order was conscious of its criminality as appears quite clearly from the last two sentences: "The Fuehrer has ordered that they are to be treated with the greatest severity." The order which the Army puts on that, in sending it out, is to kill. Do you remember the death of Field-Marshal Rommel?

A. Yes.

Q. It was generally supposed at the time, was it not, that there was something suspicious about the death of Rommel; did you hear these rumours at that time?

A. No, I did not hear those rumours; otherwise I would have refused to act as a representative of the Fuehrer at the State funeral for Field-Marshal Rommel; that would have been an infamy beyond words.

I only heard of those rumours from the American papers after I was taken prisoner. According to these, Rommel's young son was supposed to have said that his father took poison in order not to be hanged.

Q. You never heard during all these months that preceded the death of Rommel up to the end of the war, that it was being generally said that Rommel had been "bumped off ".

[Page 104]

A. No; it was merely said that he had been under suspicion.

MR. CALVACORESSI: My Lord, I have no further questions.

THE PRESIDENT: Any other cross-examination? Dr. Laternser.



Q. Field-Marshal, you have been questioned with reference to Affidavit No. 4, which comes from Field-Marshal von Brauchitsch and is Exhibit USA 335. The prosecution attached value to the assertion, as stated in this affidavit, that in this manner - through personal visits of the supreme commanders - the supreme commander was in a position to get the advice of the other high commanders under him. What was the nature of such advice; on which subject could it have been given and in which way?

A. The matter was very simple. Let me go back a bit. Say I am the commander of a regiment and give a task to my battalion commander saying: "You will attack that village with your battalion," and I go to see him and ask him, " How do you want me to do this?" Upon which he replies, " I should rather like to go to the left or farther to the right where there is a better terrain." It is the same on a higher level. The Commander-in-Chief of the Army comes to see me, the army group commander, and he may say: "von Rundstedt, how are you going to do it?" and I might say, "In such and such a way and perhaps I will need one more division." That is the only way of doing it, a kind of friendly discussion. But I would never say to my superior, "What you are doing is wrong, do it differently." Is this intelligible as I put it?

Q. I think so; then it concerns a discussion as to how the special task assigned to that troop was to be carried out?

A. It was not a discussion with the chief commander "whether" it was to be carried out, but a short discussion on "how" it was to be carried out and how best it could be achieved. Sometimes even a subordinate has a clever plan which the superior accepts gratefully. That, of course, was out of the question as far as Hitler was concerned.

Q. And on the other hand, there were always discussions and meetings concerning the solving of tasks in all the armies?

A. Yes, I think so.

Q. Now, with reference to the Affidavit No. 5, of General Blaskowitz. The prosecution l as emphasized that leaders of army groups and armies had been in contact by means of telephone, teletype and radio and had thus been in a position to get situation reports from each other. Are we not concerned with the ordinary daily communiques which every unit commander had to make so as to facilitate any military leadership?

A. Yes, definitely. These situation reports were made up in the morning on what happened during the previous night, and in the evening on what happened during the day. If there was an action which was of particular importance to me as the superior commander, then I would ask for reports not only once or twice but possibly three times, by telephone or by teletype: "How are things going? How are you doing? Are you advancing or retreating?" That is the meaning of it.

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