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 and Second Day: Tuesday, 13th August, 1946
(Part 7 of 10)

[DR. BOEHM continues his direct examination of Theodor Gruss]

[Page 143]


Q. Did the units of the SA Reserve I continue to exist until the collapse in 1945?

A. Not all of them. A large part of these units was in the course of years, particularly at the beginning of the war, transferred to the active SA. Here they were either assigned to the Front SA or attached to the Front SA as reserve groups, while the rest of the SA Reserve I units remained as before.

Q. Why did this incorporation of the SA Reserve into the SA take place?

A. The SA, particularly at the beginning of the war, began to show gaps. These gaps were filled through the transfer of the SA Reserve I. The primary purpose, however, was to have the Stahlhelmer, who were always recognized as an opposition, under better supervision by the SA.

Q. Why were you yourself not put into the SA?

A. I was already too old at that time, and besides, I was a Freemason.

Q. Over and beyond the orders given, was pressure exerted in connection with the incorporation of the Stahlhelm into the SA?

A. Yes, to a large extent. First of all the transfer did not take place on a voluntary basis. It was done on orders; for example, as in the case of the Wehrstahlhelm. The manner in which this was done was the same in most

[Page 144]

cases. The Wehrstahlhelmer were called together for a roll call, they were told that they had been transferred and then an SA Fuehrer who was present took over the Wehrstahlhelm. No one was asked whether he wanted to be transferred. Immediately upon the incorporation of the Stahlhelm, it became apparent that the majority of the Stahlhelmer resented and resisted this incorporation. Stahlhelmer who did not want to join the SA were in many cases threatened with arrest. There were cases where punishment in the form of police arrest for ten days and longer was inflicted in this connection. Furthermore, the Stahlhelmer were told that by staying away from the SA they were disobeying an order of Hitler and that this meant hostility to the State. This hostility to the State always had serious consequences. He who was charged with hostility to the State was reported to the police as politically unreliable and was especially watched by the police. It could at any time happen to him that he might be arrested without any reason and put into prison or a concentration camp. Being pronounced an enemy of the State also had the very serious consequence that the means of subsistence were nearly always either seriously impaired or even destroyed. Civil servants who as Stahlhelmer did not want to be in the SA, and were pronounced enemies of the State, were removed from their positions, frequently even with loss of pension. Generally the same applied to employees in private industry. They always lost their positions because the heads of a concern did not want to employ men who were enemies of the State. We in the Bund leadership tried at the time, in many hundreds of cases, to help these Stahlhelmer who applied to us for aid by taking their cases to the Labour Courts. But in most of the cases we did not succeed in having these people reinstated in their positions. The Court mostly confined itself to granting them a compensation. The distress which a Stahlhelmer who did not want to belong to the SA had to bear was in some cases so great that I recall clearly several cases of suicide of Stahlhelmer who no longer could stand the strain.

Q. Do these observations of yours extend to all over Germany?

A. Yes.

Q. Could it be true that deceptive actions also took place when the Stahlhelm was incorporated?

A. Yes, in my opinion, deceptive actions did take place. For example, I have already mentioned that the Wehrstahlhelm, as well as the SA Reserve I, were permitted to be incorporated as separate formations with their own leaders, and in the field-grey uniform. After a short time, however, these promises were simply broken and the Wehrstahlhelm as well as the SA Reserve I had to don the brown uniform of the SA. Thus they were no longer recognizable in the SA as former Stahlhelmer. Then there was one point which especially caused a lot of dissatisfaction. The Stahlhelmer had been promised that after the transfer they could remain members of the Stahlhelm - this was the so-called double membership. They were to be allowed to participate in the activities of the Stahlhelm if it did not interfere with their service in the SA. But this promise also was withdrawn very soon and this caused the greatest difficulties to the Stahlhelmer who wanted to remain loyal to their Bund and entailed many arrests and punishments of all kinds.

Q. At the time when Seldte turned over the Stahlhelm to Hitler, did he represent the will of the Stahlhelm Bund?

A. No, he did not. The vast majority of the Stahlhelmer did not approve the measures of Seldte. There were very heated quarrels in the Stahlhelm on account of this and if the Stahlhelm did not break up at the time it was only because the Stahlhelmer said: "We have not taken an oath to the person of Seldte. We swore allegiance to the Stahlhelm and to the front soldiers."

Q. What ranks did the Stahlhelmer receive in the SA and what significance did they have?

[Page 145]

A. Here, too, one could speak of deceptive action in so far as the Stahlhelm leaders had been expressly promised that they would serve in the SA with the same ranks. But this promise too was not kept. The Stahlhelm leaders were set down one or two ranks. Shortly thereafter, they were even relieved of their commands and held in reserve. Only a few of them still remained in positions of command. Most of them had really no longer anything to do in the SA but they could not get out of the SA. According to my observation, no Stahlhelm leaders got beyond the rank of a Standartenfuehrer in the SA unless they were special exceptions, that is, men who distinguished themselves through exceptional activity on behalf of National Socialism. With regard to ranks, the N.S. Reiter Corps, which included many Stahlhelmer, occupied a special position. But as regards the leaders, the Reiter Corps was more or less left alone. Here most of the Stahlhelm leaders up to a Standartenfuehrer retained their command although there were among these Stahlhelmers many who were in opposition.

Q. Was the attitude of the Stahlhelmer transferred to the SA different from the attitude of the ordinary SA?

A. Yes, in its constitution, the Stahlhelm was something entirely different from the SA. Anyone who joined the Stahlhelm did so voluntarily and on his own volition. Not everyone was accepted in the Stahlhelm. Everyone was first carefully looked over. Then the Stahlhelm had a Bund charter, a constitution, which provided the members with the possibility to elect on a completely democratic basis those leaders whom they wanted or to remove those leaders whom they did not want. The two Bund leaders also had to submit themselves from time to time to the assembly of members who then decided about their re-election.

The main characteristic of the Stahlhelm, however, was the carrying on of the tradition of the front comradeship, formed in battle - that unique comradeship which in all circumstances demands that "I must give everything for my comrade and help him always." That was, as we called it, front socialism. No difference was made between rich and poor, social position was disregarded. We Stahlhelmer were all equals.

It must be added that the people who joined the Stahlhelm generally came from the middle-class, I might even say from the conservative part of the population. These people were not in favour of extremes and radicalism. They stood for a moderate and peaceful development and, taken all in all, one realizes that the Stahlhelm was made up of quite a special class of people and this was bound to result in much friction with the SA.

Q. Did the Stahlhelmer bring military views with them into the SA?

A. Yes, but only to the extent that within the Stahlhelm there was often talk of the First World War, in which almost all of us had participated. But we were not a military organization, as was often asserted of the Stahlhelm, because it had military command. However, it was quite impossible to lead a mass movement of one and a half million members without such commands, which to the Stahlhelmer, as old soldiers, had become second nature.

But otherwise we really never thought that there would be another war. We had had enough with the First World War and considered it our task to spread the idea among the people that problems could be solved without war and bloodshed.

Not only in Germany did we represent this point of view. We established contacts abroad as well especially with the foreign organizations of front soldiers, because we thought that these old veterans would understand us best when we said that there must never be another war.

Q. Was the idea of soldierly comradeship designed to serve the preparation of a war of aggression?

A. No; from what I just said it becomes clear that the Stahlhelmer never thought of a war of aggression; the idea of soldierly comradeship served the sole purpose of spreading the virtues of comradeship formed in the field among wide

[Page 146]

circles in order that it might peacefully lead to a better understanding among nations.

Q. What were the views of the Stahlhelm toward the political parties of Germany?

A. The Stahlhelm was opposed to all radical political tendencies. It did not follow the principle of extermination and destruction. It tried again and again to unite these extreme tendencies with a more moderate one through enlightenment, persuasion and propaganda. Proof that the political opponents of the Stahlhelm did after all understand it was shown in the spring of 1933 when many persecuted members of the SPD and the KPD sought protection and aid in the Stahlhelm. They were accepted by us, but, as a result, the Stahlhelm found itself involved in serious conflicts With the Party. The Party could not tolerate that people persecuted by it should be protected by the Stahlhelm. Significant of this were the events in Brunswick in the spring of 1933 where an Ortsgruppe of the Stahlhelm held a meeting. The SA surrounded the place where the meeting was being held and arrested all the members. Upon investigation, it was shown that of approximately 1,500 participants, over a thousand were former members of the SPD and the KPD. We had accepted them when they had proved to us that they were decent people and that the majority of them had been at the front with us.

Q. Were the Stahlhelmer opposed to trade unions?

A. No. On this question also the Stahlhelmer were only opposed to the excesses. The Stahlhelm itself had its own union, the Stahlhelm Self-Aid (Selbsthilfe). It included almost all the workers who were members of the Stahlhelm, and I wish to point out that twenty-five to thirty per cent of the members of the Stahlhelm were workers. However, in the summer of 1933 the Stahlhelm Self-Aid was forcibly dissolved.

Q. Did the Stahlhelm carry on anti - Semitic propaganda?

A. There were many opinions and views represented in the Stahlhelm. Everyone was allowed to think what he liked. I never heard of an order by the leaders of the Bund against Jews, and no such order was ever given. Besides, that was quite impossible because the Second Bundfuehrer, for example, was Duesterberg, whom we knew to be of Jewish origin, and in spite of this, Duesterberg was the best liked and most popular Stahlhelmfuehrer. In the central office of the Bund .n Berlin, one of my closest associates was a Stahlhelmer who was married to a Jewess. We did not concern ourselves about that at all. We had many Jews in the Stahlhelm because we had not adopted the radical racial theory of the Party and were always opposed to it. In addition to Duesterberg, we had other Jews as Stahlhelmfuehrer. There were Jews, half-Jews, and Freemasons in the Stahlhelm. There was no anti-Semitic feeling in the Stahlhelm except among a few groups of members who, however, did not control the organization.

Q. What was the effect of this Stahlhelm training when the Stahlhelm was transferred to the SA?

A. It was doubtless this incisive Stahlhelm training which caused the resistance of the majority of the Stahlhelmer against the incorporation. There were three points in particular which the Stahlhelmer could never understand, and which always separated him from the SA. There was, first, the autocratic Fuehrer principle. In the Stahlhelm there were only elected Fuehrer, which did not exist in the SA. Then, the Stahlhelmer could not agree with the radicalism which was to be observed in the SA, and furthermore they could not get used to the idea of totalitarianism.

Q. Well, now I should like to ask you: why did the Stahlhelmer not leave the SA again?

A. Well, if that had been possible, large numbers of them, believe me, would have left again, but leaving the SA was almost impossible. There were really only two possibilities of leaving the SA. One was honourable discharge and the

[Page 147]

other was expulsion. Honourable discharge was awarded when one could prove without doubt, for example, that one was very seriously ill; but only a very small fraction of the Stahlhelm could take advantage of this opportunity to leave the SA. For many Stahlhelmer only expulsion was possible, because the SA had recognized very early from the opposition of the Stahlhelm that these were elements hostile to it. As a result, expulsion was ordered in many cases if they wanted to harm the Stahlhelmer seriously.

To the examples which I have given earlier in connection with the term "enemy of the State." I should like to add the following: Expulsion from the SA was recorded on the papers of the Stahlhelmer. If the Stahlhelmer wanted to accept a new position, it was immediately to be seen that he had been dismissed from the SA and that was such a serious offence that no one wanted to employ him.

Stahlhelmer who wanted to join the Reichswehr were not accepted if they had been dismissed from the SA.

The result was, if you take into consideration what I have said before, that there were so many serious difficulties that many Stahlhelmer who were otherwise brave and courageous men hesitated to leave the SA because they could not take on themselves the responsibility of endangering the livelihood of their families.

Q. And over what period of time did these observations of yours extend?

A. Up to the time of the war.

Q. And from whom did you learn the things which you have told us here?

A. In my position as Treasurer of the Bund I spoke constantly with many Stahlhelmer about these matters. In addition, I had to read innumerable reports.

Q. Did you, as liquidator of the Stahlhelm, maintain any contact with the transferred Stahlhelmer beyond the settlement of business matters?

A. Yes, I did.

Q. Were you permitted to do so?

A. No; I was allowed to settle the business affairs of the Stahlhelm, but I was warned by the Gestapo against any attempt to continue the Stahlhelm in a camouflaged form. I repeatedly had clashes with the Gestapo on that account. But I constantly made the attempt because many of my old comrades told me repeatedly that I had to do this because otherwise there would have been no one left.

Q. And of what did your activity consist in holding the Stahlhelm together?

A. I spoke to many individual Stahlhelmer myself. They came from all parts of Germany to see me in Berlin. I was in contact with many of them by correspondence. Furthermore, I mailed circulars camouflaged as business letters to the old Stahlhelmer from which they could -

THE PRESIDENT (Interposing): What have we got to do with this, Dr. Boehm?

DR. BOEHM: The purpose of it is to show the Tribunal what the nature of the ideas and the ideologies of the men in the Stahlhelm was.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you are defending the SA against a charge of being a criminal organization. You are now trying to show us what the ideology of the Stahlhelm was. You have been nearly an hour over this witness already. Practically everything he has said is written down in this summary of his evidence, the summary which we have before us, his evidence to the Commission.

DR. BOEHM: Yes, but I must give the Tribunal some idea about the attitude of this witness and the one and a half million men who came from the Stahlhelm to the SA. As to the few remaining questions - there are four or five - I shall try to be as brief as possible.


Q. You mean to say then, witness, that this continuation of the Stahlhelm after July, 1934, was illegal?

A. Yes, because it was not permitted.

[Page 148]

Q. And about how large was the circle of persons with whom you were in contact in this connection?

A. I myself was in contact with only a few hundred former Stahlhelmer, but these were only the liaison men. Behind them were the many thousand in the various cities.

Q. Were there other contacts among the Stahlhelmer?

A. Yes. Apart from the contact with me, everywhere in Germany in the various towns independent groups of Stahlhelmer had been formed which were sometimes of quite considerable size. For instance, in Berlin I often participated in meetings where there were 150 to 200 Stahlhelmer. In order that the Gestapo -

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