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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
August 22, 1946

Two Hundred and Ninth Day: Thursday, 22nd August, 1946
(Part 8 of 9)

[Page 31]


In contrast to thought of war there were strong foundations for a positive policy of peace. For all those who fought for Socialism and who believed in the realisation of peace plans, the fact that Hitler himself had been a worker was of primary importance. The elimination of unemployment appeared as the greatest possible accomplishment of peace; a success which was convincing for everyone who regained employment. It was not Hitler's demonic magic which brought seven millions of unemployed and the same number of partially employed people with their families to his ranks, but what moved the masses was the fact that he gave them work and bread again.

It cannot be denied that the position of the worker was improved to something beyond a bare existence and that his social standing was raised. At the beginning of the war a great social work was in the process of construction, namely, the universal old-age insurance system. To the Political Leaders this did not look like aggressive war.

There is still one more important reason why the occurrences and their motives were not generally known: it is the system of secrecy.

[Page 32]

The means of preserving secrecy are known to the Tribunal from the evidence they have heard. I would like to emphasise another point which helped in a particular way to preserve secrecy; it is the confidence which Hitler enjoyed.

This confidence was nourished from the huge reservoir of social success which he had gained by eliminating the unemployment which had brought human beings to the edge of despair. To this were added his successes in foreign policy, which had been recognised abroad.

Everything was supported by the traditional authority of the State and by emphasising that tradition; these are both things which have much influence on the people.

To that was added a hitherto unknown frankness of speech in matters of foreign policy, which the French Prosecutor has called "naivete." Within Germany this frankness brought about the conviction that Hitler would not instigate anything secretly. That picture was enlarged for the millions of followers by the facade of respectability and dignity which was kept up by that very circle around Hitler from which criticism and warnings were first to be expected.

From all this one has to conclude that the Political Leaders could not have gained knowledge of any aggressive intentions.

The assumption by the prosecution that special information had been given about these plans also seems untenable in the light of the evidence submitted during the trial. The prosecution's allegation presumably rests on their original assumption that it was a part of the normal business routine to inform all Hoheitstrager, whereas it has now been established that only a very small circle was initiated.

The situation is different with regard to the War Crimes: Here the deciding factor is not proof of the motives for known occurrences, but the knowledge of the facts themselves. It is certain that War Crimes, because of their despicable motives, are kept secret as a matter of course. In the course of testimony the Tribunal has learned of the ring of silence which was drawn around the worst atrocities. Other War Crimes with which the defendants are charged are individual cases which did not become publicly known. We shall comment on these in connection with the individual points of the accusations.

A number of happenings have been adduced by the prosecution which, according to the Charter itself, do not constitute crimes.

Evidence has been given concerning the development of the Party, the seizure of power, and the maintenance of power. These are occurrences, the general nature of which has not been denied. The creation of a dictatorial State and the prohibition of other Parties is a measure of home policy which every State may take according to its judgement.

To allege that these methods were created for a war of aggression and that they are therefore criminal is an unnatural construction of the facts. Proof for any such assumption is lacking.

The organisation of the State along dictatorial lines may be necessary for the establishment of Socialism as well as for a war of aggression. Thus, the direction of the economy can serve good as well as evil.

The British Prosecutor has shown us another point of view. He has stated that intervention is possible in order to protect citizens against their own government; from this he concludes that even war can be waged out of humanitarian reasons.

The Charter does not confer such a right of intervention, as has already been stated in the beginning. But even International Law has hitherto never recognised any right of intervention upon moral grounds. Crusades are not permissible.

If the so-called methods of the Party are commented upon here it is because its abuses are connected with the crimes in the Charter.

Four documents have been submitted which are connected with Political Lead and concern the influencing of elections.

[Page 33]

The most important one is Document D-43 from the year 1936. It concerns an inquiry by the Reich Minister of the Interior as to which officials did not fulfil their obligations to vote. The Ortsgruppenleiter are asked to comment upon this. This is a letter from the Kreisleiter's office in Bremen. Another Kreisleiter, the witness Kuehl, declared before the Commission that he did not receive any such inquiry. The general character of this inquiry is thus put in doubt.

One document, R-142, dating from the year 1938, is of purely local importance. It originates from the Koblenz SD Sector and mentions the statement of the Kreis Manager (Kreisgeschaftsfuehrer) about the reasons for the bad election results, being personal quarrels. Both documents deal with the results of the election after the vote.

Two further documents - D-897 and D-902 - dating from the year 1938, are letters exchanged between the lowest offices of the SD in Erfurt about supervision of the election. Concerning this, the closest possible co-operation with the Ortsgruppenleiter is ordered.

As far as the proceedings against the Political Leaders are concerned it is shown that the order-issuing apparatus of the Party in no way intervened here.

These are merely independent, isolated measures by other offices. No general practice or knowledge, therefore, can be deduced from that.

Another charge is that of police spying.

The pretext for this is in a passage of the Organisations Book, Page 101 of the 1940 edition, according to which Blockleiter are to report persons spreading dangerous rumours. In connection with this the keeping of household card index files is mentioned, as practised in the Cologne Gau, and the inclusion of far-reaching supervisory measures.

The question now is whether this was generally handled by the Political Leaders in this way and whether it was done in conformity with Party directives.

The Party directives to the Political Leaders specify the exact opposite. See Decree No. 127 of the 5th of October, 1936, in the orders of the Fuehrer's Deputy (Document PL.- 34)

The witnesses examined in connection with this question have testified that these instructions were followed and that the card indexes known to them contained nothing resembling police spying. This confirms the fact that there existed no general order like the system in the Cologne Gau which was binding on all Gaue.

In this connection we refer particularly to the testimony of the witness Dr. Kuehn who, as counsellor of the Superior Provincial Court (Oberlandesgerichtsrat) was the qualified adviser for the Subversive Activities Law (Heimtuckegesetz) in the Ministry of Justice.

The witness declared in his interrogation on 10th July, 1946, that the proceedings instituted could mostly be traced back to statements by hostile neighbours or other informers and only very rarely originated with Political Leaders. The only concrete testimony about cases of police spying which the prosecution has submitted is Document L-901, in which a Block Leader and janitor of a parish hall reports a secret meeting of the members of the Confessional Church in his building.

The charge of police spying is also coupled with that of causing persons to be placed in protective custody and sent to concentration camps.

That political adversaries in a State should be declared enemies of the State and arrested seems to be a prescriptive right which politicians arrogate to themselves. It is based upon reciprocity and represents in this case a retaliation for the losses in the political struggle.

A connection with a war of aggression is not established. The charges of the prosecution will, therefore, be directed against misuse of office through excesses and atrocities.

It was not the Party which was competent in this sphere, but the State agencies.

[Page 34]

In accordance with orders by the chief of the Security Police and SD of 10th March, 1940, Document PL-100, arrests were solely the functions of the Gestapo. Any interference on the part of Political Leaders was strictly forbidden, Document PL-(29). In this manner secrecy was assured from the very beginning.

The real conditions in the concentration camps were concealed from the Political Leaders through the fact that orders were issued and carried out that even after their release political prisoners and their families should remain under thorough supervision. This is Document PL-100, which creates such astonishment when read today. When the witness, Count von Roedern, was interrogated before the Commission concerning knowledge about conditions in the concentration camps he said that, in the beginning of 1943, the Landesgruppenleiter of the Party Foreign Organisation had visited the concentration camp at Sachsenhausen, and had gained the impression on that occasion that the rumours about concentration camps which were circulating abroad at that time were without foundation.

The witness, Sieckmeier, states in Affidavit PL-57 that in the spring of 1939 he visited the concentration camp at Buchenwald with 150 American guests, and the witness Wuensche states in Affidavit PL-57B that in June, 1938, he visited the concentration camp at Sachsenhausen with a class of the Berlin Zollschule (School for customs officials). Both state that the quarters and the food of the prisoners were in conformity with the regulations. Thirty-five more statement by Political Leaders who had visited such camps are contained in the collective affidavits. They are all to the same effect.

Fourteen thousand statements summarised in Affidavit PL-57 show that these Political Leaders knew nothing about the conditions in the concentration camps, that in seven cases they received no answer to their inquiries, but that satisfactory answers were received in 102 cases.

Then incriminating documents about euthanasia were submitted.

It has been shown that the Political Leaders had no part in carrying out these measures, and that they had no general knowledge of them.

Document 630-PS, a letter of Hitler's of 1st September, 1939, shows that was a so-called "special secret order," which was given directly to Reichsleiter without portfolio Buehler and Dr. Brandt. Neither the Reichsleiter nor the Gauleiter were informed about any such special secret order (Proof: Document 59A, Hederich Affidavit).

According to Document D-906, (3) and (6), the medical commission concerned seems to have established contact with the Gauleiter or Kreisleiter in individual cases. It is noteworthy, however, that this very document mentions that the Hoheitstrager are not included since the regulations do not contemplate this.

Confirmation of these facts is given by the collective affidavits PL-59 of Karl Richard Adam, who states that 7,642 Political Leaders executed affidavits to the effect that they had not received any orders, and had not been involved in carrying out such measures.

All other measures were also taken to preserve secrecy about this matter, which had already become known here and there and given rise to many rumours. This is shown by the special notes recommending secrecy in the incriminating documents. The witness Meyer-Wendeborn stated before the Tribunal that upon his inquiry he was told that these were only rumours; and a physician, Dr. Engel (PL-59B), and Kreisleiter Dr. Dietrich (PL-590) confirm this official denial of the mercy killing.

Were these measures in any way connected with the conduct of the war?

It is certain that euthanasia was already being discussed in 1934, as shown by Document M-152.

Carefully worded articles were published in the Press, which encouraged this idea from the viewpoint of eugenics (Zuchtwahl) and which referred to the custom in ancient Greece of exposing and abandoning the unfit.

[Page 35]

Any connection with warlike intentions, however, is difficult to establish, even though the member of a Gau staff defines mercy killing in case of war as a war measure in Document D-906.

I now come to the events which became public knowledge: smashing of the labour unions, conflict with the Churches and persecution of the Jews.

The smashing of the free trade unions was well known. It was a revolutionary act. It was permissible or impermissible, as in any revolution. It was an event which happened only once and for which the responsibility is clear. The political leaders did not have a direct part in its execution, but they knew of the event and approved it.

The question must be examined whether it was a measure anticipating war, or whether other reasons were decisive.

The 150 large and small labour unions, which included 30 per cent of the workers, were already at the end of their strength before they were dissolved. Economically, the majority of them were facing collapse; the many years of unemployment had depleted their treasuries, but increased the demands upon them. The political parties which dominated the unions had been helpless in the face of the economic crisis; they had been powerless against Hitler, and so had resigned. Mass withdrawals which began at the end of 1932 and the beginning of 1933 had thus made the unions mere shadows. On the other hand, the workers transferred to the NSBO, and thereby aligned themselves with the idea of labour peace and of community which was clearly preparing the way for the solution of the economic crisis. In the same way the employers' organisations were compelled to maintain labour peace, and were dissolved.

The purpose of the elimination of all organisations was to reach a settlement between labour and capital; the class struggle was replaced by the duty to care for the workers on the one hand, and the duty of loyalty on the other as a key to the elimination of economic distress.

That the proceeding was so understood and approved by the workers is shown by their smooth co-operation; thus the economic-political proceeding was justified after the event.

Then the Church question is also an incriminating point. It is well known that the Churches lived in constant strife with National Socialism. It is not known that the cause of this strife lay in the opposition of the Churches to an intended war of aggression.

Following initial differences about power politics, it was later reasons of Christian morality which impelled the Church in an ever-increasing degree to fight against National Socialism. In general, the Churches were indifferent to the foreign policy of nations, in accordance with the principle, "Give the State that which belongs to the State."

Conflict with the Church was contrary to the Party programme, and Hitler himself never preached it, but would probably have preferred to win over the Churches. He tried to do so through the Concordat and had some successes through the proclamation of the Fulda Conference of Bishops and the proclamation of the Austrian Bishops after the Anschluss.

Propaganda against the Church was kept at a minimum, and was directed against members of the clergy who interfered in politics. There was no real, organised fight against the Church. The separation of Church and State was demanded to overcome the division of the people through various denominations.

Thus, Hitler told the witness Count Wolf-Metternich immediately after the seizure of power in 1933 that a campaign against the Christian Church would be Inexcusable (Affidavit PL-62c), and the witness Fabricius, a professor of theology, confirms this attitude (Affidavit PL-62A).

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