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 23, 1946

Two Hundred and Tenth Day: Friday, 23rd August, 1946
(Part 3 of 10)

[Page 49]


The attempt, repeatedly made during the war, to refuse acceptance of such an office also shows considerable pressure on the part of the Party to force such acceptance. It has become clear, on the other hand, that the refusal did not place because the tasks which had to be fulfilled were considered criminal;

[Page 50]

it was the effort and the work involved in addition to strenuous professional activity in war time which were the cause for such refusal.

It is an error of the prosecution, arising from the Organization Book, to assume that a Zellen- or Blockleiter had the power to issue orders or institute disciplinary action, or that he had powers similar to those of the police. (See Official Party Information, Document 29.) It is furthermore not correct that he had the right to call upon the SA, SS, or the Hitler Youth to aid him. The evidence taken before the Commission has established this fact. I draw your attention to the examination of the witnesses Hirt, Engelbert, Schneider and Kuehn. Additional affidavits confirm this fact. Everything corresponds to the official Party instructions, Documents 26 and 27.

A Zellen- or Blockleiter, on the basis of his actual position, could have no knowledge of events which are criminal according to the Indictment; furthermore, general activity of that type cannot be proved.

The knowledge of an ordinary Political Leader was no greater than that of every Party member. I draw your attention to Document 47-PL.

His duty to support the Party and the State was no greater than that of every civil servant (see Document 37-PL). That there have been individual actions by Political Leaders which are very incriminating is something which everyone knows who has lived in Germany, but it is equally well known that this did not represent the typical attitude of the majority of Blockleiter.

From the point of view of time, too, this group requires special examination.

Until 1st December, 1933, every Party member was under an obligation to the Party alone to comply with a request to take over an office in the Party. With the introduction of the Law for the Safeguarding of the Unity of Party and State on 2nd December, 1933, this duty to co-operate, until then in the nature of a private contract, became a legal obligation toward the State. In Article 5 of this law, detention and arrest are threatened in the event of failure to comply with duty, that is, penalties which, according to German law, could only be imposed in the event of violations of legal regulations.

By Article I, paragraph 1, of the enactment decree of the Law for Safeguarding the Unity of the Party and the State, the charter of the NSDAP was given an official character. Thereby also Article IV, paragraph 2b, of the statute was given an official character, which formed the basis for the obligation, previous based on civil law, to take over a function in the Party.

The fact that, with the coming into force of the law dated 1st December, 1933, the acceptance of an office in the Party became a lawful duty is shown, arguementum e contrario, in a specific statement contained in Article 20 of the Reich Labour Law dated 26th June, 1935; it is expressly stated that members of the Reich Labour Service are entitled to refuse the acceptance of an honorary function in the Party. But special legislation would not have been necessary regarding the exception of Reich Labour Service members from the duty of taking over a function in the Party, if the duty of co-operating in the Party had not been compulsory.

In practice the duty to co-operate amounted to coercion. Anyone refusing to comply with instructions to take over an office would without a doubt have been ejected from the Party by the Party tribunal (see Documents 63, 64-PL and 8). Exclusion from the Party would have meant the loss of one's means of livelihood with all its consequences (that is Document 65-PL). Apart from this, a Party member who refused to accept such a function was liable to be deprived of his liberty (Document 63-PL). Therefore, the coercion to accept a function in the Party was tantamount to physical coercion.

Anyone working in the Party before the seizure of power was probably doing so for idealistic reasons. Anyone who was given a function after the seizure of power probably accepted it in most cases without enthusiasm, particularly since he, as shown by the evidence, was taking upon himself burdens and unpleasantness, without gaining any advantages. Without doubt, however, almost without exception

[Page 51]

all those who became Party officials after the beginning of the war accepted a Party function only on account of the existing legal regulations. Those men not called up for the armed forces were either physically unfit or professionally so overburdened that they neither had the time nor the inclination to take over a function in the Party. This explains the fact that instructions from the Fuehrer and the Party Chancellery, in which the Party offices were instructed to call upon Party members for their co- operation, became more and more rigorous and even urged that Party court proceedings be instituted against anyone refusing to collaborate in the Party (that is Documents 61 and 62). During the war the legal and physical coercion regarding co-operation in the Party existed not only on paper; indeed this possibility was being made use of to the largest possible degree, which is proved by Document 8.

The assumption is justified, therefore, that if anyone became a functionary and Political Leader during the war, this was regularly the outcome of legal prescriptions and the result of the threat of being prosecuted by the Party court. This applied in practice to all the Block- and Zellenleiter and members of the Ortsgruppen staffs appointed during the war.

The prosecution has asserted that, on the contrary, this compulsion to work in the Party was merely the result of a voluntary entry into the Party. This would lead to the conclusion that membership in the Party would in itself be punished; on the other hand, one cannot argue, as has been done, that the Party members concerned could have avoided the compulsion to collaborate in the Party, that they ought to have accepted a position in one of the affiliated organizations, for instance the NSV, in good time. The incorrectness of this conception becomes apparent when one realizes that in this way collaboration in the Party is still being recommended.

In the case of civil servants there was further coercion in the shape of pressure exercised by the superior departments and ministries (compare Documents 67 to 70).

The result was that civil servants could also be forced to work with the Party. If a civil servant refused to comply with this request, then he would have to reckon with evil consequences for himself; he had to fear that disciplinary action would be started against him by his superior department, which would lead to the loss of his livelihood and perhaps to the starvation of his entire family.

If, on the other hand, he wanted to escape this danger by first of all leaving the Party, he would likewise suffer the loss of his livelihood (see Document 71). Civil servants therefore found themselves in a particularly difficult situation.

In view of these circumstances, we cannot consider this group of people as a freely constituted body.

The tasks of the Zellenleiter and Blockleiter, and, therefore, also the importance of their positions, varied according to the times.

Whoever was a Zellenleiter and Blockleiter before the seizure of power in 1933 must certainly have been more active politically than the person who accepted these positions at a time when only practical tasks could be performed. During the war, persons were employed in these offices as auxiliaries who by reason of their age or their occupation had not been drafted for military service. It is obvious these persons were Quite troops of the Party, destined to spread fear and dread, and who played at being little Caesars.

If, in addition, one considers the difference of situation between town and country, one cannot conclude that these 1,200,000 persons included in this group were essentially criminal.

The prosecution has excluded the members of the Ortsgruppen staff from the proceedings. The point of view is presumably that they, as honorary helpers of the Ortsgruppe, held a position of less importance. It would be well to examine whether the members of the Kreis and Gau staffs could be excluded on the same grounds. Their connection with the influential Hoheitstrager puts them under

[Page 52]

more serious suspicion. The nature of this connection must be examined closely.

The leading political offices of the staffs were the Staff Office, the Propaganda Office, the Training Office, the Organization Office, and the Personnel Office. Their personnel consisted mainly of paid officials.

The treasurer was another member of the staff. He was not responsible, however, to the Hoheitstrager but to the Reich Treasurer.

The Party finance administration had created an independent control and accounting system which functioned in a purely bureaucratic manner and was of a non-political nature. It comprised about 70,000 Political Leaders.

In addition to the political offices, there were consultant Political Leaders. There were the four following categories: A representative of the different sections of the NS Women's Association, NS Professorial Association, and the NS Student Association; a representative of the Welfare Associations, NSV and NSKPV; the leaders of the professional organizations for teachers, officials, physicians, and members of the legal profession; and the representatives of the technical offices: DAF, industry and commerce, agrarian policy, etc.

In order to gain a correct impression of the scope of these offices, it must be pointed out that they generally had no staff of their own and very often no office space. Sometimes they were not even in the same building as the staff, but some distance away.

There was little practical co-operation with the Gauleitung and Kreisleitung. A number of affidavits corroborate that these agencies were hardly ever visited by the Hoheitstrager (see Affidavit 39-PL), and that they did not work with them (see Affidavits 48 to 50). During the war, some of these agencies were dissolved because they had become superfluous, e.g. the Legal Office (Rechtsamt) in 1942, and the Office for Officials (Amt fuer Beamte) in 1943. The task of these offices was mainly technical, and their officials therefore received instructions not from the Hoheitstrager but from the competent superior agencies (Document 72-PS).

No direct accusations have been made by the prosecution against the activity of these staff members.

Physicians have been accused in connection with mercy killing and concentration camp atrocities, but these are not physicians of the Public Health Office. Agreements between the Reich Minister of Justice and Himmler and Goebbels regarding a special criminal law and extermination through labour have been mentioned. The Kreis and Gau Offices for justice are in no way connected with this.

These offices certainly represented the National Socialist ideology within the staffs, for this was their task, but here it is important to establish how far the Political Leaders were concerned, outside their official activity, in a conspiracy aimed at a war of aggression or the commission of war crimes.

One cannot declare them to be criminal on the grounds of a general supposition that they might have had some knowledge of these facts. First of all there exists for us the important task of verification, and this must not be passed on to a court sitting at a later date.

The verdict of the Tribunal will mean the condemnation of two-thirds of these men. It is to be feared that during the subsequent trials individual guilt may be too easily presupposed upon the assumption of their general guilt.

In judging the technical offices, it must not be forgotten that about 140,000 persons are concerned who were employed in an honorary capacity.

THE PRESIDENT: What is the evidence for that statement that 140,000 persons were employed in an honorary capacity?

DR. SERVATIUS: These are the members in the technical department , who worked on the various staffs of the Kreise, Gaue and Ortsgruppen. In the case of the Ortsgruppen, the prosecution has left these people out of the proceedings. I want to establish that these people in the higher staffs were also honorary specialists

[Page 53]

who had no part in the crimes against peace or in the war crimes. They did not come under the Gauleiter, but received instructions directly from their superiors in the technical sections. Their activities appear rather intense in the field -

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Servatius, you have not answered my question. What is the evidence for the statement, and I want to ask a second question, what do you mean by honorary capacity?

DR. SERVATIUS: By honorary capacity, I mean people who were not paid for their work. Honorary means without payment.

THE PRESIDENT: You said they were technical experts?

DR. SERVATIUS: Yes, they came from their organizations: jurists, doctors and teachers, all were represented; or they were the representatives of the welfare organizations or the Labour Front. Each one of these was an expert in his own field, who was consulted on an honorary basis.

THE PRESIDENT: Again I ask you, Dr. Servatius, what is the evidence that there were 140,000?

DR. SERVATIUS: That figure is carefully calculated on the basis of the Organization Book. I can supply more complete details later; it would take too long now and, besides, I am not at the moment in a position to present the figures. I have stated with respect to each subject how many people were concerned in order to give a general picture.


DR. SERVATIUS: We still have to examine the group of the real Hoheitstrager, who made up the nucleus of the Party. Their special position and their political authority set them apart from the other Political Leaders, but their positions vary considerably.

Whereas the Ortsgruppenleiter is restricted in his sovereignty to the circle of his Ortsgruppe, the authority of the "Higher Party Leaders" ("Hoehere Parteifuehrer") goes beyond Party limits, affecting the rights of those who do not belong to the Party.

Only the Kreis- and Gauleiter bad the right to exercise political judgment toward outsiders and in that way determine the fate of those outsiders. At the same time they exerted great influence on the life of all the people in this way.

The decisions which they made were based on their own judgment. This fact is indicative of their personal responsibility. The Ortsgruppenleiter were only asked to furnish evidence for the judgment. They were only instruments of execution without any independence.

Externally the difference is indicated by the fact that the Ortsgruppenleiter acted only on an honorary basis, that is, without pay. Their profession prevented them from concerning themselves in a comprehensive manner with all that was happening. This was especially the case during the war when necessity directed all one's thoughts and powers towards one's own problems.

The 70,000 Ortsgruppenleiter were members of the lower middle class who had not previously been active in politics and who lacked experience in this dangerous sphere.

Most of the Ortsgruppen were in the country, where agricultural work proceeded alongside the superimposed activity. The testimony given by witness Wegscheider before this Tribunal gave a true picture of the situation.

The position of the Ortsgruppenleiter becomes particularly clear when we compare their responsibility with that of the higher Party Leader, who was appointed by Hitler directly.

Because of their connection with the highest leadership, the possibility of more extensive knowledge was greater with the higher Party Leaders.

[Page 54]

This trial has shown that the separation of departments and the artificial breaking apart of administration and police has played an important role. But, because of the merging of many functions, and because many strings were gathered in one hand, at least the highest Party Leaders could see when something was not as it should be.

The question is whether a Gau- or Kreisleiter could, because everything was as it should be in his sector, with a clear conscience remain inactive when a questionable incident was taking place outside his domain or his department.

We have to answer this question in the negative. He had to acquaint himself with the facts of the case because of the sovereign rights he possessed, for he had deprived others of the possibility of concerning themselves with these things. He had the right, and therewith also the obligation, to be active because of his office.

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