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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Two Hundred and Thirteenth Day: Wednesday, 28th August, 1946
(Part 11 of 13)

[Page 231]

[DR. BOEHM, Continued]

The transfer took place as follows: On 27th April, 1933, the entire Stahlhelm was placed under Hitler's orders by the leader of the organization, Seldte. On 21st June, 1933, the Junior Stahlhelm (Jungstahlhelm) and on the 4th July, 1933, the entire Stahlhelm, were subordinated to the Supreme SA Leadership by Hitler's own orders. According to the decree of 4th July, 1933, the Jungstahlhelm and the Sports Units, later called Military Stahlhelm (Wehrstahlhelm) that is, Stahlhelm members up to the age of 35 years, were included in the active SA (Exhibits 1-7). The transfer of the original Stahlhelm, that is, members of the ages of 36 to 45 years, was effected, as mentioned before, on 25th January, 1934. This transfer and inclusion, both in the case of the Wehrstahlhelm and the original Stahlhelm, took place without the member being asked, partly by announcing the orders at roll calls, partly by transferring the membership lists of the SA. This is proved by the affidavits which I have submitted and the testimony of Von Waldenfels, Hauffe and Gruss.

The decrees issued by Hitler after the 1st December, 1933 (the law regarding the unity of State and Party), are without doubt to be regarded as legal decrees. The preceding orders and instructions have, practically speaking, a similar character and were sanctioned by the law of the 1st December, 1933, as well as by later decrees and executive orders.

The transfer of the Stahlhelm did not take place without friction. In the case of many members coercion was used. Many elements in the organization did not agree with the subordination of the Stahlhelm, or with the co-operation of the

[Page 232]

Stahlhelm in the seizure of power. Duesterberg, who must be regarded as the head of the opposition to Seldte's policy, objected in particular. This attitude resulted in his arrest, as well as in the numerous arrests of Stahlhelm members which were made by the State Police in the spring of 1933, especially in Brunswick.

Members of the Stahlhelm who did not obey the order for the transfer were forced into service by State agencies and occasionally punished. (Testimony of Hauffe and Von Waldenfels).

Just as the SA disintegrated because of the events before and after 1933 through the influx of people with the most widely different aims, so this also happened in the case of the Stahlhelm because of the events of the year 1933, which had such serious and dreadful consequences for the German people. The Stahlhelm disintegrated. For some of its members it had been of importance that at the time of the transfer they had been expressly assured of a certain amount of independence under their own leaders and retention of their old uniforms, as well as the further connection with the Stahlhelmbund. This is shown by nearly all documents, affidavits and testimonies. When these assurances were not kept, the opposition group's resistance against Seldte increased. On the part of the National Socialist leaders of the State this group was considered politically unreliable and reactionary.

This also is confirmed by affidavits and the testimony of witnesses, and especially emphasized by the newspaper reports submitted, which represent only a small portion of many similar reports. Evidence: Exhibits 32, 33, 35, 36, 37, 39, 40, 48, 51, 53, 54, 55. The National Socialist paper Rheinfront, for 27th July, 1933. stated: "The Stahlhelm was never National Socialist at heart." In another paper of 30th July, 1935, it said: "It is certain that the Stahlhelm was always to be found with the opponents of the movement." Another newspaper of 18th August, 1935, described the Stahlhelm as "a hot-bed of hostile and reactionary forces."

It should be noted that the majority of the members of the Stahlhelm transferred to the SA remained members of the Stahlhelmbund or the later so-called NSD Stahlhelm Veterans' League (Frontkampferbundes). According to the decrees of 14th July, 1933, and 27th January, 1934 (Exhibits Nos. 8 and 18), Stahlhelmers transferred to the SA were expressly permitted this dual membership. In conclusion, your attention is drawn to Exhibit No. 21. According to this the Press Department of the Supreme SA Leadership announced on 25th April, 1934:

"Members of the former Stahlhelmbund, who have already been incorporated into SA Reserve 1, are not at present permitted to resign from SA Reserve 1."
A large number of the members of the Stahlhelm represented a body within the SA, united by common ideals, who regarded the events of the time with the greatest distrust. Opposed to them was a group of Stahlhelm members and former Stahlhelm leaders, headed by Labour Minister Seldte, who approved the national revolution and provided the SA with sixty high-ranking SA leaders, but who naturally condemned abuses and excesses of authority in the severest possible manner. Two spokesmen of both those Stahlhelm groups have been heard before this Tribunal, namely, the witnesses Gruss and Juettner. One of these witnesses was a member of the SA, the other was not an SA member. One of them, as a Stahlhelm leader, acknowledges his membership in the SA, which he knew intimately, the other remained outside the SA and was opposed to it. The latter is the exponent of that wing of the Stahlhelm which toyed with ideas of opposition until the end of the Third Reich.

It can be said without doubt that the Stahlhelm represents an element of opposition to the so-called "Old Fighters" of the SA. The above-mentioned exhibits, affidavits and testimonies are irrefutable proof of this.

Upon joining the SA the Stahlhelm members brought with them their own Stahlhelm ideology, which differs in essential points from National Socialism. Politically speaking the majority of them rejected the totalitarian claims of any

[Page 233]

political party, and the Fuehrer principle. As before, they remained in constant touch with their old Bund which, until its dissolution in 1935, continued to exist under the name of the NSDFB (Stahlhelm). Even after it was dissolved they formed strong, close-knit groups among themselves and held comradely meetings over almost all Germany. In many of those groups the hope of a political revolution continued to live on for a long time.

As in other parts of the SA, former opponents of National Socialism, particularly Marxists, found a reception in the ranks of the Stahlhelm. So in Brunswick, for example, the Reichsbanner joined the Stahlhelm (D-947).

The insufficient camouflaging of the activities of the Reichsbanner resulted in its being dissolved.

Those members transferred from the Stahlhelm to the SA, like SA members, repudiated all crimes such as those mentioned in Article 6. As ex-servicemen they repudiated war, particularly aggressive war.

In connection with the incorporation of the Stahlhelm it must be taken into consideration that it took place at a time when there were internal disputes and weakening in the SA, when the work of the SA had already been completed through the seizure of power, and not at the time when Hugenberg, Schacht and Hitler were forming the so-called Harzburg Front. The completion of this enrolment in the SA took place at a time when the SA was totally without significance.

May I finally remark, with reference to the subject of the Stahlhelm, that by virtue of coercion, that is, of an order, about 500,000 members of the Wehrstahlhelm, and about 500,000 members of the Kernstahlhelm were transferred. There remained a further half-million Stahlhelm members over 45 years of age who did not join the SA at all because an order for this transfer was lacking. Only in very few districts, indeed, were these older age groups also transferred to the SA because of the infringement of orders by subordinate SA authorities.

Another group occupying a special position in the SA is the Mounted SA (Reiter SA). The testimony has very clearly shown that during the entire period of its existence the Mounted SA possessed a far-reaching organizational independence. The aims, duties and activities of the Mounted SA were not political, but were limited to equestrian sports and the care and breeding of horses.

In the course of detailed testimony before the Commission, the prosecution did not succeed in proving that the Mounted SA had participated in any crimes against peace or humanity.

In view of the clear evidence in favour of the Mounted SA, I shall limit myself to presenting the essential points to the Tribunal in summarized form.

The charge that the SA co-operated in the seizure of power by the NSDAP does not in any way concern the Mounted SA, because the Mounted SA was not created until after the seizure of power. The Mounted SA did not grow out of Adolf Hitler's storm troops, but out of the hundreds of so-called rural riding associations, which existed all over Germany until 1933 as entirely unpolitical sport and breeding associations. The incorporation of these rural riding associations into the SA after the seizure of power as part of the so- called "co-ordination" (Gleichschaltung) did not take place voluntarily. It was carried out by official decree against the opposition of most members of these associations. This official decree was the result of negotiations between the chief of the rural riding associations and the Chief of Staff of the SA, Roehm, which were initiated by the Reich Ministry of the Interior in the summer of 1933. Those riding associations which resisted the decree were threatened with dissolution and those which continued to resist were, as a matter of fact, dissolved.

Since those associations constituted an agricultural necessity, most of them obeyed the decree under the pressure of circumstances.

Even after the incorporation of the Mounted SA into the SA, it retained its independent character as an organization until the very end. The former riding associations, which now called themselves SA Mounted Companies (Reitersturme),

[Page 234]

were headed by the so-called Reich Inspector for Riding and Driving (Reit- and Fahrwesen), Litzmann, in Berlin.

With respect to the size and composition of Mounted SA, the testimony has shown that it had approximately 200,000 members. Eighty to ninety per cent of them were farmers who owned horses. After the seizure of power, the Mounted SA was joined by the riding clubs then established in many cities, which up to their [sic] had likewise led an entirely unpolitical existence, devoted only to sports.

The activity of the Mounted SA was in keeping with its athletic and breeding tasks. Service consisted in riding and driving and in training in those branches of knowledge pertaining to horses. The leading activity of the city units was the organization of hunts and tournaments, just as is done by riding clubs everywhere in the world. As a rule, they did not ride in uniform, but in civilian clothes. The wives and children of the members took part in the riding. In rural areas their activity was mainly limited to instructing the farmers about all important matters concerning horses, especially driving and the treatment of sick horses. For these reasons, the members of the Mounted SA everywhere in Germany considered themselves primarily as horsemen, and not as SA men.

The Mounted SA deliberately refrained from giving any political support. It neither disseminated any political propaganda nor gave any political training. It never was a political fighting unit.

The decisive factor in the selection and promotion of leaders in the Mounted SA was not political activity, but solely riding ability and unblemished character.

The testimony has clearly shown that the Mounted SA in no way participated in any crimes against humanity. Neither did it ever co-operate in the excesses against the Churches, the Jews, the labour unions, foreign labourers, or prisoners of war. On the contrary, members of the Mounted SA frequently intervened in favour of persons who were politically persecuted.

As the presentation of evidence has shown, any anti- Semitic attitude was completely alien to the Mounted SA. The NS Riding Corps was always well disposed toward the Church. It is a significant fact that the non-Aryan Fuldauer, as is shown by his affidavit (No. 20), was a co-founder of the Riding Corps at Wiehl, in the Rhineland, and that he was a leading member of the Mounted SA there for a fairly long time after the seizure of power.

Since the Mounted SA stood aloof from the Party, in many areas of Germany, it even became a haven for the politically persecuted. Numerous Freemasons and non- Aryans were members of the Mounted SA, and tried to cover themselves by pointing out their membership in a National Socialist organization. Under these circumstances it is not surprising that the NSDAP, as has been shown by the presentation of evidence, regarded the NS Riding Corps with the utmost suspicion. Members of the Mounted SA were refused membership in the NSDAP because their activity in the Mounted SA did not give proof of their political reliability.

Moreover, the presentation of evidence has clearly shown that the Mounted SA did not participate in a crime against peace.

According to the claims of the prosecution Hitler is supposed to have given the Mounted SA the task of securing the horsemen among the new generation for the German armed forces. Here the prosecution based its case mainly on certain propaganda articles by an unknown author which appeared in the periodical Der SA Fuehrer. All the witnesses who have testified concerning the Mounted SA have reported that the contents of these editorials were in open contradiction to the actual conditions. It has been repeatedly established in this trial that the Party Leadership permitted itself to be guided solely by a propagandistic viewpoint. The prosecution has not succeeded in adducing even one actual case where the Mounted SA in the more than ten years of its existence ever planned or ordered any activity which could be regarded as a preparation for, or support of, a war of aggression.

[Page 235]

The highest officer of the German cavalry in the time prior to the outbreak of World War II, the well-known Colonel-General Guderian, has taken an unequivocal stand on this question. I quote:
"There was no military collaboration between the German Wehrmacht and the NS Riding Corps, either in a tactical or a strategical respect. The cavalry of the Wehrmacht trained the next generation of horsemen itself and did not apply for the collaboration of the NS Riding Corps. Relations with the NS Riding Corps along these lines were neither sought for nor maintained on the part of the Wehrmacht ...."
In connection with this, Colonel-General Guderian gives the following convincing reasons:
"Whereas eighteen cavalry regiments were still in existence in 1935, only one cavalry brigade was available at the outbreak of war, which in the course of the war was later increased to a cavalry division. The Armoured Command had taken the place of the cavalry, as is obvious from the fact that 40 per cent of the tank officers came from former cavalry regiments. In view of this development, an incorporation of units of the Mounted SA into the Wehrmacht was not planned, nor did it ever take place."
Moreover, within the Mounted SA itself no training of any kind for military tasks was practised. At no time and in no part of Germany were cavalry manoeuvres like those in the Wehrmacht cavalry ever carried out by the Mounted SA. Rather was their activity limited to the breeding of horses, which was important for the farmers, and the kind of equestrian sports which are practised in all countries of the world.

Nor can the charge be maintained by pointing to the so- called Riding Certificate. According to its text, the Riding Certificate gave its owner the right to be allowed to serve with a mounted unit in the Army. This Riding Certificate, however, could be earned by any sportsman, even if he was not a member of the NS Riding Corps. This corresponded to the understandable desire of every keen horseman to be assigned to a mounted unit in the case of his conscription in the Army, just as an enthusiastic mountain-climber or skier prefers to do his military service in the mountain-units. In practice, however, this desire was considered by the Wehrmacht only on the rarest occasions, because after 1933 the Wehrmacht had almost completely disbanded the cavalry. Thus, most of the holders of Riding Certificates were in reality assigned to infantry or motorized units when they joined the Wehrmacht.

Furthermore, the goal of every member of the Mounted SA in his sports activity was not to acquire the Riding Certificate, but to obtain the Riding Badge, which was worn with pride by every rider. This badge has been submitted to the Tribunal in its original form and is probably the only badge of an NS unit without the swastika.

A militaristic spirit was not fostered in the Mounted SA. The majority of the Mounted SA were farmers. It is well known that the farmer is by nature no friend of war. The urban units of the Mounted SA, however, maintained close international relations with all countries that engaged in riding sports until the outbreak of war.

Numerous foreigners, some of them in official positions, were constant guests of the Mounted SA. At the outbreak of war general consternation reigned.

As regards the character of the General SA, the members of the Mounted SA were of the opinion that the SA, to which, indeed, the Mounted SA was not attached until after 1933, had no criminal character. In so far as excesses occurred within the General SA, the members of the Mounted SA must have perceived that these excesses by individuals were not in accordance with the programme of the SA, and they heard with satisfaction that the SA Leadership disavowed these things and tried to avoid repetitions.

[Page 236]

It might also be pointed out that not one of the chief defendants was ever in any kind of relationship with the Mounted SA. No member of the Mounted SA played a leading political part during the National Socialist regime.

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