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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Two Hundred and Fourteenth Day: Thursday, 29th August, 1946
(Part 4 of 14)

[Page 259]


It needs little imagination to see the abuses to which a decree such as that might be put, abuses which might well prove a convenient weapon for the Nazi Party. That letter from a Gauleiter went to all Gauamtsleiter, Gau Inspectors and Kreisleiter in his Gau. From the fact that it is stated that the Department for National Health was to carry out preparations for cases to be put before the Gauleiter, it is clear that the Amtsleiter for that Department of National Health were also closely involved.

You will remember the evidence of the extent to which mercy killing became general knowledge within a few months of its commencement.

By July, 1940, Bishop Wurm was writing to Frick. In August he was writing to the Minister of Justice. In September, having obtained no satisfaction, he was writing again both to Frick and to the Minister of Justice.

Bishop Wurm was talking about events in Wurttemberg. They were not confined to Wurttemberg, to Stuttgart and Nuremberg. Several hundred miles away the same thing was happening in Stettin, as the letters of the Stettin Supervisor to the Ministry of Justice and to Lammers, of 6th September, 1940, and Lammers's letter to the Minister of Justice of 2nd October, 1940, indicate. By August of next year the same thing was happening around Wiesbaden, as we see from the Bishop of Limbourg's letter to Frick, the Minister of Justice and the Minister for Church Affairs. It was happening in Franconia also, and we happen to have a file which shows the part the Political Leaders of Franconia were taking. Can one doubt, when one reads those letters, that the same thing must have been happening in every other area in Germany where these murderous commissions were at work? Bormann writes to the Gauleiter of Franconia and one of his Kreisleiter on 24th September, 1940:

[Page 260]

"It is natural that the representatives of Christian ideology speak against the Commission's measures: it must be equally natural that all Forty offices should, as far as necessary, support the work of the Commission."
How can Dr. Servatius say of this evidence that it shows the Political Leaders had no part in the carrying out of these measures, and that they had no knowledge of them? That one sentence from Bormann's letter is alone sufficient to justify a declaration of criminality against the Corps of Political Leaders, the corps which provided the heads of the Party offices which were to support those commissions.

It was questioned during the cross-examination of the defence witnesses for the Corps of Political Leaders as to whether this crime of euthanasia came within the jurisdiction of this Tribunal under Article 6 of the Charter. Surely there can be no serious doubt that the murder of 270,000 persons is a Crime Against Humanity. 270,000 corpses may pale into insignificance beside the slaughter in the occupied territories and the concentration camps; it is, nevertheless, a crime of almost unimaginable proportions. Neither can there be any doubt that it was a crime committed in connection with aggressive war. From Bishop Wurm's letter to Frick on 19th July, 1940, we learn that these murders were taking place on the orders of the Reich Defence Council. Goering, Keitel, Frick, Raeder, Funk, Hess and Ribbentrop were members of the Reich Defence Council. When the Bishop wrote again on 5th September, 1940, he stated:

"If the leadership of the State is convinced that it is a question of an inevitable war measure, why does it not issue a decree with legal force?"
The purpose of these crimes is clear, as it was clear to the Catholic population of Absburg whom the Ortsgruppenleiter reported as asserting:
"The State must be in a bad way now, or it could not happen that these poor people should simply be sent to their death solely in order that the means which until now have been used for the upkeep of these people may be made available for the prosecution of the war."
I merely remind the Tribunal, in the shortest terms, of Bormann 's remarks to similarly worded letters to various families, (7.) of the Gaustabsamtsleiter of Nuremberg demanding notification in a more skilful form when 30,000 had been dispatched and four times as many were waiting; (8.) of the doubts of the Kreisleiter of Erlanger, (9.) of the grave difficulties as to notification which faced the Kreisleiter of Ansbach. (10.) Neither the Kreisleiter nor any of the others appear to have felt

[Page 261]

any concern at the fact that they themselves were actively supporting an administration conducting mass murder. If their oath of allegiance to their Fuehrer absolved them from qualms of conscience, can it also acquit them of moral or criminal guilt? Kreisleiter from all over Franconia were reporting in similar terms. The Kreisleiter from Lauf wrote to the Gaustabsamtsleiter:
"The doctor also informed me that it was well known that the Commission consisted of one SS doctor and several subordinate doctors, that their patients were not even examined and that they only pronounced the verdict in accordance with the medical history noted down."
Mrs. Marie Kehr lost two of her sisters in that way, and wrote to ask the Reich Minister of the Interior under what decree they had been killed. Frick's office passed the matter on to the Gaustabsamtsleiter in Nuremberg:
"I request that you investigate whether Kehr is politically reliable, especially whether she does not have Church connections. In case this should be so, for my part there are no misgivings if you give Kehr the desired information orally."
The Gaustabsamtsleiter passed that letter on to the Kreisleiter. The Kreisleiter passed it on to the Ortsgruppenleiter, who reported "that one can inform Mrs. Kehr. She is calm and circumspect."

In February, 1941, the Ortsgruppenleiter of Absburg reported on the "wildest scenes imaginable" which had occurred in his village when the local sanatorium had been cleared of patients. You may think his attitude was typical of the great mass of Political Leaders:

"These incidents during this action, which is after all necessary, are to be condemned all the more because even Party members themselves did not shrink from joining in the lamentations of the other weeping spectators. It is even said that these poor victims - as they are regarded by the clergy and the religious inhabitants of Absburg - were taken to the Catholic Church for confession and communion shortly before their departure. It seems absolutely ridiculous to want to take away by an oral confession the possible sins of people, some of whom completely lack all mental power."
It has become manifest during these proceedings that other Political Leaders share the views of that Ortsgruppenleiter as to the absurdity of any oral confession.

It is unnecessary for me to remind you of the other reports, except to mention that in addition to the Gaustabsamtsleiter, the Kreisleiter and Ortsgruppenleiter, the Gauorganizationleiter also becomes involved. The Leadership Corps was up to the elbows in this bloody business.


The Corps of Political Leaders take their share of responsibility for the maltreatment of prisoners of war. In September, 1941, Bormann circulated to Gauleiter and Kreisleiter the regulations of the OKW for the treatment of Soviet prisoners of war. From the receipt stamp of that document it appears that the Gauschulungsleiter was the official of the Gau staff chiefly concerned with these matters. You remember the directives contained in those regulations. They were based on the fact that:

"Bolshevism is the deadly enemy of Nazi Germany .... The Bolshevist soldier has therefore lost all claim to treatment as an honourable opponent in accordance with the Geneva Convention ... the feeling of pride and superiority of the German soldier ordered to guard Soviet prisoners of war must at all times be visible even in public. The order for ruthless and energetic action must be given at the slightest indication of insubordination especially in the case of Bolshevist fanatics ... With Soviet prisoners of war it is necessary, for reasons of discipline, that the use of arms should be severe."

[Page 262]

You will remember the special Einsatz groups set up by the SD to screen Soviet prisoners of war in the P.W. camps in order to discover and eliminate their leaders and intelligentsia. These orders circulated to Gauleiter and Kreisleiter explain the purpose and the method of work of those special purpose units and state:
"The armed forces must rid themselves of all those elements among the prisoners of war which must be considered as the driving force of Bolshevism. The special conditions of the Eastern campaign demand special measures, which can be carried out on their own responsibility free from bureaucratic and administrative influences."
No Gauleiter or Kreisleiter can tell this court that he did not know that Russian prisoners of war were being murdered.

It was not only for their information that Political Leaders received those instructions. Bormann, writing to all Reichleiter, Gauleiter, Verbandefuehrer and Kreisleiter in September, 1944, emphasized:

"The co-operation of the Party in the commitment of prisoners of war is, inevitable. Therefore the officers assigned to the prisoner-of-war system, have been instructed to co-operate most closely with the Hoheitstrager; the commanders of the prisoner-of-war camps have to detail immediately liaison officers to the Kreisleiter; thus the opportunity will be afforded the Hoheitstrager to alleviate existing difficulties locally, to exercise influence on the behaviour of the guard units and better to proportion the commitment of the prisoners of war to the political and economic demands."
It was to be the task of the Political Leaders to orientate both the guards and the plant owners "again and again politically and ideologically" and this was to be done in co- operation with the DAF.

It is unnecessary to repeat the evidence of the treatment of Russian and other prisoners of war employed by Krupp. The Political Leaders were as callous of their prisoner-of-war slaves when they died as they had been while they lived. Gauleiter and Kreisleiter received from Bormann Frick's instructions for the burial of Soviet prisoners of war. Tarred paper was to make do for coffins, no burial ceremonies or decorations of the graves were to be allowed, costs were to be kept as low as possible and the "transfer and burial is to be carried out unobtrusively, if a number of corpses have to be disposed of the burial will be carried out in a communal grave."

What did the last rites of those whom they had worked to death matter to the Nazi Government and its Political Leaders? They mattered as little as any recognized form of simple decency or honour.

As early as March, 1940, Hess had circularized the Political Leaders with directives for behaviour in case of landings of enemy planes or parachutists. You will remember the order:

"Likewise enemy parachutists are immediately to be arrested or made harmless."
In view of less ambiguous orders which were to follow, and of the extraordinary precautions to maintain secrecy in respect of that order, can you now doubt what that somewhat ambiguous phrase was intended to convey? You remember that it was to be disseminated orally only to Kreisleiter, Ortsgruppenleiter, Zellen- and Blockleiter. Transmittal of the order by official orders, poster, Press or radio was prohibited, and amongst the other security precautions it was declared to be a State secret document. You will remember also that in addition to all the Hoheitstrager being informed, the order went to the Reich Organization Directorate, the Reich Propaganda Directorate and the Reich Student Leadership offices, which each had their own representative included in the Amtsleiter of the Gau, Kreis and Ortsgruppen staffs, and that it went also to SS Gruppenfuehrer Heydrich.

THE PRESIDENT: Sir David, would that be a good time to break off?


[Page 263]

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn.

(A recess was taken.)

In August, 1943, Himmler instructed the police that it was not their task to interfere in clashes between Germans and terror flyers. Gauleiter were to be informed verbally. In May, 1944, Goebbels was writing to the Volkischer Beobachter that it was not bearable to use German police to protect murderers. The next day Bormann directed the attention of all Gauleiter, Verbandefuehrer, Kreisleiter and Ortsgruppenleiter to the fact that several instances had occurred in which aircraft crews who had baled out or had made forced landings had been lynched on the spot by the incensed populace.

"No police measures or criminal proceedings were involved against the German civilians who participated in these incidents."
It was hardly necessary for us, in order to understand the purpose of that letter, to have captured a Gauleiter's order taking advantage of the invitation that Bormann had extended. In February, 1945, the Gauleiter for Westfalen- South expressly directed his Kreisleiter to encourage the lynching of Allied airmen:
"Fighter-bomber pilots," he wrote, "who are shot down are, on principle, not to be protected against the indignation of the people. I expect from all police offices that they will refuse to lend their protection to these gangster types."
You will have seen Gauleiter Hoffmann's evidence before your Commissioners upon this matter, and you will pay such attention to it as you think it deserves.

Let me conclude this review of the evidence against the Corps of Political Leaders by reminding you of the evidence of two witnesses called in defence of the organizations, one Eberstein, whom you yourselves heard give evidence for the SS, and the other Wahl, a Gauleiter who testified before your Commissioners.

You know the evidence that all the Political Leaders have given as to concentration camps - they had nothing to do with them, they knew nothing of what was happening inside them. But what did the witness Eberstein tell you? I quote from his evidence:

"In the beginning of March, 1945, the Gauleiter and Reich Defence Kommissar Giesle in Munich ordered me to come to him, and demanded that I should influence the Kommandant of Dachau to the effect that when the American troops approached, the prisoners - there were 25,000 people there at the time - were to be shot. I refused this demand with indignation, and I pointed out that I could not give any orders to the Kommandant, whereupon Giesle said to me that he, as Reich Defence Kommissar, would see to it that the camp would be bombed by our own forces. I told him that I considered it impossible that any German air force commander would be willing to do this. Then Giesle said he would see to it that something would be put into the soup of the prisoners. That is, he threatened to poison them. From my own initiative I sent an inquiry to the inspector of the concentration camp by teletype, and asked for a decision from Himmler as to what was to be done with the prisoners in case the American troops approached. Shortly thereafter the news came that the camps were to be surrendered to the enemy. I showed that to Giesle. He was quite indignant because I had frustrated his plans."
And lastly the witness Wahl, Gauleiter of Schwaben, gave this evidence:
"Q. Witness, I was asking you about the conversation which you had with your wife on the question whether or not you should resign your position as Gauleiter. Is not the implication to be drawn from that conversation this: that you were ashamed of what other Gauleiter were doing and that all around you saw things going on of which you disapproved and from which you wanted to dissociate yourself?

[Page 264]

A. Yes.

Q. That is true, is it not?

A. Yes, that is true."

And in answer to another question he said:
"I want to stress the point that it is not my task and not my wish here to justify all the Gaue. Among the Gauleiter, as everywhere else, there were maniacs and bloodthirsty fools."

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