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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Two Hundred and Sixteenth Day: Saturday, 31th August, 1946
(Part 6 of 7)

[Page 401]


It was never my intention to commit crimes against International Law, the laws of war, or the laws of humanity. Not for a single moment did I doubt the legality and admissibility of my task, for I thought it completely out of the question that the German Government would break International Law.

If, however, you tell me that, in spite of that, German labour laws could not be applied in the occupied territories, then I beg to reply that even high-ranking Frenchmen, Belgians, Poles, and also Russians have told me that they were supporting Germany with labour in order to protect Europe against a threatening Communist system, and in order to prevent unemployment and mass suffering during the war.

However, not only did I work for the fulfillment of my task with the greatest zeal, but at the same time I tried immediately upon assuming office, with all my might and with all possible means, to eliminate the critical conditions in the organization and care of foreign labourers, which had developed through the winter catastrophe of 1941 to 1942 and to do away with all shortcomings and abuses.

I also believed, as my documents prove, that we could win the foreign workers over to our German cause by giving them the proper treatment I demanded.

[Page 402]

Perhaps in the eyes of my foes, Himmler and Goebbels, I was a hopeless Utopian, but I honestly fought for the foreign workers to receive the same rights and conditions as the German workers. This is also attested by the numerous documents of my defence counsel, and has been confirmed by all the statements of the witnesses before this Tribunal.

If my work was incomplete, nobody can regret it more deeply and painfully than myself. Unfortunately, my power was limited.

The evidence has shown that things happened in the occupied territories on which I and the Labour Employment Office, which was civilian-controlled, could exercise no influence whatsoever. However, all German enterprises and agencies requiring labour complained to me that I was always delivering too few workers for the war effort, and that it would be my fault if the war economy and food economy were threatened by dangerous crises. These heavy responsibilities and worries dominated me so much that I found I had no time at all for other developments. This I regret.

I assume responsibility for my decrees and for my employees. I never saw the records of the Central Planning Board before this Trial; otherwise I would have corrected false or unclear passages, as, for instance, the passage with reference to the impossible figure of only 200,000 volunteer workers. This also applies to a number of other statements of mine which were incorrectly reported by third parties and do not represent what I actually said.

Because I am a worker and have personally served on foreign ships, I am grateful to the foreign workers who were in Germany, for they helped us greatly and they worked well. This, perhaps, is proof of the fact that on the whole they were treated decently and humanely. I myself often visited them. Because I was a working man, I spent the Christmas celebrations of 1943 and 1944 with foreign workers in order to show my attitude towards them.

My own children worked among foreign workers, under the same working conditions. Could I, or German workers and the German people, consider that as slavery? The necessity for these conditions was our war emergency. The German people and the German workers would never have tolerated around them conditions comparable to slavery.

My defence counsel has presented the complete truth about my case with extreme objectivity. I thank him for this from the bottom of my heart. For his own part, he was strict and correct in investigating my case. This was my wish.

The shortcomings and the necessities of the war, the frightful conditions it produced, have touched my heart deeply.

I myself am prepared to meet any fate which providence has in store for me, just as was my son, who fell in the war.

The Gauleiter whom I employed as Plenipotentiaries for Labour Employment had the sole task of providing for the proper treatment and care of the German and foreign workers.

God protect my people, whom I love above all else, and may the Lord God again bless the labour of German workers, to whom my entire life and effort were devoted, and may he give peace to the world.

THE PRESIDENT: I call upon the defendant Alfred Jodl.

DEFENDANT ALFRED JODL: Mr. President, may it please the Tribunal, it is my unshakable belief that later historians will arrive at a just and objective verdict concerning the higher military leaders and their assistants, for they and the entire German Wehrmacht with them were confronted with an insoluble task, namely, to conduct a war, which they had not wanted, under a Commander-in-Chief whose confidence they did not possess and whom they themselves only trusted within limits; with methods which frequently were in contradiction to their principles of leadership and their traditional, proved opinions; with troops and police for which did not come under their full command; and with an intelligence service

[Page 403]

which in part was working for the enemy. And all this in the complete and clear realization that this war would decide the life or death of our beloved fatherland. They did not serve the powers of hell and they did not serve a criminal but rather their people and their fatherland.

As far as I am concerned, I believe that no man can do more than try to reach the highest of the goals which appear attainable to him. That and nothing else has always been the guiding principle for my actions, and for that reason, gentlemen of the Tribunal, no matter what verdict you may pass upon me, I shall leave this courtroom with my head held as high as when I entered it many months ago.

But whoever calls me a traitor to the honourable tradition of the German Army, or whoever asserts that I remained at my post for personal and egotistical reasons him I shall call a traitor to the truth. In a war such as this, in which hundreds of thousands of women and children were annihilated by layers of bombs or killed by bullets fired from low- flying aircraft, and in which partisans used every, yes, every means of violence which seemed expedient, harsh measures, even though they may appear questionable from the standpoint of International Law, are not a moral crime.

For I believe and avow that one's duty toward one's people and fatherland stands above every other. To carry out this duty was for me an honour and the highest law.

May this duty be supplanted in some happier future by an even higher one, by the duty toward humanity.

THE PRESIDENT: I call upon the defendant Franz von Papen.

DEFENDANT FRANZ VON PAPEN: Your Lordship, may it please the Tribunal, when I returned home in 1919 I found a people, torn by the political struggles of parties, attempting to find a new mode of existence after the downfall. In those days of my country's misfortune, I believed as a responsible German that I had no right to remain inactive.

It was clear to me that a rebirth of my country was only possible by way of peace and intellectual understanding, an understanding which did not deal only with political forms, but was even more concerned with the solution of the extremely urgent social problems, the first condition for bringing about internal peace.

Against the onslaught of radical ideologies, it was necessary - and this was my conviction - that Christianity be maintained as the starting-point of the new political order. On the issue of this question the maintenance of European peace would have to depend.

The best years of my life-work were devoted to this question, in the community, in Parliament, in the Prussian State, and in the Reich. Anyone who is acquainted with the facts knows that I did not aspire to high office in 1932. Hindenburg's urgent appeal on behalf of the fatherland was to me a command. And when, like countless other Germans in the emergency of 1933, I decided to co-operate by occupying a prominent position, then I did so because I considered it to be my duty, because I believed in the possibility of steering National Socialism into responsible channels, and because I hoped that the maintenance of Christian principles would be the best counterweight against ideological and political radicalism and would guarantee peaceful domestic and foreign development.

The goal was not reached. The power of evil was stronger than the power of good and drove Germany inevitably into catastrophe. But should that be a reason to damn those who kept the banner of faith flying in the struggle against disbelief? And does that entitle justice Jackson to claim that I was nothing but the hypocritical agent of a godless government? Or what gives Sir Hartley Shawcross the right to say, with scorn, ridicule and contempt:

"He preferred to reign in hell rather than serve in heaven"?

[Page 404]

Gentlemen of the prosecution, it is not for you to judge here, that is for another. But I should like to ask: Is not the question of defending transcendental values, more than ever the central issue today in the efforts to rebuild a world?

I believe that I can face my responsibility with a clear conscience. Love of country and people was the only decisive factor in all my actions. I spoke without fear of man whenever I had to speak. It was not the Nazi regime but the fatherland which I served, when in spite of the severest disappointments at the failure of my hopes in the field of domestic policy I attempted, from the vantage point of my diplomatic posts, to save at least the peace.

When I examine my conscience, I do not find my guilt where the prosecution has looked for it and claims to have found it. But where is the man without guilt and without faults? Seen from the historical point of view, this guilt may be found on that dramatic day of 2nd September, 1932, when I did not attempt to persuade the Reich President with all the means at my disposal to abide by the decision he had made the night before - despite the violation of the Constitution and despite the threat by General von Schleicher to start a civil war.

Does the prosecution want to damn all those who with honest intentions offered to co-operate? Does it claim that the German people elected Hitler in 1933 because they wanted war? Does it really claim that the overwhelming majority of the German people made their tremendous spiritual and material sacrifices - including, even the sacrifice of their youth on the battlefields of this war - merely for Hitler's Utopian and criminal aims?

This High Tribunal faces this infinitely difficult task, without yet having gained sufficient distance in time from the catastrophe to recognize the causes and result of historical developments in their true perspective.

Only if this High Tribunal recognizes and acknowledges the historic truth will the historical meaning of this Tribunal be fulfilled. Only then will the German people, in spite of the destruction of their Reich, not only come to a realization of its errors, but also find the strength for its future task.

THE PRESIDENT: I call upon the defendant Artur Seyss- Inquart.

DEFENDANT ARTUR SEYSS-INQUART: Mr. President, in my final words I want, if possible, to make one more contribution toward clearing up the matters which have been treated here, by explaining the personal motives and considerations for my actions.

I have little to say concerning the Austrian question. I regard the Anschluss, apart from later events, as an exclusively German domestic affair. For every Austrian the Anschluss was a goal in itself and never, even remotely, a preparatory step for a war of aggression. The idea of the Anschluss was much too important a goal for that; indeed, it was the most outstanding goal of the German people. "To the German people I make a report of the greatest success of my life." I believed these words of the Fuehrer when he spoke on 15th March, 1938, in the Hofburg in Vienna. Moreover, they were true. If, on 11th March, 1938, at about 8 o'clock in the evening, and after the complete breakdown of every other political and State authority, I followed the way prescribed by Berlin, the reason was the following: The unjustified opposition to the carrying out of orderly elections had opened the doors to radical action, practically as well as psychologically. I asked myself whether I had the right to oppose these methods, after my plan had apparently not been practicable.

However, if this procedure appeared justified, I felt it my duty to lend such aid as I could under the circumstances. I am convinced that it is due mainly to my aid that this fundamental revolution, particularly during the night of 12th March, took place so quietly and without bloodshed, although strong hatred was stored within the hearts of the Austrian National Socialists.

I was in favour of the unity of all Germans, no matter what form of government Germany had. I believe that the prosecution has utilized documents of the

[Page 405]

period following the Anschluss in order to deduce from them aggressive intentions on my part in respect to the annexation. These are documents and remarks regarding the Danube area and Czechoslovakia, dated after October, 1938, and after the Munich agreement, and regarding the Vistula area after September, 1939 after the outbreak of war. I admit these statements and in the meantime their correctness has been confirmed. As long as the Danube area was incorporated in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, its development was beneficial to all, and the German element did not display any imperialistic activity but only furthered and contributed to culture and industry. Ever since this area was broken up by the integral success of the nationalistic principle, it has never achieved peace. Remembering this, I thought of reorganizing a common Lebensraum, which, as I openly declared, should give, as the most essential requirement, such a social order to all, namely, Germans, Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians, and Rumanians, as would make life worth while for every individual. I also thought of Czechoslovakia with this in mind, recalling the co-ordination of languages in Moravia, which I myself had witnessed.

If I spoke of the Vistula area after 1st September, 1939, as a German area of destiny, this was because of my endeavour to prevent dangers for the future, which had become obvious through the outbreak of war and which have today become a terrible reality to every German. These statements can no more serve as evidence of the intention to wage a war of aggression than the decision of Teheran concerning the German Eastern territories.

Then the war broke out, which I immediately recognized then and afterwards as a life-and-death struggle for the German people. To the demand for an unconditional surrender I could only oppose an unconditional "no" and my unconditional service to my country. I believe in the words of Rathenau:

"Courageous nations can be broken but never bent."
In connection with the Netherlands, I should like to say only the following with reference to the charge that I interfered in the administration for political purposes. Nobody in the Netherlands was forced into any political allegiance or limited in his freedom or property if he maintained anti-German ideas during the occupation, as long as he did not engage in hostile activity.

I have already explained that I had serious humane and legal scruples against the evacuation of the Jews. Today I realize that there appears to be a fundamental justification for large-scale and permanent evacuations, for such evacuations are today affecting more than 10 million Germans, who had been settled in their homes for many centuries.

After the middle of 1944, saboteurs and terrorists were shot by the police, on the basis of a direct Fuehrer order, if their activity was proved. At the time I only heard of shootings of this kind, never of "shootings of hostages" in the actual sense. The Dutch patriots who lost their lives during the occupation are today rightly considered fallen heroes. Does it not put this heroism on a lower plane to represent them exclusively as the victims of a crime, thus implying that their conduct would not have been so hazardous at all if the occupying Power had conducted itself in a proper manner? They all had a voluntary connection with the resistance movement. They shared the fate of front-line soldiers.

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