The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. You knew about the concentration camps. Can you still
remember when you heard about them for the first time? It is
important at least to determine the year.

A. No. I cannot tell you that at the present moment. I can
only reply to your questions by referring to individual
dates. The first murder in a concentration camp became known
to me when I heard that, in the Papenburg concentration
camp, the former member of the German Reichstag and Police
President of Altenaar had been shot. That could have been
either in 1935 or 1936, I am no longer sure when.

Q. And later, did you hear of many other such cases, or did
you have personal knowledge of them?

A. I had personal knowledge which was so certain that I
could give it with a clear conscience to the Tribunal in the
cases I mentioned this morning.

                                                  [Page 263]

Were you told that concentration camps were places in which
the political opponents of the regime were to be interned
without anything worse happening to them than loss of

A. No, on the contrary, I heard that concentration camps
meant to the population the very incarnation of all that is

Q. What do you mean by "population"? Do you also mean those
sections of the population who had some official connection
with the Party: small Party members, small SA and SS men?

A. I cannot say anything about that since I talked almost
exclusively with opponents of the system.

Q. Do you believe that these opponents, with whom you
talked, presented a united front against any one who wore a
party emblem or a badge of office?

A. No. This question upon which you are dwelling, affects
wide sections of the population, their general humanitarian
feeling, and their feeling of indignation about conditions
in the camps, as and when the facts became known.

Q. I asked my question with the intention of hearing whether
this feeling of indignation was noticeable even in people
who actually wore the emblem of the Party.

A. I assume so, but I cannot expect the Tribunal to accept
this assumption as a fact.

Q. But were even these people exposed to the immense
oppression which you have alluded to?

A. They probably felt that their Party membership rendered
them, in a certain sense, immune.

Q. Do you believe that many people became members in order
to benefit by this immunity?

A. Yes, I believe so.

Q. I heard that you yourself were a member of the NSV; is
that true?

A. No.

Q. Is it true that you were arrested after 20th July, 1944?

A. I have already answered that question this morning. I was
not arrested.

Q. You were never arrested at all?

A. Never, with the exception of the one case which I also
mentioned this morning.

Q. Did you at any time express the opinion that the things
which were being done in the German social sphere did, to a
considerable extent, represent the ideal of previous

A. Yes, I expressed this as follows: What was new was not
good, and what was good was not new.

Q. Do you believe that any German, be he a Party member, or
a member of the SS, would have any knowledge of events at
Auschwitz of which you yourself knew nothing at all?

A. He would not necessarily have known of these things. I
would not go as far as that. But he might, perhaps, have
known of them.

Q. And what exactly do you mean by "He might, perhaps, have
known of them"?

A. Through guards escorting the transport echelons. They did
not always remain in the area of the concentration camps;
they did eventually return.

Q. And if they were sworn to the strictest secrecy?

A. Then they could not tell anything.

Q. Do you know of cases where people were condemned for
speaking of such matters?

A. No.

Q. Did you ever hear anything about the activities of the
"Special Courts"?

A. No, in any case, I heard nothing in connection with these
particular activities of the "Special Courts."

                                                  [Page 264]

Q. But the sentences pronounced against people who listened
to foreign broadcasts and to people accused of spreading so-
called false rumours, were published very often in the
papers. Did you never read them?

A. No.

DR. STEINBAUER: Counsel for the defendant Seyss-Inquart.


Q. Witness, I have only one question to ask you. You told us
this morning that in 1919 you were a member of the Weimar
National Assembly. May I ask what the attitude of the
National Assembly was, particularly of that section of the
Social Democrats whom you had brought into the Assembly with
you, towards the problem of the annexation (Anschluss) of

A. During the time of the sessions of the Weimar National
Assembly, I was Reich and State Commissar for the Rhineland
and Westphalia, and was seldom able to participate in the
debates of the Weimar National Assembly. I therefore have no
detailed knowledge as to how these matters were formulated
or expressed. But one thing I do know, and that is that it
was practically the unanimous wish of this Assembly to
include a paragraph or an article in the Constitution,
favouring the incorporation of Austria with Germany.

DR. STEINBAUER: Thank you. I have no further questions.

THE PRESIDENT: Does the prosecution wish to cross-examine?


Q. Herr Severing, you have told the Tribunal that in 1928
the defendant Raeder assured you solemnly, that there would
be no further violations of the Treaty of Versailles without
the knowledge of the Reich Cabinet. Did Raeder fulfil that

A. I have already stated this morning that I cannot answer
that in any positive sense. I can only state that violations
of the agreement of the 18th October, 11928, by the Naval
Command did not come to my knowledge.

Q. Did you know, for instance, of the construction in Cadiz,
in Spain, under German direction, of a 750-ton U-boat,
between the years 1927 and 1931?

A. No, no.

MAJOR ELWYN JONES: My Lord, the authority for that statement
of fact is Document D-854.


Q. And, Herr Severing, did you know that after its
completion in 1931, that U-boat carried out trial runs under
German direction and with German personnel?

A. No, I did not know anything about that either.

THE PRESIDENT: I think he said he didn't know of any


Q. I am putting to you certain matters, and I suggest to
you, Herr Severing, that it may well be that you were being
deceived during this time. Do you agree with me about that?

A. I would not deny the possibility of deception, but I must
very definitely declare that I did not know anything of the
construction of a submarine.

Q. I want you to look at Document C-156. This is anew
extract from Captain Schusler's "Fight of the Navy against
Versailles." The entry is on Pages 43 and 44 of that book.

  "In 1930, Bartenbach arranged, in Finland also, for the
  construction of a U-boat corresponding to the military
  demands of the German Navy. The Naval Chief of Staff,
  Admiral Raeder, decided, as a result of the reports of
  the Chief of the General Naval Office, Rear Admiral
  Heussinger von Waldegg, and of Captain Bartenbach, to
  supply the means required for the construction of this
  vessel in Finland. It was to be a 250-ton boat, so the
  amount of R.M. 1,500,000 was sufficient for carrying out
  the project.

                                                  [Page 265]

  "The fundamental intention was to create a type of boat
  which would permit the inconspicuous preparation of the
  largest possible number of units which could be assembled
  at shortest possible notice."

Herr Severing, did you know that the above sum was spent in
1930 on the construction of this U-boat?

A. I have stated this morning that I was Minister in the
Reich Ministry of the Interior from 1928 to 1930. I consider
it necessary to determine these dates a bit more precisely.
I resigned on 30th March, 1930. If the year 1930 is
mentioned in a general way, then it is not impossible that
everything mentioned here was carried out after my

Q. You have said that the rearmament that went on when you
were connected with the Government of Germany was purely
defensive. When did you realize that the Nazi Government's
rearmament was not defensive but aggressive? At what date
did you come to that conclusion?

A. From 30th January, 1933, on. That both the choice and the
appointment of Hitler as Chancellor of the Reich meant war,
was not in the least doubted by me and my political friends.

Q. So that you realised from the first day of Nazi power
that the Nazi Government intended to use force or the threat
of force to achieve its political aims; is that right?

A. I do not know if knowledge and conviction are identical.
I was convinced of it, and so were my political friends.

Q. I want to ask you one or two questions about the
defendant Papen.

Did Papen use force in carrying out the Putsch which brought
him to power in July 1932?

A . Von Papen did not personally exercise such force, but he
did order it. When, on the morning of 20th July, 1932, I
refused to surrender voluntarily the office of the Prussian
Ministry of the Interior to the man who had been appointed
by von Papen as my successor, I explained to him that I had
no intention of so doing. And so, in order to make my
protest more emphatic, I explained that I would only give
way to force. Force was actually used in the evening of 20th
July, when the newly appointed Police President of Berlin
appeared in my office, accompanied by two police officers. I
asked these gentlemen whether they were authorized by the
President of the Reich or by the Reich Chancellor to carry
out this mission. When they answered "yes," I stated that I
would leave my office rather than risk the shedding of

Q. Did the defendant Papen, when he secured power, purge the
police and the government of anti-Nazis?

A. Yes. There are numerous indications that the intention
existed to purge the police of all republican elements and
to replace them with men who were first devoted to von Papen
and later to the National Socialists.

Q. I want to ask you one or two questions about the
defendant Goering.

Goering has stated that the institution of protective
custody existed in Germany before the Nazis came into power.
Is that true?

A. I would say that the institution of protective custody
did exist, theoretically, and it was last formulated in the
Prussian Police Administrative Law, in paragraph 15. During
my term of office, protective custody was never applied in
normal civilian life. The regulations in paragraph 15 of the
Police Administrative Law stipulated quite definitely that,
if anybody was taken into protective custody, the Police
Administration was obliged to bring him before the Courts
within 24 hours. This procedure is in no way identical with
that other method of protective custody, the threat of
which, for decades, remained suspended over the peaceful
citizens of the State.

Q. And, of course, there were no concentration camps in pre-
Nazi Germany, I take it?

A. Never.

                                                  [Page 266]

How many of your political associates and colleagues of the
Social Democratic Party were murdered in concentration camps
while Goering was still Chief of the Gestapo?

A. It is very difficult to make an estimate. You might say
500, you might say 2,000. Reliable information is now being
collected. My estimate is that at least 1,500 Social
Democrats, or trade union officials, or editors were

Q. And how many Communist leaders do you think were murdered
during Goering's period of power over the Gestapo?

A. I would assume that, if you include among the Communist
leaders such trade union officials as considered themselves
members of the Communist Party, then approximately the same
figure would be reached.

Q. Did Goering personally have any knowledge of these

A. That I cannot say. If I were to answer that question,
then I should have to ask myself what I would have done in
case it had been one of my functions to administer camps in
which the fate of tens of thousands was being decided.

I am not sure whether this is of any interest to the
Tribunal if I were to give you one or two examples from my
own experience.

In 19Z5 I had to create a camp for refugees from Poland.

Q. You need not trouble to go into that, Herr Severing.

A. No? At any rate, I would have considered it my first and
foremost task to inquire whether, in the camps which I had
installed, the principles of humanitarianism were being
adhered to. I was under the impression that this was not
being done. I always reminded my police officials that they
were servants of the people, and that everyone in those
camps should be humanely treated. I told them that never
again should the call resound in Germany, "Help against the
police" ("Schulz vor Schutzleuten"). I myself demanded
punishment for police or other officials when I was under
the impression that defenceless prisoners were being ill-
treated by them.

Q. As Minister of the Interior, did you become familiar with
the organized terror of the SA against the non-Nazi
population of Germany in the years after 1921?

A. Oh yes. Keeping an eye on the so-called armed
organizations, during my term of office in Prussia, was one
of my most important tasks. The roughest of all the armed
organizations proved to be the SA. They sang songs such as:
"Clear the streets for the Brown Battalions," and with the
same arrogance with which they sang these songs, they
forcibly became masters of the streets, wherever they
encountered no adversary worth mentioning. Another rowdy
song of theirs seemingly illustrated their programme: "Hang
the Jews and shoot the big-wigs." Wherever the SA could
exercise terror unhindered, they raged and blustered in such
style. They waged beer-hall battles with people of different
opinion. These were not the customary skirmishes between
political opponents during election fights. No, this was
organized terror. During the first Jewish boycott in 1933;
they stood on guard to frighten the usual customers from
buying in Jewish shops. As the Tribunal already knows, they
organized the terror actions of 8th November, 1938. In 1930
they also damaged numerous Jewish shops in Berlin, possibly
as a worthy prelude to the convening of the Reichstag, into
which 107 National Socialists entered at that time, as we

Q. Finally, I want to ask you one or two questions about the
defendant Schacht.

When did you first hear of Schacht's relations with the Nazi

A. In 1931 I received information from the Police
Administration in Berlin, that interviews had been taking
place between Dr. Schacht and the leaders of the National
Socialist German Workers' Party.

Q. Did you have any connections with Schacht in 1944?

A. If the matter is of any interest here to anybody, I
actually refused these connections. Schacht, in political
matters - although I held him in high esteem as an economic
expert - was known to me as a wavering provincial. By
joining the Harzburg Front, Schacht betrayed the cause of
democracy. This was not

                                                  [Page 267]

only an act of ingratitude, for it was only through the
Democrats that he ever reached the post of President of the
Reichsbank, but it was also a great mistake, since he and
others of the same social standing, by joining the Harzburg
Front, first made the National Socialists - so to speak -
socially acceptable.

I could not, for this very reason, agree to any co-operation
with Schacht on 20th July, 1932, and when in March 1943 I
was asked to join a Government which was to overthrow
Hitler, I categorically refused to do so, giving Schacht's
machinations and sundry other circumstances as my excuse.

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