The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. What was the reason for the order to leave openings to
the east in the encirclement of Leningrad and Moscow?

A. We did not want these masses of populations. We had our
experiences in Paris, where it had even been necessary to
use the transport facilities of four divisions and the whole
relief grain in Bavaria, which could supply tens of
thousands of people, to save the population from starvation.
In Leningrad that would have been quite impossible, because
in the first place the railways had been destroyed, and
rails had not yet been adjusted to our gauge, the supply
situation was very difficult, and, in fact, it would have
been impossible to assist these millions of people in any
way; there would have been a real catastrophe. Hence, the
idea of pressing them back to the east into the Russian
occupied areas, an idea, incidentally, not in conformity
with the assertion which has been made here, too, that we
wanted to exterminate the Jews.

Q. I now come to another subject. The French Prosecutor has
accused you of ordering - this is Document UK 56, which is
Exhibit RF 1438, contained in my Document Book, the second
volume, on Page 153 - of ordering the deportation of Jews,
and thus giving, as chief of a military staff, a political

Will you explain how this order came into being?

THE PRESIDENT: I think the, translation must have come
through wrongly. You said - at least, I took it down - Page

DR. EXNER: Page 155. I beg your pardon, it is on Page 155 of
the second volume of my Document Book. The actual order is
on Page 156.


Q. Please give your reply now.

A. I must explain in connection with this document that the
deportation of Jews from Denmark was discussed during a
conference at which I did not participate; Himmler suggested
it to the Fuehrer, and the Fuehrer approved or ordered it. I
was informed of it either through General Schmundt or
Ambassador Hewel.

Then on instructions conveyed to me by Schmundt, I
transmitted to the military commander in Denmark the details
of this order. The heading, or rather, the address of this
teleprint message shows that it was directed to two offices,
namely the Foreign Office and the Commander of the German
troops in Denmark. These are the two offices for which it
was mainly destined. The Reichsfuehrer SS received the
letter only for information, as is noted on it in accordance
with our office custom. He did not have to act upon it, it
was not an order for him, but merely information; he already
knew the Fuehrer's decision.

I did not by any means order the deportation of the Jews,
but I wrote: "The deportation of Jews is being carried out
by the Reichsfuehrer SS."

Q. That is Point 2?

A. Point 2. Had this been an order, then it would have had
to be addressed to the Reichsfuehrer SS, and it would have
had to be worded like this:

  "Reichsfuehrer SS is to deport Jews from Denmark."

                                                  [Page 308]

But the exact opposite is correct. This point 2 informs
General von Hanneken in Denmark that he has nothing to do
with this affair, but that it is being handled by the
Reichsfuehrer SS. But General von Hanneken had to be told of
this, because at that time a state of military emergency
existed; he had executive power in Denmark, and if anything
like that had been done without his knowledge, then he might
immediately have objected to it and forbidden it.

The matter appeared to me so urgent that, in order to avoid
incidents, I informed the military commander in Denmark of
it over the telephone quite openly, and without regard to
its secrecy.

The French prosecution mentioned an indiscretion which
enabled most Jews to escape from Denmark into Sweden;
presumably it was this telephone call which made it

Finally, therefore, I repeat that I was far from ordering
the deportation of Jews; I merely informed the military
commander in question that he was to have nothing to do with
the matter. Besides, as I heard afterwards on making
inquiries, these Jews were taken to Theresienstadt, where
they were cared for and visited by the Red Cross; and even
the Danish Ambassador declared himself satisfied with their

DR. EXNER: May I draw the attention of the Tribunal to what
I consider is an inadequate translation into English and
French. Under Point 1, on Page 156 of the second volume, the
word "volunteers" does not appear in the translation. It
says, "The Reichsfuehrer SS has permission to recruit
volunteers from the former members of the Danish forces who
are to be released." The word "volunteers" is missing from
the English translation; the French merely says "hommes":


Q. Defendant, you actually had no dealings with matters in
occupied territories, they were outside your jurisdiction.
How, then, did you come to sign this order?

A. Actually, this affair did not concern me at all. I signed
the order because Field-Marshal Keitel was away on that day.

Q. Since we are just talking of the Jews, will you tell the
Tribunal what you knew about the extermination of Jews? May
I remind you that you are under oath?

A. I know just how improbable these explanations sound, but
very often the improbable can be true and the probable
untrue. I can only say, fully conscious of my responsibility
that I never heard, either by hint, or by written or spoken
word, of an extermination of Jews. On a single occasion I
became distrustful, namely when Himmler spoke about the
revolt in the Jewish Ghetto. I did not quite believe in this
heroic fight, but Himmler immediately supplied photographs
showing the emplacements which had been built there, and he
said: "Not only the Jews but also Polish Nationalists have
entrenched themselves there and they are offering bitter
resistance." And with that he removed my suspicions.

THE PRESIDENT: Are you speaking of Warsaw?

THE WITNESS: I am speaking of the uprising in the Warsaw
Ghetto of which I heard in a personal report from Himmler
given in our presence, in the presence of the soldiers at
the Fuehrer's headquarters; Himmler spoke only of an
uprising and of bitter fighting. As far as the activities of
the police are concerned, the so-called action groups,
Einsatzgruppen - a conception, incidentally, of which I
heard in detail first in this courtroom - there was never
any explanation from the Fuehrer other than that these
police units were necessary to quell uprisings, rebellions
and partisan actions, before they grew into a menace; this
was not a task for the Armed Forces, but for the police, and
for that reason the police had to enter the operational
areas of the Army. I have never had any private information
on the extermination of the Jews, and on my word, as sure as
I am sitting here, I heard all these things for the first
time after the end of the war.

Q. What did you know about concentration camps -

                                                  [Page 309]

THE PRESIDENT: I do not think it is necessary to point out
to you that you cannot speak about there having been no
explanation to the Fuehrer, you can only speak about there
having been no explanation to yourself. The translation I
heard was, as to these Einsatzgruppen, that there had been
no explanation to the Fuehrer.

THE INTERPRETER: From the Fuehrer.

THE PRESIDENT: From the Fuehrer?


THE WITNESS: I said that the Fuehrer had never given us any
other reason for the presence of police forces than his
statement that police measures were necessary.

THE PRESIDENT: I mis-heard the translation.


Q. Did you know anything about concentration camps, and what
did you know about them? Please be brief.

A. I can briefly say that I knew there were concentration
camps at Dachau and Oranienburg. Some divisional officers
visited Oranienburg once in 1937 and gave me very
enthusiastic accounts of it. I heard the name "Buchenwald"
for the first time in the spring of 1945. When the name was
mentioned, I thought it was a new troop training camp, and I
made inquiries. The inmates were always described as German
professional criminals and certain inveterate political
opponents who, however, like Schuschnigg or Niemoller, were
held there in a kind of honorary detention. I never heard a
single word about tortures, about deported persons, or
prisoners of war, about crematoriums or gas vans, about
torments reminiscent of the Inquisition, about medical
experiments. I can only say that even if I had heard of
these things, I would not have believed them until I had
seen them with my own eyes.

Q. The French prosecutor read a statement of the German
General of Police, Panke, according to which you were
present at a conference with Hitler on 30th December, 1942,
when terror and counter-terror in Denmark and reprisal
murder were said to have been discussed. What do you say to

A. I think it was on 30th December, 1943.

Q. Was it?

A. In some points that statement is correct, in others it is
incorrect. During that conference, at least as long as I was
present, the word "murder" was never mentioned. The Fuehrer
said: "I want to fight the terror of sabotage and attacks
which is now beginning in Denmark with exactly the same
weapons. That is to say, if a Danish factory working for
Germany is blown up, which has happened, then a factory
working solely for the Danes will be blown up also. If some
of our strong-points are attacked by terrorists, which has
also happened, then these terrorists will be hunted,
surrounded and wiped out in fighting; and I do not want
military courts, which only create martyrs." He did not say
or suggest, however, that innocent Danes should now be
murdered as a reprisal. That is all I can say, namely, that
in my presence and in the presence of Field-Marshal Keitel
only that, and nothing else, was said. Again, it is most
questionable, from the point of view of International Law,
whether an army is not entitled to adopt the fighting
methods of its opponents in its counter-measures,
particularly in this franc-tireur warfare and in these
rebellions. That seems to be most doubtful.

Q. You just said, "as long as I was present". Were you not
present during the entire conference? Can you remember?

A. I do not think that even in my absence any other
statements were made. Once during the conference I went out
to telephone and was not there for a short time, perhaps
fifteen minutes.

                                                  [Page 310]

Q. We now come to the partisan fighting. Partisan fighting
and partisans have been mentioned frequently in this
courtroom. Can you say, briefly, who were these partisans?

A. It is not easy to define that clearly considering all the
types of fighting adopted in this World War, but there are
five characteristics:

  (1) A partisan group is a fighting unit formed behind
  one's own front;
  (2) It is not, or only partly, uniformed;
  (3) It is not a part of the Armed Forces
  organisationally, even if it receives its orders from
  (4) It must be in a position, or it is generally in a
  position, to hide among the population -

THE PRESIDENT: We do not require a lecture about this


Q. Well, then, we know approximately what a partisan group
is, but I now want to ask you about the fighting against
partisan groups. First of all, I shall read what we have
heard here about partisans, Document L-18o, Exhibit USA 276,
which is contained in the second volume of my Document Book
on Page 121. That is a complete report of an Einsatzgruppe
in action against partisans; it is Appendix No. 9. What is
found on Page 122 is, I think, of importance. First of all
(I), Point 5, I quote:

  "In the larger cities, especially those with industrial
  facilities, so-called Instribitjelni-Battalions (i.e.,
  destruction battalions) were formed by the Soviets before
  the entry of the German troops."

Then, under (III):

  "The tasks and fighting methods of the various partisan
  groups have become known partly from the captured combat
  directives of the partisans themselves. This statement of
  a captured partisan is significant: 'A partisan must
  destroy everything that he can reach'. "

And then, in one of the "Combat Directives for Partisan
Groups" transmitted from the Commander of the Army Area
North (Rear), it is stated that:
  "Unbearable conditions are to be created for the enemy
  and his accomplices in territories occupied by the enemy.
  All measures of the enemy are to be opposed."

And then instructions are given to blow up bridges, to
destroy roads, etc. I shall not read it all. In the last
paragraph, which I have on Page 123, it expressly states
that partisans will skilfully disguise themselves, that they
will sometimes dress like farmers or will work in the fields
as soon as German forces appear in the vicinity. The
witness, von dem Bach-Zelewski, stated here that the fight
against partisans was carried out in a chaotic manner; he
meant, it was not directed from above. You must be informed
about that. Is that correct?

A. No, that is not correct. This expert on partisan fighting
has apparently a bad memory. I draw attention to Document
F-665, in Document Book 2, on Page 126, which represents the
first page of a directive for partisan warfare. It is called
"Directive for Partisan Warfare", and was signed by me
personally on 6th May, 1944. In the second sentence it says

Q. On Page 126 -

A. There the directive, number so and so, "Directive for
Partisan Warfare in the East", issued by the OKW, Army
Operational Staff, dated 11th November, 1942, is cancelled,
and that proves that, at least since 11th November, 1942,
the troops had in their possession instructions issued by
the Army Operational Staff on how to conduct the fight
against partisans.

Q. May I now draw attention to my document, AJ-1, on Page
133. It is an affidavit of a Pastor Wettberg; I do not want
to read it. Pastor Wettberg contacted me because he himself
had been engaged in the warfare against partisans and he
confirmed that the fighting was perfectly well directed even

                                                  [Page 311]

the new directive was issued, that is, from 1942 onwards. In
1944 you issued this new directive without Hitler's
permission, is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. What made you do that? Was it not an unusual step?

A. I want to state that I did not submit this directive
either to Field Marshal Keitel or to the Fuehrer, because it
was a contradiction of all existing orders. I shall prove in
detail later that it orders all so-called partisans in
France and Yugoslavia - partisan areas in Russia were now in
front of our lines - to be treated immediately as regular
fighting troops, and thus, if captured, as prisoners of war.

I took this unusual step because I became convinced after
the shooting of the English Air Force officers at Sagan that
the Fuehrer was no longer concerned with the human, legal
aspects, and also because since 1st May, 1944, I myself felt
responsible for questions of International Law, as the
division of "Canaris" had been dissolved on that day, and
the Foreign Section, together with the International Law
department, had come under my command. I was resolved not to
tolerate and not to participate in any such violations of
International Law on our part, and I acted accordingly from
that day up to the end of the war.

In this order I declared all partisans and their assistants,
even those wearing civilian clothes, to be regular troops
and prisoners-of-war, long before Eisenhower, on 7th July,
1944, demanded that terrorists in France be treated in that

Q. The prosecution asserts that the fight against partisans
was only a codename under which Jews and Slavs were killed,
is that true?

A. The fight against partisans was a horrible reality. In
July 1943, to quote some figures, 1,560 acts of railway
sabotage took place in Russia; there were 2,600 in
September; that is ninety per day. In connection with a book
by Polomarenko, an American paper said that 500,000 Germans
were supposed to have been killed by the partisans. If a
nought is crossed off from that figure, it is still quite a
considerable achievement for a peaceful Soviet population.
But the book is also said to state that the population
became increasingly hostile, that murder and terror became
more frequent and that the peaceful Quisling mayors were
being killed. At any rate, it was a tremendous fight which
was taking place in the East.

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