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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
November 20 to December 1, 1945

Ninth Day: Friday, 30th November, 1945
(Part 2 of 9)

[COLONEL AMEN continues]

[Page 271]

Q. After being assigned to the Intelligence Division, how were your activities principally directed?

A. My responsible chief, or rather the responsible chief at that time, was Colonel of the General Staff, Boehme; the section chief to whom I was subordinate, was the chief of the Intelligence Service, that is to say, the man responsible to me or rather the one to whom I was responsible, from whom I received my orders and instructions; later on it was the Chief of the Austrian General Staff.

THE PRESIDENT: Can't you shorten this, Colonel Amen? We really needn't have all this detail.

COLONEL AMEN: Very good, Sir. It is, however, I think important for the Tribunal to understand more of this information than they ordinarily would by virtue of the fact that he was transferred subsequently to a corresponding position in the German Army, a point which I did want the Tribunal to appreciate.

Q. Now, will you state to the Tribunal what your principal activities were after being assigned to the Intelligence Division? What information were you interested in and seeking to obtain?

A. If I understand your question correctly, I was a member of the Austrian Intelligence Service, that is to say, in the Austrian Intelligence Service and not in the German so- called "Abwehr."

Q. After the Anschluss, what position did you assume?

A. After the Anschluss I was automatically taken into the High Command of the German Armed Forces, and did the same job there. My chief there was Admiral Canaris.

Q. And what was the position of Admiral Canaris?

A. Canaris was, at that time, Chief of the Bureau of the "Ausland-Abwehr," that is to say, of the Intelligence.

Q. And will you explain briefly the responsibility of the principal departments of the Abwehr under Admiral Canaris?

A. When, in 1938, I entered the Ausland-Abwehr, after the "Anschluss," there were three Abwehr Divisions, and the division then called Ausland-Abwehr at least, I was acquainted with this Organisation. How it was before, I cannot say exactly.

Q. And what were your duties?

A. First of all, I was automatically placed in "Abwehr" Division 1. That is the section which was concerned with collecting information on secret com-

[Page 272]

munications, as it was also called. At the time I worked under the Chief of Section, Colonel-General Pieckenbrock, as well as Canaris, whom I knew from my Austrian past.

Q. Admiral Canaris was your immediate superior?

A. Admiral Canaris was my immediate superior.

Q. From time to time did you act as his personal representative?

A. Yes, in all cases and on all occasions when his immediate representative - that is, Colonel Pieckenbrock-was not present, or when Canaris, for one reason or another, considered it necessary or advisable for me to appear as his representative.

Q. And in this capacity did you have any contact with Field -Marshal Keitel?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you also have contact with Jodl

A. To a much lesser degree, but occasionally ...

Q. And did you occasionally attend conferences at which Herr Hitler was also present?

A. Yes, I attended a few of the sessions or meetings at which Hitler was present and which he conducted.

Q. Will you tell the Tribunal whether the leaders of the Abwehr were in sympathy with Hitler's war-programme?

A. I have to make it clear in this connection that we chiefs, at that time, in the Intelligence Department were deeply influenced and captivated by the personality of Canaris, his inner orientation, which was perfectly clear and unequivocal to a small group of us.

Q. And was there a particular group or groups in the Abwehr who worked against the Nazis?

A. Within the Ausland-Abwehr Office there were two groups which, as far as their intentions and actions were concerned, were closely connected, but which, nevertheless, must be strictly kept apart.

Q. And what were those two groups?

A. Before I answer this question, I must briefly discuss the personality of Canaris, who was the centre and focus of this group.

Q. Please make it as brief as you can.

A. Canaris was a personality of pure intellect. We relied on his inner, very unique and complicated nature, for this reason. He hated violence and hated and abominated therefore Hitler, his system, and particularly his methods. Canaris was, in whatever way you may look upon him, a human being.

Q. Now, will you refer back to the two groups of which you spoke and tell me about each of those two groups and their respective memberships?

A. One might characterise one of the groups as Canaris' circle. It included, in the "Ausland-Abwehr," and particularly amongst its leaders, Canaris himself as its spiritual leader; General Oster, Chief of the Central Division (the Fuehrer of the Abwehr) and my predecessor, Lieutenant-Colonel Grosskurt, who had joined the circle along with Canaris in Vienna as early as 1938. Further, the Chief of Abwehr Section 1, Colonel Pieckenbrock, who was a close friend of Canaris; and Pieckenbrock's successor, Colonel Hansen, who was executed on 28th June; then there was my successor, Colonel Freytag-Lorrindhofen, who was executed, or rather, who committed suicide on 26th July, 1944, before his arrest; also, somewhat differentiated, the Chief of Abwehr Section III, Colonel Bentivigny. There were, too, various people in all these sections; most of them were executed or imprisoned in connection with the events of 20th July, 1944.

In this connection I have to mention a person who did not belong to the said groups, but who knew about certain actions designed to prevent orders or foil the execution of orders for murder and other atrocities: namely, Admiral Burckner who was chief of the Auslandsabteilung at that time. These were essentially the leaders of the group called the Canaris-circle.

[Page 273]

The second and smaller group was attached to General Oster, who was the spiritual leader of the persons in the office of the Ausland-Abwehr who, as early as 1938 - I could recognise this clearly by 1939-1940 and later on - were actively concerned with schemes and plans designed to do away by force with Hitler, the instigator of this catastrophe.

Q. What was the purpose of the group to which you belonged; that is, Canaris' inner circle?

A. As regards the political motives or aims, I was not informed. I can only reiterate the train of thought best known to me, having been one of Canaris' most intimate confidants, which determined his basic attitude. This, his inner attitude, which determined the actions not only of myself but of the other people whom I mentioned, was as follows:-

We did not succeed in preventing this war of aggression. The war signified the annihilation of Germany and of ourselves and, as such, would be a misfortune and a catastrophe of the greatest extent. However, a misfortune even greater than this catastrophe would be a triumph of this system. To prevent this was the ultimate aim and purpose of our struggle.

What I have just said was often expressed by Canaris in the group of which I am speaking.

Q. Now, did this group of which you and Canaris were members meet frequently?

A. I must explain that this group or circle was not to be regarded as an organisation in the technical sense, or as a sort of conspirators' club. That would have been completely contradictory to Canaris' nature. It was more of a spiritual organisation of people of the same convictions, who were perspicacious and well informed. Their official functions provided them with the necessary knowledge. These people understood each other and acted jointly, while maintaining their complete individuality.

This is the reason for the differentiation of which I spoke in the beginning. Different demands were made on each individual. Canaris approached at any one time the person whose character he knew from his personal knowledge to be the fittest to carry out a certain task.

Q. Did you have conversations at those official meetings, at which Canaris expressed his views with respect to the use of force in Poland, for example?

A. These and similar methods were repeatedly, I may say, discussed in our circle. They were repudiated as a matter of course.

Q. Do you recall what Canaris said about the Polish war at the time of its commencement?

A. I very well recall the hour at which Canaris entered, completely broken, and informed us of the fact that the situation had become serious after all, although it had appeared before as if the matter might still be postponed. He told us then: "This is the end."

Q. Did you have conversations with Canaris and the other members of your group with respect to eliminating Nazis from your staff?

A. While I was still in Vienna, before entering service in the O.K.W., I received instructions from Canaris not to admit to his office in Berlin any National Socialists. I was also instructed, whenever possible, not to admit any Party members or officers sympathising with the Party to high positions in my section. Thus the actual organisation -

Q. Did Canaris keep a diary?

A. Yes, Canaris kept a diary - he had done so even before the beginning of the war - a diary to which I personally contributed many portions.

Q. Was it a part of your duties to make entries in that diary?

A. No, it was not a part of my immediate duties, but it just turned out as a matter of course that, as regards those conferences which I attended as Canaris'

[Page 274]

representative, or at which I was present, I recorded such conferences in his diary.

Q. And did you keep copies of the entries which you made in Canaris' diary?

A. Yes, I kept copies, with Canaris' knowledge and approbation.

Q. I have you the original of some of those copies with you here to-day?

A .I have not got them on my person, but they are available.

Q. And you have refreshed your recollection in reference to those entries

A. Yes.

Q. What was the purpose of Canaris in keeping such a diary

A. If I answer this question I must, in the interests of truth, repeat the words that Canaris addressed to me on this subject. Others know also what I am saying now.

The purpose of his diary - and it is Canaris' voice speaking now through me - the purpose of his diary was to show the German people and the world, once and for all, how those who were guiding the fate of the people at this time acted.

Q. Now, do you recall attending conferences with Canaris at the Fuehrer's headquarters just prior to the fall of Warsaw?

A. I and Canaris took part in a conference which did not take place in the Fuehrer's headquarters, but in the so- called Fuehrer's train, shortly before the fall of Warsaw.

Q. And having refreshed your recollection from reference to the entries in Canaris' diary, can you tell the Tribunal the date of those conferences?

A. According to the notes and documents at my disposal, it was on 12th September, 1939.

Q. Did each of these conferences take place on the same day?

A. The conferences in the Fuehrer's train took place on 12th September, 1939.

Q. And was there more than one conference on that day? Were they split into several conferences?

A. I cannot call them sessions; they were discussions, conversations, of shorter or longer duration, but not actually conferences.

Q. And who was present on this occasion?

A. Present, independent of time and location, were the following: Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop; Keitel, the Chief of the O.K.W.; the president of the "Wehrmacht- Fuehrungstab" at that time, Jodl; Canaris; and myself.

Q. Do you see Ribbentrop in this court room?

A. Yes.

Q. Will you indicate for the record where he is sitting?

A. Over there - (indicating) - in the first row, third from the left.

Q. Do you also see Keitel in the court room

A. Yes; he is next to Ribbentrop.

Q. Do you also see Jodl in the court room?

A. Yes; he is in the second row, next to Herr von Papen.

Q. Now, to the best of your knowledge and recollection, will you please explain, in as much detail as possible, to the Tribunal, exactly what was said and what took place at this conference in the Fuehrer's train?

A. First of all, Canaris had a short talk with Ribbentrop, in which von Ribbentrop explained political aims in general, with regard to the Polish regions, and in particular with regard to the Ukrainian question. Later the Chief of the O.K.W. took up the Ukrainian question in subsequent discussions which took place in his private working carriage. These are recorded in the notes which I took down immediately, on Canaris' commission. While we were still in the train of the Chief of the O.K.W., Canaris expressed serious scruples regarding the bombardment of Warsaw, stressing the devastating repercussions on foreign policy of such a bombardment. The Chief of the O.K.W. at that time, Keitel, answered that these measures had been laid down directly by the Fuehrer and Goering, and that he, Keitel, had had no influence on these decisions. He

[Page 275]

spoke these words - I can repeat them only after having read my notes - the Fuehrer and Goering telephoned frequently back and forth; sometimes I heard something of what was said, but not always.

Secondly, Canaris gave an earnest warning against the measures which he knew about, i.e., the projected shooting and extermination which were to be directed particularly against the Polish intelligentsia, the nobility, the clergy, as well as all elements that could be regarded as embodying the national resistance movement. Canaris said at that time - I am quoting more or less verbatim - "the world will at some time make the armed forces under whose eyes these events occurred also responsible for these events."

The then Chief of the O.K.W. replied - and what I am now going to say is based on my notes, which I looked through a few days ago - that these things had been determined by the Fuehrer, and that the Fuehrer, the Commander in Chief of the Army, had made it known that, should the armed forces refuse to have any part in these things or should they not agree with them, they would have to accept the fact that the S.S., the S.I.P.O. and such organisations would be simultaneously employed to carry out these very measures. Thus, at the side of each military commander, a corresponding civilian official would be appointed. This, in outline, was the subject of the discussion dealing with extermination measures and the policy of shooting.

Q. Was anything said about a so-called political house- cleaning?

A. Yes, the then Chief of the O.K.W. used an expression in this connection which was certainly derived from Hitler, and which characterised these measures "political housecleaning." This expression remains very clearly in my recollection without the aid of my notes.

Q. In order that the record may be perfectly clear, exactly what measures did Keitel say had already been agreed upon?

A. According to the then Chief of the O.K.W., the bombardment of Warsaw and the shooting of those categories of people whom I characterised before, had been agreed upon already.

[ Previous | Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.