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

Tenth Day: Saturday, 1st December, 1945
(Part 3 of 5)

[DR. NELTE continues]

[Page 315]

Q. We shall come to that presently. It is extraordinary that if an act of State such as the murder of General Weygand, should have been ordered, nothing more should have been heard of it. Can you give me an explanation for that?

A. I can give only the explanation which corresponded to our interpretation of the matter then. The situation at that time was full of agitation; events followed each other very quickly and something was happening all the time; and we assumed - I shall come back to why we assumed it - that this matter and the interest attached to it had been superseded by some more important military or political event, and that therefore this interest had been thrust into the background.

Q. Do you wish to say anything else?

A. Yes. I want to state that what I am saying now bears a certain relationship to the inner development of the affair Giraud, in which Canaris and the others, who knew about this when the matter began, had hoped that it would follow the same course as the affair Weygand; namely, that, wherever the order might have originated, whether from Hitler, Keitel or Himmler, down to Canaris and then to

[Page 316]

me, it would have been relatively simple to stop it once it had reached our circle. That was our hope when the case Giraud cropped up, a hope based on the practical experience of the case Weygand. Whether this was right or wrong, I do not know. This is the explanation.

Q. For a less important matter your assumption might hold water, but in such an important matter as the case of Weygand it doesn't seem to me to do so. But even if it had been so, had the intention to do away with Weygand existed in any quarters and for any reason, how do you explain the fact that Weygand, who later was taken to Germany and housed in a villa, lived undisturbed and honoured and met with no harm? It would have been understandable that, if the order to eliminate him had been seriously expressed in any quarters, it would have been carried out on this occasion.

A. I can only answer to this that the attitude towards personalities in public life whether at home or abroad was very varied. There were high personalities who were at one moment in great favour and thought of very highly, and at the next moment were to be found in a concentration camp.

Q. Now, as to the case of Giraud, you said that Admiral Canaris said in your and other people's presence that General Giraud was to be done away with on orders from higher quarters.

A. Yes; that can be assumed from the remark that Pieckenbrock made, that Keitel should tell these things to Hitler once and for all.

Q. So according to the communication made to you by Admiral Canaris, it was not an order of Keitel's but an order of Hitler's.

A. As far as we knew in the Abwehr Office about it, it was Keitel who gave the order to Canaris. I can only assume this in view of a remark Hitler made to this effect. I do not know who actually gave this order, because I had no insight into the hierarchy of command beyond Canaris. It was, as far as I was concerned, an order from Canaris, an order which I could discuss immediately with him in the same way as I can discuss it here.

Q. You yourself didn't personally hear this order?

A. No, I did not personally hear it; I never stated that.

Q. But you mentioned that at a later time you were spoken to by Keitel about this matter?

A. The development was the same as in the case of Weygand.

Q. Do you remember that a precise, or positive expression such as "killing," "elimination" or something of the sort was used on this occasion?

A. The word generally used was "elimination" ("Umlegen").

Q. What I mean is whether in this connection such a word was used in your presence by the defendant Keitel?

A. Yes, of course - after my lecture, the notes of which I have together with the date, just as in the Weygand case. For reasons unknown to me the Giraud affair was apparently carried further than the Weygand affair, for Canaris and I could determine different stages in its development.

Q. You didn't answer my question. What did the defendant Keitel say to you on this occasion, on the occasion when you and Canaris were present and the question of Giraud was brought up? What did he say?

A. The same thing: how does the situation stand, and by "situation" he clearly meant Giraud's elimination, and that was the very subject we discussed under similar conditions in the Weygand affair.

Q. That is your opinion, but that is not the fact. I wish to find out from you what Keitel actually said to you. In your presence, he did not use this expression "dispose of", did he?

A. I cannot remember the precise expression that he used, but it was perfectly clear what the general subject was. Whatever it was, it was not a question of sparing Giraud's life or imprisoning him. There was the opportunity to do away with him because he was in occupied territory.

[Page 317]

Q. That is what I want to speak about now. You are familiar with the fact that after Giraud's flight and his return to unoccupied France, a conference took place in Occupied France.

A. Yes, I heard of that.

Q. Ambassador Abetz had a talk with General Giraud, which dealt with the question of his voluntary return to confinement. You know that?

A. Yes, I heard of that.

Q. Then you probably also know that at the time the local military commander immediately called up the Fuehrer's H.Q. by way of Paris to say that he believed that an important communication was to be made; namely that Giraud was in Occupied France and could be taken prisoner?

A. I know about this in its broad outlines.

Q. Then you also know that thereupon the O.K.W. - that is to say in this case, Keitel - decided that it should not take place.

A. No, that I did not know.

Q. But you do know that General Giraud returned to Unoccupied France without having been harmed?

A. Yes, I do know that.

Q. Well, in that case, the answer to my previous question is self-apparent.

THE PRESIDENT: Don't go so fast.

Q. Did you know that General Giraud's family lived in Occupied France?

A. No, I did not know that.

Q. I thought the Abwehr Division was charged with the surveillance of this region?

A. No, by no means - certainly not my department. I don't know whether another department was in charge.

Q. The question was asked simply to prove that the family did not suffer from the fact that General Giraud escaped and that he later refused to return to captivity. I have one more question which you may be able to answer.

A. I beg your pardon. May I return, please, to the question of General Giraud?

Q. This question also has to do with General Giraud.

A. Very well.

Q. Did you know that one day your chief, Canaris, received by special courier a letter from Giraud in which Giraud asked whether he might be allowed to return to France? Do you know that?

A. No. No, I do not know about it. Perhaps I was not in Berlin at the time. I was not always in Berlin.

Q. I am aware of that. I thought it might be mentioned in the diary.

A. No, I didn't keep Canaris' diary. I simply made additions to it so far as my particular department was concerned, but I was not familiar with the diary in its entirety.

Q. Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn now for ten minutes.

(A recess was taken.)

DR. OTTO KRANZBUEHLER (counsel for the defendant Donitz):

I would like to propose a motion in connection with the technical side of the proceedings. In the course of these proceedings many German witnesses will be heard. It is important that the statement of the witnesses be brought correctly to the attention of the Court. In the course of the hearing of this witness I have tried to compare the real statements of the witness with the English translation. I think I can state that in many essential points the translation did not entirely correspond to the statements of the witness.

I would, therefore, like to suggest that German stenographers take down directly the statements of the witness in German, so that defence counsel will have an

[Page 318]

opportunity to compare the real statements of the witness with the English translation and, if necessary, to make a motion for the correction of the translation. That is all.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, Mr. Justice Jackson.

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: I just want to inform the Court and counsel, in connection with the observation that has just been made, that that has been anticipated; and that every statement of the witness is recorded in German so that if any question arises, if counsel addresses a motion to it, the testimony can be verified.

THE PRESIDENT: Is that German record available to defendants' counsel.

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: I don't think it is. It is not, so far as I know. It would not be available unless there were some occasion for it.

THE PRESIDENT: It is transcribed, I suppose?

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: I don't know how far that process is carried. I will consult the technicians and advise about it, but I know that it is preserved. The extent of my knowledge is that it is preserved in such a form that, if the question does arise, it can be accurately determined by the Tribunal, so that if they call attention to some particular thing, either the witness can correct it or we can have the record produced. It would not be practicable to make the recording available without making reproducing machines available. While I am not a technician in that field, I should not think it would be practicable to place that at their disposal.

THE PRESIDENT: Would it not be practicable to have a transcription made of the shorthand notes in German and, within the course of one or two days after the evidence has been given, place that transcription in the defendants' counsel room?

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: I think that is being done. I think perhaps Colonel Dostert can explain just what is being done better than I can, because he is the technician in this field. I am sure that no difficulty need arise over the matter of correct translations.

COLONEL DOSTERT: Your Honour, the reports of the proceedings are taken down in all four languages, and every word spoken in German is taken down in German by German Court stenographers. The notes are then transcribed and can be made available to defence counsel. Moreover, there is a mechanical recording device which registers every single word spoken in any language in the court room, and in case of doubt about the authenticity of the reporters' notes, we have the further verification of the mechanical recording, so that defence counsel should have every opportunity to check the authenticity of the translation.

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: I am advised further by Colonel Dostert that twenty-five copies of the German transcript are being delivered to the defendants each day.

DR. KRANZBUEHLER: Mr. President, I was not informed that the German testimony is being taken down in shorthand in German. I understood that the records handed over to us were translations from the English. If German shorthand notes are being taken in the Court, I withdraw my motion.

THE PRESIDENT: I think we should get on faster if the defendants' counsel, before making motions, inquire into the matters about which they are making them.

DR. FRITZ SAUTER: I would like to ask a few questions of the witness.

CROSS-EXAMINATION BY DR. SAUTER (counsel for the defendant Ribbentrop)

Q. Witness, you have previously stated that at some time an order was given, according to which, Russian prisoners of war were marked in a certain manner, and that this order had been withdrawn by the defendant Keitel. You did say that, didn't you?

A. Yes, I have said that I have knowledge of it.

Q. This is interesting from the point of view of defendant Ribbentrop, and I would like to hear from you whether you know about the following. Ribbentrop maintains that when he heard about the order to brand Russian prisoners of war,

[Page 319]

he, in his capacity as Reich Foreign Minister, went immediately to the Fuehrer's Headquarters to inform General Field Marshal Keitel of this order, and pointed out to him that he, Ribbentrop, in his capacity as Foreign Minister, as well as in his capacity as the guarantor of matters of International Law, objected to such treatment of Russian prisoners of war.

I would be interested to know, witness, whether in your circle something was said as to who drew Keitel's attention to this order and asked him to retract it.

A. I was not informed of that and I only knew, as I said yesterday, that this intention had existed and was not carried out.

Q. Then I have another question.

Witness, you spoke of remarks of the defendant Ribbentrop yesterday, especially of one statement to the effect that an uprising should be staged in Poland - not in Russia - and that all Polish farmhouses should go up in flames and all Jews should be killed. That is just about the contents of your yesterday's statement.

A. Yes.

Q. Now, later on, I believe in answering a question of one of the Russian prosecutors, you amplified your statement by mentioning an order of the defendant Ribbentrop. I would now like to know whether you really meant to say that it was an order from Ribbentrop to a military department.

A. No.

Q. Just a minute please, so that you can answer both questions together.

I would also like to remind you that yesterday, during the first session to deal with this matter, you spoke of a directive which, I believe, your superior officer had, as you said, received from Ribbentrop.

A. No, the then Chief of the O.K.W. received it, not my superior officer. This was Canaris. I would like to repeat it in order to clarify this matter. It was a matter that was taken up on the 12th of September, 1939, in the Fuehrer's train. These meetings took place in the following sequence with respect to time and locality:

At first, a short meeting took place between Reich Foreign Minister Ribbentrop and Canaris in his train, where general political questions in regard to Poland and the Ukraine were raised. I was present. I do not know any more about the first meeting.

Later another meeting took place in the coach of Keitel, the then Chief of the O.K.W., and Keitel summarised and amplified the general political directives, issued by Ribbentrop, in regard to the treatment of the Polish problem. From a foreign-political point of view he mentioned several possibilities: this or that could happen. In this connection he said: "You, Canaris, have to promote an uprising with those Ukrainian organisations co-operating with you, and this should have as its aims Poles and Jews."

Thirdly, not a special meeting but just a short conversation between Ribbentrop and Canaris took place. A remark was made casually in this connection, which showed even more explicitly how this uprising should be carried out and what was to happen. I remember this very clearly because he demanded: "The farms must go up in flames."

Canaris spoke with me at great length in this connection in regard to this remark. And this is what happened. Directives or orders received by Keitel were passed on to Canaris. It was later repeated to him in the form of a casual remark, which I recall because of the unusual referring to farms going up in flames.

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