The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
7th January to 19th January, 1946

Twenty-Eighth Day: Monday, January 7th, 1946
(Part 1 of 10)

[Page 1]

COLONEL TELFORD TAYLOR: May it please the Court, Sir, when the Court rose on Friday I had completed that part of the presentation on Counts 1 and 2. I now turn to that part of the Indictment which charges that the General Staff and High Command Group had a major responsibility for the War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity involved in the execution of the Common Plan or Conspiracy set forth in Counts 3 and 4 of the Indictment. For the purposes of brevity I shall refer to these crimes simply as War Crimes.

The presentation of the documents under this part of the case should take all or the better part of the morning session. At the conclusion of that, I propose to call a single witness, one witness, Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski, whose testimony on direct examination should not exceed 25 or 30 minutes. After that, I shall take possibly 10 minutes to conclude, and that will be the entire presentation.

On this part of the case I propose to show that members of the General Staff and High Command Group, including the defendants who are members of the Group, ordered and directed the commission of War Crimes, and thereby participated in the commission of War Crimes in their official capacity as members of the Group. I also propose to show, in certain instances, the actual commission of War Crimes by members of the German armed forces as a result of these orders, or as a result of other orders and arrangements made by members of the General Staff and High Command Group which controlled the German armed forces. However, I do not propose to make a full showing of War Crimes committed by the German armed forces. The full presentation of the evidence under Counts 3 and 4 will be made pursuant to agreement among the Chief Prosecutors, by the French and Soviet delegations, and a substantial amount of the evidence to be presented by them will be relevant to the charges against the General Staff and High Command Group.

We will at this time show the Tribunal that the General Staff and High Command became wedded to a policy of terror. In some cases, the evidence of this policy is in documentary form, and we will present the papers which were signed by, initialled by and circulated among the members of the Group. In other instances, where the actual crimes were committed by other than members of the German armed forces, where, for example, prisoners of war were handed over to and mistreated by the S.S. or S.D., we will show that in those cases members of this group were well aware that they were assisting in the commission of War Crimes. We will show that many crimes committed by the S.S. and S.D. were committed with the knowledge and necessary support of the General Staff and High Command Group.

The first matter which I will take up relates to the killing, in violation of International Law and the rules of war, of Allied Commandos, Paratroopers, and members of military missions, and the first document to which I wish to refer is 498-PS, which will be Exhibit USA 501.

[Page 2]

This story starts with the order embodied in that document, which is an order issued by Hitler on 18th October, 1942, and which Mr. Storey has already mentioned in the presentation of charges against the Sicherheitsdienst. The order begins with a recital that Allied Commandos were using methods of warfare alleged to be outside the scope of the Geneva Convention, and thereafter proceeds to specify the methods of warfare which German troops should use against Allied Commandos, and the disposition which should be made of captured Commandos.

This order is one of the two basic documents in the story. I will read it in full:-

"1. For some time our enemies have been using, in their warfare, methods which are outside the International Geneva Conventions. Especially brutal and treacherous is the behaviour of the so-called Commandos, who, as is established, are partially recruited even from freed criminals in enemy countries. From captured orders it is divulged that they are directed not only to shackle prisoners, but also to kill defenceless prisoners on the spot at the moment in which they believe that the latter, as prisoners, represent a burden in the further pursuit of their purposes, or could otherwise be a hindrance. Finally, orders have been found in which the killing of prisoners has been demanded in principle.

2. For this reason it was already announced, in an addendum to the Armed Forces report of 7th October, 1942, that in the future, Germany in the face of these sabotage troops of the British and their accomplices, will resort to the same procedure, that is, that they will be ruthlessly mowed down by the German troops in combat, wherever they may appear.

3. I, therefore order:

From now on all enemies on so-called Commando missions in Europe or Africa, challenged by German troops, even if they are to all appearances soldiers in uniform or demolition troops, whether armed or unarmed, in battle or in flight, are to be slaughtered to the last man. It does not make any difference whether they are landed from ships and airplanes for their actions, or whether they are dropped by parachute. Even if these individuals, when found, should apparently be prepared to give themselves up, no pardon is to be granted them on principle. In each individual case full information is to be sent to the O.K.W. for publication in the Report of the Military Forces.

4. If individual members of such Commandos, such as agents, saboteurs, etc., fall into the hands of the military forces by some other means, through the police in occupied territories, for instance, they are to be handed over immediately to the S.D. Any imprisonment under military guard, in P.W. stockades, for instance, etc., is strictly prohibited, even if this is only intended for a short time.

This order does not apply to the treatment of any soldiers who, in the course of normal hostilities, large- scale offensive actions, landing operations and airborne operations, are captured in open battle or give themselves up. Nor does this order apply to enemy soldiers falling into our hands after battles at sea, or to enemy soldiers trying to save their lives by parachute after air battles.

6. I will hold responsible under Military Law, for failing to carry out this order, all commanders and officers who either have neglected their duty of instructing the troops about this order, or acted against this order when it was to be executed."

It is signed, by Adolf Hitler, and the Tribunal will note that this order was issued by O.K.W. in 12 copies, and the distribution shown on the second page included [Page 3] the three Supreme Commands, Army, Sea, and Air, and the principal Field Commands.

Now, the same day Hitler issued a supplementary order, this is, Document 503-PS, which will be Exhibit USA 542. This was issued for the purpose of explaining the reasons why the basic order was issued. In this explanation, Hitler gave a rather different set of reasons for the issuance of the order and pointed out that Allied Commando operations had been extraordinarily successful in the destruction of rear communications, intimidating labourers and destroying important war plants in occupied areas. This is the other basic document, and while I need not read it in full, I would like to read substantial excerpts, starting with the first paragraph at the top of the page:

"Added to the decree concerning the destruction of terror and sabotage troops" - then in parentheses was a cross reference to the order which I have just read - a supplementary order of the Fuehrer is enclosed.
"This order is intended for commanders only and must not, under any circumstances, fall into enemy hands.

The further distribution is to be limited accordingly by the receiving bureaux.

The bureaux named in the distribution list are held responsible for the return and destruction of all distributed copies of this order and copies made thereof."

It is signed, "The Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces, by order of Jodl."

Thereafter follows a distribution list and then the supplementary order itself, signed by Hitler. I will start reading the first two paragraphs of the supplementary order which appear at the bottom of Page 1 of the translation:

"I have been compelled to issue strict orders for the destruction of enemy sabotage troops and to declare non- compliance with these orders severely punishable. I deem it necessary to announce to the competent commanding officers and commanders the reasons for this decree.

As in no previous war, a method of destruction of communications behind the front; intimidation of the populace working for Germany; as well as the destruction of war-important industrial plants in territories occupied by us, has been developed in this war."

I propose to pass to the bottom of Page 2, the last two paragraphs on Page 2 of the translation:
"The consequences of these activities are of extraordinary weight. I do not know whether each commander and officer is cognisant of the fact that the destruction of one single electric power plant, for instance, can deprive the Luftwaffe of many thousand tons of aluminium, thereby eliminating the construction of countless aircraft that will be missed in the fight at the front, and so contributing to serious damage of the homeland as well as to bloody losses of the fighting soldiers.

Yet this form of war is completely without danger to the adversary, for, since he lands his sabotage troops in uniform but at the same time supplies them with civilian clothes, they can, according to need, appear as soldiers or civilians. While they themselves have orders ruthlessly to remove any German soldiers or even natives who get in their way, they run no danger of suffering really serious losses in their operations, since at the worst, if they are caught, they can immediately surrender in the belief that they will theoretically fall under the provisions of the Geneva Convention. There is no doubt, however, that this is a misuse in the worst form of the Geneva agreements, especially since part of these elements are even criminals, freed from prisons, who can rehabilitate themselves through these activities.

[Page 4]

England and America will therefore always be able to find volunteers for this kind of warfare, as long as they can truthfully assure them that there is no danger of loss of life for them. At worst, all they have to do is successfully to commit their attacks on people, traffic installations, or other installations, and upon being encountered by the enemy, to capitulate.

If the German conduct of war is not to suffer grievous damage through such methods, it must be made clear to the adversary that all sabotage troops will be exterminated, without exception, to the last man.

This means that their chance of saving their lives is nil. Under no circumstances can it be permitted, therefore, that a dynamite, sabotage, or terrorist unit simply allows itself to be captured, expecting to be treated according to the rules of the Geneva Convention. It must, under all circumstances, be ruthlessly exterminated.

The report on this subject appearing in the Armed Forces communique will briefly and laconically state that a sabotage, terror or destruction unit has been encountered and exterminated to the last man.

I therefore expect the officers commanding armies, as well as individual commanders, not only to realise the necessity of taking such measures, but to carry out this order with all energy. Officers and non-commissioned officers who fail through some weakness are to be reported without fail or, if the circumstances require, it, e.g., if danger is imminent, to be at once made strictly accountable. The homeland, as well as the fighting soldier at the front, has the right to expect that the essentials of nourishment as well as the supply of war-important weapons and ammunition remains secure.

These are the reasons for the issuance of this decree.

If it should become necessary, for reasons of interrogation, initially to spare one or two men, then they are to be shot immediately after such interrogation."

Your Lordship, the next is Document C-179 which will be Exhibit USA 543. As this document shows, ten days later, on 28th October, 1942, and while the defendant Raeder was Commander-in-Chief of the German Navy, the Naval War Staff in Berlin transmitted its copy of the basic order of 18th October to the lower naval commands. The copy distributed by the Navy and the covering: memorandum from the Naval War Staff show clearly the secrecy which surrounded the dissemination of this order, and I read the first sheet of this. document only, the cover sheet:
"Enclosed please find a Fuehrer Order regarding annihilation of terror and sabotage units. This order must not be distributed in writing by flotilla leaders, section commanders or officers of this rank. After verbal notification to subordinate sections, the above officers must hand this order over to the next higher section, which is responsible for its withdrawal and destruction."
Passing over to Page 3 of this document, at the very end, we find a similar admonition in the notice for distribution, at the very end of the document. I read:
"These instructions are not to be distributed over and above the battalions and the corresponding staffs of the other services. After notification those copies, distributed over and above the regimental and corresponding staffs of the other services, must be withdrawn and destroyed."
The next document, your Lordship, is C-178, which becomes Exhibit USA 544. This document is dated 11th February, 1943, which was twelve days after the defendant Donitz had become Commander-in-Chief of the German Navy. On that day, this memorandum was circulated within the Naval War Staff in order to clear up certain misunderstandings as to the scope of the basic

[Page 5]

order of 18th October, 1942. This document, of which I will read the first four paragraphs, indicates why the earlier order had been treated as such a secret matter, and also directs that all naval commanders and officers who failed to carry out the order, or to instruct their units concerning the order, would run the risk of serious court martial penalties. I will read the first four paragraphs only:
"From the notice given by the Naval War Staff on 1st February, 1943, it has been discovered that the competent departments of the General Staff of the Army, as well as those of the Air Force Operations Staff, have a wrong conception regarding the treatment of saboteurs. A telephone inquiry at the Naval War Staff proved that this naval authority was not correctly informed either."

In view of this situation, reference is made to paragraph 6 of the Fuehrer Order of 18th October, 1942 - and then a cross-reference - "according to which all commanders and officers who have neglected their duty in instructing their units about the order referring to treatment of saboteurs are threatened with punishment by court martial.

The first Fuehrer Order concerning this matter of 18th October, 1942, was given the protection of Top Secret merely because it stated therein (1) that according to the Fuehrer's views, the spreading of military sabotage organisations in the East and West may have tremendous consequences for our whole conduct of the war and (2) that the shooting of uniformed prisoners acting on military orders must be carried out even after they have surrendered voluntarily and asked for pardon.

On the other hand, the annihilation of sabotage units in battle is not at all to be kept secret, but, on the contrary, to be currently published in the O.K.W. reports. The purpose of these measures - to act as a deterrent - will not be achieved if those taking part in enemy Commando operations do not learn that certain death, and not safe imprisonment awaits them. As the saboteurs are to be annihilated immediately unless their statements are first needed for military reasons, it is necessary that not only all members of the armed forces must receive instructions that these types of saboteurs, even if they are in uniform, are to be annihilated, but also all departments of the Home Staff, dealing with this kind of questions, must be informed of the course of action which has been ordered."

I will call the Tribunal's attention to the two reasons given in that quotation for keeping secret from the public, knowledge of the fact that uniformed prisoners would be shot, even after they had surrendered and asked for pardon. This shows a clear awareness that that was in direct contravention of The Hague and Geneva Conventions.

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Taylor, did you read the paragraph beginning, "Practical difficulties ..."?

COLONEL TAYLOR: No, your Honour. I will read that.

THE PRESIDENT: I think you should.


"Practical difficulties may develop because of the definition of the term 'Sabotage Units.' The annihilation and destruction, according to paragraph 5 of the Fuehrer Order of 18th October, do not apply to troops participating in large-scale landing operations and large-scale air-borne operations. The criterion is to be found in that, in the latter case, an open battle takes place, whereas, for instance, ten or more people who land by sea or air, or drop by parachute not to fight an open battle but to destroy either a factory, a bridge or a railway installation, would fall into the category of those who must be annihilated."

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