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 6 of 10)

[Page 23]

THE PRESIDENT: Very well, if that will conclude it, go on.

COLONEL TAYLOR: It will conclude it. Firstly, Affidavit number 24, which becomes Exhibit USA 565. This is by Colonel Bogislav von Bonin, who,

[Page 24]

at the beginning of the Russian Campaign, was a staff officer with the 17th Panzer Division:
"At the beginning of the Russian campaign I was the first General Staff Officer of the 17th Panzer Division, which had the mission of driving across the Bug, north of Brest-Litovsk. Shortly before the beginning of the attack my division received, through channels, from the O.K.W. a written order of the Fuehrer. This order directed that Russian Commissars be shot upon capture, without judicial process, immediately and ruthlessly. This order extended to all units of the Eastern Army. Although the order was supposed to be relayed to companies, the Commanding General of the 37th Panzer Corps - General of Panzer Troops Lemelsen - forbade its being passed on to the troops because it appeared unacceptable to him from military and moral points of view."
That brings us to the final affidavit, number 20, Exhibit USA 564, which is by Adolf Hesinger.

THE PRESIDENT: What was the number?

COLONEL TAYLOR: It is number 20, your Honour, Exhibit USA 564, by Adolf Hesinger, Generalleutnant in the German Army, and from 1940 to 1944 Chief of the Operations Section at O.K.H. I read:

"l. From the beginning of the war in 1939 until autumn 1940 I was I-a of the Operations Section of the O.K.H., and from autumn 1940 until 20th July, 1944, I was Chief of that Section.

When Hitler took over Supreme Command of the Army, he gave to the Chief of the General Staff of the Army the function of advising him on all operational matters in the Russian theatre.

This made the Chief of the General Staff of the Army responsible for all matters in the operational areas in the East, while the O.K.W. was responsible for all matters outside the operational areas, for instance all troops - security units, S.S. units, Police - stationed in the Reich Commissariats.

All Police and S.S. units in the Reich Commissariats were also subordinate to the Reichsfuehrer S.S. When it was necessary to transfer such units into operational areas, this had to be done by order of the Chief of the O.K.W. On the other hand, corresponding transfers from the front to the rear were ordered by the O.K.W. with the concurrence of the Chief of the General Staff of the Army.

The High S.S. and Police leaders normally had command of operations against Partisans. If stronger army units were committed together with the S.S. and Police units within operational areas, a High Commander of the Army could be designated commander of the operation.

During anti-Partisan operations within operational areas all forces committed for these operations were under the command of the respective Commander-in-Chief of the Army Group.

2. Directives as to the manner and methods of carrying on counter-Partisan operations were issued by the O.K.W. - Keitel - to the O.K.H. upon orders from Hitler and after consultation with Himmler. The O.K.H. was responsible merely for the transmission of these orders to Army Groups, for instance, such orders as those concerning the treatment to be accorded to Commissars and Communists, those concerning the manner of prosecuting, by courts martial, army personnel who had committed offences against the population, as well as those establishing the basic principles governing reprisals against the inhabitants.

3. The detailed working out of all matters involving the treatment of the local populace, as well as anti- Partisan warfare in operational areas,

[Page 25]

in pursuance of orders from the O.K.W., was the responsibility of the Generalquartiermeister (Quartermaster-General) of the O.K.H.

4. It had always been my personal opinion that the treatment of the civilian population and the methods of anti-Partisan warfare in operational areas presented the highest political and military leaders with a welcomed opportunity of carrying out their plans, namely, the systematic extermination of Slavism and Jewry. Entirely independent of this, I always regarded these cruel methods as military insanity, because they only helped to make combat against the enemy unnecessarily more difficult."

THE PRESIDENT: We will adjourn until a quarter past two.

(A recess was taken until 14.25 hours.)

COLONEL TAYLOR: Will your Lordship swear the witness?

THE PRESIDENT: What is his name?

COLONEL TAYLOR: Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski.


Q. What is your name?

A. Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski.

Q. Will you take this oath? "I swear by God the Almighty and Omniscient that I will speak the pure truth and will withhold and add nothing."

(The witness repeated the oath.)


Q. May I remind the witness to speak very slowly and to keep his answers as short as possible?

Can you hear me?

A. Yes.

Q. Were you a member of the S.S.?

A. Yes.

Q. What was the last rank you held in the S.S.?

A. S.S. Obergruppenfuehrer and General der Waffen S.S.

Q. Did you serve in the 1914 to 1918 war?

A. Yes. I was at the front from 1914 to 1918, was twice wounded and received the Iron Cross, first and second class.

Q. Did you remain in the army after the end of the last war?

A. Yes, I stayed in the 100,000 men army.

Q. How long did you remain in the army?

A. Till 1924, when I applied for my discharge.

Q. Did your military activities then stop?

A. No, I was Battalion Leader in the Border Defence, and until the campaign against Poland I did my exercises with the Wehrmacht.

Q. Did you join the Nazi Party?

A. Yes.

Q. In what year?

A. In the year 1930.

Q. What branch of the party did you join?

A. The "Allgemeine S.S."

Q. What were your activities in the S.S. prior to the outbreak of the war?

A. I was with the General S.S. and the S.S. Border Defence in the districts of Schneidemuhl and Frankfurt on the Oder, and from 1934 I was Oberabschnittsfuehrer in East Prussia and afterwards in Silesia.

Q. Were you a member of the Reichstag during this period?

A. Yes, I was a member of the Reichstag from 1932 right up to the end.

Q. Did you take any active part during this war before the campaign against the Soviet Union?

A. No, not before the campaign against Russia.

[Page 26]

Q. What was your rank at the beginning of the war?

A. At the beginning of the war I was S.S. Group Leader and Lieutenant-General.

Q. And when were you promoted?

A. I was promoted on the 9th November, 1941, to S.S. Obergruppenfuehrer and General of the Waffen S.S.

Q. What was your position after the beginning of the campaign against the Soviet Union?

A. Would you kindly repeat the question; it was not quite clear.

Q. What was your position, your function, at the beginning of the war against the Soviet Union?

A. At the beginning of the campaign against Russia I was a member of the Higher S.S. and I was at the Rear Zone of the Army Group Centre.

Q. Was there a similar S.S. official in the Rear Zone of each Army Group?

A. Yes, in every Army Group, North, Middle and South, there was, at that time, a Higher S.S. and Police Leader.

Q. Who was the Commander-in-Chief of Army Group Centre?

A. The Commander-in-Chief of Army Group Centre was, in the beginning, General Field-Marshal von Beck, and later General Field-Marshal Kluge.

Q. Who was the Armed Forces Commander in the Rear Zone of Army Group Centre?

A. General of the Infantry, von Schenkendorff.

Q. Was he directly subordinate to the Commander-in-Chief of the Army Group?

A. Yes.

Q. Who was your immediate superior in the S.S.?

A. Heinrich Himmler.

Q. And who was your immediate superior in the Rear Zone of the Army?

A. General von Schenkendorff.

Q. What was your principal task as Higher S.S. and Police Leader in Central Russia?

A. My principal activities lay in the struggle against the Partisans.

Q. Are you generally familiar with the operations of the so- called Einsatzgruppen of the S.D.?

A. Yes.

Q. Did these units play any important part in large-scale anti-Russian operations ?

A. No.

Q. What was the principal task of the Einsatzgruppen?

A. The principal task of the Einsatzgruppen of the S.D. was the annihilation of the Jews, Gypsies and Political Commissars.

Q. Then what forces were used for large-scale anti-Partisan operations?

A. For anti-Partisan activities, formations of the Waffen S.S., of the Order Police and above all, of the Wehrmacht were used.

Q. Please describe the nature of these regular army units that were used for anti-Partisan operations.

A. The units of the Wehrmacht constituted, in the first place, the Security Divisions introduced in the rear zone, behind the battle front. Further, there were the so-called Regional Defence Units which, naturally, came under the orders of the Military District Commanders. Further, we had Wehrmacht formations, introduced for the air defence of certain installations, such as railways and landing grounds and for the protection of other military objectives. Moreover, as from 1942 or 1943, so-called "Alarm Units" were introduced, composed of formations in the rear, i.e., from administrative formations.

Q. Until when did you remain Higher S.S. and Police Leader for Central Russia?

[Page 27]

A. Subject to certain interruptions, when I was sent to the front, I was Higher Police Leader for Central Russia - excepting a period when I was very ill, and was absent for about six months - up to the end of 1942, when I was appointed Chief of the Units for combating the Partisans.

Q. Was this position, of Chief of anti-Partisan Units, created specially for you?

A. Yes.

Q. To whom were you directly subordinate in this new capacity?

A. Heinrich Himmler.

Q. Were your functions in this new capacity restricted to any particular part of the Eastern front?

A. No. My sphere of action comprised the entire Eastern zone.

Q. What was the general nature of your duties as Chief of the anti-Partisan Units?

A. First of all, I had to establish, at Himmler's headquarters, a central office to which all notices were sent in connection with Partisans. Here these notices were studied and then forwarded to the competent authorities.

Q. In the course of your duties, did you confer with the Commanders of Army Groups and Armies of the Eastern front?

A. With the Commanders-in-Chief of Army Groups, but not of the Armies, and with the District Commanders of the Wehrmacht.

Q. Did you consult these Commanders with respect to methods to be employed in anti-Partisan warfare?

A. Yes.

Q. Will you name some of the Commanders with whom you personally conferred?

A. I cannot give you a complete list, but I will endeavour to quote from memory: Wehrmacht Commander Ostland; General of Cavalry Bromer; General Field Marshal Kuechler; Commander- in-Chief of the Army Group North; Commander-in-Chief of the Army Group Centre, Klugge; and later Busch; the Wehrmacht Commander-in-Chief of the Ukraine; General of the Luftwaffe Kitzinger; General Field Marshal Freiherr von Weichs, the Commander-in-Chief in Serbia at Belgrade; and Kugler, Commander-in-Chief of the Trieste Area.

Q. What proportion of Wehrmacht troops as compared to Police and S.S. troops was employed in anti-Partisan operations?

A. Since the number of the troops of the Police and of the S.S. was a very small one, anti-Partisan operations were mainly undertaken by Wehrmacht formations.

Q. Were anti-Partisan troops usually commanded by Wehrmacht officers or by officers of the S.S.?

A. This varied. It depended mostly on the individual area; in the operational areas it was always the Wehrmacht, but orders existed to the effect that whatever the formation, be it Wehrmacht, S.S. or Police, the formation which had the most troops had to lead.

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