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 9 of 10)

[DR. STAHMER continues]

[Page 35]

Q. In what way?

A. This undertaking took place in the autumn of 1943, in the region of Idrizza Polotsk. I first flew to the Central Army Group and talked these matters over with my then chief, General Krebs. Then I went on to the Army Group North, and discussed the same matters with Field Marshal Kuchler. Kuchler had concentrated all the troops of the S.S. Police or of the rear areas in a so-called corps under the command of Jacklin. The same thing had been done by the Central Army Group; a corps had been set up under the command of the Higher Police Officer in the Group. I was in charge of them and had, as liaison officer, Colonel von Mellentin from the O.K.H. Then I conducted the enterprise personally. In the meantime, the front had been broken through in the Nebe Sector and I came to the independent decision to turn against the Red Army where it had broken through; thus I was with my unit in the first line.

Q. You said a little while ago that you had been decorated with the Knight's Cross. Did you receive this decoration for this undertaking?

A. No, as I said before, I was already in the year 1941 in the front line service. Again and again I was with fighting units. In 1941 in front of Moscow, in 1942 at Veliki-Luki and later at the uprising in Warsaw. From 1944 on I led an S.S. Corps.

Q. Did you not know that you were particularly praised by Hitler and Himmler, mainly for your ruthless and efficient fighting of Partisans?

A. No, I received no decoration for my fighting of Partisans. I received all my decorations when in the Wehrmacht, and for my services at the front line.

Q. Was the Brigade Dirlewanger an S.S. Brigade?

[Page 36]

A. The Brigade Dirlewanger did not belong to the Waffen S.S. It was an organisation which at best could be classified as Allgemeine S.S. With respect to supplies it was not placed under the Waffen S. S. but under the " Amt Berger."

Q. Was the Commander of the Brigade Dirlewanger a member of the S.S.?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you yourself suggest that criminals should be organised and used for the fighting of Partisans?

A. No.

DR. THOMA (Counsel for defendant Rosenberg):

Q. Witness, do you know that the Civil Government in White Ruthenia often protested against the manner in which the anti-Partisan activities were carried on?

A. Yes.

Q. The Civil Authority was subordinate to the Reich Kommissar, and he in turn was subordinate to Rosenberg who was Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories?

A. Yes.

Q. If I understood you correctly, you objected to the way in which the fight against Partisans was carried on, a way which involved many innocent people, and was not in agreement with Reichsfuehrer S.S. Himmler's orders?

A. Yes.

Q. How can you reconcile it with your conscience to organise Einsatz Groups although you were in charge of the anti- Partisan warfare?

THE PRESIDENT: The question had not come through then on the interpreter's voice before you began to answer. You must give greater pauses between the question and answer.

Q. How did you reconcile it with your conscience to remain an inspector of the anti-Partisan forces?

A. I did not reconcile that with my conscience. But I actually strove to obtain this position because, in the years 1941 and 1942 I saw, as did Schenkendorff, that things could not continue as they were. General Schenkendorff, my immediate superior, recommended me for the position.

Q. But you knew that you could achieve nothing with these suggestions?

A. No, I could not know that. I did not know at that time what I know to-day.

Q. At any rate, you did not achieve anything?

A. That is not my fault. My opinion is that if someone else had been in that position, many more misfortunes would have occurred.

Q. Do you believe that Himmler's speech, in which he demanded the extermination of thirty million Slavs, expressed only his personal opinion, or do you consider that it was part of the National Socialist attitude towards life?

A. To-day I am of the opinion that this was the logical consequence of our attitude towards life.

Q. To-day?

A. To-day.

Q. What was your own opinion at that time?

A. It is difficult for a German to arrive at this conclusion. It took me a long time.

Q. Then how is it that a few days ago a witness appeared in this Tribunal, namely Oblendorf, who admitted that the Einsatz Group murdered ninety thousand people, and informed the Court that this did not harmonise with the National Socialist ideology?

A. I am of the opinion that if, for decades, a doctrine is preached to the effect that the Slav race is an inferior race, and Jews not even human at all, then such an explosion is inevitable.

Q. Nevertheless the fact remains that, together with whatever attitude you may have bad at the time, you also had a conscience?

[Page 37]

A. To-day also, and that is the reason why I am here.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Exner, are you cross-examining on behalf of some other defendant, or what?

DR. EXNER (Counsel for defendant Jodl): I should like to ask two questions, which my client considered important and which he put to me during the recess.

THE PRESIDENT: You have already cross-examined, have you not?

DR. EXNER: Yes, but I now have three new questions. We were not able to prepare ourselves for this cross-examination.

THE PRESIDENT: Very well. Go on.


Q. Witness, you said an order was issued in the year 1944 regarding the Partisan warfare. During the recess, I read in the document book provided us by the prosecution, under 1786- PS, and there I found a regulation mentioned regarding Partisan warfare, of 27th November, 1942. Do you know anything about this?

A. No.

Q. But it must exist, since it is mentioned to me here. Do you not know about it?

A. No.

Q. Please tell me whether you know of a Russian regulation regarding Partisans?

A. Yes.

Q. Could you tell us something of the contents of this regulation?

A. I can no longer recall.

Q. Do you know where this regulation is to be found?

A. No.

DR. EXNER: Thank you.

THE TRIBUNAL (Mr. Biddle): One moment! Do you know how many members of the Wehrmacht were used at any one time in this anti-Partisan activity? What was the largest number of the troops?

THE WITNESS: Large undertakings were involved, that is to say, undertakings of the strength of one division upwards. I believe that the largest number might have been as much as three divisions.

THE TRIBUNAL (Mr. Biddle): I mean all the troops on the Eastern Front, at any one time used in these anti-Partisan activities?

THE WITNESS: I cannot answer that, because these troops were never under my direction at one time, they were there with individual operations simultaneously and continually; large and small operations. Reports of these activities came in every day.

THE TRIBUNAL (Mr. Biddle): Do you know how many Einsatz groups were used?

THE WITNESS: I know of three, one for each Army Group.

THE PRESIDENT: Do you want to re-examine?


THE PRESIDENT: Then the witness may go.

(The witness withdrew.)

COLONEL TAYLOR: Your Lordship, that concludes the evidence under Counts 3 and 4 of the Indictment and I have only a few more words by way of general conclusion.

I ask the Tribunal to bear in mind that the German High Command is not an evanescent thing, the creature of a decade of unrest, or a school of thought or tradition which is shattered and utterly discredited. The German High Command and military tradition have in the past achieved victory and survived

[Page 38]

defeat. They have met with triumph and disaster, and they have survived through a singular durability.

An eminent American statesman and diplomat, Mr. Sumner Welles, has written, and I quote from his book "The Time for Decision," Page 261:

". . . that the authority to which the German people have so often and so disastrously responded was not in reality the German Emperor of yesterday, or the Hitler of today, but the German General Staff. Whether their ostensible ruler is the Kaiser, or Hindenburg, or Adolf Hitler, the continuing loyalty of the bulk of the population is given to that military force controlled and guided by the German General Staff."
I think that this emphasises the historical importance of the decision which this Tribunal is called upon to make. But we are not now indicting the German General Staff at the bar of history, but on specific charges of Crimes against International Law and the dictates of the conscience of mankind, as embodied in the Charter, which governs this Court.

The picture we have seen is that of a group of men with great power for good or ill, who chose the latter; who deliberately set out to arm Germany to the point where the German will could be imposed on the rest of the world, and who gladly joined with the most evil forces at work in Germany. "Hitler produced the results which all of us warmly desired," we are told by Blomberg and Blaskowitz, and that is obviously the truth. The converse is no less clear; the military leaders furnished Hitler with the means and might which were necessary to his survival, to say nothing of the accomplishment of those purposes which seemed to us so ludicrously impossible in 1932 and so fearfully imminent in 1942.

I have said that the German militarists were inept as well as persistent. Helpless as Hitler would have been without them, he succeeded in mastering them. The Generals and the Nazis were allies in 1933. But it was not enough for the Nazis that the Generals should be voluntary allies; Hitler wanted them permanently and completely under his control. Devoid of political skill or principle, the Generals lacked the mentality or morality to resist. On the day of the death of President Hindenburg in August, 1934, the German officers swore a new oath. Their previous oath had been to the Fatherland; now it was to a man, Adolf Hitler. It was not until a year later that the Nazi emblem became part of their uniform, and the Nazi flag their standard. By a clever process of infiltration into key positions, Hitler seized control of the entire military machine.

We will no doubt hear the Generals ask what they could have done about it. We will hear that they were helpless, and that to protect their jobs and families and lives, they had to follow Hitler's decisions. No doubt this became true, but the Generals were a key factor in Hitler's rise to complete power and a partner in his criminal aggressive designs. It is always difficult and dangerous to withdraw from a criminal conspiracy. Never has it been suggested that a conspirator may claim mercy on the ground that his fellow conspirators threatened him with harm, should he withdraw from the plot.

In many respects the spectacle which the German General Staff and High Command group presents today, is the most degrading of all the groups and organisations before this court. They are the bearers of a tradition, the bearers of a tradition not devoid of valour and honour; they emerge from this war stained both by criminality and ineptitude. Attracted by the militaristic and aggressive Nazi policies, the German Generals found themselves drawn into adventures of a scope they had not foreseen. From crimes in which almost all of them participated willingly and approvingly, were born others in which they participated partly because they were too ineffective to alter the governing Nazi policies, and partly because they had to continue collaboration to save their own skins.

[Page 39]

Having joined the partnership, the General Staff and the High Command group planned and carried through manifold acts of aggression which turned Europe into a charnel-house, and caused the Armed Forces to be used for foul practices, foully executed, of terror, pillage and wholesale slaughter. Let no one be heard to say that the military uniform shall be their cloak, or that they may find sanctuary by pleading membership in the profession to which they are an eternal disgrace.

COLONEL STOREY: If the Tribunal please, the next subject will be the presentation of supplemental evidence concerning the persecution of the Churches, as presented by Colonel Wheeler.

COLONEL LEONARD WHEELER, JR.: The material now to be submitted comprises, first, supplemental proof on the suppression of the churches within Germany - the Evangelical Churches, the Catholic Church and the Bibelforscher, or Bible Researchers; and second, acts of suppression in the annexed and occupied territories - Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland. A large part of this proof will be from the official files of the Vatican.

I now submit to the Court United States trial brief "H"- Supplemental" on "Suppression of the Christian Churches in Germany and in the Occupied Territories," and Document Book "H-Supplemental," containing English translations of all the documents referred to in the supplemental brief, or to be referred to in my oral presentation. I shall take up first the supplemental proof on the suppression of the Churches in Germany.

Hitler announced, in March, 1933, a distinction in his policy toward politics and morals, on the one hand, and religion on the other. I offer in evidence Document 3387-PS, Exhibit USA 565. It is a speech by Hitler to the Reichstag on 23rd March, 1933, quoted in the "Volkischer Beobachter," 24th March, 1933, Page one, column 5, of the German newspaper. I quote from this speech:

"Inasmuch as the Government is determined to carry out a political and moral purge of our public life, it thereby creates and guarantees the foundation of a true and religious life. The Government sees in both Christian denominations the most important factors for the maintenance of our Folkdom. It will respect agreements concluded between them and the other States. It expects, however, that its participation shall meet with the same respect as it has afforded to all the other responsible denominations. But it will never permit that membership in any one denomination, or the fact of belonging to any one race, should be considered as a free pass for the commission or toleration of crime. The Government will devote itself to the maintenance of sincere good- fellowship between Church and State."

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