The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

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

Thirty-sixth Day: Thursday, January 17th, 1946
(Part 2 of 10)


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We are brought back to the most primitive ideas of the savage tribe. All the values of civilisation accumulated in the course of centuries are rejected, all traditional ideas of morality, justice and law give way to the primacy of race, its instincts, its needs and interests. The individual, his liberty, his rights and aspirations, no longer have any real existence of their own.

In this conception of race it is easy to realise the gulf that separates members of the German community from other men. The diversity of the races becomes irreducible, and irreducible, too, the hierarchy which sets apart the superior

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and the inferior races. The Hitler regime has created a veritable chasm between the German nation, the sole keeper of the racial treasure, and other nations.

Between the Germanic community and the degenerate population of an inferior variety of man there is no longer any common measure. Human brotherhood is rejected, even more than all the other traditional moral values.

How can one explain in what way Germany, fertilised through the centuries by classic antiquity and Christianity, by the ideals of liberty, equality and special justice, by the common heritage of Western humanism to which she had brought such noble and precious contributions, could have come to this astonishing return to primitive barbarism?

In order to understand it and to try to eradicate for ever from the Germany of to-morrow the evil by which our entire civilisation came so near to perishing, it must be recalled that National Socialism has deep and remote origins.

The mysticism of racial community was born of the spiritual and moral crises which Germany underwent in the nineteenth century, and which abruptly broke out again in its economic and social structure through a particularly rapid industrialisation. National Socialism is, in reality, one of the peaks of the moral and spiritual crisis of modern humanity, convulsed by industrialisation and technical progress. Germany experienced this metamorphosis of economic and social life not only with an extraordinary brutality, but at a time when she did not yet possess the political equilibrium and the cultural unity which the other countries of Western Europe had achieved.

While the inner and spiritual life was weakening, a cruel uncertainty dominated the spirit, an uncertainty admirably defined by the term "Ratlosigkeit" which cannot be translated into French but which corresponds to our popular expression: "One no longer knows in what Saint to believe." This is the spiritual cruelty of the nineteenth century which so many Germans have described with a tragic evocative power. A gaping void opens before the human soul, disoriented by the search for new values.

The natural sciences and the sciences of the mind give birth to absolute relativism; to a deep scepticism regarding the lasting quality of values on which Western humanism has been nurtured for centuries. A vulgar Darwinism prevails, which bewilders and befuddles the brain. The Germans cease to see in human groups and races anything but isolated nuclei in perpetual struggle with one another.

It is in the name of decadence that the German spirit condemns humanism; it sees in the value of humanism and in the elements that derive from it only "maladies," which it attributes to an excess of intellectualism and abstraction of everything that restrains men's passions by subjecting them to common norms. From this point onwards classic antiquity is no longer considered in its aspects of ordered reason or of radiant beauty. In it one sees only civilisations violently enamoured of struggles and rivalries, linked especially to Germany through their so- called Germanic origin.

Sacerdotal Judaism and Christianity in all its forms are condemned as religions of honour and brotherhood, calculated to kill the virtues of brutal force in man.

A cry is raised against the democratic idealism of the modern era, and then against all the internationals.

Over a people in this state of spiritual crisis and of negations of traditional values the culminating philosophy of Nietzsche was to exercise a dominant influence. In taking the will to power as a point of departure, Nietzsche preached not inhumanity but superhumanity. If there is no final cause in the universe, man - whose body is matter which is at once feeling and thinking - may mould the world to his desire, choosing as his guide a militant biology. If the supreme end of humanity is a feeling of victorious fullness which is both

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material and spiritual, all that remains is to ensure the selection of physical specimens who will become the new aristocracy of masters.

For Nietzsche the industrial evolution necessarily entails the rule over the masses, the automatism and the shaping of the working multitudes. The State endures only by virtue of an elite of vigorous personalities who, by the methods so admirably defined by Machiavelli, which alone are in accord with the laws of life, will lead men by force and by ruse simultaneously, for men are and remain wicked and perverse.

We see the modern barbarian arise. Superior by his intelligence and his wilful energy, freed of all conventional ethics, he can enforce upon the masses obedience and loyalty, by making them believe in the dignity and beauty of labour and by providing them with that mediocre well-being with which they are so easily content. An identical force will, therefore, be manifest in the leaders, by the harmony between their elementary passions and the lucidity of their organising reason, and in the masses, whose dark or violent instincts will be balanced by a reasoned activity imposed with implacable discipline.

Without doubt, the late philosophy of Nietzsche cannot be identified with the brutal simplicity of National Socialism. Nevertheless, National Socialism was wont to glorify Nietzsche as one of its ancestors, and justly so, for he was the first to formulate in a coherent manner criticism of the traditional values of humanism and also, because his conception of the government of the masses by masters knowing no restraint is a preview of the Nazi regime. Besides, Nietzsche believed in the sovereign race and attributed primacy to Germany, whom he considered endowed with a youthful soul and unquenchable resources.

The myth of community which had arisen from the depths of the German soul, unbalanced by the moral and spiritual crises endured by modern humanity, allied itself with the traditional theses of Pan-Germanism.

Fichte's "Speeches to the German Nation" had already, by exalting Germanity, clearly revealed one of the main ideas of Pan-Germanism, namely, that Germany visualises and organises the world as it should be visualised and organised.

The apology for war is equally ancient. It dates back to Fichte and Hegel, who had affirmed that war, through its classifying of peoples, alone establishes justice among nations. In his "Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechtes," Hegel writes,

"The moral health of nations is maintained thanks to war, just as the passing breeze saves the sea from stagnation."
The living-space theory appears right at the beginning of the nineteenth century. It is a well-known geographical and historical demonstration which such people as Ratzel, Arthur Dix and Lamprecht took up later on, comparing conflicts between peoples to a savage fight between conceptions and realisations of space, and declaring that all history is moving towards German hegemony.

State totalitarianism also has deep roots in Germany. The absorption of individuals by the State was hoped for by Hegel, who wrote, "Individuals disappear in the presence of the universal substance (that is the People or State idea) and this substance itself shapes the individuals in accordance with its own ends."

Therefore, National Socialism appears in present-day Germany neither as a spontaneous formation which might be due to the consequence of the defeat in 1918, nor as a mere invention of a group of men determined upon seizing power. National Socialism is the ultimate result of a long evolution of doctrines; the exploitation by a group of men of one of the most profound and most tragic aspects of the German soul. But the crime committed by Hitler and his companions will be precisely that of unleashing and exploiting to its extreme limit the latent force of barbarity, which existed before him in the German people.

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The dictatorial regime instituted by Hitler and his companions carries with it for all Germans the "soldier- life," that is to say, a kind and a system of life entirely different from that of the bourgeois West and the proletarian East. It amounted to a permanent and complete mobilisation of individual and collective energies. This integral militarisation presupposed complete uniformity of thoughts and actions. It is a militarisation which conforms to the Prussian tradition of discipline.

Propaganda instils into the masses faith, drive and a thirst for the greatness of the community. Those consenting masses find an artificial derivative for their moral anguish and their material cares in theories of race and in a mystical exaltation held in common. Souls which yesterday were wounded and rent asunder once more find themselves united in a common mould.

The Nazi educational system moulds new generations to show no trace of traditional moral teachings, those being replaced by the cult of race and of strength.

The race-myth tends to become a real national religion. Many writers dream of substituting for the duality of religious confessions a world-wide dogma of German conception, which would amount to being the religion of the German race as a race.

In the midst of the twentieth century Germany goes back, of her own free will, beyond Christianity and civilisation to the primitive barbarity of ancient Germany. She makes a deliberate break with all universal conceptions of modern nations. The National Socialist doctrine, which raised inhumanity to the level of a principle, constitutes, in fact, a doctrine of disintegration of modern society.

This doctrine necessarily brought Germany to a war of aggression and to the systematic use of criminality in the waging of war.

The absolute primacy of the German race, the negation of any International Law whatsoever, the cult of strength, the exacerbation of community mysticism made Germany consider recourse to war, in the interests of the German race, logical and justified.

This race would have the incontestable right to grow at the expense of nations considered decadent. Germany is about to resume in the midst of the twentieth century the great invasions of the barbarians. Moreover, most naturally and logically, she will wage her war in barbarous fashion, not only because National Socialist ethics are indifferent to the choice of means, but also because war must be total in its means and in its ends.

Whether we consider a Crime against Peace or War Crimes, we are therefore not faced by an accidental or an occasional criminality which events could explain without justifying it. We are, in fact, faced by systematic criminality, which derives directly and of necessity from a monstrous doctrine put into practice with deliberate intent by the masters of Nazi Germany.

From National Socialist doctrines there arises directly the immediate preparation of Crimes against Peace. As early as February, 1920, in the first programme of the National Socialist Party, Adolf Hitler had already outlined the future basis of German foreign policy. But it was in 1924, in his Landsberg prison, while writing "Mein Kampf," that he more fully developed his views.

According to "Mein Kampf," the foreign policy of the Reich must have as its first objective the return to Germany of her "independence and her effective sovereignty" which is clearly an allusion to the articles of the Treaty of Versailles, referring to disarmament and the demilitarisation of the Rhineland. It would then attempt to reconquer the territories "lost" in 1919, and fifteen years before the outbreak of the Second World War the question of Alsace and Lorraine is clearly raised. It would also have to seek to extend German territories in Europe, the frontiers of 1914 being "insufficient" and it would be indispensable

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to extend them by including "all Germans" in the Reich, beginning with the Germans of Austria.

After having reconstituted Greater Germany, National Socialism will do everything necessary to "ensure the means of existence" on this planet to the race forming the State, by means of establishing a "healthy relation" between the size of the population and the extent of the territory. By "healthy relation" is meant a situation such that the subsistence of the people will be assured by the resources of its own territory. "A sufficient living space on this earth will alone insure to a people its liberty of existence."

But so far that is but a stage. "When a people sees its subsistence guaranteed by the extent of its territory, it is nevertheless necessary to think of ensuring the security of that territory," because the power of a State "arises directly out of the military value of its geographical situation."

Those ends, Hitler adds, cannot be reached without war. It will be impossible to obtain the re-establishment of the frontiers of 1914 "without bloodshed." How much more would it be impossible to acquire living space if one did not prepare for a "clash of arms."

"It is in Eastern Europe, at the expense of Russia and the neighbouring countries, that Germany must seek new territories. We arrest the eternal march of the Germans towards the South and the West of Europe and cast our eyes towards the East."
But before anything, declares Hitler, it is necessary to crush France's tendency towards hegemony and to have a "final settlement" with this "mortal enemy." "The annihilation of France will enable Germany to acquire afterwards territories in the East." The "settlement of accounts" in the West is but a prelude. "It can be explained only as the securing of our rear defences in order to extend our living-space in Europe."

Henceforth, also, Germany will have to prevent the existence near her territory of a "military power" which might become her rival, and to oppose "by all means" the formation of a State which possibly might acquire sufficient strength to do so, and if that State exists already, to "destroy" it is, for Germans, not only a right but a duty. "Never permit," recommends Hitler to his compatriots, in a passage which he calls his political testament, "the formation in Europe of two Continental powers. In every attempt to set up a second military power on Germany's borders - even if it were in the shape of a State which might possibly acquire that power - you must see an attack on Germany."

War to reconquer those territories lost in 1919, war to annihilate the power of France, war to acquire living-space in Eastern Europe, war, finally, against any State which would be or which might become a counter-weight to the hegemony of the Reich, that is the plan of "Mein Kampf. "

In this way, from the inception of National Socialism, he does not recoil from any of the certainties of war entailed by the application of his doctrines.

In fact, from the moment of his accession to power, Hitler and his companions devoted themselves to the military and diplomatic preparation of the wars of aggression which they had resolved to wage.

It is true that even before the accession to power of the National Socialists, Germany had already shown her determination to reconstruct her Armed Forces, notably in 1932 when, on the occasion of the Disarmament Conference, she demanded "equality of rights" as regards armament; and she had already violated in secret the articles of the Treaty of Versailles regarding disarmament. But after the arrival of Hitler to power, German rearmament was to be carried out at a vastly different rate.

On 14th October, 1933, the Reich left the Disarmament Conference and made known, five days later, its decision to withdraw from the League of Nations, under the pretext that it was not granted equality of rights in the matter of armament. France had, however, expressed her readiness to accept

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equality of rights if Germany would first consent to an international control which would enable the level of existing armaments to be determined. Germany very obviously did not wish to agree to this condition, for an international control would have revealed the extent of the rearmament already carried out in secret by the Reich in violation of the treaties. As a matter of fact, at a Cabinet meeting which took place on 13th October, 1933, the minutes of which have been found, Hitler had declared that he wished to "torpedo" the Disarmament Conference. Under these conditions it is not surprising that the attempts made to resume negotiations with Germany after her withdrawal ended in failure.

When, 18 months later, Hitler's Government decided to re- establish conscription, and to create immediately an Army which would, on a peace establishment, comprise 36 divisions, as well as to create a military air force, it was breaking engagements which Germany had undertaken by the Treaty of Versailles. However, on 3rd February, 1935, France and Great Britain had suggested to the Reich that it resume its place in the League of Nations and prepare a general disarmament convention which would have been substituted for the military articles of the Treaty. At the moment when Hitler was on the point of obtaining, by means of free negotiation, the abolition of the "unilateral burden" which, as he said, the Treaty of Versailles laid on Germany, he preferred to escape any voluntary limitation and any control of armaments by a deliberate violation of a treaty.

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