The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
21st January to 1st February, 1946

Forty-First Day: Wednesday, 23rd January, 1946
(Part 1 of 9)

[Page 78]



CAPTAIN SPRECHER: May it please the Tribunal, it is my responsibility and my privilege to present today the case on the individual responsibility of the defendant Hans Fritzsche for Crimes against Peace, War Crimes, and Crimes against Humanity as they relate directly to the Common Plan or Conspiracy.

With the permission of the Tribunal, it is planned to make this presentation in three principal divisions:

First, a short listing of the various positions held by the defendant Fritzsche in the Nazi State.

Second, a discussion of Fritzsche's conspiratorial activities within the Propaganda Ministry from 1933 through the attack on the Soviet Union.

Third, a discussion of Fritzsche's connection, as a Nazi propagandist, with the atrocities and the ruthless occupation policy which formed a part of the Common Plan or Conspiracy.

In listing Fritzsche's positions, it is not intended, at first, to describe their functions. Later on, in describing some of Fritzsche's conspiratorial acts, I shall take up a discussion of some of these positions which he held.

Fritzsche's party membership and his various positions in the propaganda apparatus of the Nazi State are shown by two affidavits by Fritzsche himself, Document 2976-PS, which is already in evidence as Exhibit USA 20; and Document 3469-PS, which I offer in evidence as Exhibit USA 721. Both of these affidavits have been put into the four working languages of this Tribunal.

Fritzsche became a member of the Nazi Party on 1 May, 1933, and he continued to be a member until the collapse in 1945. He began his services with the staff of the Reich Ministry for People's Enlightenment and Propaganda - hereinafter referred to as the Propaganda Ministry - on the 1 May, 1933, and he remained within the Propaganda Ministry until the Nazi downfall.

Before the Nazis seized political power in Germany, and beginning in September 1932, Fritzsche was head of the Wireless News Service, Drahtloser Dienst, an agency of the Reich Government at that time under the defendant von Papen. After the Wireless News Service was incorporated into the Propaganda Ministry of Dr. Goebbels in May 1933, Fritzsche continued as its head until the year 1938. Upon entering the Propaganda Ministry in May 1933, Fritzsche also became head of the news section of the Press Division of the Propaganda Ministry. He continued in this position until 1937. In the summer of 1938, Fritzsche was appointed deputy to one Alfred Ingemar Berndt, who was then head of the German Press Division.

The German Press Division, in the indictment, is called the Home Press Division. Since "German Press Division " seems to be a more literal translation, we have called it the German Press Division throughout this presentation. It is sometimes otherwise known as the Domestic Press Division.

We shall show later that this Division was the major section of the Press Division of the Reich Cabinet.

Now, in December 1938, Fritzsche succeeded Berndt as the head of the German Press Division. Between 1938 and November 1942, Fritzsche was promoted three times. He advanced in title from Superior Government Counsel to Ministerial Counsel, then to Ministerial Assistant Director, and finally to Ministerial Director.

In November, 1942, Fritzsche was relieved of his position as head of the

[Page 79]

German Press Division by Dr. Goebbels, and accepted, from Dr. Goebbels, a newly created position in the Propaganda Ministry, that of Plenipotentiary for the Political Organisation of the Greater German Radio. At the same time he also became head of the Radio Division of the Propaganda Ministry. He held both these positions in radio until the Nazi downfall.

There are two allegations of the Indictment concerning Fritzsche's positions, for which we are unable to offer proof. These allegations appear at Page 34 of the English translation.

The first unsupported allegation states that Fritzsche was "Editor-in-Chief of the official German News Agency, Deutsche Nachrichten Buro." The second unsupported allegation states that Fritzsche was "head of the Radio Division of the Propaganda Department of the Nazi Party."

Fritzsche, in his affidavit, denies having held either of these positions, and therefore these two allegations must fall for want of proof.

Before discussing the documentation of the case, I wish, in passing, to state my appreciation of the assistance in research, analysis, and translation given to me by Mr. Norbert Halpern, Mr. Alfred Booth, and Lieutenant Niebergall, who sits at my right.

The Tribunal will note the relative shortness of this document book. It has been marked as document book MM. It contains only 32 pages, which have been numbered consecutively, I believe in red pencil, for your convenience. The shortness of the documentation on this particular case is possible only because of a long affidavit made by the defendant Fritzsche, which was signed by him on the 7 January 1946.

It seems appropriate to comment on this significant document before proceeding. It is before your Honours as Document 3469-PS, beginning at document book, Page 19.

As I said, it has been translated into the four working languages of this proceeding.

This affidavit contains materials which have been extracted from interrogations of Fritzsche, and many materials which Fritzsche volunteered to give himself, at my request, through his defence counsel, Dr. Fritz. Some of the portions of the final affidavit were originally typed or hand-written by the defendant Fritzsche himself, during this trial or during the holiday recess. All these materials were finally incorporated into one single affidavit.

This affidavit contains Fritzsche's account of the events which led to his entering the Propaganda Ministry and his account of his later connections with that Ministry. Before Fritzsche made some of the statements in the affidavit concerning the role of propaganda in relation to important foreign political events, he was shown illustrative headlines and articles from the German Press at that time, so that he could refresh his recollection and make more accurate statements.

It is believed that the Tribunal will desire to consider many portions of this affidavit, independent of this presentation, along with the proof on the conspirators' use of propaganda as a principal weapon in the conspiracy. Some of this proof, you will recall, was submitted by Major Wallis, in the first days of this trial, in connection with Brief E, entitled "Propaganda, Censorship and Supervision of the Cultural Activities," and the corresponding document book, to which I call the Tribunal's attention.

In the Fritzsche affidavit there are a number of statements which I would say were in the nature of defensive declarations. With respect to these, the prosecution requests only that the Tribunal consider them in the light of the whole conspiracy and the indisputable facts which appear throughout the record. The prosecution did not feel, either as a matter of expediency or of fairness, that it should request Fritzsche, through his defence Counsel, Dr. Fritz, to

[Page 80]

remove some of these defensive declarations at this time, and submit them later in connection with his defence.

Since I shall refer to this affidavit at numerous times throughout the presentation, perhaps the members of the Tribunal will wish to place a special marker in their document book.

By referring to paragraphs 4 and 5 of the affidavit, the Tribunal will note that Fritzsche first became a successful journalist in the service of the Hugenberg Press, the most important chain of newspaper enterprises in pre-Nazi Germany. The Hugenberg concern owned papers of its own, but was primarily important because it served newspapers which principally supported the so-called "national" parties of the Reich, including the NSDAP.

In paragraph 5 of the affidavit, Fritzsche relates that in September 1932, when the defendant von Papen was Reich Chancellor, he was made head of the Wireless News Service, replacing someone who was politically unbearable to the Papen regime. The Wireless News Service I might say, was a government agency for spreading news by radio.

Fritzsche began making radio broadcasts at about this time, with very great success, a success which Goebbels recognised, and was later to exploit very efficiently on behalf of these Nazi conspirators.

The Nazis seized power on 30 January 1933. From paragraph 10 of the Fritzsche affidavit we find that that very evening, 30 January 1933, two emissaries from Goebbels visited Fritzsche. One of them was Dressler-Andrees, head of the Radio Division of the NSDAP; the other was an assistant of Dressler-Andrees named Sadila-Mantau. These two emissaries notified Fritzsche that although Goebbels was angry with Fritzsche for writing a critical article concerning Hitler, still he recognised Fritzsche's public success on the radio since the previous autumn. They stated further that Goebbels desired to retain Fritzsche as head of the Wireless News Service on certain conditions: (1) That Fritzsche discharge all Jews; (2) that he discharge all other personnel who would not join the NSDAP; and (3) that he employ with the Wireless News Service Goebbels' second emissary, Sadila- Mantau.

Fritzsche refused all these conditions except the hiring of Sadila-Mantau. This was one of the first ostensible compromises, after the seizure of power, which Fritzsche made on his road to the Nazi camp.

Fritzsche continued to make radio broadcasts during this period, in which he supported the National-Socialist Coalition Government then still existing.

In early 1933 SA troops several times called at the Wireless News Service, and Fritzsche prevented them, with some difficulty, from making news broadcasts.

In April 1913 Goebbels called the young Fritzsche to him for a personal audience. At paragraph 9 of his affidavit, document 3469-PS, Fritzsche has volunteered the following concerning his prior relationships with Dr. Goebbels:

"I had known Dr. Goebbels since 1928. Apparently he had taken a liking to me, besides the fact that in my Press activities I had always treated the National Socialists in a friendly way until 1931.

Already before 1933, Goebbels, who was the editor of the 'Attack' in (Der Angriff) - a Nazi newspaper, had frequently made flattering remarks about the form and content of the work which I had done as contributor of many 'National' newspapers and periodicals, among which were also reactionary papers and periodicals."

At the first Goebbels-Fritzsche discussion in early April 1933, Goebbels informed Fritzsche of his decision to place the Wireless News Service within the Propaganda Ministry as from 1 May 1933. He suggested that Fritzsche make certain rearrangements in the personnel, which would remove Jews and

[Page 81]

other persons who did not support NSDAP. Fritzsche debated with Goebbels concerning some of these steps. It must be said that during this period Fritzsche made some effort to place Jews in other jobs.

In a second conference with Goebbels, shortly thereafter, Fritzsche informed him about the steps he had taken in reorganising the Wireless News Service. Goebbels thereupon informed Fritzsche that he would like him to reorganise and modernise the entire news service of Germany, within the controls of the Propaganda Ministry.

It will be recalled by the Tribunal that on 17 of March 1933, approximately two months before this time, the Propaganda Ministry had been formed by decree - 1933 Reichsgesetzblatt, Part 1, Page 104; our document 2029-PS.

Fritzsche was intrigued by the Goebbels offer. He proceeded to conclude the Goebbels-inspired reorganisation of the Wireless News Service and, on 1 May, 1933, together with the remaining members of his staff, he joined the Propaganda Ministry. On the same day he joined the NSDAP and took the customary oath of unconditional loyalty to the Fuehrer. From this time on, whatever reservations Fritzsche may have had, either then or later, to the course of events under the Nazis, he was completely within the Nazi camp. For the next 13 years he assisted in creating and in using the chief propaganda devices which the conspirators employed with such telling effect in each of the principal phases of this conspiracy.

From 1933 until 1942 Fritzsche held one or more positions within the German Press Division. For four years, indeed, he headed this Division, during those crucial years 1938 to 1942. That covers the period when the Nazis undertook actual military invasions of neighbouring countries. It is, therefore, believed appropriate to spell out in some detail, before this Tribunal, the functions of this German Press Division. These functions will show the important and unique position of the German Press Division as an instrument of the Nazi conspirators, not only in dominating the minds and the psychology of Germans through the German Press Division and through the radio, but also as an instrument of foreign policy and psychological warfare against other nations.

The already broad jurisdiction of the Propaganda Ministry was extended by a Hitler decree of 30 June, 1933, found in 1933 Reichsgesetzblatt, Part 1, Page 449. From that decree I wish to quote only one sentence. It is found in Document 2030-PS, Page 3 in your document book:

"The Reich Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda has jurisdiction over the whole field of spiritual indoctrination of the nation, and the State, of cultural, and economic propaganda, and of enlightenment of the public at home and abroad. Furthermore, he is in charge of the administration of all institutions serving those purposes."
It is important to underline the stated propaganda objective of "enlightenment at home and abroad."

For a clear exposition of the general functions of the German Press Division of the Propaganda Ministry, the Tribunal is referred to Document 2434-PS, Document book Page 5. It is offered in evidence as Exhibit USA 722. This document is an appropriate excerpt from a book by George Wilhelm Muller, a Ministerial Director in the Propaganda Ministry, of which the Tribunal is asked to take judicial notice.

Fritzsche's affidavit, paragraphs 14, 15, and 16, beginning at Page 22 of your document book, contains an exposition of the functions of the German Press Division, a description which confirms and adds to the exposition in Muller's book.

Concerning the German Press Division, Fritzsche's affidavit states:

"During the whole period from 1933 to 1945 it was the task of the German Press Division to supervise the entire domestic Press, and to provide

[Page 82]

it with directives by which this division became an efficient instrument in the hands of the German State leadership. More than 2,300 German daily newspapers were subject to this control. The aim of this supervision and control, in the first years following 1933, was to change basically the conditions existing in the Press before the seizure of power. That meant the co-ordination into the New Order of those newspapers and periodicals which were in the service of capitalistic special interests or party politics. While the administrative functions, wherever possible, were exercised by the professional associations and the Reich Press Chamber, the political leadership of the German Press was entrusted to the German Press Division. The head if [sic] the German Press Division held daily Press conferences in the Ministry for the representatives of all German newspapers. Hereby all instructions were given to representatives of the Press. These instructions were transmitted daily, almost without exception, and mostly by telephone, from headquarters by Dr. Otto Dietrich, Reich Press Chief, in a fixed statement, the so-called "Daily Parole of the Reich Press Chief." Before the statement was fixed the head of the German Press Division submitted to him - Dietrich - the current Press wishes expressed by Dr. Goebbels and by other Ministries. This was the case especially with the wishes of the Foreign Office, about which Dr. Dietrich always wanted to make decisions personally or through his representatives at headquarters, Helmut Sundermann and chief editor Lorenz. The practical use of the general directions in detail was thus left entirely to the individual work of the individual editor. Therefore, it is by no means true that the newspapers and periodicals were a monopoly of the German Press Division, or that essays and leading articles through it had to be submitted to the Ministry. Even in war periods this happened in exceptional cases only. The less important newspapers and periodicals, which were not represented at the daily Press conferences, received their information in a different way by being provided either with ready-made articles and reports, or with a confidential printed instruction. The publications of all other official agencies were directed and co-ordinated likewise by the German Press Division. To enable the periodicals to get acquainted with the daily political problems of newspapers and to discuss these problems in greater detail, the "Informationskorrespondenz" was issued especially for periodicals. Later on it was taken over by the Periodical Press Division. The German Press Division was also in charge of pictorial reporting, insofar as it directed the employment of pictorial reporters at important events. In this way, and tempered by the current political situation, the entire German Press was made a permanent instrument of the Propaganda Ministry by the German Press Division.

[ Previous | Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.