The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
12th March to 22nd March, 1946

Seventy-Ninth Day: Tuesday, 12th March, 1946
(Part 1 of 9)

[Page 1]

THE PRESIDENT: General Rudenko, have you concluded your interrogation?


THE PRESIDENT: Does the French prosecution wish to ask any questions? Dr. Stahmer, do you wish to examine further?


THE PRESIDENT: Then the witness can retire.

(Whereupon the witness left the witness box.)

DR. STAHMER: I call the next witness. Colonel of the Air Force, Bernd von Brauchitsch.

The witness COLONEL BERND VON BRAUCHITSCH took the stand and testified as follows.

THE PRESIDENT: Will you repeat the oath after me. 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.)

You may sit down if you wish.


Q. What is your name?

A. Bernd von Brauchitsch.

Q. Witness, what position did you hold on the staff of the Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force?

A. I was the first Military Adjutant of the Commander-in- Chief of the Air Force. I held the rank of Chief Adjutant. I had the job of making the daily arrangements as ordered by the Commander-in-Chief and working out the adjutant duty roster. The military position had to be reported daily, military reports and messages only in so far as they were not communicated by the offices themselves. I had no command function.

Q. In this activity did you know that on 25th March, 1944, from the prison camp of Sagan, Stalag Luft III, 75 English Air Force officers had escaped?

A. I knew of this event, as at that time it was reported that a number of Air Force officers had escaped.

Q. Can you give us some information about the fate of these officers after their escape?

A. The fate of these officers is not known to me.

Q. Were you never informed that 50 of these officers allegedly were shot while trying to escape?

A. I heard only much later that a number of these officers were said to have been shot.

Q. Can you tell us under what circumstances these shootings were carried out?

A. No, I do not know anything about that.

Q. Did Reichsmarschall Goering order the shooting, or did he have any part in these measures?

A. I do not know anything of the Reichsmarschall having taken part or given an order in this matter.

Q. Do you know of the attitude of Hitler with regard to the treatment of so-called terror fliers who were shot down?

[Page 2]

A. In the spring of 1944 the, number of civilian air-raid casualties by machine gunning increased suddenly. These attacks were directed against civilians working in the fields, against secondary railroads and stations of no military importance, against pedestrians and cyclists, all within the homeland. This must have been the reason for Hitler giving not only defence orders but also ordering measures against the fliers themselves. As far as I know, Hitler favoured drastic measures. Lynching was to be countenanced.

Q. What was the attitude of the Reichsmarschall of the Air Force to this order?

A. The Commander-in-Chief and the Chief of the General Staff expressed their opinion that a most serious view must be taken of these attacks directed solely against civilians. Notwithstanding, no special measure should be taken against these officers - the suggestion to lynch and not afford protection to those who baled out could not be agreed with. In view of the Hitler instructions, the Luftwaffe was forced to deal with these questions. They endeavoured to prevent these ideas of Hitler, of which they disapproved, from being put into practice. A way had to be found and the solution was to pretend that measures would be taken which, however, were not actually carried out.

Then I was given the task, which was outside my duties, of conferring with the O.K.W. about the definition of the term terror fliers. All those cases which constituted violations of International Law and criminal acts were the subject of subsequent discussions and correspondence. These definitions were mean to prevent lynching. The lengthy correspondence also shows the attempts of the various offices to put the matter off. At the end of June, 1944, the term terror fliers was defined. The Stalag was instructed to report all cases of violation but not to take any action. Thus we avoided giving the orders that Hitler had willed.

Q. In your opinion, therefore, could we say that the measures directed by Hitler were not carried out by the Air Force?

A. Yes. It can be said that the measures directed by Hitler were not carried out. As confirmed by the commanders of the air fleets, their men did not receive any orders to shoot enemy fliers or to turn them over to the S.D.

Q. Do you know anything about the Air Force receiving directives to take hostages or to shoot them?

A. I do not know of any directive or order dealing with hostages.

Q. Now one more question: Can you give us any information about the treatment of the five enemy airmen who, in March, 1945, jumped into the Schorfheide and were captured? A. In March, 1945, an American 4-engined bomber was shot down after an attack over the Schorfheide. Part of the crew saved themselves by jumping Some of them were injured and sent to a hospital. The observer, an American captain who, in civil life was a film director in Hollywood, was the following day interrogated by the Reichsmarschall himself about his mission and his jump.

DR. STAHMER: I have no more questions for this witness.

THE PRESIDENT: Do any other defendants' counsel wish to ask the witness any questions?

BY DR. LATERNSER (counsel for the General Staff and the O.K.W.):

Q. I have only a few questions for this witness. What post did you hold when the war started?

A. At the outbreak of war I was at the War Academy and had just left my squadron.

Q. Can one say that the outbreak of war made the professional soldier happy? What was their mood at that time?

A. No, one cannot say that the outbreak of war was greeted with enthusiasm. Rather, we faced this fact in all earnestness. As young soldiers, we saw our mission in training and educating our men for the defence of our country.

[Page 3]

Q. What posts did you hold during the war? Were you ever on the staff of an air fleet?

A. Only for a short time, when I served as group commander. I was, throughout, adjutant of the Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force.

Q. As chief adjutant, as you said before, with the Commander- in-Chief of the Air Force, you had a lot of inside information about the Luftwaffe?

A. In so far as material was available, yes.

Q. Now, according to your inside information, did the chiefs of air fleets have any influence on political decisions or the conduct of the war?

A. According to my information the chiefs of air fleets had no influence on any political decisions. Their job was the technical execution of the orders received, and orders on the conduct of the air war were given more and more by Hitler himself.

Q. Did the chiefs of air fleets make any suggestions to use more severe methods in the conduct of the war?

A. I do not know of any suggestions of this kind made by chiefs of air fleets. They were professional soldiers who acted according to orders.

Q. I have still one question. Was there any co-ordination between the Services? Was this co-ordination of a purely official nature or did it go further?

A. There was co-ordination between the chief local offices at the front; at a higher level it was effected by the Fuehrer himself.

DR. LATERNSER: I have no more questions.

THE PRESIDENT: Does any other defendant's counsel wish to ask any questions? Do the prosecution wish to cross-examine?


MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: I would ask that the witness be shown Document 1156-PS of the United States documents.


Q. Do you recognise this document, Witness?

A. No, I do not know this document.

Q. I call your attention to the date, 20th March, 1941, and I call your attention to the fact that it purports to be a report to Reichsmarschall Goering at the 19th March, 1941, meeting.

A. While in the Service, I attended military conferences only if they did not take place at the Fuehrer's headquarters or if they were not personal discussions. I have not seen this document and I do not know the facts.

Q. Let me call your attention to Item 2, which refers to you, I take it, and which reads:

"The directive worked out by the W.I. regarding destructive measures to be undertaken by the Luftwaffe in the 'Fall Barbarossa' was agreed to by the Reichsmarschall. One copy was handed to Captain von Brauchitsch for transmission to the General Staff of the Luftwaffe."
I ask you whether that states the facts.

A. I cannot remember these facts, neither can I give any information about the contents of the letter mentioned here.

Q. You knew about the "Fall Barbarossa," did you not?

A. I did not hear about the "Fall Barbarossa" until the beginning of 1941. I was not present at the conferences.

Q. But you did know that certain destructive measures were planned to be undertaken in connection with that by the Luftwaffe, did you not?

A. I know only of the first missions given to the Luftwaffe and I recollect that attacks on airfields were ordered.

[Page 4]

Q. Did it not also provide for attacks against cities, particularly St. Petersburg?

A. To my recollection and knowledge, at the time this letter was written nothing was said about these targets but only about attacks on airfields, which were the main targets of the Luftwaffe.

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: I will ask that the witness be shown Document 735-PS, in evidence as Exhibit GB 151.

Q. That is in evidence and appears to be a most secret document of which only three copies were made; is that correct?

A. May I read this letter first before I answer the question?

Q. I call your attention first to the signature at the end of it and ask you if you recognise it?

A. The signature is that of Warlimont.

Q. Who was Warlimont?

A. Warlimont was the Deputy Chief of the Armed Forces Operations Staff.

Q. And you knew him well and he knew you well, is not that so?

A. I knew him by sight and on this occasion I spoke to him for the first time.

Q. On the occasion of this meeting that is recorded in these minutes, is that the occasion when you first met and spoke to Warlimont?

A. When I first spoke to him officially, yes.

Q. That was on 6th June, 1944, when this meeting was held?

A. According to this letter, yes.

Q. Now, I call your attention to Paragraph 1 of the minutes of this meeting, from which it appears that Obergruppenfuehrer Kaltenbrunner opened this meeting with a report that a conference on the question of the airmen had been held shortly before with the Reichsmarschall, the Reich Foreign Minister and the Reichsfuehrer S.S. That is the opening of it, is it not?

A. I know nothing of the record of this conference or even that it took place.

Q. Who was the Reichsmarschall at that time?

A. I remember the fact because, on 6th June, the invasion started and during the night of the 5th I phoned Reichsmarschall Goering himself and informed him that the invasion had started. In the morning he left Veldenstein for Klessheim in order to attend there, in the afternoon, a conference on the situation.

Q. This meeting is said to have been held in Klessheim on the afternoon of 6th June, is it not?

A. I said once before that I do not know anything of the meeting as such, or of the subject of the discussion.

Q. Yes, I understand, you were not present. Goering was Reichsmarschall; is that right?

A. Yes.

Q. Ribbentrop was Foreign Minister at that time, was he not?

A. Yes.

Q. And who was the Reichsfuehrer S.S.?

A. Himmler.

Q. Now, it was as a result of that meeting at which the Foreign Minister -just follow the next sentence - "The Foreign Minister wished to include every type of terror attack on native civilian population."

It was agreed that this conference, which you did attend, was to take place; is that not the sense of the first paragraph?

A. In the first place, I was not at this meeting and, secondly, I do not know anything about the subject as shown in evidence here, as I said before.

Q. Well, were you not at the meeting with Kaltenbrunner which Kaltenbrunner called?

A. I was not at the meeting with Kaltenbrunner which is mentioned here.

Q. Despite the signature of Warlimont on these minutes which indicate you were?

[Page 5]

A. In spite of the signature. May I first read the whole document before I give a definite answer?

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