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

Eightieth Day: Wednesday, 13th March, 1946
(Part 3 of 10)

[MR. JUSTICE JACKSON continues his cross examination of Field-Marshal Albert Kesselring]

[Page 45]

Q. The preparations of the Luftwaffe for this invasion were complete, and the invasion was only called off because the supply of sea-going craft was not sufficient, is that not true?

A. Yes. I have to supplement the previous statement by saying that, of course, a certain interval between the French campaign and the English campaign would have had to elapse in order to effect the material replenishment of the Air Force.

Q. Now, you also told the Strategic Bombing Survey that Hitler had ordered not only the bombing of military targets, including industrial production, but also the bombing of political targets. Is that true?

A. After a certain date, yes.

Q. That is, to paralyse the government of the enemy. That is what you meant by a political target, did you not?

A. That is not what I mean by political targets, but I answered the question differently. I understood it differently, namely, that this order became effective at a later date.

Q. You attended the speech made by Hitler in August of 1939?

A. Yes.

Q. At that time you were informed that the attack on Poland would begin immediately or very soon?

A. During that conference, the final decision to begin the Polish campaign had not yet been reached. Negotiations were still in progress and we were all still hoping that they would bring favourable results.

Q. You were ordered on 15th August to get the Luftwaffe in readiness for an attack on Poland?

[Page 46]

A. This order, as such, is not known to me in detail, but I must admit that, for months before, we had made air preparations and bases, in a general defensive direction, always thinking of a defensive situation.

Q. You expected Poland to attack Germany in the air? Is that your point?

A. At any rate, we took this possibility into consideration on our side. The whole political situation was too obscure for us to form a pertinent; incontestable judgement about it.

Q. You have said, have you not, in substance, that you never held conferences with Party leaders or talked politics or had any contacts with politicians?

A. Yes.

Q. Was not your immediate superior the No. 2 politician of Germany? Did you not know that?

A. I did, but I must emphasise that the conversations which I had with the Reichsmarschall were 99 per cent. concerned with military and organisational problems.

Q. But you knew that he, at all times, was one of the leading men in Nazi politics?

A. Certainly.

Q. You testified that you knew of the order to shoot Soviet Commissars?

A. Certainly.

Q. And that you did not approve it and did not carry it out.

A. I did not answer to that effect yesterday.

Q. What did you answer?

A. I answered as follows: That the Air Force, which was not fighting on the ground, was not concerned with this problem, and that an official notification of that order is no longer in my recollection.

Q. Who executed that order? Who was expected to execute it?

A. I was only in Russia until November, 1941, and I can give you no information on it.

Q. Did you ever hear of the S.S.?

A. Yes, of course.

A. And is it not a fact that the execution of that order was committed to the S.S.?

A. I knew nothing about that.

Q. For what purpose, did you think, did the S.S. exist?

A. In my opinion, the S.S., as far as it was used in military operations, was a special section of the Army, indeed, a sort of guard of the Army.

Q. The S.S. was to guard the Army or to guard whom?

A. No - I mean that the S.S. divisions were, purely from the point of view of number and material, well above the average as far as equipment or normal Army divisions were concerned.

Q. Who was commanding the S.S.?

A. The S.S. was commanded by Himmler. As far as these divisions were used within the Army, they were tactically under the Army Commanders, Commanders of the Army Groups, or the Corps Headquarters staffs to which they were attached.

Q. So far as they had special missions, they were under the command of Himmler, is that right?

A. Yes, certainly: a very clear distinction. Q. You testified yesterday that you did not consider Hitler's Commando order binding on you, and that you did not carry out that order, is that right?

A. In the Mediterranean theatre, yes.

Q. Was that because the order left discretion in your hands, or because you just took discretion into your hands?

A. I made those reservations myself, firstly for ideological considerations, and secondly, because in the Mediterranean I had, as I said yesterday, a

[Page 47]

twofold command, and the German orders could not be included in the general administration without modification.Q. Well then, the extent to which an order of that kind was carried out depended somewhat on the character and courage of the officer who received it, did it not?

A. I would like to express it somewhat differently. These orders - that Commando order, for instance - could be interpreted in different ways-in so far as it was certainly quite possible for the Supreme Commander to consider an operation to be a special task, or a tactical measure which was militarily justified by the military situation.

Q. You were in command of the forces in Italy at this time, were you not, at the time of the Commando order?

A. With limitations. I was not in full command until September, 1943.

Q. I will ask for you to be shown Document 498-PS, in evidence as Exhibit 501.

I call your attention to paragraph No. 6 of that order which reads as follows:

"I will hold responsible, under military law, for failing to carry out this order, all commanders and officers who either have neglected their duty of instructing the troops about this order, or acted against this order where it was to be executed."
You see that paragraph in the order?

A. Yes, I have just read it.

Q. Now, did you ever report that you were not carrying out this order or did you deceive your superior officers as to whether it was being carried out?

A. In one special case that question was treated very decisively at headquarters. This concerned the Commando action "Pescara," where Adolf Hitler ordered the shooting of certain people in spite of the fact that we, my troops and I, wanted to spare them. I think, in particular, that the influence of Jodl as an intermediary was decisive, namely, that this subject was forgotten and that consequently these people were kept alive, both in hospitals and prisoner-of- war camps.

But I should not like to call it deception, the word you used just now, for I wish to emphasise that, in my military sector, I considered orders of this kind as, so to speak, guiding orders, and this Commando order certainly allowed for several interpretations.

Q. In other words, the extent to which one of these orders would be carried out depended on the commanders in charge. Hitler could not depend on it that an order as emphatic as this would be carried out by his commanders? Was that the state of the German Army?

A. No, but the situation can be explained as follows: If such an operation is reported to a superior as a Commando operation in the sense of that order, then the necessary measures would have to be carried out. It depended, however, on the way the operation was reported by the units concerned, and I explained in detail yesterday that a unified conception had gradually set in that men in uniform who carried out a tactical move were not Commandos within the sense of this order.

Q. You testified to-day, and another witness has testified here, that if an order of Adolf Hitler were resisted, it meant death. You are also testifying that an absolute order to execute Commandos, under threat of punishment if you failed, left you discretion to do it or not, and I want you once and for all to tell the Tribunal which is the fact, and then we will leave that subject.

A. I must repeat what I said before, namely, that the Italian theatre of war was not to b compared with the other theatres of war. Through the co-operation of Hitler and Mussolini there was always considerable give and take,

[Page 48]

and, therefore, these orders made by O.K.W. did not necessarily always apply to the Italian theatre of war.

Q. They were applied everywhere, so far as you know, except in the Italian theatre, then?

A. That I cannot say. I have repeatedly had occasion to say that I was confining myself exclusively to my own sphere of operation, which was considerable.

Q. You testified, as I understand you, that you punished looting on the part of your soldiers in Italy.

A. As soon as I heard of any instances, I punished them, and I most strictly ordered the Army Commanders and Air Force Commanders to do the same.

Q. Now, the punishment inflicted for any looting was always very mild, was it not?

A. No, on the contrary. I even went so far as to have culprits shot on the spot, and in that manner I succeeded in remedying the disorder which had arisen.

Q. So a German general, dealing with a German soldier, considers shooting the proper penalty for looting?

A. Such an extreme conclusion is not justified. On that subject I wish to make the following remarks: If an Army - as was the case with the 14th Army at the time - fell into a certain disorder, the most severe measures were justified in the interest of that Army's reputation and in the interest of the population, in order to bring about orderly conditions. I had heated discussions at headquarters on that particular subject.

Apart from that, I was of the opinion that all penalties eventually become useless, and therefore, for some time I considered penalties purely as an educational means and not really as punishment. Consequently, for some time penalties were rather mild.

Q. You testified that you took vigorous steps to protect the art treasures of Italy.

A. In so far as I was informed of art treasures, yes.

Q. What steps did you take, and against whom did you take them?

A. Primarily they were preventive measures: first, by excluding places of art and culture from the military field; second, by having these places cleared if they were open to air raids by the enemy; and third, by co-operating with General Wolff and having these cultural and art treasures removed to secure places. I am referring to the art treasures of Cassino and Florence.

Q. Did you know that any treasures were removed from Mount Cassino, for instance, and taken to Berlin?

A. Much later, at Mondorf, I heard about that. At the time all I could recollect was that they were handed over to the Vatican in Rome.

Q. Did you know that art treasures were taken and delivered to Goering from Mount Cassino? Did you ever hear that?

A. I once heard something about some statue of a saint, but I cannot really give you any more details.

Q. And if Goering received such a thing from Mount Cassino, was it a violation of your orders?

A. The division "Hermann Goering" was stationed in that sector. It was commanded by the former adjutant of Hermann Goering, and it is clear that there was a certain connection here, but to what extent I cannot tell you.

Q. I have a few more questions concerning your interrogations.

THE PRESIDENT: Perhaps we had better break off for 10 minutes.

(A recess was taken.)

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: I think, your Honours, that we will save some duplication - perhaps save time - if I now yield to Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, who is

[Page 49]

prepared on some of the subjects I was about to take up. I think he is in a better position to take up the examination.

THE PRESIDENT: Whatever you think, Mr. Justice Jackson.


Q. Witness, you have been told why Dr. Stahmer wanted you to give evidence? Have you been told by Dr. Stahmer what evidence to give?

A. The individual points were communicated to me, without all questions being directly defined.

Q. I want to read you one sentence, so that you will have it in mind, of Dr. Stahmer's statement: When Rotterdam became a battle-zone in May, 1940, it became a military necessity to employ bombers, as the encircled fighting parachute troops who had no support from the artillery had urgently asked for help from bombers.

Do you remember the incident? I wanted you to have it in your mind.

A. Yes, certainly.

Q. Do you remember being asked about this incident in the interrogation on 28th June, by the United States Bombing Survey? Do you remember?

A. Certainly.

Q. In answer to the question "What about Rotterdam?" did you say, "First, Rotterdam had been defended in the parts which were later on attacked. Secondly, in this case one could notice that a firm attitude had to be taken. This one attack brought immediate peace to Holland. It was asked for by Model and was approved by the O.K.W. It was a very small part in the heart of Rotterdam."

Do you remember saying that?

A. Approximately I did say that, yes, and I repeated those words yesterday.

Q. I want to deal first with the strategic aspects. I will come to the tactical aspects later. Your strategic purpose and real object was to take a firm attitude and secure immediate peace, is not that correct?

A. That far-reaching task had not been given to me, but, as I said yesterday, the meaning of General Wenninger's report to me of the attack was that it resulted in the total surrender of Holland.

Q. But I want you to think of your own words - "This was approved by the O.K.W.; a firm attitude had to be taken." Was not your purpose, in this attack, to secure a strategic advantage by terrorisation of the people of Rotterdam?

A. That I can deny with the clearest conscience. Neither did I say, when I was at Mondorf, that I had to adopt a firm attitude. I merely said that the support which was demanded by Student would have to be carried out. We had only the one task, and that was to furnish artillery support for Student's troops.

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