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 4 of 10)

[Sir David Maxwell Fyfe continues his cross examination of Field-Marshal Albert Kesselring]

[Page 49]

Q. What did you mean by saying that a firm attitude had to be taken, if you did not mean that the people of Holland had to be possibly terrorised into peace.

A. May I repeat in that connection that the conception of the expression, "firm attitude," is not in keeping with my accustomed wording. I cannot admit that this word was in the minutes, and it was not read out to me, either.

Q. What do you think you said instead of firm attitude, if you did not say it?

A. I remarked that severe measures would bring quick results.

Q. That is exactly what I am putting to you, Witness, "severe measures" -

A. But only for the purpose of tactical results. May I once more emphasise that I am a soldier and not a politician, and did not act as a politician. At that time I was merely and solely complying with Student's requirements.

[Page 50]

Q. Just before I deal with the tactical position - which I do with great pleasure - have you had to work with the defendant Raeder? Have you had to work with the defendant Raeder at all?

A. Admiral Raeder? Only in a general way, in so far as naval questions were concerned.

Q. I just want you to listen to the views which the defendant Raeder has expressed and tell the Tribunal whether you agree with them. This is Exhibit GB 224, Document C-157, and here is the transcript in Page 2735. Now, just listen carefully, if you will be so kind:

"It is desirable to base all military measures taken, on existing International Law. However, measures which are considered necessary from a military point of view, provided a decisive success can be expected from them, will have to be carried out, even if they are not covered by existing International Law."
Do you agree with that?

A. I cannot completely agree with that concept. As far as Rotterdam is concerned, conditions were exactly the opposite.

Q. Well, just for the moment we will deal with the defendant Raeder's words. Do you agree with them?

A. No.

DR. LATERNSER (counsel for the General Staff and O.K.W.): I have an objection. I object to the earlier and this present question put to the witness, because they are irrelevant, and secondly because they do not refer to facts but to opinions. The witness is here to testify to facts.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: My Lord, the witness is here, as I pointed out carefully, to deal with what is military necessity.

THE PRESIDENT: Sir David, the Tribunal thinks that the question in the form in which you put it may be objectionable, by the introduction of the views of the defendant Raeder.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: Of course, I bow to the Tribunal, but this witness is called to say that the explanation for this is military necessity. I was asking whether he did not agree with the views of one of his colleagues on this point: What is military necessity? If the Tribunal has any doubt, I would rather pass it. But the question of military necessity is one which the Tribunal will have to consider in a number of fields, and I respectfully do not abandon that point, which will run through the questions I have to ask on other matters.

Q. Now, I will come to the tactical position at Rotterdam. Will you just tell the Tribunal who were the officers involved? There was a Lieutenant-General Schmidt and with him was Major-General Student - who were in charge of the troops that were attacking Rotterdam. Do you remember that?

A. Only General Student. General Schmidt is unknown to me. Q. Well, the evidence that is given in this case is that the negotiations, the terms of capitulation, were actually written out by Lieutenant-General Schmidt in a creamery near Rotterdam. I suppose he would be General Student's superior officer, would he not?

A. General Student was the senior German officer in the Rotterdam sector and the responsible commander. General Schmidt is unknown to me.

Q. So that General Schmidt would be junior to General Student, would he?

A. He may have been called in for the special purpose, but I do not know of him.

Q. I want you to have the times in mind: Do you know what time of the day the bombing of Rotterdam started?

A. As far as I know, in the early afternoon, about 14.00 hours, I believe.

Q. Well, I was going to put to you 13.30 hours.

A. Yes, that is quite possible.

[Page 51]

Q. Do you know that negotiations for a capitulation had been in progress since 10.30 hours?

A. No; as I said yesterday, I have no knowledge of these facts.

Q. And did you know that at 12.15 hours a Dutch officer, Captain Bakker, went to the German lines and saw General Schmidt and General Student, and that General Schmidt wrote out the suggested terms of capitulation at 12.35 hours?

A. No, that is unknown to me.

Q. That had never been told to you?

A. It was not communicated to me. At least, I cannot remember it.

Q. Well, you see, Witness, it is 55 minutes before the bombing began and -

A. The important fact would have been for Student to call off the attack as such, but that did not happen. The cancellation never reached me, and did not reach my unit either.

Q. Well, I just want you to have the facts in mind, and then I will ask you some questions. The terms that were offered at 12.35 hours were not to expire until the time demanded for an answer: 16.20 hours. After Captain Bakker left with the terms, two red flares were put up by the German ground troops under General Student at 13.22 and 13.25 hours. Did you ever hear of that?

A. I did not hear of that either. Also, two red flares would naturally not have sufficed for the purpose.

Q. No, but in addition to that your ground troops were in excellent wireless communication with your planes, were they not? Will you answer the question?

A. I already said yesterday -

Q. Will you please answer the question.

A. Yes, and no. So far as I know, there was no immediate communication between the ground-station and the aircraft, but, as I said yesterday, the communication was from the tactical force, through the ground station, to the aircraft formation.

Q. If it had been wanted to pass the communication to the aircraft and stop the bombing, it could quite easily have been done by wireless, apart from putting up these two red flares?

A. In my opinion, yes.

Q. Now, what I am suggesting is, you see, that everyone saw these bombers coming over. You know that. Student saw the bombers coming over. You know that, do you not?

A. Yes.

Q. If that attack had any tactical significance about helping your troops, it could have been called off, could it not?

A. I did not understand the final sentence.

Q. If the object of this attack was merely tactical, to help in the attack on Rotterdam, it could easily have been called off by a wireless message from General Student to the planes, could it not?

A. Yes, if the tactical situation had been communicated, or if the situation had been reported to the bombing units immediately, then there could have been no doubt.

Q. But if in honest negotiations, Witness, terms of surrender have been given and are to expire three hours later, all that is demanded of a soldier is that he will call off the attack, is it not?

A. If no other conditions have been made, yes.

Q. But it would have been the easiest thing in the world to stop the attack. I want to make my suggestion quite clear - that this tactical matter had nothing to do with the attack on Rotterdam; that the purpose of the attack on Rotterdam was, in your own words, to show a firm attitude and to terrorise the Dutch into surrender.

[Page 52]

A. May I repeat again, that I have said explicitly that this attack was only serving the tactical requirements, and that I disassociate myself completely from these political considerations.

Q. Well, you know that General Student apologised afterwards for the attack; you know that? Apologised to the Dutch Commander for the attack?

A. I do not know it and, as I explained yesterday, I saw General Student when he was seriously injured, and I could not even talk to him.

Q. I am not going to take more time. I have put my point, I hope, quite clearly. I want to ask you on one other point on which you spoke yesterday in regard to bombing. You said that the attack on Warsaw on 1st September, 1939, was made because you considered Warsaw a defended fortress with air defence. Is that fair?

A. Yes, certainly.

Q. Now, you know that at the same time - at 5 o'clock on the morning of Friday, 1st September, the German Air Force attacked Augustow, Nowy Dwor, Ostrow Mazowiecki, Tczew, Puck, Zambrow, Radomsko, Torun, Kutno, Krakow, Grodno, Trzebinia and Gdynia, which is in rather a different position. Just answer my question. The German Air Force attacked these towns?

A. Not the towns, I emphasise, not the towns.

Q. Now, all this attack was made at 5 o'clock on the morning of 1st September, was it not?

A. The attack started in the morning, but not, as you put it, on the towns, but on military targets; airfields, staff headquarters and traffic centres were attacked. As I have already explained, very detailed instructions were published by the O.K.W. that only these military targets should be bombed.

Q. You are suggesting that all these towns I have read out were military targets?

A. In so far as they were in my sector, yes.

Q. You had not had time for a single reconnaissance plane to fly over Poland before that attack was made, had you?

A. That is correct. On the other hand, agents, etc., furnished sufficient intelligence on the situation and, apart from that, this whole plan was absolutely controlled by operational considerations of air warfare.

Q. Of course, the whole plan had been worked out in April of 1939 under the "Fall Weiss," had it not?

A. At that time I did not even know that I was going to be concerned in it, or that war would be declared.

Q. Did you not know, Witness, after you were appointed, that a "Fall Weiss" had been worked out in April, 1939? You were never told that?

A. That was not said, but, on the other hand, may I say, as a soldier, that a general plan made in April would undergo so many alterations by September, and decisive alterations might still have to be made even at the very last minute.

Q. Just one other point I want you to have in mind. Do you remember that the German radio broadcast the last note to Poland at 9 o'clock the night before, on 31st August? Do you remember that?

A. I believe I do.

Q. That was eight hours before your attack, and you know, do you not, that the defendant Goering had been at his secret headquarters for a week before that, considering this matter?

A. That I can well imagine, if on the -

Q. Now, what I am putting to you is that this general attack on Polish towns was again a well-planned scheme to try and break down national resistance.

A. May I say the following on that subject? If my statements as Field-Marshal and witness under oath are valueless, as you are considering them to be,

[Page 53]

Mr. Prosecutor, then further statements of mine do not serve any purpose. I have emphasised that it was not an attack against towns, but an attack on military targets, and you must finally believe me when I say that as a soldier.

Q. The Tribunal will decide as to the value of the evidence. I am not going to discuss it. I am just going to ask you about one or two other matters, in order to get your views on what you consider to be of military necessity. You remember the orders with regard to Partisans in Italy during the time of your command?

A. Certainly.

Q. And I want to put it perfectly correctly, so tell me if I am wrong, but I understand this to be the position. The defendant Keitel issued a general order as to Partisans on 16th December, 1942. A copy was found in your headquarters or your ex-headquarters, and your recollection is that it came to your attention later on, but you are not quite sure of the date. Is that right? You are not quite sure of the time?

A. Yes.

Q. I would like you to try, because you have had time to consider it; do you think that Keitel's order of December, 1942, had come to your attention before you issued your own order of 17th June, 1944? Perhaps you would like to see your own order, would you?

A. It has been read out to me, yes, but in November, repeatedly in December, and subsequently in January, I had requested that I should be heard once more on these questions and these orders, since I had certain objections about the issuing of these orders, the distribution, the persons to whom they were issued and the date.

Q. Well, I will pass you the orders, Witness, because you ought to see them and recall them to your memory. I do not think they have been put in before. Let us take, first, defendant Keitel's order of 16th December, 1942.

(A document was handed to the witness.)

I hope I have passed you the right document. Does it read - I will read it very slowly:

"The Fuehrer has therefore ordered that:

(1) The enemy employs, in Partisan warfare, Communist- trained fanatics who do not hesitate to commit any atrocity. It is more than ever a question of life and death. This fight has nothing to do with soldierly gallantry or principles of the Geneva Convention. If the fight against the Partisans in the East, as well as in the Balkans, is not waged with the most brutal means, we will shortly reach the point where the available forces are insufficient to control this area.

It is, therefore, not only justified, but it is the duty of the troops to use all means without restriction, even against women and children, so long as it ensures success. Any consideration for the Partisans is a crime against the German people."

Do you remember that order?

A. Yes.

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