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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
23rd March to 3rd April, 1946

Ninety-Second Day: Wednesday, 27th March, 1946
(Part 2 of 10)

[COLONEL PHILLIMORE continues his cross examination of ADOLF VON STEENGRACHT]

[Page 91]

Q. You are not answering the question. I asked you if the Minister Abetz had not those duties.

A. He did not have the assignment of confiscating any French property or carrying out any action against the Jews. No orders of that kind went through my hands during my time and he could...

COLONEL PHILLIMORE: Will you look at Document 3614-PS.

My Lord, that was put in as Exhibit RF 1061 on the 4th of February.

(Witness handed document.)


Q. It is a letter dated the 3rd of August, 1940, signed by Ribbentrop, to the Chief of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces (OKW). It reads:

"The Fuehrer has appointed the former Minister Abetz Ambassador and, after my report, has decreed as follows:

"1. Ambassador Abetz has the following tasks in France:-"

Then it sets out a number of tasks, and numbers (6) and (7), which I put to the witness, read as follows:
(6) "Advising the Secret Field Police and the Secret State Police in connection with the impounding of politically important documents.

(7) Securing and seizure of public property; further of private and, above all, Jewish artistic property on the basis of instructions specially given for the matter."

Then the concluding paragraphs:
"II. The Fuehrer has hereby expressly ordered that Ambassador Abetz is exclusively responsible for the handling of all political questions in occupied and unoccupied France. In so far as his functions should touch military interests, Ambassador Abetz will act only in agreement with the Military Commander in France.

III. Ambassador Abetz is attached to the Military Commander in France as his Commissioner. His seat remains Paris as heretofore. He receives instructions for carrying out his tasks from me and is responsible exclusively to me on these matters.

(Signed) Ribbentrop".

I want to ask you one or two questions about the Jews.

You have told us that you and the defendant Ribbentrop -

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Phillimore, the Tribunal would like to know why this witness told them that Ambassador Abetz did not have the task of confiscating property.


Q. Why did you say that?

A. Ambassador Abetz had no executive powers and he was expressly forbidden to intervene in French internal affairs. He could, therefore, address himself exclusively to the French Government, and if the French Government did anything by means of its executive power, then that is a transaction on the part of the French Government but never a confiscation carried out by Abetz.


Q. That is not an answer to the question. The question is why, when you were asked whether Abetz had the task of advising the Secret Field Police and the Secret State Police on the impounding of politically important documents, did you say "no"?

A. I said that no order went through my hands, since I did not become State Secretary until May, 1943. This is an order of 3rd August, 1940. But here we are concerned only with a directive addressed to Ambassador Abetz.

Q. At this time you were Ribbentrop's personal adjutant, were you not?

A. I was adjutant, but not political secretary. I was only -

[Page 92]

Q. You were adjutant?

A. I was adjutant, that is to say I was concerned with technical matters. At that time I never presented a political report to him. But I should add, if I may, this document concerns a directive to Ambassador Abetz, and this directive was completely outdated by actual conditions. Because advising the Secret Field Police -

Q. How do you know that, if you were only personal adjutant and not acting in political matters?

A. Ambassador Abetz was ambassador until May, 1945. Therefore, from 1943 to 1945 I continuously corresponded with him, and during that time Ambassador Abetz continually fought against the measures which were carried out by the Secret State Police. It was a bitter struggle and he was personally threatened on many occasions. One can talk about advice but whether people heeded him - he had no powers - that is quite another question.

Q. Does it come to this, that your answer about occupied territories only applies after 1943?

A. From my own experience, I can only speak about the period after 1943.

Q. Now, I want to turn to the question of Jews. You have told us that you and Ribbentrop, by adopting a policy of delay, prevented the holding of the Anti-Jewish Congress in 1944, is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. And that you were against the policy of persecution of the Jews?

A. Yes.

Q. And so was the defendant Ribbentrop?

A. Yes.

Q. I want you to look at Document 3319-PS.

(Witness handed the document.)

COLONEL PHILLIMORE: My Lord, this is a new document. It will be Exhibit GB 287.


Q. Now you have got a photostat there. Will you look at Page 4 of the German translation - that is the first page of the English translation.

Now, that is a letter dated the 28th of April, 1944, on the subject of anti-Jewish action in foreign countries. It is marked at the bottom of Page 4.

A. I have not found it.

Q. Will you look at Page 4, marked in a black square at the bottom of the page. You see a letter dated the 28th of April, 1944, "Subject: Anti-Jewish action in foreign countries," and it is addressed to practically every German legation and mission abroad.

A. Yes.

Q. Turn to Page 10. You will see that it purports to be signed by you; is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. You remember the letter? I will read you the first paragraph to refresh your memory.

"The Reich Foreign Minister - "
A. Yes.

Q. "... has ordered the creation of Information Department XIV (Anti-Jewish Action Abroad) under the leadership of Envoy I. K. Schleier, whose task it is to deepen and strengthen the anti-Jewish information service abroad by the incorporation of all experts of the departments and working units of the Foreign Office who have an interest and take part in the anti-Jewish information service abroad, in close co-operation with all offices outside the Foreign Office which are engaged in anti-Jewish work, and with the German missions in Europe."

[Page 93]

Then you set out the co-workers, number of departments of the Foreign Office, and then one permanent representative of the Reich Main Security Office, that is Himmler's office, is it not?

A. Yes.

Q. And one representative of the office of Reichsleiter Rosenberg. That department just up above "Inland II," that is the Foreign Office which had liaison with the S.S., is it not?

A. Yes.

Q. At that time the chief was a man called Wagner, and the assistant chief von Tadl?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you still say that you were against the policy of persecution of the Jews?

A. Yes, I still maintain that. I also say, as I have already said during earlier interrogations, that even the holding of an anti-Jewish congress would not, in effect, have been directed against the Jews because everything that was happening in Germany was taking place under the seal of secrecy and no one was informed in any way. The Jews disappeared. But if there had been an international congress, one would have been forced in the first place to bring up the question: where are these Jews? What is actually happening to these Jews?

Q. Is the point this, that you wanted to put off an anti- Jewish congress because that would be known to the world, but you were quite prepared to set up an organisation in the Foreign Office?

A. We must separate two completely different problems here. The one problem is this: There were officers in Germany which conducted and carried out anti-Jewish measures. These organisations also reached abroad and there, without the knowledge and without the participation of the Foreign Office, did away with the people in foreign countries. Consequently, an improvement and a policy guided to some extent through normal channels could only exist if some German department had really assumed responsibility for these things at that time. For we did not hear of these matters, we always heard the complaints which we received from foreign mission heads, about events which had already taken place. But we had no means of control. If I applied to the inner German offices ...

Q. Was this set up to control the anti-Jewish policy, this department?

A. Apparently we are discussing two different matters here today. The anti-Jewish congress had been ordered. The fact that Rosenberg's office was holding an anti-Jewish congress -

THE PRESIDENT: You are not answering the question. The question was: Was this organisation, referred to in this letter, set up to control the organisation of anti-Jewish work abroad? That is the question. Can you not answer that "yes" or "no"?

A. The Foreign Office could not exercise general control since all anti-Jewish questions were principally dealt with in Rosenberg's office.

Q. Well then, what was the purpose of this organisation of the Foreign Office?

A. By Hitler's order we had to draw together all German departments and form an archive in order to collect all the material there, and we attached importance -

Q. And this was ordered by Ribbentrop, was it not?

A. Yes.

Q. As set out in your letter?

A. Yes. And we thought it important to get an idea, in this way, of what was actually happening to the Jews, etc., and therefore we drew in people from all offices.

Q. I will show you in a minute what was actually happening and out of your own files, but I just want to put this to you:

The point of your putting off the anti-Jewish congress was simply because you

[Page 94]

did not want the world to know. You had not the slightest objection to setting up an anti-Jewish Organisation in Germany?

Now, will you look at Page 32 of the German text?

COLONEL PHILLIMORE: My Lord, that is on Page 23 of the English text.


Q. You will see there a letter from Rosenberg's office to the Foreign Office, signed by Braeutigam, Page 32 of the German text. It is marked at the bottom of the page.

Braeutigam was your liaison officer with Rosenberg, was he not, witness? Was Braeutigam your liaison officer in Rosenberg's office?

A. No. Braeutigam was, I think, in the Foreign Office in 1941.

Q. And in 1942?

A. Yes, but in 1941, since he had previously been working on Eastern problems in the Foreign Office, he had been transferred and was now in the Rosenberg offices.

Q. Very well. And you will see there that he is referring to a conference with Obersturmbannfuehrer Eichmann, that is the chief of the Jewish section of the Gestapo, and a Dr. Wetzel, and he sends you a copy of an agreement made at Tighina in Roumania, on the 30th of August, 1941, with the request for acknowledgement.

A. Mr. Prosecutor, there could be an error here. This letter is dated 11th March, 1942. I became State Secretary in May, 1943. I therefore know nothing about this matter. I should like to remark -

Q. You just listen and wait until you are asked a question. We shall get on faster if you just listen to the letter.

Braeutigam writes:

"I point out especially No. 7 of the agreements. I have already taken a position in my letter of 5 Mar. 1942."
Now, that enclosed an agreement made between the German and Roumanian General Staff, and, if you will look at paragraph 7, on Page 38 of the German, Page 27 of the English translation, this was the agreement they made:
"Deportation of Jews from, Transnistria. Deportation of Jews across the Bug is not possible at present. They must, therefore, be collected in concentration camps and set to work until a deportation to the East is possible after the end of operations."
And then there is a note on the file on the next page of the German, still on Page 27 of the English:
"According to information from Director-General Lecca, today, 110,000 Jews are being evacuated from Bukovina and Bessarabia into two forests in the Bug River Area. As far as he could learn, this action is based upon an order issued by Marshal Antonescu. Purpose of the action is the liquidation of these Jews."
Now, do you doubt that that agreement, enclosed with that letter sent to the Foreign Office, would have reached the defendant Ribbentrop?

A. Well. I see this document and this agreement for the first time today. Nothing of this entire affair -

Q. Yes. Would you answer the question? Do you doubt that that letter and that agreement enclosed with it would have been shown to the defendant Ribbentrop?

A. At that time there was an Undersecretary of State, Luthers, in the Foreign Office, who acted extremely independently, and I fought a bitter battle against him although I was not called upon to do it, because he wanted to introduce National Socialist methods. Whether he submitted this matter to Ribbentrop or not I cannot decide.

[Page 95]

Q. Very well. We come to a time when you were the Secretary of State. Would you look at Page 31 of the German text, Page 20 of the English?

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