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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
5th April to 15th April, 1946

One Hundredth Day: Friday, 5th April, 1946
(Part 1 of 9)

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Q. The last question I asked you yesterday concerned the channel through which orders were transmitted in the Prisoner of War Organisation, the K.G.W. You said that orders went from the camp commander or commandant to the army district commander and then through the commander of the reserve army to the O.K.H. - the High Command of the Armed Forces. I should now like you to tell me who was responsible if something happened in a P.W. camp which violated the Geneva Convention or was a breach of generally recognised International Law. How did that affect you? Was the O.K.W. responsible?

A. The O.K.W. was responsible in the case of incidents which violated general orders, that is basic instructions by O.K.W., or in the case of failure to exercise the right to inspect. In such circumstances I would say that the O.K.W. was responsible.

Q. How did the O.K.W. exercise its right to inspect camps?

A. At first, in the early days of the war, through an inspector of the Prisoner of War Organisation, the K.G.W., who was at the same time the sectional or departmental chief of the department K.G.W. in the General Department of the Armed Forces. In other words, he exercised a double function. Later on - I think after 1942 - it was done by appointing an inspector general who had nothing to do with the correspondence or official work on the ministerial side.

Q. What was the situation regarding inspection by the protecting powers and the International Red Cross?

A. If a protecting power wished to send a delegation to inspect camps, that was arranged by the department or the inspector for the Prisoner of War Organisation; and he accompanied the delegation. Perhaps I ought to say that as far as the French were concerned, Ambassador Scarpini carried out that function personally, and that a protecting power did not exist in this form.

Q. Could the representatives of the protecting powers and the Red Cross talk freely to the prisoners of war or only in the presence of officers of the German Armed Forces?A. I do not know whether the procedure adopted in camps was always in accordance with the basic instructions which were to render possible a direct exchange of views between prisoners of war and visitors from their own countries. As a general rule, it was allowed and made possible.

Q. Did you as the chief of the O.K.W. concern yourself personally with the general instructions regarding prisoners of war?

A. Yes. I did concern myself with the general instructions. On the other hand, my being tied to the Fuehrer and to headquarters naturally made it impossible for me to be in continuous contact with my offices. There were, however, the K.G.W. branch office and the inspector, as well as the Chief of the General Armed Forces Department, who was in any case responsible to me and dealt with these matters. These three departments had to deal with the routine work, while

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I myself was called on when decisions had to be made, and when the Fuehrer interfered in person, as he frequently did, and gave orders of his own.

Q. According to the documents presented here in Court, Soviet prisoners of war seem to have received different treatment to the other prisoners. What can you say on that subject?

A. It is true that in this connection there was a difference in treatment, due to the view frequently stated by the Fuehrer that the Soviet Union on their part had not observed or ratified the Geneva Convention. It was also due to the part played by "philosophical conceptions regarding the conduct of the war." The Fuehrer emphasised that we had a free hand in this field.

Q. I am now going to show you Document IC-388, Exhibit USSR 356. It is dated 15th September, 1941.

Part 1 is a report by the Intelligence Department of the O.K.W.

Part 2 is a directive from the O.K.W., dated 8th September, 1941, regarding the treatment of Soviet prisoners of war.

Part 3 is a memorandum on the guarding of Soviet prisoners of war, and the last document is a copy of the Decree by the Council of People's Commissars regarding the Prisoner of War Organisation, dated 1st July, 1941.

A. Perhaps I can say by way of introduction that these directives were not issued until September. This can be attributed to the fact that at first an order by Hitler existed, saying that Soviet prisoners of war were not to be brought back to Reich territory. This order was later on rescinded.

Now, regarding the directive of 8th September, 1941, the full text of which I have before me:

I should like to say that all these instructions have their origin in the idea that this was a battle of nationalities. For the initial phrase reads: "Bolshevism is the deadly enemy of National Socialist Germany."

That, in my opinion, immediately shows the basis on which these instructions were made and the motives and ideas from which they sprang. It is a fact that Hitler, as I explained yesterday, did not consider this a formal battle between two States, to be waged in accordance with the rules of International Law, but a conflict between two philosophies. There are also several statements in the document regarding selection from two points of view, selection of those who seem - if I may express it in this way - not dangerous to us and the selection of those who, on account of their political activities and their fanaticism, had to be isolated as representing a particularly dangerous threat to National Socialism.

Turning to the introductory letter, I may say that it has already been presented here by the Prosecutor of the Soviet Union. It is a letter from the Chief of the Intelligence Department, Admiral Canaris, referring to the general order which I have just mentioned and adding a series of remarks in which he formulates and emphasises his doubts about the directive and his objections to it. The memorandum is attached. I need not say any more about that - it is an extract - and also the orders which the Soviet Union issued in its turn - I think on 1st July - for the treatment of prisoners of war. These are directives for the treatment of German prisoners of war. I received this on 15th September, whereas the other order had been issued about a week earlier; and after studying this report from Canaris, I must admit I shared his objections. Consequently, I took all the papers to Hitler and asked him to cancel it and to make a further statement on the subject. The Fuehrer said that we could not expect that German prisoners of war would be treated according to the Geneva Convention or International Law, that we had no way of investigating the matter and that he saw no reason to alter the directives he had issued on that account. He refused point blank, so I returned the file with my marginal notes to Admiral Canaris. The order remained in force.

Q. What was the actual treatment accorded to Soviet prisoners of war? Did it follow the instructions issued or was it handled differently in practice?

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A. According to my own personal observations and the reports which have been put before me, the practice was, if I may say so, better and more favourable than the very severe instructions first issued, when it had been agreed that the prisoners of war were to be transported to Germany. At any rate, I have seen numerous reports stating that, with regard to labour conditions - particularly in agriculture and war economy such as railways, road construction and so on, conditions in practice were considerably better than might have been expected, considering the severe terms of the instructions.

DR. NELTE: Mr. President, may I on this occasion refer to Document 6 in the document book?

THE PRESIDENT: Which document book?

DR. NELTE: Document 6, in Document Book No. 1, 6: "Conditions of employment for workers from the. East, as well as Soviet prisoners of war." In this document book I have quoted only those passages which concern the conditions of employment for Soviet prisoners of war. I am submitting this book in evidence as Exhibit K 6, and beg the Tribunal to admit it in evidence without my having to read from it. These instructions refer expressly to the points which indicate that at a later period Soviet prisoners of war were to be treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention, as laid down by the O.K.H., the authors of the decree.

May I continue?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, very well. You do not wish to read from it?

DR. NELTE: No, I do not want to.


Q. Please, will you explain to me just what relations existed between the police or Himmler respectively on one side and the Prisoners of War Organisation, the K.G.W., on the other side?

A. May I say first of all that there was constant friction between Himmler and the executive police departments and the departments of the Armed Forces who worked in this sphere, and that this friction never stopped. It was apparent right from the first that Himmler at least desired to have the lead in his own hands and he never ceased trying to obtain influence of one kind or another over the Prisoner of War Organisation. The natural circumstances of escapes, recapture by police, searches and inquiries, the complaints about insufficient guarding of prisoners, the insufficient security measures in the camps, the lack of guards and their inefficiency, all these things suited him and he exploited them in talks with Hitler, when he continually accused the Wehrmacht behind its back, if I may use the expression, of every possible shortcoming and failure to carry out its duty. As a result of this, Hitler was continually intervening, and in most cases I did not know the reason. He took up the charges and intervened constantly in affairs, so that the Wehrmacht departments were kept in what I might term a state of perpetual unrest. In this connection, since I could not investigate matters myself, I was forced to give instructions to my departments in the O.K.W.

Q. What was the underlying cause and the real purpose which Himmler attempted to achieve?

A. He wanted not only to gain influence but also, as far as possible, to have the Prisoner of War Organisation under himself as Police Chief of Germany, so that he would reign supreme in these matters.

Q. Did not the question of procuring labour enter into it?

A. Later on that did become apparent, yes. I think I shall have to refer to that later but I can say now that one observation at least was made which could not be misinterpreted: the searches and inquiries made at certain intervals in Germany for escaped persons made it clear that the majority of these prisoners of war did not go back to the camps from which they had escaped, so that obviously they had been retained by police departments and probably used for labour under the jurisdiction of Himmler. Naturally, the number of escapes increased every

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year and became more and more extensive. For that, of course, there are quite plausible reasons.

Q. The Prisoner of War Organisation, of course, is pretty closely connected with the labour problem. Which department was responsible for the employment of prisoners of war?

A. The departments which dealt with this were the County Labour Offices in the so-called Reich Labour Administration Service, which had originally been in the hands of the Labour Minister and were later on transferred to the Plenipotentiary for Labour.

In practice it worked like this. The County Labour Offices applied for workers to the Army District Commanders who had jurisdiction over the camps. These workers were supplied as far as was possible under the existing general directives.

Q. What did the O.K.W. have to do with the allocation of labour?

A. In general, of course, they had to supervise it, so that employment was regulated according to the general basic orders issued. It was not possible, of course, even for the inspector to check up on how each individual was employed; after all, the Army District Commanders and their Generals for the K.G.W. were responsible for that task and were the appropriate persons.

The actual fight - as I might call it - for prisoner- of-war labour did not really start until 1942. Until then, such workers had been employed mainly in agriculture and the German railway system and a number of general institutions; but not in industry. This applies especially to Soviet prisoners of war who were, in the main, agricultural workers.

Q. What was the actual cause for these labour requirements?

A. During the winter of 1941-2 the problem of replacing soldiers who had dropped out, particularly in the Eastern theatre of war, arose. Considerable numbers of soldiers fit for active service were needed for the front and the armed services. I remember the figures. The Army alone needed replacements numbering two to two and a half million men every year. Assuming that about one million of these would come from normal recruiting and about half a million from rehabilitated men, that is, from sick and wounded men who had recovered, that still left one million to be replaced every year. These could be withdrawn from the war economy and placed at the disposal of the services, the Armed Forces. That fact explains the rapid rotation in which these men were called up from the war economy and replaced by new workers, who had to be taken from the prisoners of war on the one hand, and through Plenipotentiary Sauckel, whose task it was to find them, on the other hand. This rotation of workers affected me too, since I was responsible for the replacements for all the Armed Forces, Army, Navy and Air Force, in other words for the recruiting system. That is why I was present at discussions between Sauckel and the Fuehrer regarding replacements and how these replacements were to be found.

Q. What can you tell me about the employment of these prisoners of war in the armament industry?

A. Up to 1942 or thereabouts we had not used prisoners of war in any industry even indirectly connected with armaments. This was due to orders expressly issued by Hitler, although I must admit that the reason he gave was that he feared attempts at sabotaging machines, production equipment, etc. He regarded developments of that kind as probable and dangerous. Not until necessity compelled us to use every worker in some capacity in the home factories did we abandon this principle. It was no longer discussed; prisoners of war came to be used after that in the general war production. My view, which I expressed in my general orders, i.e. the O.K.W. orders, was that their use in armament factories was forbidden, in other words, that it was not permissible to employ prisoners of war in factories which were definitely making armaments, by which I mean war equipment, weapons and munitions.

To complete the story, perhaps I should add that an order issued by the Fuehrer

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at a later date decreed a further relaxation of the existing orders. I think the prosecution stated that Minister Speer is supposed to have spoken of some thousands of prisoners of war employed in the war economy. I may say, however, that many jobs had to be done in the armament industry which had nothing to do with the actual production of arms and ammunition.

Q. The prosecution has frequently stated that prisoners of war were detained by the police and even placed in concentration camps. Can you explain that?

A. I think the explanation of that is that the selection process already mentioned took place in the camps. Furthermore there are documents to show that prisoners of war in whose case the disciplinary powers of the commandant were not sufficient, were separated and handed over to the Secret State Police. Finally, I have already mentioned the subject of prisoners who escaped and were recaptured, a considerable number of whom - if not the majority - did not return to their camps. Instructions on the part of the O.K.W. or the Chief of the Prisoner of War Organisation, ordering the surrender of these prisoners to concentration camps, are not known to me and have never been issued. But the fact that when they were handed over to the police they frequently did end up in the concentration camps has been made known here in various ways, through documents and witnesses. That is my explanation.

Q. The French Prosecution has presented a document, which bears the number 1650-PS. This is an order, or, rather, an alleged order from the O.K.W. ordering that escaped prisoners of war who are not employed are to be surrendered to the Security Service. After what you have just told us, you will have to give an explanation of that. I am showing you in addition Document 1514-PS, an order from the Armed Forces, Regional District No. 6, from which you will be able to see the procedure adopted by the O.K.W. in connection with the surrender of prisoners of war to the Secret State Police.

A. First of all, I want to discuss Document 1650-PS. To begin with I have to state that I did not know of that order, that it was never in my hands, and that so far I have not been able to find out how it came to be issued.Q. Would you not like to say, first of all, that the document as such is not a document of the O.K.W.?

A. I am coming to that.

Q. I think you should start with that in order to clear up the matter.

A. The document appears to be one that was found in a police department. It starts with the words "The O.K.W. has ordered." After that come three numbers, and then it goes on to say, "In this connection I order'" - and that is the Supreme Chief of the R.S.H.A. It is signed by Muller, not Kaltenbrunner. I have most certainly not signed this order - OKW 1-3, and I have not seen it; there is no doubt about that. The fact that technical expressions "Stage 3-b" etc. are used proves that in itself. These are terms used by the police and they are unknown to me. I must say, therefore, that I am not sure how this document was compiled. I cannot explain it. There are assumptions and possibilities, and I should like to mention them briefly because I have given a great deal of thought to the matter. First, I do not believe that any department of the O.K.W., that is the Chief of the Prisoner of War Organisation, or the Chief of the General Armed Forces Department could have issued this order without instructions to do so. I consider that quite impossible, as it was completely contrary to the general tendency. I have no recollection that I ever received any instructions of this kind from Hitler or that I passed any such instruction on to anybody else. Finally, even if this may look like an excuse, there were, of course, other channels which the Fuehrer used, unorthodox channels. And, if I must supply an explanation, such orders could have been sent through an adjutant without my knowledge.

I emphasise that this is a supposition and that it cannot absolve me from blame.

There is only one thing that I would like to say, and that is with reference to the Document 1514- PS. This is a captured order from the Armed Forces

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Regional District No. 6, at Munster, dated 27th July, 1944 - in other words, the summer of 1944, It concerns escaped prisoners of war and how they are to be dealt with. It says "Reference," and then it quotes seven different orders from the year 1942 up to the beginning of July, 1944. This order deals with the question of escaped prisoners of war and ought to have been incorporated in this document, if the Military Service Department of District 6 had had such an O.K.W. order. That fact is remarkable, and it has convinced me that there never was a written order and that the military authorities in question never received such an order. I cannot say more about it since I cannot prove it.

Q. You know that the prosecution has submitted an order, according to which, Soviet prisoners of war were to be marked by means of tattooing so that they could be identified. Would you please make a statement on that?

A. The facts are the following:

During the summer of 1942, the Fuehrer called the Quartermaster General of the Army to Headquarters for a discussion lasting several hours, and at which the Fuehrer asked him to report on conditions in the rear Eastern Army territory. I was suddenly called in and told that the Quartermaster General was saying that thousands of Russian prisoners of war were escaping every month; that they disappeared among the population, immediately discarded their uniforms and procured civilian clothes, and could no longer be identified.

I was ordered to make investigations and to devise some means of identifying them even after they had discarded their clothing. Consequently, I sent instructions to Berlin, saying that such an order should be prepared but that investigations should first be made by the International Law Department of the Foreign Office to find out whether such an order could be given at all; and, secondly, how it could be carried out technically.

I should like to say that we were thinking of tattoo marks of the kind found on many seamen and labourers in Germany. But I heard no more about it. One day I met the Foreign Minister at headquarters and talked to him about the question. The Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop knew about the inquiry made by the Foreign Office and considered the whole thing extremely questionable. That was the first news I had about the subject. I gave immediate instructions, whether personally or through the adjutant I cannot remember, that the order was not to go out. I had neither seen a draft nor had I signed anything. At any rate I definitely stated "The order is in no circumstances to be issued." I received no further detailed information at the time. I heard nothing more about it, and I was convinced that the order had not been published.

When I was interrogated, I made a statement on those lines. I have now been told by my defence counsel that the woman secretary of the Chief of the Prisoner of War Organisation has volunteered to testify that the order was rescinded and was not to be published and, further, that she had received those instructions personally. She said in her statement, however, that this did not happen until several days after the order had actually gone out, and that that was the only possible explanation of how that order came to be found in the Police Department as still valid.

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