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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
4th April to 15th April, 1946

One Hundred and Second Day: Monday, 8th April, 1946
(Part 2 of 11)

[SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE continues his cross examination of Wilhelm Bodewin Johann Gustav Keitel]

[Page 96]

Q. Well, what General Westhoff says is:
"Contrary to Field Marshal Keitel's order, I pretended that I hadn't understood properly. I worked the thing out on paper. I said to Oberstleutnant

[Page 97]

Kraft, 'I want to have the word "shoot" included so that Keitel can see it in writing. He may adopt a different attitude then.'
Now, this is a bit later:
"When I got the thing back, he had written the following in the margin: 'I didn't definitely say "shoot," I said "hand over to the police and hand over to the Gestapo."'"
Then adds General Westhoff:
"So, that was a partial climb down."
Now, did you put a note on it:
"I didn't definitely say 'shoot,' I said 'hand them over to the police and hand them over to the Gestapo.'"
Did you? A. I remember the exact wording of the note as little as General Westhoff. But I did make a notation in the margin to the effect: "I did not say 'shoot'..."

Q. You see the point that I'm putting to you, defendant? I want you to have it perfectly clear. Rightly or wrongly, General Westhoff believed that you had inserted the word "shoot" and General Westhoff, to protect himself, put it back to you, and then you say, "I didn't definitely say 'shoot,' I said 'Hand over to the S.D. or the Gestapo.'"

A. No, I did not say "shoot" either but Colonel Williams said I had written in the margin "I did not say 'shoot.'" That is on record in the minutes of my interrogation.

Q. Well, now, what I want to know, and it's perfectly clear, is, do you deny that that in substance represents what you put in the document: "I didn't definitely say 'shoot'; I said, 'Hand over to the police or hand over to the Gestapo'"? Did you put words to that effect on the document?

A. It is probable that I wrote something similar to that for I wanted to make clear what I had said to those two officers. What I said was nothing new, but it was a clarification of what I had said.

Q. Now, the next point that I want to direct your attention to:

Had you an officer on your staff called Oberst von Reuermund, on your P.W. staff, Kriegsgefangenenwesen?

A. No, he was never on my staff.

Q. What was his position in the O.K.W.?

A. I believe there was a Colonel Raymond. He was a department chief, and had nothing to do with the Prisoner of War Organisation. He was department chief in the General Wehrmacht Office.

Q. In your office?

A. In the office, in the General Wehrmacht Office under General Reinecke, yes.

Q. Do you know that on 26th March, that is on a Monday, there was a meeting at which Colonel von Reuermund took the chair, attended by Gruppenfuehrer Muller from the Gestapo, Gruppenfuehrer Nebe, and Colonel Wilde from the Air Ministry, and by their P.W. inspector of Defence District 17. Do you know that?

A. No, I never heard anything about it. It has remained entirely unknown to me.

Q. Are you telling the Tribunal that you had this colonel in your office, a colonel from the Air Ministry, two extremely important officials from the police, and they have a meeting to discuss this matter two days after you had your first meeting, one day after you had seen von Graevnitz and Westhoff, and you didn't know a word about it?

A. No, I knew nothing about this meeting. I cannot remember.

[Page 98]

Q. Now, most of us are very familiar with the working of service departments. I do ask you in fairness to yourself to consider this. Are you telling this Tribunal that no report was ever made to you of that joint meeting between the representative of the High Command, high police officials and the Air Ministry, and it never came up to you? Now, really think before you answer.

A. I cannot remember even with the best of my will. I was surprised by the communication about this conference, and I can remember nothing about it.

Q. Do you know that - I put it in Colonel Felder's statement when I was cross-examining the defendant Goering - he said that at that conference it was announced that these officers were to be shot and that many of them had been shot? Did no report come to you that these officers were being shot and were to be shot?

A. No, not on the 26th. It was discussed a while ago, when I received the first report. I knew nothing about it, on that day, nor even on the day following the conference.

Q. You agreed, though, that you got to learn, as I understand you, that they being shot on the 29th; that would be a Thursday?

A. I can no longer say what day, but I do remember that it was later. I believe several days later.

Q. Well, let us, defendant, make every point in your favour. Let's take it that it was, say Saturday the 31st, or even Monday, 2nd April. By Monday, 2nd April, that's nine days after the escape, you knew then that these officers were being shot?

A. I heard about it during these days, perhaps around the 31st, through the Fuehrer's adjutant when I again came to the Berghof for a situation briefing. I was not told though that all of these officers had been shot, but that some of them had been shot while attempting to flee. I was told that a little before the beginning of the conference.

Q. They weren't all shot until 13th April, which was nearly another fortnight. Were you told of the episode when they got out of the cars to relieve themselves and then were shot in the back of the head by someone with a revolver? Were you told of that?

A. No, I found out only through the adjutants that a report had been given to the Fuehrer that shootings had followed the escape.

Q. Now, I want you to come to one other point, later on: you remember that my colleague, Mr. Eden, on behalf of the British Government, made a statement in the House of Commons later on, toward the end of June. Remember that?

A. Yes. I recall that.

Q. And is it correct, as General Westhoff said, that you had told your officers not to make contact with either the Foreign Office or the Gestapo, to leave this matter alone and not try and find out anything about it, is that right?

A. I told you that since the Wehrmacht was not concerned with the means of searching for and catching the escapees nor concerned with what happened afterwards, the Prisoner of War Organisation could not give any information on this subject as it did not deal with the matter itself and did not know what had really happened. That is what I said.

Q. Then the answer is, yes, that you did tell your office to leave the matter alone and not to get in touch with the Foreign Office or the police?

A. No, that is not quite right. The chief of the Exterior Office was connected with the Foreign Office. I only instructed that the officers should not give any information about this case or any matters connected with it, since they had not participated and knew only from hearsay what had happened.

Q. I should have thought that my previous question - you just repeated the effect of my previous question. I won't argue with you. I will come to the next point. You had an officer on your staff named Admiral Burckner, didn't you?

A. Yes, he was chief of the Exterior Office.

Q. He was liaison between your office and the Foreign Office?

[Page 99]

A. Yes.

Q. Now, did you give him orders to prepare an answer to England, an answer to Mr. Eden's statement?

A. It is possible that I told him that, even though he could not have any particulars from the Wehrmacht.

Q. I don't want to read the reply again, I read it a day or two ago. But eventually the reply was drawn up, I think by the Foreign Office in conjunction with Oberstleutnant Kraft of your office, wasn't it?

A. No, at that time I gave instructions that the answer ...

Q. Don't you remember Kraft ...

A. ... was to be dealt with by the R.S.H.A. but not by the prisoner-of-war department. I did not give any instructions to Lieutenant-Colonel Kraft.

Q. But didn't he go to Berchtesgaden to assist the representative of the Foreign Office and Hitler in drawing up a reply?

A. I do not know. I did not speak with him nor did I see him.

Q. You know that when they saw the reply, according to General Westhoff, all your officers touched their heads and said, "Mad." You have seen that statement, haven't you, "When we read this note to England in the newspaper we were all absolutely taken aback; we all clutched our heads - 'Mad' - we could do nothing about the affair." All your officers and you yourself knew the reply was an utter and confounded lie. Wasn't it a complete and utter lie? You all knew it.

A. They all knew it. I too learned of the reply and it was clear to me that it was not based on the truth.

Q. So that it comes to this, defendant, doesn't it: That you will go as far as this: You were present at the meeting with Hitler and Himmler. That is what you say. At that meeting Hitler said that the prisoners who were caught by the police were to remain in the hands of the police. You had a strong belief that these prisoners would be shot and with that you used this incident as a deterrent to try and prevent other prisoners of war escaping. All that you admit, as I understand your answers this morning, don't you?

Q. Yes, I do admit that, but I have not been interrogated on this matter as to just what my position was with Hitler, and I have not testified as to that, and that I did not give this warning, but that this warning was on the instruction of Hitler and was the major cause for a severe collision between Hitler and myself when the first report of shootings reached me. That is how it was.

Q. I won't go through the details again. One other point: When did you learn of the use of cremation and the sending of cremation urns to this camp?

A. This remained unknown to me and I do not recall ever having heard of it. The matter was afterwards purely a concern of the Luftwaffe, in which I was later involved through being present. I do not know whether I ever heard or saw anything about this.

Q. But you will agree with me, defendant, that anyone in the world who has had to deal with prisoner-of-war problems would be horrified at the thought of bodies of shot officers being cremated; it is simply asking for trouble, isn't it, from the Protecting Powers and everyone else, to put it at its lowest? You will agree with that. I am sure you have had a good deal more to do with prisoners of war than I. Don't you agree it would horrify anyone who has to deal with prisoners of war that bodies should be cremated, that the Protecting Powers at once would become suspicious?

A. I am entirely of the same opinion, that it is horrible.

Q. And if any service finds that its camps are receiving fifty urns of ashes of cremated bodies of escaped prisoners of war, that would be a most serious matter which would be notified to the highest ranks of any service, isn't that so?

A. Yes, even though I had nothing to do with the prisoner-of- war camps of the Luftwaffe apart from having inspectional powers.

Q. I won't ask you further about the Luftwaffe. Now I think we can deal

[Page 100]

quite shortly with the question of the lynching of Allied airmen (handing a sheaf of documents to witness, and also to the Tribunal).

Now, defendant, I would like to remind you that there was a report of a conference on 6th June - Document 735-PS - which has been put in against the defendant Ribbentrop. It is a report of General Warlimont, Exhibit GB 151, with regard to the criteria to be adopted for deciding what were terror flyers. You must remember the document, because you yourself dealt on Friday with the note ...

A. Yes.

Q. ... against legal procedure, which you already dealt with.

A. Yes.

Q. Now, you said during your evidence - you remember you told us why you didn't want legal procedure, because it was a difficult problem for courts-martial to decide and also it meant a three months' delay in reporting the death sentence to the Protecting Powers.

A. Yes, I did make those statements.

Q. And then you said that you had a discussion with Goering, who said that lynching should be turned down. Do you remember saying that on Friday?

A. Yes.

Q. Now, that wasn't accurate, was it? Because I want to show you just what did happen. That document which you annotated was 6th June. And on 14th June ...

A. Yes.

Q. ... it is Document D-774, which will be Exhibit GB 307, initialled Warlimont. Your office sent a draft letter to the Foreign Office for the attention of Ritter sending on this decision of what were terror flyers. And if you look it over it says that it is necessary to formulate unambiguously the concept of the facts which are to constitute a criminal act. And then the draft letter Document D-775, Exhibit GB 308 to the Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force, for the attention of Colonel von Brauchitsch, which says that "on the basis of the preliminary talks and in agreement with the Reich Foreign Secretary and the head of the Security Police and S.D., the defendant Kaltenbrunner, the following facts are to be considered terroristic acts, which are to be taken, into consideration when publishing a lynch-law, or justify the handing of airmen from the Air Force reception camp of Oberursel to the S.D. for special treatment."

And then you set out what was agreed and you say, "Please obtain the consent of the Reich Marshal to this formulation of the facts if necessary and give the command of the Air Force reception camp of Oberursel verbal instructions to act accordingly. It is further requested that you obtain the Reich Marshal's consent also to the procedure intended for the handling of public announcements." And then if you look at Document D-776, Exhibit GB 309, that is a letter from you to the Foreign Office - a draft letter - for the attention of Ritter, dated 15th June, to the same effect. You ask him to confirm by the 18th. And then Document C-777, Exhibit GB 310, is a similar draft letter to Goering, marked for the attention of Colonel von Brauchitsch, and asking him to reply by the 18th. Then Document D-778, Exhibit GB 311, records a telephone call from Ritter saying that the Foreign Office will have to delay a couple of days in giving their view. D-779, GB 312, gives the first note from the defendant Goering.

It says on 19th June: "The Reich Marshal has made the following note with regard to the above letter: The population's reaction is, in any case, not in our hands, but, if possible, the population must be prevented from acting against other enemy flyers." I ask you to note the word "other" - that is, enemy flyers that do not come within the category of enemy terror flyers - "to other enemy flyers to whom the above state of affairs does not apply. In my opinion, even in the latter case flyers can also" - and I ask you to note the word "also" - "at any time be tried by a court, as it is here a question of murders which the enemy has forbidden them to commit."

[Page 101]

Then, in D-780, GB 313, there is another copy of the memorandum from the Foreign Office which I read in some detail when I was presenting the case against the defendant Ribbentrop, and it is interspersed with comments of your Officer General Warlimont, in general agreement with the memorandum. I do not want to go through that again.

Then, in D-781, GB 314, your office wanted to get quite clear what the defendant Goering meant, so you wrote to him again for the attention of von Brauchitsch:

"It is unfortunately not possible to gather from your letter whether the Reich Marshal has concurred with the facts communicated to him, which in the publication of a case of lynch-law are to be regarded as terroristic actions, and whether he is prepared to give the Commandant of the Air Force Reception Camp of Oberursel the verbal instructions to this effect. It is again requested that the Reich Marshal be induced to give his consent and that this office be notified, if possible, by the 27th."
Then, just passing along, D-782, GB 315, it says that the Foreign Minister will reply in a day or two, and in D-783 of the 26th - that will be Exhibit GB 316 - comes the answer, a telephone memorandum, a telephone call from Adjutant's Office of the Reich Marshal, Captain Braeuner:
"The Reich Marshal agrees with the formulation of the concept of terror flyers as stated and with the proposed procedure. He asks for information this very day about measures to be taken."
So it is not right, is it, defendant, that defendant Goering disagreed with the procedure? Here is a call from his adjutant's office - and it is noted by your office - saying that he agrees with the formulation of the concept and with the proposed procedure. This must be right, must it not?

A. Yes, I had never seen this document, but I understand by the applied measures confinement in the Oberursel camp for Air-Force prisoners of war - not lynching. Perhaps I may add something about the discussion I had with the Reich Marshal ...

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