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 6 of 11)

[DR. NELTE continues his direct examination of Hans Heinrich Lammers]

[Page 113]

Q. I have another, question. Field Marshal Keitel, as Chief of the High Command, has been accused of having affixed his signature to certain laws, and I am now asking you what was the significance of the fact that the Chief of the O.K.W. affixed his signature to its laws?

A. Since he was exercising the authority of the Minister for War, he was obliged to countersign these laws. He assumed the responsibility, vis-a-vis with the Fuehrer, that the Armed Forces, and everything connected with the former Ministry of War were given proper recognition.

Keitel could only exercise his war ministerial authority by mandate of the Fuehrer, as specified in the decree, and as a result he was obliged to ask the Fuehrer whether he could affix his signature or not. His authority was limited in comparison with that of any other minister who simply affixed his signature as an ordinary minister, whereas Field Marshal Keitel could only exercise his war ministerial authority by mandate of the Fuehrer.

Q. In other words, if I understand you correctly, you want to say that Field Marshal Keitel was not a minister?

A. He was not a minister, as becomes clear from the decree which expressly states that he only had the rank of a minister.

Q. Do you mean, in other words, that if he had been a minister that you would have had to give him full ranking of a minister? But then, he was also a member of the ministerial council for the Reich Government. Didn't that make him a minister?

[Page 114]

A. Nothing was altered in his position in the Reich Government through that membership.

Q. You mean no, don't you?

A. Yes, I mean no.

DR. NELTE: Thank you very much.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn until five minutes past two.

(A recess was taken.)

The witness, Hans Heinrich Lammers, resumed the witness- stand:

THE PRESIDENT: Are there any of the other defendants' counsel who wish to ask questions of this witness?

BY DR. SEIDL (counsel for the defendants Hess and Frank):

Q. Witness, can you recollect what Hitler said in the Cabinet meeting regarding his political aims and the programme of the new Government?

A. Hitler delivered a very long speech, in the course of which the individual ministers also had a chance to speak. One of the details I remember particularly is that the Fuehrer talked first of all about the stopping of unemployment, something which would definitely have to be achieved. Secondly, he spoke about the fact that an economic revival of Germany would have to be arranged. And thirdly, he talked in detail about the fact that a revision of the Versailles Treaty would have to be effected, and that we would have to try to put an end to the defamation of Germany which was contained in the Versailles Treaty, and that one would have to strive to achieve equality of rights for the German Reich within the circle of nations.

All these statements of Hitler were then written down in a special Government declaration. I also recollect that in that Government declaration the protection of positive Christianity was mentioned in particular. I can't recall the essential details. But these, I am convinced, are the main points concerned.

Nothing was discussed which would have required special secrecy; and what was discussed was in the main contained in the Government declaration which was published in the Press.

Q. Did Hitler say anything at all during this Cabinet meeting about the fact that he was going to alter the system of government and that he wanted to govern dictatorially?

A. Herr Hitler expressed his opinion to the effect that the present parliamentary system prevailing up to that time in Germany had been a failure.

THE PRESIDENT: You are speaking about a meeting. What was the date of the meeting you are referring to?

THE WITNESS (to the President): It was the first Cabinet meeting which the defence counsel inquired about. It took place on 30th January, 1933, on the day after the seizure of power. The Fuehrer stated that the present governmental system had been a failure. Furthermore he said that the result of that failure had been that the President of the Reich was obliged, in a state of emergency, according to Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution, to govern by means of emergency decrees, and that the only possibility was to create a stable Reich Government, a Government which would be in power for many years. And further, how one could create such a Government, would be something which would have to be agreed upon first with the Reich President and the Reichstag.


Q. Witness, did Hitler say during this Cabinet meeting that he wanted to concede to the N.S.D.A.P. a specially favoured position of power?

A. He said that the N.S.D.A.P., as the strongest party, would naturally have to have due influence in the German Government. He said nothing to the effect that he wanted to put an end to the other parties that still existed and were still represented in the Cabinet, the German Nationalists and the Stahlhelm Group.

Q. Witness, did Hitler explain his foreign political aims during this first meeting,

[Page 115]

and did he say in particular that Germany would definitely have to be freed from the shackles of the Versailles Treaty and would again have to take the place befitting her in the community of nations?

A. I have answered that question already in the affirmative. Those were the foreign political aims - the complete revision of the Versailles Treaty.

Q. Did Hitler also mention at the time that for the achievement of these foreign political aims one would have to run the risk of another war, possibly even of a preventive war?

A. As far as I know and as far as I remember, no mention was made of war, certainly not of a preventive war or an aggressive war.

Q. Witness, did Hitler in the period following, in Cabinet sessions or during any other meetings of all or numerous ministers, present a comprehensive plan for the achievement of his foreign political aims?

A. No, I knew of no comprehensive plan except the general points I have mentioned. Neither during that meeting nor during later meetings did Hitler elaborate a general plan. In my opinion, he never did discuss and describe in detail any comprehensive plans of a long-term character at all.

Q. Witness, what caused Hitler: (a) to appoint Hess Deputy Fuehrer, and (b) to make him a Reich minister?

A. He appointed Hess Deputy Fuehrer, I believe, because he, as Chancellor of the Reich, no longer wanted to attend to the business of the Party and had to have a responsible man for the technical leadership of the Party.

He appointed Hess Reich minister in order to create a link between Party and State; to have a man in the Cabinet who was in a position to represent the wishes and views of the Party in the Cabinet. Perhaps he was thereby hoping to create a united front between Party and State - something which became a law later on.

Q. Witness, were the leading generals: (a) before and (b) after seizure of power in contact with the Reich Directorate and the Leadership Corps of the Party?

A. Before the seizure of power, as far as I know, contact between the Party and the generals did not exist as such. There could only have been cases of personal contact between individual members of the Party and individual generals.

After the seizure of power I had the opportunity of being present when the Fuehrer, at the beginning of February, 1933, had the high-ranking generals, the Commanders-in-Chief introduced to him, and I had the impression that the Fuehrer did not know most of these men, for they were all introduced to him - I stood nearby - and it was my impression that he had known only a few of these men previously.

After the seizure of power, of course, the relations between the leaders of the Party and the high-ranking generals became closer, since the Party had a strong position in the State. But what I would like to say is that relations, general relations between the Party - that is to say, between the Reich Directorate of the Party and the Leadership Corps of the Party on the one side, and the high- ranking generals and perhaps also the generals with lower rank, on the other side - that these relations never went beyond the purely formal, beyond so-called social relations which were based on duty requirements at chance meetings, on festive occasions and public demonstrations, etc. I feel that the general relations between the Reich Directorate and the Leadership Corps of the Party on the one side and the generals on the other were in no instance any closer than that.

Q. Witness, did the character of these relations change after Hitler became the Head of the State and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces?

A. As far as the high-ranking generals are concerned, I am of the opinion that in principle nothing changed, for the high-ranking generals regarded the Fuehrer not as the leader of the Party but as the head of the State, and they considered him the Supreme Commander of all the Armed Forces. Consequently, they did not believe that they had to establish any particularly close relations with the Party.

[Page 116]

Q. Witness, did joint meetings and conferences take place for the discussion of political aims between the Reich Government, the Reich Directorate of the Party, and the high- ranking generals?

A. Such joint meetings or conferences are out of the question. They never took place. That would also have been impossible because of the large number of people involved.

Q. Witness, were members of the Reich Government, the Reich Directorate of the Party and the high-ranking generals in a position to present their views to Hitler with regard to important questions involving the welfare of the nation, particularly on questions which concerned war or peace?

A. Jointly, these three groups - if I may say so - naturally could not voice an opinion at all, for they had no connection with each other in any way. But neither could any of these groups - the Reich Directorate of the Party, the Reich Government and the generals - voice its opinion, in the first place because they were not informed at all about the Fuehrer's political and economic aims.

Q. What attitude could they take?

A. They were simply taken by surprise by the actual accomplished facts, and any subsequent voicing of an opinion would have meant a "stab in the back" of the Fuehrer's policy.

Q. Witness, then an overall political plan on Hitler's part - in which these most important groups were active participants - did not exist at all, and, therefore, there could be no talk of a conspiracy?

A. I know of no such overall plan, but I can assure you of one thing, that the large majority of ministers never knew anything of any such overall plan. Just how far the Fuehrer informed individual persons of such an overall plan, I do not know. I was not present at such occasions. The Fuehrer may have discussed some sort of plans with one person or another, perhaps with a member of the Party or the Reich Directorate or the generals; but just what was discussed on such occasions I do not know; and, of course, I cannot say whether in such cases these gentlemen agreed or disagreed with the Fuehrer. I also do not know whether shortly before the execution of any large-scale political plans, such as for instance the march into Czechoslovakia, or something like that, they could still advise the Fuehrer as to whether they agreed or were opposed, or whether they merely received an order which they had to execute.

Q. Witness, if I understand you correctly, then you want to say openly that all decisions of any magnitude were made by Hitler alone?

A. The large-scale political decisions were certainly made by him alone, at most with some few persons being consulted and participating but never with the Reich Government participating. If I may go into detail about this ... it was at the time when we left the League of Nations that Hitler for the last time informed the Reich Government before taking an action. Then followed, as a large, important action, the march into the Rhineland.

The Cabinet was informed that we were going to withdraw from the League of Nations; it was informed beforehand.

No one was informed of the march into the Rhineland. The Fuehrer did not inform the Reich Cabinet until after the march had taken place. On the occasions of the march into Austria, the march into the Sudetenland, the march into Prague, the outbreak of the Polish war, the beginning of the other campaigns against Norway, France, Russia and so forth, the Reich Government was informed by the Fuehrer neither beforehand nor subsequently, and consequently there were ill- feelings among the ministers because they were in no instance informed in advance of these large-scale plans, which had certain implications for the non-military departments as well, and because the Reich Government did not learn until later of the accomplished facts.

Thus, to this extent I can say that all these decisions were made by the Fuehrer alone; and to what extent he consulted individual persons I do not know. How-

[Page 117]

ever, on the whole, the large majority of the ministers were not informed of all these actions. They just had general information such as any newspaper reader and any radio listener has; as anyone, I, for instance, has sometimes heard of a matter a few hours before, when it was made known to the Press. There was no questioning of the Fuehrer or any information from him beforehand.

Q. Please tell me now just how it actually came about that the entire governmental power was thus transferred to the Fuehrer?

A. That transfer was accomplished, I might say, by way of gradually developed state customary law.

First of all, the Fuehrer and the Reich Government had been given by the well-known Enabling Act of the Reichstag the power to alter the Constitution. The Reich Government made use of this power in its actual legislation and, of course, use was also made of it by way of passive endurance and by creating state customary law as is actually recognised in all countries. Thus in the course of the first years, and also during the later years, it came about quite naturally by way of customary law that the Fuehrer acted more independently than would actually have been possible according to the Weimar Constitution. From the beginning important political questions were all removed from the jurisdiction of the Cabinet by the Fuehrer.

Even in 1933 and 1934, when Hindenburg was still alive, the Fuehrer did not wish general political questions to be raised in the Cabinet by any minister. I repeatedly had to have various ministers informed that they were to refrain from bringing up questions which did not directly affect their department for discussion in the Cabinet.

For instance, I had to pass on such information to those gentlemen who wanted to discuss church policy. I had been forbidden to put any general political questions on the agenda of a Cabinet meeting. If, in spite of that, a minister raised a political question during a meeting of the Cabinet, then the Fuehrer generally interposed and silenced the minister concerned or referred him to a private discussion. Things developed in this way in the course of time.

After Hindenburg's death, when the Fuehrer became the Head of State such debates in the Cabinet were stopped altogether. Nothing of this sort could be debated any more. The ministers were not allowed to feel that they were political ministers. I had to inform various gentlemen repeatedly, by order of the Fuehrer, that they were to refrain from voicing their opinions in regard to such questions during Cabinet meetings.

Then came the time, which. I have already described, during which the large-scale actions took place and there were no more Cabinet meetings. In this connection the Fuehrer acted alone, and all declarations which were made on behalf of the Reich Government were made by him alone, acting on his own and without previous consultation with the Cabinet. I must admit that the Cabinet very often complained about that but could not prevail against the Fuehrer.

Thus gradually the governmental power - if I interpret "Regierung" according to the conception of "government" laid down in Anglo-Saxon law - changed and then there was after 1936 no longer any complete Reich Government at all consisting of the Reich Chancellor and the Reich Ministers, that is, a collective, unified body. The Fuehrer was the Reich Government, and this power had slipped into his hands and one will naturally say that it should not have slipped into his hands. All I can say to this is that it may have been wrong, it may have been stupid, but it wasn't a crime. It was a political development such as has happened repeatedly in history.

I might recall the fact that in Ancient Rome, where the Senate had the power and that there ...

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