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 8 of 11)

[Page 121]

DR. THOMA (counsel for defendant Rosenberg):

Q. By a decree of 17th July, 1941, the defendant Rosenberg was appointed Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories. Would you please tell the Tribunal very briefly by means of what decrees his authority in the East was limited?

A. I can do that very briefly by repeating what I said before. The same limitations which applied to the Governor General also apply to him, these limitations which I have just listed, but I have to add one thing more to that. The position of Reich Minister Rosenberg was made particularly difficult through the fact that the difference of opinion which existed between him and Minister Goebbels in the field of propaganda was especially detrimental for him. For in the Fuehrer's opinion Rosenberg was to decide on the Eastern policy and Goebbels was to decide

[Page 122]

on the propaganda, and these two things couldn't always be co-ordinated. There were strong differences of opinion between Rosenberg and Goebbels which could be settled only after lengthy negotiations. But the practical result was always slight, because the difference of opinion, which had scarcely been settled, arose again without delay in the next few weeks. There was also another limitation which is different from the case of the Governor General, that is, that Rosenberg had two Reich Commissars for the Occupied Eastern Territories, Reich Commissar Lohse and Reich Commissar Koch.

Q. I am coming to that later.

Can you remember that before the 17th July, 1941, decree there had been a conference with the Fuehrer, on the day before, on 16th July, during which, right from the beginning, Rosenberg complained that his ministry was to have no police powers and that all police powers were to be transferred to Himmler?

A. Herr Rosenberg was, of course, not quite in agreement with the vesting of police powers in Himmler. He did object to that but without success. Police matters in other occupied territories had been ruled upon in the same way as in this case. The Fuehrer would not depart from his views.

Q. In the general instructions to the Reich Commissars there is a passage where it says that the Higher S.S. and Police Chief is directly subordinate to the Reich Commissar himself. Did this mean that the Police Chief could also give orders to the Reich Commissar in technical matters?

A. Normally, no; Himmler had reserved technical instructions for himself. The higher S.S. and Police Chief was obliged to get in touch with the Reich Commissar and, of course, to take into consideration the latter's political instructions, but not the technical ones.

Q. Not the technical ones? Please tell the Tribunal, but also quite briefly, what Rosenberg's political concepts were from the beginning until the end with reference to the treatment of the Eastern populations?

A. In my opinion he always wanted to pursue a moderate policy. Beyond a doubt he was opposed to a policy of extermination and a policy of deportation, as was often advocated. He made efforts to create order in the field of agriculture by means of his agrarian policy, likewise to create order in the field of education, church matters, universities, schools and so forth. But he had little success, since one of the two Reich Commissars, namely Koch, in the Ukraine, opposed Rosenberg's measures, or rather simply disregarded Rosenberg's orders in respect to these matters.

Q. I am thinking about the large political conceptions. Did he ever mention to you that he had the idea of leading the Eastern peoples to a certain autonomy and of allowing them such an autonomy?

A. Yes, I can answer that in the affirmative.

Q. Did he also mention to you that he intended that sovereign right should be extended to the Occupied Eastern Territories?

A. Whether he said it in just that form, that I cannot recollect. At any rate he was in favour of establishing a certain independence for the Eastern peoples.

Q. That is to say, "Autonomy." And was it for this reason that he was so deeply interested in tending to the cultural life of these Eastern peoples?

A. Yes. He was particularly interested in that. I know that because he also took an interest in the school system, the church and the universities.

Q. Was that possibly the main cause of the conflict which he had with Commissar Koch?

A. That and many other things. Koch was above all a strong opponent of the agrarian policy. That agrarian policy which Rosenberg considered especially favourable in the interest of his aims was sabotaged by Koch.

Q. Can you mention any other fields in which Koch made difficulties for the, Minister for the Eastern Territories?

A. I can't at the moment recollect any.

[Page 123]

Q. Do you know that there was a final row between the two when you were given the order, in collaboration with Bormann, to conduct negotiations between the two, and that Rosenberg refused and demanded that the matter be brought before the Fuehrer?

A. The differences of opinion between Rosenberg and Koch were very numerous. They filled volumes and volumes of files. The Fuehrer had given the order that Bormann and I should investigate these matters. Many weeks of investigation ensued; and after the investigation I must say, there was never a decision made by the Fuehrer. The Fuehrer always postponed making a decision on these matters. On one occasion - perhaps that is the case which you, Dr. Thoma, are thinking of - the difference of opinion was again particularly keen. The Fuehrer then sent for Rosenberg and Koch, but there was no settlement of these differences of opinion, again no agreement was reached. Instead of a real settlement, the unwise decision was made that those two gentlemen should meet once every month and co-operate. That was naturally, in the first place, an unbearable situation for Rosenberg, that he, as the minister in charge, should in every instance have to come to an agreement with the Reich Commissar subordinate to himself: in the second place, it could hardly be carried out in practice. Firstly, the two gentlemen met, at most, no more than once or twice, and then when they did meet, no agreement could be reached, and in the long run the Fuehrer thought that Koch was in the right.

Q. How could it be seen that Koch was considered right?

A. Because the Fuehrer reached no decision in regard to the complaints made by Rosenberg which, in my opinion, were justified. Thus the things accomplished by Koch remained.

Q. Defendant Rosenberg says that the result was that Hitler gave him the order to confine himself basically to the administration of the Eastern Territories. Is that right?

A. That was approximately the Fuehrer's order.

Q. What form did Rosenberg's relationship to the Fuehrer take and when was Rosenberg's last report to the Fuehrer?

A. As far as I know Rosenberg visited the Fuehrer at the end of 1943 for the last time; and even before that he had always had considerable difficulties in getting to see the Fuehrer. He wasn't very often successful.

Q. Did this tense situation have the result that Rosenberg offered his resignation in the autumn of 1940?

A. Yes, it wasn't actually an application for resignation, since the Fuehrer had prohibited such applications, but he did say that, if he could no longer conduct affairs to the Fuehrer's satisfaction, he would like to be removed from office. Thus, in the end, it amounted to an application for resignation.

Q. Can you tell the Tribunal to what extent Rosenberg had influence and popularity among the population in the Occupied Eastern Territories? Is it correct, for example, that a number of church leaders in the Occupied Territories sent telegrams of thanks to him because of his tolerant attitude and because he allowed them to practise their religion freely?

A. I know of that only superficially, from personal statements made to me by Rosenberg. He may have once told me something like that.

Q. I have another question. It has repeatedly come to light during this trial that Hitler's military entourage considered him a military genius. What was the situation in the administrative sphere? Hitler was above all the highest legislator, the highest chief of Government and head of State. Did his administrative entourage encourage him in the belief that all his decisions were correct and that he was doing something extraordinary, or who did confirm him in this belief?

A. In this sphere, too, the Fuehrer had an extraordinarily quick power of perception and almost always a correct evaluation of affairs. He was in a position to make frequent use of the large-scale policy which he alone had to determine for

[Page 124]

legislation and administration. It was then the task of the gentlemen who were to carry this out; above all, the ministers - I too to a certain extent - to carry out in an appropriate fashion those suggestions and basic thoughts which he had formulated. If any objections did arise in this connection, the Fuehrer was for the most part willing to listen to them, as long as they did not concern the principle of the matter. He was thus ready to listen to questions of severity, mitigation or greater stringency, if necessary, or to questions of formulation and construction, but not if a basic tendency was being attacked. Then one had great difficulties with him.

Q. And as far as individual problems were concerned, did he personally make the pertinent decisions about everything or was he hampered in any way by his purpose, by certain aims which he had in mind?

A. Very little was reported to him. Normally, in the last years I made official reports every six or eight weeks; in other words six or eight times a year or perhaps, at the most, ten times. On these occasions problems could not be discussed. Generally speaking, the Fuehrer left the administration to his ministers ...

THE PRESIDENT: We have heard it over and over again about Hitler.


Q. I have only one more question. Did you know anything regarding the fact that Hitler had decided to solve the Jewish question by the final solution, i.e. by the annihilation of the Jews?

A. Yes, I know a great deal about that. The final solution of the Jewish question became known to me for the first time in 1942. That is when I heard that the Fuehrer supposedly, through Goering, had given an order to the S.S. Obergruppenfuehrer Heydrich to achieve a final solution of the Jewish question. I did not know the exact contents of that order and consequently, since this did not come within my jurisdiction, I first of all did not concern myself with it, but then when I wanted to know something I, of course, had to contact Himmler. I asked him what was really meant by the idea of the final solution of the Jewish question. Himmler replied that he had received the order from the Fuehrer to bring about the final solution of the Jewish problem, or rather Heydrich and his successor had that order, and that the main point of the order was that the Jews were to be evacuated from Germany. With that statement I was satisfied for the time and waited for further developments, since I assumed that I would now in some way - I really had no jurisdiction here - obtain some information from Heydrich or his successor, Kaltenbrunner.

Since nothing did come, I wanted to inform myself about this and back in 1942 I announced a report to the Fuehrer, whereupon the Fuehrer told me that it was true that he had given Himmler the order for evacuation but that he did not want any further discussion about this Jewish question during the war. In the meantime or shortly afterwards - this was already at the beginning of 1943 - the R.S.H.A. sent out invitations to attend a meeting on the subject "Final Solution of the Jewish Question." I had previously sent out an order to my officials that I was not defining my attitude to this matter, since I wanted to present it to the Fuehrer. I merely ordered that if invitations to a meeting were sent out one of my officials should attend as a so-called "listening post." A meeting actually did take place afterwards to discuss this question, but with no results. Minutes were taken and the various departments were supposed to express their attitude. When I received these minutes I found that they contained nothing vital. For a second, time I forbade taking a definite attitude. I myself refused to take a stand and I remember it very well indeed, because I received a letter which first of all was signed by some unimportant man who, as far as I was concerned, had no right to sign. He asked me why I had not yet taken a stand. Secondly, the tone of the inquiry was very unfriendly; he said that everybody had expressed an opinion except me. I ordered that the reply be made that I refused to define my views since I wished first to discuss the matter with the Fuehrer.

[Page 125]

In the meantime I once more turned to Herr Himmler. He was of the opinion that it was necessary to discuss this question since a number of problems would have to be solved, particularly since the intention of achieving a final solution of the Jewish question would probably extend to persons of mixed blood, first grade, and would also extend to the so-called "privileged" marriages, that is to say, marriages where only one party was Aryan whereas the other party was Jewish. The Fuehrer stated once more that he did not wish to have a report on it but that he had no objections to consultation on these problems. That some evacuations had taken place in the meantime had become known to me. At that time, at any rate, not the slightest thing was known about the killing of Jews. If individual cases came up, I always addressed myself to Himmler and he was always very willing to settle these individual cases.

Finally, however, in 1943, rumours cropped up that Jews were being killed. I had no jurisdiction in this field; it was merely that I occasionally received complaints and on the basis of these complaints I investigated the rumours. But, as far as I could tell, at any rate, these rumours always proved to be only rumours. Every one said he had heard it from somebody else and nobody wanted to make a definite statement. I am, in fact, of the opinion that these rumours were based mostly on foreign broadcasts and that the people just did not want to say where they had got the information.

That caused me once more to undertake an investigation of this matter. First of all, since I for my part could not initiate investigations of matters under Himmler's jurisdiction, I addressed myself to Himmler once again. Himmler denied any legal killings and told me, with reference to the order from the Fuehrer, that it was his duty to evacuate the Jews and that during such evacuations, which also involved old and sick people, of course, there were cases of death, there were accidents, there were attacks by enemy aircraft. He added too, that there were revolts, which, of course, he had to suppress severely and with bloodshed, as a warning. For the rest, he said that these people were being accommodated in camps in the East. He brought out a lot of pictures and albums and showed me the work that was being done in these camps by the Jews and how they worked for the war needs - the shoemakers' shops, tailors' shops and so forth. He told me:

"This is the order of the Fuehrer; if you believe that you have to take action against it then tell the Fuehrer and tell me the names of the people who have made these reports to you."
Of course, I could not tell him the names, first of all because they did not want to be named, and secondly, they only knew these things from hearsay, so that, as I said, I could not have given him any definite material at all.

Nevertheless, I once again reported this matter to the Fuehrer and on this occasion he gave me exactly the same reply which I had been given by Himmler. He said:

"I shall later on decide where these Jews will be taken and in the meantime they are being cared for there."
Then he said the same thing Himmler had said, which created in me the impression that Himmler had told the Fuehrer that Lammers would come and probably report to him something about this.

But that final solution of the Jewish problem was nevertheless in my portfolio and I was determined to bring it up once again with the Fuehrer. I succeeded in doing so on the occasion of some particularly crass cases in connection with this question, cases which were such that the Fuehrer had to let me talk to him about it. By way of example I should mention ...

THE PRESIDENT: One moment, please ...

DR. THOMA: Mr. President, I myself should like to ask the witness to speak more

[Page 126]

briefly. In my opinion the witness is trying to describe how the entire, final solution of the Jewish problem was carried out in secret and with deception being practised by Hitler's entire entourage, and that is why I ask that the witness be allowed to finish his statement since this is a very decisive point in the discussion. But, Witness, please be quite brief. I am now putting this question to you. Did Himmler ever tell you that the final solution of the Jewish problem would take place through the extermination of the Jews?

A. That was never mentioned. He talked only about evacuation.

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