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 Fourth Day: Wednesday, 10th April, 1946
(Part 7 of 11)

[Page 214]


DR. LATERNSER: The author of this writing can only be ascertained if we find out what the first line means, because the second line is only the document file number, which is to be seen from the first two letters, "AZ," which means "Aktenzeichen," and in this letter reference seems to be made to a letter from the Economic and Armaments Office.

That is all I have to say in regard to this.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: I don't know if your Lordship wants any further information. It seems to me quite clear. That is, it is from the file of the department I mentioned, the Wirtschaftsrustungsamt.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. You mean, it goes back to the same letters.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: The same letters, yes.

THE PRESIDENT: It has just been explained to me that what Dr. Laternser was saying is that the letters "AZ i.K. 32/510" only mean that it is from the file of that department.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: Yes, my Lord. Then, to find the office whose file it is, you get "Wi Rue" again, which is the Wirtschaftsrustungsamt, which is the Economy and Armaments Office, and it is the Armaments Department No. 3.


Sir David, the Tribunal thought that the best way would be to put this witness in the box and then to leave him to counsel for the prosecution and the defence.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: If your Lordship pleases, my friend, Mr. Roberts, is going to deal with this witness, and, my Lord, he has selected from the statements quite short passages which will be read.


MAX WIELEN, a witness, took the stand and testified as follows:


Q. Witness, will you stand up please?

A. Yes, certainly.

Q. What is your name?

A. Max Wielen.

Q. Your full name?

A. Max Wielen.

Q. Will you repeat this oath after me?

I swear by God, the Almighty and Omniscient, that I speak the pure truth and will withhold and add nothing.

(The witness repeated the oath.)

THE PRESIDENT: You may sit down.



Q. Max Wielen, you made two statements in London, through Colonel Hinchley Cook.

[Page 215]

A. Yes.

Q. And are these photostats of the two statements - the first one dated 26th August, 1945, and the second dated 6th September, 1945?

(The documents were submitted to the witness.)

Are those the photostats of your true statements? Do you identify them? Do you see your signature at the end of each?

A. Yes.

Q. And in those two statements did you tell the truth?

A. Yes, I told the truth.

MR. ROBERTS: My Lord, perhaps I should now read some passages so that they may go into the record.

Q. If you take the first statement first, the statement begins with your names and the positions which you have held in the S.S. and in the Criminal Police. That is right, is it not?

A. Yes.

Q. And now, will you just follow the beginning of this statement?

A. Of which declaration, 6th September?

Q. I said the first one.

A. The first one? I see.

Q. Just follow it while I read. I will read the whole of the first page:

"Oberregierungsrat and Kriminalrat, S.S. Obersturmbannfuehrer ...
A. Oberregierungsrat and Kriminalrat of the Criminal Police, not of the S.S. ...

Q. I don't want you to read it, just listen to me.

"... formerly officer in charge of the Criminal Police at Breslau.

In answer to the question as to whether I know anything about the shooting of English prisoners of war, Air Force officers of the prison camp at Sagan, I have to state that I know about this matter and wish to make the following statement without reserve.

The shooting took place on the express personal orders of the former Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler, and was carried out by officials of the Gestapo.

The head of the State police office at Breslau at that time was Oberregierungsrat S.S. Obersturmbannfuehrer Dr. Scharpwinkel. His immediate superiors were the chief of the Sipo, S.S.- Obergruppenfuehrer Dr. Kaltenbrunner, and the chief of Amt IV of the Reich Security Main Office, S.S. Gruppenfuehrer Muller. I am unable to give the names of the other heads of offices of the Gestapo who carried out shootings in their districts.

I insert here a small chart showing the organisation of the Security Police."

I now go to the bottom of Page 2 in the English copy, and it is at the bottom of Page 3 in the German copy, which the witness has in his hands.
"In the course of time" - and he is talking about Stalag Luft 3 - "ninety-nine escape tunnels had been dug. All of them had been discovered by the military. The hundredth tunnel, dug in March, 1944, proved successful to the extent that eighty officers were able to escape.

After sending a telephone message to this effect from the camp headquarters to the Criminal Police I gave orders for the manhunt (Fahndung), in accordance with the instructions laid down for such an emergency and at Dr. Absalon's suggestion, taking account of the time lag, a large-scale manhunt (Gross-fahndung) was ordered. Moreover, the officer in charge of the Reich Criminal Police Office had to be informed, and he approved and confirmed the order for full-scale alarm (Grossalarm).

Gradually the search, which was carried out in all parts of Germany, led to the recapture of practically all the escaped English officers, with the exception of three, I believe. Most of them were recaptured while still in Silesia. A few had got as far as Kiel, Strassbourg, and the Allgau.

[Page 216]

During one of these days at noon I received telegraphic instructions from General Nebe to proceed at once to Berlin to be informed of a secret order. When I arrived in Berlin that evening, I saw General Nebe in his office in Werdenscher Markt 5-7. I gave him a short, concise report on the whole matter and the way things stood at the moment. He then showed me a teletype order, signed by Dr. Kaltenbrunner, in which it was stated that, on the express personal order of the Fuehrer, over half of the officers who had escaped from Sagan were to be shot after their recapture. The chief of Department 4, Gruppenfuehrer Muller, had received a similar order and would give instructions to the State Police. Military offices had been informed.

General Nebe himself appeared shocked at this order. He was very distressed. I was afterwards told that for nights on end he had not gone to bed but had slept on a bench in his office.

I too was appalled at the horrible measures intended and was opposed to their execution. I said that it was against the laws of war; that it was bound to lead to reprisals against our own officers who were prisoners of war in English camps, and that I certainly refused to take any responsibility. General Nebe replied that in this particular case I indeed took no responsibility whatever upon myself because the State Police would act completely independently, and that, ultimately, there could be no protest against an order by the Fuehrer.

I want to point out that when I first refused I acted on impulse and feeling, knowing well that I could not hope to prevail, in view of the conditions that had recently arisen within the Security Police.

Nebe then added that I on my part was, of course, under an obligation to preserve absolute secrecy and that I had been shown the original order so that I should not make any difficulties with regard to competence vis-a-vis the State Police. My own duties as regards the transport of some of the prisoners would be transferred to the Gestapo.

In this connection I want to state that up to then the transporting of prisoners to the camp had been the responsibility of the Criminal Police; either they had to take them to the camp themselves or they had to hold them until they were fetched by the camp staff. I also declare that Dr. Schultze was present at the discussion with General Nebe. He nodded his head in agreement when I raised my objection; otherwise he took no part.

On my return to Breslau I learned from Dr. Scharpwinkel that the Gestapo had been duly informed by Gruppenfuehrer Muller. I was not apprised of the actual instructions. I also don't know whether a similar order was issued to every head of State Police offices or whether orders were only given in individual cases to those in whose areas arrests had been made and executions were to be carried out.

According to instructions the police in the districts where arrests had been made had to inform the Reich Criminal Police Office by telegram or teletype that officer prisoners of war had been taken into custody. The Criminal Police Office in Breslau was also to be informed.

How this shooting was carried out I do not know, but I presume, that after the State Police had collected the officers concerned from the prisons, they were shot in some remote spot - in forests and the like - with service pistols of the State Police.

In answer to the question whether the officers were possibly beaten to death, I state that I do not believe this, because the Fuehrer's order specifically mentioned shooting.

The State Police had, as I learned from Dr. Scharpwinkel, in accordance with instructions received from R.S.H.A., Department IV, described the shooting as if it had occurred in transit for the purpose of self-defence or to prevent escape.

Later the Criminal Police Office at Breslau received a letter from R.S.H.A.,

[Page 217]

Department V, which was to be communicated to the camp commandant with the request that its text should be made known to the English officer prisoners of war in order to frighten them. The letter explained that the shooting had been carried out for the above-mentioned reason. The text of the letter was communicated to Colonel Lindeiner or one of the camp staff's officers.

As regards the selection of officers to be shot, a list had been prepared by the camp authorities at the request of Department V in which those officers who were regarded as disturbing elements, plotters, and ringleaders had been specifically mentioned. The selection was made either by the commandant or by one of his officers. Thereupon the shooting of officers mentioned by name was ordered by Department IV and the corresponding command sent to the State Police of the districts concerned."

I omit the next paragraph and I go to the bottom of the English copy, Page 4; at the bottom of the witness's copy, Page 7. Witness, would you turn to Page 7, please? You will find the passage marked in pencil at the bottom of Page 7. Have you got the page? I carefully numbered the pages.

A. There is nothing marked in this.

Q. I know, but if you turn over the page you will get something which is marked.

A. Nothing is marked on Page 7, but on Page 8.

Q. You will find something marked at the very bottom of Page 7. At any rate, just follow these words - follow these words, will you? "to revert to the shooting."

A. Yes, I have found it now.

Q. "Approximately forty English officers who had not been arrested by the State Police but by the Criminal Police had meanwhile been taken back to camp."
When you said that - you just answer this question, witness - you said approximately forty officers - you didn't know the actual numbers, did you?

A. The number is not correct. It was not forty. I didn't know at that time.

Q. That's right, because it isn't the correct number. I think fifty.

A. I made a mistake at that time.

Q. That's right.

"They had come to no harm whatsoever and I rather assume that... "
A. Fifteen additional were brought back. Q. Yes, yes. I just want you now to listen to it, if you will be kind enough.
"I must assume that treatment was perfectly correct. It was impossible to avoid putting, them into police prisons due to the general conditions then prevailing.

I do not know who interrogated the officers in the police prisons. I assume this was done by the local police authorities, as an interrogation must necessarily follow every notification of arrest. I do not know the names of the officials of the State Police or the local police who co-operated in this matter. Dr. Absalon will be able to supply the answer to this question."

I go on to the paragraph beginning "The urns," if your Lordship pleases:
"The urns containing the ashes of the officers who had been shot were transmitted from the various State Police offices to the Criminal Police. Which crematorium had been used by the State Police I am unable to say. The urns were handed over to the camp commandant by the order of R.S.H.A. for military burial. By means of the return of the urns through the Kripo, the fact that the State Police were connected with the matter was to be camouflaged."
Then I miss the next paragraph. Then I read one sentence, the next line:
"I do not know why five officers were interrogated in Berlin."

[Page 218]

And then, my Lord, I turn to Page 6. And witness, would you go to the bottom of your Page 10? The bottom of your Page 10 - you just turn over the page in the ordinary way. My Lord, I take the middle paragraph. Just two paragraphs out of Page 6:
"In the general way it may be of interest that, even before my departure for Berlin, Criminal Commissioner Dr. Absalon had told me that he had heard in camp Sagan - he was told this in a very secretive way - that shootings were to take place as a warning. From this may be deduced the fact that the camp had already been informed through military channels of the order to shoot before it was issued to Dr. Kaltenbrunner.

It would be useful to ascertain what Goering knows about the whole affair, because the Fuehrer must surely have informed him of the order since it concerned a camp of the Luftwaffe."

My Lord, that is all of that statement that I think I need to read. My Lord, I am anxious to avoid reading as much of the second statement as I possibly can, because there is a good deal of repetition. Will you take the second statement now, witness? That one, I am afraid, has not been marked. The third paragraph, my Lord, the third and fourth paragraphs on the first page of the statement:
"As to when the State Police had begun with the shootings I am not in a position to say, but I imagine it happened when only very few prisoners were still at large and their capture could no longer be reckoned with. As regards the lapse of time between the order for the all- out manhunt (Gross-falmdung) and being shown the orders for the shootings, I can only say that this was a matter of a few days. I can no longer recall exact dates. I do know for certain, however, that no shootings had taken place anywhere at the time when the order was shown to me."
Then perhaps I could read the last paragraph but one on that page:
"Before the last mass escape I had heard nothing about the prospect of more drastic measures to be taken against the prisoners. I heard of it only after the final escape but before I had been shown in Berlin the order for the shootings. It was then that Dr. Absalon had told me that he had heard in camp Sagan - from whom I do not know, although I believe it was Colonel Lindeiner - that in the future shootings would take place. When this particular order was shown to me in Berlin it appeared to me to be merely a proof that the military were behind this brutal measure or at least had knowledge of it before the R.S.H.A. As regards the expression 'more than half' in the Kaltenbrunner orders - that is how the wording is fixed in my mind; however, it is quite possible that a specific number was given and that I, in quickly glancing through the order, interpreted it thus in my mind, that 'that is more than half.'"
My Lord, perhaps I might read - omitting the first several paragraphs which are really repetitions - a paragraph just a little more than half-way down the page; it begins:
"I do not know how the Gestapo took over from the local police prisons those officers who were to be shot. It is, however, possible that the Gestapo got in touch with the local offices of the Kripo.

In Lower Silesia, the firing squads were detailed by the head of the State Police, Dr. Scharpwinkel, or by his orders. I never heard who belonged to these squads."

Then the last paragraph on that page:
"I declare in answer to the question as to why the Kripo did not carry out the shootings, that in the execution of its duties the Kripo felt bound by the

[Page 219]

provisions of the criminal law (Strafgesetzordnung) and Reich Criminal Code (Reichsstrafgesetzbuch), and that their personnel were trained in accordance with these standards. On the other hand, during the war, the State Police, incited by Himmler, had become less scrupulous. They carried out executions on the orders of the R.S.H.A. or with the approval of that department whenever required. That is the reason why German citizens' general detestation of the State Police did not extend to the Kripo. The urns were obviously returned to the Kripo for the sole reason that the intervention of the State Police should not become publicly known; i.e. the English officers in camp should not become aware of it."
My Lord, I think that is all I need read.

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