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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
16th April to 1st May, 1946

One-Hundred-and-Ninth Day: Tuesday, 16th April, 1946
(Part 7 of 10)

[Page 27]

As far as the extermination of national culture is concerned, that does not seem to me a true representation either. On the contrary, I know that the staff of my office was very much interested in working with the representatives of the Lithuanian folklore research, and that many themes were written on this typical folklore work in Lithuania and Latvia, and I cannot imagine that any arbitrary destruction took place here. I can only remember that in the capital city of Kauen or Kaunas, administrative officers came to me at the time of the withdrawal and said that they had worked in Kauen for five days, even though the city was already under Soviet artillery fire; that, of course, many buildings had been destroyed in the fighting. I am not able to say anything about that from personal experience.

Now I pass to Exhibit USSR 51. In the Note of the Peoples' Commissar for Foreign Affairs, of 6 January, 1942, the destruction of cultural values of Lithuania, Latvia and Esthonia is also given introductory mention. I refer to what I have already said in reference to the documents that were just submitted. On Page 2, column 1, it is also stated that the Germans pillaged and murdered the peasant population without restraint. Here too I would like to again refer to the expositions I have just made. On Page 6, column 1, at the beginning, it says that the Germans, in their rage against Latvia, Lithuania and Esthonia destroyed all national cultures, national monuments, schools and literature. But this, as I have just stated, is not in accordance with the facts. The Note of the Peoples' Commissar for Foreign Affairs of 27 April, 1942, which has been read here repeatedly and in detail, on Page 1, column 1, makes the same assertion that here the complete pillaging of the Soviet State had been carried out. I refer to the statements I have just made.

On Page 7 it is stated that the Germans intended and actually executed wholesale robbery of the land given free of charge by the Soviet Government to the collective farms (kholkhoz) for their permanent use. I do not wish to make any statements on this special question here. State Secretary Riecken, whom the Tribunal has approved of as a witness, will make his expert statements on the law for the new agrarian movement issued to strengthen the peasant industries in White Ruthenia and the Ukraine. As the Soviet Prosecution withdrew the charge against me of having been a former Czarist spy, I do not need to go into that. I also cannot of course check in detail the various quotations which have been submitted here. But in one case it is possible for me to give an explanation. It is on Page 9, column 1, at the top, where the Foreign Commissar's so- called

[Page 28]

"Twelve Commandments" for the behaviour of the Germans in the East is mentioned. There follows here a quotation which can only be assumed to be a connected quotation from a German directive. These twelve commandments have been submitted by the Soviet Prosecution to the Tribunal, Exhibit USSR 89.

It deals, as it has been established, with a directive of the State Secretary Backe, of the beginning of June, 1941, a directive which I have only learned of here. This apparently connected quotation of the Foreign Commissar proves to be a compilation of fragments of sentences which were actually dispersed over a page and a half of the document, and these fragments, moreover, have not been given in their proper sequence, but in a completely different sequence from that in the document. But I would like to call your attention to a few changes in wording.

Under point 6 of the commandments:-

"You must therefore" - this is directed to the agricultural leaders - "you must therefore carry out with dignity the most severe and ruthless measures that are necessitated by the national requirements. Lack of character on the part of the individual will bring about his recall as a matter of principle. Anyone who is recalled for such a reason can no longer have an authoritative position in the Reich."
In the quotation of the official note it says:
"Therefore, you yourself will have to take with dignity the most cruel and ruthless measures that are dictated by German interests. Otherwise you can not have any responsible positions at home."
Therefore, instead of the word "severe" the word "cruel" has been substituted. In place of "national requirements," it says, very generally, "German interests," and in place of the reference to a "lack of character," it is set down quite generally that if one does not use the most cruel measures one cannot have any responsible positions. I would not want to identify myself otherwise in any way with these twelve commandments, but I would like to state that on Page 3 under point 7 it says:-
"But be just and personally decent, and always a good example."
And in Part 9:-
"Do not be Russian baiters. The Russian youth has been educated for Communism for two decades. Russian youth does not know any other education. It is therefore senseless to punish for the past."
I believe also that Herr Backe, who perhaps used stronger language, did not mean to suggest extermination.

Now, I am passing to the charge by the Polish Government. It concerns me in one point only. On Page 20, under point 5, it is stated that the exploitation, plundering and the carrying off of art treasures, etc., from museums and collections of all kinds, was centralised under the office of Rosenberg in Berlin. This is incorrect, as has been shown by the report of State Secretary Muehlmann, which has been read here many times and which shows that an entirely different department was set up for the safeguarding of these works of art. Furthermore, I read today a decree by Dr. Lammers, dated I believe 5 June, 1942, in which the Government General was expressly excluded.

I must, however, admit that in one case in the beginning, the Special Staff confiscated a collector's collection of German music and it was taken to the Reich for purposes of research. This action was not right, and from a correspondence with the then Governor General Frank, which must also be here in my file, it is shown that we had agreed that this collection was to be returned to the Government General as a matter of course, after a scholarly survey had been made, which I, to be sure, requested.

The incorrectness of this charge may be seen also from the fact that it is contended here that I had in the Rosenberg Special Staff among the various

[Page 29]

departments also an office "East" for Poland. The incorrectness of this statement may be seen from the fact that the so-called "Special Purpose Staffs," which were established for music and the plastic arts in the East, were actually expert special purpose staffs and, besides them, the so-called working groups had regional tasks. I could not thus have had an office "East" for Poland and at any rate the term "Poland" was never used in official circles - only the term "Government General." I believe that to be a sufficient explanation. In addition, there have been presented a number of other general documents from Smolensk and from other cities, which deal principally with destruction and police measures. I cannot testify here concerning these points.

In conclusion I would only like to refer to Document 073-PS, which a few days ago was submitted to the witness Dr. Lammers. This document is concerned with the transmission of a document of the Foreign Office, in which some mistaken information was given after it had been said that the Soviet prisoners of war were under the command of the Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Countries.

In the introduction, it can be seen that here we are concerned exclusively with the propaganda work which Minister Goebbels considered his province rather than that of the Foreign Office. The Foreign Office stated that it had complete, directive control over all prisoners of war with the exception of spiritual and propaganda care of the Soviet prisoners of war, which was attended to by the Minister for the East, as these matters were not included in the Geneva Convention. This statement, that they were not bound in this sphere by the Geneva Convention, was based on legal opinion, and a decree was issued from the Fuehrer's headquarters, for the setting up of the administration in the Occupied Eastern Territories.

Q. Witness, in the course of this proceeding you have been accused at least four times in the matter of gold dental fillings of the prisoners in Minsk. In this connection a document has been submitted having reference to the handling of the Jewish question; and a further document deals likewise with arson and Jewish action, also in the district of Minsk. Will you please tell us what you have to say in that connection?

A. I might perhaps give the following general answer about the many files and reports from my office: In the course of twelve years of my Party office and three years in the Foreign Ministry, many reports, memoranda, carbon copies from all sorts of divisions were delivered to my office. I know of some of them, of some I received oral knowledge to be entered in detail in the files, and there were others, some important and some entirely unimportant, which I was quite unable to take note of during these years.

As to the documents concerned, I must say, with regard to Document 212-PS that this clearly represents a submission to my office, which is without headings, without signature and without any other details, and one which I never received personally, but which, I assume, probably was delivered from police circles to my office. Thus, with the best intentions, I cannot state my position as to the contents of this document.

As far as Document 1104-PS is concerned, which deals with the terrible incidents in the city of Slutsk, that is a report of November, 1941, and I must say that this report was submitted to me. This report aroused indignation in the Foreign Ministry, and as is seen here, my permanent representative, Gauleiter Dr. Meier, sent a copy of the complaints of the civil administration, together with all the criticism of the civil administration, to the police, to the Chief of the Security Police at that time, Heydrich, with the request for investigation. I must point out that the police had its own jurisdiction, in which the Ministry for the East could not interfere. But I am unable to state here what measures Heydrich took, and as may be seen from this, I could not

[Page 30]

assume that an order, which was attested to by the witness here yesterday, was given to Heydrich or Himmler by the Fuehrer. This report, and many other communications which came to my ears, regarding shootings of saboteurs and also of Jews, about pogroms in the Baltic States and in the Ukraine, I regarded as features of the war. I heard that in Kiev a large number of Jews had been shot, but that the greater part of the Jews had left Kiev. In toto the reports, especially the prison reports, revealed to me the terrible harshness being used but I did not assume from this that there was an order for the individual annihilation of the entire Jewry concerned; and if, in our polemics, the "extermination" of Jewry was also talked about, I must say that this word, of course, must make a frightful impression in view of the testimony today; but under conditions prevailing then, it was not interpreted as an individual extermination, an individual annihilation of millions of Jews. Also I should like to point out that even the British Prime Minister, in an official speech in the House of Commons on 23 or 26 September, 1943, spoke of the complete extermination of Prussianism and of National Socialism. I happened to read these words from this speech. However, I did not assume that in saying this he meant the shooting of all Prussian officers and National Socialists.

Regarding Document 135-R, I would like to say the following: It is dated 18 June, 1943. On 22 June, I returned from an official visit to the Ukraine. After this official visit I found a pile of notes about conferences. I found many letters and, above all, I found the Fuehrer decree of the middle of June, 1943, about which I had already heard, in which the Fuehrer instructed me to be limited by basic principles as far as legislation was concerned, and not to interest myself too much with the details of the administration of the Eastern Territories. I was dejected when I returned from this journey and I did not read this document. But I cannot assume that this document was not at all mentioned to me by my office. My subordinates were conscientious and I can assume only that in the course of their reporting to me about many documents, they told me that another great disagreement between the police and civil administration was imminent, as there had been many disagreements before of that nature, and I perhaps said, "Please give this to Gauleiter Meier or give it to the police officer as a liaison officer so that he can investigate these matters. Otherwise these terrible details would have remained in my memory. I cannot say any more in regard to this matter than I was able to say when it was brought up in the interrogation.

DR. THOMA : I submit to the Tribunal Exhibit Rosenberg-13, a memorandum from Koch to Rosenberg, a complaint about Rosenberg's criticism and justification of his policy in the Ukraine, dated 16 March, 1943, and a letter from Rosenberg to Reich Minister Lammers, dated 12 October, 1944, in which he states to the Fuehrer his wish to resign. May it please the Tribunal, regarding Rosenberg-13, memorandum from Koch to Rosenberg ...

THE PRESIDENT: What number?

DR. THOMA: Rosenberg-13, 192-PS, Document Book number 2, Page 14. I would like to read this to the Tribunal and to make the following introductory remark.

THE PRESIDENT: It is a very long thing, Dr. Thoma. You do not need to read it all surely?

DR. THOMA: I shall not read all of it, your Honour. But I have the opportunity of presenting State Secretary Riecke as an official of the Eastern Ministry, and that witness, when he appears before the Tribunal will show that the best officials whom the German Reich had were used in the Eastern Ministry and that every individual complaint was conscientiously checked. We can assume that in addition to what we have heard today, many other terrible crimes have been committed which have not come to the knowledge of the Tribunal; but I believe that everything has been exhaustively presented of the admittedly

[Page 31]

terrible things that happened in the East during these four to five years. And the question now is how Gauleiter Koch reacted to them.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal is simply asking you not to read the whole of the document, which covers many pages. That means you can go ahead and read the essential parts of it.

DR. THOMA: Therefore, I would like to assert that each and every complaint which was received by the Eastern Ministry was followed up. Gauleiter Koch writes -

"Various recent decrees of the Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories in which my work was criticized in an exceptionally severe and offensive manner, and which have resulted in obscuring interpretation of the policies as well as my legal position, have induced me to present this report to you, Herr Reich Minister, in the form of a memorandum."
And then follow remarks which show that the Eastern Ministry investigated the complaints. He complains on 12 January, 1943, as I was informed by the Ministry, for example, that Anna Prichno of Smygalovka, an Eastern worker, had objected that her parents who remained in the Ukraine could not pay their taxes. I was asked to cancel these taxes or to reduce them by half and also to "report on my action." On Page 13:-
"Lately numerous single complaints from Eastern workers employed in the Reich have been passed on to me and on each single case I have been asked to give a report, usually on such short notice that it was impossible to comply with the request."
On Page 15 and 16:-
"Hence, I found it strange," writes Gauleiter Koch, "to receive the decree of 22 November, 1941 stating that the Ukrainians were strongly permeated with German blood, which fact is to account for their remarkable cultural and scientific achievements. But when on top of this a secret decree of July, 1942, to which I will refer more closely at the end of this section, declares that very many points of contact exist between the German and Ukrainian people, one is no longer only surprised but astonished. This decree demands not only correct but amiable manners in dealing with Ukrainians."
"In the following I would like to give a few more examples of lack of reserve towards Ukrainians. For instance, by decree of 18 June, 1942, 11 6-fb 230, I was informed that you were procuring a total of two to three million marks worth of Ukrainian schoolbooks, charged to my budget without even contacting me about it previously."
THE PRESIDENT: Do you think it necessary to read all this? I am not quite sure how far you have got because I have been reading on.

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