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 8 of 10)

[Page 31]

DR. THOMA: Mr, President, may I make a remark in this connection? I have already limited my selection. This memorandum comprises a whole thick notebook; however, I will try to be still more brief, and want only to, emphasise that on every page you will find one complaint about the conscientiousness with which Rosenberg followed up all these individual complaints. But I will be very brief. "It is not necessary that your Ministry stress, as it does by many written and oral messages over and over again that any violence in recruiting of workers has to be discontinued." And then there is one further very brief remark:- "And if I issue more decrees against floggings I will make myself ridiculous."

[Page 32]

And now we came to something very important, your Honours, namely, how Gauleiter Koch threatens representations to the Fuehrer, and says:-
"Nobody has ever asked me, as a former Gauleiter, to submit to him articles I write, for no one other than the Fuehrer can ever absolve me of the political responsibility that I have for an article signed with my full name.

Finally, in addition to these statements on my responsibility I should like to allude again to the relations between the Fuehrer and the Reich Commissioners. As an old Gauleiter I am accustomed to go to my Fuehrer directly with all my problems and requests, and this right in my capacity as Ober-president has never been denied me even by my superior minister. By decree I 6-b 4702, I was ordered to report to you on matters where the Fuehrer's wishes were to be consulted, as the forwarding of the Fuehrer's communications were your affair exclusively. I must state here that in my position as an old Gauleiter the Fuehrer has repeatedly given me his political directives.

If one takes away or curtails the position of the Reich Commissioners in relation to the Fuehrer, then very little remains in keeping with the position of a Reich Commissioner."

On Page 50 he says:-
"I have to state expressly that I must under these circumstances lay down my responsibility for the success of the labour recruiting and the Spring planting, as Rosenberg has ordered us to introduce a more amiable recruiting system."
At the end he says:-
"My position has been encroached upon by you so often in the last three weeks that it can only be re-established by the Fuehrer."
Thereupon a conflict developed in Hitler's presence at the Reich Chancellery between Rosenberg, Bormann and Koch, and the result was that Bormann and, in the main, Koch, were upheld and the defendant Rosenberg was notified to limit himself to essentials only.

On the strength of that the defendant submitted his resignation.


Q. Now, I ask the defendant to go into this in more detail. It is in Document Book 2, Page 27.

A. I would like to remark

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Thoma, I think we had better adjourn now for ten minutes.

(A recess was taken.)


Q. Witness, some days ago this document was mentioned and it shows clearly that the first district of Zuman was to be the hunting district for the Reich Commissioner, and that hundreds of people would be shot, because resettling them would be too complicated and take too long a time. Will you make a statement about that?

A. As time went by I received many statements regarding instances of acts of violence committed in the East. Upon investigating, it was very often found that these reports did not conform with facts. In this case this report appeared to me so credible that I made it the subject of a report to the Fuehrer directly as I was having trouble with Gauleiter Koch.

Apart from other questions, such as those referring to schools in the Ukraine, the establishment of technical schools, and certain personal statements of Koch which I submitted as a complaint, I also submitted this report.

When he reported to the Fuehrer, Reich Commissioner Koch submitted a statement on the Forest Administration of the Ukraine. From this it appeared that these forest districts had to be used for supplying timber for railway con-

[Page 33]

struction and other purposes. And since various guerrilla units and partisans had trained in these woods, and such a task, in consideration of the obscure situation, was extremely dangerous, it was established that Koch - not in the interest of the hunting, but for this reason-had ordered a cleaning up of this district; and in the course of this cleaning up a considerable number of partisans had been found and they had been shot. The remaining population from these forest districts had been resettled, and, Koch added, a number of these resettled persons had even expressed gratitude for the fact that they had received a better soil to work than they had had in these forest areas. On receiving these reports from Koch the Fuehrer shrugged his shoulders and said, "It is difficult for me to decide. I have the statement of the Forest Administration for the Ukraine and I must accept that. I leave the matter alone and the other decisions regarding Ukrainian policy will be sent to you."

This happened in July in the shape of a decree which is also in my files, but which, unfortunately, has not been found. It is a decree about which the witness Lammers has spoken and which states that the Reich Minister should confine himself to basic matters, should submit his instructions to the Reich Commissioner for his opinion and, in the event of disagreement, the decision of the Fuehrer must be secured.

After this decree of the Fuehrer, I made a renewed attempt to represent the views which I considered right. But, of course, I will not deny that on several occasions, due to pressure from the Fuehrer's headquarters, I became a little weary. And when it was said, and said in clear-cut terms, that I was apparently more interested in these Eastern peoples than in the welfare of the German nation, I made some appeasing statements; but my decrees and my further carrying out of instructions continued in the old way. As I have now been able to check, I reported to the Fuehrer personally on eight different occasions in this matter, and I submitted written petitions and formulated my decrees with the aim of forwarding the policy I advocated.

When, however, in 1944, the Reichsfuehrer S.S., too, occupied himself not only with police affairs, but also with the policy in the Eastern Territories; and as I had not been able any longer to report to the Fuehrer's headquarters since the middle of November, 1943, I tried one last time to make a suggestion to the Fuehrer regarding a generous Eastern policy. At the same time, I asked very clearly, in the event of a refusal, to be relieved from any further work. This document is a letter to Dr. Lammers of 12 October, 1944, at the beginning of which it says that, in the face of current developments in the Eastern problem, I was asking that he should submit the accompanying letter to the Fuehrer personally. I said that I considered the way and manner in which the German policy in the East was being handled as very unfortunate; that while I had not been included in the negotiations, nevertheless I was made responsible for them. Therefore I was asking him to submit my letter to the Fuehrer as soon as possible for his decision.

Dr. Lammers then immediately transmitted this letter to the Fuehrer's secretary, Bormann. In the direct letter to the Fuehrer it says on Page 2:

"For observation and direction of this development I have created regional offices for all the Eastern peoples in the Ministry for Eastern Affairs, which can now, after many tests, be regarded as suitable for their purposes and well set up. They also contain representatives from the various regions and races; and if it seems in the interest of German policies, they may be recognised as a special national committee."
These central offices mentioned here had the task of seeing to it that the representatives of all Eastern peoples received the complaints of their countrymen who were in sovereign German territory and presented them to the Eastern Ministry, which in turn would have these complaints worked out with the

[Page 34]

German Labour Front authorities or the Plenipotentiary for Employment of Labour.

On Page 5 it says then:-

"I have informed the Reich Minister and the Chief of the Reich Chancellery what the Eastern Ministry has done in the sphere of political leadership in a letter dated 28 May, 1944, and I am asking you, my Fuehrer, to have the contents read to you."
This is a reference to a further statement.

On Page 6 it states:-

"I am asking you, my Fuehrer, to tell me whether you still desire my activity in this field, for since it has not been possible for me to report to you orally, and the problems of the East are brought to you and discussed from various sides, I must, in consideration of this, development, assume that you do not regard this activity of mine as necessary.

In addition rumours are spread, by sources unknown to me, of the dissolution of the Eastern Ministry; in fact it is said that these rumours are used in official correspondence to the highest Reich authorities because of various demands which have been made. Under such circumstances fitting work is not possible, and I ask you to give me directives as to how I should act in view of the state of affairs which has developed."

In the middle of the next paragraph I point out the following, from ideas that I voiced first in my speech of 20 June, and in my protest during the meeting of 16 June.
"This plan provided that in order to mobilise all the national forces of the Eastern peoples, the promise should be made to them in advance of a certain autonomy and the possibility of cultural development, with the aim of leading them against the Bolshevist enemy. This plan, which in the beginning I ventured to assume you approved of, has not been carried out, because the peoples were treated in a way which was politically opposite to this. Solely because of the agrarian order of 1942, approved by you, giving them a certain hope of acquiring property, has their willingness to work been maintained to the end."
Attached to this letter to the Fuehrer there is the suggestion for the adjustment of the Eastern policy, which is reiterated for the last time. And in paragraph 2 in the middle of Page 2 it says that these regional offices and service offices for the peoples of the East, attached to the Eastern Minister, are, in the name of the Reich Government, to be recognised by him as national committees at a time to be fixed by the Fuehrer. The term "National Committee" is to be understood by the Reich Government to mean that the authorised members can represent their peoples.

On Page 2 in the middle, it says:-

"In the leadership of the peoples of the East - "
THE PRESIDENT: Is the Tribunal interested in all this detail? The substance of it has been given by the witness, has it not? He summarised the whole letter before he began to read any of it. There is nothing new up to now.

DR. THOMA: Mr. President, the defendant wanted to summarise again briefly what his ideas were for the Ukraine, namely, autonomy, free cultural development; and that was the core of his difference with Koch, who advocated a policy of exploitation; therefore the defendant wanted to say once more what his whole plan was and his conception regarding the Soviet Union.

But this topic can now be dropped.

Before I turn to the question of the reconstruction work in the Ukraine I wish the defendant to make a statement on the subject of the treatment of prisoners of war. Document 081.

THE PRESIDENT: Is it anywhere in your books? Is it 081-PS?

[Page 35]

DR. THOMA: It has been submitted under a USSR exhibit number.


Q. Have you got it, defendant?

A. It is Exhibit USSR-353.

Fairly near the beginning of the activity of the Eastern Ministry, complaints regarding treatment of prisoners of war were received, particularly during the winter 1941-1942. These complaints, which were made by travellers, officers or soldiers, were reported to me by my political department. We then passed these complaints on to the military offices concerned with a request that, for obvious reasons, they should be given consideration.

These complaints were received frequently, and my staff, as time went on, stated to me that they met a great deal of understanding for our requests, particularly for the wish expressed by us that prisoners in the large number of Soviet prisoner-of-war camps should be selected according to their nationality and taken to small camps, because, through this national segregation, good political and humane treatment would be best guaranteed. Regarding the numerous complaints of the death of many thousands of Soviet prisoners, more than once I received the report that, during battles of encirclement, units of the Red Army had defended themselves in the hardiest way and had not surrendered. In fact they were completely exhausted from hunger when they finally were captured by the Germans. Even numerous cases of cannibalism had been established, demonstrating their stubborn wish not to surrender in any event.

The third complaint I received was to the effect that political commissars were shot. This complaint too was passed on by us. That an order existed in this connection was unknown to me. We concluded from other reports that such shootings were political or police reprisals since we heard that many German prisoners who had been liberated were later found dead or crippled. Later on I was informed that such shootings were prohibited, and thus we assumed that the political commissars were members of the regular Red Army.

Now here is Document 081-PS. It has been stated by the prosecution that this is a letter from the Minister for Eastern Affairs to the Chief of the O.K.W. The document was also found in my files. But it is not a letter from me to the Chief of the O.K.W., Keitel; on the contrary, it was obviously deposited in my office by the sender. In the left- hand top corner on Page 1, it can be seen that there is a figure "1." That means Department 1. In the case of letters originating from me such a reference would always be absent, since I was not a department of my own office. Furthermore, letters of mine to the Chief of the O.K.W. were always of a personal character, either beginning with the name of the addressee, or a personal address. Chief of the O.K.W. is the office. In the same way the ordinary address, "Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories," would not be a personal letter to me, but would mean the office.

I will not go into these details, but I will take the liberty of reading one final paragraph in this connection which, I may also state, is in keeping with the spirit which I endeavoured to instil in my collaborators. And likewise, they thought that they ought to act and express themselves in this spirit. It states on Page 5:-

"The main demand..."
THE PRESIDENT: (Interposing) What is the date?

A. (Continuing) The letter is dated 28 February, 1942. That is to say, it was in the winter, in that dreadful cold period. On Page 5 it states:-

"The main demand will have to be that the treatment of prisoners of war be carried out in accordance with the laws of humanity and as befits the dignity of Germany.

It is understandable that the numerous cases of inhuman treatment of German prisoners of war by members of the Red Army, which have been

[Page 36]

established, have so embittered the German troops that they wish to make reprisals.

Such reprisal measures, however, in no way improve the situation for German prisoners of war but must result finally in both sides no longer taking any prisoners."

I merely wanted to quote this letter because I have no other documents dealing with the activity of my political department at my disposal, and this is only an example of its work, and one which, I think, gives some indication of the spirit and policy.

[ Previous | Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.