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 9 of 10)

[Page 36]

DR. THOMA: Mr. President, I wanted to bring to an end questions relating to the Eastern Ministry by submitting an affidavit from Professor Dr. Dencker on the employment of agricultural machinery in the Ukraine; Document Rosenberg-35 has already been granted me by the Tribunal. This affidavit concerns the following ...

THE PRESIDENT: (Interposing) Have you finished your examination now?

DR. THOMA: I have finished the questions relating to the Ministry for Eastern Affairs. I have only a few more brief questions.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal has seen this affidavit recently so there is no need to read it.

Now, if you will, give us the exhibit number.

DR. THOMA: Rosenberg-35. This deals with machinery which had a value of 180 millions, and was delivered to the Ukraine - agricultural machinery.


Q. Witness, were you a member of the S.A. or the S.S.?

A. No, I belonged neither to the S.A. nor the S.S.

Q. So you have never worn an S.S. uniform?

A. No.

Q. Did you know anything about concentration camps?

A. Yes. This question, of course, has been put to everybody and the fact that concentration camps existed became known to me in 1933. But although this may appear a repetition, I must nevertheless state that I knew by name only two concentration camps, Oranienburg and Dachau. When these institutions were explained to me, I was informed, among other things, that in one concentration camp there were eight hundred Communist workers, whose sentences averaged four years imprisonment of various degrees. In spite of the fact that this involved a complete revolution in ideas (even though it had legal basis, it was still something revolutionary), I considered it understandable that protective custody for a period of time should be decreed for those who were politically hostile to the new State. But at the same time I saw and heard how our toughest opponents, against whom no charges of a criminal nature were made, were treated so generously that, for example, our strongest opponent, the Prussian Minister Severing was retired with full ministerial pension, and I considered this very attitude as National Socialist. Thus I had to assume that these arrangements were politically and nationally necessary, and I was thoroughly convinced of this.

Q. Did you participate in the evacuation of the Jews from Germany?

A. I should perhaps add one thing: I visited no real concentration camp, neither Dachau nor any other one. I once questioned Himmler - it was in 1938 - about the concentration camps and told him that one saw in the foreign Press all sorts of reports of alleged atrocities which were being committed in them. Himmler said to me: "Why don't You come to Dachau and take a look at things for yourself? We have a swimming pool there, we have sanitary installations - irreproachable - no objections can be raised."

I did not visit this camp because if something actually improper had been going on, then Himmler would probably not have shown it to me. On the other hand, for reasons of good taste I did not want to go simply to observe

[Page 37]

people who had been deprived of their liberty. But I thought that such a talk with Himmler made him aware that such rumours were spreading.

A second time, later on - I cannot say, however, whether it was before or after the outbreak of the war - Himmler himself spoke to me about the matter of the so-called "Bible students" (Bibelforscher), that is, about a matter which has also been submitted by the prosecution as a religious persecution. Himmler only told me that it was certainly impossible to put up with refusal to serve in the Armed Forces considering the condition the Reich was in, that it would have incalculable consequences, and he went on to say that he had often talked personally to these detainees in order to understand them and possibly convince them. That, he said, was impossible, however, because they replied to all questions with quotations ... quotations from the Bible which they had learned by heart, so that nothing was to be done with them. From that statement of Himmler I gathered that, since he was telling me such a story, he couldn't possibly want to plan or carry out shooting actions against these "Bible students".

An American chaplain has very kindly given me in my cell a church paper from Columbus. I gather from that that the United States, too, arrested Jehovah's Witnesses during the war and that until December, 1945, 11,000 of them were still detained in camps. I presume that under such conditions, every State would take similar actions against nationals who refused to do war service in some form or other; and that was my attitude too : I could not consider Himmler wrong in this connection.

Q. Could you intervene in the case of Pastor Niemoeller?

A. Yes. When the case of Pastor Niemoeller was being tried in Germany, I sent one of my staff to the trial because I was interested in it both from an official and a human point of view. This official - his name was Dr. Ziegler - made a report to me from which I concluded that this arraignment was based partly on misunderstandings on the part of the authorities, and furthermore that Pastor Niemoeller was not as seriously incriminated as I had assumed. I then submitted that report to the deputy of the Fuehrer, Rudolf Hess, and I asked him whether he could not give this case consideration, and after some time, when I was with the Fuehrer once, I brought the conversation around to this subject, and stated that I thought this whole trial and the subsequent handling of the case most unfortunate. The Fuehrer told me: "I have asked only one binding statement from Niemoeller, that he, as a clergyman, will not make belligerent utterances against the State. He has refused to give that and hence I cannot set him free. Apart from that, I have ordered that he should receive the most decent treatment possible, that he, being a heavy smoker, should receive the best cigars, and that he have the means for carrying on all learned studies, if he wants to do this."

I do not know on what reports the Fuehrer based this statement, but as far as I was concerned it was clear that I was not in a position to intervene any further in this matter.

Q. We come now to the last question but one:

Is it true that after the seizure of power, you made a certain self-examination of your attitude towards the Jewish question which led to a modification of the views you expressed before the seizure as to policy to be adopted with regard to Jews?

A. I will not deny that during that time of struggle up to 1933, I too had used very strong words journalistically, and that many hard words and suggestions appeared in that connection. After seizure of power I thought - and I believed with reason that the Fuehrer thought so too - that now one could renounce this method, and that a certain parity and a chivalrous treatment of this question was to be established. Under "parity" I understood the following and I stated it in a public address on 28 July, 1933, and also at the Party rally in

[Page 38]

September, 1933, publicly over all the broadcasting systems: that it was not possible, for example, that the hospital system in Berlin should have eighty per cent. Jewish doctors when thirty per cent. was their parity. I stated further at the Party rally that the Reich Government, in connection with all these parity measures and beyond that, was making exception in cases of members of Jewish families who had lost a relative, father or son, during the last war; and I used the expression that we would now have to make efforts to solve the Jewish problem in a chivalrous way. That it turned out otherwise is a tragic story, and I must state that the activities following in connection with the migration and emigration to many countries abroad increased the aggravation of the situation; then things occurred which were regrettable and I must say robbed me of the inner strength to continue petitioning the Fuehrer for the method I favoured. As I said, what was stated here in the secret police document, recently mentioned and made known here, and what has been testified to here recently, I considered simply humanly impossible and I would not have believed it even if Heinrich Himmler himself had related it to me. There are things which, even to me, appear beyond the humanly possible, and this is one of them.

DR. THOMA: I have one last question, In connection with this question I should like to submit Document Rosenberg-15, 3761- PS. This is contained in the document book, but it has not yet been submitted to the Tribunal as an exhibit. It contains a letter from Rosenberg to Hitler, written in 1924, containing the request that he should not be nominated as a candidate for the Reichstag.


Q. Witness, you have taken part in all phases of the development of National Socialism from its beginning to its dreadful end. You have participated in its meteoric rise and its dreadful descent, and you know well that everything centred in this one person. Will you inform the Tribunal what you did yourself and how much you were able to accomplish to avert having all the power centred in this one single person and what you did to have the effect in every way alleviated? I am showing you first this document given to you, and then Document 047, which has also already been submitted to the Tribunal under the Exhibit number USA-725.

(The documents were submitted to the witness.)

A. I did actually serve this National Socialist movement from its very inception and I was completely loyal to a man whom I admired during these long years of struggle, because I saw with what personal devotion and passion this former German soldier worked for his people. As far as I personally am concerned, this letter refers to an epoch ...

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Thoma, exactly what is your question to the witness? We don't want him to make a speech. We only want to know what question you are putting to him.


Q. What suggestions did you make, and did you publicly advocate these suggestions, that limitations be put on the Fuehrer's power?

A. I must say that at that time I advocated-and this in full agreement with Adolf Hitler, and I advocated in my book, "Myth of the 20th Century," the view that the leadership principle did not consist of one head but that both the Fuehrer and those he led had a joint duty to perform. Further, that this conception "leadership principle" should be understood to mean the establishment of a senate, or, as I described it, a council, which would have a correcting and advisory function.

That point of view was emphasised by the Fuehrer himself when he had a senate hall built in the Brown House in Munich with sixty-one seats, because he

[Page 39]

himself considered it necessary. Then I again advocated this policy in a speech in 1934, but ...

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal doesn't think this is in answer to the question as to what he did to limit the Fuehrer's power. We want to know what he did, if anything, to limit the Fuehrer's power.

DR. THOMA: In a public meeting he pointed out that ... I draw your attention to Document Book 1, Volume 2-on Page 118 ...

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Thoma, I didn't want you to point it out to me, I wanted the witness to point that out to the Tribunal.


Q. In that case, will you concentrate on those two speeches which you made at that time.

A. I can quote the speeches, but they are not a direct answer to the question either. They signify that I stated that the National Socialist State must not breed a caste which reigns over the German nation and that the Fuehrer of a nation must not be a tyrant. However, I did not see in Adolf Hitler a tyrant, but, like many millions of National Socialists, I trusted him personally on the strength of the experience of fourteen years of hard struggle. I did not want to limit his personal complete powers, conscious though I was that this was a personal exception for Adolf Hitler, and that this was not a National Socialist conception, and also not the leadership principle as we understood it, and was a new order for the Reich.

I served Adolf Hitler loyally, and what the Party may have done during those years - that was supported by me too. And the ill effects, due to the wrong masters, were branded by me, in the middle of the war, in speeches before political leaders, when I stated that this concentration of power as it existed at that moment, during that war, could only be a phenomenon of the war and could not be, regarded as the National Socialist conception of a State. It might be comfortable for many, it might be comfortable for 200,000 people, but to carry it on would mean the death of the individuality of seventy million. I said that in the presence of the Higher S.S. Leaders and other organisation leaders or Gauleiter. I got in touch with the administration of the Hitler Youth, together with my staff, fully conscious that after the war a reform would have to be carried out here in the Party, so that the old ideas of our movement, for which I too had fought, would be re-established. However, that has not been possible any more; fate has finished the movement.

Q. Witness, can you state a concrete fact which indicates that the Party, from the beginning, did not plan to take over power alone but intended to collaborate with other parties?

A. That, of course, is a historical development of fourteen years. With reference to my letter to Hitler in 1924, I would like to say, that at the end of 1923, after the collapse of the so-called Hitler Putsch, when the then representatives of the Party either were arrested or had emigrated to Austria, and when I remained in Munich with a few others, I advocated that a new development must take place and that the Party should prove itself in a parliamentary contest.

The Fuehrer, who was then in prison at Landsberg, turned that suggestion down. My collaborators and I continued to try to influence him, however, whereupon the Fuehrer wrote me a long letter, which is also in the files, in which he once more developed his reasons for not wanting to go into my suggestion. Later on, nevertheless, he agreed.

And here in this letter I asked him (he later agreed) not to nominate me as Reichstag candidate, as I did not think it wise to become a member of the German Parliament because I considered that I had been in Germany for too short a time to push myself forward in that way after so few years of activity.

DR. THOMA: I have no further questions.

[Page 40]

THE PRESIDENT: Do any of the defendants' Counsel want to ask any questions?

DR. SERVATIUS: (Attorney for the defendant Sauckel.)


Q. Witness, in September and October, 1942, you received various reports regarding unbearable conditions in connection with the recruiting of workers in the occupied Eastern Territories. Did you investigate to find out whether the statements contained in these reports were the truth?

A. These allegations, which were received by the Ministry for Eastern Affairs, were investigated continually by my main department of "Labour and Social Policy" as the years went on, and I have asked the Tribunal to hear as a witness here the official, Dr. Beil, who always had charge of this question. This request has been granted by the Tribunal, but I now hear that Dr. Beil is ill and that he can only give a report of his experiences by a written statement. From my knowledge I can say the following:

These matters were reported to me frequently by Dr. Beil and the so-called Central Department for People of Eastern Nationalities. I transmitted them to Sauckel. Then they were always sent to the Reich Commissioner for the Ukraine or some other administrative officials, with remarks and an investigation report. Some proved to be true and some untrue and exaggerated, and, I believe, the General Plenipotentiary Sauckel, even made the complaints received from me an occasion for his own intervention, as did the German Labour Front, responsible as it was for the welfare of all foreign workers in Germany. There were constant negotiations with the head of this Labour Front and the Ministry for Eastern Affairs made requests continuously, until eventually, at the end of 1944, Dr. Ley, as the chief of this welfare department, felt he could inform me that after considerable difficulties really workable and good conditions had been achieved. Even then, I replied to him that, though I was very pleased to hear this, yet I was still receiving reports of things going wrong. The active execution of the work was by the members of my ministry, together with executives of the German Labour Front, who went to inspect a number of labour camps so as to investigate the complaints and then have them adjusted by the Labour Front.

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