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-Twelfth Day: Tuesday, 23rd April, 1946
(Part 2 of 10)

[DR. SEIDL continues his direct examination of Joseph Buehler]

[Page 145]

Q. Under whose jurisdiction was the administration of concentration camps in the Government General?

A. I don't know because I didn't know of the existence of the camps. In August, on the occasion of a visit to the reception camp at Pruszkow, I heard about the administration of concentration camps in general. At that time I brought some instructions from Himmler to the camp commandant, according to which the transport of the inhabitants of Warsaw, who had been removed from the city to concentration camps, was to cease forthwith.

Q. Was that after the uprising in Warsaw?

A. It was during it; it must have been on or about 18 or 19 August, 1944. The camp commandant, whose name I have forgotten, told me at the time that he did not know about that order and that he could receive instructions only from the Chief of Concentration Camps.

Q. Do you know whether the Governor General himself ever sent a Pole, a Ukrainian, or a Jew to a concentration camp?

A. Nothing like that ever happened during my employ.

Q. Is it true that a large number of Jewish workmen who were working in the castle at Cracow were taken away by the Security Police against the wishes of the Governor General and during his absence?

A. This Jewish workers' colony is known to me because I lived in the Cracow castle. I also know that the Governor General always took care that this colony be maintained. The Chief of the Chancellery of the Government General, Ministerial Councillor Keit, once told me that this group of Jewish workers had been taken away by force by the police during the absence of the Governor General.

[Page 146]

Q. I now come to the so-called A.B. action, this extraordinary appeasement action. What were the circumstances which occasioned it?

A. It may have been about the middle of May, 1940, when one morning I was called from the government building where I performed my official work to visit the Governor General in the castle. I think I am right in saying that Reich Minister Seyss-Inquart had also been called. There we met the Governor General together with several gentlemen from the police. The Governor General stated that in the opinion of the police an extreme act of appeasement was necessary. The security situation at that time, as far as I remember, was this:, Certain remnants of the Polish Armed Forces were still roaming about in deserted forest regions, causing unrest among the population and probably giving military training to young Poles. At that time, that is, May, 1940, the Polish people had recovered from the shock which they suffered because of the sudden defeat in 1939 and they began openly, with little caution and without experience, to start a resistance movement everywhere. This picture I remember clearly because of the statement given by the police on that and other occasions.

Q. May I interrupt you and quote from Frank's diary, an entry of 16 May, 1940.

"The general war situation forces us to examine the security situation in the Government General very carefully. From a number of symptoms and actions one can draw the conclusion that there exists in the country a large organised wave of resistance among the Poles. Thousands of Poles are believed to have banded together secretly and to have been armed, and it is rumoured that they are being incited to carry out acts of violence of all sorts."
Then the Governor General quoted some recent examples, as, for instance, a civil uprising in certain villages under the leadership of Major Kubala in the district of Radom, the murder of families of German blood in Josefa, the murder of the mayor of Krasienka, etc.:-
"Illegal pamphlets, inciting to rebellion, are being distributed, and even posted, everywhere, and there can therefore be no doubt that the security situation is extremely serious."
Q. Did the Governor General express himself in that manner at the time?

A. When I was at that meeting the Governor General spoke about the situation for some time, but the details I cannot recollect.

Q. What happened thereafter?

A. I have only one impression. In the previous months the Governor General had succeeded, by taking great pains, in imposing on the police a procedure for drumhead courts- martial which had to be observed in making arrests and dealing with suspicious persons. Furthermore, the police had to concede that the Governor General could refer the sentences of the drumhead courts-martial to a reprieve commission and that the execution of sentence could only take place after the sentences had been confirmed by him. The statements of the Governor General during this conference in the middle of May, 1940, made me fear that the police might see in them the possibility for evading the drumhead courts-martial and reprieve procedure imposed on them. For that reason I asked the Governor General for permission to speak after he had finished his statement. The Governor General cut me short at first and stated that he wanted to dictate something to the secretary in a hurry which the latter was then to dictate to a stenographer at once and put it into the final version. Thereupon the Governor General dictated some authorisation or order or some such document, and with absolute certainty I remember that, after he had finished dictating, the secretary and, I think quite definitely, Brigadefuehrer Streckenbach, the Commander of the Regular Police, left the room. I am saying this first because it explains the fact that everything that

[Page 147]

happened afterward has not been recorded in the minutes. The secretary was no longer present in the room. I expressed my fears, saying that these requirements laid down for the drumhead courts-martial procedure should be observed under all circumstances. I am not claiming any particular merit in this connection, because if I hadn't done it then this objection would have been raised, I am convinced, by Reich Minister Seyss-Inquart, or the Governor General himself would have realised the danger which his statements might have caused in this respect. At any rate, in reply to my objection and without any debate the Governor General stated at once that, of course, arrests and shootings could take place only in accordance with the drumhead courts-martial procedure, and that sentences of the drumhead courts-martial would have to be examined by the reprieve commission.

In the ensuing period these instructions were followed. I assume that it is certain that the reprieve commission received all sentences pronounced by these drumhead courts- martial and dealt with them.

Q. Another entry in Frank's diary, 12 July, 1940, leads one to the conclusion that at first these leaders of the resistance movement concerned were merely arrested. I quote a statement of the Governor General:-

"Regarding the question of what is to be done with the political criminals caught in connection with the A.B. action, a discussion is to take place in the near future with State Secretary Dr. Buehler, Obergruppenfuehrer Kruger, Brigadefuehrer Streckenbach, and Ministerial Councillor Wille."
Who was Ministerial Councillor Wille and what task did he have in that connection?

A. I might say first that there is a gap in my memory, which makes it impossible for me to say for certain when the Governor General told Brigadefuehrer Streckenbach that in any case he would have to observe the drumhead courts- martial procedure and pay attention to the reprieve commission. On the other hand, I think I can remember for certain that at the time when this discussion took place between Kruger, Streckenbach, Wille and me, only arrests had taken place and no executions. Ministerial Councillor Wille was the chief of the Main Department for Justice in the Government and was the executive official for all reprieve matters. The Governor General wanted these matters dealt with by a legally trained, experienced man.

During the conference with Kruger, Streckenbach and Wille it had been ruled that the persons who had been arrested up to that time were to be subjected to the drumhead courts- martial procedure, and that sentences had to be dealt with by the reprieve commission. The police were not exactly enthusiastic about this. I remember that Kruger told me privately, after the conference, that the Governor General was a jack-in-the-box with whom one couldn't work, and that in the future he would go his own way.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Seidl, the Tribunal thinks that this has been gone into in too great detail.

DR. SEIDL: Yes, I am coming to the end of my questions.


Q. Witness, during a police meeting in 1940 on 30 May, the defendant Dr. Frank mentioned, among other things, that the difficulties he had had with the Cracow professors were terrible. "If we had handled the matter here," he said, "it would have taken a different course."

Who arrested these professors, and to what extent was the Governor General concerned with this matter?

A. On 7 or 8 November, 1939, when the Governor General arrived in Cracow in order to begin his activities, all professors of the University of Cracow were arrested by the Security Police without his knowledge and taken away to concentration camps in the Reich. Among them were also acquaintances of the Governor General, with whom shortly before he had had

[Page 148]

social and academic connections through the Academy for German Law. The Governor General pressed ObergruppenFuehrer Kruger persistently and uninterruptedly until he achieved the release of the majority of these professors from concentration camps.

This contradictory statement of his was made, in my opinion, for the purpose of soothing the police, for the police did not like to release these professors.

Q. What basically was the attitude of the Governor General to the recruiting of labour?

A. The Governor General and the government of the Government General were always attempting to get as many Polish workers for the Reich as possible. It was clear to us, however, that the employment of force in the recruiting of workers might bring about temporary advantages, but that such recruitment did not promise much success in the long run. The Governor General gave me instructions, therefore, to make extensive and intensive propaganda in favour of labour employment in the Reich, but to oppose all use of force in the recruitment of labourers.

On the other hand the Governor General wanted to make his recruitment of workers for the Reich successful by demanding decent treatment for the Polish workers in the Reich. He negotiated for many years with the Reich Commissioner for the Employment of Labour, Gauleiter Sauckel, and improvements were in fact achieved. The Governor General opposed in particular the identifying by means of armband of Jews - of Poles in the Reich. I remember a letter from Reich Commissioner Sauckel in which he informed the Governor General that he had made every effort to insure the same treatment of Polish workers as of other foreign workers, but that his efforts were no longer crowned by success wherever the influence of the Reichsfuehrer S.S. opposed them.

Q. Witness, I now come to another point. As Exhibit USA-275 the prosecution has submitted Document 1061-PS, which is a report of Brigadefuehrer Stroop on the destruction of the ghetto in Warsaw. Were you or the Governor General informed beforehand about the measures planned by the Security Police?

A. I was certainly not, nor do I know that the Governor General was informed about any such plans.

Q. What did you learn afterwards about the events at the ghetto in Warsaw in 1943?

A. I heard what practically everybody heard, that a long prepared uprising had broken out in the ghetto, that the Jews had used the building materials given them for the purpose of air raid precaution to set up defence works, and that during the uprising violent resistance was encountered by the German troops.

Q. I now come to the Warsaw uprising of 1944. To what extent did the administration of the Government General participate in the quelling of that revolt?

A. Since our comrades were encircled in Warsaw by the insurrectionists, we asked the Governor General to request the Fuehrer for assistance to put down the revolt immediately. Apart from that, the administration was active in caring for the welfare of the population in connection with the evacuation of the battle zone, the quarters that were to be destroyed. But the administration did not exercise any authority there.

Q. On 4 November, 1945, you made an affidavit. The affidavit bears the Document number 2476-PS. I shall now read to you that affidavit, which is very brief, and I shall ask you to tell me whether the contents are correct. I quote:-

"In the course of the quelling of the Warsaw revolt in August, 1944, approximately 50,000 to 60,000 inhabitants of Warsaw were taken away from the Polish ghetto to German concentration camps. As a result

[Page 149]

of a demarche by the Governor General at the office of Reichsfuehrer S.S. Himmler, the latter prohibited further deportations. The Governor General tried to bring about the release of the 50,000 to 60,000 inhabitants of Warsaw who had already been taken to concentration camps in the Reich. The Chief of the R.S.H.A., ObergruppenFuehrer Kaltenbrunner refused this request in writing, as well as verbally on the occasion of a visit of mine to Berlin in September or October, 1944, on the grounds that these inhabitants of Warsaw were being used in the secret armament manufacture of the Reich and that therefore a general release was out of the question. However, he would, he said, be willing to examine individual applications favourably. Individual applications for release from concentration camps were granted by Kaltenbrunner during the subsequent months.

Contrary to the Polish estimate, the number of persons taken from Warsaw to concentration camps in the Reich was estimated by Kaltenbrunner to be small. I myself reported to my office Kaltenbrunner's statement regarding the number of internees, and after a renewed investigation I found that, the above-mentioned figure of 50,000 to 60,000 was correct. These were the people who had been taken to concentration camps in Germany."

A. May I ask you to repeat the last two sentences please?
Q. "I myself reported to my office Kaltenbrunner's statement regarding the number of internees, and after a renewed investigation I found that the above-mentioned figure of 50,000 to 60,000 was correct. These were the people who had been taken to concentration camps in Germany."
I now ask you, are the contents of this affidavit, made before an American officer, correct?

A. I can supplement it.

THE PRESIDENT: Before he supplements it, is it in evidence? Has it yet been put in evidence?

DR. SEIDL: It has the number 2476-PS.

THE PRESIDENT: That doesn't prove it has been put in evidence. Has it been put in evidence? Dr. Seidl, you know quite well what "put in evidence" means. Has it been put in evidence? Has it got a USA Exhibit number?

DR. SEIDL: No, it hasn't got a USA Exhibit number.

THE PRESIDENT: Then you are offering it in evidence, are you?

DR. SEIDL: I don't want to submit it formally in evidence; but I do want to ask the witness about the contents of this affidavit.

THE PRESIDENT: But it is a document, and if you are putting it to the witness, you must put it in evidence and you must give it an exhibit number. You can't put documents to the witness and not put them in evidence.

DR. SEIDL: In that case, I submit this document as Exhibit Frank No. 1.


Q. I now ask you, witness, whether the contents of this affidavit are correct, and, if so, whether you can supplement this affidavit.

A. Yes, I should like to supplement it briefly. It is possible that I went to see Kaltenbrunner twice about that question - not only once - and after Kaltenbrunner had refused to release these people the second time I had, on the strength of my experiences with the camp commandant in the Camp Pruszkow, the impression that it was not in Kaltenbrunner's power to order such a release. He didn't talk to me about that.

Q. But from his statements you had the impression that perhaps he too did not have the power to release those people?

A. During those conferences I had brought up questions about the Polish policy and from these conferences I had the impression that I might gain Kaltenbrunner's interest in a reasonable Polish policy, and win him over as an

[Page 150]

ally in negotiations with Himmler. At any rate, when talking to me, he condemned the methods of force used by Kruger. I gathered from these statements that Kaltenbrunner did not want to see methods of force employed against the Poles and that he would have helped me if he could.

Q. The Soviet prosecution has submitted a document as Exhibit USSR-128. It is a teleprinted letter from the intelligence office of the Higher S.S. and, Police Leader East addressed to the Governor General and signed by Dr. Fischer, then Governor of Warsaw. It reads as follows:-

"Obergruppenfuehrer von dem Bach has, been given the new task of pacifying Warsaw, that is to say, of levelling Warsaw to the ground during the war, except where military considerations of its value as a fortress are involved; all raw materials, all textiles, and all furniture should be cleared from Warsaw first. The main task will fall to the civil administration. I herewith inform you that this new Fuehrer decree regarding the levelling of Warsaw is of the greatest significance for the new Polish policy of the future."
As far as you can recollect, how did the Governor General regard that teleprinted letter? And to what extent was his basic attitude altered on the strength of that letter?

A. This teleprint referred to instructions with Obergruppenfuehrer von dem Bach had received from the Reichsfuehrer S.S. The administration in the Government General did not welcome the destruction of Warsaw. On the contrary, I remember that the Governor General discussed the ways which might be used to avoid the destruction of Warsaw. Just what was really tried I cannot recollect. It may be that further steps were not taken because of the impossibility of achieving anything.

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