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 6 of 10)

[COLONEL SMIRNOV continues his cross examination of Joseph Buehler]

[Page 163]

Q. You declare that neither you personally nor the Administration of the Government General were, in any way, closely connected with the activities of the police. Have I understood you correctly?

A. We had daily contact with the police, but we had differences of opinion. Apart from that the police were not under my jurisdiction; the chief of police was in no way under my orders.

Q. In that case the police did not come within your competence?

A. No.

Q. How then can you explain that no one but you carried on successful negotiations with the police for the exploitation of the real estate of Jews executed in the concentration camps? Do you remember these negotiations?

A. I didn't quite understand you.

Q. I ask you: if you had no direct relations with the police, how can you explain the fact that you, and no other but you, was the person who carried on successful negotiations with the police for the exploitation of real estate belonging to Jews murdered in the concentration camps? Do you remember these negotiations with the police?

[Page 164]

A. I do not remember any such negotiations, and I couldn't have conducted them. In any case the administration was the office which, under the arrangements of the Four-Year Plan, had to carry out the order to confiscate Jewish property.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: Mr. President, have I your permission to submit a document handed to us by the American Prosecution, Document 2819-PS? It is a directive issued by the Administration of the Economic Department of the Government General and addressed to the Governors of Warsaw, Radom, Lublin and Galicia. Have I your permission to present this document?

"Subject: Transfer of Jewish Movable Property from the S.S. to the Government.

I inform you herewith that on 21 February, 1944, in the presence of various departmental presidents, an agreement was reached by State Secretary, Dr. Buehler, and the Higher S.S. and Police Leader, Obergruppenfuehrer Koppe, that movable Jewish property, insofar as it is or will in the future be in depots, will be placed at the disposal of the Government by the S.S. In execution of the agreement arrived at I order that the taking over of the goods stored in the various S.S. depots shall take place in the near future. Goods deriving from confiscation and safeguarding will likewise be turned over to me by the commander of the Security Police and the Security Service. Please get in touch with the local S.S.- and Police Leader in order to clarify the position."

Here I interrupt the quotation. After this, do you still insist that you had no relations with the police?

A. I had to work together with the police daily. I don't want to deny it for a moment, but I had no right to give orders to the police.

Q. In any case the property of Jews murdered in the concentration camps of Poland was, as a result of your negotiations, transferred to warehouses in the Government General?

A. That is not correct. The property mentioned was not that which originated from Jews who were killed, but property which originated directly from Jews, and which was diverted by the police from orderly conversion through the administration.

Q. But could the Security Police or the S.D. be in possession of property belonging to Jews who were not murdered?

A. Why not? Right from the beginning the police had taken over Jewish problems, and therefore also came into possession of their property in this manner.

Q. But did the storehouse at Auschwitz, on Chopin Street, also keep the property of Jews who had not been murdered? Of Jews who were still alive?

A. The "camps" which have been mentioned here aren't to be interpreted as being concentration camps, but as depots where goods were stored. [NB. The German word lager means both "camp" and 11 depot" or "warehouse".]

Q. What other warehouses were there for storing the movable property of Jews besides those in the concentration camps?

A. I didn't know what the position was as regards concentration camps, since I have never entered or seen one; but that the police took possession of movable Jewish property, that, at any rate, is something I was told about by the chief of my trustee department.

Q. I am asking you this: in 1944, when mass death sentences were being carried out in Auschwitz and Maidanek, what warehouses existed for the storage of Jewish movable property besides those which stored such property belonging to Jews executed in concentration camps? Do you know of any other warehouses, and, if so, where they were located?

A. The Jews were deprived of their property on the spot. I have never

[Page 165]

assumed that Jewish property was located in concentration camps. I didn't know anything at all about these camps. And where the police took that movable property to was not clear to me, but depots must have existed.

Q. I would draw your attention to the date - 21 February, 1944. At that time were there any Jews still alive in Poland or were the Jewish ghettos already quite empty?

A. The Jewish ghettos were empty, but there were still some Jews; I know that, because they were being used in one way or another in the armament industry. Jewish property could not have been removed from the territory, it must have been somewhere in the Government General, very probably near the ghettos or wherever else the evacuation of Jews took place. And this teleprint, I repeat, does not concern stores which were in concentration camps; they were everywhere. Every place had stored somewhere the property originating from the resettlement of the Jews.

Q. Then the Jewish ghettos were already empty. In that case, what did happen to the Jews from Poland.

A. When these Jewish ghettos were emptied I assumed they were resettled in the North-East of Europe. The Chief of the R.S.H.A. had definitely told me at the conference in February, 1942, that this was the intention.

Q. On 21 February, 1944, the front passed through the Government General. How and where could the Jews have been transferred to the North-East?

A. According to the conference this was to take place in 1942.

Q. The document is dated 1944, 21 February, 1944.

A. Yes.

Q. I pass on to the next question. Tell me, does the fact that the Police Chiefs attend all the conferences at the Headquarters of the Governor General, and that the Governor General arranged for special conferences to be held for dealing exclusively with police matters, not indicate that the very closest relations existed between the Administration Offices of the Governor General and the Gestapo?

A. I already mentioned at the beginning that the view of the Governor General was that he should have jurisdiction over the police. This is the reason why the Governor General repeatedly called the police for discussions round the conference table. But that did not prevent the police from going their own way and using methods of their own.

Q. But were no conferences held by the Governor General for dealing directly and exclusively with police problems, and with police problems only?

A. Yes, from time to time.

Q. Very well. Then will you tell me who took Kruger's place when he was dismissed from his post as Chief of Police?

A. As far as I can remember Kruger was removed from his position in Cracow in November, 1943, and was replaced by Obergruppenfuehrer Koppe.

Q. What were your personal relations with Koppe?

A. Due to the fact that the relationship with the police under Kruger had always been hostile and because, whenever the administration had wished to co-operate with the police it was always frustrated by Kruger, after he left Cracow I tried to establish a comradely relationship with the new Higher S.S. and Police Leader, so that in this manner I could influence the work and methods of the police.

Q. Could you answer briefly: just what were your personal relationships with Koppe? Were they good or bad?

A. They were a feeling of comradeship.

Q. I should like to show you one document. You, Mr. President, will find the passage on Page 38, paragraph 2, of the Russian translation.

I am reading the passage into the record. It is a statement made by Frank to Himmler at the conference with Himmler on 12 February, 1944:

[Page 166]

"Immediately after the greetings, Reichsfuehrer S.S. Himmler, entered into conversation with me and S.S.- Obergruppenfuehrer Koppe. The Reichsfuehrer asked me right at the beginning how I was co-operating with the new Secretary of State for Security, S.S.- ObergruppenFuehrer Koppe. I expressed my deep satisfaction at the fact that between myself and S.S.- ObergruppenFuehrer Koppe, as well as between State Secretary Dr. Buehler and himself, there existed an extraordinarily good relationship of friendly co- operation."
Does that statement by Frank correspond to the facts, witness?

A. At that time Koppe had been in the Government General only a few weeks. This statement confirms just what I stated here at the beginning, namely, that after Kruger had been replaced by Koppe I tried through comrade-like relationship with Koppe to gain influence over the police powers in the Government General. Thus there wasn't any friction up to that time.

Q. And between Koppe and Buehler, i.e., between Koppe and yourself, there existed the most comradely collaboration; is that correct?

A. I repeat, my relationship with Koppe was comradely. Apart from that, the problems with which we had to deal brought me into daily contact with him. For instance, there was this question of Jewish property. One couldn't possibly have discussed such a question with Kruger since he held the view that all Jewish property belonged to the S.S.

Q. When Koppe took over the post of Chief of Police was there any change with regard to the Polish population? Did the police measures become less severe? Did they become less repressive with Koppe's arrival?

A. I believe they were milder.

Q. I would like you to follow the minutes of one particular Administrative Conference, of 16 December, 1943, held at Cracow. Please show the witness the original. Incidentally, is that your signature on the list of those present? On Page 154.

A. Government meeting, 16 December, 1943? Yes, I signed that, that's right.

Q. Tell me, do you remember who Ohlenbusch was?

A. Ohlenbusch was the President of the Chief Department of Propaganda.

Q. Was he in any way connected with the police or with the Administration?

A. Ohlenbusch participated in government meetings during which the police were ordinarily present.

Q. But he himself, in his own function, did he have any connection with the police or not?

A. As a State Official and Head of a Government Department he did, of course, have connection with the police, official connections.

Q. But he was an official of the civilian administration of your organisation?

A. Yes, of course. As far as his official position was concerned, he was subordinate to me.

Q. I am reading into the record a short extract from Page 176. Your Honour will find it on Page 33 of our document, paragraph 3, Ohlenbusch's speech:

"It would be well to consider whether, for reasons of expediency, one should not, as far as possible, carry out executions on the spot where the attempt upon the life of a German took place. One ought, perhaps, also to consider whether special execution sites should not be created for this purpose, for it has been observed that the Polish population streamed to the execution grounds, which were accessible to all, in order to place the blood-soaked earth into containers and take them to the Church."
Do you not consider this question a purely police question? Do you not consider the question of organising secret execution grounds as purely a matter for the police?

[Page 167]

A. Yes. I agree. For that reason this matter was by no means approved of. But perhaps I may add that at the same time German pedestrians in Cracow and Warsaw were being shot in the back daily without any reason and that this affair was due to the excitement which -

Q. I am asking you about something else, Witness. Do you not consider the fact that this question was discussed at the initiative of Ohlenbusch, as proof positive that even the petty officials in the Civilian Administration interfered in police matters and were in direct contact with the police.

A. No, I wouldn't say so. This wasn't suggested as a police measure. It arose from the threat under which all Germans lived at that stage of the occupation.

Q. This question of secret execution grounds - did it arise on Ohlenbusch's initiative? I trust you are not going to deny this.

A. What do you mean by this question?

Q. Did it arise on, was it provoked by the initiative of Ohlenbusch? You are not going to deny it?

A. I don't know whether this was discussed at all. In my opinion -

Q. (Interposing.) The type-written report of that conference is before you, and you were present at that conference.

A. Yes, there are statements made by Ohlenbusch, if I am not mistaken. Yes, it mentions President Ohlenbusch in here. That's right.

Q. I shall proceed to the next question. Did S.S. Obergruppenfuehrer Koppe not report on the subject at all during the conference? I shall quote a brief excerpt which your Honours will find on Page 34, paragraph 2. It is on Page 180 of your Document Book.

" ... For the railway outrage 150 Polish terrorists executed, and for the two German officials murdered, 50 Polish terrorists executed, either on the spot or in the immediate vicinity. It must be remembered that the shooting of 200 people affects at least 3,000 people (including close and distant relatives)."
Q. Do you not consider this as evidence that with the arrival of Koppe the same savage measures of repression were used against the people of Poland?

A. Inasmuch as this mentions the shooting of 150 and 50 people, this obviously concerns the shooting of hostages, which never did have the approval of the Governor General or my approval. If I have nevertheless stated that, on the whole, Koppe's regime appeared milder to me, then I must stand by that statement of mine.

Q. Does this mean that the hostage system did not meet either with your approval or with the approval of the Governor General; is that correct?

A. It did not have my approval, and I don't think it had the approval of the Governor General.

Q. Will you please look at Page 185 of the document in your possession. I begin with the quotation:

"The Governor General expressed his gratitude and recognition to S.S.-Obergruppenfuehrer Koppe for his effective work, and voiced his satisfaction at the fact that an expert with such high qualifications was at the head of the police organisation in the Government General."
He promised S.S.-ObergruppenFuehrer Koppe the active co- operation of all offices in the Government General, and expressed his best wishes for the success of his work. How are we to interpret this statement?

A. This statement of the Governor General does not apply to these 50 and 150 people. It applies to the work in general which was to be done by Koppe in the Government General; and one of the principles that was to be applied to that work - which I helped to bring about - was that shootings of hostages were to cease. It is quite possible that in this case that principle had not yet been applied.

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