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-Thirteenth Day: Wednesday, 24th April, 1946
(Part 8 of 9)

[The direct examination of Hans Bernd Gisevius continues]

[Page 217]


Q. Witness, I should like to talk about the efforts which were made by the Ministry of the Interior to stop the arbitrary methods of the Gestapo, particularly with reference to the concentration camps. I therefore ask you to look at a memorandum which originates from the Reich and Prussian Ministry of the Interior. It is Document 775-PS, which I submitted this morning, when I presented the evidence for Frick, as Exhibit Frick-9. It is number 34 in the document book.

Q. Witness, do you know that memorandum?

A. No, I don't. It appears that this memorandum was drawn up after I had left the Ministry of the Interior. I gather that this is so from the fact that in this memorandum the Reich Minister of the Interior appears already to have

[Page 218]

given up the fight, since he writes that, as a matter of principle, it should be made clear who bears the responsibility, and, if necessary, the responsibility for all the consequences must now - and I quote-:
"be borne by the Reichsfuehrer S.S. who, in fact, has already claimed for himself the leadership of the political police in the Reich."
At the time when I was at the Reich Ministry of the Interior we tried particularly to prevent Himmler taking over the political police. This is evidently a memorandum written about six months later, when the terror had become still more rife. The facts which are quoted here are known to me.

Q. Can you say anything about the Puendor case and the Esterwegen, Oldenburg case?

A. The Esterwegen case can be described quite briefly. It is one of many. So far as I can recollect, an S.A. or local group leader was arrested by the Gestapo because he got excited about the conditions in the Papenbruck concentration camp. This was not the first time, either. I don't know why the defendant Frick picked on this particular case. At any rate, one day Daluege showed me one of those customary hand- written slips sent by Frick to Himmler. Frick had written in the margin in large green letters, and had told Himmler that an S.A.-man or local group leader or whatever he was, had been arrested illegally, that this man must be released at once and that if Himmler did that sort of thing once again, he Frick, would institute criminal proceedings against Himmler for deprivation of liberty.

I remember this story very well, because it was somewhat peculiar, considering the police conditions which existed at the time, that Himmler should be threatened by Frick with criminal proceedings, and Daluege made some sneering remarks to me regarding Frick's action. That is the one case.

THE PRESIDENT: What was the date?

THE WITNESS: This must have happened in the spring of 1935, I should say in March or April.


Q. Witness, do you know how Himmler reacted to that threat of criminal proceedings?

A. Yes; there was another case of the same kind. That was the Puender case which was mentioned just now. He reacted similarly to both, and therefore it might be better if I first describe the Puender case in this connection. This concerned a Berlin lawyer of high standing who was legal adviser to the Swedish Embassy. The widow of the Ministerial Director Klausner, who had been murdered on 30 June, approached Puender, as she wanted to sue the life insurance companies for payment of her annuity. But since Klausner had allegedly committed suicide on that day, no director of any insurance company dared pay the money to the widow; consequently the attorney had to sue. But the Nazis had made a law according to which all such awkward cases - awkward for the Nazis-were not to be tried in court. They were to be taken to a so-called board of referees (Spruchkammer) in the Reich Ministry of the Interior. If I am not mistaken, this law was called "Law for the Settlement of Civilian Claims" - they were never at a loss for fine sounding names and formulas at that time. This law forced the attorney to submit his claim to the court first. He was apprehensive. He went to the Ministry of the Interior and told the State Secretary: "If I comply with the law and sue, I shall be arrested." The State Secretary in the Ministry of the Interior forced him to sue. Thereupon the very wise attorney went to the Ministry of Justice and told the State Secretary Freisler that he did not want to sue, since he would certainly be arrested by the Gestapo. The State Secretary in the Ministry of Justice informed him that he would have to sue, whatever happened, but that nothing

[Page 219]

would happen, since the courts had been instructed to pass such cases on without comment to the board of referees in the Ministry of the Interior. Thereupon the attorney sued and the Gestapo promptly arrested him for defamation because he had stated that the Ministerial Director Klausner had not met his death by suicide. This was for us a classical example of what we had come to in Germany as far as protective custody was concerned.

I had taken the liberty of selecting this case from among hundreds, or I should say thousands of similar cases and of suggesting to Frick that this matter should be brought to the notice not only of Goering but this time of Hitler as well. Then I sat down and drafted a letter or a report from Frick to Hitler, which also went to the Ministry of Justice. There were more than five pages and I discussed from every angle the facts concerning Ministerial Director Klausner's suicide, and the ensuing law suit. This report to Hitler concluded with Frick's remark, that the time had now come to have the problem of protective custody settled by the Reich and by lawful means.

And now I answer your question regarding what happened. You see, it roughly coincided with Frick's letter to Himmler regarding deprivation of freedom. Himmler took these two letters to a meeting of Reich Leaders (Reichsleiter), i.e., the so-called ministers of the movement, and he put the question to them, whether it was proper to allow one Reichsleader, that is Frick, to write such letters to another Reichsleader, that is, to Himmler. These worthy gentlemen answered this question in the negative and reprimanded Frick. Then Himmler went to the meeting of the Prussian cabinet, where the protective custody law, which I mentioned, was being discussed.

Perhaps I may draw your attention to the fact that at that time it was a rare thing for Himmler to be allowed to attend a meeting of Prussian ministers. There was a time in Germany - and it was quite a long period - when Himmler was not the powerful man which he afterwards became because the bourgeois ministers and the generals were cowards and gave way to him. Thus, it was a rare thing for Himmler to be allowed to attend a meeting of the Prussian Ministerial Council at all. This particular meeting ended by my being discharged from the Ministry of the Interior.

Q. Witness, I should like to quote to you two sentences from the memorandum which I have just shown to you, that is, Document 775-PS, and ask you to tell me whether the facts are stated correctly. I quote:-

"In this connection, I draw your attention to the case of the lawyer Puender, who was taken into protective custody together with his colleagues only because, after making enquiry at the Reich Ministry of the Interior and our ministry, he had filed a suit, which he was forced to do by a Reich Law."
A. Yes, that is correct.

Q. And then the other sentence. I quote:-

"I only mention here the case of a teacher and Kreisleiter in Esterwegen, who was kept in protective custody for eight days because - "
THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Pannenbecker, where is that sentence which you have just read?

DR. PANNENBECKER: In the Document Book Frick, under No. 34, second sentence.

THE PRESIDENT: Which page?

DR. PANNENBECKER: In my document book it is Page 80.

THE INTERPRETER: It is Page 70, my Lord, in the book the translator has.

THE PRESIDENT: Are you speaking of paragraph 3 on Page 70?

DR. PANNENBECKER: No. Mr. President, I have just discovered that this particular sentence in the document has not been translated. Perhaps I may read one more sentence which obviously has been translated. It can be found in paragraph 3 of the same document.

[Page 220]

"I only mention here the case of a teacher and Kreisleiter in Esterwegen, who was kept in protective custody for eight days because, as it turned out afterwards, he had sent a correct report to his district councillor (Landrat) on cases of ill-treatment by the S.S."
A. Yes, that corresponds to the facts.

Q. Witness, did you personally have any support from Frick for your own protection?

A. Yes. At that time, of course, I was such a suspect in the eyes of the Secret State Police that all sorts of evil designs were being made against me. Frick gave an order, therefore, that I should be protected in my apartment by the local police. A direct telephone from my apartment to the police station was installed, so that I had only to pick up the receiver and at any rate could inform somebody in case of surprise visitors. Furthermore, the Gestapo used their usual methods against me by accusing me of criminal acts. Apparently the files were taken to Hitler in the Reich Chancellery, but Frick intervened and it was soon discovered that this was a namesake of mine. Frick said quite openly, on an ordinary telephone, that these fellows, as he put it, had once more lied to the Fuehrer. This was the signal for the Gestapo who were, of course, listening in to this telephone call, that they could no longer use these methods.

Then we advanced one step further through Heydrich. He was so kind as to inform me by telephone that I probably had forgotten that he could pursue his personal and political opponents even to their graves. I made an official report of that threat to Frick, and Frick, either personally or through Daluege, intervened with Heydrich, and no doubt he thereby rendered me a considerable service, for Heydrich never liked it very much when his murderous intentions were talked about openly.

Q. Witness, would at least a minister of the Reich have no cause for alarm about his own personal safety if he tried to fight against the terror of the Gestapo and Himmler?

A. If you ask me that now, I must say that Schacht was the only one who was put into a concentration camp. But it is true that we all asked ourselves just how long it would take for a Reichminister to be sent to a concentration camp. As regards Frick, he told me confidentially, as far back as 1934, that the Reich Governor of Bavaria had given him reliable information, according to which he was to be murdered while taking a holiday in the country in Bavaria; and he asked me whether I could find out any details. At that time I went with my friend Nebe to Bavaria by car, and we made a secret investigation which did at any rate, disclose that such plans had been discussed. But, as I said, Frick survived.

DR. PANNENBECKER: I have no further questions.

DR. DIX: (Counsel for defendant Schacht): May I ask you to decide on the following question. I, too, have called Gisevius as a witness, and therefore the problem which I am putting refers to the present and not to some subsequent time. This is, therefore, not a subsequent question which I am putting, but I am examining him as my witness. I am of the opinion that it is right and expedient that I now follow up the examination of my colleague Pannenbecker, and that my other colleagues, who also want to put questions, follow the two of us. I ask the Tribunal to decide on this question.

THE PRESIDENT: Are you the only defendants' counsel who asked for this witness to be called on behalf of your client?

DR. DIX: I called him.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I know, but are you the only defendants' counsel who asked to call him?

DR. DIX: I believe, Sir, I am the only one who has called him.

THE PRESIDENT: Very well, Dr. Dix, you may examine him next.

[Page 221]


Q. Dr. Gisevius, Dr. Pannenbecker has already mentioned that you have published a book entitled "To the Bitter End." I have submitted quotations from that book to the Tribunal as evidence, and they have, therefore, been accepted as documentary evidence by the Tribunal. For this reason I now ask you: Are the contents of that book historically true and did you write it only from memory or is it based on notes which you made at the time?

A. I can say here to the best of my knowledge and with a clear conscience that the contents of the book are historically true. In Germany I always made notes as far as it was possible. I have already said here that my dead friend Oster had, in the Ministry, a considerable collection of documents, to which I had access at all times. I have not written about any important matter which contains reference to friends from my opposition group, without having consulted them many times about it. Further, since 1938, I have been in Switzerland, first as a visitor and later on for professional reasons, and there I was able to continue my notes undisturbed. The volume which has been submitted to the Tribunal was practically completed in 1941 and had already been shown to several friends of mine abroad in 1942.

THE PRESIDENT: If he says that the book is true, that is enough.


Q. Since when have you known the defendant Schacht?

A. I have known the defendant Schacht since the end of 1934.

Q. On what occasion and in what circumstances did you meet him?

A. I met him when I worked in the Reich Ministry of the Interior and collected material against the Gestapo. I was consulted by various parties, who either feared or had already had trouble with the Gestapo. Thus one day Schacht, who was then Minister for Economy, sent to me a man whom he trusted - to be precise his plenipotentiary, Herbert Goring, - to ask me whether I would help Schacht. He, Schacht, had for some time felt that he was being watched by Himmler and the Gestapo and lately had had good reason to suspect that an informer, or at least a microphone, had been installed in his own house. I was asked whether I could help in this case. I said I could. I got a microphone expert from the Reich Post Administration, and the following morning I visited Schacht's ministerial apartment. We went with the microphone expert from room to room and we did not have to search very long. It had been fixed very crudely by the Gestapo. They had mounted the microphone only too visibly and, moreover, they had engaged a domestic servant to spy on Schacht; she had a listening device attached to the house telephone installed in her own bedroom. That was easy to discover and so we were able to unmask the whole thing. It was on that occasion that I first spoke with Schacht.

Q. And what was the subject of your conversation? Did you, as early as that, speak about political matters?

A. We spoke about the material and the somewhat peculiar situation which had brought us together. Schacht knew that I was very active in opposing the Gestapo and I, for my part, was aware that Schacht was known for his utterances against the S.S. and the Gestapo on numberless occasions. Many middle-class people in Germany placed their hopes in him, as the only strong minister who could protect them if need be. Particularly the industrialists and businessmen, who were very important at the time, hoped for and often obtained his support, so that it was quite natural that I immediately, during that first conversation, told him everything that was worrying me.

The main problem at that time was the removal of the Gestapo and the removal of the Nazi regime. Therefore, our conversation was highly political, and Schacht listened to everything with an open mind which made it possible for me to tell him everything.

Q. And what did he say?

[Page 222]

A. I told Schacht that we were inevitably drifting towards radicalism and that it was doubtful whether, the way things were going, we wouldn't have inflation and, that being so, whether it would not be better if he himself would bring about that inflation, since that would enable him to know beforehand the exact date of such a crisis and, together with the generals and anti-radical ministers, to make timely arrangements to meet the situation when it became really serious. I told him, "You should bring about that inflation, you yourself will then be able to determine the course of events, instead of allowing others to take things out of your hands." He replied, "Look here, that's just the difference which separates us: You want the crash and I do not want it."

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