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-Fourteenth Day: Thursday, 25th April, 1946
(Part 2 of 10)

[DR. DIX continues his direct examination of Hans Bernd Gisevius]

[Page 231]

Q. Whom do you mean by "we"?

A. At this time, a group existed, among whom I must mention Dr. Schacht. He was extremely active, and went to Admiral Raeder, to Brauchitsch, to Rundstedt, and to Guertner. Everywhere his battle cry was: "Now the great crisis has arisen. Now we have to act. Now it is the task of the generals to rid us of this regime of terror."

But I must mention one more name in that connection. In 1936 Schacht had already introduced me to Dr. Goerdeler. I had the honour to be able to travel the same route with that brave man from then on until 20 July. Here, in this room, where so many terrible things have been brought to light, I mention his name for the first time. It is the name of a German who was a brave and fearless fighter for freedom and justice and decency, and who, I believe, will one day, be an example, not only to Germany, but to all the world, to prove that even under Gestapo terror, one can do one's duty faithfully until death.

This Dr. Goerdeler, who had always been a fearless and untiring fighter, in those days showed unequalled courage. Like Dr. Schacht, he went from one ministry to another, from one general to the next, and he also believed that now the hour had come when we could achieve a united front of the decent people led by the generals. Brauchitsch did not refuse at that time. He did not refuse to act on Guertner's request. In fact, he assured Guertner, with almost religious fervour, of his willingness to co-operate in a putsch.

Further, I may mention that Brauchitsch also solemnly assured me that he would now use the opportunity to fight against the Gestapo. However, Brauchitsch made one condition, and that condition was accepted by the generals as a whole. Brauchitsch said, "Hitler is still such a popular man that we are afraid of the Hitler Myth. We want to give to the German people and the world the final proof through a session of the Reich Court-Martial and its verdict." Therefore, Brauchitsch postponed his action until the day when the verdict of the Reich Court-Martial would be handed down.

The Reich Court-Martial met. It began its session. The session was

[Page 232]

suddenly interrupted under dramatic circumstances. I must add that Hitler appointed the defendant Goering as President of that Reich Court-Martial. So, the Reich Court-Martial, under the chairmanship of Goering, met. I know from Nebe that Goering, during the preceding days, had had consultations with Himmler and Heydrich. I know that Heydrich told Nebe that the Reich Court-Martial would be the end of his career.

Q. Did Nebe tell you that?

A. Yes, on the same day. He said that the Reich Court- Martial would be extremely dangerous for the Gestapo. The Supreme Court-Martial convened for several hours, and was then adjourned under dramatic circumstances, for that was the day chosen for the German armies to march into Austria. Even at that time we knew without doubt why the President of that Court-Martial should be so unusually interested in troops receiving the order to march to a goal not inside, but outside the Reich. The Supreme Court-Martial could not meet again until a week later, but then Hitler was triumphant. The generals had their first "campaign of flowers" behind them, a plebiscite had been proclaimed, the jubilation was great and the confusion amongst the generals was still greater. So the Court-Martial was dissolved. Fritsch's innocence was established, but Brauchitsch said, that as a result of the changed psychological atmosphere created by the annexation of Austria, he could no longer take the responsibility for a putsch.

That is roughly the story, telling how the War Ministry was in practice deprived of its leading men and how the generals were thrown into unequalled confusion. From that time on we took the steep downward path to radicalism.

DR. DIX: Perhaps I may ask the Tribunal to be permitted to read in this connection one sentence from a document which I will submit as Exhibit Schacht-15. My document book is still in the process of translation, but I hope that it will be here on the day of Schacht's hearing. There is only one sentence which is of interest in this connection. It is from the bi-annual report of the general staff ...

THE PRESIDENT: Have the documents been submitted to the prosecution and to the Tribunal at all?

DR. DIX: The documents have been discussed with the prosecution twice in detail, once in regard to the question of translation and then on the question of their admissibility as evidence; and Mr. Dodd discussed them in open court. I am firmly convinced that the prosecution is thoroughly acquainted with the documents. It is only one sentence and I do not believe that the prosecution objects to the reading of this one sentence since otherwise, the connection with the documentary evidence might be obscured. I shall introduce a document wherever it seems practical. This is only one sentence from the bi-annual report of the Chief of Staff of the United States.

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: I do not know what this document is, your Honour. I should like to know because we may want to ask some questions about it. I do not want to delay Dr. Dix, but I have not a copy of it and I do not know as yet just what it is.

DR. DIX: I just wanted to shorten the proceedings, but, if I see that there are any difficulties and a long discussion might set in, I will omit it and will present it later with my documentary evidence. It would not serve my purpose otherwise.


Q. For the complete and thorough information of the Tribunal perhaps you will describe the position the President occupies in German Court-Martial proceedings; that the control of the examination is in his hands, that, as a matter of fact, the entire case is in his hands.

A. Dr. Dix, I do not doubt that you are better qualified to describe the authority of the President; however, I would like to say the following:-

[Page 233]

I have read the minutes of that session, for it is one of those documents which we thought we would one day submit to the public, and this, too, I hope will be the case. From the minutes it can be seen that the defendant Goering as President directed the tenor of the entire proceedings and of the questions.

He questioned the prosecution witnesses, and he took care that other questions, which might have proved embarrassing, were not put. I must say from these voluminous minutes that Goering knew how to cloak the true facts by the manner in which he led the proceedings.

Q. In my introductory words at the beginning of the session, I called the Fritsch crisis the decisive preparatory step of the war, and you, Doctor, have accepted that term. After concluding the description of the Fritsch crisis, will you give the reason for the opinion you have adopted, and what was the effect upon your group in this connection, especially upon Schacht?

A. I must point out again that up to this Fritsch crisis it had been difficult in the ranks of the German opposition to even consider the possibility of war. That was due to the fact that in Germany the opposition groups were so sure of the strength of the army and of the leading men that they believed it would be sufficient that a man of honour, like Fritsch, was at the head of the German Army. It seemed inconceivable that Fritsch would tolerate a sliding into terror or into war. Only a few of us had pointed out that it was in the nature of every revolution to some day go beyond the frontiers of a nation. We believed that the lessons of history should show the danger in the National Socialist Revolution and therefore, those of us who were convinced that they were faced with a revolution, not only with a dictatorship, again and again uttered the warning that one day those revolutionaries would resort to war as a last recourse. The more it became evident in the course of the Fritsch crisis that radicalism was predominant, the more it became clear to a larger group that the danger of war could no longer be taken lightly.

Q. And did the defendant Schacht also belong to that group?

A. Yes. During those days of the Fritsch crisis, Schacht said, as did many others: "That means war," and this was also told plainly to the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, General Brauchitsch.

Q. Now the question arises why had Schacht financed the rearmament programme, at least in the beginning?

A. Schacht always told me that he had financed the rearmament programme for purposes of defence. Schacht had been convinced for many years that such a large nation in the centre of Europe should at least have the means for defence. I may point out that at that time large groups of the German people were convinced of the idea that possibly there was danger of an attack coming from the East. You must not forget the type of propaganda with which the German people were swamped at that time, particularly about this danger from the East, propaganda based upon Polish aspirations about East Prussia.

Q. Did Schacht also discuss with you the fact that this rearmament was serving his political purposes at the time in so far as discussions on general disarmament could be started again?

A. I beg your pardon. Unfortunately I forgot to emphasise this point myself. Schacht was of the opinion that by all means the discussion on rearmament should be started again. He had the idea that very soon - I think he had held that opinion since 1935 - the attention of the other countries should be called to German rearmament, and then Hitler, because news of his rearmament had transpired, would be forced to resume the discussions at the disarmament conference.

Q. Was that which you have just said the subject of your conversation with Schacht at that time, or is that your considered opinion only now?

A. No. I remember this conversation very well, because I thought that Hitler had other inclinations and desires than to attend a disarmament con-

[Page 234]

ference. I thought Hitler to be of an entirely different mentality, and was somewhat surprised that Schacht considered it possible that Hitler might have this in mind.

Q. Did you get the impression from your conversations with Schacht that he was well informed of the type and extent of rearmament?

A. I well remember how often Schacht asked me and some of my friends whether we could not help him to get information about the extent of rearmament by questioning the Reich War Ministry. I have already described yesterday the efforts he made to get details through Oster and Thomas.

Q. Could you tell the Tribunal whether Schacht made any attempt to limit armament expenses, and thus the extent and speed of the rearmament, and, if so, when he made these efforts?

A. He started to attempt this, to my knowledge, as early as 1936. In the heated debates about Schacht's resignation as Minister of Economics in 1937 his efforts in this direction played an important part. I recall that practically every conversation was concerned with that point.

Q. Now, it is said by the prosecution - and quite understandably - that the reasons Schacht gave, even in official reports, etc., for the necessity of these limitations were primarily of a financial nature, that is to say, he spoke as the leader in the economic field, and President of the Reichsbank, and not as a patriot who was afraid that his country might be plunged into war. Can you recollect any discussions with Schacht which might be of value to the Tribunal on that point?

A. In all these discussions there were dozens of drafts of letters which Schacht wrote. They were discussed in friendly circles. To mention one example, Schacht repeatedly discussed these drafts with Goerdeler. It was always a question of the following: How can these letters be framed so as not to be considered provocative, but rather to help to attract the other civil ministers, particularly the War Minister von Blomberg, and draw them to Schacht's side? That precisely was the difficulty - how such ministers as Blomberg, Neurath, or Schwerin-Krosigk, who were much more loyal to Hitler could be persuaded to join Schacht rather than to say that Schacht once again provoked Hitler and Goering with his notoriously sharp tongue. All these letters can be understood only from the tactical reasons which, as I have mentioned, had been discussed in detail with the leading men of the opposition.

Q. Now, after the Fritsch crisis how did the political conspiracy between you and your friends and Schacht take form?

A. I want to deal with that word "conspiracy. " While up to that moment our activity could only be called more or less oppositional, now, a conspiracy did indeed take shape, and there appeared in the foreground a man who was later to play an important part as its head. The Chief of the General Staff at that time, General Beck, believed that the time had come for a German general to give the alarm-signal both inside and outside the country. I believe it is important for the Tribunal to know also the supreme reason which decided Beck to take that step. The Chief of the General Staff was present when Hitler, in May, 1938, made a speech to the generals at Juterborg.

That speech was intended to rehabilitate Fritsch and there were a few words said about Fritsch, but more was said - for the first time, and quite frankly, before a large group of German generals, about Hitler's intention to engulf Czechoslovakia in a war. Beck heard that speech and he was indignant that he, as Chief of the General Staff, should hear of such an intention for the first time in such an assembly without having been informed or consulted previously. During that meeting, Beck sent a letter to Brauchitsch asking him for an immediate interview. Brauchitsch refused and ostentatiously kept Beck waiting for several weeks. Beck became impatient, wrote a comprehensive memorandum in which as Chief of General Staff, he protested against the fact

[Page 235]

that the German people would be drawn into war. At the end of that memorandum Beck announced his resignation, and here I believe is the opportunity to say a word about this Chief of the General Staff.

Q. One moment, Doctor. Will you tell us the source of your knowledge of Beck's thoughts and the negotiations between Beck and Brauchitsch?

A. Beck confided in me, and, during the last years, I worked in very close collaboration with him, and was by his side until the last hour of his life on 20 July. I can testify here - and it is important for the Tribunal to know this - that Beck struggled continuously with the problem as to what a Chief of General Staff should do when he sees that events are driving toward a war. Therefore, I owe it to his memory, and to my oath here, not to conceal the fact that Beck knew what would be the consequences of being the only German General to leave his post voluntarily, in order to show that there was a limit beyond which even generals in leading positions could not go and where, at the sacrifice of their position and their life, they would be forced to resign and to accept no further orders. Beck was of the opinion that the General Staff was not only an organisation of war technicians; he saw in it the conscience of the German Army, and he trained his staff accordingly. He suffered endlessly during the later years of his life because men whom he had trained in that sense did not follow the dictates of their conscience. I owe it to this man to say that he was a man of unbending character.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Dix, I think we might get on to what Beck actually did.

DR. DIX: Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: Perhaps it would be a convenient time to break off. What I mean is, the witness said that Beck protested in a memorandum and offered to resign, and that was some minutes ago, and since then he has spoken at some length, but without telling us what Beck actually did.

DR. DIX: Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: We will adjourn now.

(A recess was taken.)

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will not sit in open session on Saturday morning but will be sitting in closed session.


Q. You were saying that General Beck carried out his decision to tender his resignation after the speech at Juterborg. What did he do then?

A. Hitler and Brauchitsch urgently pressed him to remain in office but Beck refused and insisted upon resigning. Thereupon Hitler and Brauchitsch urged Beck at least not to make his resignation public, and they asked him if he would not formally defer his resignation for a few months. Beck, who had not gone as far as high treason at that time, believed that he should comply with this request. Later he deeply regretted this loyal attitude. The fact is that as early as the end of May or the beginning of June his successor, General Halder, took over the office of Chief of General Staff and from that moment Beck was actually no longer in charge.

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