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 5 of 10)

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

[Page 244]

Q. And did this man who had your confidence make a report in the sense which you stipulated?

A. Yes, he did and I must say that very soon public statements on the part of the British, either on the radio or in the Press, or in the House of Commons began to dispel these doubts of the German generals and the German people. Beginning at that time everything which could be done, was done by the British to alarm the German generals.

Q. Did not Schacht meet his friend Montague-Norman in Switzerland at that time and talk with him in the same vein? Do you know? Were you there?

A. Yes. We thought that the opportunity for Schacht to talk to a close friend of Prime Minister Chamberlain should not be allowed to pass by, and Schacht had a very detailed discussion with Montague-Norman in order to describe to him the psychological atmosphere in Germany after Prague, and to persuade him that the British Government should now make their attitude clear.

Q. Was not the current slogan to foreign countries: "You must play off the Nazis against Germans?"

A. Yes, it was the tenor of all our discussions. We wanted it made clear to the German people that the Western powers were not against Germany but only against this Nazi policy of surprise and against the Nazi methods of terror, within the country as well as abroad.

Q. And now, having come back from Switzerland, what happened next, particularly with reference to Schacht?

A. We saw that things in Germany were rapidly drifting towards the August crisis, and that the generals could not be dissuaded from the view that Hitler was only bluffing, and that there would be another Munich or another Prague. And now began all those desperate efforts which we made in order to influence the leading generals, and, in particular, Keitel, to prevent the decisive order to march against Poland being given.

[Page 245]

Q. Let us come back to Schacht's return from the Swiss journey in spring of 1939. You know that Schacht left Germany and made a journey to India?

A. He went to India and he intended to stay there as long as possible, and then go on to China. But on the way Hitler's order, prohibiting him from setting foot on Chinese soil, reached him, and I think, he returned a few days before the outbreak of war.

Q. You said China; did Schacht have sympathies for Chiang- Kai-Chek in spite of the pacts with Japan?

A. Yes. He sympathised greatly with the Chinese Government, as did our entire circle. We all had quite a number of good and dear Chinese friends with whom we attempted to keep up relations in spite of the Japanese pact.

Q. About when did Schacht come back from India?

A. I think it was the beginning of August; but I cannot ...

Q. Now matters were rapidly heading towards war. Did Schacht, before the outbreak of war, take any steps to prevent its outbreak?

A. He took a great number of steps, but I cannot describe them individually since that would create the impression that only Schacht was taking these steps; actually the situation was that a large group of people were now in the struggle and each one took those steps which were most suited to him, and everyone informed the group of what he had done and what it would be advisable for someone else to do. For that reason I am afraid that it would present a completely erroneous picture if I were to describe individually and only in regard to Schacht, all those desperate efforts made in August, 1939, until the attack on Holland and Belgium.

Q. The Tribunal has taken cognizance of the fact that Schacht was not acting alone, but here we are dealing with Schacht's case and I should like to ask you, therefore, to confine yourself to the description of Schacht's efforts.

A. In that case I must state first that Schacht knew of all these matters and was in a certain sense an accomplice. Of Schacht himself I can say only, at this particular moment, that he was co-author of the Thomas memorandum, addressed to General Keitel, or, rather, the two memoranda, in which Schacht, together with our group, pointed out to the general the dangers of war. Further, I can say that through Thomas and Canaris, Schacht took steps to intervene with Brauchitsch and Halder. But I would like to emphasise expressly that all the steps taken by Beck and Goerdeler were taken with the full knowledge of Schacht and also with his participation. This was a very important undertaking.

Q. Did not Schacht's attempt at the very last moment - at the end of August - play a part in obtaining an interview for Canaris with Brauchitsch at headquarters?

A. Yes. After General Thomas had failed with both his memoranda and his attempts to persuade Keitel to receive Goerdeler or Schacht, Schacht tried to approach Brauchitsch or Halder. For that purpose Thomas paid frequent visits to General Halder and it was typical that during those critical days he could not get past the ante-room of General Halder's office or General von Stuelpnagel. Halder disavowed himself and said that he did not want to see Schacht. Thereupon we took a further step on that dramatic 25 August, the day on which Hitler had already given the order to march. As soon as the news reached us that Hitler had given Halder the order to march, Schacht and I attempted to get in touch with Thomas and then, together with Thomas, we went to Admiral Canaris so that both Thomas and Canaris should accompany Schacht when he went without previous announcement to the headquarters in Zossen in order to confront Brauchitsch and Halder with his presence. Schacht intended to point out to Brauchitsch and Halder that in accordance with the existing constitution the Reich Cabinet should be consulted and heard before waging war, and that both Brauchitsch and Halder would be guilty of a breach

[Page 246]

of oath if, without the knowledge of the competent political authorities, they obeyed an order to march. That was roughly what Schacht intended to say in order to provide a motive for the step he had taken. When Thomas and Schacht arrived in the Bendlerstrasse, Thomas went to Canaris. It was about6 o'clock or ...

DR. DIX: The O.K.W. is situated on Bendlerstrasse. The Tribunal should know that Bendlerstrasse meant the O.K.W. or the O.K.H.

A. (Continuing) When we arrived at the O.K.W. and were waiting on a corner in the street Canaris sent Oster to us. That was the moment when Hitler, between six and seven, suddenly ordered Halder to withdraw his order to march. The Tribunal will no doubt remember that Hitler, influenced by the renewed intervention of Mussolini, suddenly withdrew the order to march which had already been given. Unfortunately, Canaris and Thomas and all our friends were now under the impression that, this withdrawal of an order to march was an incredible loss of prestige for Hitler. Oster thought that never before in the history of warfare had a supreme commander withdrawn such a decisive order in the stress of a nervous breakdown. And Canaris told me "Now the peace of Europe is saved for fifty years, because Hitler has lost the respect of the generals." Unfortunately, in the tension of this psychological change, we all felt that we could look forward to the following days in a quiet frame of mind. So, when three days later, Hitler gave the decisive order to march, it came as a complete surprise for our group as well. Oster called me to the O.K.W. Schacht accompanied me. We asked Canaris again whether he could not arrange another meeting with Brauchitsch and Halder, but Canaris said to me: "It is too late now." He had tears in his eyes, adding: "That is the end of Germany."

DR. DIX: Your Lordship, we now come to the war, and I think that perhaps we had better deal with the war after lunch.

(A recess was taken until 14.00 hours.)


Q. Dr. Gisevius, before the noon day recess we had just come to the outbreak of the war, and so that your subsequent testimony may be understood, I must ask you first in what capacity you served during the war.

A. On the day of the outbreak of the war I was called into the Abwehr by General Oster with a forged order. However, since it was a regulation that all officers or other members of the Abwehr had to be examined by the Gestapo, and since I would never have received permission to be a member of the Abwehr, they simply gave me a forged mobilisation order. Then I was at the disposal of Oster and Canaris without doing any direct service.

Q. And after the outbreak of the war what did your group of conspirators the members of which you have already mentioned do? Who took over the leadership, who participated, and what was done?

A. Immediately after the outbreak of the war, General Beck was at the head of all oppositional movements which could exist in Germany with the exception of the Communists, with whom we had no contact at that time. We were of the opinion that only a general could be the leader during a war, and Beck stood so far above purely military matters that he was one the man capable of unifying all groups from the left to the right. Beck named Dr. Goerdeler as his first assistant.

Q. Therefore, the only civilians who participated in this group of conspirators were, as before, Schacht and Goerdeler?

A. No; on the contrary, now all oppositional groups who had merely had vague connections with each other, were unified under the pressure of war, especially the left oppositional movements, which had been severely decimated in the early years since all their leaders had been interned. Especially the

[Page 247]

"left" groups came in with us. In this connection I mention Leuschler and Dr. Karl Muehlendorf, but I must also mention the Christian organisations Dr. Habermann and Dr. Kaiser and also the Catholic circles, the leaders of the Confessional Church and individual political men such as Ambassador von Hassel, State Secretary Plan, Minister Popitz, and many, many others.

Q. What was the position of these "left" circles, especially in regard to the question of a putsch, the forceful removal of Hitler or even an attempt on his life? Did they also consider the possibility of an attempt at assassination, which later was actually suggested in your group?

A. No, the "left" circles were very much under the impression that the "stab in the back" legend had done much damage in Germany and they felt that they did not want to expose themselves again to the danger of having it said later that Hitler or the German Army had not been defeated on the battlefield. The left wing had long been of the opinion that now it must be proved to the German people that militarism was committing suicide in Germany, no matter how bitter an experience it might be for them.

Q. I have here, and have already offered to the high Tribunal, a letter which you, Doctor, smuggled to Switzerland for Schacht at about this time - the end of 1939 - It is a letter to the former President of the International Bank at Basel, later President of the First National Bank of New York - a man of influence, who probably had access to President Roosevelt.

In anticipation of the documentary evidence hereto pertaining I had intended to read this letter to the Tribunal now. However, in discussing the admissibility of evidence I informed the Tribunal of the most essential points, and since Justice Jackson has not, as yet, got the Schacht Document Book and has already said that he did not like me to produce documentary evidence at this time, I will not carry out my original intention to read this letter in its entirety. I will come back to it when I present my documentary evidence. However, in order to refresh the witness' memory about this letter, I will give you the underlying reasons for it. Schacht suggested to President Frazier that now the moment ...

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: I make no objection to the use of the letter from Schacht to Leon Frazier as one banker writing to another. If you want to claim that Frazier was influential with President Roosevelt, I should want you to prove it, but I have no objection to the letter.

DR. DIX: The letter is dated 14 January, 1946. I will not read it in its entirety, for there are six long pages. Its contents are ...

THE PRESIDENT: What date was it?

DR. DIX: I had the wrong letter. 16 October, 1939. It will be Exhibit number 31 in my document book. He writes that this was the psychological moment to give peace to the world - with the aid of President Roosevelt - a peace which in itself would also amount to a German victory -

THE PRESIDENT: Is the letter from Schacht?

DR. DIX: From Schacht to Frazier.

THE PRESIDENT: Have you proof for the letter?

DR. DIX: If the High Tribunal prefers, Schacht himself can deal with the letter. In that case I will only ask the witness whether it is true that he smuggled this letter into Switzerland.


Q. Please answer the question, witness.

A. Yes. I took this letter to Switzerland and mailed it there.

Q. Very well. What did your group do to try to bring about peace, or prevent the war spreading? Did you undertake further foreign political activities in that direction in your oppositional group, that is, your group of conspirators?

A. The main thing for us was to prevent, by all means possible to us, any

[Page 248]

expansion of the war. This expansion could only be towards Holland and Belgium or Norway. We recognised clearly that if a step was taken in this direction, the consequences, not only for Germany, but for all of Europe would be tremendous. Therefore, we wanted to prevent war in the West by all means.

Immediately after the Polish campaign Hitler decided to move his troops from the East to the West, and to launch the attack by violating the neutrality of Holland and Belgium.

We believed that if we could succeed in preventing this attack in November we would, in the coming winter months, gain enough time to convince the individual generals, above all Brauchitsch and Haider and the leaders of the army groups, that they must at least oppose the expansion of the war.

Brauchitsch and Haider evaded the question and said it was too late now, that the enemy would fight Germany to the end and destroy her. We did not share this opinion. We believed a peace with honour was still possible, and by honour I mean that we would of course eliminate the Nazi hierarchy to the last man. In order to prove to the generals that the opposing side did not wish to destroy the German people but merely wanted to protect itself against the Nazi terror, we took all possible steps abroad, and the first attempt in that direction, or a small part of that attempt was the letter written by Schacht to Frazier, the object of which was to point out that certain domestic political developments were imminent and that if we could gain time, that is, if we could survive through the winter, we could perhaps persuade the generals to undertake a putsch.

DR. DIX: May I interrupt you for a moment. I would like to call the attention of the Tribunal to the fact that the witness is referring to a passage, to a suggestion contained in the letter. This letter is in English. I have no German translation and I must therefore read this sentence in English. "My feeling is that the earlier discussions are opened, the easier it will be to influence the development of certain existing conditions." The question is now -


Q. Now, I would like to ask you: What did Dr. Schacht mean by saying that certain existing conditions could be influenced, did he mean your efforts and aims?

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: I must interpose an objection. I am not sure that you may not have misunderstood it. I think that what Schacht meant is not a question to be addressed to this witness. I shall have no objection to Dr. Schacht telling us what he meant by his cryptic language, but I don't think that this witness can interpret what Schacht meant unless he has some information apart from anything that now appears. I don't want to be over-technical about this, but it does seem to me that this is the sort of question which should be reserved for Dr. Schacht himself.

DR. DIX: Mr. Justice Jackson, of course, is right, but this witness said that he smuggled the letter into Switzerland and I assume that he discussed the contents of the letter with Schacht and was therefore in a position to explain the cryptic words.

THE PRESIDENT: He hasn't said that yet; he hasn't said that he ever saw the letter except the outside of it. He hasn't said he ever saw the letter itself.

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