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 7 of 10)

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

[Page 253]


Q. You were in Switzerland at that time but on 20 July you were in Berlin. How did that happen?

THE PRESIDENT: You mean 20 July, 1944?

DR. DIX: Yes, the well-known day of 20 July. We are rapidly approaching the end now.

A. (Continuing) A few months after the elimination of the Canaris-Oster circle we formed a new group around General Olbricht. Count von Staufenberg also joined us. He replaced Oster in all activities and when after several months and after many unsuccessful attempts and discussions the time finally arrived in July, 1944, I secretly returned to Berlin in order to participate in the events.

Q. But you had no direct contact with Schacht in connection with this attempted assassination?

A. No, I, personally, was in Berlin incognito, and saw only Goerdeler, Beck and Staufenberg, and it was agreed expressly at this time that no other civilians except Goerdeler, Lauschner and myself were to be informed of the matter. We hoped thus to be able to protect lives by not burdening anyone unnecessarily with this knowledge.

Q. Now I come to my last question.

You know that Schacht held high positions in the State under the Hitler regime. You, Doctor, as is shown by your testimony today, were an arch enemy of that regime. Despite that you had, as can also be seen from your testimony today, special confidence in Schacht. How do you explain this fact which at first sight seems to be contradictory in itself?

A. My answer can, of course, only express a personal opinion and I will give it as briefly as possible. I would, however, like to emphasise that the problem of Schacht was confusing not only to me but to my friends as well, Schacht was always a problem and a puzzle to us. Perhaps it is due to the contradictory nature of this man that he kept this position in the Hitler Government for so long. He indubitably entered the Hitler regime for patriotic reasons, and I would like to testify that, from the moment his disappointment became obvious, he decided for the same patriotic reasons to join the opposition. Despite Schacht's many contradictions and the puzzles he gave us to solve, my friends and I were strongly attracted by him because of his exceptional civic courage and the fact that he followed undoubtedly a deeply moral line of conduct, and did not think only of Germany but also of the ideals of humanity. That is why we went with him; why we considered him one of us; and, if you ask me personally, I can say that the doubts which I often had about him were completely dispersed during the dramatic events of 1938 and 1939. At that time he really fought and I will never forget that. It is a pleasure for me to be able to testify to this here.

DR. DIX: Your Lordship, I have now finished my questioning of this witness.

THE PRESIDENT: Does any other member of the defendants' counsel want to ask questions of the witness?

BY DR. BOEHM (Counsel for the S.A.):

Q. Witness, yesterday you said that you were a member of the Stahlhelm (the Steel Helmet organisation). Just when were you a member?

A. I believe I entered the Stahlhelm in 1929 and left in 1933.

Q. You know the mentality of the members of the Stahlhelm. You know that almost without exception they were people who had served in the First World War, and I would like to ask you now whether the domestic and foreign

[Page 254]

political goals of the Stahlhelm were to be reached in a legal or in a revolutionary manner.

A. To my knowledge the Stahlhelm always favoured the legal way.

Q. Was the fight of the Stahlhelm against the Treaty of Versailles, which every organisation of national tendencies took up, to be carried on by legal or revolutionary means, that is by means of force?

A. It is very hard for me to answer for the entire Stahlhelm but I can only say that I, and the members of the Stahlhelm organisation with whom I was acquainted, wanted to use the legal means.

Q. Is it correct to say that, in the year 1932 and 1933 hundreds of thousands of men, regardless of party and race, entered the Stahlhelm organisation?

A. That is correct. As matters became more critical in Germany, more people went to the right and therefore into the Stahlhelm. I myself followed the growth of the Stahlhelm as an official speaker from 1929 to 1933, and I might say that those who did not want to join the N.S.D.A.P. and the S.A. deliberately entered the Stahlhelm, so that within the German rightist movement there would be a counter balance against the rising brown tide. That was the underlying reason of our recruitment for the Stahlhelm at that time.

Q. You know that in the year 1934 the Stahlhelm as a whole was taken into the S.A. Was it possible at that time for an individual member of the Stahlhelm to say "no" or to protest against being taken over into the S.A.?

A. Of course, as everything was possible in the Third Reich.

Q. What would have been the possible consequences of such a step?

A. The possible consequences would have been a violent discussion with the regional Party leaders or S.A. leaders. At that time I was no longer a member of the Stahlhelm, and I can only say that it undoubtedly must have been very difficult for many people, particularly those living in the country, to refuse being transferred to the S.A. After they had been betrayed by their leader, Minister Seldte, or as it was said at that time "sold" to the S.A., refusal to transfer into the S.A. was naturally a sign of distrust towards National Socialism.

Q. I gather from my correspondence with the former members of the Stahlhelm, that these people who, as former members of the Stahlhelm, were taken into the S.A., remained a foreign body in the S.A. and were in constant opposition to the N.S.D.A.P. and the S.A. Is that correct?

A. Since I myself no longer belonged to that organisation, I can only say that I assume that these members of the Stahlhelm felt very uneasy in their new surroundings.

Q. Do you know whether the members of the Stahlhelm, before and since 1934, took part in Crimes Against Peace, against the Jews, against the church, and so forth?

A. No, I know nothing about that.

Q. Now I would also like to question you about the S.A. so far as you are able to give any information. Yesterday you talked freely in regard to the S.A. leaders. I would like to ask you to answer a question regarding that group of S.A. members which lies between the simple S.A. man and the Standartenfuehrer (S.S.-Colonel) or the Brigadefuehrer (S.S.- Brigadier General). Could you tell, judging from the position and activity of that group - and I don't go beyond because I well remember the statements you made yesterday in regard to the Gruppenfuehrer (S.S.-Lieutenant General) and Obergruppenfuehrer (S.S. General) - that these people intended to commit Crimes Against Peace?

A. Of course, it is very difficult to answer such a general question. When you ask me about the majority of S.A. men, I can only say "no."

Q. Witness, did you notice that S.A. men were arrested and were also put into concentration camps?

A. I saw that many times. In 1933, 1934 and 1935, that was in those years when it was my official duty to make reports, etc., many S.A. men were arrested

[Page 255]

by the Gestapo, beaten to death, or at least tortured, and put into concentration camps.

Q. Could a man who was in the S.A., or anyone else for that matter, judge the S.A. as a whole from the activity of its members, or from individual cases and gather that the S.A. intended to commit Crimes Against Peace?

A. No. When I consider with what effort we in the High Command of the Wehrmacht tried to discover whether or not Hitler was planning a war I cannot, of course, attribute to a simple S.A. man knowledge of something which we ourselves did not know for certain.

Q. The prosecution asserted that the S.A. incited the youth and the German people to war. Did you observe anything of that nature? You were a member of the Gestapo and such instigations could not have escaped your notice.

A. That is another extremely general question and I do not know to what extent certain songs, etc., can be considered preparation for war. At any rate I cannot imagine that the mass of the S.A. was of a different frame of mind to the mass of the German people in the years before 1938, and the general trend of opinion beyond a doubt was that the thought of war was pure insanity.

Q. Was there anything to make you think that the S.A. intended to commit Crimes Against Peace, or that they had committed such crimes?

A. As far as the ordinary S.A. man is concerned, I must say "no" again, and I say the same for the mass of the S.A., I could not say to what extent the higher leaders were involved in plotting all the horrible things we have heard here. However, the mass of the membership undoubtedly did not know of such things and was not trained for them.

Q. Witness, it cannot be denied that mistakes were made by a number of S.A. men, culpable acts committed for which these people certainly should be punished.

You know the S.A. and know what took place during the revolutionary and following periods. Can you tell us what percentage of the many members of the S.A. conducted themselves in a punishable manner? I call your attention to the fact that up until, perhaps 1932 or 1933, the S.A.

THE PRESIDENT: Just a moment, Dr. Boehm. The Tribunal doesn't think that is a proper question to put to a witness, what percentage of a group of this sort, of hundreds of thousands of men, take a certain view.

DR. BOEHM: However, the answer to this question would be very important for my case, Mr. President. Here is a witness who was not a member of the S.A., who, as a member of the Gestapo, was perhaps one of the few people who could look into the activities of the S.A., and actually did look into them, and he will certainly have the confidence of the Tribunal. He knows fairly well what the criminal procedures were and also the size of the membership of the S.A. and is one of the few who are in a position to testify to this matter. I believe that if the witness is in a position to testify hereto, the testimony given by him will be of great importance to the Tribunal also.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal has already ruled that not only this witness, but other witnesses, are not in a position to give such evidence, and the question is denied.


Q. Witness, do you know of cases in which S.A. members worked in opposition to the S.A.?

A. I answered that question when I said that quite a few S.A. members were arrested by the Gestapo.

Q. Yes. Do you know what criminal proceedings were taken against the members of the S.A. and how many?

A. Too few, I am sorry to say.

Q. Yes.

[Page 256]

A. Unfortunately, there were many who committed misdeeds in the S.A. and who went scot free. I am sorry that I must answer in this way.

Q. In what relation do they stand to the entire S.A.?

THE PRESIDENT: That is the same question over again.


Q. Do you know under what circumstances one could resign from the S.A.?

A. In the same manner as one resigned from all organisations of the Party. It was of course a brave decision to make.

DR. BOEHM: Thank you. I have no further question.

BY DR. LATERNSER (Counsel for the General Staff, O.K.W.):

Q. Witness, in replying to a question of my colleague Dr. Dix, you told the Tribunal that after the defeat at Stalingrad a military putsch was to be organised. You testified that discussions had already taken place, that preparations had been made, and that the execution of the putsch was prevented because the Field Marshals in the East had deserted the group or conspirators.

I ask you now to give us more details on this problem so that I can follow how your reason leads you to the conclusion that the Field Marshals deserted the conspiracy group.

A. Since the outbreak of the war, Generaloberst Beck tried to contact one Field Marshal after another. He wrote letters and he sent messengers to them. I particularly remember the correspondence with General Field Marshal von Mannstein, and I saw with my own eyes von Mannstein's answer of the year 1942. To Beck's strictly military statement that the war had been lost von Mannstein could reply only: "A war is not lost until one considers it as lost."

Beck said that with an answer like that from a Field Marshal strategic questions could not be raised. Several months later another attempt was made to win over General Field Marshal von Mannstein. General Treskow, also a victim of 20 July, went to Mannstein's headquarters. Oberstleutnant von Schulenburg also went there, However, we were not successful in winning von Mannstein to our side.

At the time of Stalingrad we contacted Field Marshal von Kluge, and he in turn contacted Mannstein. This time discussions reached a point when Kluge definitely assured us that he would win over Field Marshal von Mannstein at a meeting definitely scheduled to take place in the Fuehrer's headquarters. Because of the importance of that day, a special telephone connection was established between the headquarters of the General of the Corps of Signals, Feldgiebel, and General Olbricht in the O.K.W. in Berlin. I myself was present when this telephone conversation took place. Even today I can see the paper which said, in plain language, that Mannstein, contrary to his previous assurances, had permitted himself to be persuaded by Hitler to remain in office. Even Kluge was satisfied with very small military strategic concessions. At this time we considered this a bitter disappointment and, therefore, I would like to repeat again what Beck said at that time: "We were deserted."

Q. What further precautions had been made in this special connection?

A. We had made definite agreements with Field Marshal von Witzleben. Witzleben was the Commander-in-Chief in the West and, therefore, he was very important for starting or assuring a revolt in the West. We had further definite agreements with the military governor of Belgium, General von Falkenhausen. In addition, as on 20 July, 1944, we had assembled a definite contingent of armoured troops in the vicinity of Berlin. Furthermore, those commanders of the troops who were to participate in the action had been convened in the O.K.W.

Q. All this happened after Stalingrad?

A. At the time of the Stalingrad putsch.

Q. Please continue.

[Page 257]

A. We had made all other political preparations which proved necessary. I could hardly tell the entire story of the revolts against the third Reich here.

Q. Yes. What were the reasons why this intended military putsch was not carried through?

A. What was that?

Q. Witness, what were the reasons why this putsch, which was intended by the conspirator group, was not carried through?

A. Contrary to all expectations, Field Marshal Paulus capitulated. This, we know, was the first mass capitulation of generals; whereas we had expected that Paulus and his generals, before the capitulation, would issue a proclamation to the Eastern Front and to the German people, in which the strategy of Hitler and the sacrifice of the Stalingrad Army would be branded in suitable words.

This was to have been the clue for Kluge to declare that in the future he would take no further military orders from Hitler. We hoped with this plan to circumvent the problem of the military oath which kept troubling us more and more, in that one field marshal after the other would refuse military obedience to Hitler, whereupon Beck was to take over the supreme military command in Berlin.

[ Previous | Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.