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 9 of 10)

[MR. JUSTICE JACKSON continues his cross examination of Hans Bernd Gisevius]

[Page 261]

Q. Now, there came a time when everybody connected with your group knew that the war was lost.

A. Yes.

Q. And it was before these plots on Hitler's life and, apparently, before the Schwabendorf plot and before the 20 July plot, that the war was lost, was it not?

A . I should like to make it quite clear that there was no one in our group who did not already know, even when the war started, that Hitler would never win.

Q. But it became very much more apparent as time went on, not only that

[Page 262]

the war could not be won by Germany but that Germany was going to be physically destroyed, as a result of the war; is that not true?

A. Yes.

Q. Yet, under the system which the Nazi regime had installed, you had no way of changing the course of events in Germany except by assassination or a revolt; is that true?

A. Yes.

Q. And so you resorted to those extreme measures, knowing that Hitler could never make peace with the Allies; is that true?

A. Yes.

Q. And your purpose in this was to save Germany the last destroying blows which, from the point of view of the Germans, she was unfortunate enough to receive; is that not a fact?

A. I should like to say that actually since the beginning of the war, we no longer thought only of Germany. I think that I may say that we felt a heavy responsibility not only towards Germany but towards the whole world too.

Q. Well, what you were trying to do was to bring the war to an end, since you had not been able to stop its beginning, were you not?

A. Yes.

Q. And you were convinced that this was impossible as long as Hitler was at the head of the government, and this group of men were behind him?

A. Yes.

Q. Now, there was another plot on Hitler's life that you haven't mentioned. Was there not a bomb that was later found to have been a communist bomb?

A. Yes! This was on 9 November, 1939, in the Burgerbraukeller (the beercellar) in Munich. It was a brave communist who acted independently.

Q. Now, by a strange coincidence, at none of these times when Hitler's life was endangered, was Goering or Himmler ever present; is that not true?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you attach any importance to that fact?

A. We sometimes regretted this; for instance, if the attempt at assassination had been successful, if Goering and Himmler had been with Hitler on the 17 July .... but, as years went by, the members of this clique separated to such an extent and protected themselves so much, that they could hardly be found together anywhere; and Goering gradually became so absorbed in his transactions and art collections at Karin Hall that he was hardly ever to be found at a serious conference.

Q. Now, the assassination of Hitler would have accomplished nothing from your point of view, if the number two man had stepped into Hitler's place, would it?

A. That, for a long time, was a debatable problem because Brauchitsch, for instance, imagined that we could create a transition regime with Goering. Our group refused to go in with that man even for an hour.

Q. How did you plan - if you were successful - to deal with the other defendants here, with the exception of the defendant Schacht, all of whom, I understand, you regard as a part of the Nazi government?

A. These gentlemen would have been behind lock and key in an extremely short time and I think they would not have had to wait long for their sentences.

Q. Now, does that apply to every man in this dock with the exception of Schacht?

A. Yes, every man.

[Page 263]

That is, you recognised them, your group recognised them all as parts and important parts of the Nazi regime - a Nazi conspiracy. Is that a fact?

A. I should not like to commit myself to the words "Nazi conspiracy."

We considered them the men responsible for all the unspeakable misery which that government had brought to Germany and the world.

Q. I should like to ask you a few questions about the Gestapo. You testified generally in reference to the crimes which were committed by that organisation, and I ask you to state whether that included the torturing and burning to death of a large number of persons?

A. The question does not seem to have come through correctly.

Q. I am asking you as to the crimes committed by the Gestapo, and I am asking if it included the torturing and burning to death of thousands of persons?

A. Yes.

Q. Did it involve the unlawful detention of thousands of innocent people?

A. Yes.

Q. The throwing of them into concentration camps where they were tortured and beaten and killed?

A. Yes.

Q. Did the Gestapo engage in wholesale confiscation of property?

A. Yes, to a very large extent; they called it "property hostile to the State.

Q. And did it practice extortion against Jews and others?

A. In masses and by the millions.

Q. Did the Gestapo hinder and molest the public officials who were too prominent to be murdered, until they resigned or were driven from office?

A. The Gestapo used every means from murder to the extortion which has just been described.

Q. Now, the question arises here as to whether the members of the Gestapo knew what the Gestapo was doing, and will you please tell the Tribunal what the situation was as regards the members of that organisation and their knowledge of its programme?

A. I have already stated in the beginning of my testimony that from the first or second day every member of the Gestapo really could not help seeing and knowing what took place in that institution.

Q. Now, there were some people who were taken into the Gestapo at the beginning, who were transferred from other branches of the civil service, were they not, who were in a sense involuntary members of the Gestapo?

A. Yes; these members were eliminated in the course of the first year as being politically unreliable.

Q. And the transfers had taken place at the time Goering set up the Gestapo, had they not?

THE PRESIDENT: What did the witness mean by "eliminated?"

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: I think eliminated from the Gestapo.

THE WITNESS: Gradually they were released from the service of the Gestapo.


Q. Now, after the purge of 30 June, 1934, were special pains taken to see that no one was permitted in the organisation who wasn't in sympathy with its programme?

A. This practice started after 1 April, 1934, when Himmler and Heydrich took over affairs. Actually, from that date, no official was allowed into the

[Page 264]

Gestapo any longer unless Himmler and Heydrich considered that his attitude was in keeping with their desires. It may be that during the first months some officials, who had not yet been screened by the S.S., got in. The Gestapo was, of course, a large organisation and, naturally, it was a considerable time before the S.S. had educated and trained their own criminal officials.

Q. However, did there come a time, and if so, will you fix it as nearly as possible, after which every member of the Gestapo must have known the criminal programme of that organisation?

A. For many years I have considered that question myself and discussed it with Nebe and my friends. The reply entails very great responsibility and in the knowledge of that responsibility, I would say that from the beginning of 1935, at the latest, everyone must have known what sort of organisation he was joining and the type of orders he might have had to expect.

Q. You have testified as to the investigations which you made when you were connected with the police administration and you mentioned the Reichstag fire, but you did not tell us what were your findings. Will you please tell us?

A. To speak briefly and to begin with the facts, we ascertained that Hitler had openly expressed the wish for a large-scale propaganda campaign. Goebbels undertook to prepare the necessary proposals and it was he who first thought of setting the Reichstag on fire. He discussed this with the leader of the Berlin S.A. Brigade, Carl Ernst, and he suggested in detail how it should be done.

A certain chemical known to every fireman was chosen. After spraying it ignites after a certain time - hours or minutes. In order to get inside the Reichstag, one had to go through the corridor leading from the palace of the Reich President to the Reichstag itself. Ten reliable S.A. men were employed, and then Goering was informed of all the details of the plan. Quite by chance he did not make an election speech on that particular evening, but at a late hour was still at his desk in the Ministry of the Interior in Berlin.

Goering gave assurances that he would put the police on a false trail after the fire was over. From the very beginning it was intended that the communists should be accused of this crime, and the ten S.A. men who had to carry out the crime were instructed accordingly.

That is, in a few words, the story of the events. To tell you how we got hold of the details, I have only to add that one of these ten who had to spray the chemical was a notorious criminal. Six months later he was dismissed from the S.A., and when he did not receive the payment which he had been promised, he decided to tell what he knew to the Reich Court, sitting in Leipzig at the time. He was taken before an examining magistrate who made a record of it, but the Gestapo heard of it and the letter to the Reich Court was intercepted and destroyed. The S.A. man, named Rall, who betrayed the plan, was murdered in a vile manner with the knowledge of the defendant Goering, by order of Gestapo Chief Diehls. Upon finding the body we picked up the trail of the whole story.

Q. What happened to the other nine S.A. men who carried out the Reichstag fire? Are any of them alive now?

A. As far as we can find out none of them are still alive. Most of them were murdered on 30 June under the pretext of the Roehm revolt. Only one, a certain Heini Gewaehr, was taken over by the police as a police officer, and we followed his trail as well. He was killed in the war as a police officer on the Eastern Front.

Q. I think you testified that you also investigated not only the entire Roehm affair but also the murders that followed. Didn't you so testify?

A. I cannot actually say that I carried out the investigation, since we, of the

[Page 265]

Ministry of the Interior, had actually been excluded from the entire affair. However, matters were such that after 30 June, all cries for help and all complaints of the people who were affected reached us in the Ministry of the Interior and during 30 June, through the continual radio messages, the occasional visits to Goering's palace, and the information from Nebe, we discovered all the details.

Q. Now, about how many people were killed in that purge?

A. We have never been able to establish that figure exactly, but I estimate that 150 to 200 persons lost their lives, which, at that time, was an incredible figure.

I, myself, together with Minister of Justice Guertner, compared the lists of the number of the dead which had been given him by Hitler and Goering, and we ascertained that the list which contained the names of 77 dead, who had supposedly been killed justly, was exceeded by nearly 100 per cent. This we ascertained through those names which we had received from the prosecuting authority or through calls for help coming from relatives through the Ministry of the Interior.

Q. Now, did you ascertain who selected the men who were killed in that purge?

A. To begin with, we ascertained that Himmler, Heydrich and Goering had compiled exact lists of those to be murdered, because I myself heard in Goering's palace, and this was confirmed by Daluege who was present, and also by Nebe who was present from the very first second, that no one of those who were killed was mentioned by name; all that was said was: "Number so and so is now gone," or: "Number so and so is still missing," or "It will soon be number so and so's turn."

There is, however, no doubt that Heydrich and Himmler also had a special list. On that official list there were several Catholics - Klausner and others - and so I cannot, for example, say under oath in this courtroom whether Schleicher was murdered by order of Goering, or whether he was a man who was on Heydrich's and Himmler's special list.

Q. Now, was the defendant Frick fully informed as to the facts which you knew about the illegal conduct of the Gestapo?

A. Yes. I had to submit to him every bit of material which arrived which was important, and I have already described how we reported all these matters to the Secret State Police or to the Interior Ministers of the provinces. It was true that I could, of course, submit only the most important material to Frick personally. I estimate that I received several hundred complaints daily, but the most important had to be submitted to Frick because he had to sign them personally, since Goering always complained if he saw that such a young official had signed reports or complaints to the Ministry of State and to himself.

Q. Now, was Frick informed of your conclusions about the Roehm purge?

A. Yes. On Sunday, while the murders were continuing, I spoke to Frick about the murder of Strasser, Klausner and Schleicher, and many others, and Frick was particularly disgusted about the murder of Strasser, because he considered that an act of personal revenge by Goering and Himmler. Likewise, Frick was extremely indignant about the murders of Klausner, Bose, Edgar Jung, and the many other innocent men.

Q. But when Frick signed the decree, along with Hitler, declaring these murders legitimate and ordering no prosecutions in connection with them, Frick had learned from you exactly what had happened, is that the fact?

A. He knew it from me, and he had seen it himself. The story of 30 June was undoubtedly known to Frick.

[Page 266]

Q. Now, did Frick ever talk with you about Himmler and Heydrich as being bad and dangerous, cruel persons?

A. On that Sunday, I July, Frick said to me: "If Hitler does not very soon, do with the S.S. and Himmler what he has done with the S.A. today, then he will experience with the S.S. many things worse than those he has now experienced with the S.A."

I was greatly struck by that prediction at that time, and the fact that Frick should say that so openly, before me.

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