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-Fifteenth Day: Friday, 26th April, 1946
(Part 1 of 8)

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

[Page 271]


Q. May it please the Tribunal.

Dr. Gisevius, yesterday you made some reference to Herbert Goering in saying that Schacht had sent word to you about the Gestapo microphones in Schacht's house. Will you tell us what relation Herbert Goering was to the defendant?

A. Herbert Goering was a cousin of the defendant. I had known him for many years. Herbert, as well as his brothers and sisters, had warned me years ago about the disaster which would overtake Germany if at any time a man like their cousin Hermann should get a position of even the smallest responsibility. They acquainted me with the many characteristics of the defendant, which all of us had come to know in the meantime, starting with his vanity, and continuing with his love of ostentation, his lack of responsibility, his lack of scruples, even to the extent of making stepping stones of the dead. From all this I already had some idea what to expect of the defendant.

Q. Now, during the period when you were making these investigations and having these early conversations with Schacht, and up until about 1937, you, as I understand it, were very critical of Schacht because he had helped the Nazis to power and continued to support them. Is that true?

A. I did not understand how an intelligent man, and we who was as capable in economics as he was, could enter into such a close relationship with Hitler. I was all the more bewildered when, from the very first day and in a thousand small ways Schacht resisted the Nazis, and the German public took pleasure in the many sharp and humorous remarks which he made about them. Great was my bewilderment until I actually met Schacht. And then ...

Q. During this period Schacht did have great influence with the German people, did he not, particularly with German people of responsibility and power?

A. He had great influence to the extent that many Germans hoped to find a champion of decency and justice in him, when they heard that he was fighting hard in that direction. I remember his activity in the Ministry of Economics, where officials who were not Party members ...

Q. I think we have covered that, and I am anxious to deal with further material, if I may interrupt you.

A. Yes.

Q. During this period you reported to Dr. Schacht fully concerning your findings about the criminal activities of the Gestapo, did you not?

A. Yes; from time to time I spoke more frankly, and it is obvious that I ...

Q. And he took the position, as I understand you, that Hitler and Goering did not know about these things.

A. Yes. He was of the opinion that Hitler did not know anything about such terrible things, and that Goering knew at most only a part.

Q. And he stood by Goering until 1937, when the latter pushed him out of the Economics Office, did he not?

A. I believe that was at the end of 1936. I may be wrong. I believe it would be more correct to say that he looked for support from Goering and hoped that he would protect him from the Party and the Gestapo.

Q. In other words, Schacht did not heed your warnings about Goering until late 1936 or 1937?

A. That is correct.

Q. And during this period there would be no doubt, would there, that Schacht

[Page 272]

was the dominant economic figure in the rearmament programme until he was superseded by Goering with the Four-Year Plan?

A. I do not know whether everything happened like that exactly. He was, as Economics Minister, the leading man in German economy, of course, not only for rearmament but for all questions of German economy; rearmament was just one of them.

Q. Now Schacht believed, and as I understand it, you believed, during all this period, that under German constitutional law no war could be declared except by authority of the Reich Cabinet. Is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. In other words, from the point of view of the German Constitution, the war, as declared and carried out by Hitler, was illegal, by German law, in your view.

A. According to our firm conviction, yes.

Q. I think we found out yesterday the position you were to have if there was a successful overthrow of the Hitler regime. Schacht was under consideration for Chancellor, was he not, if that movement was successful?

A. No. It is only correct as to the first offer that Halder made in August of 1938, or perhaps July, 1938, when he visited Schacht for the first time. At that time, according to the information which I received, Halder asked Schacht whether, in the case of an overthrow, he would be ready to take over a position like that. Schacht replied that he would be ready for anything if the generals would eliminate the Nazi regime and Hitler.

As early as 1939 individual opponents formed a group, and Beck became the acknowledged head of all conspirators from the left to the right wing. Goerdeler then came into the picture together with Beck as the leading candidate for the position of Reich Chancellor, so that after that time we need speak only of Goerdeler in that regard.

Q. Now, I want to ask you some questions about the defendant Keitel. Of course, we have heard that Hitler was the actual head of the State, but I want to ask you whether Keitel occupied a position of real leadership and power in the Reich.

A. Keitel occupied one of the most influential positions in the Third Reich. I would like to say, at this point, that I was a very close friend of four of the closest collaborators of Keitel. One was the chief of the Ordnance Office in the O.K.W., the murdered General Olbricht; the second was the Chief of Intelligence service, Admiral Canaris, who was also murdered; the third was the Chief of the Army Legal Department, Ministerial Director Sack; he was also murdered. And finally there was the Chief of the Armament Economy Department, General Thomas, who escaped being murdered as though by a miracle. A close friendship, I might say, bound me to these men, and thus from these men I found out exactly what tremendous influence Keitel had over the O.K.W. and in all Army matters, and thereby what influence he wielded in, representing the Army to the German people.

It may be that Keitel did not influence Hitler to a great extent. But I must testify here to the fact that Keitel influenced the O.K.W. and the Army all the more. Keitel decided which documents were to be transmitted to Hitler. It was not possible for Admiral Canaris or one of the other gentlemen I mentioned to submit an urgent report to Hitler of his own accord. Keitel took it over, and what he did not like he did not transmit, or he gave these men the official order to abstain from making their report. Also, Keitel repeatedly threatened these men telling them that they were to limit themselves exclusively to their own specialised sectors; and that he would not protect them with respect to any political utterance which criticised the Party and the Gestapo, with regard to persecution of the Jews, the murders in Russia, or the anti-church campaign; and, as he said later, he would not hesitate to dismiss these gentle-

[Page 273]

men from the Armed Forces and turn them over to the Gestapo. I have read the notes in this connection which Admiral Canaris made in his diary. I have read the notes of General Oster in the same connection from the command conferences in the O.K.W. I have talked with the Chief Judge of the Army, Dr. Sack, about it, and it is my duty to testify here that Field Marshal Keitel, who should have protected his officers, repeatedly threatened them with the Gestapo. He put these men under pressure, and they considered that as a special insult.

Q. In other words, whether Keitel could control Hitler or not, he did have a very large control of the entire O.K.W. underneath him. Is that not true?

A. Did you say Hitler? No, Keitel.

Q. Whether Keitel could control Hitler or not he did control and command the entire O.K.W.?

A. Yes.

Q. In other words, whatever Hitler's own inclinations may have been, these men in this dock formed a ring around him which kept out information from your group as to what was going on unless they wanted Hitler to hear it, isn't that a fact?

A. Yes. I believe that I should cite two more examples which I consider especially significant. First of all, every means was tried to incite Keitel to warn Hitler against the invasion of Belgium and Holland, and to tell him, that is Hitler, that the information which had been submitted by him, that is Keitel, regarding the alleged violation of neutrality by the Dutch and Belgians was wrong. The counter- intelligence was to produce these reports which would incriminate the Dutch and Belgians: Admiral Canaris at that time refused to sign these reports. I ask that this be verified. He told Keitel repeatedly that these reports, which were supposedly produced by the O.K.W., were wrong. That is one example of Keitel failing to transmit to Hitler what he should have transmitted. Another example was when Keitel was asked by Canaris and Thomas to submit to Hitler the details of the murders in Poland and Russia. Admiral Canaris and his friends were anxious to prevent even the preparations for these mass murders and to inform Keitel when these were being made by the Gestapo. We received proof of what was going on through Nebe and others. Keitel was informed as to this in detail, and here again he did not resist; and he who did not stop the Gestapo at the beginning should not be surprised if at the end a million-fold injustice was the upshot.

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Justice Jackson. I think you put your question, "Did not these men in the dock form a ring which prevented you getting to Hitler," and the question was answered rather as though it applied only to Keitel. If you intended to put it with reference to all defendants, I think it ought to be cleared up.

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: I think that is true.


Q. Each of the defendants who held ministerial positions of any kind controlled the reports which should go to Hitler from that particular ministry, did they not?

A. As far as this general question is concerned, I must reply cautiously, for, first of all, it was a close group which put a cordon of silence around Hitler. A man like von Papen or von Neurath cannot be included in this group, for it was obvious that von Papen and von Neurath, and perhaps one of the other of the defendants, did not have the possibility, except for a very short time, of having regular access to Hitler, for besides von Neurath, Hitler already had Ribbentrop. Thus I can only say that a certain group, which is surely well known, composed the close circle of which I am speaking.

Q. I should like you to identify those of the defendants who had access to Hitler and those who were able to prevent access to Hitler by their subordinates.

[Page 274]

These were, I suggest, Goering, Ribbentrop, Keitel, Kaltenbrunner, Frick, and Schacht - during the period until he broke with them, as you have testified - Donitz, Raeder, Sauckel and Speer?

A. You mentioned a few too many and some are missing. Take the defendant Jodl, for instance. I would like to call your attention to the strange influence which this defendant had and the position he had with regard to controlling access to Hitler. I believe my testimony shows that Schacht, on the other hand, did not control access to Hitler, but that he could only be glad about each open and decent report which got through to Hitler from his and other ministries. As far as the defendant Frick is concerned, I do not believe that he was necessarily in a position to control access to Hitler. I believe his problem concerns responsibility.

Q. Should I have included Funk in the group that had access to Hitler?

A. Funk, without a doubt, had access to Hitler for a long time, and for his part Funk had of course the responsibility to see that affairs in the Ministry of Economics and in the Reichsbank were conducted in the way Hitler desired. Without a doubt Funk put his surpassingly expert knowledge at the service of Hitler.

Q. Did you prepare or participate in preparing reports which were sent to Keitel as to the criminal activities of the Gestapo?

A. Yes.

Q. Did others participate with you in the preparation of those reports?

A. Yes, it was the work of a group. We gathered reports about plans and preparations, of the Gestapo and we gathered material about the first infamous acts, so that the courageous men at the front, officers of the General Staff and of the Army, went to the scene, prepared reports, and made photographs, and this material came then to both Canaris and Oster. Then the problem arose; how we could bring this material to Keitel. It was generally known that officers, even highly placed officers like Canaris and Thomas, were forbidden to report on political matters. The difficulty was, therefore, to avoid Canaris and the others coming under the suspicion that they were dealing with politics. We therefore employed the round-about method of preparing so-called counter-intelligence agents' reports from foreign countries or from occupied countries; and with the pretext that different agents from all countries were here reporting about these outrages, or that agents travelling through or in foreign countries had found photographs of these infamous acts, we then submitted these reports to Field Marshal Keitel.

Q. Now, did Canaris and Oster participate in submitting those reports to Keitel?

A. Yes. Without Canaris and Oster the working out and the gathering of this material would have been inconceivable.

Q. And what positions did Canaris and Oster hold with reference to Keitel at the time when these reports were being submitted?

A. Canaris was the senior officer of the O.K.W. Officially he even had to represent Keitel when the latter was absent. Keitel was only concerned that some one else should take his place at such times, usually his Party General Reinecke; Oster, as the representative Chief of Staff for Canaris, was also in close association with the latter. Keitel could not have wished for closer contact with reality and truth than through this connection with the Chief of his Wehrmacht Intelligence Service.

Q. So these reports which were sent to Keitel came from the highest men in his own organisation?

A. Yes.

Q. Now, what did they report to Keitel? Let me ask you if they reported to him that there was a systematic programme of murder of the insane going on.

A. Yes, indeed. On these subjects, too, records were completed in detail,

[Page 275]

including the despairing reports of the directors of the lunatic asylums. I recall this minutely because here too we had a great difficulties in giving a reason for these reports, and we actually put them through as reports of foreign doctors who had heard of these things with indignation.

Q. Did he report to him the persecution and murder of the Jews and the programme of extermination of the Jews that was being carried out?

A. From the first Jewish pogroms in 1938 on, Keitel was minutely informed of each new action against the Jews, particularly about the establishment of the first gas chamber, or rather, the establishment of the first mass graves in the East, up to the erection of the murder factories later.

Q. Did these reports mention the atrocities that were committed in Poland against the Poles?

A. Yes, indeed, here I would say again that the atrocities in Poland too, started with isolated murders which were so horrible that we were still able to report on single cases, and could add the names of the responsible S.S. leaders. Here, too, Keitel was spared nothing of the terrible truth.

Q. And did that condition of informing Keitel also prevail as to the atrocities against nationals in other occupied countries?

A. Yes. First of all I must of course mention the atrocities in Russia, because I must emphasise that Keitel now certainly, on the basis of the Polish atrocities, had been warned sufficiently so as to know what was to be expected in Russia. I remember, too, how the preparation of these orders, such as the order of the shooting of the commissars and the "Nacht und Nebel" (Night and Fog) decree, was continued for weeks in the O.K.W.; that, as soon as these orders were in preparation, we begged Canaris and Oster to present a petition to Keitel. But I would like to add that I do not doubt that other courageous men also presented a petition to Keitel in this connection and, since I belonged to a certain group, the impression might be created that only in this group were there persons who were interested in these problems. But I would be concealing vital information if I did not add that even in the High Command of the O.K.W. and in the General Staff there were excellent men who did everything to reach Keitel through their separate channels, and that there were also brave men in many ministries who tried to reach every officer whom they saw in order to plead with him to order this injustice to cease.

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