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 4 of 8)

[MAJOR GENERAL ALEXANDROV continues his cross examination of Hans Bernd Gisevius]

[Page 284]

Q. I repeat that you favourably described the defendant Schacht is that correct?

A. Yes, yes.

Q. You state that as from 1936, the defendant Schacht was in opposition to the Hitlerite regime and that he expressed these opinions in a fairly open manner; is that true?

A. No, I state expressly that beginning with 1936 his suspicions were aroused, but that he only became an opponent of Hitler during the Fritsch crisis.

Q. In which year do you place this crisis?

A. End of 1937 and beginning of 1938. The Fritsch crisis was at the beginning of 1938.

Q. Tell us, under the then existing regime in Germany, could a situation arise where Hitler would not be informed as to these opposite views of Schacht which, according to you, existed at the end of 1937?

A. You mean that Hitler was not informed after 1938?

Q. No. I asked you, could it be possible, under the then existing regime in Germany that Hitler was not informed as to this antagonistic attitude on the part of Schacht?

A. Hitler knew very well that Schacht was very critical towards the system and that he frequently expressed disapproval. He often received letters from Schacht and of course heard a great deal too. But he did not know how far that opposition went.

Q. Then how could Schacht remain in the Government of the Reich, as Minister without portfolio and personal adviser to Hitler, right up to January, 1943, if Hitler, as you say, was fully aware of his critical attitude towards his, Hitler's, policy?

A. Hitler always took care to let prominent individuals disappear quietly or put them in the shade so that foreign propaganda could not take advantage of these facts. The Schacht case is not the only one in which Hitler tried to camouflage an open crisis.

Q. Were you acquainted with a letter from Hitler of 19 January, 1939, addressed to Schacht who, at that time, was being relieved of his post as President of the Reichsbank? I should like to remind you of the contents of that letter in which Hitler writes to Schacht as follows:-

"I avail myself on the occasion of your release from the post of President of the Board of Directors of the Reichsbank to thank you most warmly, most sincerely, for the services you have repeatedly rendered, while in that position, to Germany and to me personally, during long and arduous years. Above all else, your name will be connected forever with the first period of national rearmament. I am happy that you will now be able, as Reichsminister, to proceed to the solution of new tasks ..."
THE PRESIDENT: This was all gone over yesterday by the witness.

MAJOR GENERAL ALEXANDROV: Please forgive me, but I have a question to put to the witness in connection with this letter.

[Page 285]


Q. It would appear, from the contents of this letter, that in January, 1939 - and I stress the date, Witness - Hitler expressed his appreciation of Schacht's activities rather differently from the manner in which you worded your evidence. How do you reconcile this divergence of opinion with your assertion that the defendant Schacht was already in direct opposition to Hitler's regime towards the end of 1937 and the beginning of 1938?

A. I should like to answer that I am not accustomed to consider any written or oral proclamation by Hitler as truthful. That man always said only that which seemed opportune to him at the moment to deceive the world or Germany. In this particular case Hitler intended to avoid the impression that Schacht's resignation would cause a difficult economic crisis. But I am only saying now what Hitler could have had in his mind. Yesterday I described with what indignation Schacht received that letter. He considered it to be pure irony.

Q. Then I shall refer to another document, to a letter from Schacht himself addressed to Hitler. This is a memorandum of 7 January, 1939, in which Schacht wrote to Hitler:-

"From the very beginning the Reichsbank has realised that the fruits of a successful foreign policy can only be obtained if this policy is founded on the rebirth of the Wehrmacht. It therefore took upon itself, to a very large extent, the financing of the armament programme, despite the monetary and political difficulties involved. The justification of this consisted in the necessity, which far outweighed all other arguments, of manufacturing arms immediately, ex nihilo, often even under disguise, in order to ensure a foreign policy which would command respect."
Do you also consider this document as an expression of Schacht's attitude

A. As far as I have understood, you refer to a letter from the year 1934 is that correct?

Q. I refer to a letter of 7 January, 1939.

A. Please pardon me. Then I can only say what I already said yesterday, that all these letters were very carefully written so that they could not be considered a provocation, and the factual contents of the letter made illusory lest Hitler should simply say, "This is a personal attack on me." I said yesterday that the problem was to convince the other conservative ministers, who were not so much against Hitler, about the actual situation and neutralise any opposition.

Q. What was the attitude of the defendant Schacht towards the Anschluss?

A. The Anschluss happened right in the middle of the Fritsch crisis, or probably at the dramatic climax, and that is why we were firmly convinced that this was a particularly malevolent case of camouflage, and in that sense we were indignant. We had no doubt that the German Army was ...

THE PRESIDENT: (Interposing) Witness, wait a minute. You were asked if you knew what the attitude of Schacht was to the Anschluss question at that time. You are not answering that question. Do you or do you not know?

THE WITNESS: I cannot give a definite answer about that, because all of us saw clearly that the problem of Austria had to be solved in a legal way once and for all. There were differences of opinion with regard to this question in our group. Most of us hoped that the independence of Austria could be preserved. Especially from the German point of view, it was desirable that another independent German State should exist, if at any later time there should be a League of Nations or diplomatic negotiations. However, I cannot state under oath whether Schacht personally was of that opinion or whether he was for an outright annexation. He was certainly against the method.


Q. I shall quote an excerpt from a speech made by Schacht in Vienna, in March, 1938:-

"Thank God, these matters could not, in the end, hinder the forward

[Page 286]

march of the great German people, for Adolf Hitler has created a community of German will and thought, he supported it with the reborn strength of the Wehrmacht and thereby gave an outward form to this spiritual union of Germany and Austria."
Do you qualify these statements of Schacht's also, as expressions of his opposition to the Hitler regime?

A. I would have to be able to read the speech in its entirety. I personally would not have said it, but I do not know whether pure judgement on my part here serves any purpose. Would it not be better to ask Schacht what he meant?

THE PRESIDENT: The speech can be put to Schacht when he goes into the witness box, if he does.


Q. Tell me, Witness, you are at present residing in Switzerland? In which town?

A. I live near Geneva in a village called Commugny.

Q. How long have you lived in Switzerland?

A. Since the first of October, 1940.

Q. Did you know about Schacht's arrival in Switzerland in 1943?

A. No. He did not come to Switzerland in 1943.

Q. In 1942?

A. He did not come to Switzerland in 1942, either.

Q. Then Schacht was not in Switzerland either in 1942 or 1943?

A. That is correct.

Q. In all the time that you yourself lived in Switzerland, did you ever meet the defendant Schacht or not?

A. Yes, repeatedly. I was in Berlin at least every four weeks or eight weeks and until 1943 -

Q. (Interposing) No. I am asking you about Schacht's visit to Switzerland.

A. During the war there was only one visit to Switzerland by Schacht - in 1941 - on the occasion of his wedding trip, and then I saw him.

Q. That was in 1941?

A. Yes.

Q. On 14 January, 1946, an article was published in the newspaper "Basler Nachrichten," entitled "What Schacht Thinks." Do you know anything about that article?

A. Yes.

Q. What do you know about that article?

A. Not more than I read in the paper about it. I have tried to find out who that American was with whom Schacht had the conversation.

Q. The details do not interest me.

One last question: Did you know anything about a conference, held at Hitler's house in Berchtesgaden, in the summer of 1944, when the advisability of killing imported foreign workers was discussed, in the case of further successful advances by the Allied Forces? Did you hear anything about that conference?

A. No, at that time I could not go to Germany any more, because there were proceedings against me, and I heard nothing about that.

MAJOR GENERAL ALEXANDROV: I have no further questions to ask.

THE PRESIDENT: Then do you wish to re-examine, or does any other member of the defendants' counsel wish to ask questions of the witness?


BY DR. PANNENBECKER (Counsel for the defendant Frick):

Q. Witness, yesterday during the cross-examination the American Prosecutor submitted to you a letter by the Reich Minister of Justice of 14 May, 1935,

[Page 287]

to the Reich and Prussian Minister of the Interior. In that letter there is an enclosure which mentions a copy of a letter by an inspector of the Secret State Police. Witness, did I understand you correctly to say that you personally assisted in writing that letter?

A. We had cross-connections between the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Justice, and at times it was desirable, if a letter of a severe nature came from another ministry, for me to present it to my minister. And I do not doubt that Frick was also glad when he received a strong letter, so that he could submit a matter before the Cabinet in a firm way. Thus I remember that the sending of that letter was discussed in advance with several gentlemen of the Ministry of Justice and with myself.

Q. Do I understand you correctly then that the letter was a joint effort of the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of the Interior to do something against the Gestapo terror?

A. As for myself, I can certainly say yes. I was at that time a member of the Ministry of the Interior. Of course I did not speak to my chief about that point.

Q. In that letter we find on Page 5 of the German text the following sentence. I quote:-

"In the concentration camp at Hohenstein in Saxony, inmates had to stand under a 'dripping apparatus' especially constructed for that purpose, until the drops of water, falling at regular intervals, produced serious infected injuries on the scalp."
Do you know that the guards of that camp were heavily punished for that?

A. No, and if that was so it would have been an astounding exception.

Q. Witness, I have one more question. That is in connection with the statement which you just made, that there was an atmosphere of hostility toward you in the defence counsels' room due to the incident which has been mentioned. A number of colleagues are deeply shocked by that statement of yours, and these colleagues were glad that you described conditions in Germany so openly. Could you tell me whether that statement you made applies to all the defence counsel?

A. I am grateful to you that you give me the opportunity to correct an apparent misstatement, or a misunderstanding which was created by my statement. I meant a different incident which occurred as I entered the counsel room, about which I do not want to speak any further here. I wish to emphasise that I realise the difficult task of the defence counsel, and that I want to apologise if in any way the impression was created or might be created that I had reproached the great majority of them in the carrying out of their difficult task.

Q. I thank you. I have no more questions.


Q. Dr. Gisevius, I want to ask you some questions to try and get clear what your various positions were and where you were at various times. As I understand it, in 1933 you were a civil servant, is that right?

A. Yes.

Q. And then you became a member of the Gestapo?

A. The first position I held as a qualified civil servant, was in the service of the Political Police. In Germany one is a civil servant even in the training stage. Therefore I have to say that I received my first real position as an official in August of 1933 when I entered the Gestapo.

Q. And when did you leave that position?

A. The end of December, 1933.

Q. And to what position did you go?

A. I then entered the Ministry of the Interior; that is to say, the Prussian Ministry of the Interior. In the course of the year 1934, I also entered the

[Page 288]

Reich Ministry of the Interior and in May of 1935 I was dismissed from that Ministry.

Then I came into the newly created, or about to be created, Reich Criminal Office, which, at its inception, was with the Police Presidium in Berlin. On the date when Himmler was appointed Reich Chief of Police, on 17 June, 1936, I was finally dismissed from the Police Service. I was then transferred to the government office in Munster, worked there in price control supervision, and, in the middle of 1937, I took an unpaid vacation, allegedly to make studies in economics. That vacation was cancelled by the Ministry of the Interior at the beginning of 1939, and I was attached to the government office in Potsdam near Berlin. There I had to do with road building.

Q. In the middle of 1937 you took unpaid service and studied in economics, I think you said, or took an unpaid vacation.

A. Yes.

Q. You still remained a member of the Civil Service then, did you?

A. Yes; until 20 July I was still in the Civil Service.

Q. Then, in the beginning of 1939 you were posted to the Ministry of the Interior and attached to Potsdam?

A. Yes.

Q. Well, go on; after that?

A. When war broke out the difficulty arose that I had no mobilisation order and, on the other hand, my friends wanted to have me in the O.K.W. From the date of the outbreak of the war until 1 October, 1940, I had only a forged mobilisation order, and every day I expected to be found out, and then I would have had to take the consequences.

After the fall of Paris I stated to Canaris and Oster that I would have to ask them now to release me from that somewhat complicated situation. At that time Canaris' position was so strong that he was able to place me in an intelligence post with the Consulate General in Zurich. There I received the title of a Vice Consul with the Consulate General in Zurich, and I stayed there as an "intelligence" man, without belonging to the Abwehr formally, until 20 July.

After 20 July I was dismissed from all posts, and I don't know whether I was not even expatriated, I have found out nothing about that.

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