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-Seventeenth Day: Tuesday, 30th April, 1946
(Part 10 of 10)

[DR. DIX continues his direct examination of Hjalmar Schacht]

[Page 396]

Q. All right, but at what time, by what conditions, by what knowledge were you influenced to begin that activity which the witness Gisevius has described?

A. My serious criticism of Hitler's actions started at the time of the so-called Roehm putsch on 30 June, 1934. I should like to point out first that these things occurred quite unexpectedly and took me by surprise, because I had not at all anticipated them. At that time I had told Hitler, "How could you have had these people just simply killed off? Under any circumstances, there should have been at least a summary trial of some sort." Hitler stood these remarks and merely mumbled something about "revolutionary necessity," but he did not really contradict me.

Then in the course of the second half of the year 1934 and the first half of the year 1935, I noticed that I was under a misconception when I believed that Hitler did not approve of, what I thought could be considered, revolutionary excesses and that he was really willing to restore a respectable atmosphere. Hitler did nothing to put a stop to the excesses of individual Party members or Party groups. Very likely the idea which recently - I believe today - was mentioned by a witness was always in his mind; let the S.A. have its fling for once. That is to say, for the masses of the Party, he sanctioned, as a means of recreation, so to speak, behaviour which is absolutely incompatible with good order in the State. In the course of the following months, my suspicions were confirmed and increased and then, for the first time, in May, 1935, I took occasion to bring these matters up with him quite openly. I don't know if you want me to discuss these things now, but I am ready to tell about them.

Q. I consider it important that the Tribunal should hear from you how your original attitude towards Hitler, which you have just described, changed, and you became a conspirator against him.

A. Well, the decisive change in my attitude came about by reason of the Fritsch incident, in the very moment when I had to recognise - and, of course, that did not come with lightening speed but in the course of weeks and months it crystallised - that Hitler aimed at war, or at least was not prepared to do everything to avoid a war. At that moment I told myself that this was a tremendous danger which was raising its head, and that violence could only be crushed by violence.

Any opportunity of political propaganda within the German people was of course out of the question. There was no freedom of assembly. There was no freedom of speech. There was no freedom of writing. There was no possibility of discussing things even in a small group. From A to Z one was spied upon, and every word which was said in a group of more than two persons

[Page 397]

was spoken at the peril of one's life. There was only one possibility in the face of that terror, which was beyond democratic reform and which barred every national criticism, that was to meet this situation with violence.

Thus I came to the conclusion that, in the face of the Hitler terror, only a coup d'etat, a putsch and finally an attempt at assassination was possible.

Q. And is Gisevius right in saying that the peripeteia, decisive turning-point in your attitude occurred during your impressions and experiences in the so-called Fritsch crisis?

A. Apart from the inherent falsehood which appeared in all actions and measures of the Party men - the Fritsch crisis provided the absolute assurance that a basic change was occurring in the conduct of political affairs: for within about ten days Blomberg was removed, Fritsch was removed, Neurath was removed, and Hitler not only appointed so unsuitable a person as Ribbentrop to be foreign minister, but also in his speech in the Reichstag soon afterwards announced that from now on rearmament had to be increased even more. Consequently the Fritsch crisis was the decisive turning-point in my attitude and, from then on, I knew that every further peaceful attempt at controlling the torrent would fail and that only violent means could succeed.

DR. DIX: For an estimate of the Fritsch crisis, may I quote now from the document which I wanted to produce on the occasion of the interrogation of Gisevius, but could not do so because the document was not then available to the prosecution. The same view about the Fritsch crisis, which Gisevius, and now Dr. Schacht, have put here, was also expressed abroad by an intelligent officer with political foresight. May I point to Exhibit 15 of my document book? That is Page 41 of the English text, and 35 of the German text. It is a biennial report of the Chief of Staff of the United States Army to the Secretary of War over the period 1 July, 1943, to 30 June, 1945. I quote one sentence from it:

"The history of the German High Command from 1938 on is one of constant conflict of personalities in which military judgement was increasingly subordinated to Hitler's personal dictates. The first clash occurred in 1938 and resulted in the removal of von Blomberg, von Fritsch and Beck, and of the last effective conservative influence on German foreign policy."
So here also that turning-point has been clearly understood. And, in summary, I would like to ask this question of Dr. Schacht.

Q. Were you only disappointed by Hitler or did you consider yourself deceived by Hitler at that time? Will you answer that?

A. The answer is that I never felt disappointed by Hitler, because I had not expected more of him than my appraisal of his personality allowed me. But I certainly consider myself deceived by lies, swindled and cheated by him to the highest degree, because whatever he had previously promised to the German people and thereby to me, he did not carry out afterwards.

He promised equal rights for all citizens, but his adherents, regardless of their capabilities, got privileges before all other citizens. He promised to put the Jews under the same protection which foreigners enjoyed. In fact, he deprived them of every legal protection. He had promised to fight against political lies, but together with his minister, Goebbels, he cultivated nothing but political lies and political fraud. He promised the German people to maintain the principles of positive Christianity; yet he tolerated and sponsored measures by which institutions of the Church were abused, reviled and damaged. Also, in the foreign political field he had always spoken against a war on two fronts - and then later undertook it himself. He despised and disregarded all laws of the Weimar Republic, to which he had taken the oath when he became Chancellor. He mobilised the Gestapo against personal liberty. He gagged and bound all free exchange of ideas and information. He pardoned criminals and enlisted

[Page 398]

them in his service. He did everything to break his promises. He lied to and deceived the world, Germany and me.Q. Let us return to the period of the seizure of power. In November, 1932, you stated publicly that Hitler would become Reich Chancellor. What caused you to make that statement?

A. That statement was caused by the fact that Hitler in the July elections of 1932 obtained 40 per cent. of all seats in the Reichstag for his Party. That is an election result, which if I am informed correctly, had not occurred since 1871, when the Reichstag was founded; and for me, as a democrat and a follower of democratic parliamentary government, it was quite inevitable that that man was now to be charged with the forming of a Cabinet. I do not know what else could have happened then. There was only one other possibility, one alternative and that was a military government. But the Cabinet of von Papen already had had some special presidential authority and still could not maintain itself in the face of the Reichstag; and when Herr Schleicher attempted to establish a military regime without the participation of the Nazis, he failed after just a few weeks because he saw himself confronted with the alternative either of starting a civil war or of resigning.

Hindenburg, and at first Schleicher as well - although at the last moment he acted differently - were always of the opinion that the Armed Forces could not stand a civil war; and Hindenburg was certainly not ready to tolerate a civil war. But, very unwillingly, he saw himself forced by necessity to put the reins of government into the hands of the man who, thanks to his own propaganda and the incapacity of all preceding governments, and thanks also to the inconsiderate policy of the foreign countries toward Germany, had won the majority of German votes.

Q. You know that the prosecution accuses you of having assisted Hitler and the Nazi regime to power. I therefore want to ask you now whether, between the July elections 1932 and the day when Hitler became Chancellor - that is 30 January, 1933 - you spoke publicly for Hitler.

A. I want to state first that Hitler's power was an accomplished fact in July, 1932, when he secured 232 Reichstag seats. Everything else that followed must be viewed as a consequence of that Reichstag election. During that entire period - with the exception of the one interview you mentioned, in which I said that according to democratic principle Hitler must become Reich Chancellor - I can say that I did not write or publicly speak a single word for Hitler.

Q. Did you, during the time when the reorganisation of the Reich Cabinet was discussed, speak to Hindenburg on behalf of Hitler's Chancellorship?

A. I have never in consultations with any one of the competent gentlemen, be it Hindenburg, Meissner or anyone else, contributed towards exerting any influence in favour of Hitler, nor did I participate in any way in the nomination of Hitler to be Reich Chancellor.

Q. The prosecution accuses you, in that connection, of putting the prestige of your name at the disposal of Hitler in November, 1932, and refers to a statement made by Goebbels in the latter's book, "From the Kaiserhof to the Reich Chancellery." What can you say about that?

A. I would never have expected that this apostle of truth, Goebbels could once more be mobilised against me here, but it is not my fault if Herr Goebbels made a mistake.

Q. The prosecutor also states that you provided the funds for Hitler in the Reichstag elections of 5 March; that is said to have happened in an industrial meeting on which there is an affidavit by the industrialist von Schnitzler, Document 439-EC, Exhibit USA-618. What do you have to say about that? It is our Exhibit 3 of our document book, Page 11 of the English copy.

A. In February of 1933, at the time when Hitler was already Reich Chancellor and the elections of 5 March were to furnish a basis for the shape of the new

[Page 399]

government, Hitler asked me whether, on the occasion of a meeting which Goering was to call, and which would have the purpose of raising funds for the elections, I would be good enough to take the role of his banker. I had no reason for refusing to do that. The meeting took place on 26 February. And now the prosecutor has made it appear that during that meeting I had pleaded for election funds. The prosecution itself, however, has presented a document, 203-D, which apparently is meant to be a record of the election speech made by Hitler on that evening.

Q. May I interrupt you and point out to the Tribunal that it is our Exhibit 2, on Page 9 of the English text. Excuse me. Please, will you kindly go on.

A. 203-D. That document closes with the following sentence:-

"Goering then passed very cleverly to the necessity that other circles, not taking part in this political battle, should at least make the financial sacrifices required at this time."
Therefore, from that report which was submitted by the prosecution, it can be seen very clearly that not I, but Goering pleaded for funds. I only administered these funds later, and; in the affidavit by Schnitzler, Document 439-EC, Page 11, the prosecution has carefully left out these decisive passages which do not accuse, but exonerate me. I quote the two sentences, therefore, as follows - I am sorry, I have to quote in English because I have only the English text in front of me:-
"At the meeting Dr. Schacht proposed raising an election fund of, as far as I remember, three million Reichsmarks. The fund was to be distributed between the two 'allies' according to their relative strength at the time. Dr. Stein suggested that the Deutsche Volkspartei should be included, which suggestion, if I remember rightly, was accepted. The amounts which the individual firms had to contribute were not discussed."
It can be seen from this that the election fund was collected not for the Nazi Party only, but for the Nazi Party and its ally, the national group, to which, for instance, Herr von Papen and Hugenberg belonged, and, during that very meeting, a third group, the German Volkspartei, was added. It was, therefore, a collective fund for those parties which went into the election campaign together, and not just a Nazi fund.

Q. The prosecution has mentioned those laws which were decreed after the seizure of power, and which introduced, and then established, the totalitarian rule of the Nazis and of Hitler. We have to consider the question of your personal responsibility as a later member of the cabinet and I have to discuss these laws with you in detail; for the present I just want to remind you of them generally: First, the Enabling Act; then the law about the prohibition of parties and the establishment of one party; the law about the unity of Party and State; the law decreeing the expropriation of the S.P.D. and the trade unions; the law about civil service associations; the law about the legal limitation of professions to Jews; the law instituting the Peoples' Court; the law legalising the murders of 30 June, 1934; and about the merger of the offices of the Reich Chancellor and the Reich President in the person of Hitler. How do you, as member of the cabinet, define your personal responsibility with respect to these laws?

A. When all these laws were issued I was not even a Cabinet member. I had no vote in the Cabinet. I had a vote in the Cabinet only after 1 August, 1934, at which time the last disastrous law, the merger of the offices of chancellor and president was decreed. I did not participate in the discussions preceding even this law, nor did I vote on it. I had absolutely no part in any of these laws.

Q. I do not know whether I mentioned it, but I want to keep you from a

[Page 400]

mistaken impression. This does not apply to the merger of the offices of the Reich President in the person of Hitler, after Hindenburg's death.

A. Of course: I did not take part in that either.

Q. And why not?

A. Because I was not then in the Cabinet. I received my official nomination as minister on 3 or 4 August. I did not take part in the deliberation of that law. I did not vote for it, and did not sign it.

Q. But in the Indictment it is stated that you were a member of the Reichstag. Then as a member of the Reichstag you would have voted for these laws, inasmuch as, actually, after 1933 only unanimous votes were cast in the Reichstag?

A. Yes. Unfortunately, there is much in the trial brief which is not correct. During my entire life I was never a member of the Reichstag. One look into the "Reichstag Handbook" could have enlightened the prosecution that also during that time I was not a member of the Reichstag. I had nothing to do with all these laws either as member of the Cabinet or of the Reichstag, because I had been neither during that time.

Q. Did Adolf Hitler actually take an oath on the Weimar Constitution?

A. Of course Hitler took an oath on the Weimar Constitution when he became Reich Chancellor, to Reich President von Hindenburg. In taking that oath he swore not only to respect the constitution but also to observe and fulfil all laws unless they were lawfully changed.

Q. Was the Weimar Constitution ever formally repealed?

A. No, the Weimar Constitution has never been repealed.

Q. In your view was the "Fuehrer principle" established anywhere legally or constitutionally?

A. The "Fuehrer principle" was not established by a single law, and the subsequent attempt to reduce the responsibility of the individual ministers - and that affected me, also - by saying it was by a prescriptive law, that is not correct. The responsibility of the ministers continued to exist, my own also, and was kept down only by the terror and the violent threats of Hitler.

Q. The questions whether the Enabling Act referred to the Fuehrer or to the Cabinet; whether the first Cabinet after 1933 was a National Socialist one or a combination of the parties of the Right , and the question regarding the development of Hitler to an autocratic dictator, all these questions I have already put to the witness Lammers. I do not wish to repeat them, but do you have anything new to add to what Lammers has testified?

A. I made only two notes. In the Reichstag speech of Hitler on 23 March, 1933, he said: "It is the sincere desire of the National Government ." - not the National Socialist, as it is always referred to later, but the National Government.

And second point: In the proclamation to the Armed Forces which Defence Minister von Blomberg issued on 1 February, 1933, this sentence occurs:-

"I assume this office with the firm determination to maintain the Reichswehr, in accordance with the testament of my predecessors, as a power factor of the State, above Party Politics."
This and other factors already mentioned, convinced me that the Cabinet would be a national coalition cabinet, whereas Hitler, by his rule of terror and violence, formed a pure Nazi dictatorship out of it.

Q. The quotation mentioned by Schacht is in our document book, Exhibit 4, Page 14 of the English text. Now, when you became Minister of Economy ...

THE PRESIDENT: It is 5 o'clock; the Tribunal will adjourn.

DR. DIX: Mr. President, may I ask a question? Do we continue tomorrow, because tomorrow is 1 May, and there is some uncertainty whether there will be a session tomorrow or not.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, the Tribunal will go on tomorrow.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 1 May, 1946, at 10.00 hours.)

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