The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
27th May to 6th June, 1946

One Hundred and Fortieth Day: Tuesday, 28th May, 1946
(Part 7 of 10)

[DR. SERVATIUS continues his direct examination of Ernst Friedrich Christoph Sauckel]

[Page 74]

Q. Did you do that to get work, to earn your living, or for what reasons?

A. As Gau Manager in Thuringia I earned 150 marks. In any other profession I would have had accommodation and earned more money.

Q. When did you make Hitler's acquaintance?

A. I met him cursorily in 1925.

Q. When did you become Gauleiter?

A. I became Gauleiter in 1927.

Q. And how were you appointed?

A. I was appointed by letter.

Q. Did you receive any special instructions which pointed to secret intentions of the Party?

A. At that time we were very definitely told that under no circumstances should there be any secret chapters or any other secrecy in the life of the Party, but that everything should be done publicly.

Q. Who was your predecessor?

A. Dr. Dinter.

Q. Why was he relieved of his post?

A. Dr. Dinter was dismissed because he wanted to found a new religious movement within the Party.

Q. In 1929 you became a member of the Thuringian Diet.

A. Yes.

Q. Were you elected to that?

A. I was elected to the Diet in the same way as at every parliamentary election.

Q. Was dictatorship in power there already at the time?

A. That was not possible; the province was governed in accordance with the Thuringian constitution.

Q. How long were you a member of the Diet?

A. I was member of the Diet as long as it existed, until May 1933.

Q. How was it dissolved?

A. The Diet was dissolved by a Reich Government decree.

Q. Then in 1932, you were a member of the Provincial Government of Thuringia. How did you get into that position?

A. In 1932, in the month of June, new elections took place for the Thuringian Diet, and the National Socialist German Workers' Party obtained 26 out of 60 seats.

Q. Was any mention made of a dictatorship which was to be aimed at?

A. No, a government was elected according to parliamentary principles.

Q. Well, you had a majority in the Thuringian. Government, had you not, and you could use your influence?

[Page 75]

A. The citizen parties, by an absolute majority, elected a National Socialist Government.

Q. What happened to the old officials? Were they dismissed?

A. I myself became the President and Minister of the Interior in that government; the old officials, without exception, remained in their offices.

Q. And with what did that first National Socialist government concern itself in the field of domestic politics?

A. In the field of domestic politics there was only one question at that time, and that was the alleviation of an indescribable distress which is only exceeded today.

DR. SERVATIUS: In this connection, Mr. President, may I submit two government reports from which I only wish to draw your attention briefly to two passages. One is the report, contained in Document No. 96, which shows the activity of the government and its fight against social distress. What is particularly important when you run through it, is what is not mentioned, viz., there is no mention of the question of war or other such matters, but again and again the alleviation of distress is mentioned. And important, too, is the work that was carried out. That is in document No. 97. In this book, on page 45, there is a statement of the work undertaken by the government: bridge-building, road-making, and so on, and in no way had this work anything to do with war.

Then I am submitting Document No. 95 from the same period. It is a book called "Sauckel's Fighting Speeches." Here, too, the book is remarkable for what does not appear in it, namely, preparations for war. Instead it emphasises the distress which must be alleviated. It becomes clear from the individual articles that these are speeches made during a number of years, and which show in a similar way what the preoccupations were of the defendant Sauckel. It begins in 1932 with a speech dealing with the misery of the time, and ends with the final questions where reference is made once again to the alleviation of social need and the preservation of peace. The Tribunal will be able to read these articles in the Document Book.


Q. In 1933 you also became Reich Regent of Thuringia. How did you achieve that position?

A. I was appointed Reich Regent of Thuringia by Reichmarschal von Hindenburg who was Reich President at that time.

Q. What were the instructions you received when you took up your offices?

A. When I took over my office as Reich Regent I received instructions to form a new Thuringian government as the Reich Regent should keep out of the administrative affairs of a German State ...

Q. You need not tell us these technical details. I mean what political task were you given?

A. I was given the political task of administering Thuringia as Reich Regent within the existing Reich law and prevailing constitution and of guaranteeing the unity of the Reich.

Q. And did the words "guarantee the unity of the Reich" mean the overpowering of others, in particular the authorities in Thuringia?

A. No, the authorities remained.

Q. Now you held both the position of Gauleiter and that of Reich Regent. What was the aim of that?

A. Both positions were entirely separate in their organizations. Under the Regent were officials in office, and under the Gauleiter were employees of the Party. Both positions were administered absolutely separately, as is the case in any other, State where members of a party are at the same time party officials or leaders and exercise both these functions simultaneously.

Q. So you received no order that one position should absorb the other?

A. No, I had no such orders. The tasks were entirely different.

[Page 76]

Q. Were you a member of the SA?

A. I was never a member of the SA -

THE PRESIDENT: You are going a little bit too quickly, I think, for the interpreters.


Q. Were you an SA man?

A. I myself was never an SA man. I was an honorary Obergruppenfuehrer in the SA.

Q. How did you receive that appointment?

A. I cannot tell you. It was honorary.

Q. Were you appointed SS Obergruppenfuehrer by Himmler?

A. No, the Fuehrer made me honorary SS Obergruppenfuehrer without either pay or functions.

Q. Were you a member of the Reichstag?

A. Yes, from 1933 on.

Q. As a member of the Reichstag, did you know anything in advance about the beginning of the war? Were you informed?

A. I was never informed in advance about the start of the war or about foreign political developments. I merely remember that quite suddenly - it may have been during the days between the 24th of August and the end of August - we were called to a session of the Reichstag in Berlin. This session was cancelled at the time, and we were later ordered to go to the Fuehrer, that is the Gauleiter and Reichsleiter. But a number had already left so that the circle was not complete. The conference, or Hitler's speech, only lasted a short time. He said, roughly, that the meeting of the Reichstag could not take place as things were still in the course of development. He was convinced that there Would not be a war. He said he hoped there would be some settlement in a small way and meant by that, as I had to conclude, a solution without the 21 lost parts of Upper Silesia. He said - and that I remember precisely - that Danzig would become German and, apart from that, Germany would be given a railway line with several tracks, like a Reichsautobahn, with a strip of ground to the right and left of it. He told us to go home and prepare for the Reich Party Rally, where be would meet us again.

Q. Did you have any close connections with the Fuehrer?

A. I personally, as far as I knew the Fuehrer, had a great deal of admiration for him. But I had no close connections with him that one could describe as personal. I had a number of discussions with him about the administration of my Gau and in particular about the care he wished to be given to cultural buildings in Thuringia - in Weimar, Eisenach and Meiningen, and later on there were more frequent meetings because of my position as General Trustee for the Direction of Labour.

Q. We shall come to that later. What connections did you have with the Reichsleiter?

A. My connections with the Reichsleiter were no different from my connections with the Fuehrer. They were of an official and Party nature. As regards personal relationships I cannot say that I had any particularly personal intercourse with anyone.

Q. What about your connection with the Reich Ministers?

A. My connection with the Reich Ministers was of a purely official nature and was very infrequent.

Q. What about the Wehrmacht?

A. I could not have the honour of being a German soldier because of my imprisonment in the First World War. And in this world war the Fuehrer refuses to allow me to serve as a soldier.

Q. Witness, you have held a number of high positions and offices. You knew the Reich Ministers and Reichleiter. Will you please explain why you went aboard a submarine at that time?

[Page 77]

A. I had repeatedly made written requests to the Fuehrer that I might be allowed to join the Wehrmacht as an ordinary soldier. He refused to give me this permission. So I arranged in secret for someone to take my place and went aboard Captain Sahrmann's submarine with his agreement. As a former sailor and now a politician in a high position I wanted to give these brave submarine men a proof of my comradeship and understanding and of my sense of duty. Apart from that I had ten children for whom, as their father, I had to do something, too.

Q. I should like now, in a number of questions, to refer to your activities. Were you a member of a trade union?

A. No.

Q. Do you know what the aims of German trade unions were?

A. Yes.

Q. Were they economic or political?

A. As I, as a worker, came to know them, the aims of German trade unions were political, and there were a number of various trade unions with varied political views. I considered that a great misfortune. As a workman in the workshop I had had experience of the arguments among the trade unionists - between the Christian Socialist trade unions and the "Red" trade unions, between the syndicalist, the anarchist and the communist trade unions.

Q. The trade unions in your Gau were then dissolved. Were the leaders arrested at the time? '

A. No.

Q. Did you approve of the dissolution of the trade unions?

A. The dissolution of the trade unions was in the air then. The question was discussed in the Party for a long time and there was no agreement at all as to the position trade unions should hold, nor as to their necessity, their usefulness and their nature. But a solution had to be found because the trade unions, which we, or the Fuehrer or Dr. Ley dissolved, all held different political views. From that time on, however, there was only one party in Germany and it was necessary, I fully realised, to come to a definite decision as to the actual duties of the trade unions, the necessary duties, which are indispensable to every calling and to workers everywhere.

Q. Was not the purpose of removing the trade unions to remove any opposition which might stand in the way of an aggressive war?

A. I can say in all good faith, that during those years not one of us ever thought about a war at all. We had to overcome such terrible need that we should have been only too glad if German economic life could have been started again in peace and if the German worker, who had suffered the most during that frightful depression, could have had work and food once more.

Q. Did members of trade unions suffer economically through the dissolution?

A. In no way. My own father-in-law who was a member of a trade union and still is today and whom I repeatedly asked for information, whom I never persuaded to join the Party - he was a Social Democrat and never joined the Party - he confirmed the fact that even when he was getting old and could no longer work, the German Labour Front on the one side never denied him the rights due to him as an old trade unionist and, by virtue of his long trade union membership, allowed him full benefits. On the other side, the German State - as in Germany old age and disability insurance and the accident insurance, etc. were paid and organized by the State - the National Socialist State - guaranteed him all these rights and made full payment.

Q. Were all Communist leaders arrested in your Gau after the Party came to power?

A. No. In my Gau, as far as I know, only Communists who had actually worked against the State were arrested.

Q. And what happened to them?

[Page 78]

A. The State Police arrested and interrogated them and detained them according to the findings.

Q. Did you have Kreisleiter in your Gau who had been members of a former opposition party?

A. The Party's activity was recruiting. Our most intensive work was for the winning over of political opponents. I am very proud of the fact that many workers in my Gau, numerous former Communists and Social Democrats were won over by us and became local group leaders and Party functionaries.

Q. But were there not two Kreisleiter from the extreme left appointed by you?

A. One Kreisleiter from the extreme left was appointed. Also, besides a number of other leaders, the Gau sectional manager of the German Labour Front had belonged to the extreme left for a long time.

Q. How did you personally deal with your political opponents?

A. Political opponents who did not work against the State were neither bothered nor harmed in my Gau.

Q. Do you know the Socialist Deputy Frohlich?

A. The Socialist Deputy August Frohlich was my strongest and most important opponent. He was the leader of the Thuringian Social Democrats and was for many years the Social Democrat Prime Minister of Thuringia. I had great respect for him as an opponent. He was an honourable and upright man. On 20th July, 1944, through my own personal initiative, I had him released from detention. He had been on the list of the conspirators of 20th July, but I had so much respect for him personally that, in spite of that, I asked for his release and obtained it.

Q. Did you treat other opponents similarly?

A. I also had a politician of the Central Party I knew in my home town, Schweinfurt, released from detention.

Q. The concentration camp of Buchenwald was in your Gau. Did you establish it?

A. The Buchenwald camp originated in the following manner: The Fuehrer who came to Weimar quite often because of the theatre there, suggested that a battalion of his SS Bodyguard Regiment (Leibstandarte) should be stationed at Weimar. As the Leibstandarte was considered a picked regiment I not only agreed to this but was very pleased, because in a city like Weimar people are glad to have a garrison. So the State of Thuringia, the Thuringian Government, at the request of the Fuehrer, prepared a site in the Eckersburg Forest, north of the hill outside the town.

After some time Himmler informed me, however, that he could not bring a battalion of the SS Bodyguard Regiment to Weimar, as he could not divide up the regiment, but that it would be a newly established Death's Head Unit, and Himmler said it would amount to the same thing. It was only some time later, when the site had already been placed at the disposal of the Reich, that Himmler declared that he now had to accommodate a kind of concentration camp with the Death's Head Units on this very suitable site. I opposed this to begin with, because I did not consider a concentration camp at all the right kind of thing for the town of Weimar and its traditions. However, he - I mean Himmler - making use of his position, refused to have any discussion about it. And so the camp was set up neither to my satisfaction nor to that of the population of Weimar.

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