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 Forty-Seventh Day: Wednesday, 5th June, 1946
(Part 6 of 10)

[DR. LATERNSER continues his direct examination of ALFRED JODL]

[Page 353]

Q. So that, if an Army Group Commander intended to protest against some measure which he did not consider right, then he had to go to the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and he in turn would have to go to the Commander-in-Chief

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of the particular branch of the armed forces so that this was practically the only channel through which objections could be made to Hitler in the normal official way?

A. That is perfectly correct. All military departments did that and it had been done for a number of years.

Q. What do you know about Himmler's attempt to set Hitler against the Generals. When I say "Generals" I mean the ones who come under the "Group."

A. I have perhaps already answered that in part when I complained that we were not in a position to prevent military reports and news from irresponsible sources from reaching the Fuehrer. It was a current phenomenon that particularly police circles continually used the opportunity to criticise through Himmler the traditional, or, as they called it, the reactionary, humanitarian, chivalrous attitude of the higher military leaders, which obstructed the severe orders of the Fuehrer for brutal action, as he called it. This was a continuous state of affairs, not all of them were involved, and not all the Army Commanders, but it did affect quite a number.

Q. Colonel-General, you still have not quite answered my question. I asked you whether you knew anything about Himmler's attempts to make Hitler hostile, for reasons which I hope you will tell me.

A. Well, the outcome of what I have just described was that Himmler would go to the Fuehrer and report to him, privately, of course. He would complain about certain commanders, all of them Army Commanders, and we knew about it because the following day the Fuehrer would suddenly begin to raise some objection to this commander without our knowing why and would make bad feeling.

Q. What was the relationship between the OKW and the OKH?

A. Before the war, and during the first part of the war, the relationship between the High Command of the Armed Forces and the High Command of the Army was made difficult by considerable tension. The reason, however, was exclusively an internal military one, because by creating the High Command of the Armed Forces, a general staff group had come into being which was outside the jurisdiction of the Chief of the General Staff of the Army, and which was, I should say, over the General Staff of the Army and could give them orders. This group was, of course, regarded with a great deal of distrust by the General Staff of the Army. I might add, however, that Field Marshal Keitel and I and many other of the more reasonable officers succeeded in overcoming this tension as the war went on.

Q. I think, General, that that is enough on that point.

The military leaders are accused of having delayed the end of a hopeless war unnecessarily. What do you know about the efforts of Field Marshal von Rundstedt and Rommel after the invasion had succeeded?

A. I remember a conference with these two Commanders-in-Chief, when the Fuehrer flew together with me to the headquarters which had been prepared north of Rheims. That was about July 1944. During that conference, both Field Marshal von Rundstedt and, particularly, Rommel described in an unmistakable manner the seriousness of the entire situation in France; characterised by the tremendous superiority of the Anglo-Saxon Air Force, against which ground operations were powerless. I remember quite clearly that Field Marshal Rommel asked the Fuehrer at the end, "My Fuehrer, what do you really think about our chances of continuing the war?" The Fuehrer was rather angry at this remark, and he only answered shortly, "That is a question which is no part of your duty. You will have to leave that to me."

Q. Did you read the letter which Field Marshal von Kluge wrote to Hitler shortly before he died?

A. I stood next to the Fuehrer when he received this letter. He opened the envelope, read the letter, and then gave it to me to read. It said exactly the opposite of what I had expected. Field Marshal von Kluge began his letter with tremendous recognition of the Fuehrer's personality, by describing how he had admired him and the energy with which he had held out during this war. He

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said that he was probably psychologically much closer to him than the Fuehrer could imagine. He had begun his task in the West full of confidence, but as the promised support of our own Air Force had not arrived, he was now convinced that the situation was hopeless, and in the last hour of his life he could give him only one piece of good advice, and that was to make peace now. That, briefly, was what the letter contained.

Q. Colonel-General, can you give further examples regarding the efforts of the commanders to end the hopeless war?

A. No commander could touch upon the political question, because the ending of a war is not a military but a political decision. But indirectly I have to say that there was not a single officer in a responsible position who did not tell the Fuehrer soberly, honestly, and openly, what the military situation was and describe it as hopeless, as indeed it turned out to be at the end. I, myself, too, expressed this view of mine in writing in a memorandum to the Fuehrer.

Q. I have a few questions regarding the various campaigns.

What was the attitude of the High Command of the Army, particularly Field Marshal von Brauchitsch, regarding the Austrian campaign?

A. The evening before the march into Austria at about two o'clock in the morning, I was with Field Marshal von Brauchitsch. I found him in a very dejected mood. I didn't really see any reason for that, but apparently he was convinced or he believed that this march into Austria might possibly lead to a military conflict either with Italy or with Czechoslovakia, or perhaps from a political point of view he was not altogether very pleased about this impending increase, this considerable increase of the South German element in the Reich. I do not know, but at any rate he was most dejected.

Q. What were the reasons for the tension which existed between Hitler on one side and the military leaders on the other after the Polish campaign?

A. The conflict was particularly serious at that time, because the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and many of the higher generals held just that view to which I testified this morning, namely, that one should remain quiet in the West to end the war. As this again was a political argument which they could not use, the Commander-in-Chief of the Army presented a military argument to the Fuehrer at that time, to the effect that, considering the condition in which our Army was at the time, it would not be in a position to defeat an army like the French Army, strengthened by the British Army in an offensive. That made the Fuehrer extremely bitter and this bitterness expressed itself repeatedly in every speech to the commanders. The entire speech of 23rd November, the entire memorandum which he wrote on 10th October, can only be explained by that conflict and seen in that light.

Q. The prosecution, as a basis for the indictment of the Group, has presented a number of affidavits. I should like to ask you to state your views in connection with Affidavit 12, Exhibit USA 557, which was made by Walter Schellenberg. There on Page 1, Schellenberg testifies that in the front or fighting areas the SD - "Einsatzgruppen" (Action Groups of the SD), were entirely under the command of the Armies. That is to say, tactically, technically and from the point of view of troop service, as he says in his affidavit. Is that true, Colonel-General?

A. It is only true to a very limited extent. I must start my answer by saying I was not familiar with the idea of the "Einsatzgruppe" and "Einsatzkommando" until I came here to Nuremberg. I must say that quite openly, even at the risk of being called a "Parsifal," but it is a fact. I only knew about the police. The operational territory of the Army was divided into three sectors. The front area was called the fighting area, and that went back approximately as far as the enemy artillery could fire. In that area everything was subordinate to the Army in every way. But in that area there were no police, except the Secret Field Police, who were in any case fully under the jurisdiction of the Army.

Q. The Secret Field Police were actually a part of the division, were they not?

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A. Yes, they were divisional troops which carried out police duties among the troops. Then came the area behind the lines which was under the Army Commanders; and behind that were the lines of communication in which were all the reinforcement columns and equipment of the Quartermaster General of the Army. In this main sector, which was by far the largest sector, as it comprised ninety-seven per cent of the entire operational area, the entire police and everything that did not belong to the Army organically was not under the command of the Army as far as tasks were concerned but under the police, that is, under the Reichsfuehrer SS Himmler. Only from the standpoint of servicing them, that is, in regard to their supplies or movements during advance or retreat, did the Army have the jurisdiction to give them orders regarding their movements and their accommodation.

Q. Schellenberg states that in the rear operational areas and in the rear Army areas these "Einsatz" groups came under the RSHA, not only as far as supplies, but also as far as orders and tasks are concerned. Is that correct?

A. That is correct. The entire police received orders about what they were to do only from Himmler.

Q. Schellenberg also states further in his Affidavit 12, Exhibit USA 557, that they were under the command of the Army in regard to discipline. Is that true?

A. That is wrong. An officer of the Army could never punish a member of the police or the SS.

Q. As has been established, the chief task of these "Einsatz" groups was to carry out mass extermination of Jews and Communists. Schellenberg states in his Affidavit 12 that he was convinced that the Commanders-in-Chief of the army groups and armies had been clearly informed of these tasks through official channels. Since Schellenberg has stated his conviction in this affidavit, I ask you to give us yours, because I think I am right in assuming that you were one of the most fully informed officers of the armed forces.

A. I cannot of course judge exactly what the Commanders actually experienced while they were together at the front, but I can say with absolute certainty that I have never seen an order which revealed that these police groups had been sent into the operational zone for any other purpose than that of maintaining quiet and order from the police point of view and discovering revolts and partisan activities. I have never seen a report or an order which contained anything other than that.

Q. Do you believe, Colonel-General, that the Commanders of the Armies or Army Groups would have tolerated those conditions without protest?

A. I consider that that is out of the question, because even in the case of much smaller incidents they raised the most violent protests. Hundreds of documents which have been offered by the prosecution here prove continually, sentence by sentence, how the troops at the front had objected against measures which they considered either inadmissible from a human point of view or dangerous to peace and order in the occupied territories. I have only to remind you of Blaskowitz's memorandum, which was one of the first.

Q. Did you read that memorandum?

A. No, I did not read it. I only heard about it.

Q. Furthermore, the prosecution has submitted Affidavit 13, from Captain Wilhelm Scheidt. It is Exhibit USA 558. Scheidt says in this affidavit, and I quote from Page 2:-

"It was a generally known fact that the partisan fights were conducted with cruelty on both sides."
I omit a sentence. He goes on to say:
"There is no question but that these facts must have been known to the leading officers in the Armed Forces Operations Staff and in the General Staff of the Army. It was also known that it was Hitler's view that in the fight against partisans only the use of cruel, intimidating punishment could be successful."

[Page 357]

Is Captain Scheidt's statement correct, namely, that the leading officers of the Armed Forces Operations Staff and the General Staff of the Army knew of the cruelty employed by both sides in the partisan warfare?

A. What we knew about the partisan warfare and, above all, how it was conducted by our opponents has already been submitted to this Tribunal. I refer to the instructions which I signed regarding the combating of partisans in Exhibit RF 665. At the beginning of that there is a lengthy discourse on how the partisans conducted this war. Of course, we did not invent that. That was extracted from hundreds of reports. That troops in such a fight, when they themselves experienced the methods employed by the opponent, would also on their part not be exactly mild, can readily be imagined.

In spite of that, the directives which we issued never contained a word to the effect that no prisoners were to be taken in these partisan fights. On the contrary, all reports showed that the number of prisoners taken was greater by far than the number of killed. That it was the Fuehrer's view that in their fight against the partisans the troops should not in any way be restricted is authentically proved by the many arguments which I, as well as the General Staff of the Army, had with the Fuehrer.

Q. What if the commanders received reports about cruelties committed by their own soldiers?

A. Then they would be court-martialed. That again is established in the documents. I remind you of an order issued by the Fuehrer, which begins with the sentence: "It has been reported to me that individual soldiers of the armed forces have been dealt with by courts-martial because of their behaviour when fighting partisans."

Q. And that was the only thing a commander could do in a case like that?

A. There was no other way open. And even after these orders, he always acted in accordance with his own legal conception. Who could stop him from doing that?

Q. The prosecution has also submitted Affidavit 15, by General Rottiger, which is Exhibit USA 559. In this affidavit General Rottiger states, in the middle of Page 1:

"Only now, on the strength of documents put before me, do I realize that in issuing the order to employ the severest measures to fight partisans, the highest levels might possibly have had in mind the final aim of using these measures against partisans by the Army as a means for the relentless exterminating of Jewry and other undesirable elements."
Did the military leadership at the highest level hold any such point of view, and was that their final aim?

A. No. Of course, one is wise after the event. I, too, have learned many things today which I did not know before. However, this knowledge does not apply here, because there were next to no Jews among the partisans. In the main, these partisans were fanatical Russian fighters, mostly White Russians, and were as hard as steel. And, to a question put by my defence counsel, even the witness Barzelewski had to admit that there were next to no Jews amongst the partisan fighters.

As regards the extermination of Slavs, I can only say that the Slavs who were killed in the partisan fighting amounted to no more than one-twentieth or one-thirtieth part of the numbers which in the normal, large-scale battles with the Soviet armies, the enemy lost in dead or wounded. As far as figures are concerned, therefore, that view carries no weight at all, is a completely misguided one.

Q. A further affidavit, number 60 by the same General Rottiger, was submitted by the prosecution as Exhibit USA 560. In the last sentence General Rottiger states the following:

"Although generally speaking one knew what the special tasks of those SD units were, and although they were carried out apparently with the know-

[Page 358]

ledge of the highest leaders of the armed forces, we opposed these methods as far as possible - since it meant endangering our own troops."
In other words, General Rottiger, .in his affidavit, maintains that the special tasks of the SD units were apparently carried out with the knowledge of the highest military leaders. If that is correct, then, you, Colonel-General, must have known about these tasks. But you have already denied that.

A. Yes, I have already answered. I have never spoken to a single officer who had knowledge of these matters and told me about them.

Q. Also, in the case against the General Staff and the OKW, the prosecution has submitted Affidavit 17, Exhibit USA 562. This affidavit comes from SS-Fuehrer Rode. Rode states, at the top of Page 2:

"As proof, one can quote the OKW and OKH order, which stated that all members of partisan groups who had been captured, such as Jews, agents and political commissars, were to be handed over by the troops to the SD for 'special treatment,' without delay. Apart from that this order contained instructions that in guerrilla fighting no prisoners, apart from the above-mentioned, were to be taken."
Colonel-General, was there an order that in guerrilla fighting no prisoners were to be taken?

A. Such an order never existed. I have never seen such an order. It was not contained in the instructions regarding guerrilla fighting. Apart from that, practically every word in that statement is untrue. There never was an order from the OKW-OKH; that is, one order which came from both departments.

"Jews among the guerrillas" - I have already dealt with that.

"Agents among the guerrillas" - agents - that is a matter by itself.

"Political commissars" - that is quite another point. They were never handed over to the SD for special treatment, if they were handed over at all, because the task of the SD was an entirely different one. They may have been handed over to the Security Police. In other words, every word is untrue.

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