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 8 of 10)

[Page 362]


Q. Colonel-General, was Louvain captured in the manner as testified by the witness van der Essen? The witness van der Essen said that Louvain was taken without fighting.

A. I have ascertained that the armed forces communique of 18th May, I believe, contains the sentence: "Louvain taken after heavy fighting," but I do not believe -

THE PRESIDENT: What was the place that you are asking about?

DR. LATERNSER: I asked the witness in what way Louvain was captured, whether it was only evacuated by the enemy and then occupied, or whether the town had to be fought for. The witness has stated that there was no fighting for Louvain and that -

THE PRESIDENT: How did it affect the General Staff?

DR. LATERNSER: Well, in that case, Mr. President, I do not know who should be blamed for this event. I cannot see any connection with any one of the defendants, and if nobody can be blamed for it, we must strike out the whole event.

THE PRESIDENT: Is it one of the events which is charged in the Indictment?

DR. LATERNSER: No, the Indictment does not refer to it.

THE PRESIDENT: And the evidence, did the evidence deal with it?

DR. LATERNSER: There is no reference to it in the Indictment, but in the evidence a witness was produced who stated that the University of Louvain was wilfully destroyed by the German artillery although there was no reason to fire on the town.

THE PRESIDENT: I did not catch the place - but go on.

THE WITNESS: I know that the Wehrmacht report of 18th May, 1940, contained the sentence: "Louvain captured after heavy fighting." Even though

[Page 363]

the German Wehrmacht report was silent on some things, it certainly never stated deliberate untruth. I can say that because I edited it.


Q. You have already spoken about the case of Oradour yesterday. I merely wanted to ask you, what did Field Marshal von Rundstedt do about this event when it was reported to him?

A. Many weeks afterwards, I learned that an investigation had been started by Field Marshal von Rundstedt and that there was correspondence about the case of Oradour between Field Marshal Keitel, the Armistice Commission and Field Marshal von Rundstedt.

Q. Did the Commander-in-Chief West begin court-martial proceedings?

A. He must have done so, because I read a statement of an SS court in connection with this event.

Q. What was the outcome of those proceedings?

A. I cannot say.

Q. Then I come to the last points.

How many conferences were there before the Ardennes offensive in December 1944?

A. There were four conferences about the Ardennes offensive.

Q. Did you attend all of them?

A. I took part in all of them.

Q. Was there ever any request for an order, or was an order ever issued at one of these conferences to shoot prisoners during this offensive?

A. No, and I can also add that not once during any one of those conferences was a single word mentioned which did not deal with purely operational considerations. There was no talk about the conduct of the troops.

Q. Colonel-General, would you have known if such an order had been issued by-let us assume-Field Marshal von Rundstedt?

A. There can be no question of such an order. It could never have been issued through the military channels. It could only have been issued through the police, that is to say, Himmler or the SS.

Q. But then it would not have been binding on the units of the armed forces, that is, on the Army?

A. It is quite out of the question that any Army Commander would even have accepted such an order, and I know of no order of the Fuehrer which was directed against ordinary prisoners in this way.

Q. I merely put that question because the witness van der Essen also stated in this courtroom that, judging by the way the prisoners were treated, he had to draw the conclusion that it was the result of an order from a high level. That is why I asked that question.

Do you know the case - the Commando case?

THE PRESIDENT: I thought you had put your last question. You said that was your last question.

DR. LATERNSER: The last questions. Mr. President, I shall be through in about five minutes. I ask you to take into consideration the fact that Colonel-General Jodl is a member of the indicted group and that he is the officer who is best informed, and that an hour and a half for such an examination is not an excessive amount of time.


Q. Do you know the Commando episode in which the son of the British Field Marshal Alexander was a participant?

A. Yes, I know the case.

Q. Please tell us about it.

A. I heard about this affair through a report - I cannot quite remember whom it came from. I discussed it with Field Marshal Keitel and I expressed the view that it was not necessary to take court proceedings against a lieutenant just because

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he was wearing a German cap during an action of this kind. Court proceedings were in progress against him, and Field Marshal Keitel gave the order that the proceedings should be discontinued.

Q. And the proceedings were discontinued?

A. Yes, they were.

Q. Well now, regarding the extent of the group, two more questions: What was the jurisdiction of the Deputy Chief of the Armed Forces Operations Staff?

A. The Deputy Chief of the Armed Forces Operations Staff, I would say, directed, in practice, the General Staff work of my entire staff, from whom, of course, I was separated to a certain extent, because I was in the so-called Circle No. 7, and my staff was in Circle No. 2; that is to say, outside; and the whole of this General Staff work within the inner staff was directed by him, and, if necessary, he acted, of course, as my deputy.

Q. The prosecution has stated that the Deputy Chief of the Armed Forces Operations Staff was responsible for strategic planning. Is that correct?

A. No. I was principally responsible.

Q. Is the significance of the position of this Deputy Chief of the Armed Forces Operations Staff equal to the significance of the other positions which are comprised in the indicted group?

A. No, it is far below that. He did not have the position of an Army Commander, nor the position of a Chief of the General Staff.

DR. LATERNSER: Thank you very much, I have no further questions.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn.

(A recess was taken.)

THE PRESIDENT: Does any other defendant's counsel want to ask any question?

BY DR. STAHMER (Counsel for defendant Goering):

Q. Were you present, Colonel-General, when, toward the end of March 1944, Himmler reported to Hitler during the situation conference that about eighty British RAF officers had escaped from camp Stalag 3, at Sagan?

A. At the moment when Himmler reported this fact, I was not in the big hall of the Berghof. I was in the next room telephoning. Hearing a very loud discussion, I went over to the curtain to hear what was going on. I heard that they were talking about the escape of the British airmen from the Sagan camp.

Q. Was Reichsmarschall Goering present at this situation conference?

A. The Reichsmarschall was not present at this situation conference. I am absolutely certain about that.

Q. In later talks with the Reichsmarschall, did you find out what he thought of the shooting of some of the escaped officers?

A. From talks with the Chief of the General Staff of the Luftwaffe, I learned that the Reichsmarschall was indignant at this shooting, and I knew that particularly in situations such as these the former officer who did not approve of such incredible acts came out in him. One must give him his due. There were repeated arguments over this between him and the Fuehrer, which I witnessed personally.

DR. STAHMER: I have no more questions.

DR. BOHM (Counsel for the SA): With the permission of the Tribunal, I will ask the witness a few questions.


Q. Witness, you were Chief of the Wehrmacht Operations Staff and the units at your disposal were known to you. The prosecution asserts that you expected to find in the SA a fighting unit in the first days of aggressive war, on the basis of the so-called Commando Unit (Kommandotruppe). Now I should like to ask you if the term Commando Unit is known to you in connection with the use of the SA by the Wehrmacht.

[Page 365]

A. No, that is not known to me. I heard the term Commando Unit for the first time in connection with the undertakings of the English Ranger Battalion. We never used this term.

Q. There can be no question then that the SA was used as Commando Units behind the regular troops in the entry into Austria, or in the occupation of the Sudetenland?

A. I know of no case where formations of the SA co-operated in the occupation of another country, with the exception of the Henlein Free Corps, but that, however, consisted primarily of Sudeten-German refugees. In the Henlein Free Corps there were, I believe, a few SA leaders who had formerly been officers.

Q. Was the Feldherrnhalle Regiment used as an SA unit or as a Wehrmacht regiment in the war?

A. The Feldherrnhalle Regiment was definitely a Wehrmacht regiment. I should say that it embodied the traditions of the SA and was recruited primarily from the SA, but it had nothing whatever to do with the Supreme SA Command. It was a Wehrmacht regiment in every sense of the word.

Q. Do you know anything about the fact that in twenty-five group schools and in three Reich leader schools of the SA, 22,000 to 25,000 leaders and assistant leaders were trained annually for the front, and that these 22,000 to 25,000 leaders and assistant leaders were used as such in the Wehrmacht?

A. I know nothing about this and I consider it impossible that the Wehrmacht had its leaders and assistant leaders trained by anyone else than by its own personnel.

Q. Would not the position be that all the SA members were drafted into the Wehrmacht as ordinary soldiers and had to rise from the ranks in the same way as any Wehrmacht soldier?

A. The SA were drafted into the Wehrmacht like any other Germans. I know of many cases where high SA leaders started their service in the Wehrmacht in the very lowest positions as soldiers or as non-commissioned officers.

Q. Then, the prosecution also asserts that after 1934 the SA trained not only 22,000 to 25,000 leaders and assistant leaders but that 25,000 officers, commissioned and non-commissioned, were trained by the SA for the Wehrmacht. Do you know anything about this?

A. What I said before about assistant leaders is true to an even greater extent of the officers. The officers were trained only in the Military Schools of the Army and nowhere else.

Q. The prosecution asserts further-and I ask whether you know anything about this-that in the course of the total war effort, eighty-six per cent of the professional Leadership Corps were made available.

A. I cannot give a binding answer to that. I do not know about that.

Q. And the prosecution asserts further that the SA sent seventy per cent of its millions of members straight to the Wehrmacht. It may be that seventy per cent of the SA members did their military service. I want to ask you whether these seventy per cent were taken straight from the SA or whether they were called up in the groups which applied to the able-bodied male population?

A. No importance whatsoever was attached to the SA when men were drafted into the Army. The SA man was drafted like any other German who was called up for military service. Whether or not a man had been in the SA previously did not matter in the slightest.

Q. Did the Wehrmacht ever take SA Intelligence Units (Sturme), Engineer Units or Cavalry Units, or Medical Units, and use them in action inside or outside a division of the Wehrmacht?

A. I personally knew of no case where any SA unit appeared in action outside Germany.

Q. Did the Chief of the Wehrmacht Operational Staff have a liaison man with the SA?

A. No. From time to time, an officer came to me from the Supreme SA Command, and he generally inquired as to the fate and well-being of the Feld-

[Page 366]

herrnhalle Regiment, which had come primarily from the SA, or was composed mainly of members of the SA, and later, about a Panzer formation which also continued the tradition of the "Feldherrnhalle" of the SA.

Q. The prosecution has submitted a newspaper which shows that on the occasion of the mustering of SA members, Field Marshal Brauchitsch was present. They want to show from this the close connection between the training of the SA and the Wehrmacht. Can you explain this photograph?

A. I believe it can be explained by the fact that Field Marshal von Brauchitsch accompanied the Chief of Staff Lutze when the latter inspected an ordinary SA unit, and he was accompanied by Field Marshal von Brauchitsch because, as I have already said, after the Roehm putsch we had no longer any cause for conflict with the SA. At the outbreak of war the SA placed all their equipment, including tents, at the disposal of the Wehrmacht. I remember that especially clearly.

Q. Could this visit of Field Marshal Brauchitsch, when he inspected the SA members, be part of the official activity of the Field Marshal?

A. No, in my opinion that was an act of courtesy.

Q. From the point of view of conspiracy with which the SA is charged here, do you know that it was always the task of the SA, especially in the years 1933 to 1939, to prepare Germany, and especially the youth, for wars of aggression? Did the SA instil, increase and maintain a warlike spirit in Germany, especially among the youth? Do you know anything in this connection from personal observations?

A. I do not know anything about that. That the SA, as a branch of the Party, endeavoured to foster the patriotic spirit within its ranks, to carry on physical training, is a matter of course. As to preparing for wars of aggression, no one ever did that.

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