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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
7th June to 19th June 1946

One Hundred and Fiftieth Day: Saturday, 8th June, 1946
(Part 3 of 6)

[DR. JAHRREISS continues his direct examination of Herbert Buchs]

[Page 49]

Hitler turned angrily to me and said excitedly:
'I have already issued one order that bomber crews which bale out are not to be protected against the population. These people only murder German women and children. It is unheard of that German soldiers should take measures to protect these against our own population, which is acting from motives of justifiable hate. Why are my orders not carried out?'
Surprised by this attack I replied something like this:
'I know nothing about any such order; and it would in any case be a practical impossibility.'
Hitler turned to me and said very loudly and sharply:
'The reason why my orders are not carried out is only the cowardice of the Luftwaffe, because the gentlemen of the Luftwaffe are cowards and are afraid that something might happen to them too. The whole thing is nothing more than a cowardly pact between the Luftwaffe and the British and American airmen.'
Hitler turned then also to Kaltenbrunner, who happened to be present in the background, and went on, addressing him, but sometimes not looking at him .
'I hereby order that all bomber crews who baled out in the last few months, as well as all bomber crews baling out in future, are to be turned over immediately by the Luftwaffe to the SD and are to be liquidated by them. Anyone failing to carry out my orders or taking action against the population is liable to the death penalty and is to be shot.'
Hitler then further expressed in general terms his indignation and his views on the matter. The assembled officers gave an impression of general surprise and disapproval.

After the Fuehrer's entourage had left, I requested an interview with Kaltenbrunner in the passage. Essential points:

Koller: 'It is impossible to carry out those orders. The Luftwaffe will have nothing more to do with them, I myself in no circumstances whatsoever and I can say as much for the Reichsmarschall. It is entirely out of the question that the Luftwaffe will agree to this in any shape or form.'

Kaltenbrunner: 'The Fuehrer has completely mistaken ideas. The duties of the SD are also constantly misunderstood. Those things are no concern of the SD. Moreover, no German soldier would do what the Fuehrer demands, it is not in his line. He does not kill prisoners; if individual fanatical party followers of Herr Bormann try to do so, the German soldier intervenes. The Fuehrer has a completely false idea of the views held by our soldiers. Moreover, I myself will do nothing in the matter either. I have no intention of doing anything. We must just see how we can get out of it, otherwise we will be the first to go. We must gain time. I am leaving Berlin again at once for a fairly long time anyway.'

Koller: 'Then we are agreed on the main point. Your leaving Berlin is favourable. But we must have another way out as far as the Fuehrer is concerned, for it is possible that he may again refer to his order tomorrow. Later on, if it goes to extremes, we will have to see how we can put a stop to the business, or what is going to happen to us?'

[Page 50]

The following was decided at my suggestion: no order on the lines decreed by the Fuehrer would be issued by the Luftwaffe or the SD. Surrenders to the SD - none. In case the Fuehrer should refer to his order again, then, first of all, prevent further action through explanations of the following kind

All members of air crews previously captured not in the hands of the Luftwaffe, but dispersed under the control of the Replacement Army Commander (BdE); time of capture not known to a central office. It would therefore be a lengthy and difficult process to determine the number of air personnel captured during the last few months. Also, preparations must be made in detail for getting them out without attracting attention. The newly captured crews go automatically, to interrogation centres. Those are in process of transfer owing to operations. Liaison is bad.

Therefore, detailed discussions and agreements with the SD are necessary. In order to preserve the appearance of discussion, the Ic officer of the High Command of the Luftwaffe (Ic des OKL) should go to a delegate of Kaltenbrunner, who, however, would first have to be appointed.

After the Fuehrer's conference, I spoke to Field-Marshal Keitel in the entrance of the air raid shelter and said: 'The Fuehrer's order is insane ! ' (Keitel put in: 'It certainly is.') 'The Luftwaffe must keep its escutcheon clean. The order cannot be carried out. I am convinced that the Reichsmarschall is entirely of my opinion. To issue such an order - and verbally - and, moreover, with such threats of punishment! He must sign an order of this kind with his own name. It may or may not be carried out - but not by the Luftwaffe. Not by the SD, either. I have spoken to Kaltenbrunner.'

Field-Marshal Keitel: 'He will not sign such orders then, and everything is always left on the shoulders of the OKW. But I'll be damned if I issue such an order.'

Koller: 'The Luftwaffe cannot join in this in any circumstances. We will not assume such a responsibility.'

Field-Marshal Keitel: 'You are right; neither can I. I must think over what I can do about it and how I can do it.'

The conversation was interrupted because Keitel was called to the telephone. Keitel was very indignant and annoyed about the Fuehrer's order.

After refreshments in a side-room of the air raid shelter I had to cross the antechamber of the conference room again to reach the cloakroom and exit. Hitler happened to come out of the room to give an order to an orderly; and he called me as I was passing. The door leading to the conference room was open and Ley was sitting at the table.

Hitler said to me:

'I must come back to my order once more. You must all help me, for matters cannot go on like this any longer. The Luftwaffe, or at least the Reich Defence Organization, has failed. What am I to do against the frightful bombing terror which is murdering only German women and children?'

Koller: 'The Air Defence and our crews do what they can and what is humanly possible. Our neglect of air armament and the enemy's present technical and numerical superiority cannot be eliminated or remedied overnight. When the searchlight units at last get stronger, the air situation over Germany will be more in our favour.'

Hitler: 'I cannot wait for that. I can no longer be responsible to the German people for the continuation of this situation in the air. If those flyers realize that they will be liquidated as terrorists, they will think twice about flying here.'

[Page 51]

Koller: 'That will certainly not improve the situation in the air. On the contrary, it will make it worse.'

Hitler: 'No, the Japanese method is the best.'

Hitler's manner was now calm again - at least in comparison with what it had been at the gathering. He appeared more approachable. Experience had shown that it was better to talk to him alone than in the presence of others. I thought it was a good opportunity to attack the whole problem and declared:
'If I may state my point of view, I think that this will not do. Measures of this kind are in such crass opposition to the education, feelings and way of thinking of all soldiers, that they cannot be carried out. One cannot train soldiers on the regulations governing warfare and decent conduct and then order actions which are repulsive to everyone. You must not forget, my Fuehrer, that enemy airmen also carry out orders and do their duty just as ours do. If they are shot down or make forced landings, they are defenceless and unarmed prisoners. What would the world think of us? And the first thing the enemy would do would be to treat our air crews in the same way. That is something for which we cannot answer to our men and their relatives. All their willingness to serve and their discipline would collapse at one blow.'
Up to that point the Fuehrer had not interrupted me. After his first glance at me he looked away again and seemed to be lost in thought. He had been listening; however, and at that point he interrupted me and said quietly and earnestly:
'So the Luftwaffe is afraid after all. That is all very well; but I am responsible for the protection of the German people and have no other means except this.'
Hitler turned away and went back into the conference room.

After my arrival at the Luftwaffe Headquarters (Kurfurst) I told Colonel von Brauchitsch what had happened and ordered him to report it to the Reichsmarschall as soon as possible. I myself could not contact the Reichsmarschall at the moment. During our conversation Brauchitsch also expressed disapproval of the Fuehrer's order.

An hour or two later the Reichsmarschall called me and began with the following words:

'Tell me, has he gone quite mad now?'
It was quite clear who was meant. I myself reported the principal happenings and the conversation with Kaltenbrunner to the Reichsmarschall again and added:
'I will not carry out this order or anything connected with it. I will endeavour to handle the situation so as to gain time just now, in any case, and will do everything in my power to protect any of us from disastrous consequences. Perhaps after the last conference the Fuehrer will not refer to his order again, If he does, however, a very difficult situation will arise; and you will have to go to the Fuehrer yourself. What he has ordered must in no case be allowed to happen.'
The Reichsmarschall expressed strong disapproval of Hitler's attitude and agreed with me in every point. He ordered me to act as I had suggested, to inform him immediately when necessary, and ended the interview with these words:
'This is all insane and cannot be done.'
Measures against Allied airmen on the basis of the above-mentioned Fuehrer order were taken neither by the Luftwaffe nor by the SD. This order did not become known, in my opinion, to the Replacement Army Command (BdE), or its offices, as the Replacement Army Command was not present at the Fuehrer's meeting and the order was not transmitted by the High Command of the Armed Forces (OKW).

[Page 52]

Hitler made no further reference to his order, neither to the Reichsmarschall nor to myself, nor to my representative, nor, I think, to Kaltenbrunner. To be sure, I never spoke to the latter again about this matter.

I cannot judge as to whether Hitler deliberately let matters drop or whether he forgot about it under the pressure of events.

I know that about two or three weeks later an OKW directive was issued - I think a teletype - in which, as I recall, mention was made of the eye-witness report that occasioned it. It disclosed the fact that the Fuehrer had expressed his displeasure that German soldiers had taken action against their own people.

No mention was made of the main point of Hitler's order. If I remember correctly, the directive was signed by Keitel and must be regarded as an attempt to cover himself as far as the Fuehrer was concerned. In my opinion, General Jodl had nothing to do with the affair at all."

Witness, as far as you were present at this meeting, is the picture presented by General Koller correct?

[HERBERT BUCHS] A. I remember personally something like the following expression by the Fuehrer "This comes of the fact that in the Luftwaffe the conduct of war is based on a mutual policy of 'Live and let live'." That was the sentence which impressed me most strongly, which emphasises what was said -

DR. JAHRREISS: Thank you. Then I need not ask you any further questions on this point.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Jahrreiss, we will adjourn now.

(A recess was taken.)

Q. Witness, I assume that you can still recollect how the offices of the Fuehrer's headquarters were furnished.

A. Yes, I can still remember.

Q. In the offices occupied by the Fuehrer the Field-Marshal, the General and yourself, were there maps on the wall?

A. Yes, and also in East Prussia - particularly the Headquarters - the Fuehrer had a topographic map of Germany as well as a political map of Europe, and there were similar maps in the various other rooms.

Q. Were maps of Germany hanging there too?

A. Yes.

Q. And the neighbouring territories on which concentration camps and penal institutions were indicated with a red or blue ring?

A. No. Neither in the Headquarters in East Prussia nor in the Reich Chancellery in Berlin nor at the Berghof in Berchtesgaden have I ever seen such a map.

Q. At 12.30 midday on 11th May, 1946, the Munich radio station broadcast a letter from a painter asserting that he had seen maps in the Fuehrer's Headquarters which could only be intended to show the location of concentration camps. Is that possible?

A. That is quite out of the question.

Q. Was there any more detailed statement about -

THE PRESIDENT: I don't think we need go into the broadcast from Munich. We have no evidence of a broadcast from Munich.

DR. JAHRREISS: I am afraid I was misunderstood. I did not ask him whether he heard it, but I wanted to illustrate how the public had come to believe that there were such maps. Thank you, I have no further question.

THE PRESIDENT: What I was pointing out was that it ought not to be referred to, as it is not in evidence. The fact which you alleged, that there was a broadcast, ought not to be referred to.

[Page 53]

BY DR. STAHMER (counsel for the defendant Goering):

Q. Major Buchs, during the time you spent as commanding officer attached to Fuehrer Headquarters were you regularly present at the daily discussions of the situation?

A. Yes, I participated in the daily military situation discussions.

Q. Do you still remember whether you attended the situation conference of 27th January, 1945, at which the fate of the 10,000 air force officers imprisoned in the Sagan camp was discussed?

A. I can remember something like this: Fegelein must have raised the question of evacuating that camp on the approach of the Russian troops. These captured officers were asked whether they wished to remain in the camp and be handed over to the Russian Army, or whether they wanted to be taken away in the course of the evacuation of Silesia. As far as I remember, they definitely decided on the latter alternative, that is to say, to be taken away; and I believe that the only question still to be decided was how their transport was to be arranged.

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