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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
20th June to 1st July 1946

One Hundred and Sixtieth Day: Friday, 21st June, 1946
(Part 8 of 12)

[Page 73]

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Justice Jackson, was this camp that you are referring to a concentration camp?

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: Well, it was, as I understand it, a prisoner-of-war and a labour camp. There were labour camps and prisoner-of-war camps at Essen. I had not understood that it was a concentration camp, but I admit the distinction is a little thin at times.

This document reads:

"I, the undersigned, Dr. Apolinary Gotowicki, a doctor in the Polish Army, was taken prisoner by the Germans on 3rd January, 1941, and remained as such until the entry of the Americans. I gave medical attention to the Russian, Polish and French prisoners of war who were forced to work in various places of Krupp's factories. I personally visited the Russian P.O.W. camp in the Raumstrasse in Essen, which contained about 1,800 men. There was a big hall in the camp which could accommodate about 200 men comfortably in which 300 to 400 men were crowded together in such a manner that proper medical treatment was not possible. The floor was cement and the palliasses on which the people slept were full of lice and bugs. Even on cold days the room was never heated, and it seemed to me as a doctor monstrous that human beings, should be forced to live in such conditions. It was impossible to keep the place clean because of the overcrowding of these men who had hardly room to move about normally. Every day at least ten

[Page 74]

people were brought to me whose bodies were covered with bruises on account of the continual beatings with rubber tubes, steel switches or sticks.

The people were often writhing with agony and it was impossible for me to give them even a little medical aid. In spite of the fact that I protested, made complaints and petitions, it was impossible for me to protect the people or see that they got a day off from work. It was hard for me to have to watch such suffering people being forced to do heavy work. I visited personally, at risk of danger to myself, gentlemen of the Krupp Administration as well as gentlemen from the Krupp Directorate to try to get help. It was strictly forbidden, as the camp was under the direction of the SS and Gestapo, and according to well-known directives, I had to keep silent, otherwise I could have been sent to a concentration camp. I have brought my own bread innumerable times to the camp in order to give it to the prisoners as far as it was possible, although bread was very scarce for me. From the beginning of 1941 conditions did not get better but worse. The food consisted of a watery soup which was dirty and sandy, and often the prisoners of war had to eat cabbage which was bad and stank. I saw people daily who, on account of hunger or ill-treatment, were slowly dying. Dead people often lay for two or three days on the beds until their bodies stank so badly that prisoners took them outside and buried them somewhere. The dishes out of which they ate were also used as toilets because they were too tired or too weak from hunger to get up and go outside. At 3 o'clock, they were wakened. The same dishes were then used to wash in and later for eating out of. This matter was generally known. In spite of this it was impossible for me to get even elementary help or facilities for getting rid of epidemics or for treating cases of illnesses or starvation. There was no proper medical aid for the prisoners. I never received any medical supplies myself. In 1941 I alone had to look after these people, but it is quite understandable that it was impossible for me, as the only doctor, to look after all of these people, and apart from that I had scarcely any medical supplies. I could not think what to do with the large numbers who came to me daily crying and complaining. I myself often collapsed and, in spite of this, I had to take everything upon myself and watch people perish and die. A report was never made as to how the prisoners of war died.

I have seen with my own eyes the prisoners coming back from Krupp's and how they collapsed on the march and had to be wheeled back on barrows or carried by their comrades. It was in such a manner that the people came back to the camp. The work which they had to perform was very heavy and dangerous and many cases happened where people had cut their fingers, hands or legs. These accidents were very serious and the people came to me and asked for medical help. But it was not even possible for me to keep them from work for a day or two, although I had been to the Krupp directorate and asked for permission to do so. At the end of 1941, two people died daily, and in 1942 the deaths increased to three and four. I was under Dr. May and I was often successful in getting him to come to the camp to see the terrible conditions and listen to the complaints, but it was not possible for him to get medical aid from the Medical Department of the Wehrmacht or Krupp's, or to get better conditions, treatment or food.

I was a witness during a conversation with some Russian women who told me personally that they were employed in Krupp's factory and that they were beaten daily in the most bestial manner. The food consisted of watery soup which was dirty and unfit for consumption; and its terrible smell could be noticed from a distance. The clothing of these people was ragged and torn and on their feet they had rags and wooden shoes. Their treatment, as far as I could make out, was the same as that of the prisoners of war.

Beating was the order of the day. The conditions lasted for years, from the very beginning until the day the American troops entered. The people lived

[Page 75]

under great fear and it was dangerous for them to describe to anyone anywhere the conditions which existed in their camps. The position was such that any discovered doing so, could be murdered with impunity by members of the guards, the SS or Gestapo. It was possible for me as a doctor to talk to these people; they trusted me and knew that I was a Pole, and would never betray them to anyone.

(Signed) Dr. Apolinary Gotowicki."


Q. Now, you have explained that some of these conditions were due, in your judgement, to the fact that bombing took place and the billets of the prisoners and workers were destroyed.

[Albert Speer] A. That is true, but it does not mean that such conditions, if they really existed, could be considered as general.

Q. I'm sorry. Would you please repeat your answer

A. That is true, but I should like to point out that the conditions described in this affidavit cannot be considered as general; apart from that, I do not believe that this description is correct, but I cannot speak about these things since you, will not expect me to be intimately acquainted with what happened in the camps of the Krupp plant.

Q. Well, in the first place, was it considered proper by you to billet forced workers and prisoners of war so close to military targets as these prisoners were?

A. I would rather not tell you here things which every German has at heart. Military targets! The distinction between military and other targets no longer existed, and the camps, therefore, could not be near military targets.

Q. You would not consider the Krupp plants proper targets?

A. The camps were not in the Krupp works, they were near the city of Essen. On principle, we did not construct camps near the works which we expected would be bombed; and we did not want the camps to be destroyed.

Q. Did you notice that one of the photographs in evidence shows the plant - the camp directly against the works?

A. May I see it again, please?

(The photograph was shown to the defendant.)

A. Some large factory is recognizable in the background of this photograph, but that does not alter my statement, that in almost all cases we constructed the camps outside the cities. I do not know why this particular instance is different, and I cannot even say whether this is a camp or just a barracks for changing clothes, or anything which had to be near the camp. I still believe that these cupboards were cupboards for clothes, and this is one of the many barracks which were necessary so that the workers could change clothes before and after their work. Any expert in Germany can tell you that these are wardrobes and not some special cupboards, because they are mass-produced articles; this is also confirmed by the fact that there are air vents at the top, for every wardrobe has these ventilation holes at the top and bottom.

Q. As Production Minister, you were vitally interested in reducing the sickness rate among workers, were you not?

A. I was interested in a high output of work, that is obvious; and in addition, in special cases ...

Q. Well, special cases - Part of production is in all cases, is it not, dependent upon the health of your labour force, and is it not a fact, as a man engaged in production, that the two greatest problems in manpower and production are the health of the workers and rapid turnover, and that those factors influence production?

A. These two factors troubled us, but not as extensively as your words might suggest. Cases of sickness which, in my opinion, were normal, accounted for a very small percentage of loss in production. However, propaganda pamphlets

[Page 76]

dropped from aircraft were telling the workers to feign illness, and detailed instructions were given to them on how to do it. And to prevent that, the authorities concerned introduced certain measures which I considered proper.

Q. What were those measures?

A. I cannot tell you in detail, because I myself did not institute these penalties, nor did I have the power to do so; but as far as I know, they were ordered by the Plenipotentiary for Manpower Mobilization in collaboration with the police or State authorities; but the jurisdiction in this connection was with the authorities responsible for legal action.

Q. Now, if you did not know what they were, how can you tell us that you approved of them? We always get to this blank wall that nobody knew what was being done. You knew that they were at least penalties of great severity, did you not?

A. When I say that I approved, I am only expressing my wish not to dodge my responsibility in this respect. But you must understand that a minister of production, particularly in view of the air attacks, had a tremendous task before him, and that I could only take care of matters outside my own field if some particularly important factor forced me to do so. Otherwise, I was glad if I could finish my own work, and, after all, my task was by no means a small one.

I think that if during the German air attacks on England you had asked the British Minister of Munitions whether he shared the worries of the Minister of Labour and whether he was dealing with them, then he would with justification have told you that he had something else to do at that time, that he had to keep up his production and that he expected the Minister of Labour to manage affairs in his sector; and no one would have raised a direct accusation against the British Minister of Munitions on that account.

Q. Well, production was your enterprise, and do you mean to tell me that you did not have any records or reports on the condition of the workers who were engaged in production, which would tell you if there was anything wrong in the sick rate or anything wrong in the general conditions of labour?

A. What I knew is contained in the reports of meetings of the Central Planning Board; there you will get a picture of what I was told. There were many other meetings but I cannot remember in detail all I knew, because there were many things outside my sphere of activity. Naturally, it is a matter of course that anyone closely concerned with the affairs of State will also hear of matters not immediately connected with his own sphere, such as of unsatisfactory conditions existing in other sectors; but one not having to deal with these matters later on does not remember about them in detail. You cannot expect that of me. But if you have any particular matter in mind I shall be glad to give you information on it if I can.

Q. All right; assume that these conditions had been called to your attention and that they existed. With whom would you have taken it up to have them corrected? What officer of the Government?

A. Normally, a minister would send a document to the Government authorities responsible for such conditions. I must claim for myself that when I heard of such deficiencies, I tried to remedy them by establishing direct contact with the authority responsible, in some cases the German Labour Front, where I had a liaison officer, or in other cases my letter was transmitted to Sauckel through my Office of Manpower Deployment. My practice in this respect was that, if I did not receive a reply, I considered the matter settled; for I could not in such a case pursue the matter further and make additional inquiries whether it had been dealt with or not.

Q. With Krupp's, then, you would not have taken it up? You think they had no responsibility for these conditions?

A. During visits to Krupp's discussions certainly took place on the conditions which generally existed for workers after air attacks; this was a matter of great worry for us, particularly with regard to Krupp's. I cannot remember ever being

[Page 77]

told that foreign workers or prisoners of war employed at the Krupp factories were in a particularly bad condition. Temporarily they all lived under very primitive conditions; German workers lived in cellars during those days, and six or eight people were often quartered in a small cellar room.

Q. In a statement some time ago you said you had a certain responsibility as a minister of the Government for the conditions. I should like you to explain what responsibility you referred to when you say you assume a responsibility as a member of the Government.

A. Do you mean the declaration I made yesterday that I -

Q. Your common responsibility, what do you mean by your common responsibility, along with others?

A. Oh, yes. In my opinion, a State functionary has two types of responsibility. One is the responsibility for his own sector and for that, of course, he is fully responsible. But above that, I think that in decisive matters there is and must be, among the leaders, a joint responsibility, for who is to take responsibility for general developments if not the close associates of the head of State?

This joint responsibility, however, can only be applied to fundamental matters, it cannot be applied to details connected with other ministries or other responsible departments, for otherwise the entire discipline in the life of the State would be quite confused, and no one would ever know who is individually responsible in a particular sphere. This individual responsibility in one's own sphere must, at all events, be kept clear and distinct.

Q. Well, your point is, I take it, that you as a member of the Government, and a leader during this period of time, acknowledge a responsibility for its broad policies, but not for all the details that occurred in their execution. Is that a fair statement of your position?

A. Yes, indeed.

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: I think that concludes the cross-examination.

THE PRESIDENT: Do any of the other prosecutors wish to cross-examine?


Q. Defendant Speer, when you told your life story to the Tribunal and answered the questions of Justice Jackson, I think you omitted some substantial matters. I would like to ask you a few questions.

A. I left out such points as I did not wish to contest, since they are, at any rate, contained here in the documents; I would have a tremendous task if I were to go into all these points in detail.

Q. I would like to recall these points, and I would like to ask you to answer them briefly.

Did I understand you correctly that, in addition to your ministerial position, you were also the personal architect of Hitler after the death of Professor Todt? Did you hold this position?

A. Yes.

Q. Were you General Inspector of Roads?

A. Only after Dr. Todt's death.

Q. Yes, of course. Were you General Inspector of Waterpower and Power Plants?

A. Yes.

Q. General Plenipotentiary for Building in the Central Administration of the Four-Year Plan?

A. Yes.

Q. Director of the Todt Organization?

A. Yes.

Q. You were associated with the technological department of the National Socialist Party? You were the leader of the Union of National Socialist Technicians?

A. Yes.

[Page 78]

Q. And in addition to these posts, did you have any other leading positions?

A. Oh, I had ten or twelve positions. I cannot give you a list of them all now.

Q. Were you not one of the leaders of the Reich League of Culture?

A. No, no, that is not correct. I cannot tell you for certain, but I think I was a senator or something like that.

Q. Were you a member of the Committee of the Academy of Culture? Were you a member of the Committee of the Academy of Arts?

A. Yes, that also.

Q. I shall not mention the other posts you have held, in order to shorten the cross-examination. Do you remember your statements during the interrogation by Colonel Rosenblith on 14th November, 1945?

A. No, not in detail.

Q. I will remind you of one question, and will you tell me whether or not your answer was put down correctly. It was the question whether you acknowledged that in his book Mein Kampf Hitler stated bluntly his aggressive plans for the countries of the East and West and, in particular, for the Soviet Union. You answered, "Yes, I acknowledge it." Do you remember that?

A. Yes, that is perfectly possible.

Q. And do you confirm that now?

A. No.

Q. You do not confirm that now?

A. I must explain that at the time I was ashamed to say that I had not read the whole of Mein Kampf. I thought that would sound rather absurd.

Q. All right, we shall not waste time. You were ashamed to admit that, or are you ashamed now? Let us go on to another question.

A. Yes, I cheated at that time.

Q. You cheated at that time; maybe you are cheating now?

A. No.

Q. It does not matter. You worked on the staff of Hess, did you not?

A. Yes.

Q. You worked with Ley?

A. Yes, in the Labour Front.

Q. Yes, the German Labour Front. You had a high rank in the Nazi Party, as you stated here today; you said that today in Court, did you not?

A. No, it was not a high rank; it did not in any way correspond to the position which I occupied in the State.

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