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 Sixty-Fifth Day: Thursday, 27th June, 1946
(Part 5 of 5)

[Page 260]

THE WITNESS [Hans Fritsche]: May I repeat: "Anyone who has the reputation of being cruel does not have to be cruel. He can act humanely."

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, but then you went on about going to the Sixth Army?

THE WITNESS: Yes, shortly thereafter I became a soldier -

[Page 261]

DR. FRITZ: He added, Mr. President, that shortly after this meeting with Heydrich, he himself, that is the defendant Fritzsche, became a soldier and he specifically asked to be detailed to the Sixth Army which at that time was stationed in the Ukraine.

THE PRESIDENT: What was the date of this incident?

THE WITNESS: February - March, 1942.


Q. When you were a soldier in the Ukraine, did you try to check the correctness of Heydrich's statements?

A. I had no official opportunity to do this, but as an old journalist I made investigations on my own, of course.

First of all, I investigated in Kiev, with the local German radio station. The answer was yes, several shootings actually did take place, specifically after the blowing up of certain blocks of houses, on which occasion many German soldiers had lost their lives. However, these shootings were in accordance with sentences imposed by courts martial.

Then, for three days I travelled in all directions between Kiev and Poltawa. Mostly I travelled alone. I found the population completely peaceful: there were no signs of terror whatsoever, and, by the way, I was received very well myself.

At Poltawa, I checked with officers and soldiers. On these occasions as well, I was told, "Yes, there were some court- martial sentences. The reason for these sentences was sabotage."

Then, in Kharkov itself, I visited the SS Command stationed there, and I spoke with the Sturmfuehrer Rexlach. He denied any shooting actions. He showed me the prison and there were perhaps fifty people there, no more. I asked him about camps and he stated that there were none.

Then I visited an Ukrainian family; I questioned a German agricultural leader at Bjelgorod, and I met with the same result in every case: No shooting actions had taken place.

I gathered from that that it had been an attempted individual action which had not been carried through.

Q. Before this letter which the SS man had sent you, had you not already suspicions, perhaps from Allied radio broadcasts which you had access to?

A. These radio broadcasts were accessible to me. I had reports on atrocities specially collected at that time and chosen from the great number of enemy broadcasts which we received every day, and then I had these reports investigated and checked.

Q. And who concerned himself with this checking?

A. The competent specialist, Oberregierungsrat Korber, in charge of the department "Schnelldienst" (Express Service) of the Press Department, or one of his co-workers, or myself.

Q. Where was this checked?

A. We inquired of the RSHA, for in most of these reports of atrocities the SS or Gestapo were mentioned as the ones who had perpetrated the murders.

Q. At which of the many branches of this office did you inquire?

A. We inquired at the various specialist offices, and I do not doubt that we inquired of Eichmann, who has been mentioned in these proceedings here. Apart from that, we inquired of Sturmbannfuehrer Spengler or his deputy von Kielpinsky, both of them members of that office which, at that time or later, was taken over by Ohlendorf, who has also appeared here as a witness. Frequently we inquired among the branch offices of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt, the so-called State police control offices, as well, especially if there were reports from a special area.

Q. What were the answers you received?

[Page 262]

A. We always received the answer that the report in question was either completely wrong and was an invention, or that the report had this or that legal basis.

Frequently figures and details were reported which in effect were quite disarming.

Q. Are there any records of this?

A. Yes. The more important questions and answers were put into writing and were even reproduced and sent to the various offices within and outside the Propaganda Ministry. All the material was collected in the archives called "Schnelldienst," material for which I applied here and which was granted to me but was not found.

Q. And you just believed these answers?

A. Yes, I did believe them for after all, this was information which was given to me by official sources and furthermore I had experienced on numerous occasions that the authenticity of such reports from these sources had been proved very completely.

Q. What do you mean by that?

A. Perhaps I might give you an example. The first propaganda action of the war was the report given out by Warsaw about the destruction of the picture of the "Black Madonna" of Czenstochow. This report was transmitted all over the world. We took German and foreign journalists to Czenstochow, who could assure themselves that this report was not true. But I must be quite honest here and say that I really wanted to cite another example in reply to this question put by my counsel, another report which really had its surprising after-effects for me in this courtroom some two or three days ago. The British newspaper the News Chronicle, on 24th September, 1939, printed the report that the German -

THE PRESIDENT: What is the evidential value of the News Chronicle, in 1939?

DR. FRITZ: The defendant wants to prove to the High Tribunal that he found that many reports from abroad, dealing with German atrocities, actually were false, so that -

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we do not need details about that. No doubt there were frequent reports which were not accurate. We do not want you to go into details.

THE WITNESS: I wanted to prove with just one news item how at that time something which the world believed could be denied and then, in the shadow of this denial, quite unnoticed by the German public, something did take place, such as a larger wave of arrests or a similar matter.

THE PRESIDENT: He can state the facts but he need not go into detail about a particular issue of the newspaper.


Q. Was it only once, Herr Fritzsche, that you learned of the falsehood of such foreign broadcasts?

A. No, that took place quite frequently.

Q. Please be very brief, Herr Fritzsche.

A. One of my co-workers gathered the necessary material for an article entitled "In eight weeks of war 107 lies." I should like to say only one thing about this. The gathering of such false reports, given out by our enemy, gave me a sense of moral superiority over that type of reporting, and this feeling was the basis of my later work, which could not be explained without this feeling.

Q. Did you not consider that such false reports occurred only in the beginning of the war?

A. No, that thought never occurred to me. The reports were numerous in the beginning, but I noticed them in later years too, some in their effect on my own person.

[Page 263]

Q. Now, on your own person, can you sketch it in a few brief words?

A. One of many statements: An enemy front propaganda bulletin accused me of the fact that six hundred thousand Swedish -

THE PRESIDENT: What is he going to now? What is the purpose of this?

DR. FRITZ: He wants to give an example of how a false statement applied to him personally. He wanted to state that briefly.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, as I said already, there were, no doubt, erroneous statements made in the foreign Press and every Press. We cannot investigate such matters.

DR. FRITZ: Then I shall pass on to another question.


Q. Did you not, as an experienced journalist in the news service, have the feeling that where there is smoke there is fire? Did you not believe that at least something must be true of the enemy reports about murders and so forth in the areas under German rule?

A. Precisely because I was a professional newsman I did not have this feeling. Again and again I thought and I repeatedly reminded the public of one erroneous bit of reporting of the First World War. I beg the Tribunal to grant me permission to mention it quite briefly because it is also a part of the fundamentals of the propaganda which I carried on.

THE PRESIDENT: No, I have already pointed out that we assume that there are a variety of errors. We do not want to go into detail.

DR. FRITZ: Then I shall turn to another question.


Q. But surely you knew that the Jews had been evacuated from the Reich; you must have noticed that they disappeared from the streets?

A. Yes, I did notice that, even though it occurred very gradually. Beyond that I heard Dr. Goebbels say, on the occasion of a ministerial conference, that as Gauleiter in Berlin he had requested the evacuation of Jews.

Q. Where did you think these Jews were taken, and what were you told about these things?

A. Dr. Goebbels told me that they were taken to reservations in Poland. I never had any suspicion that they were taken to concentration camps, or that they were being murdered. Never.

Q. Did you inquire about these reservations into which the Jews were allegedly being taken?

A. Of course I did that. For instance I learned of various things from a former co-worker of mine who had been transferred into the administration of the Government General and who had an administrative position in the region Biala-Bodlaska. He said that the area under his control had become a Jewish area, and he repeatedly pictured the arrival and the housing of these transportees. He also mentioned the difficulties and the employment of Jews as workers on plantations. His entire description bore witness to his humane point of view. He told me that under him the Jews fared better than they had in the Reich.

Q. What was the name of this man?

A. Oberregierungsrat Hubert Kuehl.

Q. Did you hear unfavourable reports about these deported Jews?

A. Yes. Sturmbannfuehrer Radke of the staff of the Reichsfuehrer SS reported, perhaps in the winter of 1942, that the mortality rate of the Jews in the Eastern ghettoes was abnormally high because of the change over from sedentary work to manual labour. He mentioned there were some isolated cases of typhus.

Apart from that, Dr. Tauber, who was head of the department dealing with Jewish questions in the Propaganda Ministry, told me in the year 1941, if I remember correctly, that there had been pogroms in Lemberg and Kovno, but they

[Page 264]

had been carried out by the local population. He assured me at the same time that the German authorities had taken steps against these pogroms. Nevertheless the references to such things caused me to criticise matters severely, even though these things appear almost insignificant compared with what we know of today. My criticism was directed against my superiors, particularly Dr. Goebbels, and also against co- workers and members of the Gestapo and of the Party. I referred repeatedly to the legal, political and moral necessity of protecting these Jews, who, whether they liked it or not, had been entrusted to our care.

Q. Did you learn anything else about the fate of these Jews?

A. On several occasions Jews or relatives or friends of Jews appealed to me because of discriminations or arrests. A large number of non-Jews also did this, as my name had become well known to the public. Without exception, I made their pleas my own and I tried to help through various offices such as the RSHA, through the personnel section of my ministry, through individual ministers and Gauleiter.

Q. Why did you turn to so many different authorities and offices?

A. Very many requests were involved, and if my name had been used too often at the same place the effectiveness would have ended very quickly.

Q. Did you on occasion turn down these requests?

A. No, not in one single instance, and I should like to emphasize that particularly, because a letter addressed to me in this prison here was not handed over to me but was published in the Press. It was a letter in which a woman asserted that I had turned down a request for pardon. I remember this case specifically and I should like to emphasize briefly that in this case I had expressly called on the Reich Minister of Justice -

THE PRESIDENT: It is sufficient for him to say that he did not turn them down. We do not want one instance of somebody who wrote to him.

How long are you going to be, Dr. Fritz?

DR. FRITZ: I believe I shall be able to conclude the entire case Fritzsche tomorrow morning.

Mr. President, I have heard that there is no open session this afternoon -


DR. FRITZ: - otherwise I would have been able to conclude the entire case Fritzsche today. However, I hope to be able to conclude my examination of the defendant as his own witness and of the witness von Schirmeister. I hope that tomorrow noon I shall be able to conclude.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal hopes so too, because, as I have pointed out to you, we do not want you to go into such elaborate detail. You have been going, in the opinion of the Tribunal, far too much into detail, and we want the matter dealt with more generally.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 28th June, 1946, at 1000 hours.)

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