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-Sixth Day: Friday, 28th June, 1946
(Part 3 of 10)

[Page 273]

Q. Herr Fritzsche, how did it happen that about six to seven weeks later the article "Churchill Sinks the Athenia " appeared, which was published on 23rd October, 1939? What are the antecedents? Shall I show you the article?

A. Thank you, no. I remember this incident especially well, as I have checked my memory about it since this case was mentioned again for the first time here in the Court.

I know that Hitler himself ordered this article to be written, giving detailed instructions. The order to write the article went through two different channels; first, through a telephone call by the Reich Press Chief, Dr. Dietrich; and second, through a telephone call by Dr. Goebbels or one of his delegates - I am not able to tell you which of the two. This order was to be transmitted to Der Volkischer Beobachter.

Now we come to the circumstances as to just why I remember the details. When I told one of my co-workers to inform the Volkischer Beobachter, he came back to me with the report that it would not be necessary because the Volkischer Beobachter had already heard the necessary details directly from the Fuehrer headquarters.

Q. When was this order given by Hitler and, respectively, Goebbels?

A. The day before it appeared, I assume.

Q. Did any office in the Navy G.H.Q. have any connection with this article?

A. According to my knowledge, no.

Q. Before this article was published, did you speak with Grand Admiral Raeder about it, or did you advise him of the order given by Hitler in, this direction?

A. No, I believe that the Navy G.H.Q. had no knowledge at all of the article, which originated in the manner that I have just described to you.

Q. Did you ever again speak with anyone in the Navy G.H.Q., or with Grand Admiral Raeder about this case?

A. Only here in the prison.

Q. Herr Fritzsche, is it correct that in September, 1939, The Times claimed that in Czechoslovakia Germans had murdered ten thousand Czechs at Prague, including the Lord Mayor?

A. I do not know whether that was published in The Times, but it was mentioned in the News Chronicle.

Q. What did the Propaganda Ministry undertake to do thereupon?

A. German and foreign journalists were taken to Prague. If I am not mistaken, one of the foreign journalists who went along to Prague on that trip is present in this courtroom.

Q. What did these foreign journalists find out?

[Page 274]

A. They had an interview with the Lord Mayor of Prague, who allegedly had been killed; they travelled about the country, and they reported accordingly.

Q. According to that, the report was clearly untrue?

A. At that time this report was shown to be quite false. However, I must add that since Monday of this week, since the testimony given by Herr von Neurath, it has become quite clear to me that, under cover of this great and effective denial, an action of arrests was carried out anyway in Czechoslovakia. To clarify the matter, I must add this -

THE PRESIDENT (interposing): Dr. Siemers, how does this affect Raeder?

DR. SIEMERS: Mr. President, I believe that in a certain way it is a parallel case to the article in the Volkischer Beobachter, which the prosecution is stressing for reasons not quite clear to me.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal thinks the evidence is not competent.


Q. Herr Fritzsche, do you know what Dr. Goebbels's attitude was to Grand Admiral Raeder?

A. From the few statements which Goebbels made about Grand Admiral Raeder, it could be seen that he had a hostile attitude towards him. His reason, frequently expressed, was Raeder's negative attitude toward the Party and the Party's wishes and his positive attitude in Church matters, including the protection which he accorded naval padres who were subject to attacks on the part of the Party.

DR. SIEMERS: Mr. President, I have no further questions.

BY DR. HORN (counsel for defendant von Ribbentrop):

Q. Witness, you stated that a General Niedermeier was present at the conference which took place between Molotov and Ribbentrop. Just where did you get your information?

A. There is a mistake contained in your question. I did not say that General Niedermeier participated in this conference. What I did say was - and I shall be a little more explicit - that during my imprisonment I ran into this General Niedermeier who, for weeks or months, just before that time, had been in another cell, with the interpreter who had the task of interpreting the discussion of Molotov and Ribbentrop.

Q. Did General Niedermeier give you the name of this interpreter?

A. Without doubt, but I did not try to remember it.

Q. I have one more question. After the last discussion on 30th August, 1939, between the British Ambassador, Sir Nevile Henderson, and the then Foreign Minister, von Ribbentrop, in which the conditions for negotiating with Poland were made public, these conditions were published the next day in the Daily Telegraph, and allegedly this issue of the paper was to have been recalled. What do you know about this article?

A. First of all, I should like to correct an error which has crept into your question. On the day in question, the Daily Telegraph did not publish the conditions or the note, but only a report that during the preceding night the British Government had been in consultation with the German Government on conditions for Poland, conditions which had been transmitted to them by their Ambassador in Berlin. Therefore, it could be seen from this article - at any rate, it could not be interpreted in any other way - that these conditions were known in London.

DR. HORN: Thank you very much.

BY DR. THOMA (counsel for the defendant Rosenberg):

Q. Herr Fritzsche, you stated yesterday that the Volkischer Beobachter had direct connections with the Fuehrer and with the Fuehrer's headquarters, throughout the war. What people in connection with the Volkischer Beobachter were you referring to?

[Page 275]

A. I was not especially referring to people in the Volkischer Beobachter; I was mainly thinking of people at the Fuehrer's headquarters. So, Dr. Dietrich and his delegates made it their business always to call the Volkischer Beobachter direct.

Q. You know that Rosenberg was no longer the chief editor of the Volkischer Beobachter after 1937?

A. I am of the conviction that even before that time he held that position only nominally.

Q. Witness, can you tell the Court, as far as the so-called actions of the Party were concerned - for instance, the burning of the books, the boycott in April, 1933, the anti- Jewish actions in November, 1938 - who the driving force in all these actions was?

A. Today I am of the firm conviction that it was Dr. Goebbels.

Q. Witness, do you know that Goebbels whenever Hitler was in Berlin, always was Hitler's guest?

A. That is not quite true. Years before the war Dr. Goebbels saw Hitler, without doubt, only rarely.

Q. I have another question. Do you know that Goebbels had a direct telephone line to Hitler?

A. That is news to me. This is the first time I have heard of it.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Thoma, this has nothing to do with Rosenberg, has it, the fact that Goebbels had a direct line to Hitler?

DR. THOMA: Mr. President, I only wanted to ask Fritzsche by that whether Rosenberg had the same connection with Hitler as Goebbels.

THE WITNESS: I do not know what telephone lines Rosenberg had. But I know, and I have heard frequently, that Rosenberg seldom visited Hitler.

DR. THOMA: Thank you very much, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Is there any other defendant's counsel that wants to ask questions?

(No response.)

THE PRESIDENT: Then we will recess.

(A recess was taken.)

THE PRESIDENT: Does the prosecution wish to cross-examine?



Q. Defendant Fritzsche, I should like to begin my interrogation in order to clear up the role which the German propaganda played in the criminal activity of the Hitlerite Government -

A. May I have the sound volume increased slightly, please? Thank you very much.

Q. I should like to begin the cross-examination in determining the role which the German propaganda played in the criminal activity of the Hitlerite Government. Tell me, do you admit that the German propaganda disseminated racial theories and introduced into the minds of the German people the idea of the superiority of the German race, that means, the idea of the "master race"? Do you admit that?

A. The question touches upon two problems. May I reply to both of them? I admit that German propaganda spread the racial theory, but I deny that German propaganda spread the theory of the "master race."

Q. You do not admit it?

A. No.

[Page 276]

Q. Very well. You admit that the German propaganda incited in the German people racial hatred toward the Jews and propagated the necessity of their extermination?

A. Once again, two problems are contained in this question. May I answer to both?

Q. I beg your pardon, you don't have to emphasize this. You can just answer both of these questions, please do that.

A. I admit, as I have in my answer to your first question, that the German propaganda spread the racial theory but I deny most emphatically that German propaganda had made preparations for, or had incited to, the mass murder of Jews.

Q. But you do not deny that the German propaganda incited in the German people their racial hatred toward Jews? You do not deny that?

A. I cannot even affirm that without reserve. That is the reason why, in my answer to the second question, I made a slight distinction. German propaganda, and under that I understand official German propaganda, did not even preach racial hatred. It only spoke about racial differences, and that is something quite different; but I will admit that there was a certain type of German propaganda which went beyond that and which did preach the clear-cut and primitive racial hatred.

Q. You will admit that the activity of the German propaganda was also directed to the persecution of the Church?

A. No, again I shall have to deny that.

Q. Will you pretend that the German propaganda was not directed toward the persecution of the Church?

A. That is exactly what I wanted to say. The official German propaganda did not persecute the Churches. On the other hand - in order to clear up this point for you - here again there was an unofficial, illegal propaganda which preached against the Church. However, the State and its organizations, during the time of the struggle with the Church, made many utterances and declarations which might have created the impression that they had participated in the struggle against the Churches. By this, I mean the trials against clergymen which were given sensational importance.

Q. Very well. You will admit that the propaganda conducted by the Hitlerite Government, in connection with the so- called problem of the expansion of the living-space of Germany, cultivated and developed in the German nation militaristic tendencies.

A. I deny that, too, and most emphatically.

Q. Do you admit that the German propaganda used provocative methods, lies and slander in order to camouflage the aggressive plans of the Hitlerite Government?

A. Mr. Prosecutor, it is most difficult for me to answer that question, after all I have voluntarily testified to in this courtroom yesterday. If I am to make the attempt to summarize very briefly, then I shall have to say this: I maintain that the German propaganda gave the German nation in the case of every individual action which was carried out, from the occupation of the Rhineland to the attack against the Soviet Union, a picture of the events which among the Germans must have created the impression that we were in the right. On the other hand, however, I myself - and I emphasized when this happened - had recognized that the structure of these arguments had a basis which was ruptured in several places.

Q. That is to say, a basis of lies and slander?

A. No. Excuse me, but your way of putting it does not appear to be quite factual enough.

Q. You will persist in denying that the German propaganda used methods of slander and lies; you do deny this?

[Page 277]

A. Yes, yes, I deny it, and my denial is based on my thorough knowledge of German propaganda and I should like you to permit me to give you a very brief explanation in this connection. Looking at it today -

Q. Yes, give an explanation, but one directly referring to my question.

A. But of course, looking at it today, it was the misfortune of the German people that its propaganda, particularly with regard to its details which can be checked and controlled, was so clean that it was completely overlooked that in its three basic principles there were three fundamental errors. I cannot be more explicit.

Q. What kind of errors are you speaking about?

A. The first, the belief in Adolf Hitler's humaneness, which was destroyed by the order to murder five million people. The second, the belief in the ethical purity of the system, destroyed by the orders to apply torture; and the third, the absolute trust in Adolf Hitler's peaceful intentions, shaken by what has been brought up in this courtroom.

Q. Well. We shall revert to these questions later when we speak about your personal participation in the conducting of the German propaganda. I should like to ask you now the following: Of course you were aware that in the OKW there was a special section for propaganda, which was subordinate directly to defendant Jodl?

A. That was known to me, but you are mistaken if you are under the impression that that department was under Jodl. It was under the jurisdiction of General Wedel and he was succeeded by Standartenfuehrer Gunther d'Alquen.

Q. Very well. I have no intention of defining this circumstance more accurately. I am interested in something else; what were the relations between the Ministry of Propaganda and the OKW?

A. I cannot tell you what they were between the Ministry of Propaganda and the OKW, in general, but I can give you detailed information about the relationship between the Ministry of Propaganda and the Propaganda Department of the OKW which you have just mentioned. A permanent representative from that department worked in the ministerial office of Dr. Goebbels, and participated daily in the Ministry conferences which I have already mentioned once, and was really always to be found in close proximity to Dr. Goebbels.

Q. Who gave the propaganda tasks and the directives to the OKW?

A. I can only imagine that the propaganda tasks of the OKW were drawn up according to Dr. Goebbels's wishes and to the instructions of the chief of the OKW, either Keitel or Jodl.

Q. How was the general German propaganda brought into line with the propaganda measures taken by the OKW?

A. I do not quite understand the meaning of your question, I'm afraid.

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