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 9 of 10)

[GENERAL RUDENKO continues his cross examination of Hans Fritzsche]

[Page 298]

Q. You considered that this bloody order should not be applied? Is that right?

A. That is right.

Q. You knew that this order emanated from Hitler?

A. Yes, I could imagine that.

Q. That is to say, in 1942 you knew that Hitler's order to murder existed, and yet you followed him?

A. You are comparing two things which are not comparable. There is quite a difference between not treating Commissars as prisoners of war and giving an order for the killing of five million Jews.

Q. Then, if I understand you correctly, the fact that you did not go against Hitler meant that you considered such an order to be permissible in the conduct of the war by the German army?

A. No; I considered it was an impossible order; and that is why I fought against it, and not only passively as others did.

Q. But you continued to support Hitler?

A. Yes.

Q. Here is the last question. During the war, did you ever happen to come across anything referring to preparations for biological warfare?

A. Never.

Q. Did you ever hear the name of a certain Major von Passavant?

A. Yes, I know the name.

Q. He was the representative of the OKW in the Ministry of Propaganda, was he not?

A. No, he was not. He was a radio expert in the Propaganda Department of the OKW.

Q. A copy of a letter of 19th October, 1944, will be submitted to you. This letter bears your signature, and it is directed to Major von Passavant of the OKW. This is a short document, and I am going to read it to you:

[Page 299]

"To the Chief of Broadcasting Major von Passavant, OKW. A listener, factory owner Gustav Otto, Reichenberg, has sent me the enclosed sketch with the proposal to carry out biological warfare. I am submitting this to you with the request that you forward it to the proper office. Heil Hitler. Fritzsche."
Do you remember this document?

A. Of course, I do not remember it. At the same time I want to state that I have no doubt that it is genuine.

Q. Very well. I should like to put the last question to you: Thus, you were in favour of the planning and the carrying through by Germany of biological warfare, is that correct?

I have finished, Mr. President.

A. But I must have an opportunity to answer the last question. I wish to state that I was by no means in favour of biological warfare, but the situation was as follows: Every day piles of letters came in from listeners, and these were passed on by one of the departments to the office competent to deal with the matter concerned, and the accompanying letter, which consisted of two or three lines, was submitted to me for signature. As a rule I did not read the contents of the letters.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr: Fritz, do you want to re-examine?



Q. Herr Fritzsche, just now during General Rudenko's cross- examination you were asked about the radio speech of 2nd May, 1940, in which you spoke about your journey to Norway. Can you tell me more exactly when you went on that trip?

A. I am afraid I cannot tell you the date exactly, but if I am not mistaken, it was at the end of April.

Q. The official report of the Norwegian Government on war damage after Norway's occupation by the Germans was put to you. Here it is said that the fighting which had caused this damage could not have taken place until after you had already completed your journey. Is that true?

A. That is perfectly possible, but I should like to say this: In the extract which the Soviet Prosecutor has read without quoting the beginning, I described precisely what I had seen in clearly stated places; Lillehammer and Godenthal are a few names which occur to me now. To compare these statements now with the statements made by the Norwegian Government regarding the total damage is nothing less than the attempt to measure a liquid with a yard measure or vice versa.

Q. I have one other question in this connection. Was this journey of yours carried out before the British landing in Norway or afterwards?

A. I myself had an opportunity to watch a fight with British troops. I think it was just south of a place called Ottar in the Buldrenthal.

DR. FRITZ: Mr. President, General Rudenko, during his cross- examination, submitted three interrogation records. One was from Voss, Exhibit USSR 471, one from Schoerner, Exhibit USSR 472, and one from Stahel, Exhibit USSR 473. In the meantime I have looked through these three records, and I should like to ask the High Tribunal also to compare them. I have ascertained that in these three records of the statements of three different persons, parts of the answers are repeated; and they tally, word for word. It says, for example -

THE PRESIDENT: You are not getting this from the witness; you are making an argument to us, and you must do that at some other time.

DR. FRITZ: I just wanted to make an application, Mr. President. If these three records are used for the findings, then I wish to make an application that at

[Page 300]

least one of these persons who were interrogated be brought here in person for the purpose of cross-examination.

THE PRESIDENT: Were you meaning that you should see, or that we should examine, the whole of those three affidavits, or were you meaning that you wanted one of the people who made the affidavits to come here in order to give evidence and be cross-examined? Which do you mean?

DR. FRITZ: The latter, Mr. President. I should like to request that all three be summoned.

THE WITNESS: All three. I must ask to have all three called.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will consider your application.

DR. FRITZ: Apart from this, Mr. President. I do not wish to carry out any further re-direct examination.


Q. There is one thing, defendant. You referred to the Commissar decree, or order, and you spoke of it as though it were an order not to treat Commissars as prisoners of war. That was not the order, was it? The order was to kill them.

THE WITNESS: The order which I got to know about in the Sixth Army was an order saying that Commissars who had been captured should be shot.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. That is a very different thing from not being treated as prisoners of war. The answer you gave was that you imagined the Commissar order came from Hitler, but it is a very different thing, an order not to treat Commissars as ordinary prisoners of war and to kill 5,000,000 Jews. That was not a fair comparison at all, was it?

THE WITNESS: In this case I must admit that my way of expressing myself with reference to these Commissars was not correct.

THE PRESIDENT: There is one other thing I want to ask you. In October, 1939, this untruthful statement about the Athenia was published in a German newspaper. That is right, is it not?

THE WITNESS: In October, 1939? During the whole of September and October untruthful statements about the Athenia were made in the German Press as well as on the German radio.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. But on 23rd October, 1939, a particularly untruthful statement attributing the sinking of the Athenia to Mr. Winston Churchill was made in a German newspaper. You told us about it.


THE PRESIDENT: And you continued to broadcast referring to those alleged facts for some time, did you not?

THE WITNESS: Of course, because at the time I was still under the impression that they were true and my -

THE PRESIDENT: That is what I wanted to ask you about. You had a naval liaison officer in your office?


THE PRESIDENT: What inquiries did you make?

THE WITNESS: This naval officer was not actually the liaison officer between us and the Navy G.H.Q. He was censorship officer for the entire armed forces. Nevertheless I naturally called on his services in connection with naval matters. Several times I instructed, or rather requested him to find out from the Navy G.H.Q. how the investigation of the Athenia case stood. The answer was always the same: "The position still is that no German submarine was near the place of the catastrophe."

[Page 301]

THE PRESIDENT: And are you saying that that liaison officer of the Navy told you that after 23rd October, 1939?


THE PRESIDENT: Did he continue to tell you that?


THE PRESIDENT: That is all. He may return to the dock.

Yes, Dr. Fritz?

DR. FRITZ: Now, with the permission of the Tribunal, I should like to call the witness Herr von Schirrmeister.

MORITZ VON SCHIRRMEISTER, a witness, took the stand and testified as follows:


Q. Will you state your full name, please?

A. Moritz von Schirrmeister.

Q. Will you repeat this oath after me: I swear by God, the Almighty and Omniscient, that I will speak the pure truth and will withhold and add nothing.

(The witness repeated the oath.)

THE PRESIDENT: You may sit down.



Q. Witness, before beginning your examination, I should like to ask you to make your answers quite general and as brief as possible.

Will you please give the Tribunal very briefly some particulars of your career, so that the Tribunal may know who you are.

Q. I come from a family of officers and civil servants; studied theology for three terms; was, for ten years, a banking official, five of them in South America; then an editor until my appointment in Berlin; on 1st October, 1931, I became a member of the Party; was SS Hauptsturmfuehrer in the Allgemeine SS; during the war four times a soldier; the last time from 31st July, 1944, on; on 22nd September, 1944, prisoner of war in British hands, since then I have been in Great Britain.

Q. When I discussed the subject of your examination with you a few days ago, you told me that your former positive attitude towards National Socialism would not prevent you in any way from making truthful statements here, is that true?

A. I have already told you that I believed in this cause, that I have sacrificed everything to it, that I have lost everything through it. It was a very bitter thing for me. But today I know that I have served a bad cause. I have freed myself entirely from it. In my last camp in England I was permitted to assist in the re-education of my comrades. There I was allowed to edit the camp newspaper. And if I only could, then I would help today to rebuild a democratic Germany.

Q. When did you become acquainted with the defendant Fritzsche?

A. On 1st July, 1938.

Q. What were you at the time? What position were you occupying?

A. I was an editor in Braunschweig and I was called to the Ministry of Propaganda in order to become Dr. Goebbels's personal Press expert.

Q. What position did you actually occupy in the Ministry of Propaganda?

A. Up to 1st July, 1943, I was Dr. Goebbels's personal Press expert. Then I was personal expert to State Secretary Dr. Gutterer until 1st April, 1944, then went with him for three months to the UFA, which was the controlling company of all film companies. Then, On 31st July, 1944, I went to the front.

Q. Did you have daily contact with Dr. Goebbels?

[Page 302]

A. Yes, since the outbreak of the war. Let me describe briefly what my main activities were.

Q. Very briefly, please.

A. During the war I had to look through all the news and propaganda material coming in from enemy broadcasting stations, and regularly submit extracts from it to Goebbels. These extracts formed the basis for his propaganda instructions, which he himself issued every morning. In the afternoon and evening I had to telephone them to the Press section and radio section. So that during the war, except when my deputies took my place, I was with Dr. Goebbels. in his apartment, I took my meals with him, slept in his house, accompanied him on journeys, and so on.

Q. What position did Fritzsche occupy at the time?

A. Herr Fritzsche in those days was the deputy chief in the department "Inland Press."

Q. Will you please describe the nature and importance of Fritzsche's position in the Propaganda Ministry also during the period which followed. Very briefly, please?

A. I had to acquaint myself with the work of the German Press department. Conditions there were as bad as they could be. The chief, Herr Berndt, adopted undisguised table- thumping tactics. He went about shouting and commanding and he sacked editors en masse.

THE PRESIDENT: Would you put your earphones right?

THE WITNESS: In ability and knowledge the officials in charge were inferior to the average editor. The only steadying influence was Herr Fritzsche; he was the only expert. He knew the needs and requirements of the Press. On the one hand he had to mend the china which Herr Berndt was for ever smashing, and on the other hand he tried to replace inefficient officials in the organization with good ones.

Q. Would it be correct to say, therefore, that defendant Fritzsche was not appointed as an exponent of the Party, but as an expert?

A. Only as an expert. The extremist Party men in the Ministry did not give Fritzsche his full due. But as an expert he was then and later the good spirit of the Press.

Q. Was Fritzsche one of those collaborators in the Ministry who had regular conferences with Goebbels?

A. These regular conferences had not yet begun to be held in those days, and Fritzsche was not one of these men in any case.

Q. So that he was not consulted until he became a department chief?

A. No. Only as far as such conferences were taking place, but actually only since the outbreak of war.

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