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-Seventh Day: Saturday, 29th June, 1946
(Part 2 of 4)

[DR. FRITZ continues his direct examination of Moritz von Schirrmeister]

[Page 311]

Q. Do you know whether in reply to such inquiries a clear and completely plausible denial was given, or how was a matter of this sort handled?

A. It was not always a denial which we received, not at all; very frequently we had quite precise answers. For example, if it was asserted that there had been a strike in Bohemia- Moravia, then the answer was "yes, in such and such a factory a strike took place." But always, and without exception, there was a very definite denial of concentration camp atrocities and so forth. That is precisely why these

[Page 312]

denials were so widely believed. I must emphasize that this was our only possibility of getting information. These pieces of information were not intended for the public, but for the Minister, and again and again the answer came: "No, there is no word of truth in this." Even today I do not know by what other means we could have obtained information.

Q. Can you say anything about Fritzsche's attitude to Church questions?

A. Herr Fritzsche adopted the views taken by the Minister during the war. At the beginning of the war, the Minister demanded complete cessation of strife on religious questions, for anything which could have brought division amongst the German people would have had a disturbing influence. I do not know whether I should elaborate this.

Q. No, I will turn to another very important topic. Do you know what reasons Goebbels gave to his assistants for the military actions of Germany?

A. He gave no reasons of his own at all. He only added his comments to the announcements coming from the Fuehrer.

Q. To quote some examples, can you say briefly whether the defendant Fritzsche knew in advance that a military attack was being planned on, 1 - Poland, 2 - Belgium and Holland, 3 - Yugoslavia?

A. In the case of Poland, we knew of course that the question of Danzig and the Corridor was awaiting a decision. But Dr. Goebbels himself repeatedly assured us, and he himself believed, that this question would not lead to war because, completely mistaken in his view of the attitude of the Western Powers, he was convinced that they were only bluffing, and that Poland would not risk a war without the military support of the Western Powers.

Q. What about Belgium and Holland?

A. On the day before the attack on Belgium and Holland events were overshadowed by the state visit of the Italian Minister Pavolini. In the evening there was a performance at the theatre and afterwards a reception in the House of the Airmen. At night Dr. Goebbels went with me to the ministry where he occasionally spent the night. During the night I had to telephone to several gentlemen, and in the morning the Minister, in my presence, presented to Herr Fritzsche the two announcements of the attack which were to be broadcast, the first containing the military reasons and the second containing the Secret Service reasons. Herr Fritzsche did not even have time to look at these announcements; moreover, he had a sore throat and I had to read the second broadcast giving the Secret Service reasons; I also had not seen these announcements beforehand.

Q. What about Yugoslavia?

A. The same thing happened. In the evening, the Minister had dismissed his adjutant, given him leave. During the night I had to call the various gentlemen over the phone and ask them to assemble, and early in the morning the statement, which up to that time had been completely unknown to us, was read to us over the radio.

Q. And what happened in the case of the attack on the Soviet Union?

A. That was even more preposterous. Before the attack on the Soviet Union, the Minister, for purposes of camouflage, had lied to his own department chiefs. Around the beginning of May he selected ten of his colleagues out of the twenty who ordinarily participated in the conferences, and he told them: "Gentlemen, I know that some of you think that we are going to fight Russia, but I must tell you today that we are going to fight England: the invasion is imminent. Please adapt your work accordingly. You, Dr. Glassmeier, will launch a new propaganda campaign against England ...." and so forth. These were impudent lies told to his own department chiefs for purposes of camouflage.

Q. Are you implying that no one in the Propaganda Ministry knew of the imminent campaign against Russia?

A. No. The following gentlemen in the Propaganda Ministry knew about the Russian campaign - a letter to Dr. Goebbels from Lammers gave this away, for in it Lammers told the Minister in confidence that the Fuehrer intended to appoint

[Page 313]

Herr Rosenberg to be Eastern Minister; the letter also asked Dr. Goebbels to name a liaison man, who was to be sent from our ministry to Herr Rosenberg personally, and that, of course, gave away the secret. The people who knew of this were the Minister, Herr Hadamowsky, who at that time deputized as his personal representative, Dr. Tauber, the liaison man to be appointed, I myself, because by accident I had read this letter, and the head of the foreign Press department, Dr. Boehme. Dr. Boehme, and this is very important, told me on the day before his arrest, in the presence of Prince Schaumburg-Lippe, that he had received this information from Rosenberg's circle, that is, and I want to emphasize this, not from our ministry or from our Minister. Otherwise, as heads of two parallel departments, both would, of course, have been informed. If Boehme did not know it from the Minister, then Herr Fritzsche could not have known it either. As a result of a careless remark on this subject, Boehme was arrested on the following day and later killed in action.

Q. Now I want to summarize this part of my examination in the following general question: Did you ever notice that before important political or military actions of the Government or the NSDAP, Goebbels exchanged ideas about future plans with the defendant Fritzsche?

A. It is quite impossible that that occurred; it would have been in complete contradiction to the Minister's practice. Not only did he not exchange ideas on future plans but he did not even inform anyone.

Q. Now we shall turn to a different subject. The prosecution charges the defendant Fritzsche with having influenced the German people in the idea of the master race and thus with having incited hatred against other nations. Did Fritzsche ever receive instructions at all to conduct a propaganda campaign on behalf of the theory of the master race?

A. No, under no circumstance. In this connection, one must understand that Dr. Goebbels did not use for propaganda purposes this Party dogma and myth. These are not things which attract the masses. To him the Party was a large reservoir in which as many different sections of the German people as possible should be united; and particularly this idea of the master race, perhaps on account of his own physical disability, he ridiculed and rejected completely; it did not appeal to him. Shall I answer the question of hatred now? You also asked me about that.

Q. Yes.

A. A propaganda of hatred against other nations was quite contrary to the propaganda line as set out by Dr. Goebbels for he hoped, and to the end he clung to this hope like a fata Morgana, that one day he would be able to change from the policy of "against England" and "against America" to the policy of "with England" and "with America." And if one wants to do that one cannot foster hatred against a nation. He wanted to be in line with the nations, not against them.

Q. Against whom then was this propaganda in the Press and on the radio directed?

A. Primarily, against systems; it was Dr. Goebbels who established the concept "plutocracy" in the sense in which the whole world knows it today, later the concept "Bolshevism" was added from the other side. Sometimes his propaganda was directed against some of the men in power; but he could not get the full co-operation of the German Press on that point. That annoyed him, and in a conference he once said: "Gentlemen, if I could put ten Jews in your place, I could get it done." But later he stopped these attacks on personalities such as Churchill; he was afraid that these men would become too popular as a result of his counter-propaganda. Apart from that he did not hate Churchill personally at all, secretly he actually admired him; just as, for example, throughout the war he had a picture of the Duke of Windsor on his desk. Therefore the propaganda of hatred was directed at one time against individual men and always against systems.

Q. Witness, before answering the next question, will you think very carefully, and particularly remember your oath. Was it the aim of this propaganda for which

[Page 314]

Fritzsche received instructions and which he conducted, to arouse unrestrained passions tantamount to incitement to murder and violence, or what was its purpose?

A. No. The arousing of passions was something the Minister could not use at all in his propaganda, for passions rise and die down again. What the Minister needed was a steady and constant line, a resolute attitude even in hard times. Stirring up of passions, inciting to hatred or even murder would not have appealed to the German people; nor could Dr. Goebbels have used such a policy.

Q. Did German propaganda abroad, especially in Russia, come under the direction of the Propaganda Ministry at all?

A. I must differentiate here. I do not know whether I should go into the well-known differences between Dr. Goebbels and Ribbentrop. At the beginning of the war the Foreign Office had demanded charge of all foreign propaganda, namely, propaganda in foreign countries, radio propaganda broadcast to foreign countries and propaganda directed towards foreigners living in Germany. Very disagreeable controversies resulted; the problem was put to the Fuehrer himself, but finally both sides interpreted his decision in their own favour.

Q. Witness, would you, perhaps, be a little more brief.

A. Very well, I can leave that, the differences between the two men are well known. However, in regard to Russia, I must add that there both the Press and propaganda came under the jurisdiction of Herr Rosenberg up to about March of 1944. And in this sphere as well, Dr. Goebbels -

THE PRESIDENT: Wait a minute, wait a minute. What has this Russian propaganda got to do with the defendant?

DR. FRITZ: No; the German propaganda in Russian territory; that is what I asked him about; he is only going to say one sentence about it, in fact, he has already said it.

THE WITNESS: Dr. Goebbels was very concerned because he believed that the Russian campaign could have been won by propaganda.


Q. I have one more question to put to you.

Yesterday, when Herr Fritzsche was being cross-examined, the prosecution submitted several interrogation records, among them, for example, that of Field-Marshal Schoerner, in which the testimony is unanimous in saying that Fritzsche was the permanent deputy of Goebbels as Propaganda Minister. Is that correct?

A. That is complete nonsense. I cannot imagine how a statement like that came to be made. There is not a word of truth in it.

DR. FRITZ: Thank you. Mr. President, I have no further questions.

THE PRESIDENT: Does any of the other defendants' counsel want to ask any questions of the witness?

(No response.)

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

GENERAL RUDENKO: Mr. President, the Prosecution does not intend to question this witness, but that does not mean that we accept without objection the testimony which he has given here.

THE PRESIDENT: The witness may retire.

DR. FRITZ: Mr. President, I should like to point out and request the Tribunal to take judicial notice of the documents which are contained in both my document books but which I did not quote. In my Document Book 2 there is another affidavit deposed by Dr. Scharping, a document which I offer to the Tribunal as Fritzsche Exhibit 3, Pages 16 to 19. This affidavit deals with the attitude of the defendant Fritzsche on measures which Hitler had planned after the large-scale air attacks on the city of Dresden. May I ask the Tribunal to take judicial notice of the entire contents of this affidavit, on Page 16 and the following pages, Document Book 2.

[Page 315]

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Fritz, the Tribunal observes that in Exhibit 3, which you have just presented to us, there is a statement by the person making the affidavit that after the bombing of German cities in the autumn of 1944, "Dr. Goebbels stated that there was no longer any objection to handing over the crews of crashed aeroplanes to the wrath of the people."

The Tribunal would like to have the defendant Fritzsche back in the witness box and to question him about that.

Did you ask any questions of the defendant Fritzsche in reference to this matter in your examination of him?

DR. FRITZ: No, Mr. President, I expected ... I wanted to say at the conclusion of my case that I had expected a statement on this subject from the representative of the Protecting Power, the Swiss Ambassador in Berlin. This statement has, however, not yet reached me. I wanted to ask permission to submit it later if it arrives in time.

THE PRESIDENT: Is that another interrogatory or affidavit that you mean?

DR. FRITZ: Yes; it is a statement which deals with this subject.


DR. FRITZ: And if I may be permitted to add this, Mr. President, I also expect a statement from a British radio commentator, Sefton Delmar; that statement has not yet arrived. May I perhaps submit that -

THE PRESIDENT: Certainly, you may. But what the Tribunal is concerned with at the moment is that they think it material that they should know -

DR. FRITZ: Yes, I quite understand, Mr. President.

The defendant, Hans Fritzsche, was recalled to the witness stand and testified further as follows:


Q. You are still under oath. You may sit down.

You have read this affidavit?

A. But I no longer remember it in detail.

Q. We did not hear the answer to that.

A. I no longer recall in detail this affidavit which my counsel has just submitted to the Tribunal. I know that it exists, however.

Q. The statement that the Tribunal wished you to be asked about was this:

"Beginning in the autumn of 1944, Dr. Goebbels also spoke about this frequently during his so-called 'Conferences of Ministers' ..."
I will begin before that:
"The increasing effect of English and American air bombardments on German cities caused Hitler and his most intimate advisers to seek drastic measures of reprisal. Beginning in the autumn of 1944, Dr. Goebbels also spoke about this frequently during his so-called 'Conferences of Ministers,' to which numerous officials and technicians of his Ministry were convened and which, as a rule, I also attended" - that is, Franz Scharping.
A. Yes.
Q. "On such occasions Dr. Goebbels stated that there was no longer any objection to handing over crew members of crashed aeroplanes to the wrath of the people."
As you know, there has been a great deal of evidence about that before this Tribunal. Did you in your propaganda speeches make any references to this subject?

A. No, I never advocated in my speeches that the crews of aircraft which had been shot down should be killed. On the other hand, I know that Dr. Goebbels for reasons of intimidation, ordered reports to be sent abroad in the autumn of 1944 to the effect that, to quote an example, an Anglo-Saxon aeroplane which had machine-gunned church-goers in the street on a Sunday had been shot

[Page 316]

down and the members of the crew had been lynched by the people. Actually this report had no factual basis; it hardly could have been true, since it is quite improbable that an aeroplane was shot down at just such a moment.

I know that Dr. Goebbels, through a circular letter addressed to the Gau Propaganda Offices, asked that details of such incidents, if they actually occurred, should be transmitted to him, but to my knowledge he did not receive any factual details of this sort. That was also the time in which he had an article on this subject published in the Reich; I cannot recall the title of this article at the moment. In any event, this campaign, having died down in January or February; flared up again in the days after the air attack on Dresden, and the following incident occurred. Dr. Goebbels announced at the "11 o'clock morning conference." which has been mentioned quite frequently in this court-room, that in the Dresden attack 40,000 people had been killed. It was not known then that the actual figure was considerably higher. Dr. Goebbels added that in one way or another an end would now have to be put to this terror and Hitler was firmly determined to have English, American and Russian flyers shot in Dresden in numbers equal to the figure of Dresden inhabitants who had lost their lives in this air attack. Then he turned to me and asked me to prepare and announce this action. There followed an incident: I jumped up and refused to do this. Dr. Goebbels broke off the conference, asked me to come to his room, and there was a very heated discussion between us.

By the end of it I had persuaded him to promise me to use his influence with Hitler himself to abandon the idea. I then spoke to Ambassador Ruehle, the liaison man of the Foreign Office, and asked him to enlist the aid of his minister to the same end. I also requested State Secretary Naumann to try to enlist the help of Bormann, whose predominant influence with Hitler was well known.

Following that, I had a discussion - under the existing regulations, this was not really permitted - I had a discussion with the representative of the Protecting Power. In confidence, I gave him certain indications about the plan of which I had heard and asked him whether he could suggest or supply me with some argument, or some means of fighting against this plan more intensively.

He said he would attend to the matter with the utmost speed and he called me up on the following morning. We had a second discussion, and he told me that in the meantime a prospect for an exchange of prisoners had been held out to him, - that is, an exchange of German and English prisoners - to comprise, I believe, 50,000 men.

I asked him to have this matter put through the normal diplomatic channels, but to permit me to discuss this possibility of an exchange of prisoners of war with Dr. Goebbels, Naumann and Bormann. I did so, and since just at that time the leaders were obviously especially interested in getting back prisoners of war who could perhaps still be used at the front, this prospective offer -

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