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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
2nd July to 15th July 1946

One Hundred and Seventy-Second Day: Friday, 5th July, 1946
(Part 6 of 9)

[Page 136]

DR. STAHMER, Continued:

Whoever did not reject Hitler's methods, and thereby him personally, from the very beginning as criminal, found it difficult to recognize where the political aims

[Page 137]

set by Hitler ceased to provide justifying reasons for his measures, and where beyond that the policy became a crime. The dividing line in this respect was from the standpoint of purely German legal conceptions probably considerably different from that of other nations, or even the world. For the latter, for example, were hardly interested in the maintenance of the Weimar Constitution and the basic rights granted by it to the individual German. Its violation, therefore, up to the Second World War, never caused other States to interfere with the German Government. On the other hand, once the war had broken out, the Germans were forced to put German interests above their sympathy for members of other, especially enemy, States. Each of them believed he was doing enough if he took care, in his sphere, that unnecessary harshness was avoided. To revolt against orders from the highest German authority would not only have been completely senseless and hopeless, but, until shortly before the bitter end, it would also have been a violation of German legality, and thereby a punishable offence. Reproaches for failure to revolt can, therefore, be made only if the breach of formal legality, without consideration of the immediate practical effect, and only for the sake of the principle - ergo the attitude of a revolutionary - could be defined as a legal obligation.

The consequences of such a conception are so far from the point that they cannot be considered seriously at all, because the hitherto existing International Law was primarily based on the principle of unlimited sovereignty of the State. No country has been willing to submit vital, decisive questions to the judgement of other countries, no matter to how great a majority or to however independent a tribunal. And now it is argued that every individual citizen of a sovereign State should have had not only the right, but even the duty toward the other nations or humanity, to rebel against the legal concept of his own country, because it violated human rights. Such a proposition, made retroactively, condemns itself. It would place the autonomy of the individual above State sovereignty. Thereby the strength of the individual person would not only be immeasurably overestimated, but this would have to lead to the breaking of the last ties of traditional order, to anarchy. Goering held exactly the complete opposite view to that of this concept of individual right. Just as others went to war in order to fight war as such, he became a revolutionary in order to restore honour to the concept of loyalty. Thus, having once cast in his lot with the Fuehrer, he stuck to him when he had already lost the latter's confidence, yes, even after he himself had been sentenced to death by Hitler. He has remained loyal until today, in spite of everything, by excusing and defending Hitler again and again before himself. To many this may appear incomprehensible, and many may see in it more a weakness than a strength. But this loyalty reveals his whole personality. Goering has occasionally been described as a late Renaissance type; and there is something in this. Although of high intelligence, he allowed himself to be guided in his actions less by reason than by the dictates of his warm heart.

Such a man expresses himself of necessity in a way that is primarily subjective. He does not look upon the people surrounding him and upon others impassionately as factors to be reckoned with, but he feels, above all, what effect they have on him and how they challenge his approval or disapproval, so that he finally makes his personal reaction to them the basis for his overall judgement. But still, as can be seen from the statements of the Generaloberstabsrichter, Dr. Lehmann, he always endeavoured to be just and to lend an ear to sensible arguments. He always kept himself free from doctrinal prejudices. As a soldier, he always endeavoured to do the right thing in the individual case. His highhanded decisions as well as his social attitude, which General Bodenschatz testified to amongst other things, show his serious moral sense of responsibility. His attitude towards all criminal acts directed against the honour of women are proof of his chivalry. But in all this he is not guided by a dogma, but by his spontaneous common sense, ergo not the intellect, but life. From it, he derives his ideas and the values which determine his actions.

[Page 138]

Therefore, the Fuehrer and the oath of loyalty he had taken to him meant everything to him and were the substance of his life. Ambassador Henderson had judged Goering correctly, when he wrote about him
"He was the perfect servant of his master, and I have never seen greater loyalty and devotion than he maintained toward Hitler. He was recognized as the second power in the country, and always gave me to understand that he was Hitler's natural successor as leader. Men in secondary places often tend to emphasize their own importance. In all the open discussions in which I engaged with Goering, he never spoke of himself or the great part which he had played in the Nazi revolution; Hitler had done everything, all confidence was confidence in Hitler, every decision was Hitler's, and he himself was nothing."
This judgement still applies today. But his loyalty became his disaster. For him a world had gone to rack and ruin. He certainly recognized many a mistake of the past, but he did not show the repentance which many would have liked to see with him. He thereby remains loyal to himself, as well. And this completes the picture of his character.

In a period - still threatened by chaos - in which again men are searching for a firm foundation for life, the positive value of such loyalty too should not be ignored.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Seidl, I understand that you have not had your speech translated into any of the languages. Is that so?

DR. SEIDL: Mr. President, I told the General Secretary yesterday the reasons which made it impossible to have the speech translated. However, I have given the interpreters the text in German, and I was told that the German text would be a big help in carrying out the translation as quickly and as accurately as possible.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, the Tribunal has already pointed out to you, many days ago, that it is very inconvenient to them not to have a copy of the speech before them. If you propose to make a speech, they will do the best they can to appreciate it. It makes it very much more difficult and very much more inconvenient not to have the speech translated.

DR. SEIDL: I shall see to it that the translation is made as quickly as possible for the case of the defendant Frank.

THE PRESIDENT: Very well; go on.

DR. SEIDL: Mr. President, gentlemen of the Tribunal, when in 1918 the German Army, after more than four years of heroic struggle, laid down its arms, this was done in confidence of the assurances repeatedly given by President Wilson in 1918. In his speech before Congress on 8th January, 1918, the President of the United States of America, in fourteen points, had demanded among other things -

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Seidl, the Tribunal has already intimated, as you must know, that the question of the fourteen points, and the question of the justice of the Treaty of Versailles, is irrelevant. They do not propose to listen to it. You have been told that before, and many documents have been rejected which dealt with this subject.

DR. SEIDL: Mr. President, I do not intend to comment on the question of whether the Versailles Treaty is just or not. The point is this: The prosecution have submitted the Versailles Treaty in evidence. They made the Versailles Treaty the main. point of the Indictment, especially as concerns Count one of the Indictment.

My investigation aims at the following. First, was the Versailles Treaty formed legally? Second -

THE PRESIDENT (interposing): I spoke only of the injustice of the Versailles Treaty. But it is even more irrelevant to question whether the Versailles Treaty is a legal document or not. We do not propose to listen to your contending that the Versailles Treaty is not a legal document. There are plenty of matters which

[Page 139]

are of material moment for your client, which you have to discuss before us, but that is not one of them.

DR. SEIDL: Mr. President, I cannot leave the Tribunal ignorant of the fact that the Versailles Treaty and its consequences, especially the causal relationship with the seizure of power by National Socialism, form a considerable part of my speech, and it will be -

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Seidl, I have told you that the Tribunal will not listen to your contending either that the Versailles Treaty was not a legal document, or that it was in any way unjust. On those topics, we do not propose to hear you.

DR. SEIDL: Then I must construe the attitude of the Tribunal to mean that I will not be permitted to speak of the consequences of the Versailles Treaty, and particularly about the connection which these consequences had with the rise of the National Socialist Party, and with the seizure of power by Adolf Hitler and the co-defendants?

THE PRESIDENT: Look. The Versailles Treaty is, of course, an historical fact, and the Tribunal cannot prevent you from referring to it as an historical fact. But as to its justice or as to its being a legal treaty, the treaty which Germany signed, you will not be heard.

As you have not laid your speech before us, we do not know what you are going to say. But we will not listen to that sort of argument.

DR. SEIDL: Then I shall begin on Page 6 of the German manuscript, with the second paragraph.

Thus the struggle for the revision of the peace "Diktat" of Versailles began at the moment when it was signed. In the programme of the National Socialist Labour Party of Adolf Hitler, this struggle against the Versailles peace "Diktat" and for its revision, assumed a place far surpassing all other demands and considerations. It was the leading thought by which the whole inner political activity of the Party was guided, and which, after the seizure of power, was to form the basis for all foreign political considerations and decisions.

One of the first fellow-fighters of Adolf Hitler was the defendant Rudolf Hess. Like Hitler, he was also a front-line soldier in the First World War. As a volunteer, he joined at the outbreak of the war, and he had risen to an infantry lieutenant when he was wounded in Roumania. Incapacitated through this wound, he reported to the air corps.

After the armistice, he fought with various volunteer corps. But in 1919, after the conclusion of the Versailles Peace Treaty, he had to recognize that the victors did not really desire a peace of justice and a corresponding adjustment of interests. As could be expected, the terms of the Peace Treaty of Versailles, and especially the burden of the reparations on the already seriously affected German economy had to have

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Seidl, it may be difficult for you to cut out of your speech the various references to the topics which I have referred to, but you must kindly try to do it. For if you continue to refer to the topics to which I have referred, namely the justice or the legality of the Treaty of Versailles, the Tribunal will have to stop your speech and go on with some of the other defendants.

DR. SEIDL: Mr. President, the subject I was just dealing with was not a question of justice or legality, but a question of the consequences, and referred to the investigation of the causal connection. If the prosecution, in weeks of presenting evidence, showed how the rise of the National Socialist Party came about, and how the numbers of its mandates increased -

THE PRESIDENT (interposing): Dr. Seidl, those are all facts which the prosecution is perfectly entitled to prove. What you are now referring to is an argument that certain clauses of the Versailles Treaty were unjust. And that is an argument which the Tribunal is not prepared to listen to. It is not a statement of fact; it is an argument.

[Page 140]

DR . SEIDL: Of course, it is an argument -

THE PRESIDENT: I have said that it is an argument we are not going to listen to. If you do not understand what I mean, you will have to stop continuing your speech. Do you understand that?

DR. SEIDL: Page 8, then, if you will.

When in 1925, the Party was founded anew, Rudolf Hess was once more one of the first -

It is impossible, Mr. President, to continue my speech, because all the following statements are concerned with the question: What did the defendant Hess do up to the seizure of power? And I must say and did say that the mainspring of his activity within the Party and the German people consisted in achieving a revision of the Versailles Treaty and its most unbearable terms. This is the question of the whole National Socialist movement up to 1933.

THE PRESIDENT: If you confine yourself to statements of fact as to what the defendant Hess did, there will be no objection to it at all. But, as I said, if you make arguments that the Treaty of Versailles is illegal or unjust, the Tribunal will not hear you.

DR. SEIDL: I shall continue, and I ask the President, since I do not know the exact limits which I may not transgress, to interrupt me if I should again touch upon a subject which, in the opinion of the Tribunal, refers to the justice of the Versailles Treaty and -

THE PRESIDENT (interposing): Dr. Seidl, you know perfectly well the limits which have been laid down by the Tribunal many weeks ago as to the question of the justice or the injustice of the Treaty of Versailles. There have been a great number of documents rejected on the ground that they dealt with the justice or the injustice of the Treaty of Versailles, and you must have known that perfectly well.

DR. SEIDL: Then I ask the Tribunal to tell me whether I am permitted to make statements to the effect that the economic deterioration, especially the great unemployment, resulted from the reparation clauses of the Versailles Treaty and the refusal of the victorious Powers of 1919 to change this reparations policy accordingly.

THE PRESIDENT: You may certainly state what the condition of Germany was. That is a matter of fact.

DR. SEIDL: Then I shall again begin on Page 8.

When in 1925 the Party was founded anew -

THE PRESIDENT (interposing): Dr. Seidl, the Tribunal is perfectly familiar with this type of argument; I mean, we are not going to lose sight of the argument. We know all about the argument; we do not want to hear it. We think it is entirely irrelevant.

Can you not go on to other passages of your speech which are important for the defendant Hess? As I have said, there are a great many matters of which evidence has been given by the prosecution and which have been answered by the defence; and upon those matters we desire to hear you.

DR. SEIDL: I shall then begin on Page 10, with the second paragraph. When therefore the National Socialist Party achieved a great victory in the Reichstag elections of 14th September, 1930, and entered the new Reichstag with no less than 107 delegates, that was to a large extent due to the economic crisis of the time, to the great unemployment and so directly to the reparation stipulations, which, contrary to common sense or economic reason, the victorious Powers refused to revise, in spite of urgent warnings. It is true -

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Seidl, you know that is again an argumentative statement, that the Treaty of Versailles was unfair and that the victorious Powers had failed

[Page 141]

to recognize the essential justice of Germany's case or something of that sort. If you cannot adjust your speech to what I have laid down, we shall have to ask you to recast the whole speech.

DR. SEIDL: Then I shall turn to Page 11, second paragraph. No, I shall turn to Page 12. When the German people in compliance with the Peace Treaty of Versailles had disarmed, they had a right to expect that the victorious Powers, would also -

THE PRESIDENT: One moment, Dr. Seidl. Dr. Seidl, as you do not appear to be capable of recasting your speech as you go along to accord to the Tribunal's ruling, the Tribunal will not hear you further at this stage. It will go on with the next defendant's case. You will then have the opportunity of recasting your speech, and you will submit your speech for translation before it is presented, and I would explain that this is the reason why the Tribunal does not propose to hear you upon these matters. They are irrelevant to the issues that the Tribunal has to try. If they were in any way relevant to the charges which are made against the defendants in the Indictment, the Tribunal would of course hear them, but they are, in the considered opinion of the Tribunal, in no way relevant to the charges upon which the defendants are being tried, and therefore the Tribunal do not propose to hear them. The justice of the Treaty of Versailles has nothing to do with whether or not the war which was made by Germany was aggressive. It has nothing to do with the war crimes with which the defendants are charged, and therefore it is irrelevant and for that reason we do not propose to hear it. Now, as I say, as you are unable apparently to recast your speech, you will be given an opportunity of recasting it in private, and you will then submit it for translation and you can then deliver it; and now we will go on with the case against the defendant Ribbentrop.

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