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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
16th July to 27th July 1946

One Hundred and Eightieth Day: Wednesday, 17th July, 1946
(Part 5 of 6)

[Page 69]

DR. SIEMERS: Continued:

The above statements show that the prosecution misjudges the actual and legal conditions if it wishes to make. Raeder responsible for political decisions although he had nothing to do with them, but always worked as an officer only. Just as little as it could be suggested one hundred and thirty years ago to bring before a court an admiral of the dictator Napoleon, so can one not condemn an admiral of the dictator Hitler. Particularly with dictators - and the prosecution overlooks this - not only the power and the influence of a military commander diminishes but his responsibility also diminish to the same extent; for the dictator has seized all power and with it all responsibility, all the more so if a dictator appears with such an extraordinary will and such immense power as Hitler. The French Prosecutor said in a particularly pertinent way on 7th February, 1946, before this Tribunal:

"Hitler represented the exclusive right to make decisions ...."
The resulting strength and power has been hardly considered by the prosecution, and, in any case, it has not been taken into consideration in the presentation of the facts and the legal conclusions. How great this power is, Gustave Le Bon shows in his famous book Psychology of the Masses in the chapter "The Leaders of the Masses".

I quote from it:

"Within the class of leaders quite a strict division can be made. The energetic people with strong wills, but without perseverance, belong to the one kind; the people with a strong, persevering will belong to the other kind, which is much rarer .... The second class of leaders, those with a persevering will, exercises a much more important influence, in spite of its less brilliant appearance."
Hitler belongs to this second class of leaders, who, in accordance with this quotation, exercised an immense influence, and who, on the other hand, was unimpressive in his brown uniform.

Gustave Le Bon continues:

"The unyielding will which they possess is an exceedingly rare and exceedingly powerful attribute which subdues everything. One does not always realize what a strong and persistent will can achieve. Nothing can resist it, neither nature, nor gods, nor men."
In view of these words, one must realize that Raeder could not resist either.

Accordingly, only the question remains: Can revolt ever be a soldier's duty - an open mutiny? This question will be denied by every commander all over the world and likewise by every other person except in the case of a dictator commanding the commission of a crime the criminality of which is recognized by the military commander himself. Accordingly, Raeder could be made responsible for a military crime only, but not for a political one, because for the political crime the dictator himself must answer. Should the prosecution have come to some other conclusion regarding Raeder it has only occurred - as I have already emphasized in my introduction - because, in their misconception of the actual and juridical facts, they regarded Raeder both as a politician and a Grand Admiral of the Navy. But he was a naval man only. He lived for the Navy alone, for the welfare of the Navy for which he is also now prepared to bear responsibility to the full extent. He led

[Page 70]

the Navy in a unified manner, and, aided by his officer corps, taught it to think decently and to fight chivalrously, as humanity expects a sailor to do. Because of the deeds of a Hitler and his National Socialism, the officers and men of this Navy must not be defamed by their highest-ranking officer being declared a criminal. From an historical viewpoint Raeder may be guilty, because he, as many others within Germany and abroad, did not recognize or see through Hitler, and did not have the strength to resist the dynamic force of a Hitler, but such an omission is no crime. What Raeder did or deft undone in his life was in the belief that he was acting correctly and that, as a conscientious officer, he had to act in this way.

Raeder is a highly regarded officer who is not a criminal and cannot be a criminal since all his life he has lived honourably and as a Christian. A man who believes in God does not commit crimes, and a soldier who believes in God is not a war criminal.

I therefore beg the High Tribunal to acquit completely Grand Admiral Dr. h. c. Erich Raeder regarding all points of the Indictment.

THE PRESIDENT: I call on Dr. Sauter for the defendant Schirach.

DR. SAUTER (for the defendant von Schirach): Gentlemen of the Tribunal, Baldur von Schirach, who at that time was Reich Youth Leader, in 1936 welcomed the guests to the Olympic Games in Berlin with the following words:

"Youth throws a bridge across all frontiers and seas! I call to the Youth of the World and through them, to Peace."
And Baldur von Schirach, then Gauleiter of Vienna, said to Hitler in 1940:
"Vienna cannot be conquered with bayonets, but only with music."
Those two utterances are characteristic of the nature of this defendant. It is the task of the defence to examine the evidence produced in this trial for the purpose of ascertaining whether the said Baldur von Schirach, who so finely expressed himself, really committed those crimes against law and humanity with which he is charged by the prosecution.

Schirach is the youngest defendant here. He is also, of all the defendants, the one who was, by far the youngest when he joined the Party, which he did when he was not yet 18. That fact is of some significance in the judging of his case. When still at school he came under the spell of rising National Socialism; he was particularly attracted by the Socialist idea which had, already in his country school, recognized no difference between the sons of fathers of different classes and professions; those boys around Schirach already in the popular movement of the 1920's in Germany gave promise of the resurgence of our Fatherland from the aftermath of the defeat in the Great War into a happy future; and fate willed it that as early as 1925, when he was seventeen, Schirach came into personal contact with Hitler at Weimar, Goethe's old town. Hitler's personality made a great impression on young Schirach, as he himself admitted; the programme for the National Community (Volksgemeinschaft) which Hitler had evolved at that time met with Schirach's wholehearted enthusiasm, because he thought he saw reproduced therein on a full-size scale that which he had personally experienced in a small way in the comradeship of the country school and in his youth organization. To him and his comrades Hitler appeared as the man who would open for the younger generation the road into the future; from him this younger generation also got its prospects of work, its prospects of a secure existence, its prospects of a happy life. Thus the young man became a convinced National Socialist; he became one as a result of the environment in which he had spent his youth, and which offered a soil which was only too fertile for the growth of that ideology which young Schirach embraced because at that period he held it to be the right one. This environment of his childhood and a biased reading of political books, which the young man devoured in his hunger for knowledge, made of him, while still an inexperienced youth, also an anti- Semite. It is true that he did not become an anti-Semite in the sense of those fanatics who ultimately did not recoil with

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horror even from acts of violence and pogroms, nor in the sense of those fanatics who finally created an Auschwitz and murdered millions of Jews; but an anti-Semite in that moderate sense, who would merely restrict Jewish influence in the government of the State and in cultural life, but for the rest would leave untouched the freedom and rights of Jewish fellow-citizens, and who never thought of exterminating the Jewish people. At least that is the picture of Hitler's anti-Semitism which young Schirach drew for himself during those years.

That this was really Schirach's opinion is also substantiated by the statement which Schirach made here on the morning of 24th May, 1946, in which he described without reservation the crimes committed by Hitler as a shameful blot on our history, as a crime which fills every German with shame; that statement in which he openly states that Auschwitz was bound to be the end of each and every racial and anti-Semitic policy. This statement here in the courtroom came from the bottom of the heart of the defendant Schirach; it was the result of the terrible disclosures which these trials have brought to him, and Schirach made this statement here openly before the public in order to bring back the German youth from a wrong road to the highway of justice and tolerance.

Gentlemen, I would now like to bring to your attention the more important accusations which have been raised against Schirach, and the major results which the evidence has shown as to the individual points:

The defendant Schirach is first of all accused of the fact that before the seizure of power, that is before the year 1933, he actively promoted the National Socialist Party and the youth organization affiliated with it, and that he thereby contributed to the rise of the Party to power. He had been, as is stated in the Trial Brief, a close and subordinate follower of Hitler; he had stood in blind loyalty to Hitler and the latter's National Socialist form of thought; and he had, as leader of the Student League, led the students ideologically and politically to National Socialism and won them over to it.

All this, if your Honours please, is not denied by Schirach in any way. He has done what he is being accused of in this respect; this he confesses openly, and for this he naturally holds himself responsible. The only thing which he denies with regard to this, and all the more emphatically with regard to the later period, is the accusation that he participated in a conspiracy. Schirach himself pointed out that the Fuehrer-principle and dictatorship in their character and their theory are absolutely incompatible with the idea of a conspiracy, and a conspiracy appears to him as a logical impossibility if many millions of members are to be included in it and if its existence and aims lie exposed before the country in question as well as the surrounding world. We furthermore know from the results of these trials that Hitler, aside from Bormann and Himmler, did not have any friend, any adviser, with whom he discussed his plans and aims; instead, he carried the Fuehrer-principle to the extreme limit. He took no cognizance of any advisory meetings or discussions which might have affected his decisions in any way, but reached his decisions solely by himself, without even listening to the opinion of those closest to him. With him there were only orders on his part and unconditional obedience on the other side. Without elaborating the matter any further, I will merely point out that that is how the "conspiracy" actually appeared; and all of us who have lived through this trial would never have considered this most radical increase of the Fuehrer- principle possible had not all defendants and all witnesses who know about this, in complete agreement and without a single exception, shown the same picture to us again and again.

Schirach now is not denying at all that already in his very early years he came completely under the influence of Hitler, that he devoted himself wholeheartedly to the service of this idea, and that at the time, as is stated in the Indictment quite correctly, he was devoted to Hitler with unconditional loyalty.

If this was a crime on the part of young Schirach, a crime which millions of older, more experienced, mature Germans have committed with him, then you,

[Page 72]

as judges, may condemn him for this if our law code furnishes a legal basis for it. This would be a further disappointment, in addition to the many others which he has already experienced for years. Schirach knows today that he gave loyal support unto the end to a man who did not deserve it, and he also knows today that the ideas for which he was enthusiastic in his young years, and for which he sacrificed himself, led in practice to ends which he himself had never visualised.

But even the Schirach of today, purged by many bitter experiences, cannot see anything criminal in that activity of his younger years carried out in good faith, together with millions of other Germans, for Hitler and his Party. For the Party at that time appeared quite legal to him; Schirach never had any doubt that it also came into power by legal means. The seizure of power by the Party, the appointment of Hitler as Reich Chancellor by Reich President von Hindenburg, and winning the support of the majority of the people through the Party in repeated elections and the like, confirmed for young Schirach again and again the legality of the movement which he had joined. If today he is to be punished because he acknowledged this same Hitler as his Fuehrer, whom millions of Germans and all States of the world recognized as legal head of the German State, Schirach could never acknowledge such a decision as being just. In spite of the severe judgement which he himself has pronounced in this courtroom about Hitler and had to pronounce here according to his convictions, he would feel himself a victim of his political convictions if he were to be sentenced because, as a young, enthusiastic man, he joined the National Socialist Party and collaborated in its construction and seizure of power. At the time he did not recognize that as a crime but, from his standpoint, he considered it his patriotic duty.

The second, far more important accusation which has been raised against the defendant von Schirach is to the effect that he, as Reich Youth Leader in the years 1932-1940, to quote the Indictment literally was guilty of "poisoning the minds of youth with Nazi ideology, and preparing youth for aggressive war". Schirach has always contested this charge emphatically, and this charge has not been substantiated by the results of the evidence either.

The law on the Hitler Youth of 1936 described Schirach's task as Reich Youth Leader as being: "to educate youth outside the parental home and outside the school physically, intellectually and morally for service to the people and to the national community in the spirit of National Socialism through the Hitler Youth Movement and its leader", the defendant von Schirach. This was the programme. This programme is repeated word for word in the enactment decree of 1939, which was issued three years later because Schirach did not want to introduce compulsory membership until the movement practically included the entire German youth on the basis of voluntary membership, so that future joining by compulsion would exist on paper only.

The Hitler Youth programme, as it was formulated by Schirach in his speeches and writings - and no other programme of the Hitler Youth exists - does not contain a single word which would indicate a military education of youth, much less an education in aggressive warfare. But even in practice the education of youth, in Schirach's opinion, in no way gives evidence of a military education of German youth for such a purpose. In that respect the point was stressed by the prosecution that the Hitler Youth movement was organized in various "battalions and divisions". That is correct although the designations listed by the prosecution are not correct and although they do not have anything to do with military formations. But in the last analysis, every youth movement the world over will show a classification into smaller or larger units; each of these units naturally needs a name also, and it must also have a responsible leader. As in other countries, so also in the German Hitler Youth, the leader of the unit was designated by some sign of his rank, be it a leader's cord, stars, or other insignia of rank. This naturally has nothing to do with the military character of youth education.

[Page 73]

From his own familiarity with practices in foreign countries Schirach knows that foreign youth organizations such as in Switzerland, as well as in France and in other countries, also have similar classifications and similar insignia, and it has never occurred to us so far to regard that as a reason for considering such foreign youth organizations as military associations.

It was furthermore stressed that formations of male youth in Germany were also given training in shooting. That is also correct but equally proves very little, in the opinion of Schirach, because in the shooting instruction of the Hitler youth organization, without exception, small-calibre rifles were used, in other words, a type of short, light rifle (Flobertstutzen) which are nowhere in the world considered as a military weapon and which are not even mentioned in the enumeration of military weapons in the Versailles Treaty. The Hitler Youth movement in Germany did not possess a single military weapon, no infantry rifle and no machine- gun, no motorized aeroplane, no cannon and no tank, throughout its whole existence. However, if one wants to speak about military training then this training ought primarily to have taken place with military weapons such as are used in modern warfare. To be sure, as has been established in the cross-examination of Schirach, in order to give added importance to his office a certain Dr. Stellrecht, the technical adviser on instruction in shooting in the leadership of the Reich Youth Movement, attempted to ascribe a certain exceptional importance to this particular branch of youth training in order to make his own office appear particularly important. Schirach, however, was able to show without refutation that for this very reason differences of opinion arose between him and this technical adviser and therefore he finally parted with Dr. Stellrecht because he, Schirach, opposed any development which might have tended towards military training of youth. However, this very Dr. Stellrecht, who was produced by the prosecution as a witness against Schirach, nevertheless also admitted for his part that "not a single boy in Germany was trained in handling weapons of war" and that "not one boy was given a military weapon". That is, word for word, the testimony of Stellrecht.

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