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 Eighty-First Day: Thursday, 18th July, 1946
(Part 3 of 10)

[DR. SAUTER continues.]

[Page 87]

Schirach has also frankly stated here that at that time he approved of Hitler's plan to settle the Jews in Poland, not inspired by anti-Semitism or hatred of the Jews, but by the reasonable consideration that, in view of existing conditions, it was in the Jews' own interests to leave Vienna and be removed to Poland, because the Jews could not in the long run have been able to stay in Vienna for the duration of the Hitler regime without being exposed to increasingly serious persecution. As Schirach declared on 24th May, 1946, considering Goebbels's temperament it always seemed possible that incidents like those of November, 1938, could be evoked in one night, and under such conditions of legal insecurity the existence of the Jewish population in Germany would be unimaginable. He thought that the Jews would be safer in a restricted settlement area of the Government General than in Germany and Austria, where they were exposed to the whims of the Propaganda Minister who, indeed, had been the main supporter of radical anti-Semitism in Germany. Schirach was well aware of this fact. He could not shut his eyes to the fact that the drive against the Jews in Germany obviously became more drastic, more fanatic and more violent every day. This conception of the Vienna speech of September, 1942, and the true cause of its genesis coincide with the statements of the defendant Schirach at the meeting of the City Councillors of Vienna on 6th June, 1942 (No. 3886-PS), namely that in the late summer and autumn of that year all Jews would be expelled from the city, and likewise with the file note of Reichsleiter Bormann of 2nd October, 1940 (USSR 142), according to which, at a social meeting at Hitler's home, Schirach had remarked that he still had more than 50,000 Jews left in Vienna whom the Governor General of Poland must take over from him. This remark was caused by Schirach's embarrassing situation at that time. Hitler, on the one hand, pressed more and more for the expulsion of the Jews from Vienna, and on the other hand the Governor General Frank strove against accepting the Vienna Jews in the Government General. This disagreement was evidently the reason for Schirach's discussing this fact, at the above-mentioned meeting on 2nd October, 1940, in order to avoid renewed reproaches by Hitler. He himself

[Page 88]

was not at all interested in the removal of the Viennese Jews, as was proved by the testimony of the witness Gustav Hopken regarding the conference between Schirach and Himmler in November, 1943.

May I add a word here concerning that discussion? During that conference with Himmler, Schirach presented the point of view that one should leave the Jews in Vienna because they were wearing the Star of David anyway. That has been testified to by the witness Hopken as being a statement made by Schirach during the conversation.

I continue: Hitler demanded the expulsion of the Jews from Vienna and Himmler insisted on carrying it out.

The prosecution thought it possible to charge Schirach with having made another malicious anti-Semitic remark, namely a speech which he supposedly made in late December, 1938, before the spring of 1939, at a students' meeting at Heidelberg. Across the Neckar river he pointed to the old University town of Heidelberg where several burned-out synagogues were the silent witnesses of the anti-Semitic activities of the students of Heidelberg. I refer to the affidavit of Ziemer, in which the "small stout Reich Student Leader" - as it is stated literally - is said to have approved and praised the anti-Jewish pogrom of 9th November, 1938, as an heroic act.

This charge, as already mentioned, is supported by the declaration under oath of a certain Gregor Ziemer. However, there can be no doubt that this statement of Ziemer's is false. Ziemer never belonged to the German student movement or the Hitler Youth, and obviously was not personally present at the student assembly in question. The affidavit does not state from what source he is supposed to have obtained his knowledge. However, that his claim is false is already proved by his description of physical appearance when he speaks of a "small stout student-leader", for this does not at all apply to Schirach. Perhaps it would to some extent apply to his successor, who was Reich Student Leader at the end of 1938, but it certainly was not Schirach. As is known, he had already in 1934 given the office of Reich Student Leader back into the hands of the Fuehrer's deputy, after he himself had in the meantime been appointed Reich Youth Leader. Schirach did not make a speech at the end of 1938 or at any other time before Heidelberg students, and by the affidavit of the witness Maria Hopken (Schirach Document Book No. 3), it has been clearly proved that at the time stated Schirach was not in Heidelberg at all. Schirach has also confirmed this under oath and his own statement can lay claim to credibility because he has not whitewashed anything for which he was responsible, and he has not falsely denied anything, but on the contrary has accounted for all his actions like a man and adhered to truth during his entire examination.

Still another fact decisively confirms the claim that the Ziemer affidavit is untrue, at any rate in regard to the person of Schirach. In the presentation of evidence it happened to be stated by chance how Schirach reacted to the November pogroms of the year 1938. The witness Lauterbacher has informed us here, as already mentioned at another point, that Schirach, on 10th November, 1938, condemned most vehemently the events of 9th November, 1938, in the presence of his co-workers, and declared that he felt ashamed for the others and for the whole Party. The 9th of November, 1938, Schirach said, would go down in German history as a unique German cultural disgrace of which we would never be able to cleanse ourselves. Such a thing might have happened among an uncivilised people but it should never have occurred with us Germans who believe ourselves to be a highly civilised people. The Youth Leaders, Schirach explained at that time, had to prevent such excesses under all circumstances. He did not wish to hear anything like this about his own organization, either now or in the future. The Hitler Youth must be kept outside such things under all circumstances. These are sworn statements by the witness Hopken.

[Page 89]

Then, by a telephone message from Berlin, Schirach had all the offices of the Hitler Youth informed in the same terms. If Schirach, in November, 1938, condemned and criticized in such an extremely sharp manner the events of 9th November, 1938, it is impossible for him to have praised at about the same time the bloody acts which had been committed and thus have incited the Heidelberg students. The question therefore arises as to why the prosecution did not bring here as a witness a single participant in that student meeting at Heidelberg instead of being satisfied with a witness who could only testify from hearsay. Moreover, the prosecution did not revert to this alleged Heidelberg speech during the cross-examination and thereby acknowledged Schirach's own presentation of the facts as correct.

It is also a very significant fact that the Hitler Youth did not participate in the excesses of 9th November, 1938, nor did they commit any excesses of this sort either before or afterwards. The Hitler Youth at that time was the strongest Party organization. It comprised about seven to eight million members, and in spite of that not one single case has been proved of the Hitler Youth participating in such crimes against humanity, although its members were mainly of an age which, according to experience, is only too easily tempted to participate in excesses and acts of brutality. The only exception which has been claimed so far concerns the testimony of the French woman Ida Vasseau, who is said to be matron of an Old People's Home in Lemberg and who is supposed to have claimed, according to the report of the Commission, Exhibit USSR 6, that the Hitler Youth had been given children from the ghetto in Lemberg whom they used as living targets for their shooting practice. This single exception, however, which has been claimed so far but not proved, could not be cleared up in any way, particularly not in respect of whether members of the Hitler Youth had really been involved. But even if there had been such a single case among the eight million members during tenor fifteen long years, this could not in any way prove that Baldur von Schirach had exercised an inciting influence, and if I may add here, at a time when he was no longer Reich Youth Leader.

THE PRESIDENT: We will adjourn now.

(A short recess was taken.) .

DR. SAUTER: May it please the Tribunal, then I shall continue with Page 36 of my final argument.

If we examine all the speeches and articles which von Schirach delivered and wrote rote as Reich Youth Leader during a long period of years, and which are in the possession of the Tribunal in the Schirach Document Book, it will be seen that they do not contain a single word inciting to race hatred, hatred of Jews, exhorting youth to commit acts of violence or defending such acts. If it has been possible to keep the members of the Hitler Youth, who numbered millions, apart from such excesses, this fact, too, proves that the leaders endeavoured to imbue the younger generation with a spirit of tolerance, love of one's neighbours and respect of human dignity.

Just what won Schirach thought about the treatment of the Jewish question is clearly evident from the scene which occurred in the spring of 1943 at Obersalzberg and which is also described in the affidavit of the witness Maria Hopken (Document Book Schirach No. 3). In this case I refer to the scene where Schirach had a witness describe to Hitler at his home in Obersalzberg how she had witnessed with her own eyes at night from an hotel window in Amsterdam the manner in which the Gestapo deported hundreds of Dutch Jewesses. Schirach himself could not dare at the time to bring such matters to Hitler's attention; a decree by Bormann had expressly prohibited the Gauleiter from doing this. Schirach therefore tried through the mediation of a third person, who had been a witness herself, to gain Hitler's approval of a mitigation in the treatment of the Jewish question. No success was achieved; Hitler dismissed it all bluntly with

[Page 90]

the remark that this was all sentimentality. Because of this intervention on behalf of the Dutch Jews, the situation of the defendant von Schirach had become so critical that he preferred to leave Obersalzberg immediately, early in the morning of the following day, and from that time on Hitler was in fact no longer accessible to Schirach.

This intervention of Schirach for a milder treatment of the Jewish question perhaps also contributed to the fact that Hitler, a few months later, in the summer of 1943, seriously considered having Schirach arrested and brought before the People's Court, only for the reason that Schirach had dared, in a letter to Reichsleiter Bormann, to describe the war as a national disaster for Germany.

In any case, all this shows that Schirach, as much as he was able to do so, advocated moderation in the Jewish question in a manner which endangered his own position and existence. In spite of the fact that he was an anti-Semite - and just because of this it deserves attention - he withstood all pressure from Berlin and refused to have an anti-Semitic special edition published in the official journal of the Hitler Youth, while he had published his own special editions for an understanding with England and France and for a more humane treatment of the Eastern nations. It is no less worthy of consideration that Schirach, in conjunction with his friend Dr. Colin Ross, endeavoured to attain the emigration of the Jews into neutral foreign countries in order to save them from being deported to a Polish ghetto.

The prosecution has endeavoured to substantiate its allegation that the defendant von Schirach bears a certain share of the responsibility for the pogroms against Jews which occurred in Poland and Russia, by trying to use against him the so-called "Reports on Practice and Situation", which were regularly sent by the SS to the Commissioner for Defence of the Reich in Military Administrative District XVII. In fact it must be said that if - and I emphasize - if Schirach had at that time had cognizance of these regular "Reports on Practice and Situation of the Operational Groups (Einsatzgruppen) of the Security Police and the Security Service in the East", then this fact would indeed constitute for him a grave moral and political charge. Then he could not be spared the accusation that he must have been aware that, apart from the military operations in the East, extremely horrible mass murders of Communists and Jews had also taken place. The picture which we have so far of the character of von Schirach, who was also described by the prosecution as a "cultured man", would be darkened very materially if von Schirach had actually seen and read these reports. For then he would have known that in Latvia and Lithuania, in White Ruthenia and in Kiev, mass murders had taken place, quite obviously without any legal proceedings of any kind and without sentence having been passed.

What actually has, however, been proved by the evidence?

The reports referred to went, as to dozens of other offices, also to that of the "Reich Commissioner of Defence in Military Administrative District XVII" and, moreover, with the express direction "attention of Government Counsellor Dr. Hoffmann" or "attention of Government Counsellor Dr. Fischer". From this form of address and from the way in which these reports were initialled at the office of the "Commissioner for Defence of the Reich", it can be established beyond question that Schirach did not have an opportunity of seeing these reports and that he obtained no knowledge of them in any other way either.

Schirach, as is well known, held three important offices in Vienna: as Reich Governor (Reichsstatthalter) and Reich Defence Commissioner he was the chief of the whole State administration; as Lord Mayor he was the head of the municipal administration; and as Gauleiter of Vienna he was the head of the local Party machine. It is only natural that Schirach could not fulfil all these three tasks by himself, especially since in 1940 he had come from a completely different set of tasks and first had to make himself acquainted with the work in the State administration as well as in the municipal administration. He therefore [

Page 91]

had a permanent deputy for each of his threes tasks, and this was, for the affairs of the State administration which interest us here, the Regierungsprasident of Vienna. This Regierungsprasident, Dr. Delbrugge, had to handle the current affairs of the State administration completely on his own initiative. Schirach occupied himself only with such matters of the State administration which were submitted to him by his permanent deputy, the Regierungsprasident, in writing or about which the Regierungsprasident reported to him orally.

Now, if this had been the case with regard to the afore- mentioned "Reports on Practice and Situation", then this would have somehow been noted on the documents in question. However, on the "Reports on Practice and Situation of the SS" which were submitted there is not a single note which shows that these reports were shown to the defendant von Schirach or that he was informed about them. This can also be understood without further explanation from the fact that, after all, the experiences of the police and the SD in the partisan struggles in Poland and Russia were no concern of the Vienna administration; therefore there was not the least cause to inform the defendant Baldur von Schirach of these reports in any way, particularly as he was very much overburdened anyhow with administrative matters of all kinds.

This conclusion, gentlemen, rests primarily not only on the testimony under oath of the defendant here in Court, but also on that of both the witnesses Hopken and Wieshofer, who, one as chief of the "Central Office" and the other as adjutant of the defendant, were able to give the most exact information about conditions in Vienna. It is certain that these "Reports on Practice and Situation" never came into the distribution centre of the "Central Office" in Vienna, but only into the distribution centre of the Regierungsprasident, and that Hopken, as Chief of the Central Office, as well as Wieshofer, as adjutant of the defendant, likewise did not have any previous knowledge of these "Reports on Practice and Situation" but saw them for the first time here in the courtroom during their examination.

And also, I would like to mention here, the Reports were entirely unknown to the two advisers of the defendant von Schirach who were mentioned by name, Dr. Fischer and the other one.

In any case, the result is, as has been proven by the file notes which are on the documents, that Schirach did not have any knowledge whatsoever of these reports, and that he is not co-responsible for the atrocities described therein, and therefore cannot be criminally charged on the basis of these Reports.

May it please the Tribunal, in judging the personality of Schirach, his behaviour during the last weeks in Vienna is also not without importance. It was only natural for Schirach not to carry out the various insane orders which came from Berlin at that time. He absolutely condemned the lynching of enemy aviators which was ordered by Bormann, and likewise the ruthless order to hang defeatists, regardless of whether they were men or women. His court of summary justice was never even in session and did not pronounce a single death sentence. No blood is on his hands. On the contrary, he did all in his power to protect enemy aviators, for example, who made forced landings from the excited mob, and, as we have heard from the witness Wieshofer, sent out his own car in order to bring to safety American aviators who had parachuted. Thereby he again placed himself in deliberate opposition to an order of Bormann that such aviators were not to be protected from being lynched by the civilian population. He also did not pay attention to the order that Vienna was to be defended to the last man, or that in Vienna bridges and churches and residential districts were to be destroyed, and he emphatically refused compliance with the order to form partisan units of people in civilian clothing or to continue the hopeless struggle in a criminal manner with the aid of the "Werewolf" organization. He turned down such demands because of his sense of duty, and the fact that obedience to such orders would have caused him to violate International Law.

[Page 92]

The characterisation of the defendant von Schirach would be incomplete if we did not recall additionally at this moment the declaration which he deposed here on the morning of 24th May, 1946. I am speaking of that declaration in which he described Hitler as a millionfold murderer, made here before the whole German people and before the entire world public. As early as last year Schirach made declarations which showed his feeling of responsibility and his preparedness to answer fully for his actions and those of his subordinates. This was exemplified on 5th June, 1945, when he was hiding in the Tyrol and heard over the radio that all Party leaders were to be brought before an Allied Court. Schirach thereupon gave himself up immediately and in his letter to the American local commander stated he was doing so in order to prevent other people, who had only executed his orders, being called to account for his actions. He surrendered voluntarily, although the English radio had already announced the news of his death, and although he had grounds for hoping to be able to remain undiscovered in his hiding place. This behaviour deserves consideration in judging the personality of a defendant.

The same feeling of responsibility was then shown by Schirach in the autumn of 1945, when he was heard by the prosecution. He believed then that his successor Axmann had been killed, as he had been reported to be dead. In spite of this, Schirach did not attempt to shift his responsibility on to his successor; on the contrary, he expressly stated that he assumed full responsibility also for the time his successor was in office, as well as for what had been done under his successor in the Reich Youth Leadership. The keystone of this line of conduct was revealed by the statement which Schirach made here on 24th May, 1946, and which went out from this courtroom to the whole world, all the German Gaue, down to the last farm, down to the last workman's hut.

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