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-Fourth Day: Tuesday, 23rd July, 1946
(Part 8 of 12)

[Page 264]

DR. FLAECHSER, Continued:

Mr. President, perhaps now I may go into the question which you asked me at the beginning of my plea as to how I interpret paragraph 6A of the Charter in regard to the defendant Speer, especially in regard to the terminology: "The waging of a war of aggression." I should like to say the following: The Charter, under 6A, cites, among other punishable actions, the execution of a war of aggression. As for the definition of a war of aggression, I need say nothing here Professor Jahrreiss has already done that in detail. Here it is only the interpretation of the term "the execution of a war of aggression" that is in question. My point of view is that a war of aggression can be waged only by the person who has supreme command. All others are only led, even if their participation may mean a considerable contribution to the war.

In the case of the defendant Speer, therefore, the waging of a war of aggression cannot be applied. I should like to point out the following as well: In a session

[Page 265]

on about 28th February or 1st March, one of the judges told justice Jackson that the prosecution had represented the point of view that the charge of a war of aggression was concluded with its outbreak. I can only share this opinion.

During the hearing of evidence I had ample opportunity to state the activities of the defendant Speer during the last phases of the war from June, 1944. I can, therefore, confine myself now to proving in regard to this detailed chronological description that the entire testimony of Speer is covered almost completely by testimonies of other witnesses and by documents. The written statements of witnesses, which I refrained from reading before the Tribunal, run entirely along the same lines, although the witnesses came from different camps and expressed themselves in a completely unbiased manner.

Beginning with June, 1944, the defendant Speer readily reported to Hitler on the situation of his armament production, and he emphatically pointed out at the same time that the war would be lost if such decline of production were allowed to continue. This is proved by the memoranda of Speer to Hitler submitted as Speer Exhibits Nos. 14, 15, 20, 21; 22, 23, and 24. As stated by the witness General Guderian, Chief of the General Staff of the Army (compare Question 6, Page 179 of my document book), Hitler, as from the end of January, 1945, defined any such information as high treason and subjected it to corresponding punishment. Nevertheless, as it appears also from the statement of General Guderian, Chief of the Army General Staff, Speer stated clearly time and again to Hitler as well as to Guderian his opinion about the prospects of the war.

Hitler had especially forbidden that third persons should be informed about the true situation of the war. Notwithstanding this, after the severest orders for destruction had been issued by Hitler, Speer informed the Gauleiter and the Commanders-in-Chief of various army groups that the war was lost and thus achieved that Hitler's policy of destruction was at least partly prevented. This is evident from the testimonies of witnesses Hupfauer, Kempf and von Poser.

Hitler declared to Speer on 29th March, 1945, that the latter would have to take the consequences customary in such cases, if he continued to declare that the war was lost. This conversation is contained in the testimony of the witness Kempf. In spite of this, Speer two days later travelled to Seyss-Inquart (on 1st April, 1945) in order to explain to him, too, that the war was lost. The witness Seyss-Inquart and the witness Schwebel in the interrogations of 11th June, 1946, and 14th June, 1946, stated here unanimously that this conversation with Speer of 1st April, 1945, occasioned the conferences of Seyss-Inquart with the Chief of the General Staff of General Eisenhower, General Smith. This led finally to the handing over of Holland to the Allies.

On 24th April, 1945, Speer flew once again to Berlin, which was already besieged, in order to persuade Hitler that the senseless fight should be given up, as is evident from the testimony of the witness Poser. In his last will Hitler dismissed Speer on 29th April, 1945 (Document 3569-PS, Page 87 of the Document Book Speer).

The American Chief Prosecutor, Chief Justice Jackson, has, therefore, been obliged to admit to the defendant Speer during his cross-examination that he, Speer, was evidently the only man who told Hitler the whole truth.

The representatives of the prosecution have produced no evidence that destructions of industries took place in Poland, the Balkans, Czechoslovakia, France, Belgium, Holland during the German retreat. This is in the first place a merit of the defendant Speer who prevented the destruction of the industries of these countries as ordered by Hitler, partly through a purposely false interpretation of existing orders. That Speer was convinced as early as the summer of 1944 that this destruction should be prevented in the general European interest is evident from the testimony of the witness von Poser. It would have been easy, by relevant execution of the orders, to cripple completely the highly-developed industries of Central Europe and of the occupied Western European countries for 2-3 years

[Page 266]

and with them the entire industrial production and civilised life of these peoples, in fact, to make rebuilding by their own labour quite impossible for years to come.

The witness Seyss-Inquart has stated in his interrogation on 11th June of this year, that the prepared destruction of only 14 plants in Holland would have absolutely destroyed the basis of existence of this country. The destruction of all power plants in these countries would have produced a similar effect as the destruction in 1941 by the Soviets of the 2-3 power plants in the Donetz territory. In spite of all efforts, it was not until the summer of 1943 that some scanty production could start again there. Similar but still more far-reaching consequences had to be expected from the carrying out of Hitler's orders on the European continent.

After the success of the invasion of these occupied territories Speer gave the authorisation to undertake no destructions, as is confirmed by the witnesses von Poser, Kempf, Schieber, Kehrl, Rohland, Seyss-Inquart, Hirschfeld, and by Speer Document 16, question 12, Page 112; Schieber for Upper Italy, question 25, Page 1 19; Rohland for Luxemburg and Lorraine, question 5, Page 1571; Kempf for the Balkans, Czechoslovakia, Polish Upper Silesia, France, Belgium, Holland, Luxemburg; Seyss-Inquart for Holland, Page 11,210 of the German transcript; Hirschfeld for France, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Upper Italy, Hungary, the Balkans, Poland.

Immediately after the appointment of the co-defendant Donitz as successor to Hitler, he submitted to him orders prohibiting- any destruction in the still occupied territories of Norway, Czechoslovakia and Holland, as well as Werwolf activities, as is shown in the testimony of the witnesses von Poser and Kempf.

Although Speer had no direct authority for carrying out the destruction of industries in the occupied territories, he had to accomplish this task at his own responsibility and through his agencies within the borders of the so-called Greater German Reich. He had to keep especially busy in this connection in order to obstruct the total destruction of all real values which was obstinately demanded by Hitler. Information on this will to destroy on the part of Hitler and many of his Gauleiter is furnished in the testimonies of witnesses Guderian, Rohland, Hupfauer, von Poser, Stahl and Kempf.

The most important document in this regard is the letter of Speer to Hitler of 29th March, 1945, submitted as Speer Exhibit 26, in which Speer repeats again Hitler's remarks during the conversation on 18th March, 1945. This document shows clearly that Hitler had made up his mind to destroy completely the foundations of the life of the German people. This document should be especially rich in information about Hitler's time for any future historian. In connection therewith follows the evidence of General Guderian who certifies that in February, 1945, Hitler

(1) confused his inevitable fate with that of the German people,

(2) wished to continue this senseless fight by all means and thereby

(3) ordered the reckless destruction of all things of real value.

That is Guderian on Page 177 and Page 179 of my document book.

Also the demolition and evacuation orders of Hitler and Bormann, which were issued the day after the conference with Speer and are of impressive clearness, have been submitted to the Tribunal as documents under Speer Exhibit Nos. 25-28.

Already since the middle of March, 1944, Speer, considering this war inevitably lost, was determined to undertake everything in order to maintain the most urgent vital necessities for the German people, as has been confirmed by the witness Rohland. Notwithstanding the growing danger to himself, he repeated this determination with increasing urgency to his collaborators, as the witnesses Kempf, von Poser and Stahl can certify for the months of July and August, 1944, and the witnesses Stahl, Kempf, von Poser, Rohland and Hupfauer for the critical period from February, 1945, onwards.

[Page 267]

Numerous orders of Speer dealing with the preservation of industrial plants, issued between September, 1944, and the end of March, 1945, have been submitted to the Tribunal. They were at first partly issued without Hitler's authorisation, but by clever use of Hitler's hope that these territories could be re-conquered were in part subsequently approved by him.

The testimonies of the witnesses Rohland, Kempf and von Poser, as well as Speer's numerous memoranda regarding the war situation, prove that, without sharing it, he profited by Hitler's illusion in order to prevent these demolitions.

Since the beginning of February, 1945, Hitler no longer lent his ear to any such argumentation. On the contrary, the introduction to his demolition orders of 19th March, 1945, shows that he considered it necessary to oppose actively such argumentation. In counter-orders such as those of 30th March, 1945 (Speer Exhibit No. 29, Page 81 of the document book), to all industrial plants, as well as those of 4th April, 1945, for all sluices and dams, Speer gave instructions - contradictory to the intentions of the orders issued by Hitler - not to undertake any industrial demolitions. This likewise is corroborated by the witnesses Kempf, von Poser and Rohland.

During the month of March the executive power for the demolition of industrial plants and of other objects of value was transferred from Speer to the Gauleiter.

During this period Speer acted in open insubordination, and on trips to the danger zones he arranged for the sabotage of these orders. Thus, for instance, by clever planning he withdrew the stocks of explosives from the grasp of the Gauleiter, as stated by the witnesses von Poser, Kempf and Rohland, and gave orders that the so-called industrial explosives, which were used for demolition, should no longer be produced, as is proved by the statement of the witness Kehrl, the Chief of the Office for Raw Products of Speer's Ministry.

It seems important that Speer had urgently drawn Hitler's attention to the consequences which the demolitions would have for the German people, as is shown in Speer's submitted memorandum dated 15th March, 1945 (Speer Exhibit No. 23). In this Speer, for example, has established that by the planned demolition of industrial plants and bridges, in the Ruhr for instance, the reconstruction of Germany by her own forces after this war would be made impossible. Thus it is without doubt mainly to Speer's credit that the industrial reconstruction of Western and Central Europe can progress already today, and that in France, Belgium and Holland, according to their latest reports, production has already reached the level of the peace-time production of 1938.

Speer was the Minister responsible for the means of production, i.e., the factories and their installations. Thus he sat in the transmission centre through which Hitler's intentions for the carrying out of these demolitions must necessarily pass. We have noticed in this trial how in an authoritative system such centres are in the position to carry out on a big scale the orders of the head of the State. It was a fortunate coincidence that, at this decisive period, a clear-thinking man like Speer directed this office from which the industrial demolition must be directed.

But with increasing intensification Speer took measures beyond his sphere of action, in order to ease the transition for the German people and at the same time to shorten the war. Thus Speer tried to prevent the destruction of bridges. Every German knows that up to the last days of the war and to the farthest corner of the German Reich bridges were destroyed in a senseless way.

Nevertheless his efforts had no doubt a partial success. The numerous conferences which Speer held in this connection with military commanders are testified to by the witnesses Kempf and Lieutenant-Colonel von Poser. This witness was Speer's liaison officer with the Army, and accompanied him on all trips to the front.

These conferences were partially successful. Finally by the middle of March, 1945 the Chief of the General Staff of the Army, General Guderian, and Speer,

[Page 268]

according to the latter's proposal, tried to obtain Hitler's agreement to alter his demolition orders regarding bridges, but they did not succeed. This is confirmed by the witness General Guderian.

Knowing that the consequences of those bridge demolitions were unpredictable, Speer finally, on 6th April, 1945, issued six orders in the name of General Winter of the Supreme Command of the Wehrmacht which were directives for the sparing of the bridges of essential railway lines in the Reich and in the entire Ruhr territory. These unauthorised orders were confirmed by the statements of the witnesses von Poser and Kempf.

At the end of January, 1945, he noticed that from a long- range point of view the guarantee of sufficient food supplies for the German people and the spring tilling of fields for the harvest of 1945 in particular were endangered. Speer, therefore, allowed the requests for armament and production, which were in his jurisdiction, to be superseded and gave priority to the supply of food.

That this did not apply only to the actual food situation but was effected mainly in order to relieve the transition period after the occupation by the Allied troops is proved by the statements of the witnesses Hupfauer, Kempf, Rohland, von Poser, Riecke, Secretary of State in the Ministry of Food, Milch, Kehrl and Seyss-Inquart.

When Speer believed that he had new reasons for apprehension that Hitler, induced by his close collaborators in Party circles, would use poison gas in the autumn of 1944 and in the spring of 1945, he opposed this determinedly, as was proved in his cross-examination by the U.S. Prosecutor, Mr. Justice Jackson, and by the testimony of the witness Brandt. Speer's statement that due to this apprehension he had closed down the German poison gas production as early as November, 1944, was confirmed by the witness Schieber. Speer at the same time established that the military authorities unanimously opposed such a plan.

Finally, since the end of February, 1945, the defendant Speer had tried by means of conspiracies to have the war brought to an earlier end.

The statements of the witnesses Stahl and von Poser show that Speer had planned other violent measures. Chief Justice Jackson has established, too, in the course of Speer's cross- examination, that the prosecution knew of further plans which were to be executed under Speer's leadership.

Apart from all these activities, Speer's political attitude is illuminated by two facts:

1. In Speer's memorandum addressed to Hitler, submitted as Exhibit 1, the defendant establishes that Bormann and Goebbels called him alien and hostile to the Party, and that a continued collaboration would be impossible, should he and his assistants be judged by party-political standards.

2. In their Government list of 20th July, 1944, the anti- Hitler conspirators nominated Speer as Armament Minister and as the only Minister of the Hitlerite system, as stated by the witnesses Ohlendorf, Kempf and Stahl.

Would these circles have proposed Speer as Minister, both in Germany and abroad, if he had not been considered an honest and unpolitical expert for a long time? Is not the very fact that he, as one of the closest collaborators of Hitler, was chosen for this post a further proof of the high esteem in which he was held by the opposition?

My Lords, let me say a few more fundamental words about the Speer case itself. When the defendant took over the office of Minister at the age of 36, his country was in a life-and- death struggle. He could not evade the task with which he had been charged. He devoted his entire energy to the solution of the task, which seemed almost insoluble. The success he obtained there did not cloud his view of the actual condition of things. He realised only too late that Hitler was not thinking of his people, but only of himself. In his book Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote that the government of a people always had to remain conscious of the fact that it should not plunge the people into disaster. Its duty was rather to resign at the

[Page 269]

right time, so that the people could continue to live. Naturally, such principles were valid only for governments in which Hitler had no part. As far as he himself was concerned, however, he was of the point of view that if the German people should lose this war, they would have proved themselves the weaker nation, and would no longer have any right to live. In contrast to this brutal egoism, Speer had preserved the feeling that he was the servant of his people and his nation. Without consideration for his person and without consideration for his safety, Speer acted as he considered it his duty to act towards his people.

Speer had to betray Hitler in order to remain loyal to his people. Nobody will be able to disregard the tragedy which lies in this fate.

THE PRESIDENT: I now call on Doctor von Ludinghausen, for the defendant von Neurath.

[ Previous | Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.