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-Sixth Day: Thursday, 25th July, 1946
(Part 1 of 9)

[Page 339]

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will sit on now until one o'clock without any interruption.

I have an announcement to make.

When counsel for the defendant Hess first made his argument, the Tribunal directed that he should rewrite it and submit it for the Tribunal's consideration as he had continually disregarded the Tribunal's directives that the alleged unfairness of the Versailles Treaty should not be argued.

The argument as now rewritten by Dr. Seidl has been carefully considered by the Tribunal. It still contains many allusions to the unfairness of the Versailles Treaty, irrelevant material, quotations not authorized by the Tribunal and other matters which have nothing to do with the issues before the Tribunal. The Tribunal has therefore deleted the objectionable passages and has directed the general secretary to hand a marked copy containing the deletions to Dr. Seidl.

That is all.

The Tribunal directs Dr. Seidl to get in touch with the general secretary's representative. He will then see the passages which the Tribunal considers objectionable.

Now, Dr. Fritz.

DR. FRITZ (counsel for defendant Fritzsche): Mr. President, gentlemen of the Tribunal.

Yesterday afternoon I concluded my statement in response to the charge that the defendant Fritzsche was guilty of a crime against peace. Now I continue on Page 32 of my manuscript.

The next group of accusations levelled against the defendant is for instance characterised by such terms as: incitement against Jews, incitement against foreign nations, incitement for purposes of exploiting occupied territories, propaganda for the "master race".

On the witness stand Fritzsche made a declaration which represents a summary of the knowledge he gained after the collapse and above all here in Court. It ran as follows: "An ideology in whose name five million people were murdered must not be permitted to survive this event." Now to what extent did Fritzsche make propaganda for this anti-Semitism? Could he, by doing so, foresee the murder? Did he approve of it or at least accept it as inevitable? The prosecution went very far in its assertions. It imputed that Streicher, as "the chief Jew-baiter of all time", could hardly have surpassed Fritzsche in his defamation of Jews. Fritzsche defended himself against this accusation - and rightfully in my opinion. A mere comparison of the slogans from the arsenal of anti-Semitism", which Mr. Griffith-Jones read for hours, from excerpts from Der Sturmer at the session of 10th January, 1946, with Fritzsche's statements submitted here by the prosecution, justifies this very clearly. Fritzsche, supported by the affidavit of Scharping dated 17th May, 1946, was able to point out what actions he unleashed against this paper. It must also be noted here that the language and arguments of Der Sturmer found no echo in any German newspaper or at a single broadcasting station of even the National Socialist regime.

[Page 340]

Before the war, Fritzsche carried on no anti-Semitic propaganda of any kind. All utterances and statements of his submitted by the prosecution originated during the war. They are, however, not directed against the Jews as a people or as a race, but are related only to the question of the origin of the war. They were merely casual, polemical remarks on the Jewish question in the propaganda battle which was fought in this war alongside the battle of arms. This explains the fact that the radio addresses submitted by the prosecution never contain more than casual remarks and never speak of the Jews alone. Every one of his radio speeches may be examined in this respect. Nor does there exist a speech by him which dealt exclusively with the so- called "Jewish problem". He never undertook to talk on such a subject. Fritzsche always spoke at the same time of "Plutocrats", "Bolshevists", "Democrats", and used other such phrases by means of which the propaganda of the Third Reich felt obliged to conduct its fight. During his interrogation he dealt in detail with each of the radio addresses submitted in the trial, and discussed the reason he had each time for making his merely incidental remarks on this subject. An examination of all of his statements over the radio would show that of all the fundamental propaganda subjects of Nazi ideology, Fritzsche mentioned and advocated anti-Semitism least of all.

This takes all foundation from the conclusion of the prosecution. For there cannot be any connection between such rare statements on the part of Fritzsche and the murder order given by Hitler. I therefore expressly protest against the accusation that Fritzsche be considered more guilty than those credulous men who carried out the shootings.

In the course of this trial, we have heard many testimonies as to what secret and ultra-secret means and methods were used by the really guilty ones to carry out this horrible murder. So many testimonies cannot be put aside as irrelevant and unreliable. Contrary to former assumptions, this trial should have made it clear that there existed only a small group of instigators and abettors. It has not been proved in the least that a man like Fritzsche belonged to this closest circle of Hitler's despotism. The trial has even shown that he only made the acquaintance of the majority of his co-defendants here in the dock.

To draw such far-reaching conclusions against Fritzsche would necessarily lead to the assumption that everybody who took a public stand for anti-Semitism as such, if only with reservations, bears the same criminal guilt. The extent of the moral guilt is much greater. But we are concerned with it only in so far as the moral guilt is identical with the criminal guilt. And therefore there is no need to discuss here how far a mere error - even a political one - may at the same time become immoral. The accusation, however, of being co-responsible for these murders was an especially deep blow to Fritzsche.

With regard to this it might be objected that, although Fritzsche did not maintain very close relations to his chief Goebbels and to the other heads of the news service, he was yet one of those persons who had access to the foreign Press and radio news. This is perhaps the reason why Fritzsche is accused of having had knowledge of almost everything that happened during Hitler's rule.

Fritzsche was able to state on the witness stand, while giving many details, that even with this opportunity his good faith was not shaken in the decisive - perhaps also moral - questions. Just as little as his profession as journalist gave him the opportunity to follow rumours up for himself, did this enable him to realize what was actually happening? The barriers which had been erected around the misdeeds could not, however, be broken down by him through these means.

With regard to foreign reports on atrocities and other misdeeds, Fritzsche, as well as von Schirrmeister, and especially Dr. Scharping, has stated that the examination by the office "Deutscher Schnelldienst" (German express news service), which was carried out in all cases, resulted time and again in official replies which eliminated doubts as to the inaccuracy of such statements from abroad. This office, the "Deutscher Schnelldienst" (German express news service) - which

[Page 341]

had an entirely different significance from that claimed by the prosecution - was a control agency created especially by Fritzsche in order to have foreign news tested as to the truth of the contents through inquiry at the competent German official agencies. If the defence had succeeded in submitting the records of this "Schnelldienst" to the Tribunal, documentary evidence could have been offered in every detail for the way in which German authorities answered inquiries of this kind.

For instance, the RSHA knew in a masterly way how to make its replies sound credible. The foreign propaganda, which was to serve a definite purpose, could in comparison lay no claim to a greater power of persuasion. This all the more since the enemy propaganda in war time also produced, of course, really incorrect reports, of which fact Fritzsche was often able to convince himself.

Furthermore, Fritzsche has been accused of advocating the doctrine of the "master race".

The only statement by Fritzsche himself which the prosecution submitted in regard to this point shows clearly that Fritzsche neither championed nor promoted such an idea, that on the contrary, he expressly rejected it. An examination of the quotation presented by the prosecution does not leave any doubt about it. Beyond that the hearing of evidence - the witness von Schirrmeister and the affidavit of Dr. Scharping - has shown that Fritzsche prohibited the use of the word "master race" for Press and radio altogether, Fritzsche himself under oath termed this assertion nonsensical. Therefore, after thorough examination of all obtainable speeches by Fritzsche, I can only state that this charge is untrue. Nothing is changed in regard to this statement by the fact that Foss and Stabel judged differently without giving any concrete facts. I have already dealt with the value of those documents as evidence.

Fritzsche allegedly stirred up hatred against foreign peoples.

To prove this serious charge, the prosecution emphasized several excerpts from two of Fritzsche's radio addresses which were given on 5th and 10th July, 1941. In order to be able to understand correctly the circumstances underlying the speeches, one must take into consideration the dates on which they were made. They were made shortly after the attack on the Soviet Union. He is not charged with any further statements - made for instance at a later time - or similar ones which might lead one to suppose some systematic line of thought. When the passages cited by the prosecution were supplemented by the full text of the speeches and by the examination of Fritzsche on the witness stand, it was shown that Fritzsche did not slander the Soviet Union in them. Neither could what had led up to these speeches have given him any reason to stir up hatred against that country. They were delivered shortly after German sources, and in particular war correspondents, had reported atrocities in towns in Galicia which had been conquered by German troops. These were things which were reported everywhere in Germany - and also by foreign correspondents - in print, pictures and motion pictures. In this respect there, was an especially great volume of material and in his speeches Fritzsche expressly referred to it. Fritzsche's statements reflect the agitation of the German public over these reports, and he pointed to those presumed to be guilty of the atrocities.

The facts as such were also confirmed by the Russians. The latter added, however, that not the Russians, but the Germans were guilty of these actions. What happened was only that on the basis of undeniable facts a controversy had flared up as to the responsibility just as happened later in the famous case of Katyn - in which both sides morally condemned the instigators.

In neither of those speeches, as an examination of their entire contents would reveal, did Fritzsche designate entire nations as inferior or sub-human. Phrases about "sub- humanity" referred only to those culprits whom in real indignation he pilloried as morally contemptible. He could believe the proofs presented by the Germans, and therefore there is no reason to assume that at the time he

[Page 342]

delivered the speeches he could have predicted what actually happened in the East much later. Therefore, there could not have existed any intention on his part to stir up his audience to engage in similar actions. It is impossible to establish any causative connection on the basis of two such words he had spoken, once.

The same is true of the excerpts from a speech of 29th August, 1939, which General Rudenko read to him during his cross-examination. That broadcast also refers to atrocities committed shortly before the outbreak of the war in Bromberg and concerning which, on the day of the speech - that being the reason for it - an official White Book had been published. It contained a short account of the results of an investigation of those atrocities. Only the guilty ones were designated by Fritzsche as inferior human beings. But it is not justifiable to generalise this opinion to such an extent as though he had designated the entire Polish nation as inferior. Fritzsche considered the representation in the official White Book as correct. He could not have doubted the fact that Poles had killed Germans. However, no word in that speech allows for the conclusion to be drawn that he took the opportunity or even suggested that the Slavic nations be exterminated. Fritzsche no more than the German people could imagine anything like it at that time.

General Rudenko attempted in his cross-examination to prove that my client had made false statements. For that purpose an excerpt from his broadcast of 2nd May, 1940, was presented to him. This is the example I mentioned before as proof of the insufficiency of such evidence in general. In it Fritzsche gives a description of the towns, villages and hamlets in Norway which he had visited shortly before, and which had been spared by the war: The Russian Prosecutor pointed to the official report of the Norwegian Government enumerating the damages caused by the war. Thus the impression was created that Fritzsche had lied to his audience. The full contents of that speech show, however, that the quoted sentences regarding undamaged houses in Norway stand directly next to other sentences in which Fritzsche himself depicts the destruction caused by the fighting in Norway. The speech does not contain a lie if Fritzsche reported in it that in other parts of the country he visited, not the slightest trace of fighting was found. His description, therefore, is not in the slightest contradiction to the Norwegian Government report.

At this point, I should like to insert a few remarks about the case of the Athenia and the part that Fritzsche played in this connection. This case shows to what extent Fritzsche was at pains not to re-transmit reports until they were proved to be true and reliable. But it shows also how dependent Fritzsche was on the version of the official German offices. This is evidence of his good faith, for it seemed natural to him, and he took it for granted, that official announcements were to be believed without questioning, and this conviction could not at that time be shaken.

That particular article in the Volkischer Beobachter, dated 23rd October, 1939, has been rightly described in this trial by all parties as contemptible. Now, Fritzsche also engaged in polemics on this point in sharp although not similar terms. I take the liberty of pointing out that such remarks could be morally condemned only if Fritzsche had known beforehand that it was actually a German submarine which sank the Athenia. But as he has testified under oath, this fact first became known to Fritzsche here in Nuremberg in December, 1945. Before that, he was precisely the person from whom this decisive circumstance was withheld, although he had, through the naval liaison officer, undertaken investigations at the Naval Supreme Headquarters and other official sources within the Ministry of Propaganda concerning foreign reports on the matter.

To support the charge that Fritzsche instigated the ruthless pillage of the occupied territories, the only evidence submitted is a statement made on 9th October, 1941. In this, a passage from a public speech made by Hitler a few days before is reproduced. I have been at great pains to find an instigation to

[Page 343]

ruthless pillage of occupied territories in this quotation as well as in the remarks made by Fritzsche about it in his radio address. It is inexplicable to me how one sentence or other can possibly convey anything to this effect. I can only assume that it is a case of a misunderstanding and leave it for the Tribunal to judge.

In no other connection has Fritzsche spoken a word or given a hint to this effect and, least of all, openly called for such a thing. Moreover, it is to be gathered from Dr. Scharping's affidavit dated 17th May, 1946, that the use of any kind of coercive means against other nations would have run counter to the purpose of his whole work, including that within the Propaganda Ministry, namely to gain the voluntary co-operation of the European populations.

It has also not been proved that Fritzsche really knew about the manner in which foreign workers were actually recruited. I would point out that the defendant Sauckel stated that he had only one brief and unofficial talk with Fritzsche and that in the beginning of 1945. In his affidavit, Fritzsche further gave exhaustive details also on the fact that he obtained extensive material from the competent authorities to be brought to the attention of the German public, in which the voluntary character of the recruitment of workers for employment in Germany was continually pointed out. It is not to be, assumed that any other information concerning this was given to the Minister of Propaganda than that given by Sauckel in his report to Hitler.

Moreover, nothing has proved that Fritzsche approved or used for propaganda purposes the violations of International Law, already committed or intended, such as the so-called Commissar Order, or the lynching of enemy aviators who had been brought down. As regards the Commissar Order, the Russian prosecution charged that the defendant as a soldier, as a member of the 6th Army, received knowledge of this decree. This has been confirmed by Fritzsche. He could, however, point out that his attitude had not only been passive, he even, and this must be noted, took a successful stand against this by way of proposals to his Commander-in- Chief, the witness Paulus. General Rudenko's charge that in spite of this he remained in Hitler's service, although he most certainly must have assumed that Hitler was the author of such an order contrary to International Law, is not a reason for accusing Fritzsche as a propagandist, or even as far as his ethics are concerned.

Gentlemen! If such an accusation with a criminal legal foundation could be made, it would affect every German soldier who fought on for his Fatherland in the East after the autumn of 1942.

Fritzsche also protested against the fact that Allied flyers were to be treated contrary to International Law. When he learned of this, he spontaneously refused to engage in any propagandistic activity for Goebbels in this respect. These facts have been ascertained through thorough examination of him on this subject and through Dr. Scharping's affidavit.

Furthermore, no charges can be made from what he said about the use of new weapons and the "were-wolf" movement in his radio speeches, with which he has been charged by the Russian prosecution on cross-examination.

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