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-Eighthth Day: Saturday, 27th July, 1946
(Part 1 of 8)

[Page 437]

SIR HARTLEY SHAWCROSS: May it please the Tribunal:

Yesterday when we recessed I had been dealing with the war crimes and in particular with the murder of the R.A.F. officers from Stalag Luft III.

I want now very shortly to consider the question of the employment of prisoners of war. Under Article 31 of the Geneva Convention it might have been permissible to employ prisoners on certain work in connection with the raw materials of the armament industry. But the statement made by Milch at the Central Planning Board on the 16th of February, 1943, in the presence of Speer and Sauckel had no legal justification at all. He said, if you will remember, and I quote:

"We have made a request for an order that a certain percentage of men in the Ack-Ack artillery must be Russians. 50,000 will be taken altogether. 30,000 are already employed as gunners. This is an amusing thing that Russians must work the guns."
That was quite obviously flagrantly illegal. Nobody could have had the faintest doubt about it. The minutes record no protest whatever. It has not been suggested that Goering or any of the others who must have read the minutes and known what was going on regarded this outrage by the effective head of the German air force as being in any way unusual.

Himmler's cynical words spoken at Posen on the 4th October, 1943, on the subject of the Russian prisoners captured in the early days of the campaign ought again to be put on record for history. I quote:

"At that time we did not value the mass of humanity as we value it today as raw material, as labour. What, after all, thinking in terms of generations is not to be regretted but is now deplorable, by reason of the loss of labour, is that the prisoners died in tens and hundreds of thousands of exhaustion and hunger."
I turn now to the murder of the commandos.

The evidence with regard to the Commando Order of 18th October, 1942, directly involves Keitel, Jodl, Donitz, Raeder, Goering and Kaltenbrunner, by Article 30 of the Hague Rules, and I quote:

"A spy taken in the act shall not be punished without previous trial."
And even the regulations printed in the book of every German soldier provide, and I quote:
"No enemy can be killed who gives up, not even a partisan or a spy. These will be brought to punishment by the Courts."
These men were not spies: they were soldiers in uniform. It is not suggested that any man dealt with under this Order was ever given a trial before he was shot. Legally there can be no answer to the guilt of any of those defendants who passed on or who applied this wicked order, an order which Jodl admitted to be murder and in respect of which Keitel, confessing his shame, admitted its illegality.

Raeder admitted that it was an improper order. Even Donitz stated that now he knew the true facts he no longer regarded it as correct. The only defences put forward have been that the individual in question did not personally carry it out, that they regarded the statement in the first paragraph of the order as

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justifying the action by way of reprisal, that they did their best to minimise its effect and that it teas not up to the individual to question the directives of a superior. But no one has seriously disputed that handing over to the SD, in the context here, meant shooting without a trial.

The answer to these defences, in so far as the defences are not purely dishonest, is that the security precautions provided in the order itself were the plainest indication that the facts stated in the first paragraph did not constitute any justification which would bear the light of day. No higher degree of precaution accompanied the Kugel Order, Nacht and Nebel Order, or any other of their brutal orders. That the shackling incident at Dieppe had nothing to do with it appears from Jodl's staff memorandum of the 14th October, 1942, which states that the Fuehrer's aim was to prevent the commando method of waging war by dropping small detachments who did great damage by demolitions, etc., and then surrendered.

The cancellation of the order in 1945 is further evidence that those responsible for it recognized their guilt, guilt. which was perhaps best summarised by the entry in the War Diary of the Naval War Staff with regard to the shooting of the commandos taken in uniform at Bordeaux; "Something new in International Law." Yet Raeder and his Chief of Staff were prepared to initial that entry. Kaltenbrunner's knowledge is clearly shown by his letter to the Armed Forces Planning Staff of the 23rd January, 1945, referring to it in detail and disputing its application to particular categories.

Other men have already been sentenced to death for execution of this order, men whose only defence was that they obeyed an order from their superiors. I refer to the members of the SD who were executed for the murder of the crew of Motor Torpedo Boat 345 in Norway and General Dostler in Italy. Innumerable instances from their own records have been proved against these defendants: Shall they escape? You will remember the attitude of the Nazi People's Court, in 1944, to the plea of superior orders.

The Commando Order cannot compare in wickedness or brutality with the Nacht and Nebel Order (Night and Fog Order) of the 7th December, 1941. The Hitler directive signed by Keitel, after prescribing the death penalty for offences endangering the security or state of readiness of the occupying Powers, orders the removal to Germany of offenders, other than those whose execution could be completed in a very short time, under circumstances which would deny any information with regard to their fate. And Keitel's covering letter of the 12th December gives the reason:

"Efficient and enduring intimidation can only be achieved either by capital punishment or by measures by which the relatives of the criminals and the population do not know the fate of the criminal. This aim is achieved when the criminal is transferred to Germany."
It is interesting to contrast that statement, written when Keitel thought that Germany was winning the war, with his evidence before the Tribunal. He said, you will remember:
"Penal servitude would be considered dishonourable by these patriots. By going to Germany they would suffer no dishonour."
This decree was still being enforced in February, 1944, when the commanders of some eighteen concentration camps were being reminded of its purpose and how to dispose of the bodies of the "Night and Fog" prisoners without revealing the place of death. The treatment of these prisoners was described by the Norwegian witness, Cappelen, and members of the Tribunal will not have forgotten his account of the transport of between 2,500 and 2,800 Nacht and Nebel prisoners from one concentration camp to another in 1945 when 1,347 died on the way. When we talk about the dignity of man let us remember this and I quote it again (Cappelen speaking):

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"Feeble as we were, we could not walk fast enough and when they took their guns, the line of five, the line just before us - they took their guns and smashed in the heads of all five of them and they said:
'If you don't walk in an intelligent way see what will happen to you.'
But at last after six to eight hours we came to a railway station. It was very cold and we only had prison clothes on and bad boots, but we said, 'Oh, we are glad that we have come to a railway station. It is better to stand in a cattle truck than to walk, in the middle of winter. It was very cold, ten to twelve degrees, I suppose, very cold. There was a long train with open trucks. In Norway we call them sand trucks, and we were kicked on to those trucks about 80 to each truck .... In these trucks we sat for about five days without food - cold - without water: When it was snowing we did this (indicating) just to get some water in the mouth and after a long, long time, it seemed to me like years, we came to a place which I afterwards learnt was Dora which is in the neighbourhood of Buchenwald. They kicked us down from the trucks, but many were dead. The man who sat by me, he was dead, but I was not allowed to leave. I had to sit with a dead man for the last day. I did not know the number, but about half of us were dead, getting stiff, and they said that - I heard it stated afterwards in Dora - that the number of dead on our train was 1,347. Well, from Dora I do not remember much, because I was more or less dead. I have always been a man of good humour and high-spirited, ready to help myself and my friends, but I had nearly given up. And then at the end of our sufferings we were rescued and brought to Neuengamme near Hamburg, and when we arrived there were some of my old friends, the student from Norway who had been deported to Germany, other prisoners who came from Sachsenhausen and other camps and the few, comparatively few, Norwegian Night and Fog prisoners, who were living in very bad conditions. Many of my friends are still in hospital in Norway, some died after coming home."
In July, 1944, a yet more drastic order followed that of the Night and Fog. On the 30th of that month Hitler issued the Terror and Sabotage decree providing that all acts of violence by non-German civilians in occupied territories should be combated as acts of terrorism and sabotage. Those not overcome on the spot were to be handed over to the SD, women put to work, only children spared. Within a month Keitel extended the order to cover persons endangering security or war preparedness by any means other than acts of terrorism or sabotage, the usual secrecy requirements were laid down, restricting distribution in writing to a minimum. He then ordered that the Terror and Sabotage decree was to form the subject of regular emphatic instruction to all personnel of the armed forces, SS and police: it was to be extended to crimes affecting German interests, but not imperilling the security or war preparedness of the occupying Power. New regulations could be made by the agreement of particular commanders and higher SS chiefs. In other words any offence by any person in the occupied territories could be dealt with under this decree.

On the 9th September, 1944, a meeting was held between representatives of the High Command and the SS to discuss the relationship of the Night and Fog Order to the Terror and Sabotage decree. It was considered that the Night and Fog Order had become superfluous and the meeting went on to consider the transfer of the 24,000 non-German civilians held under it by the SS to the SD. The meeting discussed the problem of certain neutrals who had been held under this order by mistake. The German word "Vernebelt" justifies the statement of the witness Blaha that the special and technical expressions used in concentration camps can only be expressed in German and cannot really be translated into any other language. It is perhaps superfluous to remind the Tribunal that when the Luftwaffe General in Holland asked for authority to shoot railwaymen on strike, since the procedure of handing over to the SD under the decree was too roundabout,

[Page 440]

Keitel, in a reply, copies of which were sent both to the Admiralty and to the Air Ministry as well as to the principal commanders in occupied territories, agreed at once that if there was any difficulty in handing over to the SD, said:
"Other effective measures are to be taken ruthlessly and independently."
In other words, General Christiansen could shoot the railwaymen if he thought fit.

Let us not forget when we consider the problems of Europe in these days, that it is not easy for anyone who has not had to live in territory occupied by the Germans to realize the suffering and the state of terror and constant apprehension in which the peoples of Europe lived through those long years of subjection. It was Frank who, writing on the 16th December, 1941, said:

"As a matter of principle we shall have pity only for the German people - and for no one else in the world."
Save that they had no pity even for their own people, how faithfully these men carried out that principle!

I turn now to the attack on the partisans. If any doubt remained that the German armed forces were directed not by honourable soldiers but by callous murderers, it must be dissipated by the evidence as to the appalling ruthlessness with which it was sought to put down the partisans. The witness Ohlendorf said that the direction of anti-partisan warfare was the subject of a written agreement between the German War Office, the High Command, and the SS. As a result of that agreement an Einsatz group was attached to each army group H.Q. and directed the work of the Einsatz Commandos allotted to the group in co-ordination and agreement with the military authorities. If confirmation of the Army's support, knowledge and approval were needed, one has only got to look at the report of the Einsatz Group A on its activities during the first three months of the campaign against the Soviet Union.

I quote:

"Our task was to establish hurriedly personal contact with the commander of the armies and with the commander of the army of the rear area. It must be stressed from the beginning that co-operation with the armed forces was generally good, in some cases ... it was very close, almost cordial."
And again, speaking of the difficulty of dealing with the partisans in a particular area:
"After the failure of purely military activities such as the placing of sentries and combing through the newly occupied territories with whole divisions, even the armed forces had to look out for new methods. The action group undertook to search for new methods. Soon therefore the armed forces adopted the experiences of the Security Police and their methods of combating the partisans."
One of these methods is described in the same report in these words:
"After a village had been surrounded, all the inhabitants were forcibly shepherded into the main square. The persons suspected, on account of confidential information, and the other villagers were interrogated and thus it was possible in most cases to find the people who helped the partisans. Those were either shot off- hand, or, if further interrogations promised useful information, taken to headquarters. After the interrogation they were shot. In order to obtain a deterring effect the houses of those who had helped the partisans were burnt down on several occasions."
And then, after stating that villagers were always threatened with the burning of the whole village, the report adds:
"The tactics to put terror against terror succeeded marvellously."
The Einsatz Commandos were, as Ohlendorf stated, under Kaltenbrunner's command, but the orders under which they were acting cannot have exceeded in severity those which were issued by Keitel. The Fuehrer order issued by him on 16th December, 1942, on the combating of partisans states:

[Page 441]

"If the fight against the partisans in the East as well as in the Balkans is not waged with the most brutal means, we will shortly reach the point when the available forces are insufficient to control this area. It is therefore not only justifiable but it is the duty of the troops to use all means without restriction - even against women and children so long as it ensures success."
Three days later he and Ribbentrop were informing their Italian opposite numbers at breakfast that:
"The Fuehrer had declared that the Serbian conspirators were to be turned out and that no gentle methods might be used in doing this."
Keitel interjected:
"Every village in which partisans were found had to be burnt down."
Two months later Ribbentrop was urging the Italian Ambassador in Berlin to greater brutality in dealing with the partisans in Croatia. I quote:
"The gangs had to be exterminated and that included men, women and children, as their continued existence imperilled the lives of German and Italian men, women and children."

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