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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
9th August to 21st August 1946

One Hundred and Ninety-Ninth Day: Friday, 9th August, 1946
(Part 8 of 11)

[DR. LATERNSER continues his direct examination of Walter von Brauchitsch]

[Page 31]

Q. To whom was a Waffen SS division subordinate, when it was not engaged in a tactical task? That is, when it was neither in battle nor in an operational area?

A. In any event, not the Army. It was subordinate to the Waffenfuehrer SS or to the OKW.

Q. And to whom was it subordinate in the home area?

[Page 32]

A. To the Reichsfuehrer SS.

Q. Was the Waffen SS paid out of the budget of the Wehrmacht?

A. Certainly not from the budget of the Army.

Q. And the budgets of the Luftwaffe and the Navy would be even less concerned?

A. Just a little, I think. As far as I know, the SS not only had its own budget but it also had its own armament clothing and administrative departments, etc.

Q. Therefore, between a Waffen SS division and the Wehrmacht there was only a close and tactical contact when this Waffen SS division was actually in combat?

A. It was under the Army the moment it was used in an operational area, or when, in order to be moved up, it was placed at the Army's disposal.

Q. Would it be a good comparison if I were to, say that between a Waffen SS division and the Army no closer connection existed than if, for instance, an Italian or Spanish division had been subordinate to the Army for a battle?

A. That would have been similar.

Q. In general, what was the relationship of the leadership of the Waffen SS to that of the Army, Luftwaffe or Navy? Was it a particularly harmonious one?

A. Under battle conditions, yes; otherwise there was little connection.

Q. Field-Marshal, can you give us the circumstances under which Hitler issued the notorious Commissar Order?

A. In March, 1941, Hitler had summoned the military leaders, and in a rather lengthy address he once more stated that the reasons for the attitude to be adopted towards Russia were these: that it was a battle which was of an ideological nature which could not be fought with the chivalrous methods to which the Army was accustomed. He knew that the officers could not make this opinion their own, but he was demanding the unconditional execution of the orders he issued. And in connection with this he issued the order dealing with the treatment to be given to the Commissars.

Q. What did you do in order to prevent the carrying out of this order and to prevent excesses on the part of the troops in the East?

A. At the conclusion of the conference, after Hitler had left, some of the Commanders-in-Chief came to me, and I remember particularly well that the Commanders-in-Chief of the three army groups, Field-Marshal von Rundstedt, Field- Marshal von Bock, and Field-Marshal von Leeb, as well as another group of army Commanders, came to me and in an excited manner expressed themselves to the effect that such a way of waging war was intolerable to them. I agreed with their point of view and told them that as far as the OKH was concerned no order like that would be issued. I would first have to think things over as to what steps I might take.

In the meantime, I had come to know Hitler well enough to know that once he had reached a decision and, as in this case, had made it public, that is, had told it to the military leadership, from then on he would under no circumstances be dissuaded from this decision. I knew also that I had to give a pretext to the Army not to adhere to this order. For this reason I issued an order dealing with the maintenance of discipline.

Q. And what was the approximate wording of this order on discipline?

A. It is not possible for me to give you the exact wording. The substance of the order, however, was as follows:

Discipline in the Army was to be strictly observed, along the lines and regulations that applied in the past.

The attitude towards the population was to remain correct in every way, and any excesses were to be punished.

Q. Would an open refusal have been successful with Hitler, or your threatened resignation?

A. As I have already said, no.

[Page 33]

Q. Now, one more question dealing with the Eastern campaign. Did the German Army, in 1941, in its push through Russia, find considerable destruction which the Soviet Army had itself caused when it retreated?

A. The situation was quite as we expected it to be. The lack of consideration of Russia for her own country, in such circumstances, was well known for a century past. There were numerous bridges and railways which had been destroyed; power plants and factories too. The mines in the Donetz Basin were damaged in such a way that even though we worked for months they could hardly be used by us. In the cities we met special detachments of young Russian troops, who had partly carried out their task of burning the villages.

In Kiev and other places we found delayed action mines which had been prepared by them, which caused us considerable loss.

Q. Before the entry of Italy into the war, or before the declaration of war on America, were you advised of it in advance?

A. No. We regretted both incidents very much.

Q. Were military agreements with Japan known to you?

A. I do not even know them today.

Q. The records dealing with the testimony of Gisevius are known to you through the fact that I gave them to you for your perusal. Do you know the witness Gisevius?

A. In April, 1946, I learned of the existence of Herr Gisevius for the first time from the newspapers. In the papers I read that he was to appear here as a witness. I would have overlooked it, if the name had not struck me as familiar, for a Dr. Gisevius was my parents' physician in the 90's.

Q. But the witness gave various and quite detailed statements about your person and especially to the effect that he talked with you about taking part in a "putsch" together. What can you say about that?

A. I believe that anyone who knows me, however slightly, would laugh at the thought that I would discuss plans of a putsch against the head of the State with a young person who was a complete stranger to me.

Q. These statements -

A. I can only try to reconstruct the situation from the records, and, from these writings, my impression is that those are the entirely unsupported manoeuvres of a man who believes that the whole world is revolving about him alone.

Q. Gisevius further stated that the generals had enriched themselves. Is that true?

A. I do not quite know in which way.

Q. Did you yourself receive any grants?

A. No.

Q. Field-Marshal, you furnished two affidavits to the prosecution, affidavit No. 2, Exhibit USA 532, and affidavit No. 4, Exhibit USA 535; both of them with the date 7th November, 1945. Were you under arrest at that time?

A. Two American officers had asked me to tell them about the organization of the Army and so forth.

Q. Field-Marshal, I believe you misunderstood me. I asked you whether, at the time you made these affidavits, you were under arrest?

A. Since 19th October of last year I have been a witness in custody in the prison here at Nuremberg.

Q. And about these affidavits, who set down these statements?

A. They were drafted by two American officers.

Q. And who demanded these statements?

A. That I do not know, no names were mentioned.

Q. Were you told to what purpose these statements were to be put?

A. No. On the basis of the conferences which took place prior to that, I assumed that they were to serve for the purpose of information dealing with organizations and which was to be used by experts.

[Page 34]

Q. Did you make any alterations?

A. I undertook a series of alterations but I cannot tell you how many.

Q. These statements, that is, in your opinion, of course, could they be misunderstood?

A. Even after I had made the changes, in my opinion, they were clear only in conjunction with the conversations that had taken place previously. They were a series of conversations in which I was told that we were not under oath as witnesses, a matter which, of course, was of no consequence to me anyway, but it was for the purpose of gathering information about organizations; the problems were often discussed and looked at from different angles.

Q. In signing affidavit No. 2, which also contains a chart, did you point out that this was not correct or might be misunderstood?

A. I pointed to the fact that this chart might be misunderstood and I received the answer that matters were entirely cleared up and that the chart was not very important in the first place.

Q. Affidavit No. 1, Exhibit USA 531, which General Halder signed on the same day, completely agrees with your affidavit No. 2 word for word with the exception of the last paragraph; were you interrogated together with General Halder?

A. No.

Q. As you just mentioned a moment ago, when signing the affidavit No. 2, you pointed to the fact that the' chart was incorrect. Now, I shall have this chart presented to you and I should like to ask you just what is wrong in it?

A. This chart causes misunderstandings -

THE PRESIDENT: Had you not better ask the witness - if he is your witness - whether there is anything wrong about the affidavits?

DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, I beg your pardon, I did not understand you for I was listening to the wrong channel.

THE PRESIDENT: Had you not better ask him whether there is anything wrong in his affidavits? He has not yet said there was anything wrong about that.

DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, I shall ask questions about that presently. First of all, I want to ask the witness about this chart and the further questions, of course, will follow.

THE WITNESS: This chart may be misinterpreted, especially in so far as the lines are concerned, and if you wish to show the hierarchy by means of this chart then, in my opinion, all the staffs of the OKW and the various branches of the Wehrmacht should not be shown in it.

THE PRESIDENT: Now, the Tribunal would like to know now whether this witness is saying that there is anything wrong with this affidavit; whether it is not true.

DR. LATERNSER: Yes, Mr. President.


Q. Field-Marshal, in affidavit No. 2, you used the word "Gruppe" four times. Is this expression -

THE PRESIDENT: I said: "The Tribunal would like to know now whether this witness says there is anything untrue in his affidavits and we want to know it now." Do you understand the meaning of the word "now"?

DR. LATERNSER: Yes, indeed.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I will ask the witness myself.


Q. Field-Marshal von Brauchitsch, are you saying that there is anything wrong in your affidavits, your two affidavits, which is inaccurate or untrue?

[Page 35]

A. No, nothing which is untrue but something which can be misunderstood -

Q. Something which you mean might be misleading?

A. Various questions which might lead to misunderstandings. One thing is the chart and the second thing which might lead to error is the expression "Gruppe" (group). The expression "Gruppe" which I understand exactly to mean a "figure" or "number" but not a collection of a certain number ... of a certain series of offices in an organisational or spiritual way. For no connection whatsoever existed between the various branches of the Wehrmacht. The connection here was, at the top, the Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht, Adolf Hitler, and Hitler personally always played off one branch of the Wehrmacht against another. He repeatedly talked to me about the Navy and the Luftwaffe and their Commanders-in- Chief in this way, and I know that he did the same thing about the Army and myself. The expression "Gruppe" therefore can be misunderstood and is misleading in its context here. It was understandable only in conjunction with the conversation that we had before.


Q. Field-Marshal, this expression "Gruppe" (group) did you use this expression yourself when you talked with the prosecution?

A. Well, I really cannot tell that exactly. It is quite possible, for under the word "Gruppe" I do not understand anything other than a number of people, or a series, but not anything organisational or anything closely bound together.

Q. In the sense that you just mentioned now, that was the sense that you wanted to give the word "Gruppe" when you signed?

A. Yes.

Before then, that is, before this interrogation by the prosecution dealing with this point, had you used the word "Gruppe" (group) in connection with the highest military leadership?

A. No, for a group like that did not actually exist, neither in an organisational nor in a spiritual way did it exist. In the German Army we only knew organization according to the war structure of division, corps, army, or whatever the case might be.

Q. Now, I shall turn to my last questions, Field-Marshal. At the end of the year 1941 you resigned. What were the reasons for your resignation?

A. In the summer of 1941 Hitler's influence was growing stronger and stronger on all Army questions and the OKH had a complete lack of influence in all spheres of political and economic administration of the occupied countries, and their inner opposition to the policy followed by Hitler was becoming stronger and sharper. In the autumn of 1941 this tension increased still more. Parallel with that, there were the constant battles with the leadership of the Party, who wanted to increase its influence on the Army more and more. I saw there was no longer any possibility of bringing about a change in any way. Hard as it was for me to take that decision at this time to leave the Army - in which millions had lost their lives - and to separate myself from it, I nevertheless decided to take the decisive step. On 7th December, 1941, I asked Hitler, when I was alone with him, to relieve me of my office. He answered me that he would have to think it over and that he did not want to speak about this matter at present. On 17th December, when we were again alone together, he told me that he had decided to take over the command of the Army himself and the reason he gave for doing this was that in view of the seriousness of the winter offensive he would have to put in the scales the entire confidence which he enjoyed in the Army. On 19th December he again told me not to say anything - and on the same day I was relieved of my post. On the 20th in the evening, I travelled home and I did not see Hitler again after that. Hitler was the fate of Germany and this fate could not be escaped.

DR. LATERNSER: I have no further questions to put to this witness.

[Page 36]

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn.

(A recess was taken.)

[ 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.