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 11 of 11)

[DR. LATERNSER continues his direct examination of Erich von Mannstein]

[Page 44]

Q. But did not the Party and the armed forces work together on a plan in the interests of the Reich?

A. The Party was working in the political world; and we were working in the soldier's sphere. We cannot talk of a joint plan of the Party and the Wehrmacht, because the prerequisites for it were missing. First of all, the most important requirement, a common basic attitude, was lacking. Many methods of the Party, as is known, did not appeal to us at all; and if there is no agreement even on such basic questions as, for instance, Christianity, one can only say that there is a lack of intellectual basis for a single plan.

The second reason against it was the Party's claim for total power; it again and again extended its efforts to influence the armed forces, and I can say that we officers were fighting a continuous battle against the influences of the Party which strove for power over our soldiers, thereby to push aside the soldierly element which we represented.

Then the third reason is that a plan of ours under Hitler would have been out of the question. If anyone made a plan, it was Hitler alone, and no one under him was allowed to make plans, people just had to obey. Quite apart from that, in the political and practical life of the Third Reich one branch never knew what the other was doing, or what its tasks were, so that there again there was no kind of uniformity. There was, therefore, a lack of all the necessary prerequisites for such a uniform plan.

[Page 45]

Q. What was your capacity in the General Staff of the Army?

A. In the General Staff, that is to say, the central department of it, I was from 1929 to 1932 employed as senior General Staff Officer, so to speak, in the First Division of the Troops Department. Then in 1935 I became the Chief of the Operations Department of the Army, and in 1936 I became "Oberquartiermeister I," that is to say, Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Army.

Q. Did the Operations department come under your command as "Oberquartiermeister"?

A. Yes, the Operations Department came under my orders. So did the Organization Department and various other ones.

Q. So that you as the Chief of the Operations Department would have had to deal with the employment of troops in the event of war?

A. Yes, of course.

Q. But then you must have been informed about the aim and the degree of armament?

A. Yes.

Q. Please be very brief.

A. The goal of our armament, first of all, in the twenties, in the years before the seizure of power, was the most elementary security against an unprovoked attack on the part of even one of our neighbours. After all, since all our neighbours had certain designs on German territories, we had to reckon with such a possibility at all times. We were perfectly aware of the fact that at best we could stand up to such an attack for a few weeks only. But we were not satisfied with that, to prevent, for instance, in the event of an attack by Poland, a fait accompli being created by the occupation of Upper Silesia. We wanted to make sure we could go on fighting until the League of Nations would intervene. Practically speaking, we were relying upon the League of Nations, and we could only do so if we ourselves could in no circumstances whatsoever be called the aggressors. At all times, therefore, we had to avoid everything which might be considered a violation of the Treaty of Versailles, or a provocation. For that reason we in the First Division of the Troops Department had formed a special group of officers who had the sole duty, whenever the OKH or at that time Army G.H.Q. were issuing orders, to make sure that no such violations would result from them.

Q. Did you have plans for a mobilization at the time when you were "Oberquartiermeister I"?

A. Yes. We had the very first mobilization plan, which became valid on the 1st April, 1930; it was the transformation of the 100,000 man-army to a war footing. That mobilization plan was then brought up to date annually after 1930.

Q. And before that time?

A. Until then there was no mobilization plan at all.

Q. Were there plans for strategic concentrations?

A. Plans for strategic concentrations did not exist at all from the end of the Great War until 1935. In 1935 the first strategic concentration plan was worked out, it was the so- called "red" concentration which was a defensive forming up along the Rhine; that is along our Western frontier, with defensive forming up at the Czechoslovak and Polish frontiers at the same time. And then there was a second concentration plan called "green" which was made ready in 1937 , that -

THE PRESIDENT: Witness by "forming-up" do you mean deployment? What do you call a forming-up plan? You mean deployment?

THE WITNESS: By a "forming up" or "concentration plan" I understand a plan according to which troops, in the event of a threat of war, are got ready along the frontiers; a plan, therefore, for the event of a political conflagration being threatened. Whether it would lead to war - whether it is from this assembly

[Page 46]

that one would enter into a war, that has actually nothing to do with the concentration plan. The concentration or forming-up plan merely states where the troops are to be assembled and, in the event of war, what would be the first tasks for the army groups and armies.


Q. Were those all the troop concentration plans, which you have just described?

A. Those were the two forming-up plans which I as Deputy Chief of the General Staff had been engaged with. The concentration plan "white," which was against Poland, was not worked out during my time. It must have been worked on in 1939.

Q. When did you cease to be "Oberquartiermeister I" at the OKH?

A. I left on the 4th February, 1938, at the time when General von Fritsch was removed.

Q. And at that time the plan for concentration against Poland was not yet in existence?

A. No. Only the concentration plan "red" existed, which was a defensive securing of the Polish frontier in the event of war.

Q. What was the attitude of the OKH, with reference to the declaration of Germany's military sovereignty in 1935? At that time you were still in the OKH, were you not?

A. 1935 ... No, I was still Chief of the General Staff at the headquarters of Wehrkreis 3 (Military Area No. 3) when military sovereignty was declared. But from my knowledge of the General Staff I know that that declaration completely surprised all of us at the time. I personally, and my commanding general in Berlin, only heard of it over the radio. The General Staff, had it been asked, would have considered 21 divisions as the size of an army increase which we would at that time consider suitable and attainable from a practical point of view. The figure of 36 divisions was due to a spontaneous decision made by Hitler.

Q. Was the occupation of the Rhineland demanded by the military, and was it intended as a preparation for war?

A. No. We did not demand the military occupation. First of all, we did not intend it to be a preparation for war. On the contrary, at the time the occupation was carried out, I was the Chief of the Operations Department, and I myself had to draft the orders for that occupation. Since we were completely surprised by the decision of the Fuehrer, I had only one afternoon to do it in, because the following morning the generals concerned came to receive their orders. I know that at that time the Reich Minister of War and General von Fritsch stated their objections, because they warned Hitler against such a one-sided solution of this question. That warning is the first source, in my opinion, of the distrust which subsequently the Fuehrer increasingly felt for the generals. Later, at a private conference I had with him, he himself admitted that that was so, and particularly as Blomberg at that time, when France was mobilising thirteen divisions, had suggested that the three battalions which we had pushed across the Rhine to the western bank should be withdrawn. The intentions we then had for the fortification of the Rhineland were purely defensive ones. The Siegfried Line was planned, just as was the Maginot Line, as a wall which would be as insurmountable as possible in the event of attack.

Q. To what extent did military leaders participate in the case of Austria? Surely you are well informed about that, Field-Marshal?

A. One morning, and quite to my surprise, I was summoned to the Fuehrer, together with General Beck, the Chief of the General Staff. It was, I think, about eleven o'clock. The Commander-in-Chief of the Army was not in Berlin. Hitler revealed to us that he had decided that the Austrian question was to be settled, in view of the intentions announced by Schuschnigg the day before. He

[Page 47]

demanded our suggestions for a march into Austria, should this be necessary. The Chief of the General Staff thereupon suggested . . . explained that we should have to mobilize the corps required for this, viz., the VII and XIII Bavarian Corps and a Panzer division, but that such a mobilization, in fact such a measure, was in no way prepared, since the political leaders had never given us even as much as a hint of such instructions. It would be necessary, therefore, to improvise everything.

First of all, the Fuehrer did not want to agree to this mobilization, but then he realised that if he wanted to march in at all, troops would have to be mobile, and he agreed, saying that he would have to march in on the following Saturday - the day before the intended plebiscite - if he wanted to march in at all. The result of it was that the order for the mobilization of these corps had to be given that very day, if the mobilization and assembly of the forces on the border were to be completed in good time.

The conference started about 11 o'clock and went on until about one and the orders would have to be ready to go out that afternoon at six o'clock. They went out twenty minutes late; I had to draft the orders for this concentration myself, so that I had four or five hours altogether to do it in. Before that, no thought whatever had been given to such a thing. The so-called Case "Otto" had nothing at all to do with this affair.

Q. So that, as the man responsible for the working out of this order, you had just a few hours from the moment when you knew nothing until the moment the order was ready to issue?

A. Yes, that is right - about four or five hours.

Q. Did you as the responsible Oberquartiermeister I (Deputy Chief of General Staff, Operations), responsible for war plans, know anything at all about the conference which Hitler held on 5th November, 1935?

A. No, I knew nothing about it.

Q. Did you participate in the conference of 10th August, 1938?

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Laternser ... Witness, the Tribunal would like to know what you say the Plan "Otto" was for. What was the plan made for?

A. We in the Army did not have a completed plan called "Otto." I only know that that was a code word for some measures or other of the OKW in the event of a restoration attempt on the part of the Hapsburgs in Austria, in connection with Italy. That possibility was always pending, and I want to supplement my statement by saying that at the time when Hitler gave us the orders for Austria his chief worry had been not so much that there might be interference on the part of the Western Powers, but his only worry was as to how Italy would behave, because it appeared that Italy always stuck together with Austria and the Hapsburgs.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, are you telling the Tribunal that you do not know whether the Plan "Otto" was a plan for the German Army or part of it to march into Austria?

A. No, the Plan "Otto" only returned to my mind and became clear to me when I read the interrogation record of Jodl. In any case, a plan for a march into Austria did not exist in the OKH, because I had to prepare these orders within a few hours after the conference with Hitler.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, but if the Plan "Otto" was not a plan for the marching into Austria, what was it for?

A. That I cannot say because I only know that it was some sort of plan on the part of the OKW connected with an attempted restoration of the Hapsburgs in Austria but we ourselves did not introduce any measures, as far as I can remember, nor do I know whether I myself had anything at all to do with this code name at the time; it may be so, but I do not know now.

[Page 48]



Q. Field-Marshal, you participated in the conference on 10th August, 1938. What was the purpose of that conference? What was said there?

A. That conference was something quite unusual. The Fuehrer had ordered to appear before him at the Berghof the Chiefs of the General Staffs of those armies which, in the event of a march into Czechoslovakia, would have to take up p their positions on the frontier; but he did not summon the Commanders-in-Chief to appear, as would have been natural, but only - I might say - the younger generation of Army chiefs. He must have known from the memorandum of General Beck and its submission by General von Brauchitsch that the Commanders-in-Chief and Commanding Generals opposed any policy which might lead to a war, and that was why he summoned us, in order to convince us of the necessity and the correctness of his decision.

This was the first and only time, at a meeting of this kind, that he permitted questions and a sort of discussion afterwards. This was a mistake on his part in so far as even the Chiefs of the General Staffs raised objections regarding the possibility of an interference on the part of the Western Powers and generally, regarding the danger of a war that might ensue. This led to a very serious and most unpleasant clash between the Fuehrer and General von Wietersheim with reference to these questions. After that, whenever such meetings took place, there was not a single occasion when any question at all, or discussions, were permitted by him.

Q. Were the operations in Austria and the Sudetenland to be considered military rehearsals for a war?

A. No, that they certainly were not, because not only were our troops not fully mobilised but the mobilization of these corps on the occasion of the march into Austria also demonstrated to us in any case that nothing had advanced sufficiently to carry out a reasonably satisfactory mobilization. If a war had occurred, neither our Western frontier nor our Polish frontier could really have been effectively defended by us, and there is no doubt whatsoever, if Czechoslovakia had defended herself, that we should have been hung up by her fortifications, for in practice we did not have the means to break through. It cannot therefore be called a military rehearsal. But it was a matter of testing the political nervous system.

Q. When you were informed of the military preparations against Poland, did you have the impression that an aggressive war was intended?

A. I was considered for the position of Chief of the General Staff of Army Group South in the mobilization plan for the Polish campaign. When I received the plans for the assembly I realised that it really was a strategic concentration for an attack, but there were various very essential points which militated against an intention of aggression.

The first one was that in the spring of 1939, and by order of the Fuehrer, a sudden start was made with the erection of the strongest fortifications along all the Eastern frontier. Not only thousands of workers but entire divisions were employed there to build these fortifications, and the entire material from the Czech fortifications was transported there and built in. A strip of the most fertile land in Silesia was taken up by these fortifications, and that, of course, would indicate anything but an aggressive intention.

The second point which was against it was the fact that training continued on an entirely peace-time basis. I myself - I was a divisional commander in peace time - remained with my division at the training camp in Lusatia, far away, therefore, from that part of the country where my division would have to be drawn up.

[Page 49]

Besides, we knew of Chamberlain's speech in the House of Commons in which he assured the Poles of Britain's assistance, and since Hitler, on every occasion during the time I was in the OKH, repeated the statement that he would never enter into a war on two fronts, one could not possibly think that, in view of that promise, he would indulge in such an adventurous policy.

On the other hand, however, we had the most reliable information - which was confirmed by subsequent facts - that the Poles were proposing to assemble their troops in Posnania for an offensive towards Berlin. We completely failed to understand this intention in view of the entire situation, but in fact that was the way the Poles drew up their troops at a later stage. The eventuality of a war might well be envisaged, therefore, and it was most likely, due to the possibility that the Poles could look to Britain for assistance; and if the political negotiations should reach a crisis, the Poles might on their part do something reckless and themselves attack, since they were already forming up offensively; then, of course, a war would have been inevitable.

Considering all these signs, one could hardly assume that Hitler would, so to speak, pick a quarrel with Poland to initiate an aggressive war against her. The conference at Obersalzburg, for instance, on 22nd August, did not give me the impression, either, that war was bound to come, an impression that was neither mine nor that of the Commander- in-Chief, Field-Marshal von Rundstedt, until 31st August or 1st September of that year, since an order to march in had been withdrawn on the 25th.

THE PRESIDENT: We will adjourn now.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 1000 hours, 10th August, 1946.)

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