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

Two Hundredth Day: Saturday, 10th August, 1946
(Part 2 of 6)

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

[Page 54]

Q. At that time what did you imagine would happen when a person was handed over to the SD?

A. It was our impression that first of all the SD would interrogate such a person and then probably send him to some camp. We also had to turn over to the SD German soldiers who were sentenced for desertion, because during the war there was a regulation that long terms of imprisonment were not to be served. In order to utilize the working capacity of the culprits in question and so that they should not escape the war within the security of prison walls - these prisoners, and others who had been sentenced, were sent to concentration camps for the duration of the war. Therefore, to say that the turning over of any person to the SD was equivalent to death was, as we saw it, quite wrong.

Q. Did you at that time know anything about conditions in the concentration camps?

A. No. I heard as little about that as the German people, or possibly, even less, because when you were fighting 1,000 kilometres away from Germany, you naturally did not hear about such things. I knew from pre-war days that there were two concentration camps, Oranienburg and Dachau, and an officer who at the invitation of the SS had visited such a camp told me that it was simply a typical collection of criminals, also some political prisoners who, according to what he had seen, were being treated strictly but correctly.

Q. As a soldier of the old tradition, how do you explain the shootings with which the prosecution has charged the German war leaders as a Crime against Humanity?

A. Beginning in 1941 with the Soviet campaign, this last war was, one might say, fought from two points of view. The first was the military conduct of the war which we, the soldiers, were carrying through, and the other was - incidentally on both sides - the ideological conduct of the war, which we soldiers were not carrying out but which was carried out by the other elements.

Q. You said 1941?

A. Yes, it is my view that the Polish war and the war in the West and the campaigns in Norway and in the Balkans were still carried out in a purely military manner as long as the fighting was going on. The other side, that is, the

[Page 55]

ideological side of the war, started, in my opinion, with the campaign against the Soviet Union, and it was then extended to the other occupied territories by the elements who conducted this type of war.

Q. But then, who was conducting the ideological fight on the part of Germany?

A. We soldiers did not conduct the ideological side of the war. In my opinion it was conducted by Hitler together with some of his closest collaborators, and a limited number of accomplices.

Q. In what respect was this war not conducted by soldiers?

A. As I have said, Hitler knew perfectly well that we, with our traditional gallant conception of warfare, would not do certain things. He defined this view very clearly in the speech he made before the Western campaign, that is, after the Polish campaign, and on the basis of this point of view, in my opinion he knowingly kept the armed forces out of the ideological war, and knowingly removed everything that was done from our influence or even from our knowledge.

Q. By what means did Hitler remove this side of the war from military influence?

A. He took it away from us first of all geographically, inasmuch as the bulk of the occupied territories were removed from the influence of the Commander-in-Chief, that is, he set up Reich Commissariats in the East, and the remaining countries became the spheres of the Military Commanders or of their own governments, and were not under us Commanders-in-Chief. Apart from that he also took away from us the spheres in which this struggle was being fought. Geographically we were limited to the narrow administrative operational areas and administratively we also had very little to say. All police measures were taken by Himmler on his own responsibility, as set out in the well-known "Barbarossa Order." The economic exploitation was Goering's province. Sauckel was responsible for obtaining labour. The examination and registration of art treasures were handled by the special staff of Rosenberg. Legal matters with reference to civilians had been expressly withdrawn from our military courts. In other words, all that was left to us was the directing of the fighting at the front, the security of the operational sector, the creation of a local administration and the setting in motion of agriculture and industry.

DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, I have had prepared a plan regarding the division of powers, and I should like to submit it to the Tribunal when I put in my documents. It is plan Mil. No. 3. I should merely like to show this plan to the witness and ask him whether it is accurate, and later on I shall submit it to the Tribunal with an explanation.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, certainly.


Q. Field-Marshal, I am going to have plan Mil. 3 handed to you and I will ask you whether it is accurate.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Laternser, you are showing it to the prosecution no doubt.

DR. LATERNSER: Yes, sir.

THE WITNESS: In my opinion, this plan is correct. Naturally, details regarding the organization in the occupied territories, for instance, which came under military commanders and which changed in the course of the war, are not all indicated.


Q. But these spheres do not concern the persons accused?

A. Yes, that is right.

Q. In which spheres was the ideological warfare conducted by others?

A. There you have to differentiate between two things. In addition to the purely military conduct of the war which we soldiers carried out, economic

[Page 56]

measures had to be employed; in other words, the economic exploitation of occupied territories. in the sense of "total war." An innovation in International Law, but not a crime. Secondly there was the ideological sphere, the special methods introduced against the population and carried out by other forces, which had nothing to do with the economic exploitation as such.

Q. What do you mean by "special methods"?

A. By that I mean the methods of the so-called special action groups (Einsatzgruppen) and all the methods under the aegis of Himmler.

Q. Was not the Commissar or Commando Order part of that ideological fight in the military sector?

A. In my opinion the Commissar Order does come under that. That is the reason why we did not carry it out. In my opinion, the Commando Order did not. The Commando Order was a reprisal, possibly open to argument, against a method of warfare which was new.

Q. Now, let us come to the Einsatzgruppen. What did you know about the tasks given to these groups?

A. All I knew about the tasks of these Einsatzgruppen was that they were organized to prepare for the political administration, that is to say; for carrying out the political scrutiny of the population in the occupied territories of the East, and they were acting on special instructions under Himmler's responsibility.

Q. Did you ever hear of the intention and the order to exterminate Jews and other sections of the population?

A. No, I never heard of that; in fact, as the witness Ohlendorf said, this order was given orally by Himmler directly to the Einsatzgruppen.

Q. When you took over the command of the 11th Army, were you informed of the existence of the special action groups?

A. When I took over the army at Nikolajev in September, 1941, I was at the army headquarters for two or three days only, and I then occupied an advance battle H.Q. near the front with a small part of my staff. During these two or three days I spent at Nikolajev, the various department chiefs of the High Command reported to me on their tasks. I assume that on that occasion it was also reported to me that sections of the SD with special tasks from Himmler were in the operational zone, but at that time I had no idea of the organization and tasks of the Einsatzgruppen, as I know them today.

Q. Did you personally have dealings with Ohlendorf?

A. It may be that Ohlendorf reported to me once, and as those reports were usually made during the lunch hour, it is quite possible that I invited him to lunch. If he did visit me, then it was certainly only in the presence of my chief, because anyone who did not belong to my army was only received by me in the presence of my chief. I should like to add that I had already spent several weeks in prison here when one day General Westphal told me: "There is an SD Fuehrer, Ohlendorf, here who maintains that he was in the Crimea." I asked Westphal to point him out to me and I said: "I may have seen him once, but I don't know, I don't remember." That is the only kind of contact I might have had with him.

Q. The witness Ohlendorf has said that during the march he had talked with you and your chief.

A. He could not have spoken to me during the march, because a Commander-in-Chief does not join his troops on the march. When I change my battle H.Q., then I either go by plane or I travel by car with an orderly officer. When I do that, my chief is not there, because in the event of such a change, the chief always remains in the old battle H.Q. until the Commander-in-Chief has reached the new one, so that the directing of the army is not interrupted. Therefore it is quite out of the question that Ohlendorf could have spoken to me during the march.

[Page 57]

Q. Field-Marshal, how do you explain the fact that the murder of 90,000 Jews could have escaped your attention?

A. These 90,000 Jews who were mentioned were not murdered in my zone of command. As Ohlendorf has stated, his zone reached from Schalowitz, that is, from the Carpathians to Rostov; that is approximately 1,200 kilometres, and it stretches probably from 300 to 400 kilometres across. In this huge zone, not only the 11th Army was operating but also the First Armoured Army, and the Third and the Fourth Rumanian Armies; that is to say, four armies, and these 90,000 persons who are supposed to have been murdered in the course of a year are therefore distributed over a large area, an area of which only a small portion was occupied by the 11th Army in the Crimea.

Q. But could you have helped hearing about it if in the Crimea, for instance, several hundred Jews were murdered?

A. No, not necessarily. In that year I occupied, I think, twelve or thirteen different battle H.Q.s, always in the fighting zone. When I was at my headquarters at Smalus - it was a small village about twenty kilometres from the capital - only tactical reports reached me and not more than once or twice a week - or it may have been three or four times - the quartermaster and the army doctor and other people like that came to see me in order to report to me on essential matters. One must also consider that the situation for us was such that a Commander-in-Chief was completely occupied by the worries of the battle and that, quite rightly, only the essential points of other matters were reported to him. Point two is that our troops almost down to the last man, in the Crimea particularly, were being used in the battle at the front, even our clerks sometimes had to be sent into battle. The entire rear area was more or less devoid of troops and only the most important supply points were manned; everything that happened outside these few points never reached the ears of the military agencies.

Q. Did you never receive a report on the shooting of Jews?

A. I did not receive a report on the shooting of Jews. I once heard a rumour of it.

Q. And what was the rumour?

A. When I took over the army, which, as I said, was on the day I left Nikolajev for my battle H.Q., it was said, without details being given, that earlier, before my time, the SS had allegedly shot and killed a few Jews, I believe it was in Bessarabia. That was a rumour about one individual case. As I was leaving the following morning, I gave orders to my orderly officer that the leader of the SS was to he told that in the area where I was Commander-in-Chief, I would not tolerate any such beastliness, and since it was only a rumour and an order of mine to investigate the truth of the matter did not produce any witnesses who had seen it, the affair was in fact over. I immediately entered into the heaviest fighting, and after that I received no further reports about the shooting of Jews.

Q. But the witness Ohlendorf talked about the shooting of Jews, in which the armed forces were supposed to have participated. Your, headquarters was at Simferopol, was it not?

A. No. Only the Chief Quartermaster Department was in Simferopol. I myself was with the Command Department about 20 kilometres away from Simferopol. That a unit of my army could have participated in the shooting of Jews, I consider quite out of the question. Ohlendorf, moreover, also spoke of army followers, that is, police or OT (Ordnungstruppen), or whatever it may have been. If a unit or officer of my army had participated in anything like that, it would have meant his end.

Q. The army was supposed to have received watches from the SD, which were taken from Jews who had been murdered?

A. That I do not know. An army quartermaster officer visited me once and reported that he had obtained a large number of watches for the army from

[Page 58]

Germany. He also showed me a watch which was fresh from the factory, a German watch.

Q. What was the chain of command for Einsatzgruppen?

A. In the chain of command, particularly the military one, one must differentiate between the practical subordination which is the chain of command for the fighting at the front, and the economic subordination, that is, the chain of command f or the purpose of supplies, food, motor fuel and billets. Thirdly, subordination for military services, that is, from the point of view of training, equipment, personal questions of a disciplinary and legal nature. In no case was the last-mentioned military service subordination ever granted to us, not even for the units of the Waffen SS. Economically and tactically, that is for the actual fighting, such subordination was possible. Economically, that is, from the point of view of marches, accommodation and supplies, the SD was subordinate to us. The factual subordination of which the witness Schellenberg once spoke did not exist at all. It only existed in the case of medical officers; for instance, where a doctor of a lower rank came professionally under the jurisdiction of the Division Doctor. But we had no jurisdiction as regards police work and there was no question of the SD being subordinate to us in its police tasks. As far as the chain of command for troops on the march and supplies was concerned, they were matters which the Chief Quartermaster dealt with. A Commander-in-Chief is never bothered with very small units on the march.

Q. Ohlendorf has mentioned an order from the Army Command, according to which the shooting of Jews was to take place only at 2 1/2, or according to his other testimony, 200 kilometres from the Army Headquarters. Is that correct?

A. No, and such an order would be complete nonsense. What would be the sense of a distance of 2 1/2 kilometres from the Army Headquarters? And 200 kilometres would be outside the operational zone. We had no right to give orders there. Such an order was certainly not given by my office - at least, I never gave it.

Q. Did you co-operate with the Einsatzgruppen when you were with the Armoured Group "Hoeppner"?

A. I was Commanding General of the 1st Armoured Corps of the Armoured Group "Hoeppner." I do not remember ever having seen the SD there. During the first months of the Russian campaign I was sometimes loo kilometres from the front with the Armoured Corps. Between myself and the German infantry armies which followed there were the retreating Russian armies. In a case like that, where the Russians were following us so closely, it is completely out of the question that the SD would undertake the shooting of Jews in my sector. They would never have risked doing that. And as I have said, when I came to the front I saw no SD people.

Q. Did you know Colonel-General Hoeppner?

A. Yes, of course.

Q. What was his attitude in regard to such deeds of violence?

A. Hoeppner was a decent, straightforward and honest soldier. I consider t absolutely out of the question that he could have co-operated in such matters. Apart from that, his death following the 20th July shows he was not on the side of these people.

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