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 3 of 6)

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

[Page 58]

Q. Was there any tactical collaboration with the Einsatzgruppen on the part of the 11th Army?

A. Yes. The SS, SD, or the police provided us, as far as I remember, with a number of auxiliaries. In the Jaila Mountains of the Crimea there were at that time small inaccessible parts of the mountains where there were partisans. We could not get at them because we had no mountain troops. All we could do was to try to starve out these bands by preventing them from raiding Tartar villages and maintaining their food supplies. For that reason we armed the

[Page 59]

Tartars, in order to discover if these villages were reliable in our sense, and the SD assisted us.

THE PRESIDENT: This is going into the matter in great detail. Has it not been gone into in his evidence before the Commission? Cannot you shorten it?

DR. LATERNSER: Yes, Mr. President. This brings me to my last question and, as far as I can recollect, that question was not put when the witness was before the Commission.


A. Also they worked with us to discover the food storage bases of the partisans. We had to do this because no German forces were available, only Roumanian mountain troops who were solely occupied with these tasks.

Q. Did it ever happen that sections of the SS, SD or Einsatzgruppen participated in this partisan fighting and then were decorated for their work.

A. That is quite possible. But then these were decorations for action in a battle, not for the killing of Jews.

Q. Now, let us come to another point. The armed forces have also been accused of looting in the occupied territories?

A. We had the strictest orders in the Army against looting, and rigorous action was taken against looters. No separate individual was allowed to requisition, only troop units and then only what the unit needed for the feeding of the troops within the ration allotments. In 1943 we co-operated in bringing back goods which were especially needed by us for carrying on the war. But by an express order of mine that was limited in the Ukraine to grain, oilseeds, some small quantity of metal and a small number of cattle which could be driven along with us. However, all this was not looting private property; it was a State requisitioning of State property.

Q. Were factories dismantled by the armed forces?

A. The dismantling of factories, if it took place, was done on orders from the Economic Staff East, because the exploitation of industry in the occupied territories, even in the operational area, did not come under the command of the armies, but under the Economic Staff East.

Q. To what extent were the military leaders concerned with the deportation of workers?

A. We merely had instructions to support the requisitioning of labour by the Reich Plenipotentiary. We ourselves resisted having to give up labour because we needed it ourselves for agriculture in the occupied territories. When, during conversations with Sauckel, I told him that methods of coercion would make the population hostile, he said that he himself was against the use of force. I received a report that people had allegedly been rounded up by force in the Reich Commissariat. When I made inquiries, Reich Commissar Koch told me that it was not true, that he had heard these rumours himself and had looked into the matter and found that it was all lies. I had no evidence to counter this. At any rate we limited ourselves to recruiting, and moreover, the Reich Plenipotentiary presented a regulation to me according to which foreign workers in Germany were to be treated and fed in the same way as German workers.

Q. You mentioned Sauckel and Kock in this connection. Were these separate conversations or were they both held together?

A. No, in my opinion they were different conferences. Koch once visited me with Rosenberg, and on that occasion I mentioned that I had heard of these methods of force. He denied it, but Sauckel was not present.

Q. And then on another occasion Sauckel visited you alone?

A. Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: The conversation that occurred with Rosenberg, when did it occur?

[Page 60]

THE WITNESS: That I cannot remember exactly.

THE PRESIDENT: Not the exact date; approximately?

THE WITNESS: That was in 1943. Rosenberg and Koch came to visit me. It must have been, I should think, in September or October, but try as I may I cannot give the exact date. It may have been earlier.

DR. LATERNSER: Field-Marshal, why did you, as a high military leader, tolerate all these violations of International Law and laws of humanity?

A. In my province, in my military province, I did not tolerate such things, and whatever happened in the ideological struggle outside of my sphere we did not get to know about. It was taking place outside our sphere of influence and knowledge, and we had neither the power nor the right to prevent it, apart from the fact that we never knew of all the abominations which have since been disclosed.

Q. Did you believe that the duty to obey in the Army means co-operation in everything?

A. The military duty to obey is without doubt binding. The right or the duty to disobey I would say does not exist for the soldier. In addition, there is a moral duty which would come in, for instance, in such cases as the execution of Jews. But we knew nothing about that.

Q. In the case of the Commissar Order, if all the Commanders- in-Chief had refused, would it not have caused Hitler to amend it?

A. He would certainly not have done that. On the contrary, it would perhaps have been a desirable opportunity for him and the others to remove us. Apart from that, an open refusal to obey in order to coerce a dictator is an entirely useless method. Under a dictatorship, a dictator cannot permit himself to be forced, because the moment he gives in to such force, his dictatorship ends.

Q. Was it not possible to make him depart from his decisions by counter-propositions?

A. As regards basic political decisions, decisions for war, etc.; it certainly was not. He announced his decisions in speeches or by means of orders, and no discussion and no protest was possible.

THE PRESIDENT: The witness has been over this subject already.

Q. Did you have any military influence on Hitler?

A. In questions of purely military leadership, he listened to me in certain respects. Indeed, on this question I had constant arguments with him. My written suggestions to him or to the Chief of General Staff for submission to Hitler would fill a large volume. In decisive matters of purely operational leadership I probably succeeded, generally speaking, in carrying my point. In other cases, as soon as we left the subject of military command, he cut short any discussion. On three occasions, however, I tried, in personal talks with him; to get him to alter the supreme military command, that is, in plain German, to surrender the supreme command, if not in name, at least in fact.

THE PRESIDENT: What have we got to do with this? What have we got to do with these matters which are matters of strategy? The High Command is not being accused of anything in connection with strategy.


Q. Do you know, Field-Marshal, whether other military leaders too had differences with Hitler?

A. These differences were, no doubt, very numerous. That becomes apparent from the following facts alone.

Of 17 Field-Marshals who were members of the Army, 10 were sent home during the war and three lost their lives as a result of the 20th July. Only one Field-Marshal managed to get through the war and keep his position as Field-Marshal.

[Page 61]

Of 36 Colonel-Generals, 18 were sent home and five died as a result of the 20th July or were dishonourably discharged. Only three Colonel-Generals survived the war in their positions.

Q. Out of 36?

A. Yes, out of 36. I believe there is no profession which can show so many victims of conviction, for all these leaders were highly qualified officers, militarily speaking. They could not have been sent away because they were incapable. They were sent away because Hitler distrusted them and also because he did not think they were harsh enough in operational strategy.

Q. Did the circle of men concerned with the 20th July get in touch with you? The witness, Gisevius, has said something about that.

A. I did not come to know of that. I once received a letter from Colonel-General Beck. It was in the winter of 1942, and he discussed the strategical situation on the basis of the experience at Stalingrad. He said that it was hardly likely that the war would come to a good end. I replied to him that I could not contradict his statement but that one defeat was no reason to consider the war lost, and that a war was only lost if you yourself considered it lost. I went on to say that I had so many worries on my front that I could not begin a lengthy discussion about these matters.

Now, afterwards, it has become clear to me that several other attempts to make contact were made in order to find out my attitude. On one occasion General von Jahrsdorff visited me and, as he told me afterwards, he had letters on him from Goerdeler, I believe, and Popitz, which he was supposed to show to me if he gained the impression that I could be enlisted for a coup d'etat. As it was always my point of view, however, that the removal or the assassination of Hitler during the war would lead to chaos, he never showed me these letters. That these were supposed to be attempts to make contact with me is something which only became clear afterwards. I had never; therefore, made a promise to anyone to participate in such affairs.

Q. Did you receive any personal gifts?

A. No, I did not.

Q. When and for what reason were you relieved of your post?

A. I was relieved of my post at the end of March, 1944. The reason given to me by Hitler was that large-scale operations for which he needed me could no longer be carried out and that it was merely a question now of holding out stubbornly and that a new man would have to be put in my place. I never believed that this was the true reason. The true reason was without doubt that he distrusted me too. After all, he was the revolutionary and I was the old Prussian officer. Then, too, as the Chief of the General Staff, General Breitler told me at the time there was a continuous campaign of hatred against me on the part of Himmler, and all manner of statements were made, namely, that a Christian like myself could not be faithful; and it is certain too that other elements joined in this campaign.

Q. I shall now come to my last question, Field-Marshal. What can you say to the accusation by the prosecution that the military leadership was criminal?

A. I have been a soldier for forty years. I come from a family of soldiers and I have grown up with military conceptions.

The example from amongst my nearest relatives which I had before me was the old Hindenburg. We young officers naturally considered the glory of war as something great, and I do not wish to deny that I was proud that during this war an army was entrusted to me. But our ideal, and that applies to my comrades too, did not lie in the conducting of war but in the education of our youth to be honourable citizens and decent soldiers. Under our orders that youth of ours a went to death by the million.

[Page 62]

And if I may say something personal: my eldest song died as a lieutenant in the infantry, when he was 19; two of, my sons-in-law, who grew up in my house, died as young officers; my best comrades in this war, my young adjutant and my young chauffeur, were killed. Nearly all the sons of my brothers and sisters were killed. That we, the old soldiers, should have led into war for a criminal purpose that youth of ours which was so dear to us, would far exceed any wickedness of which man could be thought capable: It is possible that a man without a family and without tradition, who is obsessed with fanatical belief in a higher mission, may go beyond the limits of human law, but we, the old soldiers, purely from a human point of view, would not have been able to do so. We could not lead our youth into crime.

DR. LATERNSER: I have no further questions, Mr. President.

(A recess was taken.)

BY DR. GAWLIK (counsel for the SD):

Q. Witness, you have repeatedly mentioned the SD. What is your conception of the SD?

A. What I understand by the SD is an institution within the framework of the SS, which came under Himmler and had special police tasks.

Q. Then if I now tell you that here the Departments III and IV of the RSHA are being indicted under SD, then I ask you, did you understand that those organizations came under SD?

A. The conception of the SD is only known to me as it was probably known to most Germans; that is to say, as some sort of special police. I do not know what departments in the RSHA belonged to it, because the organization and tasks of the RSHA are unknown to me.

Q. Then as a former Commander-in-Chief you do not know either which departments in the RSHA dealt with police tasks?

A. No, I have no idea of that, nor did it ever interest me.

Q. Can you answer the question with yes or no whether by SD you meant Departments III and IV?

A. No.

Q. Your defence counsel and you yourself have talked here about the Einsatzgruppen of the SD. Was that designation correct, or what were these Einsatzgruppen called?

A. The name Einsatzgruppen was made clear to me only here. Previously, during the time I was a Commander-in-Chief, I only knew that Higher SS and Police Leaders existed, and that sections of the SD had been given the special task of keeping a watch on the population. Let me say, therefore, that the conception of the Einsatzgruppen as it has been explained here, only became perfectly clear to me here.

Q. But as a former Commander-in-Chief you must have known the correct designation of these Einsatzgruppen.

A. It may be that I already knew the name Einsatzgruppen. But I never thought of it as anything special: I merely considered it to be a part of the SD, which was under Himmler, and which had been given special tasks.

Q. Did you not know that these Einsatzgruppen were called Einsatzgruppen A, B, C, and D?

A. No. I had never heard of Einsatzgruppen A, B, or C, and whether the Einsatzgruppe which worked in my territory was called "D" or not, I cannot say today. It may be or it may not be. I just do not know.

Q. You did not know either what title Ohlendorf had?

A. Ohlendorf? I cannot tell you whether he was an SS Gruppenfuehrer or SS Oberfuehrer.

Q. No. I do not mean that. I mean what title he had as the leader of Einsatzgruppe D.

[Page 63]

A. No, I do not know that even today.

Q. Did you not know that his title was Deputy to the Chief of the Security Police and of the SD with Army Group 3?

A. No, I did not know that, because an Army Group 3 did not exist at the time, as far as I know.

Q. Or that this was his title in the Army?

A. No, I did not know that.

DR. GAWLIK: Thank you.



Q. Witness, did you leave the General Staff of the OKH in February of 1938?

A. May I ask you to repeat the question? I am afraid I did not understand.

Q. Did you leave the General Staff of the OKH in February, 1938?

A. Was I a member of the OKH? Yes, yes.

Q. What was your rank when you left the OKH General Staff in 1938?

A. I was a major-general.

Q. That is the lowest grade of general officers in the German Army, is it not?

A. Yes.

Q. And after you left the General Staff of the OKH, you became a divisional commander?

A. Yes.

[ 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.