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 4 of 6)

[GENERAL TELFORD TAYLOR continues his cross examination of Erich von Mannstein]

[Page 63]

Q. And you were a divisional commander at the time of the occupation of the Sudetenland, were you not?

A. Yes. My position in the service at that time was divisional commander, but when the Sudetenland was occupied I was temporarily chief of the General Staff of that army which marched in from Bavaria.

Q. And you were still a divisional commander when the rest of Czechoslovakia was occupied, were you not?

A. Yes, indeed.

Q. And you were still a divisional commander while the attack upon Poland was being planned?

A. Yes.

Q. Where was your division situated?

A. My division was in Lower Silesia and the Command H.Q. was in Liegnitz.

Q. So that you personally were not very close to the OKH planning from February, 1938, until the outbreak of the war?

A. No; I was in the OKH only up to the Anschluss in Austria, because I had to remain in the OKH for a time in order to hand over the affairs to my successor, General Halder.

Q. Now, you were engaged in the war against the Soviet Union from the very beginning, were you not, m June, 1941?

A. Yes.

Q. And did you take command of the German 11th Army after the death of General von Schubert?

A. Yes.

Q. And that was about the middle of September of 1941?

A. I believe I took over the command on the 21st or the 22nd of September.

Q. And during 1941 and the first part of 1942 the 11th Army which you commanded was fighting at the extreme southern end of the front, was it not?

A. Yes.

Q. That is in the region north of the Black Sea?

A. Yes.

Q. And the 11th Army had captured Nikolajev just before you took command?

[Page 64]

A. Yes.

Q. And your headquarters, when, you took command, were at Nikolajev

A. Yes.

Q. Now, is it true that you have just been testifying that Hitler had some very particular ideas concerning the methods by which warfare on the Eastern Front should be carried?

A. Yes.

Q. Hitler thought that the occupied Russian territories could best be subdued and pacified by the widespread use of terror, did he not?

A. At the time, that was by no means clear to me. It was only during the trial that I learned that.

Q. Did you not receive an order from the OKW that terroristic means were to be used to keep order in the occupied territories?

A. No, I could not, in my opinion, receive any order from the OKW for my army. And I have no recollection of an order to use terroristic methods, either.

Q. An order issued by the OKW could reach you through proper channels through the OKH, could it not?

A. Yes.

Q. Will you please look at the document which is being handed to you?

GENERAL TELFORD TAYLOR: Your Lordship, that will be 459-PS, and the USA number will be 926.


Q. You will see from the heading on the document that it was issued by the OKW on 23rd July, 1941.

A. Yes. But that, in my opinion, is a decision of the OKW, because the heading says, "The Chief of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces." That is the OKW.

Q. Yes, that I stated. This is a document issued by the OKW.

DR. LATERNSER: I beg to apologise, but I shall have to interrupt here. I ask that a German copy be submitted to the witness. I gathered from his reply that he is quoting the English text.

GENERAL TELFORD TAYLOR: The witness has a German copy, I am told.

THE PRESIDENT: Have you got a German copy?

THE WITNESS: Yes. A German copy is underneath.


Q. I would like to read this document to you - and ask you a question about it.

"On 22nd July the Fuehrer, after receiving the C.-in-C. of the Army, issued the following orders with a view to supplementing and enlarging Directive No. 33."
And now, witness, will you turn to paragraph 6, please, the last paragraph, paragraph 6? Have you found it?

A. Yes.

Q. "In view of the vast size of the conquered territories in the East, the forces available for establishing security in these areas will be sufficient only if instead of punishing resistance by sentencing the guilty in a court of law the occupying forces spread such terror as is likely, by its mere existence, to crush every will to resist amongst the population.

The respective commanders, together with available troops, should be made responsible for maintaining peace within their areas. The commanders must find the means of keeping order within their areas, not by demanding more security forces but by applying suitable, drastic measures."

Signed by the defendant Keitel.

Did such an order never reach you, witness?

[Page 65]

A. I cannot remember the order. After all, it was issued long before I became Commander-in-Chief and naturally not every order that was issued before I became commander was submitted to me. At any rate, I cannot recollect it.

Q. At the time this order was issued, you were a corps commander, were you not?

A. Yes.

Q. Is it not plain on the face of this order that it could only be carried out by wide distribution to troops and the leaders of all the formations?

A. No, not necessarily. After all, the order contains directives for the South-Eastern Front, the Centre-Eastern Front, the North-Eastern Front, the Navy, and Air Force, and also for security in the rear areas of the conquered territory. At that time I was a long way from the front with my Panzer Corps; actually, in July I was west of the Ilmensee, where I was cut off and surrounded for a time. It is quite impossible that an order would be sent to me concerning the entire front; if it was done at all then I would have received only an extract referring to my area. But here the orders under Figure 6 are concerned with the security of the rear areas, and the armoured corps which was ahead of the front line of the infantry army had nothing to do with these matters.

Q. The order plainly is meant to apply generally over the entire front, is it not?

A. Yes, No. 6 naturally applies to the entire front. But an armoured corps. which is ahead of the front and which is continuously engaged in battle with enemy forces has nothing to do with these measures; and even if the order had been dispatched to me, it is not by any means certain that it would have reached me. As a matter of fact I remember now that in July when I was cut off, a very considerable portion of our baggage-train from headquarters, including very important documents, fell into enemy hands. Therefore, try as I may, I cannot remember having received this order. In fact, I do not believe it was dispatched to the corps at all.

Q. If an army commander received this order, he could only carry it out by distributing it down to his lower formations; is that not right? That is the only way he could carry it out?

A. He did not necessarily have to distribute it, because Figure 6 mentioned conquered territories, that is to say, rear areas; and the armoured group which I came under and which had only two armoured corps in the lines nearest to the front would not necessarily need to transmit this order to the corps because the group itself had to secure its small rear area without the two corps and, in fact, it did so.

Q. So, assuming you were cut off at the time and never got this order when it was issued, did not any of your fellow generals in the other areas trained in the Prussian military tradition ever speak to you about this order and indicate they had received it?

A. Not one of them discussed the order with me. Only very rarely can a Commander-in-Chief talk to other Commanders-in- Chief. Whether they received the order, that I really could not tell you.

Q. We will pass from that document. Now, Hitler regarded the war on the Eastern Front as ideological war and race conquest, did he not?

A. Yes, yes.

Q. And he wanted not only to conquer the Soviet Army but also to wipe out the Soviet political system and he wanted to set up a new political system in the areas which the Army had captured, is that not true?

A. I do not understand what you mean by "a new system." What are you referring to?

Q. A political system of political administration.

A. Naturally, the occupied territories must have some sort of an administration.

[Page 66]

Q. He wanted an administration which would be very different from the type of administration under the Soviet Government, did he not?

A. Yes, since the National Socialist system was different from the Soviet system in certain respects, it was necessary for him to attempt to establish the administration accordingly.

Q. Now, in order to set up a new political administration, an administration that would operate peaceably so that the territory could be exploited, Hitler was very anxious to stamp out those parts of the population - those elements in the population - who would oppose his aims, was he not?

A. I do not know whether that was clear from the start. At any rate, he never told the military leaders of the plan.

Q. In order to help in carrying out these plans, did not the OKW issue several orders to the commanding generals that were quite extraordinary? I refer among other things to the Commissar Order that you have mentioned.

A. The Commissar Order, after all, only affected the removal of those Soviet elements who, shall we say, were supposed to carry the war beyond the military into the ideological sphere and to urge their troops to fight to the death. That has nothing to do with the extermination of portions of the population; at most, it was the removal of a certain class of followers of the enemy armed forces whom he considered to be more politicians than soldiers.

Q. I refer also to Hitler's well-known order of 13th May, 1947, which restricted the use of courts-martial in cases where German soldiers had committed crimes against the civilian population. Was not that part of this same plan?

A. Certainly, if such a plan of his did exist, then it was part of his plan. But we did not follow that plan: As I said, when we received this order from the Commander-in- Chief of the Army, we employed our legal system in order to punish the excesses in the interest of discipline. I have already mentioned to you the example of the two death sentences in my corps.

Q. Well, in fact, witness, were these views of Hitler and the purposes of these orders very well known to you and the other commanding generals on the Eastern Front?

A. No, we did not know that this order had a further purpose, for instance, the purpose of exterminating people. In fact, that thought never struck us at the time.

Q. Well, now, what elements in the Russian population did the Germans think would be most likely to oppose their economic and political aims in occupied territory?

A. I did not worry about that at the time as I had nothing to do with the economic plans in the occupied territories, nor with the political plan from which we were excluded. I can only say that we soldiers had the one thought of keeping the population in occupied territories quiet by treating them reasonably, and our considerations did not go beyond that.

Q. Whether you worried about it or not, did you not know who Hitler and the other political leaders thought were the elements in the Soviet population most likely to be obstructive? I am asking you, did you not know?

A. Naturally, he considered the political commissars to be harmful and to be our enemies; and that was expressed by him in the Commissar Order. Apart from the Commissar Order, I do not know to what extent he thought of annihilating such elements; he did not tell us that, nor did we receive an order to that effect.

Q. Did he not also think the Jews should be exterminated for exactly the same reasons?

A. That may be; but never once did he discuss the question of the Jews with me.

Q. You did not know anything about that?

A. No, I knew nothing of the plan of extermination.

[Page 67]

Q. I would like to ask you a few more questions about the Einsatzgruppen and Einsatzkommandos. Are you telling the Tribunal that you did not know that one of the most important missions of those units was to assist in exterminating the Commissars and the Jews in accordance with these policies?

A. No, I did not know that.

Q. Was there an Einsatzgruppe attached to your army, the 11th Army?

A. Yes. As Ohlendorf has testified, this Einsatzgruppe was active in the area of my army.

Q. I think you told us earlier that the Einsatzgruppe was entirely under the orders of Himmler for operational purposes. I think you also told us that Himmler was a bitter enemy of the Army. What did you do when you learned there was an Einsatzgruppe attached to the army? What were you told about it?

A. At that time it was reported to me - I do not even know if the name "Einsatzgruppe" was mentioned - that organs of the SS were to investigate the population in the operation zone from a political point of view and that they had received orders for that from Himmler. I could not do anything against that because I could not possibly assume that these units of the SS were given criminal tasks.

Q. Is the Commander-in-Chief pleased to have an independent unit operating in his area which he cannot order around? Is that customary? Do you like it?

A. No, of course, one does not like it, but then there were numerous other independent units. I should like to mention that the Air Force did not come under our command in any way. When we were fighting together we had to make arrangements with them. We could not give them any orders. The same applied to the Organization Todt and the organization of the Economic Staff East, and to the police. In short, we were confined to the actual military leadership, and in the last analysis that is the best thing for a soldier because, according to popular judgement, he knows very little about other matters.

Q. Did it not even arouse your curiosity to have an independent unit under Himmler's orders operating in your area? Did it not stimulate you to find out what it was doing?

A. The task of investigating the population for their political reliability was reported to me. I have already said that I was at Army Headquarters only for two or three days after which I went to the front. I might say that the actual fighting made such demands on me during the entire winter when I was a commander that there was no room for curiosity about things of which I could have no idea.

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