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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
August 23, 1946

Two Hundred and Tenth Day: Friday, 23rd August, 1946
(Part 6 of 10)

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That the Gestapo was unjustly accused of many crimes may be shown by a few examples. One of the most disgraceful individual crimes during the war was the murder of the French General de Boisse at the end of 1944 or the beginning of 1945. The French prosecution charges it to the Gestapo on the basis of Documents 4048 to 4052-PS. According to 4050-PS, however, Panzinger, who was entrusted with the execution of the plan, was at the time head of Amt V, of the RSHA, that is head of the Reich Criminal Police Office. Schulze, who is mentioned in 4052-PS, also belonged to the Reich Criminal Police Office. Document 4048-PS, according to the file note V, was also drawn up by the Reich Criminal Police Office as Amt V of the RSHA. Amt IV of the RHSA - Gestapo Office - was thus not involved, but only the Reich Criminal Police Office which included the section charged with searching for prisoners of war. Himmler, who

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as Chief of the Replacement Army was also in charge of the prisoner-of-war system, contacted Panzinger directly in this matter; Amt IV did not have knowledge of this occurrence at any stage. Whether Kaltenbrunner knew anything, he must make clear.

These facts are proved by the Gestapo Affidavit 88.

In the report on the condemnation of participants in German war crimes in the Russian city of Krasnodar (USSR 55), which was submitted by the Russian prosecution, the commission of these terrible crimes is charged against the Gestapo without further proof. In reality, this was the activity of an Einsatzkommando, not of the Gestapo. (See Gestapo Affidavit 45.)

1 would like to refer to the testimony of the witnesses Dr. Knochen and Franz Straub. It proves that in Belgium and France, as everywhere, the Gestapo was frequently unjustly accused of crimes.

Through several witnesses (Dr. Knochen, Straub, Kaltenbrunner) it has been established that frequently, both in the occupied territories and in the home area, swindlers and other shady characters appeared who falsely passed themselves off as Gestapo officials. Himmler himself demanded that such false Gestapo officials should be handed over to the concentration camps. (See Gestapo Exhibit 34 and Gestapo Affidavit 68.)

As indicated, the Supreme Commander of the Security Police, Heydrich, was not entirely without responsibility for the false opinion about the Gestapo. Thus he deliberately furthered the rumour that the Gestapo knew everything politically suspicious because it spied on the population. That this could not be true is proved by the fact that the approximately 15,000 to 16,000 Gestapo officials in question, even if they had watched and spied on the people, would have been far from adequate for this purpose (see statement of Dr. Best).

The crimes which Gestapo members actually committed are not to be excused in any way. But it is equally certain that many things occurred for which the Gestapo officials are not responsible, and that customarily no effort was made to examine and differentiate whether certain deeds or misdeeds were carried out by members of the Gestapo or the Kripo, the SS or the SD, or even by native criminals. If, in the interest of combating crimes, it is judged proper in passing sentence at a trial to establish a form of selection as regards the deed, in the sense that punishment is to be inflicted according to whether the deed comes under this or that penal law, such a selection can never be practised as regards the person of the perpetrator. In other words, it would not be just to ascribe a deed to the Gestapo if the guilt of its members is not absolutely established.

As already stated the Gestapo is no union of persons in the technical sense of the word and probably also not in the sense of the Charter. Its constitution, its aims and tasks and the methods employed by it, cannot fundamentally be designated as 28 criminal. The position of the political police, its special tasks and the measures to be taken by it, of course demanded the form of organization especially adapted to these purposes. In this connection I consider a brief but still comprehensive presentation of the organizational and personnel structure of the Gestapo all the more important since the Tribunal in its decisions of 14th January and 13th March, 1946, showed that it might possibly ascribe decisive importance, to the clarification of this question.

Your Lordship, in order not to tire the Tribunal with the presentation of the organizational structure and the personnel structure, I shall not read the next nine pages, but shall ask the Tribunal to take judicial notice of them.

I draw the special attention of the Tribunal to Pages 20 to 24. They deal with the fundamental difference between administrative and executive officials, the technical personnel, the employees, the emergency service workers, and the groups of persons who were taken over as units into the Gestapo - the Secret Field Police, the Customs Border Guards the Military Counter-Intelligence, and affiliated units.

I now continue on Page 24 at the top.

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The above-mentioned State organism of the Political Police with its character as a branch of the state administration was outside the structure of the NSDAP and its organizations. The Gestapo was not dominated by the Party; on the contrary, its independence within the State and outside the structure of the Party was in particular intended to enable it to combat misdeeds of Party members with governmental measures. If Himmler, as Reichsfuehrer SS, became the chief of the Political Police in all States in 1933, and later in the Reich, then the State police agencies were without influence in that connection. Nothing important changed at first with regard to their activities. The Political Police offices in the German States, when they were reconstituted in 1933, were mostly staffed with officials from the previous police agencies; not even the directing officials were Party members in every case. Even later these officials who had been taken over were not replaced by Party members. Only to a small extent, and only as employees and workmen for technical duties, such as drivers, teleprint operators and office help, were persons from the Party, the SS and the SA taken over.

This independence of the Party and its affiliated organizations appears to be contradicted by the so-called assimilation of the Gestapo into the SS. This assimilation merely meant a nominal affiliation with the SS. The reason for this assimilation was the following:

The system of professional civil servants had been introduced and maintained in the Gestapo. But civil servants were, in part, not particularly respected by the Party because of their political or non-political past. In order to strengthen their authority during the carrying out of their duties, in particular when acting against National Socialists, they were to appear in uniform, as the witness Dr. Best has testified - who has described himself as the "motor" of this assimilation. With this assimilation the Gestapo officials - as, incidentally, also Criminal Police officials who were also to be assimilated - were formally listed among the SD formations of the SS, though they remained solely under the jurisdiction of their own superiors without doing any SS or SD duties. Besides, the assimilation was only carried out slowly and to an inconsiderable degree. At the outbreak of war in 1939 only approximately 3,000 members of the Gestapo out of a total of 20,000 had been assimilated. It is significant that Himmler by no means liked to see members of the Gestapo appearing in public wearing SS uniforms, as becomes evident from Document USA 447.

During the war even non-assimilated persons had to wear the SS uniform on certain assignments, even without being members of the SS. Apart from that the SS did not control the police or exert any type of influence upon its activities; it was only in Himmler's person that there was personal union in the leadership of the two.

With reference to this statement I refer you to the testimony of Dr. Best.

The Gestapo as a whole had nothing to do with the SD, which, as is known, was purely an organization of the Party. Personal union only existed in the person of the chief of the Sipo and the SD (Heydrich, later Kaltenbrunner), which were accidental, however, and did not signify an organizational or function inter-connection. In no case was the SD centralized with the Gestapo in order to form a police system. The SD did not have to support the Gestapo in its tasks; it had no police tasks whatever.

The officials of the Gestapo did not, by any means, consider themselves members of a uniform organization with the SS and the SD. Everyone in any of the three organizations knew that he belonged to an independent institution serving independent purposes.

Although the Gestapo was, therefore, in no way organizationally or, from the point of view of duties, connected with the Party, it was, nevertheless, not altogether detached from the administrative tasks of the State, being a State authority. To the contrary, on every level interconnections existed with the general and interior administration. The higher administrative organizations, the Ministers of the

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Interior of the States, the Presidents (Oberprasidenten) and Government Presidents (Regierungsprasidenten) were entitled to receive reports and issue instructions. Evidence has, indeed, shown that the majority of all State Police actions were carried out by the district and local police organizations and the Gendarmerie. This fact in particular furnishes an indication of how serious and questionable it is to indict the Gestapo as an institution of the State. Because, thinking consistently, the officials of the aforementioned administrative organizations, to the extent that they worked in a State Police capacity, would have to be indicted together with the Gestapo.

If it is impossible for these reasons to speak of a union of persons in the case of the Gestapo, that is of membership in the sense of the Indictment, the requirement of voluntariness was even less fulfilled. Not one of the witnesses examined was able to uphold the prosecutions allegation in any way; on the contrary, all witnesses had to testify that, as a matter of principle, membership of the Gestapo, was generally not on a voluntary basis.

The assignment of officials to the Gestapo took place, to a large extent, in that they were transferred to an agency of the Gestapo from a previous organization. The order for transfer had to be obeyed on the strength of the civil service law. Severe disadvantages in one's profession would without a doubt have been the result of a refusal and very probably the loss of the position held; and had such a refusal been based on the statement that for conscientious reasons the official did not approve of the activities of the Gestapo, then he, as any civil servant in a similar case, would have become subject to disciplinary proceedings or even regular penal proceedings, resulting in the loss of his position and hard-earned privileges and, apart from that, he would even have gone to a concentration camp.

Replacements of civil servants in the Gestapo were regulated in such a way that, in accordance with the police civil service law, 90 per cent were drawn from former regular police officials who wished to become criminal police officials, whereas only 10 per cent could be taken from other professions.

Aspirants from the regular police could not, however, freely decide whether to join the Gestapo or Kripo; they were allotted by the "assignment department of the police," at Potsdam, to the Gestapo or the Kripo, according to requirements and even against their will. Incidentally, we are here concerned with regular police officials with eight to twelve years' service; that is, old police officials who had been in the police service before 1933.

It was almost impossible for an official to break loose from the Gestapo, apart from general reasons such as death, sickness and dismissal because of malfeasance. During war the Gestapo, just like the entire police, was considered as being on active service and was subject to military discipline, so that resignation was totally impossible. It was even prohibited to volunteer for military service at the front.

The same principles of assignment and retirement also applied to the institutions under the jurisdiction of the Gestapo, such as Border Police, Military Counter- Intelligence, and Customs Police, not to forget those drafted to the numerous emergency services during the war who, at times, represented nearly one-half the total personnel strength.

From these statements mostly based on the testimony and affidavits, particularly of the witnesses Best, Knoehen and Hoffmann, the following becomes apparent: The Gestapo consisted of a multitude of State agencies. But in the case of an agency, one cannot speak of members of that agency in the same way as of members of a private organization. For that reason there was no "membership" in the Gestapo, much less a voluntary one; there was only the official position of a civil servant.

The question, also, whether the aim and task of the Gestapo were criminal must be answered in the negative. The aim of the Gestapo - just like that of any political police - was the protection of the people and the State against attacks

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of hostile elements upon its existence and its unhampered development. Accordingly, the task of the Gestapo is defined in Article 1 of the Law of 10th February, 1936 (Gestapo Exhibit 7), as follows. I quote:
"The Secret State Police has the task of investigating all tendencies dangerous to the State and combating them, of collecting and exploiting the result of such investigations, of informing the national government and other authorities of findings important to them, keeping them informed and supplying them with suggestions."
These tasks of the Gestapo had the same character as those of the Political Police before 1933, and as those of any other Political Police forces in foreign countries. What is to be understood by "tendencies hostile to the State" depends upon the respective political structure of a State. A change in the political leadership cannot retroactively render illegal the activities of a political police force which had been directed against other forces regarded as hostile to the State. The activities of the Gestapo had been regulated by legal instructions issued by the State. Its tasks consisted, in the first place and mainly, of the investigation of politically illegal activity in accordance with the general penal code, in which connection the officials of the Gestapo became active as auxiliary officials of the Public Prosecutor's Department, and it further consisted of warding off such activity through preventive measures.

Now, of course, the methods of the Gestapo are made the basis of serious accusations against it in three ways, even held against it as crimes. One method is the protective custody and transfer of persons to concentration camps. I know that when I merely mention that name it radiates the cold breath of the grave. Nevertheless, even the imposition of protective custody was governed by exact regulations. Protective custody, which, by the way, is not a specifically German or specifically National Socialist invention, was recognized as legal in several findings of the Reich Courts, the Prussian Supreme Administrative Court; that is, constitutional courts.

A second method - that of the so-called third degree interrogation - must, to put it mildly, give rise to serious misgivings. On the other hand, this method was only rarely used (see particularly witness Dr. Best), and then only by order from the highest authorities and never to force a confession. This method as well, which we shall consider further in connection with the discussion of the individual crimes, was regulated by law, even during the time of the war (compare Gestapo Exhibit 60).

And, finally, the prosecution accuses the Gestapo particularly of the fact that it was not bound by law but rather that it acted purely arbitrarily. In reply to this I should like to say that if it is established in two laws (dealing with the Anschluss of Austria and the annexation of the Sudetenland) that the Chief of the German Police could take measures going beyond the existing laws, arbitrary police action is not legalized thereby; rather, we are concerned with a typical legal transfer of the authority to establish police law. The measures in the sense of this law did not mean individual action but orders of a general sort which could be issued even if in the annexed countries no law existed as yet in this regard, but which were nevertheless, binding on the population and the executive power of the police, because the necessary authority had been granted by the head of the State.

The principle that no individual action could be carried out arbitrarily, but rather that exact regulations were to exist and be observed in all executive actions, was strictly adhered to. (The witness Dr. Best.)

It never even occurred to Gestapo officials, at least not before the war, that they might be accused by the world of arbitrary actions. The tasks and methods, which were well known and legally limited not only for the members of the Gestapo but for all the world, cannot be considered criminal by the world, a world which not only formally recognized the German Reich Government, which bore the sole

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responsibility in this matter, but a world which repeatedly gave visible evidence of its recognition to the German people.

If foreign countries had objected to the aims pursued by the Gestapo, it would not have been conceivable for numerous foreign police systems to work in close collaboration with the German Gestapo, a collaboration which was not negotiated through diplomatic circles, obviously with the intention of learning from it (compare Gestapo Affidavits 26 and 89). In any event, because of this the individual Gestapo official must have considered his activity internationally recognized.

The aims, tasks and methods of the Gestapo remained basically constant even during the war. In so far as acts other than the ones described were intended for it, they must be evaluated as acts foreign to the police and outside the organization. Later we shall deal particularly with the Einsatzgruppen, their composition, their activity and their relation to the Gestapo.

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