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 26, 1946

Two Hundred and Eleventh Day: Monday, 26th August, 1946
(Part 1 of 12)

[Page 86]

COLONEL POKROVSKY: Mr. President, would you allow me to inform the Tribunal that, in conformity with the ruling given by the Tribunal during the morning session of 12th August, 1946, concerning the witness Schreiber, this witness has been brought to Nuremberg and is here and can be examined today or at any other time as the Tribunal may decide.

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Pokrovsky, could he be examined now, at once?

COLONEL POKROVSKY: He could be examined at once, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: I think that would be the most convenient, before we go on with the organizations' speeches.

COLONEL POKROVSKY: Very well, Mr. President, General Alexandrov will therefore examine him at once.

DR. LATERNSER (counsel for the General Staff and High Command): Mr. President, I object to the examination of this witness for the following reasons: for the trial of the organizations it was decided by the Court that all witnesses should first be examined before the Commission. What is valid for the defence must, according to general legal principles, be valid for the prosecution as well. For these reasons the examination of this witness is inadmissible.

THE PRESIDENT: I have before me the order of the Court of 12th August 1946, which is termed as follows:

"With reference to the objection of Dr. Laternser to the use of the statement made by Major-General Walter Schreiber, the Tribunal is not inclined to admit any evidence so late as this, or to reopen questions which have been gone into fully before the Tribunal; but on the other hand, in view of the importance of the statement of Major-General Schreiber and its particular relevance, not only to the case of certain of the individual defendants but also to the case of the High Command, the Tribunal will allow General Schreiber to be heard as a witness if he is produced before the end of the hearing of the case. Otherwise no use can be made of this statement."
Dr. Laternser's present objection is, therefore, overruled.

WALTER SCHREIBER, a witness, took the stand and testified as follows:


Q. Will you state your full name, please?

A. Walter Schreiber.

Q. Will you repeat this oath after me:

I swear by God, the Almighty and Omniscient, that I will speak the pure truth and will withhold and add nothing.

(The witness repeated the oath.)

THE PRESIDENT: You may sit down.


Q. Witness, will you kindly give the Tribunal some brief particulars about yourself, about your career and about your scientific and educational activities?

[Page 87]

A. I am 53 years of age. I was born in Berlin and am a professor of medicine. I studied medicine at the universities of Berlin, Tuebingen, and Greifswald. I passed the State medical examination at Greifswald in 1920. I received my degree and was made a doctor of medicine.

In 1940 I became teacher of Hygiene and Bacteriology at the University of Berlin; in 1942 professor at the Military Medical Academy. I have been an active military doctor since 1921. I have held various positions as a garrison doctor, and have been a division doctor since 1929, but only did scientific work as a hygienist and bacteriologist.

I carried out my work as a scientist and a professor at the universities of Berlin and Freiburg in Breisgau. After 1929 1 was first in Freiburg, later hygienist at the district H.Q. of the German armed forces (Wehrkreiskommando) in Berlin, and finally during the Second World War hygienist and bacteriologist at the headquarters of the High Command of the Army. I then became section chief in the High Command of the Army and was in charge of the science and health departments in the Army Medical Inspectorate and lastly head of the Scientific Department (Lehrgruppe C) of the Military Medical Academy. In this capacity I was in charge of the scientific institutes of the academy in Berlin.

Q. What was the last military rank you held, and what position did you occupy in the German Army?

A. I was Generalarzt, that is major-general in the medical service. My last position was that of doctor in charge of the military and civilian sectors of Berlin, but only from 20th to 30th April, 1945.

Q. When and in what circumstances were you taken prisoner by the Soviet Army?

A. On 30th April, I was in the large hospital in the air- raid shelter of the Reichstag building in Berlin. Since most of the city of Berlin was already in the hands of the Russian troops, there was no more supervisory work for me to do. I therefore opened a large military hospital there and took care of several hundred wounded.

Q. You are now going to be shown your statement of 10th April, 1946, which was addressed by you to the Soviet Government.

(A document was handed to the witness.)


Q. Do you remember that statement?

A. Yes; that is a report -

THE PRESIDENT: Wait a minute.

General Alexandrov, the Tribunal would prefer that you should get the evidence orally and not by a document. Therefore, if you question him upon the subjects which are contained in it -

GENERAL ALEXANDROV: Mr. President, that is what -

THE PRESIDENT (interposing): Wait a moment.

GENERAL ALEXANDROV (continuing): That is what I was going to do.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, General, the Tribunal would prefer that you get the evidence from the witness and do not use the document. Go on.

GENERAL ALEXANDROV: That is what I intend to do, Mr. President, but I wish to have the witness tell us about a few circumstances in connection with this document.


GENERAL ALEXANDROV: The substance will be obtained orally from the witness.

[Page 88]


Q. Do you confirm the facts set forth in that statement?

A. Yes, I confirm them.

Q. What was the reason for your making the statement to the Soviet Government?

A. In the Second World War things occurred on the German side which were against the unchangeable laws of medical ethics. In the interests of the German people, of medical science in Germany, and the training of the younger generation of doctors in the future, I consider it necessary that these things should be thoroughly examined. The matters in question are the preparations for bacteriological warfare leading to epidemics, and experiments on human beings.

Q. Why did you make this statement only on 10th April, 1946, and not before that date?

A. I had to wait and see whether this Court itself might not raise the question of bacteriological warfare. When this did not occur I decided in April to make this statement.

Q. Did you, though a prisoner of war, have the opportunity of following the trial at Nuremberg?

A. Yes, in the prison camp German newspapers were available in the club room. In addition, there was the Prisoner-of-War News, printed in Soviet Russia, which reported regularly on the trial.

Q. Witness, will you kindly tell us what you know about the preparations by the German High Command for bacteriological warfare?

A. In July, 1943, the High Command of the Wehrmacht called a secret conference in which I took part as representative of the Army Medical Inspectorate. This conference took place in the rooms of the General Wehrmacht Office in Berlin in Bendlerstrasse, and was presided over by the chief of staff of the General Wehrmacht Office, a colonel. I do not remember the name of this colonel. The colonel said, by way of introduction, that as a result of the war situation the High Command authorities now had to take a different view of the question of the use of bacteria as a weapon in warfare from the one held up till now by the Army Medical Inspectorate. Consequently, the Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler, had entrusted Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering to direct the carrying out of all preparations for bacteriological warfare, and had given him the necessary powers.

A bacteriological warfare group was formed at this meeting. The members of this group were essentially the same gentlemen who had been taking part in the conference, that is, Ministerial Director Professor Schumann of the science section of the Army Armaments office, Ministerial Councilor Stantin of the Army Armaments Office, Weapons Examination Section; Veterinary General Professor Richter, as representative of the Veterinary Inspectorate; and another younger veterinary officer of the Army Veterinary Inspectorate; and from the Army Medical Inspectorate, Chief Medical Officer (Oberstabsarzt) Professor Klieve, the latter only as an observer, however.

In addition, there was a staff officer of the Luftwaffe as representative of the High Command of the Luftwaffe, a staff officer of the Armaments Office as its representative and a well-known zoologist and a botanist. But I do not know the names of these gentlemen.

At a secret conference it was decided that an institute should be created for the production of bacterial cultures on a large scale, and the carrying out of scientific experiments to examine the possibilities of the employment of bacteria. The institute was also to be used for experimenting with pests which could be used against animals and plants, and which were to be made available if they were found practicable. That is the substance of what was discussed at the conference in July, 1943.

Q. And what was done after that? Do you know?

[Page 89]

A. A few days later, I learned from the Chief of Staff of the Army Medical Inspectorate, Generalarzt Schmidtbrucken, who was my direct superior, that Reichsmarschall Goering had appointed the Deputy Chief of the Reich Physicians' League (Reichsarztefurhrer) Blome to carry out the work, and had told him to found the institute as quickly as possible in or near Posen. Among the people who worked at this institute in Posen were Ministerialdirektor Schuhmann, Ministerial Councilor Stantin, and a number of other doctors and scientists whom I do not know. I myself made a report of this secret conference on the same day to the Chief of Staff, and a few days later to the Army Medical Inspector- Generaloberstabsarzt Professor Handloser, as he was in Berlin at the time.

Q. And what do you know about the experiments which were being carried out for the purpose of bacteriological warfare?

A. Experiments were carried out at the institute in Posen. I do not know any details about them. I only know that aircraft were used for spraying tests, with bacteria emulsion, and that insects harmful to plants such as beetles were experimented with, but I cannot give any details. I did not make experiments myself and do not know any details.

Q. You testified that the first secret conference devoted to these questions was presided over by a colonel belonging to the General Staff of the OKW. In whose name did he do so?

A. In the name of General Field-Marshal Keitel and the chief of the German Wehrmacht Office, General Reinecke.

Q. Who ordered you to take part in this conference?

A. The Chief of Staff, Generalarzt Schmidtbrucken, commissioned me to attend.

Q. Was the Army High Command informed about it and did they know about the preparations for bacteriological warfare?

A. I assume so, for Generaloberstabsarzt Handloser, the medical chief, to whom I had reported the results of the conference, was, in his capacity as army doctor, that is, as chief medical officer of the Army, directly subordinate to the Chief of the General Staff of the Army and had to report to him about it.

Q. What do you know about the participation of the defendant Jodl in the carrying out of these measures?

A. I know nothing about any co-operation by Colonel-General Jodl.

Q. Will you kindly tell us precisely what the reason was for the decision of the OKW to prepare for bacteriological warfare?

A. That was implied by the words of the president of the secret conference. The defeat at Stalingrad which, in contrast to the fighting around Moscow in the winter of 1941 to 1942, was a severe blow for Germany, inevitably led to a re-assessment of the situation, and consequently to new decisions. It was no doubt considered whether new weapons could be used which would still turn the tide of war in our favour.

Q. How do you explain that the German High Command did not put into effect these plans for the waging of bacteriological warfare?

A. The High Command probably did not carry out the plans for the following reasons: In March, 1945, I was visited by Professor Blome at my office at the Military Medical Academy. He had come from Posen and was very excited. He asked me whether I could accommodate him and his men in the laboratories at Sachsenburg so that they could continue their work there; he had been forced out of his institute at Posen by the advance of the Red Army. He had had to flee from the institute and he had not even been able to blow it up. He was very worried at the fact that the installations for experiments on human beings at this institute, the purpose of which was obvious, might be easily recognized by the Russians for what they were. He had tried to have the institute destroyed by a Stuka bomb but that, too, was not possible. Therefore, he asked me to see to it

[Page 90]

that he be permitted to continue work at Sachsenburg on his plague cultures, which he had saved. I told Herr Blome that Sachsenburg was no longer under my command and, for that reason, I could not give him my consent, and I referred him to the chief of the Army Medical Service, Generaloberstabsarzt Handloser. The next day Generaloberstabsarzt Handloser called me up and said that Blome had come to him and that he had an order from the Commander of the Reserve Army, Heinrich Himmler, and that on the strength of this order he was unfortunately compelled to give Blome a place in which to work at Sachsenburg. I took note of this but I had nothing more to do with it. Thus Blome had had to leave the Posen institute. It is difficult to imagine what the work of such an institute entails. If one wants to cultivate plague bacteria on a large scale, one must have an adequate laboratory with appropriate precautionary measures. The personnel must be trained, for a German, even an expert bacteriologist, has no experience with plague cultures. That takes time, and after its founding had been decreed there was a considerable lapse of time before the institute at Posen began work. Now it had suffered a severe blow; it was to carry on at Sachsenburg. During his visit Blome told me that he could continue his work at an alternative laboratory in Thuringia, but that this was not yet completed. It would take a few days or even a few weeks to complete it, and he had to have rooms until then. He added that if the plague bacteria were to be used when the military operations were so near to the borders of Germany, when units of the Red Army were already on German soil, it would, of course, be necessary to provide special protection for the troops and the civilian population. A serum had to be produced. Here again time had been lost, and as a result of all these delays it had never been possible to put the idea into effect.

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