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 8 of 12)

[Page 115]


Through his personal allegiance to Hitler, and through his acceptance of any and every new task, he gained the personal confidence of Hitler and thus continually extended his personal position of power within the Reich. It was peculiar to this Reich that Hitler should have united an almost inestimable number of offices and tasks in one single person who had his confidence. As an example, I refer to Goering. While Goering continued to lose Hitler's confidence, Himmler's power rose like a meteor. But he had gained this position of power for himself alone and without the help of his SS, and quite independently of the fact that he was their Reichsfuehrer. The witnesses Grauert, Reinecke and Pohl have amply testified to this effect.

The SS, formerly so closely connected with Himmler, had indeed, in the course of time, developed quite independently, owing to the great number of the entirely different sections which began to take shape. Unfortunately the briefness of the available time does not permit me to describe here this development in detail, although it is of the greatest importance to the entire defence. But I have added the necessary explanations, always in regard to the furnished proofs, as an annexe to my plea, and I would ask the Tribunal to take note of these arguments in the verdict.

To prove the unity it has asserted, the prosecution says that the General SS was the basis upon which all the other organizations had been established. The mere fact that almost a million men have at one time been in the Waffen SS, whereas the General SS had only counted 250,000 members, refutes this statement. In the aforementioned annexe I have shown how the individual organizations were built up, added to and developed, according to their own intrinsic nature. The General SS is not the source of life for the other organizations, but an ancient

[Page 116]

vestige which at first succeeded in keeping alive, but which during the war had to disappear altogether for lack of any special task. (Witnesses Eberstein, Minderfeld, Jettner, Pohl.)

But the Indictment did not mention the most important aspect. To my mind, this is an aspect which is particularly valuable in shedding light upon the question of the imaginary unity of the SS: Where lay the executive power in the State? For an alleged conspiracy only such an instrument could have been suitable which controlled some means of the State authority, which had executive power in the State. Neither the General SS nor the Waffen SS were such organizations. At no time of their existence did a leader or a simple member of the General SS have more extensive rights in the public legal and especially police field than any other German citizen. He could not and did not at any time carry out arrests or house searchings without incurring punishment. (Witnesses Reinecke, Eberstein.)

The fact that revolutionary excesses were committed, immediately after the seizure of power, does not alter this fact. They were at once successfully combated, as testified by the witness Grauert. No member of the Waffen SS ever had more extensive rights than any member of the Wehrmacht. (Witness Hauser.) Indeed the executive power in the State was alone in the hands of the police, the State Police, the Criminal Police, combined as security police, and the ordinary police. A policy of power in the sense of an alleged conspiracy could logically have found support only upon them.

The testimony of the witness Grothmann, who belonged to the closest circle around Himmler, is particularly revealing for the question as to which activities of the SS are to be considered connected with the executive power. In this testimony he tells us that Himmler was informed of the affairs of the Waffen SS by adjutants of the Waffen SS, and of police affairs by police adjutants, while the General Secretariat had to inform him of the other affairs of the General SS.

In this case as well, the sharp separation existing among the various fields becomes very clear. The essential point here is that all matters concerning the concentration camp system and the totally different sphere of the SD were not dealt with and reported on by the SS adjutant, but rather by Himmler's own police adjutants. In this way the testimony given by the witness Reinecke, who testified as to the judicial basis for the separation into five independent spheres of influence under Himmler in the sense of the Indictment, into General SS, Waffen SS, SD concentration camp system, and police, is again being reaffirmed.

Executive power is indeed the key for an understanding of the charges raised under the Indictment and for a just evaluation of this case. In the beginning, Himmler was on the side of his SS and was entirely absorbed by it. After the police power of the entire Reich had been transferred to him alone, the only thing he concerned himself with was this one sphere, the sphere of executive power. He played the leading role in the rapid development of Germany into a police State. Very soon he let every last vestige of regard for any and every legal consideration go by the board. On top of that he continued to follow the path he had chosen for his organizations, General SS and Waffen SS, and withdrew behind a heavy curtain of secrecy, hiding himself and the excesses of his police activity from these organizations as well as from the entire nation. It is quite impossible to understand all this if one does not realize and appreciate the fact that Himmler had a Jekyll and Hyde personality. On the one hand he preached and fostered ethical values, such as decency, manliness and courtesy, using as his instruments his organizations, the General SS and the Waffen SS. On the other hand, he exploited his tremendous power by issuing the most uncompromising orders and measures of a police State nature. Here I refer to concentration camps, mass executions without trial, and the Einsatzgruppen.

Here and here alone he used the instrument of the executive power in the Reich. It was not surprising, therefore, that in the few speeches he made during the war in which he showed his obsession with his State police troops of the future, he

[Page 117]

met with opposition among the leaders and the troops of the Waffen SS; for these men were soldiers and were fighting the enemy. It is quite understandable that the prosecution should consider this first side of Himmler's nature to be but a whitewash for the second. But nothing could be more erroneous than an assumption of this sort. It is not coincidence either that the defendant Seyss-Inquart from his complete knowledge of developments, and the witnesses Hausser and Reinecke, who because of their former high positions and their present knowledge have an overall picture of events, describe Himmler as a man who had two totally different faces. And when they say that, they are in good company; for on the strength of his many conferences with Himmler, Count Bernadotte says exactly the same thing in his book, The Curtain Falls, which has been quoted frequently.

Himmler, therefore, is not the SS. The fact that he is referred to as the "Reichsfuehrer SS" in all laws and directives which gave him new missions to accomplish does not alter this situation in the least. As the witnesses Reinecke and Kubitz have stated quite correctly in this regard, his official position and title had, to all practical purposes, replaced his name in public life. Specialized departments like the police and the Reichskommissar for the Consolidation of German Nationalism (Volkstum) or the position of Commander-in-Chief of the Reserve Army, and the Chief of the Prisoner-of-War System, did not become concerns of the SS just because they were transferred to the person of the "Reichsfuehrer SS," that is Himmler.

However, that is something asserted by the prosecution, and in order to support their position, they state further that as soon as Himmler took over new offices he immediately started to infiltrate them with members of the SS. That is equally wrong. The witnesses Zupke and Bader have confirmed that some of the members of the Ordnungspolizei were taken over into the General SS and not vice versa. An infiltration of the police therefore never took place. As far as the Security Police is concerned we can see from Himmler's decree of 23rd June, 1938 (Document 1637-PS), that the officials and employees of the Security Police were taken over by the SD, and received police ranks commensurate with their SS ranks and not vice versa. They never served in the General SS for even one day.

The testimony of the witness Zupke, who was interrogated before the Commissions on 20th May, 1946, and Affidavit SS No. 82 prove that roughly twenty different categories of members of the Ordnungspolizei became formal members of the SS when, on the strength of ministerial directives, they were granted ranks in the SS commensurate with their police rank. This so-called "Co-ordination of Rank," however, did not establish true membership, for the policemen involved did not take the SS oath, did not pay dues, did not perform SS functions, did not serve in the SS, had no privileges or advantages of any kind because of their rank, and did not even wear the SS uniform. Their police service remained constant and unchanged.

Everywhere else in public life the same procedure was followed. It was not that the SS filled key and other essential positions but rather that the men holding such positions were taken over by Himmler into the SS as honorary leaders.

The affidavits deposed by Herr Fuhrer, SS No. 63, and by Herr Wunder, SS No. 42 give eloquent examples of the appointment of honorary leaders; SS No. 49 and Bethke, No. 48, show that the Kreis and Ortsbauernfuehrer were taken over as a group by the SS in that way, and the affidavits SS No. 97 and SS No. 98 describe the taking over of the leaders of the Reich Veterans' Society.

Therefore, it was not true that the SS infiltrated into the State; on the contrary, elements foreign to the SS were taken over by the organizations. The bulk of the membership remained what it was, a unit of farmers, mechanics, students, workers, and representatives of all the professions. The tasks of the General SS were not changed in any way because of this process.

[Page 118]

After studying this matter, we can see how little basis in fact there is for the assertion made by some of the defence counsel on behalf of individual defendants and organizations to the effect that during the war the SS exercised all the powers of government in Germany. Many witnesses and affidavits prove that the activity of the General SS, which must be described as typical club life, began to decrease at the beginning of the war and disappeared altogether during the course of the war. The Waffen SS was fighting at the different fronts, receiving more and more draftees into its ranks. It was under the supreme command of the Wehrmacht. These two branches of the SS therefore could not rule Germany during the war. As I shall demonstrate later, the WVHA, which concerned itself with concentration camps, belonged to the SS only nominally, and had no administrative authority over any other institutions in Germany.

A reign of terror may well have been exercised through arrests and the putting of individuals in concentration camps, but that was not a matter of any branch of the SS organization, but rather of the Ministry of the Interior, of the police and the RSHA (Gestapo).

The setting up of Higher SS and Police Leaders does not alter anything on these facts either, for the name is in fact misleading. They had no authority over the police and the Waffen SS. Only in the most infrequent cases where they, like the Reichsfuehrer SS, simultaneously had State and police positions - for instance, Police Commissioners - were they authorized to give orders to the police, but only because of their State position, not because of their position as SS Leaders. This may be seen even more plainly in the occupied Eastern territories, for there was no General SS there.

The Higher SS and Police Leaders there did not have any authority of command in the Waffen SS, so that the Higher SS and Police Leaders exercised only the public police functions. I am referring to the testimony given by the witness von Eberstein, to Affidavits SS 86 and 87.

So we see the following: Himmler's power increased tremendously during the war, but the power of the SS was not increased. He did not receive this power because of his position as Reichsfuehrer SS and he could not exercise this power through the SS, but solely through State organs, that is, through the various police organizations.

Competing with Himmler's authority were other power factors, not of the State, but of the Party and exercised by the Party (Reichs, Gau, Kreisleitung, etc.).

All branches of the SS were outside this struggle for power between Himmler and Bormann.

From the description presented by me we can conclude the following:

Firstly, we cannot consider the organizations comprising the SS to be a unified instrument of a conspiracy.

Secondly, the Tribunal can only examine separately the question of criminal character for each branch of the organization.

The accusations raised under the Indictment which I shall have to deal with after these detailed statements - because of the lack of time I can cover only the most important aspects - become weightier the closer we approach the period of the war and finally the collapse.

A very serious and comprehensive pattern of accusations against the SS has been included in the term "Germanisation."

Here, your Honours, I deal with the next five pages, 46 to 50, and I pass over the "enslavement." The following four pages, 50 to 53, concern the forced displacement for slave labour. The next page and a half deal with the Einsatzgruppen, and the three pages 55 to 57 concern partisan warfare. Because of lack of time I cannot read them now. I ask you to consider them. Now I shall deal with the difficult problem of the concentration camps.

Concentration camps existed from the very beginning of the Hitler regime. Without them the Hitler State was inconceivable. Hundreds of thousands went

[Page 119]

through these camps, were degraded and ill-treated there; more than a hundred thousand died or were killed there.

It cannot be denied that the name of the SS is connected with these murders and misdeeds. In the face of all the world this confession must be made in this trial. And just as every German must be ashamed that such horrible inhuman things occurred in his country, even more should every SS man search himself and examine to what extent he is politically or morally guilty for these happenings. lie should be concerned, not only with the defence against the accusation of the prosecution that every SS man has become a criminal through these crimes, but he should again look back upon his whole life and study when, where and how he might have deviated from the road of true humanity - perhaps only in heart and mind. This he can do, he must do - even if he denies his criminal guilt and says that he has four years in the front lines engaged in hardest fighting, believing in Germany and her just cause. And if he feels shame, genuine shame - and even if only a little of it - then his reflections, then this trial, were not in vain. Then that purifying feeling of guilt is present, to which Pastor Niemoeller, a man who has been misunderstood so profoundly, has referred.

But even if that SS man should remain obstinate at heart, even if all those SS men should remain unrepentant - and from my visits to the camps I know that this is not the case - even then, we would have to continue to serve earthly justice, would have to examine whether, due to the concentration camps and other atrocities, the SS is to be considered a criminal organization, whether all SS men became by those acts criminals.

We, therefore, have to occupy ourselves with the details of those matters, even though millions of people bewail the victims of the concentration camps, hundreds of thousands of the surviving inmates suffer from the aftermath, and even though the world accuses the SS in one single outcry of revenge.

When, in the beginning of March, I was charged with the defence of the SS, I found a considerable amount of material of the prosecution, evidence taken in the main proceedings, and many documents which were assembled in the Document Book "Concentration Camps." But on the other hand, upon calm consideration - and that in spite of everything is essential - it is clear that if during the entire period before and during the war conditions in concentration camps were actually as represented, for instance, in the picture Concentration Camps, then it could not have been possible that hundreds and thousands were discharged, that work could have been carried on during the war as it was, and that finally those things could have remained unknown to the masses of people and to the mass of the detained SS men whom I now interrogated.

There were contradictions which could not be eliminated; in the American report on the development of the Buchenwald camp from 1937 to 1943 (Document EC-168), the basis of which I do not know, the following, which is taken from a letter of the WVHA of 28th December, 1942, is attached as an appendix:

136,000 people were brought into all the concentration camps within a half-year. During the same time 70,000 died. Though it is obvious that not just half of those new inmates died, but that 70,000 of a total population of some hundred thousand inmates passed away in six months, yet that mortality rate is frighteningly high.

Thus the prosecution seemed to be right by affirming that the detainees were systematically exterminated or at least killed through overwork.

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