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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Two Hundred and Eleventh Day: Monday, 26th August, 1946
(Part 9 of 12)

[DR. PELCKMANN continues]

[Page 119]

But this was not in accordance with the order issued in a circular of 28th December, 1942, by the WVHA, according to which the doctors of the camps were to take all measures to ensure lower death rates and to maintain working capacity as high as possible, by the control of food and working conditions and by suggesting practical ameliorations which should not remain merely theoretical. Neither was this in accordance with the fact testified to by witnesses over and over again, that foreign and German commissions inspecting the camps and even SS

[Page 120]

Fuehrers themselves gained a very good impression of the administration and the prisoners.

I have been and am still of the opinion that for me as lawyer and defence counsel the fact could not be sufficient that the tremendous number of victims was not to be disputed and that the whole world said that they had been murdered and ill-treated by the SS system. In this decisive. question which is produced by the mass effect of a mutually conditioned formation of opinions, in other words, a typical case of mass suggestion of public opinion, there can be no "legally notorious facts," there can be only clear facts which must be established without prejudice and bias. This is important for the following questions: Who were the authors of each of these crimes which became the enormous number of anonymous concentration camp atrocities? Did they do it on their personal initiative or on order? Do they belong to a typical criminal group, and if so, to which one, in order to discover a collective guilt? In what relationship are they to the organization of the SS, that is, to the tens and hundreds of thousands of members who had not been active in the concentration camps and who insist that they knew nothing of these crimes?

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will recess.

(A short recess was taken.)

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Pelckmann, you have now been speaking for two hours and twenty-eight minutes, so that, strictly speaking, you have got twenty-two minutes more.

DR. PELCKMANN: I had just put the questions which seemed important me for the clarification of the connection between the SS and the crimes committed in concentration camps. I hoped that these questions, the elucidation of which might contribute to the quicker sentencing of all the criminals, would have been answered by the Allied Courts which had been sitting in concentration camp trials since last year.

That is the reason why, your Honours, I made an application to place at my disposal the records of all these trials for consideration. From them I might have discovered many facts which have come to my and the public's knowledge only during these last weeks.

I have nevertheless left nothing undone to discover the truth. My application, aiming at placing at my disposal the concentration camps' administrative files of the WVHA, was handed in at a rather late date and I did not follow it up. I did not need to follow it up because I succeeded at last at the beginning of July in finding a witness whose testimony is, I believe, decisive in many respects for the discovery of the truth, that is for the historical and, in this trial, relevant truth. This witness is Dr. Morgen.

We are indebted to this witness for the discovery of three primary facts. First, the last and profoundest reason for the killings in the concentration camps was the outlawry of the detainees, the omnipotence of the police (Gestapo) and the weakness of justice.

Secondly, the ordering of and execution of mass exterminations of Jews in special so-called extermination camps were ordered by Hitler directly. Knowledge and execution of these orders were confined to a few initiated.

Thirdly, an absolute sphere of secrecy together with a diabolic means of deception was destined to keep knowledge of the happenings in the concentration and extermination camps from the public and the prosecuting authorities.

I shall never forget my first meeting with this witness, Dr. Morgen. The entire being and soul of this gigantic man, leaning over in his chair, seemed eager to communicate what he had known for about two years, what he had viewed and experienced for months while living with detainees and personnel in these places of horror.

[Page 121]

I leave out the next few sentences.

With flagging hope Dr. Morgen made his report for the third time, with which, as before, he wanted to help find the guilty, protect the innocent, and to show the German people and the world the final guilt of the criminal leadership for the most horrible murders in world history. In this he succeeded.

I leave out the next paragraph in which I describe the beginning of the concentration camp system and the participation of the SS.

But soon the establishment and guarding of concentration camps were legalized. From 1933, 1934, on, they were financed from the budget of the individual German States leader. As head of the Political Police of all Lander, except Prussia, Himmler, in 1934, uniformly regulated the guard and administrative conditions. By taking over a part of the previous guard personnel, SA and SS men, he created the Death's Head formations and supplemented them with volunteers from all sections of the population without consideration of membership in the Party and the SS. They were then intended exclusively for guarding concentration camps and comprised, in the year 1936, 400 men from the Kommandantur and 3,600 men for guard duties. They guarded about 10,000 to 12,000 prisoners in five concentration camps all over Germany. I ask you to compare the then unusually large membership of the General SS with these figures.

In 1936 the concentration camps and their guard personnel were taken over into the Reich budget and separated according to Kommandantur and guard personnel. At the beginning of the war the Kommandantur personnel consisted of 600 men; the guard personnel amounted to about 7,400 men. There were only six concentration camps in all Germany, containing 21,300 prisoners, and as yet no work or subsidiary camps existed. At that time there were about 240,000 members of the General SS. The Waffen SS did not yet exist at that time.

In my explanation of the question of the organizations which I submit as an appendix, I have proven that the "Totenkopf Units" (Death's Head Units) created in 1934 as special troops of the State, were not paid by the Party but by the Reich, and that they had in common with the General SS only a part of their name, "SS," and the chief, Himmler. (This follows in particular from Hitler's Secret Edict of 17th August, 1938, and from Document SS 84.)

Of importance seems to me the following change after the beginning of the war, when the wave of destruction begins to mount slowly in the concentration camps.

Six thousand five hundred men of guard personnel were sent to the front with a newly formed division. Thus they were eliminated entirely from the concentration camp system. During the course of the entire war there were employed about 30,000 men in the concentration camp system, as can be seen from the testimony of Brill and from Affidavit No. 68 (Kaindl). These included new arrivals and departures. They comprised about 1,500 men of the original cadre of the Totenkopf Units and 4,500 men originally from the General SS.

These 4,500 men were a part of 36,000 members of the General SS who had been called up until 1940 upon the emergency service decree, and who had become members of the Waffen SS. The remaining 24,000 men of the concentration camp personnel - that is, eighty per cent - originally had no nominal connection with the SS. These were 7,000 persons of German descent or extraction who had been called up, 10,000 German nationals who had volunteered to go to the front in the Waffen SS and 7,000 soldiers subordinate either to the Army or the Air Force. Many of the volunteers came from the SA, the Reichskriegerbund, the Party and other organizations. All, with the exception of the original personnel of 1,500 men, had been assigned the task of guarding the concentration camps against their will upon the order of Himmler, and without their having any connection with the Kommando Amt of the Waffen SS. Only in the course of the war were these guarding and administrative units of Himmler's nominally taken over into the Waffen-SS, Himmler thus transgressing his powers. This

[Page 122]

was done in order to prevent the personnel of the concentration camps continually having to be freed from military service, that is to say, for reasons which were practically to eliminate the regulations of military supervision. After the unequivocal evidence given by the witnesses Reinecke, Juettner, Ruoff, Brill and many others, there can be no more doubt that the State police tasks of the concentration camp system did not change for all that, and that in particular the concentration camp system did not become a concern of the Waffen SS. Indeed, the entire concentration camp system, even after the formal transfer of the guard personnel into the Waffen SS, was not directed and administered by the leading agencies of these organizations, but by a special office, the well-known Amtsgruppe D in the chief office of the Economic Administration, WVHA (witness Stein, Affidavits Fanslau SS 41, 100, Frank No. 99).

I beg you to take official notice of the following three pages, which deal in detail with the limited activity of the Amtsgruppe D.

Also, the actual statements made by Morgen about the extermination camps and particularly the extermination camps of Wirth and Hoess. I continue on Page 66.

All these extermination installations can be traced back to special orders of Hitler, of the Chancellery of the Fuehrer, and were outside the framework of the normal concentration camp system. For that reason, they did not have the normal chain of command and organizational form. Wirth was Criminal Commissar without being an SS member. Hoess received extermination orders, apart from Himmler, only from Eichmann personally, without being allowed to inform his immediate superior, Gluecke, the inspector of concentration camps, of them. So Hoess testified on 15th April.

Now what follows from all these terrible events - from concentration camp atrocities through the Einsatzgruppen to mass gassings - as to the charge against the SS?

The prosecution says that all the crimes charged have been committed to such a great extent and in such vast proportions that they and the criminal aims and methods must have been known to every member.

The prosecution thus says that knowledge of the criminal nature of these tasks is a preliminary condition for the judgment, and the decision of the Court of 13th March, 1946, is in agreement.

The assertion of the prosecution is based upon the following arguments:

Before, and particularly during the war, the Press and the wireless, statements of official personalities and all manner of publications in the Allied countries widely informed the public of these States about the atrocities committed in the concentration camps and other crimes. Under these circumstances, it would seem obvious to conclude that if in these countries such crimes were almost universally known, this must have been even more the case in Germany and particularly in the SS. The collective affidavits which have been submitted and which are in some cases extensively proven show that the majority of SS members deny any such knowledge. But in addition the defence has countered the charge with a comprehensive statement: The crimes committed within the limits of the German sphere of power were carried out under a minutely planned system of secrecy so that the mass of SS members not only did not know anything about them, but, indeed could not possibly have known about them. Whereas the charge of the prosecution can only be made credible by the legally very doubtful use of deductions, the argument of the defence is proven by the facts, and facts which, gentlemen of the Tribunal, have, in my opinion, been furnished by the defence.

Let us start with the concentration camps. I describe on the next few pages, which I ask the Tribunal to read, the matter of secrecy and all the regulations and circumstances which made it impossible for any of this information to get out of the camps.

[Page 123]

I continue on Page 68.

The greatest secrecy prevailed in these camps. Not only the official execution of death sentences of courts, but also the execution instructions of the RSHA, which began only at the beginning of the war, and certainly the murders resulting from the lust for power of the Kommandants, were not undertaken publicly. Dr. Morgen describes this in detail in his affidavit, No. SS 66. In his examination he described all the clever methods to disguise murders as natural deaths and thus to deceive the civil courts and, from 1940 on, the SS courts.

I continue on Page 69, about the middle of the page.

Since the use in 1934 of the Death's Head Units as camp personnel, the General SS and later the Waffen SS no longer had anything to do with concentration camp affairs and certainly not with the Kommandantur personnel in personnel or legal questions. The Amts Group D of the WVHA, with their small group of thirty thousand men of the above-mentioned nominal Waffen SS, had become an independent and separate unit with their own telephone and teletype system and their own couriers to the concentration camps. Only the Gestapo had a channel into the concentration camp, into the so- called political department, which was subordinate to it and usually run by a criminal investigation secretary. Here also there was no connection with the rest of the SS.

As regards secrecy, an important factor was, as Kaindl explains in Affidavit SS 68, that the staffs of the Kommandanturen were made up of the same personnel, until the middle of 1942, as had existed at the beginning of the war. Thus, too, knowledge of the conditions and events could not be spread before 1942. From a psychological point of view one must consider that these persons responsible for orders issued or received had not the slightest reason to talk about their sinister acts.

Because of the lack of time I have to pass over the next few pages, and ask the Tribunal to read them. They deal in detail with the counter-propaganda which had intentionally been started by Germans and present comprehensive proof in the way of affidavits and statements before the Commission. The same applies to the mass extermination camps, Auschwitz, Monowitz, Treblinka, and so on.

I continue on Page 73, on the bottom of the page.

No proof has been furnished that the mass of the SS knew anything of the activity of the Einsatz Commandos.

To refute the question of whether knowledge existed of the biological experiments in the concentration camps I shall point only to what I consider a most peculiar fact - that extensive testimony was taken on the question whether the witness Goering had known of them. I could state that those experiments were carried on only in a few camps, that, as proven by various affidavits, they were carried out only after the prisoners had voluntarily agreed to them; but I am not going to do so because I am not willing to defend them at all, and I do not wish to create such an impression. It is enough to refer to the argument about the knowledge or ignorance of Goering in this matter, and to the question as to what evidence has been taken in favour of the unknown SS man. I do not doubt at all that the witness Sievers, Manager of Ahnenerbe is chargeable with guilt, because of his knowledge and carrying out of these criminal experiments; but not so his co-workers, since those experiments constituted about one per cent of its total research programme.

I finally would like to quote in regard to the knowledge of those crimes an article which I found in the Berliner Blatter, issue No. 1, of 1946. In an article by Oskar Goetz, entitled "The Jew in the Third Reich," I quote:

"We, for instance, in camp Theresienstadt, considered the happenings in Auschwitz, the other crimes in the death camps of Mauthausen, Maidanek, Ravensbrueck, and Buchenwald only as rumours, yes, as only immeasurably exaggerated rumours. The things that actually happened in Auschwitz, for example, did not authentically come to our attention in Theresienstadt before

[Page 124]

the spring of 1945, when a few survivors returned from Auschwitz after the camp was dissolved. In the interest of a just evaluation of his contemporaries one must be factual, and should desire to be so. No guilty one should go free, but no innocent one should be burdened with guilt."
I continue the last paragraph on Page 74:
"If now one reached the conclusion that apart from a certain definable or more or less definable group of culprits - witness Dr. Morgen mentioned, certain circles of culprits within the concentration camp system - the great mass of the SS had no knowledge of the crimes, but like the rest of the Germans knew of the deportations, that could be considered criminal under Article 60 of the Charter only if it were in connection with a war of aggression. I have already mentioned that the bulk of the SS were not aware that they waged a war of aggression."

[ 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.