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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Two Hundred and Fourteenth Day: Thursday, 29th August, 1946
(Part 1 of 14)

[Page 245]

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: If your Lordship pleases, when the Court adjourned I was dealing with some points in the memorandum of Dr. Klefisch, and I continue to deal with that document.

Much emphasis has been laid by Dr. Klefisch and by all defence counsel on the serious consequences which will accrue to the persons affected by a declaration of guilt, not only to those against whom subsequent proceedings may be taken but to the others besides. It is said "that the stigma inflicted upon members of organizations declared criminal would ... prove indelible .... Millions of members of organizations declared criminal would remain branded for the rest of their lives. One would point at them saying 'Look, there goes an SA criminal'." But if they are guilty, if they have supported and assisted in a system which entailed throwing the world into war, reviving the horrors of slavery, persecution and mass murder, ought they not to be so branded? This can be no injustice: it is less - far less - than their desert. It is the only hope for Germany and the world that her people realize and repent their responsibility for what has happened. Dr. Servatius has asked you to excuse Ortsgruppenleiter because they were members of the lower middle class who lacked political experience. Can it really be that only the upper classes of the German people are able to recognize aggressive war for world domination, slavery, murder and persecution as crimes?

Yet there may be more truth in this than any dare to think. You have now seen and heard many witnesses who - some on their own admission - were themselves deeply involved in hideous crime. Have you been able to discern a sense of guilt or shame or repentance? Always it is someone who gave the orders that is to blame: never he who puts those orders into execution. Always it is some other agency of the State who was responsible: to support that State and cooperate with those other agencies is without criticism. If this is the mind of these people today, there can be no more pressing need nor greater justification for branding these guilty men as criminal. If we cannot teach the German people to appreciate their responsibility to mankind; if we cannot teach them to know the difference between what is right and wrong, at least we can show them what, according to the concepts of every other civilized State, is the duty of the individual citizens. And we can and ought to show them what the whole world accepts as right and wrong.


It is my intention to discuss the evidence in respect of those three organizations for which the British Delegation has taken particular responsibility and which, in the considered submission of all the four prosecuting Powers, are criminal. But before dealing with that evidence, I trust the Tribunal will bear with me if I make one or two general observations upon the defence which has been put forward on behalf of all these organizations.

No one can say hereafter that every opportunity has not been afforded them for their defence. An elaborate procedure has been evolved to obtain and place before you their evidence. One hundred and two witnesses have been heard before your Commissioners - witnesses selected by defence counsel from the many thousands of members of the organizations available. You have the transcripts of their evidence. Of those witnesses defence counsel have selected twenty who have given evidence in this Court and whom you have seen and heard yourselves. In addition to this oral testimony, you have also had submitted to you the substance of no less than 136,213 affidavits for the SS, 155,000 for the

[Page 246]

Political Leaders, 2,000 for the Gestapo, 10,000 for the SA and 7,000 for the SD, a total of 310,213. And you have also had presented before your Commissioners another 1,809 affidavits either in substance or in whole, the majority of which are now contained in the transcript of the Commissioners' proceedings.

On the face of it, the evidence which has been given by almost all the witnesses called before your Commissioners is untrue. You yourselves have seen and heard some of those witnesses, selected by defence counsel presumably because they were thought to be the most reliable and the ones most likely to impress you. Their evidence is no better.

You will remember Sievers, called for the SS, who denied knowledge of and participation in the experiments on human beings and was presented with a file of his own incriminating correspondence.

The witness Morgen described the variety theatre, the cinema, the bookstalls and the other amenities of Buchenwald. Dachau, he said, was a recreation camp. Brill, who had served as an Obersturmbannfuehrer (Lieut.-Colonel) in the S Division Leibstandarte from June until August, 1941, on the Eastern front, knew nothing of the Einsatzgruppen, the slaughter of Jews in the Eastern territories or of the treatment of the peoples of Poland and Russia taken into captivity for forced labour. Had the conditions in June become so changed from what they had been two months before, when Himmler had said to all the officers of that division:

"Very frequently the member of the Waffen SS thinks about the deportation of this people here. These thoughts come to me today when watching the very difficult work out there performed by the Security Police, supported your men, who help them a great deal. Exactly the same thing happened in Poland in weather 40 degrees below zero, where we had to haul away thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands; where we had to have the toughness - you should hear this but also forget it again immediately - to shoot thousands of leading Poles."
General Hausser, one-time commander of the SS Division "Das Reich" and subsequently commander of a corps, army and army group, knew nothing of SS atrocities. He had never heard of the massacre of Lidice.

Gauleiter Hoffmann, who gave evidence before your Commission to explain away his order of 25th February, 1945, encouraging the lynching of Allied pilots, said that the order "slipped out" from his command post after he had refused to issue the draft submitted to him by his staff officer.

Hupfauer of the German Labour Front, supervising the work of that organization in Essen during the latter part of the war, and himself responsible for circulating Himmler's orders to ensure "the discipline and output of foreign workers," denied all knowledge of the brutal treatment of slave labour.

Rathcke, called for the SA before your Commissioners, described how, "in the spring of 1933, the SA in all German localities streamed into the churches."

Schneider, another Political Leader called before your Commission, aged 55, denied ever having heard of the boycott of April, 1933.

Best, the enslaver of Denmark, gave evidence before you for the Gestapo. Having seen the documents that were presented to him in cross-examination, can you believe one word of what he said?

Examples of evidence of this kind could be quoted from the transcript of almost every witness that has been called to defend these organizations.

Consider this evidence from another angle. We know that so- called "demonstrations" were organized and carried out throughout the whole Reich against the Jews on the night of 9th-10th November, 1938, during the course of which 35 Jews were murdered, and 20,000 seized and incarcerated, for no other offence than that they were Jews; we know that 177 synagogues were destroyed by fire or demolished, that 7,500 stores were destroyed and that the cost of damage to glass windows alone amounted to six million Reichsmark. Even the Supreme Party Court reported:

[Page 247]

"The public, down to the last man, realizes that political drives like those of 9th November were organized and directed by the Party, whether this is admitted or not. When all the synagogues burn down in one night, it must have been organized by the Party."
"Whether this is admitted or not." Can you find one single man among the 102 witnesses that have been called on behalf of the Party organizations who is prepared to admit it - or anything like it? Can you find one word of admission from among the affidavits that have been submitted by over 312,000 members of these Party organizations? If it was not the Political Leaders, if it was not the SA or the SS, if it was not the Gestapo or SD - what in the name of all common sense was it that organized and directed those demonstrations?

We know that slave labour was employed and brutally maltreated throughout Germany. We know that in 1943 it even became necessary - necessary only in order to increase production and for no reasons of humanity - to alter "the hitherto prevailing treatment of Eastern workers" and for the Party Chancellery and the RSHA to issue orders to all Political Leaders down to Ortsgruppenleiter and presumably to all stations of the SD and Gestapo that "injustices, insults, trickery, maltreatment, etc., must be discontinued. Punishment by beating is forbidden." But can you find one single one from among the 102 witnesses and the persons who have sworn affidavits on oath who has ever seen or heard of the maltreatment of foreign labourers, save only in one or two exceptional instances?

The evidence of all of them is the same. They are asked if they knew of the persecution and annihilation of the Jews, of the dread work of the Gestapo, of the atrocities within the concentration camps, of the ill-treatment of slave labour, of the intention and preparation to wage aggressive war, of the murder of brave soldiers, sailors and airmen. And they reply with "the everlasting No." You may be reminded of the words of a great Irishman:

"Falsehood has a perennial spring."
Let me turn to consider those three organizations for which I am responsible - the Corps of Political Leaders, the SA and the SS.


Certain general points have been made by counsel and witnesses for the defence which it is convenient to mention before dealing with the evidence.

(1) It is said that Zellen- and Blockleiter ought not to be included as Political Leaders; that they were never regarded as such and had no authority or political tasks; that they were subordinate to the staff officers in the Ortsgruppe whom the prosecution has agreed to exclude; that they were completely unimportant and in practice little more than the messenger boys of their Ortsgruppenleiter.

We submit that there is overwhelming evidence that this was not so. When you examine the evidence you find them implicated in criminal activities of many kinds. I would ask you particularly to bear this in mind - that it was the normal procedure in the Corps of Political Leaders to pass nothing in writing below the rank of Ortsgruppenleiter. The Organization Book of the Party prescribes:

"In principle the Blockleiter will settle his official business verbally and he will receive messages verbally and pass them on in the same way. Correspondence will only be used in cases of absolute necessity and practicability."
The witness Meyer-Wendeborn confirmed that this was so in practice:
"Between the Blockleiter and Zellenleiter on one side and the Ortsgruppenleiter and the staff on the other side, there were supposed to be no written instructions in order not to make too much work for these people of lower rank or position."
In view of that you may well think it remarkable that we have happened to find as many written documents as we have which directly implicate the Zellen- and Blockleiter. In dealing with the evidence I shall draw your attention to those

[Page 248]

documents. But I would also emphasize the other evidence you have of the vitally important role the Zellen- and Blockleiter played.

It has been argued that they were not Hoheitstrager as the prosecution suggest, and various documents have been submitted by defence counsel to establish this contention. Be it right or wrong, it matters little. You will remember that they are included as Hoheitstrager in the Party's Organization Book which states:

"Among the Politische Leiter the bearers of sovereignty assume a special position."
It is answered that the Organization Book is inaccurate. The same is said of the SA Mann - an equally inconvenient publication for the members of the SA. Is there any official publication issued by the official Party publishers which is accurate?

The fact is that by whatever title they may have been known, the Zellen- and Blockleiter formed the essential basis of the whole Party system. Gauleiter Kaufmann admitted:

"Blockleiter and Zellenleiter were the executive organs of the Ortsgruppenleiter."
Zellenleiter Schneider was asked:
"Would you agree with me that without the Zellenleiter and Blockleiter the Ortsgruppenleiter could never have carried on the tasks they had to perform?"
and answered:
"Yes, that is correct."
They were much more than the messenger boys they are now made out to have been. Hirt stated, that only persons who were "completely politically reliable" were appointed either as staff officers in the Gaue, Kreise and Orte or as Zellen- or Blockleiter, and that the people who held the positions of Zellen- and Blockleiter appeared to be supporters of the Nazi Party. The evidence shows the kind of task with which they were entrusted, which included the responsibility of assisting in forming the "political judgment" of the members of their area.

(2) It has been suggested that Political Leaders - particularly in war time - were compelled against their will to assume their appointments. But the whole basis of the system was voluntary service, paid or unpaid, and it is confirmed by their own witness Meyer Wendeborn. Let me quote from his cross-examination before the Commission:

"Q. May I take it that all Political Leaders voluntarily occupying their offices?

A. Yes.

Q. And that also applies, does it not, to the Zellenleiter and Blockleiter?

A. The Zellenleiter and Blockleiter were appointed through the Ortsgruppenleiter after he had had a discussion with the staff. However, if a person considered himself not up to the part, or that he was unable to do the job or that he had not the time, we looked for another one."

Q. And it was decidedly voluntary on the part of the Zellenleiter or Blockleiter whether or not they accepted the position?

A. Yes."

If pressure was brought to bear on some, as the witness Hirt suggested, it could only have happened in the most exceptional cases. If the holders of these offices were required to be "completely politically reliable" it would be remarkable to find among them many opponents of the Party forced unwillingly to act.

(3) It is said also that because, as in peace time, their appointments were not confirmed, their oath taken only at irregular intervals, and because they were given no uniform, they were not, in the words of the Indictment, "according to common Nazi terminology Politische Leiter of any grade or rank."

I submit that there can be no substance in such an argument. They performed the same tasks, were regarded as the same officials and held the same authority and influence as those whom they replaced.

[Page 249]

(4) It is suggested that there was no "corps" or organization of Political Leaders; but the evidence shows that Politische Leiter of all classes formed a close and well-defined corps. They are described as a "corps" in the Organization Book. Together they had a common purpose:
"the complete penetration of the German nation with the National Socialist spirit."
They wore a common uniform. They were issued with a common identity card - common to themselves but distinct from the rest of the population. Yearly they took their common oath to their Fuehrer:
"I pledge eternal allegiance to Adolf Hitler. I pledge unconditional obedience to him and the Fuehrers appointed by him."
And, as the Organization Book says of each one of them:
"The Political Leader is inseparably tied to the ideology and the organization of the NSDAP."

[ 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.