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 8 of 14)

[Page 279]

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: Very well, my Lord.

The ghetto of Schaulen, south of Riga, was in charge of the SA; 700 to 800 men were there, recognizable by their brown uniforms and swastika armlets.

"In August, 1941, the SA surrounded the whole ghetto and numbers of them went into the houses and took out children and old men and put them into lorries and drove them away. I saw all this myself. It was done exclusively by SA. I saw them take children by the hair and throw them into the lorries. I did not see what happened to them, but a Lithuanian told me afterwards that they had been driven 20 km. away and shot. He said he had seen the SA make them undress, and shoot them with automatic pistols."
The SA guarded the ghetto of Kaunas, where 10,500 Jews were shot in the dreadful "action" of 28th October, 1941. So also did they guard the labour camps of Sakraw, Mechtal, Markstedt, Klettendorf, Lanbielaw, Faulbruck, Reichenbach and Anaberg, in Upper Silesia, where Poles, Frenchmen, Belgians, Dutch and Greeks slaved and died through ill- treatment and malnutrition, and where "the methods of the SA by no means lagged behind those of the SS."

There can be no doubt of the veracity of those Jews who underwent three years of nightmare in the ghettoes and labour camps in the East. Not only are the conditions they describe confirmed again and again from other sources and from the Germans' own documents, but even the identification of a particular SA man they mention is corroborated. Leib Kibart gave you the name of the District Commissioner in whose courtyard the Jews from the Schaulen ghetto were daily cursed and beaten by their SA guards. He told you he was called Gewecke and that he was a member of the SA. We have the signature of Gewecke on one of his own letters dated 8th September, 1941, complaining that the SS were interfering in his arrangements for the "orderly confiscation of Jewish property." The letter heading on that document is "the Regional Commissar in Schaulen."

[Page 280]

Nor was it only in guarding duties that the SA were employed. They were forming Einsatz Commandos of their own, and units of the SA were sharing in the bloody work of annihilating the partisans. The Regional Commander of the Security Police and SD in Cracow, in writing to the defendant Frank, tells of the work of a special SA Einsatz Commando which was formed for the purpose of collecting workers from the civilian population.

The General Commissar for White Ruthenia reported in June, 1943, that "by order of the Chief of anti-partisan troops SS Obergruppenfuehrer von dem Bach, units of the Wehrmannschaften have also participated in the operation. SA Standartenfuehrer Kunze was in command of the Wehrmannschaften." That action to which the General Commissar referred was the terrible "Operation Cottbus," which you will remember, and of which the General Commissar reported "the political effect upon the peaceful population is simply dreadful in view of the many shootings of women and children."

The SA had been organized in the Government General in 1941. Speaking in December, 1943, Frank said:

"When two and a half years ago I gave orders for the SA to be formed, I was guided by a thought which today remains with me more emphatically than ever. I strove to ensure ... that an emergency reserve of absolutely unshakable National Socialists should, under all circumstances, exist in the Government General. It is quite clear that this emergency reserve of pronounced National Socialist fighters can only be the SA .... Here, as an SA comrade with my SA comrades I can, within the framework of the SA, truly cultivate what has to do with the Volk, in a way which I cannot do in the political existence of the area, where I have to take numerous things into account and have to have a whip in my hand without interruption, like a lion-tamer in a lion's cage, in order to keep the bandits in check. That is a point of view which a Gauleiter in the Reich never need take into account .... It (the SA) has for the first time been employed here in a new area with new methods and tasks which, however, have been solved owing to the very-fact that the SA is here the same as it was in the period of struggle in the Reich."
Meanwhile at home in the Reich the SA were taking over "the functions which had previously been entrusted only to the SS and Sipo and Army, for instance, the guarding of prisoners- of-war camps, supervision of forced labourers in Germany and occupied territories. This co-operation of the SA was planned and arranged by high officers in Berlin as early as the middle of 1943."

In Styria the camp of Frauenberg was being operated as a labour camp for habitual drunkards, delinquents and shirkers. Three hundred inmates worked in the neighbouring stone quarries and on road construction. SA men provided the guards. Can we picture the conditions in which these shirkers and delinquents lived - or died?

Violence and murder and mastery of the streets during the years of struggle. Illegal arrest, unauthorized concentration camps, unbelievable sadism during the years of triumph, 1933 and 1934. Ruthless suppression and brutal persecution of Jews and Christians and of every opposition, coupled with warlike and aggressive training during the years from 1934 until the outbreak of war. After that, more, concentration camps, more sadism, more suppression and persecution, this time of the allegedly racially inferior peoples they had conquered; and violence and murder - but not, as it had been in the distant days of 1923, of individuals: now it was of whole peoples. It is the same pattern running through the years. Can your decision free these men again to terrorize the peoples of Germany and Europe?


I do not conceive it to be necessary to deal at any length with the evidence against the SS. You are already too well aware of the character of this organization

[Page 281]

and of the activities of its members. The letters SS appear in connection with almost every one of the crimes, great and small, of which you have now heard daily over the course of almost 10 months. It may all be summarized, even if understated, in the words of their leader Himmler:
"I know there are some people in Germany who become sick when they see these black coats. We understand the reason and do not expect that we shall be loved by too many."
I would therefore address you upon only one or two particular points that have arisen and to which the prosecution attach particular importance.


The history of its development may be stated in a few words. Created originally as an elite bodyguard for the protection of Hitler himself, together with the SA it formed a private Nazi army, and the basis of what was to become the vital instrument in the conspiracy to wage aggressive war. Its value as a thoroughly reliable "instrument of the Fuehrer" was demonstrated in June, 1934, when it performed the function of executioner in the blood purge which accompanied the murder of the SA leader Roehm.

"It appalled everyone," said Himmler later, "and yet everyone was certain that he would do it again if such orders were issued and if it was necessary."
The willingness of the SS to do it again was to be exemplified a millionfold in the ensuing years.

Until January, 1933, the SS consisted of a single unit. There were no special branches and, apart from their common role with the SA, and their special position as Hitler's bodyguard, they had no other particular tasks. After the Nazi Party had come to power, however, and particularly after 1934, its members increased and its organization expanded and became more complex. New units were created, such as the SS Totenkopf Verbande, the task of which was, and continued to be, the guarding of concentration camps. A few selected units were given arms and, in effect, became Himmler's private army, known as the SS Verfugungstruppe. At the same time certain functions became the specialty of other groups which, while not having a separate organizational status, came to be designated as separate branches; for instance, the SD who were the intelligence service of the SS and who were later to work in such close co-operation with the Gestapo. Although it became customary to distinguish between the several branches and formations of the SS by name, in terms of administration and command they were parts of the one SS, all under command of the Reichsfuehrer SS and all administered and controlled through the various main offices of the SS Supreme Command.

At the outbreak of war the majority of the Allgemeine SS, the great mass of the SS membership which had remained unarmed, were drafted into the Wehrmacht. New recruits were enrolled in the Verfugungstruppe, which was expanded to form the fighting divisions of the SS, and it was these fighting divisions which, in about 1940, came to be known as the Waffen SS.

The Tribunal has seen, from the report of the SS Statistical Institute, how the SS had developed by 30th June, 1944. By then it had a total membership of 794,941. The Allgemeine SS - the original nucleus of the SS - had declined in importance during the war because more than half of its 200,000 members had been called up to the Wehrmacht, the Labour Service or other special Nazi agencies. The remaining 594,443 belonged to the Waffen SS. The Tribunal has seen how 368,654 of the Waffen SS men were in field units. About 160,000 were in reinforcement, training and reserve units. 26,544 were in other units and offices directly subordinate to the Operational H.Q. of the SS High Command. 39,415 were in the SS Main Offices.

[Page 282]

It is particularly significant to see how those 39,415 men of the Waffen SS were distributed. (24.) Witnesses have told you that the Waffen SS had nothing to do with the concentration camps. But no less than 24,000 of them were in the WVHA, the offices which organized and were responsible for the administration and personnel of the concentration camps. That 24,000 did not include the Totenkopf SS which provided the guards. Waffen SS men also provided the manpower of the various Nazi genocide organizations operating within and on behalf of the SS - the Racial and Settlement Main Offices, the Office of the Reich Commissar for the Consolidation of German Folkdom, the Central Office for Persons of German Race, the Personal Staff of Himmler, including Sievers's infamous Ahnenerbe.


It is said of the Waffen SS that it was in effect a purely military organization, the character of which was no different from any unit of the Wehrmacht. On the evidence this is not so. It is true that the Waffen SS was the combat arm of the SS. But, although its fighting formations came under command of the Army for operational purposes, always they remained an integral part of the SS. Indeed, the Hitler order regarding the function of the SS on mobilization provided that if placed under the command of the Army it "remains a unit of the NSDAP politically." Recruiting, training, promotions, administration and supply of the Waffen SS throughout the war remained the function of the Supreme Command of the SS. It was recruited through the SS Main Office. It was organized, administered and supplied through the SS Operational Office, which was the seat of its command headquarters. Members of the Waffen SS were subject to the jurisdiction of the SS Main Legal Office. Like all other formations of the SS, the Waffen SS was subject to Himmler's jurisdiction as Reichsfuehrer SS. It was in theory and in practice as much an integral part of the SS organization as any other branch of the SS. You will remember the evidence that von Rundstedt gave while speaking of the brutal destruction of Oradour-sur-Glane:

"The troop units of the SS were subordinate only to Himmler. I had no disciplinary power nor judicial power over them. I could not give them leaves nor issue awards. I was responsible only for the technical employment of those divisions, much as I might use an Italian, Hungarian or Slovakian division."
These then were the broad outlines of the SS, this all purposeful "State within the State" as General Detzel described it. The defence now seeks to divide this all- embracing unity of the SS into various totally separate components, united only in the person of Himmler. He and three or four of his subordinates are alone made responsible for the millionfold crimes that were committed. But this contention violates both truth and sense. We are dealing in this trial not with the murder of ten men here, or twenty there. In this indictment is charged not

[Page 283]

only the murder of millions but a demoniac plan of genocide, of the murder of whole nations, peoples and races. The SS was the chosen instrument for this plan which out-Heroded Herod. This plan could only be executed by the use of the whole of the SS, of every branch of the SS working in unison and in cooperation with every other. The evidence given in this trial has shown that the crimes of the Nazi conspirators could not have been executed in an improvised way by sporadic criminal acts. They were carefully planned, prepared and put into action through the SS and other criminal organizations. The men of the SS were particularly qualified for the planning of crime. Physically trained and selected, they were politically indoctrinated in Nazism, and were committed to blind obedience to the commands of Hitler and Himmler and the rest of the Nazi leaders. "Orders must be sacred," said Himmler. Not only was membership voluntary during the first sixteen years of the existence of the SS from 1925 on: it was subject to most careful selection in an endeavour to produce what the SS called a "male racial elite," a "superstratum," a "band of definitely Nordic German men." SS men had to be fanatical Nazis of "Aryan" descent. (25, 26)


Much emphasis has been made by the defence that during the course of the war the voluntary basis of the recruitment was replaced by compulsory drafting. The witness Brill gave evidence that "at the end of the war there were more draftees in the Waffen SS than volunteers." It may be helpful to the Tribunal if I very shortly discuss the evidence of that witness. While it is not questioned that at some stage during the war considerable numbers of men were arbitrarily drafted into the Waffen SS, the date when this practice commenced and the extent to which it was carried, as they have been given by the witness Brill, are both challenged.

He told you that the first 36,000 were conscripted between the autumn of 1939 and the spring of 1940. To say that that 36,000 were compulsorily drafted into the SS is deliberately misleading. When he was cross-examined before the Commissioner upon a similar statement he admitted that that 36,000 were already members of the Allgemeine SS which they had voluntarily joined. They were not conscripted: they were simply posted from one part of the SS to another. Figures of the subsequent conscripts which he gave were as follows: During 1942, 30,000; during 1943, 100,000, and during 1944, 210,000, making a total of 340,000. Even on these figures he is far short of justifying his statement that by the end of the war there were more conscripts than volunteers. He gave the grand total of the Waffen SS as 910,000 - a figure which included its strength in 1940 and all subsequent reinforcements both voluntary and compulsory; 340,000 amounts to only just over one-third of that total.

On the question of the date at which recruits were first conscripted into the SS there is considerable evidence to refute this witness. In February, 1940, Hess was instructing the Party offices to assist in the voluntary recruitment for the SS.

[Page 284]

In the decrees which he issued there was no suggestion of compulsory drafting. In April, 1942, a recruiting pamphlet was emphasizing the voluntary basis of the Waffen SS in these words:
"The youth of the National Socialist Reich knows that he must himself initiate proceedings in order to complete his military service in the Waffen SS. That so many young Germans have volunteered for the Waffen SS is a living testimonial to the confidence of today's young generation in the Waffen SS, its spirit, and above all, its leadership."
The Soldier's Friend, a pocket diary for the German armed forces, published in 1943, the year in which Brill would have you believe that 100,000 men were conscripted without choice, was describing the members of the SS as hopeful young men who had "voluntarily decided to join the ranks of the Waffen SS." It stated:
"Everyone has acquainted himself with the comprehensive manual for the Waffen SS. The principal points are as follows: (1) Service in the Armed Forces SS counts as military service. Only volunteers are accepted."
In April of the same year Himmler was directing Kaltenbrunner on the admission of Sipo officials into the SS:
"I wish to clarify again: I want an admission only if the following conditions are fulfilled: (1) If the man applies freely and voluntarily."
The Organization Book for 1943 explains that the Waffen SS, by admitting volunteers for the duration of the war, makes it possible for those volunteers to fight in the battle for the evolution of the National Socialist idea. I am entitled also to make this comment upon Brill's evidence. You will remember that I have already referred you to the statements which this witness made upon the activities of the SS Division Leibstandarte, statements which must, in my respectful submission, be regarded as perjured testimony. In view of the suspect nature of his evidence and of the evidence there is to contradict it, it is my submission that whatever may have been the extent of compulsory service in the SS it was very much less and came into being at a very much later date than he contends.

But whatever the truth of this matter may be it is our submission that the fact that a number of men were compulsorily enrolled ought not to and cannot afford this organization a defence. The instances of crime committed by the SS during the war are so widespread, so constant and so vast that you are compelled to infer that the vast majority of its members, whether in the first place they joined voluntarily or otherwise, readily accepted the tradition of the SS and themselves became willing parties to its criminal activities. May I consider in outline some only of the evidence upon which that conclusion must be drawn?

[ 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.