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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Two Hundred and Sixteenth Day: Saturday, 31th August, 1946
(Part 2 of 7)

[Page 384]

DEFENDANT HESS: Mr. President, may I point out that I was taking in account the fact that I am the only defendant who, up to now, has not been able to make a statement here. For what I have to say here I could only have said as a witness if the proper questions had been put to me. But as I have already stated -

THE PRESIDENT: I do not propose to argue with the defendants. The Tribunal has made its order that the defendants shall only make short statements. The defendant Hess had full opportunity to go into the witness-box and give his evidence upon oath. He chose not to do so. He is now making a statement and he will be treated like the other defendants and will be confined to a short statement.

DEFENDANT HESS: Therefore, Mr. President, I shall forgo making the statements which I had wanted to make in connection with the things I have just said. I ask you to listen to only a few concluding words, which are of a mores general nature and have nothing to do with the things that I have just stated.

The statements which my defence counsel made in my name before the High Tribunal I permitted to be made for the sake of the future judgment of my people and of history. That is the only thing which matters with me. I do not defend myself against accusers to whom I deny the right to bring charges against me and my fellow-countrymen. I will not discuss accusations which concern things which are purely German matters and therefore of no concern to foreigners. I raise no protest against statements which are aimed at attacking my honour and the honour of the German people. I consider such slanderous attacks by the enemy as a proof of honour.

I was permitted to work for many years of my life under the greatest son whom my country has brought forth in its thousand-year history. Even if I could, I would not want to erase this period of time from my existence. I am happy to know that I have done my duty to my people, my duty as a German, as a National Socialist, as a loyal follower of my Fuehrer. I do not regret anything.

If I were to begin all over again, I would act just as I have acted, even if I knew that in the end I should meet a fiery death at the stake. No matter what human

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beings may do, I shall some day stand before the judgment seat of the Eternal. I shall answer to Him, and I know He will judge me innocent.

THE PRESIDENT: I call upon the defendant Joachim von Ribbentrop.

DEFENDANT VON RIBBENTROP: This trial should be conducted for the purpose of discovering the historical truth. From the point of view of German policy I can only say:

This trial will go down in history as a model example of how, while appealing to hitherto unknown legal formulas and the spirit of fairness, one can evade the cardinal problems of twenty-five years of the gravest human history.

If the roots of our trouble lie in the Treaty of Versailles - and they do lie there - was it really to the purpose to prevent a discussion about a treaty which even the intelligent men among its authors had characterized as the source of future trouble, while some of the wisest men were predicting that a new world war would be caused by some of its faults.

I have devoted more than twenty years of my life to the elimination of this evil, with the result that foreign statesmen who know about this today write in their affidavits that they did not believe me. They ought to have written that in the interests of their own country they could not believe me. I am held responsible for the conduct of a foreign policy which was determined by another. I knew only this much of it, that it never concerned itself with plans for world domination, but rather, for example, with the elimination of the consequences of Versailles and with the food problems of the German people.

If I deny that this German foreign policy planned and prepared for a war of aggression, that is not an excuse on my part. The truth of this is proved by the strength that we developed in the course of the Second World War and how weak we were at its beginning.

History will believe us when I say that we would have prepared a war of aggression immeasurably better if we had actually intended one. What we intended was to look after our elementary necessities of life, in the same way that England looked after her own interests in order to make one- fifth of the world subject to her and in the same way that the United States brought an entire continent and Russia the largest inland territory of the world under their hegemony. The only difference between the policies of these countries and ours was that we demanded parcels of land such as Danzig and the Corridor, which were taken unjustly from us, whereas the other Powers were accustomed to thinking only in terms of continents.

Before the establishment of the Charter of this Tribunal, even the signatory Powers of the London Agreement must have had different views about International Law and policy from those they have today. When I went to Marshal Stalin in Moscow in 1939, he did not discuss with me the possibility of a peaceful settlement of the German-Polish conflict within the framework of the Kellogg-Briand Pact: but rather he hinted that if, in addition to half of Poland and the Baltic countries, he did not receive Lithuania and the harbour of Libau, I might as well return home.

In 1939 the waging of war was obviously not yet regarded as an international crime against peace, otherwise I could not explain Stalin's telegram at the conclusion of the Polish campaign, which read:

"The friendship of Germany and the Soviet Union, based on the blood which they have shed together, has every prospect of being a firm and lasting one."
Here I should like to emphasize and stress the fact that even I ardently desired this friendship at that time. Of this friendship there remains today only the primary problem for Europe and the world: Will Asia dominate Europe, or will the Western Powers be able to stem or even push back the influence of the Soviets at the Elbe, at the Adriatic coast and at the Dardanelles?

[Page 386]

In other words, Great Britain and the United States today face the same dilemma as Germany faced at the time when I was carrying out negotiations with Russia. For my country's sake I hope with all my heart that they may be more successful in achieving a satisfactory solution than we were.

Now, what has already been proved in this Trial about the criminal character of German foreign policy? That out of more than 300 defence documents which were submitted, 150 were rejected without cogent reasons. That the files of the enemy and even of the Germans were inaccessible to the defence. That Churchill's friendly hint to me that if Germany became too strong she would be destroyed, is declared irrelevant in judging the motives of German foreign policy before this forum. A revolution does not become more comprehensible if it is considered from the point of view of a conspiracy.

Fate made me one of the exponents of this revolution. I deplore the atrocious, crimes which became known to me here and which besmirch this revolution. But I cannot measure all of them according to puritanical standards, and the less so since I have seen that even the enemy, in spite of their total victory, were neither able nor willing to prevent atrocities of the most extensive kind.

One can regard the theory of the conspiracy as one will, but from the point of view of the critical observer it is only a makeshift solution. Anybody who has held a decisive position in the Third Reich knows that it simply represents an historical falsehood, and the authors of the Charter of this Tribunal have only proved with their invention from what background they derived their line of thought.

I might just as well assert that the signatory Powers of this Charter had formed a conspiracy for the suppression of the primary needs of a highly developed, capable, and courageous nation. When I look back upon my actions and my desires, then I can conclude only this: The only thing of which I consider myself guilty before my people - not before this Tribunal - is that my aspirations in foreign policy remained without success.

THE PRESIDENT: I call on the defendant Wilhelm Keitel.

DEFENDANT KEITEL: I acknowledged on the witness-stand my responsibility in connection with my official position, and have explained the significance of this position in the presentation of evidence and in the final plea of my defence counsel.

It is far from my intention to minimize my part in what took place. In the interest of historical truth, however, it seems advisable to correct a few errors in the final speeches of the prosecution.

The American Chief Prosecutor said in his final speech:

"Keitel, a weak, submissive tool, turned the Wehrmacht, the instrument of aggression, over to the Party."
A "turning over" of the Wehrmacht to the Party by me cannot be reconciled with my functions, either up to 4th February, 1938, or after that time when Hitler made himself Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht, and thus ruled the Party and the Wehrmacht absolutely. I do not recall that any sort of evidence was presented in the course of this Trial which could justify this serious allegation by the prosecution.

The presentation of evidence, however, has also shown that the further contention "that Keitel led the Wehrmacht in the execution of its criminal intentions" is wrong. This allegation is in contradiction to the Anglo-American Trial Brief, which says expressly that I had no authority to issue orders.

Consequently, the British Chief Prosecutor is also mistaken when he speaks of me as - and I quote - "a field-marshal who issued orders to the Wehrmacht," and when he claims that I said that I "had no idea what practical results were intend by this" - that is the quotation. I believe that this is something quite different from what I said on the witness- stand, which was, and I quote the words I spoke on the witness-stand: "But when an order was given, I acted according to my

[Page 387]

duty as I saw it, without permitting myself to be confused by the possible but not always foreseeable consequences."

Also, the contention that - and I quote: "Keitel and Jodl cannot deny the responsibility for the operations of the Einsatzkommandos, with which their own commanders co- operated closely and cordially," cannot be reconciled with the results of the testimony. The OKW was eliminated from the Soviet-Russian theatre of war. There were no troop commanders under its orders.

The French Chief Prosecutor said in his final speech: "Is it necessary to recall the terrible words of the defendant Keitel that 'human life was worth less than nothing in the occupied territories'?"

These terrible words are not my words. I did not express them and did not make them the contents of any order, either. The fact that my name is connected with the transmission of this Fuehrer order weighs heavily enough upon me.

At another point M. Champetier de Ribes said:

"This order was executed - it concerned anti-Partisan activities - by virtue of instructions from the commander of the army group, who, in his turn, acted according to the general instructions of the defendant Keitel."
Here again "instructions of Keitel" are mentioned, although the French Indictment itself states that I, as chief of the OKW, could not give any direct orders to the branches of the Wehrmacht.

In his final speech the Soviet Russian Prosecutor said:

"Beginning with the documents on the executions of political persons, Keitel, this 'soldier,' as he likes to call himself, lied shamelessly to the American prosecution in the preliminary examination - disregarding his oath - by saying that this decree was in the nature of a reprisal and that political persons had been kept separate from the other prisoners of war at the latter's own request. He was exposed before the Tribunal."
The document in question is 884-PS.

The accusation that I lied is unfounded. The Soviet Russian prosecution overlooked the fact that the transcript of my preliminary examination on this question was not a subject of evidence before this Tribunal. Therefore, its use in the final speech of the prosecution should not have been allowed. I did not see the transcript of the preliminary interrogation and do not know the wording. If it is complete, it will clarify the error which arose because the document in question had not been shown to me. In the examination by my defence counsel, on the witness-stand I presented the state of affairs correctly.

In the last stage of the Trial the prosecution attempted once more to incriminate me severely by connecting my name with an order for the preparation of bacteriological warfare. A witness, the former Brigadier-General Dr. Schreiber, had said in his report:

"The chief of the OKW, Field-Marshal Keitel, had issued orders to prepare for bacteriological warfare against the Soviet Union."
On the witness-stand here, to be sure, this witness did speak of a "Fuehrer order." But this is not true, either.

The introduction of the testimony of Colonel Buerker, which was approved by the Tribunal in agreement with the prosecution, indicates that in the autumn of 1943 I, according to Buerker, sharply and categorically rejected the suggestion of the Army Medical Inspectorate and the Army Weapons Office to begin experiments with bacteria with the comment that that was completely out of the question, and that it was indeed forbidden. This is true. General Jodl also can confirm the fact that no order of the kind alleged by Dr. Schreiber was ever issued; on the contrary, Hitler prohibited bacteriological warfare, which had been suggested by some departments. This proves the allegation to the contrary by the witness Dr. Schreiber to be untrue.

I claim to have told the truth in all things, even if they incriminated me; at least to have endeavoured, in spite of the great extent of my field of activity, to

[Page 388]
contribute to the clarification of the true state of affairs to the best of my knowledge.

So, at the end of this Trial as well, I want to present frankly the avowal and confession I have to make today.

In the course of the Trial my defence counsel submitted two fundamental questions to me, the first some months ago. It was: "In case of a victory would you have refused to participate in any part of the success?"

I answered: "No, I should certainly have been proud of it."

The second question was: "How would you act if you were in the same position again?"

My answer: "Then I would rather choose death than allow myself to be drawn into the net of such pernicious methods."

From these two answers the High Tribunal may see my viewpoint. I believed, I erred, and I was not in a position to prevent what should have been prevented. That is my guilt.

It is tragic to have to realize that the best I had to give as a soldier, obedience and loyalty, was exploited for purposes which could not be recognized at the time, and that I did not see that there is a limit set even for a soldier's performance of his duty. That is my fate.

From the clear recognition of the causes, the pernicious methods, and the terrible consequences of this war, may there arise the hope for a new future in the community of nations for the German people.

THE PRESIDENT: I call upon the defendant Ernst Kaltenbrunner.

DEFENDANT KALTENBRUNNER: The prosecution hold me responsible for the concentration camps, for the destruction of Jewish life, for Einsatzgruppen and other things. All of this is neither in accord with the evidence nor with the truth. The accusers as well as the accused are exposed to the dangers of a summary proceeding.

It is correct that I had to take over the Reich Security Main Office. There was no guilt in that alone. Such offices exist in governments of other nations too. Nevertheless, the task and activity assigned to me in 1943 consisted almost exclusively in the reorganization of the German political and military intelligence service, not as Heydrich's successor. It was almost a year after his death when I had to accept this post at a time when suspicion fell on Admiral Canaris of having collaborated with the enemy for years. In a short time I ascertained the terrible extent of the treason of Canaris and his accomplices. Amter IV and V of the Reich Security Main Office were subordinate to me only theoretically and not in fact.

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