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 4 of 7)

[Page 392]


On the witness-stand I said that a thousand years would not suffice to erase the guilt brought upon our people because of Hitler's conduct in this war. Every possible guilt incurred by our nation has already been completely wiped out today, not only by the conduct of our war-time enemies towards our nation and its soldiers, which has been carefully kept out of this Trial, but also by the tremendous mass crimes of the most frightful sort, which - as I have now learned - have been and

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still are being committed against Germans by Russians, Poles and Czechs, especially in East Prussia, Silesia, Pomerania and Sudetenland. Who shall ever judge these crimes against the German people?

I end my final statement in the sure hope that from all the horrors of the war and all the threatening developments which are already appearing everywhere, a peace may perhaps still arise in whose blessings even our nation may be able to participate.

But it is God's eternal justice in which I hope our people will be secure and to which alone I trustfully submit.

THE PRESIDENT: I call upon the defendant Wilhelm Frick.

DEFENDANT WILHELM FRICK: I have a clear conscience with respect to the Indictment. My entire life was spent in the service of my people and my fatherland. To them I have devoted the best of my strength in the loyal fulfillment of my duty.

I am convinced that no patriotic American or citizen of any other country would have acted differently in my place, if his country had been in the same position. For to have acted differently would have been a breach of my oath of allegiance, and high treason.

In fulfilling my legal and moral duties, I believe that I have deserved punishment no more than have the tens of thousands of faithful German officials and employees in the public service who have already been detained in camps for over a year merely because they did their duty. It is my especially honourable duty, as a former public minister of long-standing, to remember them here in gratitude.

THE PRESIDENT: I call upon the defendant Julius Streicher.

DEFENDANT JULIUS STREICHER: Your Honours. At the beginning of this Trial I was asked by the President whether I pleaded guilty in the sense of the Indictment. I answered that question in the negative.

The completed proceedings and the evidence presented have confirmed the correctness of the statement I gave at that time.

It has been established that:

1. Mass killings were carried out exclusively upon orders by the head of the State, Adolf Hitler, without other influence.

2. The mass killings were carried out without the knowledge of the German people and in complete secrecy, by the Reichsfuehrer SS, Heinrich Himmler.

The prosecution has asserted that mass killings would not have been possible without Streicher and his Der Sturmer. The prosecution neither offered nor submitted any proof of this assertion.

It is clearly established that on the occasion of the Anti- Jewish Boycott Day in the 1933, which I was ordered to lead, and on the occasion of the demonstration of 1938 ordered by Reich Minister Dr. Goebbels, I, in my capacity as Gauleiter, neither ordered, demanded, nor participated in any acts of violence against Jews.

It is further established that in many articles in my weekly paper, "

Der Sturmer,

" I advocated the Zionist demand for the creation of a Jewish State as the natural solution of the Jewish problem.

These facts prove that I did not want the Jewish problem to be solved by violence.

If I or other authors mentioned a destruction or extermination of Jewry in some articles of my weekly paper, Der Sturmer, then these were strong statements in reply to provoking expressions of opinion by Jewish, authors in which the extermination of the German people was demanded. According to his last testament, the mass killings ordered by the leader of the State, Adolf Hitler, were supposed to be a reprisal which was only brought about by the course of the war, then recognized as becoming unfavourable.

These actions of the leader of the State against the Jews can be explained by his attitude towards the Jewish question, which was thoroughly different from mine.

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Hitler wanted to punish the Jews because he held them responsible for unleashing the war and for the bombing of the German civilian population.

It is deeply regrettable that the mass killings, which can be traced back to the personal decision of the leader of the State, Adolf Hitler, have led to a treatment of the German people which must also be considered as not humane. I repudiate the mass killings which were carried out, in the same way as they are repudiated by every decent German.

Neither in my capacity as Gauleiter nor as political author have I committed a crime, and I therefore look forward to your judgment with a good conscience.

I have no request to make for myself. I have one for the German people from whom I come. Fate has given you the power to pronounce any judgment. Do not pronounce a judgment, your Honours, which would imprint the stamp of dishonour upon the forehead of an entire nation.

THE PRESIDENT: I call upon the defendant Walter Funk.

DEFENDANT WALTER FUNK: In the days of my nation's greatest need I joined a political movement, the aim of which was the struggle for the freedom and honour of my fatherland and for a true social community of the people.

This movement received the leadership of the State in a legal way. I served this State by virtue of my duty as an official engaged in the execution of the German laws. I felt myself to a high degree bound to perform this duty at a time when there was a danger of war and during the war itself, when the existence of the fatherland was threatened in the extreme.

But in war the State is absolutely dependent on the loyalty and faithfulness of its officials.

Now, horrible crimes have become revealed here in which the offices under my direction were partly involved.

I learned this here in Court for the first time. I did not know of these crimes and I could not have known them.

These criminal deeds fill me, as every German, with deep shame. I have examined my conscience and memory with the utmost care, and I have told the Tribunal frankly and honestly everything that I knew, and I have concealed nothing. As far as the deposits of the SS in the Reichsbank are concerned, I only acted in performance of the official duties incumbent on me as President of the Reichsbank. According to law, the acceptance of gold and foreign currency was one of the business tasks of the Reichsbank. The fact that the confiscation of these assets was taking place through the SS agencies subordinate to Himmler could not arouse any suspicion in me. The entire police system, the frontier control, and especially the search for foreign currency in the Reich and in all occupied areas, were under Himmler. I was completely deceived and imposed upon by Himmler.

Until the time of this Trial, I did not know and did not suspect that among the assets delivered to the Reichsbank there were enormous quantities of pearls, precious stones, jewelry, gold objects and even spectacle frames, and - horrible to say - gold teeth. That was never reported to me and I never noticed it, either. I never saw these things. But until this trial I also knew nothing of the fact that millions of Jews were murdered in concentration camps or by the Einsatzkommandos in the East. Never did a single person say even one word to me about these things.

The existence of extermination camps of this kind was totally unknown to me. I did not know a single one of their names. I have never set foot in a concentration camp either.

I assumed that some of the gold and foreign currency which was deposited in the Reichsbank came from concentration camps, and I frankly stated this fact from the beginning in all of my interrogations. But, according to German law, everyone was obliged to deliver these assets.

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Apart from that, the kind and quantity of these shipments from the SS were never made known to me. But how was I even to suspect that the SS had acquired these assets by desecrating corpses?

If I had known of these horrible circumstances, my Reichsbank would never have accepted these assets for storage and conversion into money. I would have refused, even risking the danger of losing my head. If I had known of these crimes, your Honours, I would not be sitting in the defendants' dock today, you may be convinced of that. In that case, the grave would have been better for me than this tormented life, this life full of suspicions, slanders and vulgar accusations.

Not a single human being has ever lost his life because of any measures decreed by me. I have always respected the property of others. I have always tried to help people in need and, as far as it lay within my power, to bring happiness and joy into their lives. And for that, many will be grateful to me and remain grateful.

Human life consists of error and guilt.

I, too, have made many mistakes and let myself be deceived in many things. I frankly acknowledge, I admit, that I have let myself be deceived all too easily and in many ways have been too unconcerned and too gullible. Therein I see my guilt, but I consider myself free from any criminal guilt which I am supposed to have incurred by discharging my official duties. In that respect, my conscience is just as clear today as on the day when I entered this courtroom ten months ago for the first time.

THE PRESIDENT: I call upon the defendant Hjalmar Schacht.

DEFENDANT HJALMAR SCHACHT: My sense of justice was deeply wounded by the fact that the final speeches of the prosecution completely by-passed the evidence resulting from this Trial. The only accusation raised against me under the Charter is that I wanted war. The overwhelming evidence in my case has shown, however, that I was a fanatical opponent of war and tried actively and passively, by protests, sabotage, cunning and force, to prevent the war.

How, then, can the prosecution assert that I favoured war? How can the Russian Prosecutor assert that I did not turn from Hitler until 1943, when my first attempt at a coup d'etat had already been undertaken in the autumn of 1938?

And now Justice Jackson has raised a new accusation against me in his final speech, which has not been discussed at all in the Trial until now. I am said to have planned to release Jews from Germany in exchange for a ransom in foreign currency. This, too, is untrue. Disgusted by the Jewish pogrom of November, 1938, I managed to obtain Hitler's approval to a plan which was to facilitate emigration for the Jews. I intended to place 1,500 million Reichsmarks taken from confiscated Jewish property under the administration of an international committee, and Germany was to undertake the obligation to repay this amount to the committee in twenty yearly installments, and in foreign currency, which is the exact opposite of what Justice Jackson asserted here.

I discussed this plan in December, 1938, in London, with Lord Bearsted, with Lord Winterton, and with the American representative, Mr. Rublee. They were all sympathetically disposed towards the plan. But since I was removed from the Reichsbank shortly afterwards by Hitler, the matter was dropped. Had it been carried through, not a single German Jew would have lost his life.

My opposition to Hitler's policies was known at home and abroad, and was so clear that even in 1940 the United States Charge d'Affaires, Mr. Kirk, sent me his regards before leaving his Berlin post, adding that after the war I could be counted on as a man free from guilt. This is reported in detail by the witness Huelse in his affidavit (37-B in my document book).

Instead of that, however, the prosecution has branded me during a whole year in the world Press as a robber, murderer, and betrayer. It is this accusation alone which I have to thank for the fact that in the evening of my life I am without means of subsistence and without a home. But the prosecution is mistaken if it believes,

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as was suggested in one of the first speeches of prosecuting counsel, that it can count me amongst the pitiful and broken characters.

To be sure, I erred politically. I never claimed to be a politician, but my economic and financial policy of creating work by assisting credit has justified itself brilliantly. The figure of unemployment dropped from 7,000,000 to zero. In the year 1938 the State revenues had risen to such an extent that the of repayment the Reichsbank credits was fully guaranteed. The fact that Hitler refused this repayment, which he had solemnly guaranteed, was a tremendous betrayal which I could not foresee. My political mistake was that I did not realize the extent of Hitler's criminal nature at an early enough time. But I did not stain my hands with one single illegal or immoral act. The terrorism of the Gestapo did not frighten me. For terrorism must always fail before the appeal to conscience. In this lies the great source of strength which religion gives us.

In spite of that, Justice Jackson considered it proper to accuse me of opportunism and cowardice. And this when the end of the war found me in the Flossenberg extermination camp, where I had been imprisoned for ten months, and where I escaped Hitler's order of murder only by a merciful fate. At the conclusion of this Trial I stand shaken to the very depths of my soul by the unspeakable suffering, which I tried to prevent with all my personal efforts and with all attainable means, but which in the end I failed to prevent, not through my fault.

Therefore, my head is upright and I am unshaken in the belief that the world will recover, not through the power of violence, but only through the strength of the spirit and moral actions.

THE PRESIDENT: I call upon the defendant Karl Donitz.

DEFENDANT DONITZ: I should like to say three things.

Firstly, you may judge the legality of German submarine warfare as your conscience dictates. I consider this form of warfare justified and have acted according to my conscience. I would have to do exactly the same all over again. My subordinates, however, who carried out my orders, acted with complete confidence in me and without there being a shadow of a doubt about the necessity and legality of these orders. In my eyes, no subsequent judgment can deprive them of their belief in the honourable character of a struggle for which they voluntarily made sacrifice after sacrifice up to the last hour.

Secondly, there has been much talk here about a conspiracy which is alleged to have existed among the defendants. I consider this allegation a political dogma. As such it cannot be proved, but can only be believed or rejected. Considerable numbers of the German people will never believe, however, that such a conspiracy could have been the cause of their misfortune. Let politicians and jurists argue about it; they will only make it harder for the German people to draw a lesson from this Trial, which is of decisive importance for their attitude toward the past and the shaping of their future, and the acknowledgement that the Fuehrer principle as apolitical principle is wrong. In the military leadership of all armies in this world, the Fuehrer principle has proved itself in the best possible way. On the strength of this experience, I considered it also right with regard to political leadership, particularly in the case of a nation in the hopeless position in which the German people found itself in 1932. The great successes of the new government, and a feeling of happiness such as the entire nation had never known before, seemed to prove it right. But if, in spite of all the idealism, all the decency, and all the devotion of the great majority of the German people, no other result has been achieved through the Fuehrer principle in the last analysis than the misfortune of this people, then this principle as such must be wrong, wrong because apparently human nature is not in a position to use the power of this principle for good without falling victim to its temptations.

Thirdly, my life was devoted to my profession and thereby to the service of the German people. As the last Commander-in- Chief of the German Navy and

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the last head of the State, I feel myself responsible to the German people for everything which I have done or left undone.

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