The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 2000/01/04

DR. NELTE: Mr. President, I shall submit the affidavit of
the witness which has been received, at the appropriate

Q. We now turn to the case of Sagan. The prosecution
originally accused you of giving the order for the killing
of fifty Royal Air Force officers who escaped from Stalag
Luft 3 at Sagan.

I am no longer clear as to whether the prosecution still
maintains this grave accusation, since Reich Marshal Goering
and the witness Westhoff have been interrogated - the latter
outside the court room. I have the report of Westhoff's
interrogation before me and I have submitted it to you. I
would like to ask you now to amplify the statement made by
Westhoff during the preliminary phase of the proceedings and
those which he will no doubt make in this court

                                                   [Page 38]

room in future, and to say what you yourself know about this
extremely grave incident.

A. The facts are that one morning it was reported to me that
the escape had taken place. At the same time I received the
information that about fifteen of the escaped officers had
been apprehended in the vicinity of the camp. I did not
intend to report the case at the noon conference on the
military situation held in Berchtesgaden, or rather, at the
Berghof, as it was highly unpleasant, being the third mass-
escape in a very short period. As it had only happened ten
or twelve hours before, I hoped that in the course of the
day the majority of them would be caught and that in this
way the matter might be settled satisfactorily.

While I was making my report Himmler appeared. I think that
it was towards the end of my report that he reported the
incident in my presence, as he had already started the usual
general search for the escaped prisoners. There was an
extremely heated discussion, a serious clash between Hitler
and myself, since he immediately made the most outrageous
accusations against me on account of this incident.

Things are sometimes incorrectly represented in Westhoff's
account, and that is why I am making a detailed statement.

During this clash the Fuehrer stated in great excitement,
"These prisoners are not to be sent back to the Armed
Forces; they are to stay with the Police." I immediately
objected. I said that this procedure was impossible. The
general excitement led to Hitler's declaring again and with
considerable emphasis: "I am ordering you to retain them,
Himmler; you are not to give them up."

I put up a fight for the men who had already come back to
camp, and who would, according to the original order, be
brought out again and handed over to the police. I did that,
but I could not do anything more.

After that very grave clash -

Q. Will you tell me, please, who was present during that

A. As far as I remember, Colonel General Jodl was certainly
present, at least for part of the time, and heard some of
it, though perhaps not every word, since he was in the
adjoining room at first. At any rate, Jodl and I returned to
our quarters together. We discussed the case and talked
about the extremely unpleasant consequences which the whole
matter would have. On returning to my quarters I immediately
ordered General von Gravenitz to report to me the following

In this connection I must explain that Reich Marshal Goering
was not present. If I was a little uncertain about that
during my interrogation it was because I was told that
witnesses had already stated that Goering was present. But
right from the beginning I thought it improbable and
doubtful. It is also incorrect, therefore, that Goering
raised any accusations against me at the time. There had not
been a conference in Berlin either. These are mistakes which
I think I can explain by saying that Gravenitz (who came
with Westhoff and saw me for the first time) was present
during the report and witnessed a scene of a kind unusual in
military life, because of the violence of my remarks in
connection with the incident.

Do you want me to say anything more about the discussion
with Gravenitz?

Q. The only thing which interests me in this connection is,
whether you repeated to Gravenitz the order previously given
by Hitler in such a way that both Gravenitz and Westhoff,
who was also present, might form the impression that you
yourself had issued the order for the shooting of the
escaped officers.

A. According to the record of Westhoff's interrogation,
which I have seen, I can explain it, I think, as follows:

First of all, I made serious accusations - I myself was
extraordinarily agitated, for I must say that even the order
that the prisoners were to be retained by the police caused
me extreme anxiety regarding their fate. I frankly admit
that the possibility of their being shot while trying to
escape remained in my subconscious mind. I certainly spoke
in extreme agitation at the time and did not weigh my

                                                   [Page 39]

words carefully. And I certainly repeated Hitler's words,
which were, "We must set an example," since I was afraid of
some further serious interference with the Prisoner of War
Organisation in other ways, apart from this single case of
the prisoners not being returned to the Armed Forces. On
reading the interrogation report I saw the statement by
Gravenitz, or, rather, Westhoff, to the effect that I had
said "They will be shot, and most of them must be dead
already," I probably said something like: "You will see what
a bad business this is;  some of them may have been shot

I did not know, however, that they had already been shot;
and I must confess that in my presence Hitler never said a
word about anybody being shot. He only said: "Himmler, you
will keep them; you will not hand them over." I did not find
out until several days later that they had been shot. I saw
among other papers an official report from the British
Government stating that not until the 31st - the escape took
place on the 25th - that not until the 31st were they
actually shot.

Westhoff is also wrong in thinking orders had already been
issued that an announcement was to be made in the camp
saying that certain people had been shot or had not returned
and that lists of names were to be put up. That order did
not come until later, and I remember it. I remember it
because of the following story:

A few days afterwards - I think on or about the 31st - one
of the adjutants told me that a report had been received
that some had been shot. I requested a discussion alone with
Hitler, and told him that I had heard that people had been
shot by the police. All he said was that he had heard it too
- naturally, since it was his report. In extreme disgust I
told him my opinion of it. At that time he told me that it
was to be published in the camp as a warning to the others.
The order to make this announcement in the camps did not
appear until later. In any case, Westhoff's recollection of
some of the facts which he has sworn to is not quite
accurate, even if such expressions as those used by him and
explained by me here may have occurred. We shall hear his
own account of that.

Q. Did Hitler ever tell you that he had ordered those men to
be shot?

A. No, he never told me that. I never heard it from him. I
heard it very much later, as far as I can remember, from
Reich Marshal Goering, with whom the whole incident was, of
course, repeatedly discussed, especially as an Air Force
camp was involved.

Q. I should like to say in conclusion: Are you stating under
oath here that you yourself neither ordered these Air Force
officers to be shot, nor did you receive and pass on such an
order, nor did you yourself learn who gave the order?

A. That is correct. I neither received that order nor did I
know or hear of it; nor did I pass on such an order. I can
repeat this under oath.

Q. We now turn to deportations: What the prosecution refers
to as deportation of workers is the removal of citizens of
the occupied territories to Germany or other occupied
territories for the purpose of using them for slave labour,
on defence work or other tasks connected with warfare. That
is the accusation which I have just read to you.

The prosecution has repeatedly coupled your name with these
accusations and has said that you - i.e. the O.K.W. - had co-
operated in supplying workers for German war economy. You
know that in fact the defendant Sauckel was the
Plenipotentiary in that sphere. I should like to ask you
whether workers had been taken from the occupied territories
and brought to Germany before Plenipotentiary Sauckel was

A. As far as I know, workers were transferred from occupied
territories, especially those in the West: Belgium, Holland
- I do not know about Holland, but certainly France - to
Germany. According to what I heard, I understood at the time
that it was done by recruiting volunteers. I think I
remember that General von Stuelpnagel, the military
commander of Paris, told me in Berlin once during a

                                                   [Page 40]

meeting that more than two hundred thousand had volunteered,
but I cannot remember exactly when that was.

Q. Was the O.K.W. the competent authority on these matters?

A. No, the O.K.W. had nothing to do with it. These questions
were handled through the usual channels - the O.K.H., the
military commanders in France, and in Belgium and Northern
France the competent central authorities of the Reich. The
O.K.W. never had anything to do with it.

Q. What happened in occupied territories with civilian

A. In occupied territories with civilian administration, the
Armed Forces were excluded from any executive powers in the
administration, so that in these territories the Armed
Forces and their departments had certainly nothing to do
with it. Only in those territories which were still
operational areas for the Army were executive powers given
to military troops, supreme commanders, army commanders,
etc. The O.K.W. did not come into the official procedure
here either.

Q. According to an interrogation report submitted here the
defendant Sauckel said that you - i.e. the O.K.W. - were
responsible for giving instructions to the military
commanders in the occupied territories, and that he had had
their support in his recruiting campaigns. What can you say
about that?

A. The view held by Plenipotentiary Sauckel can obviously be
explained by the fact that he knew neither the official
service channels nor the functions of the Armed Forces, that
he saw me at one or two discussions on the furnishing of man-
power, and, thirdly, that he sometimes came to see me when
he had had his interview and received his orders alone. He
had probably been given orders to do so, in Hitler's usual
way: "Go and see the Chief of the O.K.W.; he will do the
rest." The O.K.W. had no occasion to do anything. The O.K.W.
had also no right to give orders, but in Sauckel's case I
did take over the job of informing the O.K.H. or the
technical assistants in the General Quartermaster's office.
I have never issued orders or instructions of my own to the
military commanders in occupied territories. It was not one
of the functions of the O.K.W.

Q. A document has been submitted here according to which
Generals Stapf and Nagel had agreed to ask you to exercise
pressure or coercion during the recruiting campaigns in the
East. That, at any rate, is the statement made by the
prosecution. Do you know of this happening?

A. I remembered it when the document was presented. It was
obviously an attempt on the part of Stapf, who had worked
with me in the Army for many years, to get the Fuehrer's
support or assistance through my mediation. Stapf, who was
the Director of the Economic Staff East at the time, and
General Nagel, who was also mentioned in this connection,
and who was in charge of the Economic Inspectorate
Department in the East, had obviously tried to involve me in
the matter. According to the document, some pressure had to
be applied from higher quarters, but I took no steps at all
as I had nothing to do with these things.
Q. I am now going to deal with the question of the pillage
of art treasures.

THE PRESIDENT: Perhaps we might adjourn now.

(A recess was taken.)

Q. The French Prosecution has accused you, among others, of
issuing directives regarding the safeguarding and
confiscation of works of art, contents of libraries, etc. ,
Were any military orders, directives or general principles
laid down before the campaign in the West or in the East,
with regard to works of art, libraries and their treatment
in occupied territories?

A. No, as far as I know, there was nothing at all about
these matters, although provision had been made for
everything else which might happen in the course of a war. I
am not aware of any orders which were given with that in

Q. I am going to show you three documents submitted by the
French Prosecution, which mention you in connection with
Rosenberg's special staff, which has already been mentioned
here on various occasions. These are Documents PS-137,

                                                   [Page 41]

PS-138 and PS-140. These are documents from the Chief of the
O.K.W. to the Commander-in-Chief of the Army in France, and
in the Netherlands.

A. The first two documents, PS-137 and PS-138, came from
Headquarters. They were dictated in part by myself and sent
to departments of the Army. One says "To the Commander-in-
Chief of the Army," the other one "To the Commander-in-Chief
of the Army in Occupied France and the Commander of the
Wehrmacht in the Netherlands." They represent answers to
queries from various military departments who considered
themselves responsible for the safekeeping or guarding of
whatever was in the occupied territories, and also from
officers who obviously were going to collect, inspect,
register or otherwise investigate these art treasures,
libraries, etc., and to confiscate them.

In one case I. was called up on the phone by the Commander-
in-Chief of the Army - I think - who protested against this,
at other times by Rosenberg. The Fuehrer directed me to
instruct military departments to acquiesce in this and to
state their agreement. The way in which the documents are
drawn up shows in itself that they did not emanate from an
O.K.W. establishment. My adjutant signed them; but I myself
dictated them on the Fuehrer's orders and sent them out.
These queries may have been made just because no provision
had been made and no orders given. I did not know what was
to be done with these art treasures, etc., but I naturally
took the view that the object was to safeguard them. No
mention was made of transport or confiscation or
expropriation; and the question did not occur to me; I
merely issued these instructions in quite a brief form and
did not bother any further about the matter. I took them to
be precautionary measures, and they seemed to be justified.

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