The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 2000/01/05

Q. Now, you suggested, did you not, these false military movements?

A. No, I neither imagined nor suggested them. But it was an
instruction of the Fuehrer, as he dismissed me that evening.
I would not have thought of that myself.

Q. You have the documents books that I gave you. just look
at this. It is 113 of the German Document Book. It is 131 of
your Lordship's Document Book, the larger document book.

Now, this is your document of the 13th, defendant.

A. Yes.

Q. And, if you look at paragraph 1, the directions are to
take no real preparatory measures in the Army or Luftwaffe,
no troop movements or redeployments, to spread false but
quite credible news which may lead to the conclusion of
military preparations against Austria. And it is through
people in Austria and your customs personnel and through
agents that you set out the news, and by make-believe
wireless exchange and through manoeuvres.

Now, you put that up to Hitler and on the 14th Captain
Eberhard gives the information by phone that the Fuehrer has
given his approval on all points. You were putting up what
the false news and the false preparations were to be in
order to get a political effect in Austria, were you not?

A. I made the proposal on the basis and instigation of
instructions which had been given to me on my return to

Q. Well now, I only want to deal quite shortly with this,
and I think I can, but I want to show the same point with
regard to Czechoslovakia.

Before you became Chief of the O.K.W. you had been under von
Blomberg at the Ministry of War. Had you seen von Blomberg's
plan for the invasion of Czechoslovakia, the directive dated
24th June, 1937?

A. Yes, I knew that.

Q. You had?

A. Yes. It was not instructions for an invasion, it was
preparations for the annual mobilisation, that is what it

Q. Well, paragraph 2 reads:

  "The task of the German Armed Forces is to prepare in
  such a way that the bulk of the whole strength can break
  into Czechoslovakia quickly, by surprise, with the
  greatest force."

                                                  [Page 106]

I should have thought that was a preparation for an
invasion. All I want at the moment is to know this. You knew
of that plan, defendant, did you not?

A. I believe, yes, that I read it at that time, but of
course I do not remember the details any more.

Q. Now, you told this Tribunal that the first that you heard
of the Fuehrer's plans against Czechoslovakia in 1938 was at
the interview you had with the Fuehrer on 21st April. It is
very easy to forget something, and I am not putting it to
you that you are lying, defendant, on this point. But that
is not accurate, is it? You had correspondence with the
defendant von Ribbentrop as early as 4th March, six weeks
before, on this point, had you not, about the liaisoning
with the Hungarian High Command? Isn't that correct?

A. I cannot remember that: I have no idea.

Q. Just look at it. You see my point? You are stating that
you were not dealing with politics, but if you will look at
this document I will give you it in a moment - it is 2786-PS
- you will see that it is apparently a letter from the
defendant von Ribbentrop to you:

  "Most Honoured General: Enclosed I forward to you the
  minutes of a conference with the local Hungarian
  Ambassador for your confidential cognizance. As you can
  see from them, Mr. Sztojay suggested that possible war
  aims against Czechoslovakia be discussed between the
  German and Hungarian Armies. I have many doubts about
  such negotiations. If we discuss with Hungary possible
  war aims against Czechoslovakia, danger exists that other
  parties as well would be informed about this. I would
  greatly appreciate it if you would notify me briefly
  whether any commitments were made here in any respect."

And the Foreign Minister encloses the minutes of his
conversation with the Ambassador.

A. I remember this incident only so far as an invitation by
General von Ratz was concerned. I did not know at all just
what was to be discussed. Blomberg had been invited by von
Ratz also, and in my ignorance I questioned Hitler, whether
I should make such a visit. Hitler told me that he
considered that appropriate. However, an operational General
Staff meeting did not take place - it was just a hunting

THE PRESIDENT: The Court will adjourn now.

(A recess was taken.)


Q. I want to ask you very few questions on this part of the
case, defendant. Do you remember, you told the Tribunal that
on 21st April, when you saw Hitler, that he had either read
to you or handed you a copy of the minutes which appear
there, taken by Schmundt, about the basis of the Fall Grun
operation against Czechoslovakia?

THE PRESIDENT: Sir David, isn't this really a matter of
argument rather than a matter for cross-examination? The
witness says that in so far as the part he took in all these
matters, it was military. The case of the prosecution is
that the part he took was political.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: My Lord, if I may say so, it is a
very fair comment and received with greatest respect. The
difficulty arises, when a witness has said several times "it
is political" and "it is only military." I wanted to bring
out the points that show it is political and I don't want to
trespass on anything which the Tribunal had in mind.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think the Tribunal has all the
documents before it upon which it can judge, really, unless
you have new documents?

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: My Lord, there are none; and, my
Lord, I will, of course,

                                                  [Page 107]

accede at once to what the Tribunal says. My Lord, I should
like to point out one document.

THE PRESIDENT: Sir David, I think the Tribunal does feel
that the cross-examination is apt to get a little bit too
long and sometimes too detailed.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: If your Lordship please, I am sorry
if that has been done, but, my Lord, the witness was in
examination-in-chief, I think, two full days and in
examination by the other defence counsel for half a day, and
so far the prosecution has only spent just four hours. So I
hope your Lordship won't hold it too much against us. My
Lord, the only document which I should like to - I shall not
pursue the point in view of what your Lordship has said - is
on Page 31 of the document book. I only wanted you to have
this in mind, because your Lordship will remember that the
witness said that the state of German preparations was such
that he himself, and the other generals, did not think that
a campaign against Czechoslovakia would succeed. Your
Lordship will see that on that day General Halder, then
Chief of Staff, said that the operation would definitely
succeed and almost be reached in the second day. My Lord, I
only want to pass on that and I think it is only fair that
the Tribunal should have that point in mind. I don't think
it has been referred to before. I will leave that point, as
your Lordship has indicated and I will leave the other
points on this part of the case, as I intended to do. I only
want to deal with a different point entirely and then I
shall finish.


Q. Defendant, the document which I have now passed to you is
a document which gives the account of a conference between
Hitler and yourself on 20th October, 1939, with regard to
the future shape of Polish relations, and I want you to look
at paragraph 3, the second sub-paragraph. I want to put one
interview to you arising out of that. That paragraph says:

  "The Polish intelligentsia must be prevented from forming
  a ruling class. The standard of living in the country is
  to remain low. We only want to draw labour forces from

Now, do you remember General Lahousen giving evidence? He
said that Admiral Canaris had protested vehemently to you
against, first of all, the projected shooting and
extermination measures that were being directed particularly
against the Polish intelligentsia, nobility and clergy, as
well as elements that could be regarded as embodiments of
the national resistance movement. According to
General Lahousen, Canaris said:

  "The world will at some time make the Armed Forces under
  whose eyes these events have occurred, also responsible
  for these events."

Do you remember Admiral Canaris saying that to you or words
to that effect?

A. I only know what General Lahousen testified here in
court. I don't know anything about what Admiral Canaris

Q. Did Lahousen never give you any warning of any kind as to
the fact that the Armed Forces might be held responsible for
these actions that were being taken in Poland?

A. No. It was also my opinion that the Armed Forces would be
made responsible even if such actions were taken without
their approval or contact. That was also a reason for the

Q. And that was a point that did worry you very much, was it

A. Yes, I was extremely worried and I had serious
discussions about it, but not at that particular time.

Q. And wouldn't it be fair to put it this way, that if you
had known at the time all that you know now, you would have
refused, even with all that you have told us, you would have
refused to have anything to do with actions that produced
concentration camps, mass murder, and misery to millions of
people, or do you

                                                  [Page 108]

say that you still, knowing all that you know now, would
have gone on with these actions ?

A. No. I am convinced that if the German Armed Forces and
their Generals had known it then they would have fought
against these things.


MR. DODD: If Your Honours please, I have just one question.


Q. A few days ago, on the morning of 3rd April, when you
were on direct examination, we understood you to say that
you had the feeling that you must accept responsibility for
orders issued in your name, orders which you passed on,
which were issued by Hitler; and on Friday afternoon, when
Sir David was examining you, we understood you to say that
as an old professional soldier you of course, understood the
traditions and indeed the principles of that profession that
oblige a soldier not to carry out any order which he
recognises to be criminal in character. Is that
understanding on our part correct?

A. Yes.

Q. So that it is fair to say to you that despite the
obligations of your oath as a professional soldier, you
acknowledge having carried out criminal orders?

A. One can hardly put it that way. What should be said is
that the type of government we had at the time and the
authority of the head of State permitted such legislative
power that the executive organs were not conscious of
carrying out illegal orders. Of course, I was also aware of
the fact that deeds were committed which were incompatible
with right and justice.

Q. I understand you to say you did with knowledge carry out
and pass on criminal or illegal orders. Is that a fair

A. I did not have any inner conviction of being criminal,
since after all it was the head of the State, who as far as
we were concerned, held all the legislative power.
Consequently I did not consider that I was acting

Q. Well, I do not want to devote any more time to you except
to say this, to suggest to you, that I think your answer is
not responsive.

You told us that some of these orders were violations of the
existing International Law. An order issued in that form and
on that basis is a criminal order, is an illegal order, is
it not?

A. Yes, that is correct.

Q. Well, when you carried them out you were carrying out
criminal orders in violation of one of the basic principles
of your professional soldier's code, no matter by whom they
were issued.

A. Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Nelte, do you wish to re-examine?

DR. NELTE: Mr. President, I do not propose to put any
further questions regarding the actual facts involved in the
case to the defendant. It appears to me that after his frank
statements the objective facts have been clarified as much
as is possible in this trial.

Regarding the facts subjectively seen, it is according to my
conception necessary, particularly with reference to the
last question which has been asked by the American
Prosecutor, that certain supplementary statements be


Q. Once more, therefore, I am having the Canaris document
shown to you, Exhibit USSR 356, from which General Rudenko
has presented to you your hand-written note and also the
documents submitted by the British Prosecutor, D-762, 764,
766, 765, and 770.

According to statements made during the cross-examination
your explanation regarding responsibilities appears to
require a supplementary clarification. You have said that
you passed on Hitler's orders with cognizance of their
contents. And

                                                  [Page 109]

now I come back to Mr. Dodd's question and in light of the
judgement to be passed on you, I must ask you, for it is of
the greatest importance, how was it possible and how do you
want to explain that these ruthless orders, in violation of
the law of war, could be carried out by you or how, as it
says in the Canaris document, you could support them? You
did have objections, you told us so. This is a matter that
can only be explained by you yourself since it is a personal
affair and cannot be clarified with the help of documents,
as such. A number of times you have told me, and now again
you have emphasised it, that you desired to help us find a
thorough and truthful explanation for everything.

Thus, I am asking you how was it possible and how do you
explain that those orders and instructions were carried out
and passed on by you and how it is that no effective
resistance was met with?

A. About this clearing up, I realise that many orders and
also notes which I wrote on documents that have been found
and orders which I passed on must seem incomprehensible to
onlookers and particularly to foreigners.

To find an explanation for this, I must say that you had to
know the Fuehrer, that you had to know in what atmosphere I
worked in day and night for years. You must not fail to
consider just what the circumstances were under which these
events occurred. I have often testified here that I wanted
to give expression to my scruples and objections, and that I
did so. The Fuehrer would then advance arguments which to
him appeared decisive in his own forceful and convincing
way, stating the military and political necessities and
making felt his concern for the welfare of his soldiers and
their safety as well as his concern about the future of our
people. I must state that, because of that, but also because
of the ever increasing emergency, militarily speaking, in
which we found ourselves, I convinced myself and often
allowed myself to become convinced of the necessity and the
rightness of such measures. So I would transmit the orders
that were given, and promulgated them without letting myself
be deterred by any possible effects they might have.

Perhaps this may be considered as weakness and perhaps I
shall be accused of the same guilt. But at any rate, what I
have told is the truth. During the examination by Sir David
I myself admitted and acknowledged that I often had serious
conflicts of conscience and that I often found myself in a
position where I myself in some way or another was able to
visualize the consequences of these matters. But never did
it enter my mind to revolt against the head of the State and
the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces or refuse him
obedience. As far as I am concerned as a soldier, loyalty is
sacred to me. I may be accused of having made mistakes, and
also of having shown weakness in face of the Fuehrer, Adolf
Hitler, but never can it be said that I was cowardly,
dishonourable or faithless.

This is what I had to say.

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