The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. Dr. Gisevius! Yesterday we got as far as January,
1938. You had returned to Berlin to an ostensible position
which Schacht had arranged for you and you were now in
continuous contact with your political confidants, Schacht,
Oster, Canaris and Nebe. You testified last that within your
circle at that time you all had the impression that a coup
was imminent.

Now, we really come to the so-called Fritsch crisis; in my
opinion the decisive, inner-political preparatory step
before the war. Will you please describe the entire course
and the background of that crisis, especially with regard to
the fact that in the course of that crisis the march into
Austria was made, and always bearing in mind - that goes
without saying - Schacht's position and activities, which
were most decisive factors.

A. First, I shall describe the course of the crisis as such;
and it is correct that all my friends considered it the
decisive preparatory step before the war.

I shall assemble the facts one by one. I consider it better,
in order not to confuse the picture, to leave Schacht out
for the time being, because the facts are sufficiently
complicated by themselves.

Furthermore, I shall not indicate the course of our
information or describe my own experiences, rather I shall
wait until I am questioned on those subjects.

On 12 January, 1938, the German public was surprised by the
report that Field Marshal von Blomberg, at that time Reich
War Minister, had married. There were no details about his
wife, nor any photographs published. A few days later one
lone picture appeared, a photo of the Marshal and his wife
in front of the monkey cage at the Leipzig Zoo. Malicious
rumours began to circulate in Berlin, about the past of the
Marshal's wife. A few days later, on the desk of the Police
President in Berlin, there appeared a thick file which
showed the following: Marshal von Blomberg's wife had been a
previously convicted prostitute who had been registered in
the files of seven large German cities; she was in the
Berlin Criminal Files. I myself have seen the fingerprints
and the pictures. She had also been sentenced by the Berlin
Court for distributing pornographic pictures. The President
of the Police in Berlin was obliged to send these files, by
official channels, to the Chief of Police Himmler.

Q. Excuse me, please; who was the Police President in Berlin
at that time?

A. The Police President in Berlin was Graf (Count) Helldorf.
Count Helldorf realised that to have that material
transmitted to the Reichsfuehrer S.S. would place the
Wehrmacht in an embarrassing position; if that were done
Himmler would have in his possession the material which he
needed in order to ruin Blomberg's reputation and career and
for a coup against the leadership of the armed forces.
Helldorf took these files to the closest collaborator of
Marshal Blomberg, the Chief of the Armed Forces, Keitel,
who, at that time, had just become related to Marshal
Blomberg through the marriage of both children. Marshal
Keitel or Colonel-General Keitel at that time, looked
through these files carefully and demanded that Police
President Helldorf cover up the entire scandal and suppress
the files.

Q. Perhaps you will tell the Tribunal the source of your

A. I got my information from Count Helldorf who described
the entire affair to me, and from Nebe, Oberregierungsrat of
the Police Presidium in Berlin at that time and later Reich
Criminal Director.

Keitel refused to make Blomberg take any of the
consequences. He refused to inform the Chief of the General
Staff, Beck, or the Chief of the Army,

                                                  [Page 228]

General Fritsch. He sent Count Helldorf to Goering with the
files. Helldorf submitted the entire file to defendant
Goering. Goering asserted he knew nothing about the
compartments of the Criminal Files and the previous
sentences of Blomberg's wife, but nevertheless in that first
conversation and in later discussions he admitted that he
had already known the following:-

First, that Marshal Blomberg had already asked Goering
several months before whether it was permissible to have an
affair with a woman of low birth, and shortly thereafter he
had asked Goering whether he would help him to obtain a
dispensation to marry this lady "with a past" as he put it.
Later Blomberg came again and told Goering that this lady of
his heart unfortunately had another lover and he had to ask
Goering to help him, Blomberg, to dispose of that lover.

Q. Excuse me. Goering told that to Helldorf and you
discovered it from Helldorf?
A. Yes, that is what Goering said and, in the further course
of the investigation, we learned of it from other sources
too. Goering then disposed of that lover by giving him
foreign currency and shipping him to South America. In spite
of that Goering did not inform Hitler of this incident.
Moreover, together with Hitler, he went as a witness to the
wedding of Marshal Blomberg on 12 January. I should like to
point out here -

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Dix, the Tribunal would wish to know how
you suggest that these matters which appear to be personal
are relevant to the charges and in what way they affect the
defendant Schacht or the defendant Goering or the defendant

DR. DIX: I am here only to serve the interests, the rightful
interests of the defendant Schacht. It is necessary to
present that crisis in all its gruesomeness in order to
conceive what an effect, what a revolutionary effect it had
on Schacht and his circle in their regard for the regime. I
have said earlier that the Fritsch crisis was the turning
point in the transformation from a follower and admirer of
Hitler to a deadly enemy who had designs on his life. The
Tribunal cannot understand this about-face if the Tribunal
does not get the same impression which Schacht had at that
time. Indeed, in no way do I desire to wash dirty linen here
unnecessarily. My decision to put these questions and to ask
the witness to describe the Fritsch crisis in the necessary
detail is motivated by the fact that the further development
of Schacht and of the Fritsch crisis, or let us say, the
Oster-Canaris circle to which Schacht belonged, cannot be
understood if one does not realise the enormity of that
crisis. In the face of these facts, however disagreeable,
one must decide to bring these sometimes very personal
matters to the attention of the Tribunal. Unfortunately I
cannot dispense with it in my defence. It is the alpha and
omega of my defence.

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: If the Tribunal please:

It might be helpful at this time to know our position in
reference to this line of testimony if it is to be
considered whether it is admissible or not now.

I should desire, if this incident were not brought out, to
bring it out upon cross-examination. For one thing, it shows
the background of the incident of yesterday, which I think
is important in appraising the truthfulness of testimony in
this case.

Another thing is that it bears upon the conspiracy to seize
power. There were certain men in Germany that these
conspirators had to get rid of. In some cases killing was a
safe method, but in others, as we see from the Roehm purge,
killing aroused some opposition, and they bad to eliminate
them by other means. The means they used against Fritsch and
Blomberg show the conspiracy to seize power and to get rid
of the men who might stand in the way of aggressive warfare.
It will appear, I think, that the German people, in allowing
these Nazis to get

                                                  [Page 229]

as far as they did, had faith in Fritsch and Blomberg, among
others, believing that here at least were two men who would
guard their interests; and the method by which those men
were stricken down and removed from the scene we would
consider an important part of the conspiracy story, and I
would ask to go into it on cross-examination.

That might perhaps be material to the Court in deciding
whether it should proceed now.

DR. DIX: May I add one more thing?


The Tribunal thinks, in view of what you have said and what
Mr. Justice Jackson has said, that your examination must
continue and you will no doubt try to confine it as much as
you can to the political aspects of the matter.

DR. DIX: Of course. But the personal matters are of such
political importance in this case that they cannot be


Q. Dr. Gisevius, you understand the difficulties of the
situation. We want only to give evidence, and not to bring
in anything sensational as an end in itself. However, when
it is necessary to speak on such subjects in order to
explain the development to the Tribunal, I ask you to speak
quite frankly.

A. I ask the Tribunal also to realise my difficulties. I
myself do not like to speak about these things.

I must add that Goering was the only Chief of the
Investigation Office; that is that institution which took
over all the telephone supervision in the Third Reich. This
Investigation Office was not satisfied, as has been
described here, only to tap telephone conversations and to
decode messages, but it had its own intelligence service,
all the way down to its own employees, who could make
investigations and obtain information. It was, therefore,
also quite possible to obtain confidential information about
Marshal von Blomberg's wife. When Helldorf gave the file to
Goering, Goering considered himself compelled to give these
files to Hitler. Hitler had a nervous breakdown and decided
to dismiss Marshal Blomberg immediately. Hitler's first
thought, as he told the generals later in a public meeting,
was to appoint Colonel General Fritsch as Blomberg's
successor. The moment he made his decision known Goering and
Himmler reminded him that it could not be done since Fritsch
was badly incriminated, according to a file from the year

Q. Excuse me, Doctor. What is the source of your information
regarding this conservation between Hitler and the generals
and also Goering's statement?

A. Several generals who took part in that meeting told me
about it and I have said already that in the course of
events, which I have yet to describe, Hitler himself made
many statements, and we also had in our possession until 20
July the original documents of the Supreme Court-Martial
which convened later.

The file of 1935, which was submitted to Hitler in January,
1938, referred to the fact that in 1934 the Gestapo had
decided to prosecute homosexuals as criminals. In the search
for evidence the Gestapo visited the prisons and asked
convicted inmates who had blackmailed homosexuals for
evidence and for the names of the latter. One of the inmates
reported a terrible story, a story so horrible that I will
not repeat it here. It will suffice to say that this
prisoner believed the man in question had been a Herr
Fritsch or Frisch. The prisoner could not remember the
correct name. The Gestapo then turned over these files to
Hitler in 1935. Hitler was indignant about the contents.
Talking to the generals, he said he did not want to know of
such obscenities, and he ordered these files to be burned
immediately. Now, in January, 1938, Goering and Himmler
reminded Hitler of these files, and it was left to Heydrich
to present them, though they had, allegedly, been burned in
1935, to Hitler again, com-

                                                  [Page 230]

pleted in the meantime by extensive investigations. Hitler
believed, as he said to the generals at the time, that after
having been so disappointed in Blomberg, many nasty things
could be expected from Fritsch also. The defendant Goering
offered to bring the convict from the prison to Hitler and
the Reich Chancellery. In Karin Hall Goering had previously
threatened the prisoner with death if he did not abide by
his statements.

Q. How do you know that?

A. That was mentioned in the Supreme Court-Martial. Then
Fritsch was ordered to the Reich Chancellery and Hitler
pointed out the accusations which had been made against him.
Fritsch, an absolutely honourable man, had received a
confidential warning from Hitler's adjutant, but it had been
so vague that Fritsch came to the Reich Chancellery
extremely alarmed. He had no idea of what Hitler was
accusing him. Indignantly he denied the crime he had
allegedly committed. In the presence of Goering, he gave
Hitler his word of honour that all the accusations were
false. But Hitler went to the nearest door, opened it, and
the prisoner entered, raised his arm, pointed to Fritsch and
said, "That is he."

Fritsch was speechless. He only managed to ask that a
judicial investigation be made. Hitler demanded his
immediate resignation, and said that if Fritsch kept silent
about the matter, he (Hitler) would be willing to leave
things as they were. Fritsch appealed to the chief of the
General Staff, Beck, and the latter intervened with Hitler.
A hard struggle for judicial investigation of these terrible
accusations against Fritsch ensued. That struggle lasted
about a week. There were dramatic disputes in the Reich
Chancellery which ended on the famous 4 February when the
generals, who until that day - that is to say, ten days
after the dismissal of Blomberg and the release of Fritsch -
were completely unaware of the fact that both their
superiors were no longer in office, were ordered to come to
Berlin. Hitler personally presented the files to the
generals in such a way that they too were completely
confused and were satisfied that the affair should be
investigated by the courts. At the same time Hitler
surprised the generals ...

Q. You know of this only through the participants of that

A. Yes.

At the same time Hitler surprised the generals with the
report that they had a new commander-in-chief, General von
Brauchitsch. Some of the generals had in the meantime been
relieved from duty, and also on the previous evening a
report appeared in the newspapers in which Hitler, under the
pretence of drawing together the reins of government, had
dismissed the foreign minister, von Neurath, effected a
change in the Ministry of Economics, and had relieved a
number of diplomats of their posts. An appendix to that
report announced a change in the War Ministry and in the
Leadership of the army.

Then a new struggle arose, which lasted several weeks,
regarding the convening of the court-martial which would
have to decide for or against the rehabilitation of General
Fritsch. This was for all of us the moment when we believed
we would be able to prove before a supreme court the methods
the Gestapo used to rid themselves of their political
adversaries. This was the only opportunity to question
witnesses under oath regarding the manner in which the
entire intrigue had been contrived. Therefore we set to work
to prepare for our parts in this trial.

Q. What do you mean by "we"?

A. There was above all one man, who as an honest judge, took
part in this Supreme Court-Martial. This was the Reich Judge
Advocate at that time and later Chief Judge of the Army,
Ministerial Director Dr. Sack. This man believed that he
owed it to the spirit of law to contribute in every possible
way toward exposing these matters. This he did, but he also
paid with his life after 20 July.

                                                  [Page 231]

In the course of this investigation the judges of the
Supreme Court-Martial questioned the Gestapo witnesses. They
investigated the records of the Gestapo, they made local
investigations, and it was not long before, with the aid of
the criminologist Nebe, they discovered definitely that the
entire affair had concerned a double; not General von
Fritsch, but Captain von Frisch, who had been pensioned long

In the course of that investigation the judges discovered
one thing further they could prove that the Gestapo had been
in the apartment of this double of von Frisch as early as 15
January and had questioned his housekeeper. May I refer to
the two dates once more. On 15 January the Gestapo had proof
that Fritsch was not guilty. On 24 January the defendant
Goering brought the prisoner and witness for the prosecution
into the Reich Chancellery in order to incriminate Fritsch,
the General. We believed that here indeed we were confronted
with a plot of incredible proportions and we believed that
now even the most sceptical generals must see that it was
not only in the lower echelons of the Gestapo that there was
scheming and contriving, invisible and secret, without the
knowledge of any of the ministers or the Reich Chancellery,
such as would force any man of honour and justice to
intervene. We were now a group of some strength and size. We
saw that now we need no longer collect material about the
Gestapo in secret. That had been our great difficulty up to
then. We had heard a great deal, but if we had passed on
that evidence, we would in every case have exposed those men
who had given it to us to the Gestapo terror.

Now we could proceed legally and thus we started our
struggle to persuade General von Brauchitsch to submit the
necessary evidence of the Reich Court-Martial.

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