The extermination claims have been so concentrated on Auschwitz that this book could justifiably end right here; because the central part of the extermination legend is false, there is no reason why the reader should believe any other part of it, even if the evidence might appear relatively decent at first glance. Hundreds of trained staff members were dispatched to Europe and employed there to gather the "evidence" for exterminations and related crimes, and we have seen what kind of story they have presented with respect to Auschwitz; a fabrication constructed of perjury, forgery, distortion of fact and misrepresentation of documents. There is no reason to expect a better case for the less publicized features of the extermination legend. Nevertheless, the remainder of the story should be examined, partly for the sake of completeness, partly because the examination can be accomplished rather quickly, and partly because there is a respect in which one feature of the legend may be partially true. It is also convenient to review here a few odd matters that might strike some readers as evidence in support of the extermination claims.
More 'Extermination' Camps
The evidence for exterminations at Belzec, Chelmno, Lublin, Sobibor, and Treblinka is fairly close to zero. There is the Höss affidavit and testimony and the "Gerstein statement." There is a draft of a letter by Dr. Wetzel, another Nazi who became immune from prosecution, speaking of there being "no objections to doing away with those Jews who are unable to work, by means of the Brack remedy" (NO-0365). The draft is typewritten and apparently initialed by Wetzel, who had been head of the Race-Political Office of the NSDAP, but was transferred in 1941 to Rosenberg's Ministry for the East, where he served as the expert for Jewish affairs. There is no evidence that the letter, which is addressed to Hinrich Lohse, Reichskommissar for the Ostland (map, Fig. 3), was ever sent. A similar document, bearing a typewritten Wetzel signature, is NG-2325. Wetzel was not called as a witness at any of the Nuremberg trials, and was not threatened with prosecution until 1961, when he was arrested by German authorities in Hannover, but his case seems to have immediately disappeared from the public record, and nothing more was heard of him, except that he is said to have been finally charged in 1966; if such is the case it is odd that he is not listed in the 1965 East German Brown Book. However, no trial ever materialized. We will have occasion to comment on Lohse below.
The Viktor Brack of Wetzel's letter was an official of the Führer-Chancellery, involved in the Nazi euthanasia program. The present claim is that the gas chambers in Poland, exclusive of those allegedly used at Auschwitz, "evolved" from the euthanasia program which, it is claimed, employed gas chambers. Despite Brack's testimony, it is difficult to believe that euthanasia was practiced in German hospitals by a method of gassing 20 or 30 persons at a time with carbon monoxide. Auschwitz, of course, must be excluded from this "evolution" from the euthanasia program on account, among other reasons, of the Höss testimony. Reitlinger and Hilberg do not seem worried over the confusion thus created in the structure of the legend.
The euthanasia program came into existence via a Hitler decree of September 1, 1939, authorizing the mercy killing of mortally ill patients. Later the severely insane were included. The program encountered deep hostility in the German population, especially because rumors of unknown origin immediately started circulating; the rumors claimed, inter alia, mass gassings of the sick and elderly. On November 6, 1940, Cardinal Faulhaber of Munich wrote to the Ministry of Justice, setting forth the Catholic Church's objections, and pointing out
"[...] that a great disturbance has arisen in our people today because the mass dying of mentally ill persons is discussed everywhere and unfortunately the most absurd rumors are emerging about the number of deaths, the manner of death, etc."
It did not take long for the euthanasia program to appear in propaganda, and in December 1941 the BBC broadcast an address by author Thomas Mann, in which Mann urged the German people to break with the Nazis. In listing the Nazi crimes, Mann said:
"In German hospitals the severely wounded, the old and feeble are killed with poison gas - in one single institution, two to three thousand, a German doctor said."
This seems to be the first appearance of gas chambers in the propaganda but, as far as we can see, this claim was not related to the extermination propaganda which started half a year later, and in the course of which no reference, apparently, was made to the euthanasia program. The relating of the euthanasia program to exterminations came much later.
At the IMT, the prosecution did not attempt to relate euthanasia to exterminations. It remained for a defense witness to do this. In the closing days of the IMT, Konrad Morgen appeared as a defense witness for the SS. We have seen that it was Morgen who had exposed the ring of murder and corruption centered around commandant Koch of Buchenwald. Morgen was thus considered a "good" SS man, in contrast to the bloodthirsty scoundrels who had been his colleagues and comrades (he continues to be considered a good guy, although not as good as Gerstein, who has by now achieved beatification in the "holocaust" litany). As a defense witness for the SS under seemingly hopeless circumstances, Morgen presented a story that had an inevitable logic to it and, indeed, the logic of Morgen's testimony has an importance in our analysis which transcends the immediate point we are discussing.
Morgen testified that in the course of his investigations of the camps, carried out in pursuance of his duty as an SS official, he unexpectedly encountered extermination programs at Auschwitz and at Lublin, but that SS involvement was nonexistent or minimal. At Lublin the exterminations were being conducted by Wirth of the ordinary criminal police, with the assistance of Jewish labor detachments (who were promised part of the loot). Wirth supervised three additional extermination camps in Poland, according to Morgen. Although the criminal police, the Kripo, was administratively under the RSHA, Morgen was careful to point out that Kriminalkommissar Wirth was not a member of the SS. Morgen claimed that Wirth had been attached to the Führer Chancellery, had been involved in the euthanasia program (which is possibly true), and had later received orders from the Führer Chancellery to extend his exterminating activities to the Jews. Although the only real point of Morgen's testimony was the futile attempt to absolve the SS, the testimony is considered "evidence" by Reitlinger and by Hilberg, who avoid considering the fact that Morgen, in his attempt at excusing the SS, also testified that at Auschwitz the extermination camp was Monowitz, the one of the complex of camps that was administered by Farben. Morgen did not go so far as to claim that Farben had its own company extermination program, but he declared that the only SS involvement consisted of a few Baltic and Ukrainian recruits used as guards, and that the "entire technical arrangement was almost exclusively in the hands of the prisoners."
Morgen's ploy obviously inspired the prosecution anew, because it had not occurred to relate exterminations to euthanasia. It was too late to develop the point at the IMT, so it was developed in Case 1 at the NMT (actually the euthanasia program is loosely linked with exterminations in the "Gerstein statement," reproduced here in Appendix A - the Gerstein statement was put into evidence at the IMT long before Morgen's testimony, but nobody paid any attention to its text). To us, this relating of exterminations to euthanasia is just another example of the "excess fact"; the inventors were so concerned with getting some real fact into their story that it did not occur to them that there are some real facts that a good hoax is better off without.
This seems to cover the evidence for gassings at the camps in Poland exclusive of Auschwitz.
We again remark that the logic of Morgen's testimony, as courtroom defense strategy, is of some importance to our study. His side obviously calculated that the court was immovable on the question of the existence of the exterminations, and thus, Morgen's testimony invited the court to embrace the theory that somebody other than the SS was guilty.
Logic of Defense Testimonies
Before passing to consideration of the activities of the Einsatzgruppen in Russia, it is convenient to review various statements made or allegedly made by various Nazis, mostly after the war, which explicitly or implicitly claim exterminations.
An important category consist of statements made by German witnesses and defendants at the war crimes trials. In evaluating such statements, one must bear in mind the simple fact that the powers which conducted these trials were committed, as an immovable political fact, to the legend of Jewish extermination, especially in regard to Auschwitz. Their leaders had made the relevant charges long before they possessed a scrap of what is today called "evidence." Thus, the courts were committed a priori to the extermination legend. A finding that exterminations had not occurred was simply not in the realm of political possibility at these trials, in any practical sense. This is an undeniable fact.
On the other hand, with only a tiny handful of exceptions, the courts were not a priori committed on questions of personal responsibility of individuals. With respect to individuals the courts were not as greatly constrained, politically speaking. In most cases judgments of absence of personal responsibility were well within the realm of political possibility (as distinct from probability). All defense cases were organized in relation to these undeniably valid observations, and even with those individuals whose cases were hopeless, the lawyers had no choice but to proceed on the assumption that a favorable verdict was within the realm of the possible. In considering the trials from this point of view, it is very helpful to consider them chronologically.
Josef Kramer, 'Beast of Belsen'
The first relevant trial was not the IMT but the "Belsen trial," conducted by a British military court, of Germans who had been on the staff of the Belsen camp when it was captured. The commandant, SS Captain Josef Kramer (the "Beast of Belsen"), was naturally the principal defendant. The importance of the Belsen trial derives, however, from the fact that Kramer has previously been (during 1944) the Birkenau camp commander. Kramer's trial was conducted in the autumn of 1945 and was concluded in November, just as the IMT trial was beginning. Kramer was hanged in December 1945.
We are fortunate in having the lengthy first statement that Kramer made in reply to British interrogation. The importance of this statement lies in the fact that it was made before any general realization developed among Germans that the Allied courts were completely serious, and immovable, on the question of the reality of the exterminations (it might have been made within about a month after the capture of Belsen, but this is not certain). There is little courtroom logic playing a role in Kramer's first statement, and for this reason it is reproduced here in Appendix D. Kramer's story was completely in accord with what we have presented here, i.e., there were crematories in all of the concentration camps, some had rather high death rates, especially Auschwitz, which required relatively extensive cremation facilities, because it was also a huge camp. His statement is quite frank regarding the more unhappy features of the camps, and is as accurate a description of the camps as we are likely to get. In regard to atrocities, he firmly asserted:
"I have heard of the allegations of former prisoners in Auschwitz referring to a gas chamber there, the mass executions and whippings, the cruelty of the guards employed, and that all this took place either in my presence or with my knowledge. All I can say to all this is that it is untrue from beginning to end."
Kramer later retreated from this firm stand and made a second statement, also reproduced in Appendix D, in which he testified to the existence of a gas chamber at Auschwitz, adding that he had no responsibility in this connection, and that the exterminations were under the direct control of the central camp administration at Auschwitz I. At his trial, Kramer offered two reasons for the discrepancy between his two statements:
"The first is that in the first statement I was told that the prisoners alleged that these gas chambers were under my command, and the second and main reason was that Pohl, who spoke to me, took my word of honor that I should be silent and should not tell anybody at all about the existence of the gas chambers. When I made my first statement I felt still bound by this word of honor which I had given. When I made the second statement in prison, in Celle, these persons to whom I felt bound in honor - Adolf Hitler and Reichsführer Himmler - were no longer alive and I thought then that I was no longer bound."
The absurdity of this explanation, that in the early stages of his interrogations, Kramer was attempting to maintain the secrecy of things that his interrogators were repeating to him endlessly and which by then filled the Allied press, did not deter Kramer and his lawyer from offering it in court. The logic of Kramer's defense was at base identical to that of Morgen's testimony. Kramer was in the position of attempting to present some story absolving himself from implication in mass murder at Birkenau. The truth that Birkenau was not an extermination camp had no chance of being accepted by the court. That was a political impossibility. To have taken the truth as his position would have been heroic for Kramer but also suicidal, because it would have amounted to making no defense at all in connection with his role at the Birkenau camp. Even if he had felt personally heroic, there were powerful arguments against such heroism. His family, like all German families of the time, was desperate and needed him. If, despite all this, he persisted in his heroism, his lawyer would not have cooperated. No lawyer will consciously choose a suicidal strategy when one having some possibility of success is evident. Kramer's defense, therefore, was that he had no personal involvement in the exterminations at Birkenau. Höss and the RSHA did it. Remember that these proceedings were organized by lawyers seeking favorable verdicts, not by historians seeking the truth about events.
An incidental matter is the claim that Kramer, as commandant at Natzweiler, had had eighty people gassed there for purposes of medical experiments. These people had supposedly been selected at Auschwitz by unknown criteria and then transported to Natzweiler to be killed, because the bodies were needed fresh in nearby Strassburg. Kramer affirmed this story in his second statement but, because it is (implicitly, but unambiguously) denied in his first statement, I am inclined to believe that it is untrue. However, it is quite possible that some people were executed at Natzweiler when somebody else was commandant, and that the bodies were then used at the anatomical institute in Strassburg (which certainly possessed bodies for its research purposes). In any case, the matter is not relevant to an extermination program.
Hermann Göring et al. at the IMT
The IMT trial is somewhat more complicated to consider, because of the great number of defendants, each one having his own possibilities in regard to excusing himself from any real or imaginary crimes. The trial transcript is not really adequate to study the behavior of the IMT defendants, but the record kept by the Nuremberg prison psychologist, Dr. G. M. Gilbert, and published by him as Nuremberg Diary, supplements the transcript to an extent that is adequate for our purposes. Gilbert's book gives an account of the attitudes and reactions of the IMT defendants, not only at the trial but also in the Nuremberg prison. One cannot be absolutely confident in regard to the accuracy of Gilbert's account. Most of the material consists of summaries of conversations the defendants had in the prison, either with each other or with Gilbert. However, Gilbert took no notes on the spot and wrote everything down each day from memory. His manuscript was critically examined by a former employee of the Office of War Information and by the prosecutors Jackson and Taylor. Even with the best will and most impartial disposition, Gilbert could not have captured everything with complete accuracy. His book has a general accuracy, but one must be reserved about its details.
The IMT defendants were arrested shortly after the German capitulation in May 1945, imprisoned separately, and interrogated and propagandized for six months prior to the opening of the IMT trial in November, when they met each other for the first time since the surrender (in some cases, for the first time ever). There are four particularly important observations to make. First, not surprisingly, all except Kaltenbrunner had developed essentially the same defense regarding concentration camp atrocities and exterminations of Jews, whatever the extent to which they might have actually believed such allegations; it was all the fault of Hitler and Himmler's SS. Kaltenbrunner, sitting as a defendant as a substitute for the dead Himmler, was ill when the trial opened and did not join the other defendants until the trial was a few weeks old. When he appeared, the other defendants shunned him, and he said very little to the others during the course of the next ten months.
The second observation is not quite so expected. Indeed, it may be mildly startling; with the exception of Kaltenbrunner and perhaps one or two others, these high ranking German officials did not understand the catastrophic conditions in the camps that accompanied the German collapse, and which were the cause of the scenes that were exploited by the Allied propaganda as "proof" of exterminations. This may appear at first a peculiar claim, but consultation of Gilbert's book shows it to be unquestionably a valid one (the only other possibility is that some merely pretended to misunderstand the situation). The administration of the camps was far removed from the official domains of almost all of the defendants and they had been subjected to the familiar propaganda since the German surrender. To the extent that they accepted, or pretended to accept, that there had been mass murders, for which Hitler and Himmler were responsible, they were basing their view precisely on the scenes found in the German camps at the end of the war, which they evidently misunderstood or pretended to misunderstand. This is well illustrated by Gilbert's account of an exchange he had with Göring:
"'Those atrocity films!' Göring continued. 'Anybody can make an atrocity film if they take corpses out of their graves and then show a tractor shoving them back in again.'
'You can't brush it off that easily,' I replied. 'We did find your concentration camps fairly littered with corpses and mass graves - I saw them myself in Dachau! - and Hadamar!'
'Oh, but not piled up by the thousands like that -'
'Don't tell me what I didn't see! I saw corpses literally by the carload -'
'Oh, that one train - '
' - And piled up like cordwood in the crematorium - and half starved and mutilated prisoners, who told me how the butchery had been going on for years - and Dachau was not the worst by far! You can't shrug off 6,000,000 murders!'
'Well, I doubt if it was 6,000,000,' he said despondently, apparently sorry he had started the argument, '- but as I've always said, it is sufficient if only 5 per cent of it is true - .' A glum silence followed."
This is only one example; it is clear from Gilbert's book that, when the subject of concentration camp atrocities came up, the defendants were thinking of the scenes found in the German camps at the end of the war. It is probably not possible to decide which defendants genuinely misunderstood the situation (as Göring did) and which merely pretended to misunderstand, on the calculation that, if one was not involved with concentration camps anyway, it was a far safer course to accept the Allied claims than to automatically involve oneself by contesting the Allied claims.
Our third observation is in regard to a calculation that must have figured in the minds of most of the defendants during the trial. It seemed probable, or at least quite possible, to them that the Allies were not completely serious about carrying out executions and long prison sentences. The trial was certainly a novelty, and the defendants were well aware that there was considerable hostility to the war crimes trials in the public opinion of the Allied countries, especially in the U.S. and England. Many must have calculated that their immediate objective should be to say or do whatever seemed necessary to survive the transient wave of post-war hysteria, deferring the setting straight of the record to a not distant future when a non-hysterical examination of the facts would become possible.
Fourth, extermination of Jews was only one of the many accusations involved at Nuremberg. In retrospect, it may appear to have been the main charge, but at the time, the principal accusations in the minds of almost everybody concerned responsibilities for "planning, preparation, initiation, or waging of a war of aggression" - so-called "Crimes Against Peace."
With the preceding four observations in mind, we can see that the behavior of the defendants during the trial was about what one would expect from a diverse collection of dedicated Nazis, technocrats, conservative Prussian officers, and ordinary politicians. In "private," i.e. in prison, when court was not in session, the prisoners were just as guarded in their remarks as they were in public, and there was an abundance of mutual recrimination, buck passing, and back biting. Frank made the worst ass of himself in this respect, but the practice was rather general. The Nazis were not one big happy family. In regard to trial defense strategy, it will suffice to discuss Speer, Göring, and Kaltenbrunner.
Speer's trial strategy was simple and also relatively successful, because he did not hang. He claimed that his position did not situate him so as to be able to learn of the various alleged atrocities. Even today, he is permitted to get away with this nonsense. In fact, Speer and his assistants were deeply involved in, e.g., the deportations of employable Hungarian Jews in the spring of 1944 for work in underground aircraft factories at Buchenwald. Any rail transport priority given to Hungarian Jews to be exterminated, as opposed to employable Hungarian Jews, would have become known to them, if such had actually happened. If Speer had testified truthfully, he would have declared that he had been so situated that, if an extermination program of the type charged had existed, he would have known of it and that, to his knowledge, no such program had existed. However, if Speer had testified truthfully, he would have joined his colleagues on the gallows.
In his book, Speer gives only one ridiculous piece of "evidence" that he encountered during the war that he now says he should have interpreted as suggesting the existence of an extermination program, and that was the suggestion of his friend Karl Hanke (who was appointed Himmler's successor as Reichsführer-SS by Hitler in the last days of the war), in the summer of 1944, that Speer never "accept an invitation to inspect a concentration camp in Upper Silesia." Speer also passes along Göring's private remark just before the IMT trial about Jewish "survivors" in Hungary: "So, there are still some there? I thought we had knocked off all of them. Somebody slipped up again." Such a sarcastic crack was understandable under the circumstances, because Göring never conceded the reality of any extermination program and insisted that he had known only of a program of emigration and evacuation of Jews from the German sphere in Europe.
The introduction to Speer's book, by Eugene Davidson, mentions the fact (noted here on page 141) that many Dutch Jews sent to Birkenau, "within sight of the gas chambers," were unaware of any extermination program. They wrote cheerful letters back to the Netherlands. The remarks about Jewish extermination were not in the original version of Speer's manuscript; they were added at the insistence of the publisher.
Unlike the other defendants, Göring assumed throughout the trial that he was to be sentenced to death, and his testimony appears to be the approximate truth as he saw it. Although he never conceded the existence of a program of extermination of Jews, we have seen that he misunderstood what had happened in the German camps at the end of the war and assumed that Himmler had, indeed, engaged in mass murder in this connection. However, he never conceded any number of murders approaching six millions.
An incidental remark that should be made in connection with Göring is that he was not, as legend asserts (and as Speer claimed in private on several occasions during the IMT), a drug addict. The Nuremberg prison psychiatrist, Douglas Kelley, has attempted to set the record straight in this regard. Göring was a military man, had been an air ace in World War I, and had been the last commander of the "Flying Circus" of von Richthofen (the "Red Baron"). Refusing to surrender his unit to the Allies at the end of the war, he returned to Germany and found himself a hero without a profession. Eventually joining the Nazi Party, he naturally, as a holder of the Pour-le-mérite (Germany's highest military decoration), soon became a leader of the small party. As such, he was a leader of the putsch of 1923, in which he was wounded in the right thigh. The wound developed an infection which caused him to be hospitalized for a long while, during which time he was injected with considerable amounts of morphine. He developed a mild addiction but cured it shortly after being released from the hospital in 1924. Much later, in 1937, Göring developed a condition of aching teeth and began taking tablets of paracodeine, a very mild morphine derivative that was a common prescription for his condition, and he continued to take the paracodeine throughout the war. His addiction for (or, more exactly, habit of taking) these paracodeine tablets was not severe, because he was taken off them before the IMT by Dr. Kelley, who employed a simple withdrawal method involving daily reductions of the dosage.
To return to the IMT defendants, Kaltenbrunner's position seems to us today to have been somewhat hopeless, and it is probable that his lawyer felt the same way, but he nevertheless had to present some sort of defense, and his defense on the matters that we are interested in rested on two main points.
The first point was that he was head of the RSHA, which was charged with security, and not the head of the WVHA, which administered the concentration camps. He thus claimed that he had had almost nothing to do with the camps. The only known instance of Kaltenbrunner's involvement with the internal operation of the camps was in his order of March 1945, concerning permission for the Red Cross to establish itself in the camps (how he assumed authority for giving this order we do not know). He made a great deal of this matter in his defense and, rather than setting the record straight in regard to the catastrophic conditions in the camps at the end of the war, he inflated his action in connection with the Red Cross to make it appear to be an act against concentration camps as such, which, of course, he had always deplored anyway, he said.
Kaltenbrunner's second point was that, as everybody would agree, it was his predecessor Heydrich, and not he, who had organized the details of the Jewish policy, whatever that policy was. He took over the RSHA in 1943 with a directive from Himmler to build up the intelligence service of the SD, a fact which he distorted in claiming that, under the new arrangement, in which Himmler was not going to allow anybody to grow to the stature that Heydrich had attained, Kaltenbrunner was to concern himself only with intelligence and not to have any control over the police and security functions of the RSHA, in particular the Gestapo, which sent political prisoners to the camps and also, through Eichmann's office, administered the Jewish deportations. Thus, according to Kaltenbrunner, there was no respect in which he could be held responsible for exterminations of Jews that, he conceded, had taken place just as the Allies charged (except that they had started, according to Kaltenbrunner, in 1940). Indeed, according to him, it was not until the summer of 1943 that he learned of the extermination program that Eichmann of his department was conducting. He learned from the foreign press and the enemy radio. He got Himmler to admit it early in 1944 and then protested, first to Hitler, then to Himmler. The extermination program was stopped in October 1944, "chiefly due to (his) intervention." The manner in which Kaltenbrunner claimed to have learned of the exterminations, while nonsense, is nevertheless consistent with the extreme secrecy that is always said to have been maintained in connection with the extermination program.
Kaltenbrunner's story was complete rubbish, but this fact should not blind us to the serious character of this testimony as defense strategy. Suppose that Kaltenbrunner had testified that no extermination program had existed. In such a case, any leniency shown by the court in the judgment would have been tantamount to that court's conceding the untruth, or possible untruth, of the extermination claim, a political impossibility. By claiming that, while the extermination program had existed, Kaltenbrunner had had no responsibility and had even opposed it, the defense was making it politically possible for the court to be lenient in some sense or was at least making a serious attempt along this line. A few seconds' reflection reveals that this was the only possible strategy for Kaltenbrunner on the extermination charge. The trial was obviously going to end with some death sentences, some acquittals, and some in between dispositions of cases; this was necessary in order to give it the semblance of a real trial. Thus, on analysis, we see that there was perfectly sound lawyer's logic operating in Kaltenbrunner's defense. That the specific story presented was unbelievable was not very important from this point of view; the manner, in which facts have been treated in connection with these matters, has been endless nonsense anyway. The case of Speer shows that a nonsensical story not only had a chance of being accepted by the IMT, but also by general opinion much later, when there should have been adequate opportunity to see matters clearly.
The ordinary person, and even the informed critic, can easily fail to understand the significance of such things as the Kaltenbrunner testimony, because he fails to grasp the perspective of the defendants, who did not have the historical interests in these trials that we have. Their necks were at stake, and they regarded the trials, quite correctly, as a manifestation of hysteria. Attempting to save their necks meant devising trial strategies to suit the prevailing conditions, and no optimum trial strategy seeks to move the court on matters on which the court is immovable. This also happens in ordinary legal proceedings. Once something had been decided, it had been decided, and the lawyers organize their cases accordingly.
Of course, it is deplorable that Nazis or anyone else should lie in order to promote their personal interests. I have seen scholars tell lies almost as big just to pick up an extra bit of summer salary, and that too is deplorable.
Oswald Pohl at Nuremberg
At Kramer's trial and at the IMT, the courts were effectively committed a priori to the conclusion that Nazi Germany had had a program of exterminating Jews. At the later NMT trials, the courts were committed a priori as a formal matter, on account of the legal constraint previously noted (page 43), that statements made in the IMT judgment constituted "proof of the facts stated." The IMT judgment said that millions had been exterminated in German concentration camps, particularly at Auschwitz, which was "set aside for this main purpose"; specifically, 400,000 Hungarian Jews were said to have been murdered there. Thus, defendants and witnesses at the NMT faced a situation similar to that faced by earlier defendants and witnesses, except that it was formalized. Prosecutors were known to redirect the attentions of judges to this legal constraint, when there seemed a chance of its being overlooked.
Here we will take special note of only two cases. Defendant Pohl, of course, did not deny the extermination program; in denying personal involvement in the exterminations, he took advantage of the fact that the Allied charges had naturally been directed at the Gestapo and the SD functions of the SS, which were not in Pohl's domain as head of the WVHA. Even the Höss affidavit and testimony explicitly support him in this position. After all, who ever heard of the Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptamt? Nevertheless, Pohl was hanged.
The testimony of Münch, a doctor at Auschwitz, is of some interest. He appeared as a defense witness at the Farben trial, having previously been acquitted by a Polish court. This is the witness whom prosecution lawyer Minskoff asked about the leaflets dropped at Auschwitz by Allied planes (p. 143). While Münch testified that he had known about the exterminations while he was at Auschwitz and had even witnessed a gassing, he also testified that people outside the Auschwitz area, that is those in Germany, did not know. Also, the whole thing was arranged "masterfully" so that "someone who visited a plant in Auschwitz twice or three times a year for a period of one or two days" would not learn of the exterminations. Almost all of the defendants, of course, were in the category of those who could not have known, according to Münch, but he did not stop there. He also asserted that, while all of the SS men and prisoners knew of the exterminations, they did not talk to civilians about them for fear of punishment. For example, Farben engineer Faust, whom Münch knew very well at Auschwitz, did not know about the exterminations. Münch also remarked several times that all one could perceive of the exterminations was the odor, "perceptible everywhere," of the cremations. Nobody at this trial of chemical engineering experts bothered to point out that the chemical industry of the area also created a bit of an odor. An odd feature of Münch's testimony is his placing of the crematories and the gas chambers "one or one and half kilometers southwest of the Birkenau camp camouflaged in a small woods."
The Münch testimony is merely another illustration of the manner in which defense cases were formulated. The strategy was to avoid contesting things that the courts were already decided on but to present stories exonerating defendants of personal responsibility. Thus, it was invariably claimed that the extermination program had features that happened to excuse the relevant defendants, but by claiming that such features of the program existed, it was obviously necessary to claim also that the program itself existed.
The next trial that is worth examination is the Eichmann trial. It will be recalled that Adolf Eichmann was illegally abducted from Buenos Aires in May 1960 by Israeli agents, who sent him to Israel to become the victim of a "trial" that was to break all records for illegality, because the state conducting the trial had not even existed at the time of the alleged crimes. The illegal courtroom proceedings opened in Jerusalem on April 11, 1961, the Jewish court pronounced the death sentence on December 15, 1961, and the murder was carried out on May 31, 1962.
In order to understand Eichmann's defense strategy, consider his situation prior to the trial as a lawyer would have seen it. It was basically a political situation involving an Israeli determination to stage a show trial. In capturing Eichmann, Israel had spat on Argentine sovereignty and, from a lawyer's point of view, the only hope of securing a favorable verdict (a prison sentence to be later commuted) depended upon world opinion developing so as to encourage Israel to temper its arrogance somewhat with a magnanimous gesture. However, the possibility of such an outcome depended upon presenting a defense whose fundamental acceptance by the Jerusalem court would have been within the realm of political possibility. Thus, just as with the Nuremberg defendants, Eichmann's only possible defense under the circumstances was to deny personal responsibility.
Eichmann conceded the existence of an extermination program, and the first edition of Reitlinger's book was accepted by both sides as approximately descriptive of what had happened. Eichmann's fundamental defense, thus, was that he had merely organized the transports of Jews in obedience to orders that could not be disobeyed. In one respect, his defense was partially successful, for his (accurate) picture of himself as a mere "cog in a machine" has been more or less universally accepted by those who have studied and written about this trial (e.g. Hannah Arendt's book).
Actually, Eichmann inflated himself a bit beyond "cog" status, for a secondary feature of his testimony is that he claimed that he, Eichmann, had done whatever a person as lowly as he could do in order to sabotage the extermination program, and his interpretations of the meanings of many of the documents used in the trial were obviously strained in this respect. A good example was Eichmann's commentary on two particular documents. The first document was a complaint by the commander of the Lodz resettlement camp, dated September 24, 1941, complaining of overcrowding at the camp due to tremendous transports of Jews that were pouring in:
"And now they face me with a fait accompli, as it were, that I have to absorb 20,000 Jews into the ghetto within the shortest possible period of time, but further that I have to absorb 5,000 gypsies."
The letter is addressed to the local head of government. The second document is a letter by that local head, dated October 9, 1941, passing on the complaint to Berlin, and adding that Eichmann had acted like a "horse dealer" in sending the Jewish transport to Lodz for, contrary to Eichmann's claim, the transport had not been approved. Eichmann's Jerusalem testimony in regard to these documents was that there were only two places he could have shipped the Jews to, the East (where he was supposed to send them, he said) or Lodz. However, according to him, there were exterminations in the East at that time, but none at Lodz. Being in strong disapproval of the exterminations and doing everything that his low office permitted to thwart them, he shipped the Jews to Lodz despite the inadequate preparations there.
This feature of Eichmann's defense strategy is also illustrated by his testimony regarding the "trucks for Hungarian Jews" proposals of 1944. He naturally attempted to represent efforts on the German side to conclude the deal as being due in no small measure to the force of his initiative, motivated, again, by Eichmann's desire to save Jews.
It is worth mentioning that the major thrust of the prosecution's cross-examination of Eichmann did not treat wartime events directly. The prosecution's chief effort was to hold Eichmann, in court, to whatever he was supposed to have said to Israeli interrogators during his year of imprisonment prior to the trial and also to what he was supposed to have said to one Sassen in Argentina in 1957. According to Eichmann's testimony, he encountered Sassen, an ex-SS man, in Buenos Aires in 1955. At this time Eichmann was, except within tiny circles, a very much forgotten man. The Eichmann-Sassen relationship eventually led to a project to write a book on the persecutions of the Jews during the war. The book, to be completed and promoted by Sassen, was to be based on tape recorded question-and-answer sessions with Eichmann, but according to Eichmann's testimony, the original form of these sessions could not be retained:
"[...] when these questions were put to me, I had to reply from time to time, that I did not remember and did not know; but, obviously, this was not the way to write a book [...] and then it was agreed that it did not really matter what I remembered - the main thing was to describe the events as they had happened; then we spoke about poetic license, about license for journalists and authors, which would entitle us to describe the events - even if I did not remember certain details, the essence which would remain would be a description of the events as they had taken place and this is really what was eventually taken down.
[Sassen] told me to say something about every point, so that the necessary quantity be obtained.
[...] it was also agreed that he, Sassen, would then formulate everything in the form of a book and we would be co-authors in this book."
Sassen's material eventually appeared, in the autumn of 1960, in Life magazine, so it is clear that Sassen's sessions with Eichmann were designed for the primary purpose of producing a marketable book, as distinct from a historical one. Eichmann obviously planned to acquire a share of the profits, but this testimony does not shed any light onto the specific financial expectations that Eichmann and Sassen had.
Sassen transcribed some of the tape recorded material into typewritten form, and Eichmann added comments and corrections in the margins of some of the pages in his own hand. He also composed 83 full pages of handwritten comments. After the appearance of the Life articles, the prosecution obtained material from Sassen, namely a photostat of a 300-page typewritten document with marginal comments, apparently in Eichmann's hand, purporting to be a transcript of 62 of 67 tape recorded sessions, and also a photostat of what was said to be the 83 page document in Eichmann's hand. Original documents were evidently not procured, thus raising the possibility of tampering and editing, especially in the case of the 300 page document. In regard to the original tapes, the prosecution commented:
"We do not know about the tapes themselves - I don't know whether the people who took part in this conversation kept the tape or whether the tape was erased and re-used for other recordings."
The defense challenged the accuracy of the documents, claimed that the majority of marginal corrections were not included in the document, and further claimed that if Sassen himself could be brought to court to testify, it could be proved that:
"[...] he changed and distorted what was said by the accused, to suit his own aims. He wanted to produce a propaganda book; this can be proved, how the words were distorted."
However, the prosecution assured the court that if Sassen were to come to Israel, he would be put on trial for his SS membership.
The court decided to admit the photostats of the 83 pages in Eichmann's hand, but the prosecution, finding during the course of the rest of the trial that there was virtually nothing in the 83 pages that it could use, made another bid very late in the trial and finally managed to get accepted into evidence the excerpts of the typewritten document which carried handwritten corrections. Life magazine, which apparently received the same material from Sassen, treated all of it as unquestionably authentic.
We close this short discussion of the Eichmann trial by reporting Eichmann's reaction to the allegation, widely publicized, that at the end of the war he had declared that he would "jump gladly into the grave" with the knowledge that five or six million Jews had been killed. Eichmann testified that he had, indeed, made a bitter remark such as this to his staff at the end of the war, but that the five million killed were not "Jews" but "enemies of the Reich," i.e. enemy soldiers, principally Russians. While his defense strategy entailed not contesting the general reality of the extermination program, he insisted that he was in no position to know even the approximate number of Jews killed, and that all remarks attributed to him in this connection (e.g. Höttl's affidavit) are falsely attributed.
West German Trials
The trials held in West Germany during the Sixties are barely worth mentioning and, moreover, rather difficult to study, on account of the obscurity of the defendants involved. The most publicized, of course, was the "Auschwitz trial" of 1963-1965, and a few words are perhaps in order.
This group of war crimes trials, of which the Auschwitz trial was the most prominent, was held for political reasons in the aftermath of the hysterical publicity surrounding the capture of Adolf Eichmann. One of the first victims was Richard Baer, successor to Höss and last commandant of Auschwitz, who was arrested on December 20, 1960, near Hamburg, where he was working as a lumberjack. He was imprisoned and interrogated in prison and insisted that the Auschwitz gas chambers were a myth. Unfortunately, he did not live to take this position in court, because he died in prison on June 17, 1963, at the age of 51, apparently from a circulatory ailment, although his wife considered his death rather mysterious.
When the trial finally opened in Frankfurt in December 1963, the principal defendant was one Robert K. L. Mulka, an ex-SS Captain who had served briefly as adjutant to Höss at Auschwitz. Mulka had been tried and sentenced, by a German chamber immediately after the war in connection with his role at Auschwitz, and quite a few of the other 21 defendants at the Auschwitz trial were standing trial for the second time on basically the same charges.
The court, of course, did not ignore legal matters entirely, and it took the trouble to explain that the Bonn Government considers itself the legal successor to the Third Reich, and thus, it was competent to try persons for infringing laws that were in force in Germany during the war. Killing Jews, of course, had been illegal in Nazi Germany, and thus, the majority of the defendants were charged in that respect. In regard to the reasonableness of such a trial, one can do not better than to quote from the opinion of the Frankfurt court itself:
"This determination of guilt has, however, confronted the court with extraordinarily difficult problems.
Except for a few not very valuable documents, almost exclusively only witness testimonies were available to the court for the reconstruction of the deeds of the defendants. It is an experience of criminology that witness testimony is not among the best of evidence. This is even more the case if the testimony of the witness refers to an incident which had been observed twenty years or more ago under conditions of unspeakable grief and anguish. Even the ideal witness, who only wishes to tell the truth and takes pains to explore his memory, is prone to have many memory gaps after twenty years. He risks the danger of projecting onto other persons things which he actually has experienced himself and of assuming as his own experiences things which were related to him by others in this terrible milieu. In this way he risks the danger of confusing the times and places of his experiences.
It has certainly been for the witnesses an unreasonable demand for us to question them today concerning all details of their experiences. It is asking too much of the witnesses if we today, after twenty years, still wish to know when, where and how, in detail, who did what. On this basis astonishment was repeatedly expressed by the witnesses, that we asked them for such a precise reconstruction of the past occurrences. It was obviously the duty of the defense to ask about those details. And it is unjust to impute to the defense that it wished to make these witnesses appear ridiculous. On the contrary, we must call to mind only once what endless detail work is performed in a murder trial in our days - how, out of small mosaic-like pieces, the picture of the true occurrences at the moment of the murder is put together. There is available for the court's deliberations above all the corpse, the record of the post-mortem examination, the expert opinions of specialists on the causes of death and the day on which the deed must have occurred, and the manner in which the death occurred. There is available the murder weapon and fingerprints to identify the perpetrator; there are footprints he left behind as he entered the house of the slain, and many more details at hand which provide absolute proof to the court that this person was done to death by a definite perpetrator of the deed.
All this was missing in this trial. We have no absolute evidence for the individual killings; we have only the witness testimonies. However, sometimes these testimonies were not as exact and precise as is necessary in a murder trial. If therefore the witnesses were asked, in which year or month an event happened, it was entirely necessary for the determination of the truth. And these dates sometimes presented to the court the only evidence for the purpose of determining whether the event related by the witness did in fact happen as the witness related it, or whether the witness had committed an error or confused victims. The court was naturally aware that it was an extraordinary burden for the witnesses, in view of the camp conditions, where no calendars, clocks or even primitive means of keeping records were available, to be asked to relate in all details what they experienced at the time. Nevertheless, the court had to be able to determine whether an individual defendant did in fact commit a real murder, and when and where. That is required by the penal code.
This was an ordinary criminal trial, whatever its background. The court could only judge according to the laws it is sworn to uphold, and these laws require the precise determination of the concrete guilt of an accused on both the objective and subjective side. The overburdening of the witnesses shows how endlessly difficult it is to ascertain and portray concrete events after twenty years. We have heard witnesses who at first appeared so reliable to the court that we even issued arrest warrants on their declarations. However, in exhaustive examination of the witness declarations in hours long deliberations it was found that these declarations were not absolutely sound and did not absolutely correspond to objective truth. For this purpose certain times had to be ascertained and documents reexamined - whether the accused, who was charged by a witness, was at the camp Auschwitz at all at the time in question, whether he could have committed the deed there, or whether the witness perhaps projected the deed onto the wrong person.
In view of this weakness of witness testimony - and I speak now only of the sworn witnesses whose desire for the truth, the subjective and objective truth, the court was thoroughly confident of - the court especially had to examine the witness testimonies. Only a few weeks ago we read in the newspapers that a member of the Buchenwald concentration camp staff had been convicted of murdering an inmate who, it is clear today, is alive and was certainly not murdered. Such examples should make us think. These cases of miscarriages of justice do not serve to strengthen the respect for the law. On these grounds also the court has avoided whatever could even in the most remote sense suggest a summary verdict. The court had examined every single declaration of each of the witnesses with great care and all earnestness and consequently is unable to arrive at verdicts of guilty on a whole list of charges, since secure grounds could not be found for such verdicts. The possibilities of verifying the witness declarations were very limited. All traces of deeds were destroyed. Documents which could have given the court important assistance had been burned. [...]"
Although these admissions on the part of the Frankfurt court should be conclusive in forming one's opinion of such trials, we must add that the court understated the facts of the situation. The great majority of the witnesses were citizens of Soviet bloc countries, with all that such a fact implies regarding their testimonies. The court complained that "this witness testimony was not so accurate and precise as is desirable," but one should observe that it was certainly attempted to organize the memories of the witnesses suitably, for the "Comité International d'Auschwitz " had set up its headquarters in Frankfurt and from there had issued "information sheets" on the terrible things that had happened at Auschwitz. These "information sheets" had been made available to, and had been read by, the witnesses before they testified. There was also a "Comité des Camps" in circulation, and other persons, e.g. the mayor of Frankfurt, made suggestions to the witnesses of varying degrees of directness and subtlety.
The farce extended also into the matters that the court considered in the course of the long trial and the sentences that were imposed. Mulka, found guilty of being second man in the administration of the great extermination camp, of having ordered the Zyklon B on at least one occasion, of having been in charge of the motor pool, which transported the condemned, of having handled some of the paperwork dealing with transports, and of having been involved in the construction of the crematories, was sentenced to 14 years at hard labor, but was released less than four months later on grounds of ill health. Defendant Franz Hofmann, ex-SS Captain who had been in charge of Auschwitz I, received a life sentence for the simple reason that, although found guilty in connection with exterminations, he had really been tried on a charge of having thrown a bottle at a prisoner, who later died from the head injury received. This incident evidently had a greater impact on the court than mass exterminations, which is not surprising, because the bottle episode could clearly be recognized as the sort of thing that happens in penal institutions. Hofmann was sentenced to life imprisonment, but shortly later released anyway on the grounds of his previous detention.
Precedents for the Trials?
In searching the history books for proceedings comparable to the "war crimes trials," it is not suitable to fasten on prior politically-motivated trials for precedents. Such trials, e.g. the trial of Mary, Queen of Scots, lack the hysterical atmosphere of the war crimes trials. Another feature of the usual political trial is that there is generally only one, or at any rate only a few, victims, and the proceedings are not spread over more than two decades. Even the trial of Joan of Arc, which had aspects of hysteria, is not really comparable to the war crimes trials, because only a single person was on trial, but not an entire nation.
In determining precedents for the war crimes trials, only the witchcraft trials of Europe's younger days offer satisfactory comparisons. A most important similarity lies in the fact that the accused in witchcraft trials frequently found it expedient in the contexts, in which they found themselves, to go along with the charges to some extent. In fact, in many cases a partial confession offered the only possible trial strategy. One could not deny the very existence of the sorts of Sabbaths that the popular imagination had decided must have existed. When the sentences of the condemned were carried out, one had scenes like this:
"On one scaffold stood the condemned Sorceresses, a scanty band, and on another the crowd of the reprieved. The repentant heroine, whose confession was read out, stuck at nothing, however wild and improbable. At the Sabbaths they ate children, hashed; and as a second course dead wizards dug up from their graves. Toads dance, talk, complain amorously of their mistresses' unkindness, and get the Devil to scold them. This latter sees the witches home with great politeness, lighting the way with the blazing arm of an unbaptized infant, etc., etc."
The situation was such that one had to feed the fantasies and passions of the judges and the population, and there were even ways of getting ahead by claiming to be a witch, and thus being informed on the activities of certain other witches, knowledgeable on ways of exposing them, etc.
The comparison of the war crimes trials with the witchcraft trials is almost perfect. Both involve large numbers of potential victims, and the possibilities for mutual recrimination are boundless. Most important, both take place in an atmosphere of unreality and hysteria. The person who will not disbelieve those who claim that a modern state was exterminating masses of human beings at a center of chemical industry, employing an insecticide, and that the pervasive stench at that site was due to the associated cremations, is the complete twentieth century equivalent of the person who, in earlier centuries, believe those who claimed that misfortunes were caused by people who conversed with toads, had intercourse with the Devil, etc.
Another important relationship between witchcraft trials and the war crimes trials is that torture of witnesses and defendants played roles in both. Invented testimony at witchcraft trials is usually explained in terms of torture (although our reference employed above points out that mass hysteria also provides a completely effective motivation). We know that some people were tortured in connection with the war crimes trials, and we should therefore consider the problem of the extent to which torture might have accounted for testimony, especially defendant testimony, in support of exterminations.
Available evidence indicates that torture was frequently employed in the war crimes trials. We have noted at length, on p. 40, the tortures inflicted on German defendants in the Dachau trials. Very similar scenes took place, under British sponsorship, in connection with the Belsen trial, and Josef Kramer and other defendants were tortured, sometimes to the point where they pleaded to be put to death.
On the other hand, it appears that defendants at the IMT were too prominent to torture, although Julius Streicher was an exception, and it is even said that he was forced to eat excrement. Streicher complained at the IMT that he had been beaten up by Negro soldiers after his arrest. On the motion of prosecutor Jackson, this testimony was stricken from the record because otherwise "the court would have had to conduct an investigation." Streicher was the editor and publisher of a disreputable and quasi-pornographic magazine Der Stürmer, which attacked not only Jews, Freemasons, and clerics but on occasion even top Nazis. Streicher once claimed in Der Stürmer that Göring's daughter had not been fathered by Göring but by artificial insemination. Der Stürmer was considered offensive by nearly all political leaders in Germany, but Streicher had the protection of Hitler out of gratitude for Streicher's having delivered Nuremberg to the Nazi Party. In 1940, Göring arranged for Streicher to be put partially out of action; although Der Stürmer was not suppressed, Streicher was deprived of his Party position of Gauleiter of Nuremberg. Streicher never held a position in the German Government, before or during the war, and his inclusion in the first row of "defendants" at the IMT was ludicrous.
There was never any general or massive exposé of torture of witnesses and defendants at the NMT trials, but we believe that the fact, noted in the previous chapter (p. 204), that the Nuremberg prosecution did not hesitate to torture witnesses even in connection with a regular U.S. legal proceeding, is strong support for our assumption that torture was employed rather commonly at Nuremberg or, more precisely, employed on witnesses and defendants who played roles in the trials at Nuremberg.
We are inclined to believe that Adolf Eichmann was not tortured by his Israeli captors, at least not for the purpose of forcing him to give specific trial testimony. This view is based on the simple fact that he did not complain, in his trial testimony, that he had been tortured thus, although he did complain, early in his trial testimony, that he had suffered rather rough treatment during the few days immediately after his capture, particularly when his captors forced him to sign a declaration that he had come to Israel voluntarily (and which the prosecution had the audacity to put into evidence at the trial). However, the extreme secrecy that surrounded Eichmann's imprisonment in Israel allows the possibility that he was tortured in some sense, but that he had tactical or other reasons for not charging torture in his testimony.
In considering the problem of torture, it is important to observe that the efficacy of torture in producing testimony having a desired content is rather questionable. We cannot believe that the prosecuting authorities at Nuremberg had any moral compunctions about using torture, but they most probably made the rather obvious observation that, no matter how much you torture a man, you still cannot be absolutely sure what he will say on the witness stand. Exceptions to this statement are provided by the "Moscow trials" of the Thirties and other trials staged by Communists, but the defendants in such cases are always "brainwashed" to the extent that they utterly prostrate themselves before the court when on trial and denounce themselves as the foulest beings on earth. No such attitude is perceptible in the Nuremberg defendants who, despite much untruthful testimony damaging to the Nazi regime in general, always argued their personal innocence.
In examining the torture problem, we must be careful regarding what questions one might ask and what inferences may be drawn from the answers. Obviously, there is the question of whether or not a man was tortured. Second, there is the question of whether or not he testified to the reality of exterminations. Assuming that affirmative answers apply to both questions, it is a non sequitur to infer that the former accounts for the latter. This is illustrated by the case of Kramer who, despite torture, spoke the truth in his first statement, and evidently only changed his story when his lawyer explained to him the logical implications of insisting on a story that the court could not possibly accept. On the other hand, if a witness had been tortured, we may infer that the authorities in charge are not to be trusted.
Moreover, one must not make assumptions too quickly in regard to the probable motivations that the Nuremberg jailers might have had for employing torture; the motivation need not have been to produce specific testimony, and may have been either more or less thoughtfully conceived. First, torture might have been employed purely to produce pleasure; the Jews in charge hated their German victims. Second, torture may have been employed merely on the basis of the passing observation that, while it was not guaranteed to be helpful, it also could not hurt matters as long as the proceedings were kept suitably confidential.
A third possible motivation, a far more intelligent one, could have been that torture, while not of much use in producing specific pieces of testimony, could be of assistance in a less specific and more general sense. If my interrogator threatens that he will take steps against my family if I do not cooperate, I may doubt him on the basis that I see no evidence that he either has the necessary power or the necessary cruelty or both. However, if he imprisons me for a year or more, torturing at will, I will eventually believe that he is both powerful and cruel. Thus, we see that torture, while indeed inadequate in itself to produce the sort of testimony that was produced at Nuremberg, might very well have been employed to achieve a general "softening up" of witnesses and defendants that would help the process of coercion and intimidation at other points.
A few complications are also worth mentioning. First, physical torture is not such a very well defined thing. One could argue that extended imprisonment under unhealthy or even merely uncomfortable conditions with daily interrogation is a form of torture. Another complication is that there are modes of torture, mainly sexual in nature or related to sex, that one could never learn about because the victims simply will not talk about them. Finally we should observe that almost none of us, certainly not this author, has ever experienced torture at the hands of professionals bent on a specific goal, and thus we might suspect, to put it quite directly, that we simply do not know what we are talking about when we discuss the possibilities of torture.
Our basic conclusion in respect to the torture problem is that there is something of an imponderable involved. We believe it likely that torture was employed to achieve a general softening up of the victims, so that their testimonies would more predictably take courses that were motivated by considerations other than torture, and we have analyzed witness and defendant testimony in preceding pages of this chapter on this basis; the effects of and fear of torture do not, in themselves, explain testimony in support of exterminations. We thus tend to disagree with much of the existing literature in this area, which, it seems, places too much weight on the singular efficacy of torture at Nuremberg, although we concede that our analysis of this hard subject is not conclusive. We have similar suspicions that writers on witchcraft trials have also leaped to invalid conclusions on the basis of the two indisputably valid facts that, first, victims in witchcraft trials were tortured and, second, many of these people later testified to impossible happenings. The former does not really account for the latter, but it can be a contributing factor when its effects are added to the more weighty motivations for delivering certain kinds of false testimony.
We will return to some statements made at trials in due course. There are a few remarks, allegedly made by top Nazis, that should be mentioned. On April 17, 1943, Hitler met Admiral Horthy at Klessheim Castle. Hitler was critical of Horthy's lenient Jewish policy and, it is said, explained to Horthy that things were different in Poland:
"If the Jews there did not want to work, they were shot. If they could not work, they had to be treated like tuberculosis bacilli, with which a healthy body may become infected. This was not cruel if one remembers that even innocent creatures of nature, such as hares and deer, which are infected, have to be killed so that no harm is caused by them."
The evidence that Hitler said this is the alleged minutes of the meeting and the supporting IMT testimony of Dr. Paul Otto Schmidt, Hitler's interpreter, who normally sat in on such conferences and prepared the minutes. Schmidt testified that he was present at the meeting and that the minutes were genuine and prepared by him. However, in his later book, he wrote that he was not present, because Horthy had insisted on his leaving the room!
There is also a statement in Hitler's political testament:
"I also made it quite plain that, if the peoples of Europe were again to be regarded merely as pawns in a game played by the international conspiracy of money and finance, they, the Jews, the race that is the real guilty party in this murderous struggle, would be saddled with the responsibility for it.
I left no one in doubt that this time not only would millions of grown men meet their death and not only would hundreds of thousands of women and children be burned and bombed to death in cities, but this time the real culprits would have to pay for their guilt even though by more humane means than war."
This statement is frequently interpreted as an admission of exterminations, but its meaning is at least ambiguous. After all, the payment spoken of was by "more humane means than war." The Jews who had been in Hitler's domain had lost property and position in Europe, and that fact may offer the correct interpretation. Loss of property and position might seem a woefully inadequate payment for the events charged to the Jews, but it is well known that all politicians, before leaving the public scene, like to exaggerate the significance of their works.
There also exists a possibility that the text of the testament was tampered with, because its discovery by British and American authorities was not announced until December 29, 1945, and because only the last page is signed. Only the typewriter and stationery Hitler's secretary used would have been required to make an undetectable alteration.
There is a speech allegedly given by Himmler in Posen in October 1943. The translation of the relevant part, as it appears in the NMT volumes, is as follows, with the original German given in some cases:
"I also want to talk to you, quite frankly, on a very grave matter. Among ourselves it should be mentioned quite frankly, and yet we will never speak of it publicly. Just as we did not hesitate on June 30, 1934, to do the duty we were bidden and stand comrades who had lapsed up against the wall and shoot them, so we have never spoken about it and will never speak of it. [...]
I mean the evacuation of the Jews (die Judenevakuierung), the extermination (Ausrottung) of the Jewish race. It's one of those things it is easy to talk about, 'The Jewish race is being exterminated [ausgerottet],' says one Party Member, 'that's quite clear, it's in our program - elimination [Ausschaltung] of the Jews and we're doing it, extermination [Ausrottung] is what we're doing.' And then they come, 80 million worthy Germans, and each one has his decent Jew. Of course the others are vermin, but this one is an A-1 Jew. Not one of all those who talk this way has watched it, not one of them has gone through it. Most of you must know what it means when 100 corpses are lying side by side, or 500, or 1,000. To have stuck it out and at the same time - apart from exceptions caused by human weakness - to have remained decent fellows, that is what has made us hard. This is a page of glory in our history which has never been written and is never to be written, for we know how difficult we should have made it for ourselves, if with the bombing raids, the burdens and the depravations of war we still had Jews today in every town as secret saboteurs, agitators, and trouble-mongers. We would now probably have reached the 1916-1917 stage when the Jews were still in the German national body.
We have taken from them what wealth they had. I have issued a strict order, which SS Obergruppenführer Pohl has carried out, that this wealth should, as a matter of course, be handed over to the Reich without reserve. We have taken none of it for ourselves. [...] We had the moral right, we had the duty to our people, to destroy this people (dieses Volk umzubringen) which wanted to destroy us. But we have not the right to enrich ourselves with so much as a fur, a watch, a mark, or a cigarette, or anything else. Because we exterminated (ausrotteten) a germ, we do not want in the end to be infected by the germ and die of it. [...] Wherever it may form, we will cauterize it."
The evidence that Himmler actually made these remarks is very weak. The alleged text of the Posen speech is part of document 1919-PS and covers 63 pages in the IMT volumes. The quoted portion occurs in a section of 1-1/2 pages length which stands about mid-way in the text under the heading "Jewish evacuation." The manuscript of the speech, which bears no signature or other endorsement, is said (in the descriptive material accompanying the trial document) to have been found in Rosenberg's files. It was put into evidence at the IMT as part of document 1919-PS, but it was not stated, during the IMT proceedings, where the document was supposed to have been found, and nobody questioned Rosenberg in connection with it. On the other hand, Rosenberg was questioned in regard to 3428-PS, another document said to have been found in his files (which is discussed briefly below), and he denied that it could have been part of his files. It is further claimed that during Case 11 "the Rosenberg files were rescreened and 44 records were discovered to be a phonographic recording of Himmler's Poznan speech of October 4, 1943." The records are supposed to be document NO-5909 and were put into evidence during the testimony of defendant Gottlob Berger, SS General, former head of the SS administrative department, Himmler's personal liaison with Rosenberg's Ministry for the Occupied East, and chief of POW affairs toward the end of the war. In his direct examination, Berger had testified that he had known nothing of any extermination program and also that Himmler had indeed delivered an "interminable" speech at Posen in 1943, to an audience of higher SS leaders which included himself. However, he denied that document 1919-PS was an accurate transcript of the speech, because he recalled that part of the speech had dealt with certain Belgian and Dutch SS leaders who were present at the meeting, and
"[...] that is not contained in the transcript. I can say with certainty that he did not speak about the Ausrottung of the Jews, because the reason for this meeting was to equalize and adjust these tremendous tensions between the Waffen SS and the Police."
In the cross examination prosecutor Petersen played a phonograph recording of somebody speaking the first lines of the alleged speech, but Berger at first denied that the voice was Himmler's and then, after a second playing of the same lines, he said that it "might be Heinrich Himmler's voice." The records were then offered in evidence and more excerpts, including the one dealing with Jewish evacuation, which is quoted above, were played in court. Berger was not questioned further, however, on the authenticity of the voice and was excused immediately after the playing of the records. It was only with some reluctance that the court accepted these records in evidence:
"Judge Powers, Presiding: Well, I think that there is enough evidence here, prima facie, that the voice is the voice of Himmler to justify receiving the document in evidence. There is no evidence, however, that it was delivered at Poznan or any other particular place. The discs will be received in evidence as an indication of Himmler's general attitude."
The only "prima facie" evidence for the authenticity of the voice (at only one point in the speech), as far as I can see, was the Berger statement at one point that the voice "might be Heinrich Himmler's."
In our judgment, the prosecution did not submit one bit of evidence that the voice was that of Himmler or even that the Posen speech, which everyone would agree dwelled on sensitive subjects, was recorded phonographically. Thus, the authenticity of these phonograph recordings has not even been argued, much less demonstrated.
Reitlinger remarks that a "partial gramophone recording" of the Posen speech exists, but he does not say what part still exists. I have not pursued the question any further, because I would not be qualified to evaluate such recordings if they were produced.
Note that these recordings, claimed to have been belatedly discovered in a dead man's files, were put into evidence at the same "trial," Kempner's circus, which the analysis had already conclusively discredited on independent grounds. In addition, it seems quite peculiar that Himmler would have allowed the recording of a speech containing material that he "will never speak of [...] publicly," and then, despite his control of the Gestapo, have seen these recordings fall into the hands of his political rival Rosenberg. On the basis of these considerations and also on account of the fact that it is very difficult to believe that Himmler would have wasted the time of so many high SS leaders by delivering the supposed text in document 1919-PS (a most general discussion of the war), one can be sure that we have another forgery here. However, parts of the alleged speech may be authentic, and some parts may have been delivered during the Posen speech or on other occasions.
It is true that Pohl testified in Case 4 that he was present at the Posen speech (probably true) and that Himmler did deliver the remarks concerning extermination of the Jews.
However, Pohl's real point was a ludicrous one. We have noted that Pohl's basic trial strategy was to attempt to exploit the fact that the extermination charges had been thrown specifically at the Gestapo and the RSHA, and he was quick to pounce on such things as the Höss affidavit as absolving him in regard to exterminations. His defense strategy had the same basic logic as the strategies of all defendants we have examined, except for Göring. Thus, Pohl's testimony concerning the Posen speech came in the context of his declaration that the speech was his first information about the exterminations! In other words, the exterminations were allegedly so far removed from his official responsibilities that it required a declaration by Himmler for him to learn of them. He naturally further testified that he shortly later protested to Himmler but was told that it was "none of your business." Thus was expressed merely Pohl's defense strategy of putting self-serving interpretations on that which was passing as fact in court.
A lesser point should be made before we leave the subject of the Posen speech. It is possible to argue that the text may be genuine at his point but that by "Ausrottung" Himmler merely meant "uprooting" or some form of elimination less drastic than killing. The principal basis for such an argument would be that Ausrottung is indeed explicitly equated in the text with Judenevakuierung and with Ausschaltung. The corpses referred to could easily be interpreted as German corpses produced by the Allied air raids, for which the Nazis often claimed the Jews were ultimately responsible. On the other hand, it can be noted that if the remarks are authentic then Himmler regarded it as a right and a duty dieses Volk umzubringen, and the comparison with the bloody purge of 1934 at the outset of the remarks seems to justify taking "Ausrottung" in its primary sense of extermination. Thus, while such an argument could be made, it would not be very solid.
The conclusive point is that in being asked to believe that the text is genuine we are, in effect, being asked to believe Kempner.
Finally, there are a number of remarks in The Goebbels Diaries but, as the "Publisher's Note" explains, the "diaries were typed on fine water-marked paper" and then "passed through several hands, and eventually came into the possession of Mr. Frank E. Mason." Thus, the authenticity of the complete manuscript is very much open to question, even if the authenticity of much of the material can be demonstrated somehow. Interpolation with a typewriter is simple. The original clothbound edition of the "Diaries" even contains a U.S. government statement that it "neither warrants nor disclaims the authenticity of the manuscript."
Wilfred von Oven, who was an official in the Goebbels Ministry and became, after the war, the editor of the right wing German language Buenos Aires journal La Plata, had come forward with a curiously eager endorsement of the authenticity of The Goebbels Diaries. However, the net effect of his comments is in the reverse direction, for he tells us that (a) the diaries were dictated from handwritten notes (which were subsequently destroyed) by Goebbels to Regierungsrat Otte, who typed them using the special typewriter, having characters of almost 1 cm height, that was used for typing the texts that Goebbels used when he gave speeches (!) and (b) Oven "often observed" Otte, at Goebbels order, "carefully and precisely as ever" burning these pages toward the end of the war after having made microfilms of them. The point of the latter operation, as Goebbels is said to have explained to Oven in the April 18, 1945, entry in the latter's diary (which was published in 1948/1949 in Buenos Aires), was that Goebbels "had for months taken care that his treasure, his great secret, result and accumulation of a more than twenty year political career, his diary, will remain preserved for posterity but not fall into unauthorized hands."
This strange story of Oven's at least throws some light on the reference to an unusual typewriter in Louis P. Lochner's Introduction to the Diaries. If Oven's account is true, then it is possible that persons unknown obtained the special typewriter or a facsimile and a set of the microfilms and manufactured an edited and interpolated text. However, it is next to impossible to believe that Goebbels' diaries were indeed transcribed as Oven has described.
The remaining part of the extermination legend is that the Einsatzgruppen exterminated Russian Jews in gasmobiles and by mass shootings. This is the only part of the legend, which contains a particle of truth.
At the time of the German invasion of Russia in June 1941, there was a Führer order declaring, in anticipation of an identical Soviet policy, that the war with Russia was not to be fought on the basis of the traditional "rules of warfare." Necessary measures were to be taken to counter partisan activity, and Himmler was given the power to "act independently upon his own responsibility." Everybody knew that meant executions of partisans and persons collaborating with partisans. The dirty task was assigned to four Einsatzgruppen of the SD, which had a total strength of about 3,000 men (i.e. of the order of 500 to 1,000 men per group). Knowledgeable authorities, incidentally, have accepted that such anti-partisan operations were necessary in the Russian theater, where the enemy had no regard for the "rules."
We have had occasion to note in several instances that Jews did, in fact, pose a security menace to the German rear in the war. The Red Cross excerpt makes this quite clear. The task of the Einsatzgruppen was to deal with such dangers by all necessary means, so we need not be told much more to surmise that the Einsatzgruppen must have shot many Jews, although we do not know whether "many" means 5,000, 25,000 or 100,000. Naturally, many non-Jews were also executed.
However, the claim goes beyond this and asserts a dual role for the Einsatzgruppen; they were charged not only with keeping the partisan problem under control but also with exterminating all Jews (and gypsies). Common sense alone should reject the notion that the Einsatzgruppen, which had a total strength of about 3,000 men, as a matter of general policy, spent their time and effort pursuing objectives unrelated to military considerations. We are again offered a fact for dual interpretation.
The story is that there was no written order to exterminate the Jews, but that the Einsatzgruppen commanders got their orders orally and at different times. Ohlendorf commanded Group D in southern Russia, and he got his orders orally from Streckenbach in June 1941. Rasch of Group C, operating to the immediate north of Ohlendorf, did not get his orders until August 1941. Groups A and B operated around the Baltic states and to the south-east of the Baltic States, respectively, and were commanded by Stahlecker and Nebe, respectively.
The main evidence for exterminations is a huge amount of documentary evidence which is simply funny. There is the celebrated document 501-PS, which the Russians possessed at a show 'trial' that they staged in December 1943. One part is said to be a letter to Rauff in Berlin, written by an SS 2nd Lieutenant Becker. This is apparently the only document claimed to be signed by Becker, who is said to have been dead at the time of the IMT trial. It reads:
"The overhauling of the Wagen by groups D and C is finished. While the Wagen in the first series can also be put into action if the weather is not too bad, the Wagen of the second series (Saurer) stop completely in rainy weather. [...] I ordered the Wagen of group D to be camouflaged as house trailers. [...] the driver presses the accelerator to the fullest extent. By doing that, the persons to be executed suffer death from suffocation and not death by dozing off as was planned."
The text of the document is as spurious sounding as one should expect the text of such a document to be; it was allegedly written by an obscure 2nd Lieutenant and fortuitously fell into the hands of the Russians in 1943! Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, in The Gulag Archipelago, mentions the case of the Bavarian Jupp Aschenbrenner, whom the Russians persuaded to sign a similar declaration that he had worked on wartime gas vans, but Aschenbrenner was later able to prove that, at the time he had supposedly been working on the vans, he was actually in Munich studying to become an electric welder.
The most frequently cited evidence is a collection of documents purporting to be daily and other reports of the Einsatzgruppen to Himmler and Heydrich for the period June 1941 to May 1942. Document numbers are 180-L - said to be a report of Stahlecker found in Himmler's files - 2273-PS - said to be another Stahlecker report on actions up to January 31, 1942, "captured by Russians in Riga" (Stahlecker was killed in March 1942) - 119-USSR, and many others, too numerous to list, most having numbers around NO-3000. Beside telling of regular anti-partisan activities, the reports tell of individual actions of mass executions of Jews, with numbers of victims usually running in the thousands. It is indicated, in most cases, that many copies, sometimes as many as a hundred, were distributed. They were mimeographed, and signatures are most rare and, when they occur, appear on non-incriminating pages. Document NO-3159, for example, has a signature of a R. R. Strauch, but only on a covering page giving the locations of various units of the Einsatzgruppen. There is also NO-1128, allegedly from Himmler to Hitler reporting, among other things, the execution of 363,211 Russian Jews in August-November 1942. This claim occurs on page 4 of NO-1128, while initials said to be Himmler's occur on the irrelevant page 1. Moreover, Himmler's initials were easy to forge: three vertical lines with a horizontal line drawn through them.
In connection with these matters, the reader should be informed that, when examining printed reproductions of documents in the IMT and NMT volumes, a handwritten signature not be assumed unless it is specifically stated that the signature is handwritten; "signed" generally means only a typewritten signature. Document 180-L, for example, is reproduced in German in the IMT volumes, and excerpts in English are reproduced in the NMT volumes. In both cases signatures are indicated, but the actual document merely has "gez. Dr. Stahlecker" (signed Dr. Stahlecker) typewritten in two places.
There are two documents said to have been authored by Hinrich Lohse, Reichskommissar for the Ostland, who was also the person to whom Wetzel's "Brack remedy" letter was addressed (see p. 215). One of the documents deals with Sonderbehandlung and was alluded to in Chapter 4 (p. 146). Like Wetzel, Lohse was never called as a witness at Nuremberg. Unlike Wetzel, however, Lohse stood trial before a German court and was sentenced in 1948 to ten years imprisonment. However, he was released in 1951 on grounds of ill health and awarded a pension, which was shortly later disallowed on account of public protest. As for the comments attributed to him, Reitlinger remarks that they "saved him from the Allied Military Courts and perhaps the gallows" for, while they speak of atrocities, they are so worded as to put the author of the documents in opposition to the crimes. The document dealing with Sonderbehandlung is a letter from Lohse to Rosenberg dated June 18, 1943. The actual document, 135-R, seems to be claimed to be an unsigned carbon copy of the correspondence, found in SS files. The relevant passage reads:
"That Jews are sonderbehandelt requires no further discussion. But that things proceed as is explained in the report of the Generalkommissar of 1 June 1943 seems scarcely believable. What is Katyn compared to that?"
Three unsigned reports supposedly received from the Generalkommissar (Wilhelm Kube, Generalkommissar for White Russia) are attached to the document.
The second Lohse document is 3663-PS and is one of several documents bearing the major irregularity of having been processed by the Yivo (Yiddish Scientific Institute) of New York before being submitted as Nuremberg trial documents. There are about 70 such documents said to have been found in the Rosenberg Ministry in September 1945 by Sergeant Szajko Frydman of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division. Frydman, however, was a staff member of the Yivo both before and after his service in the Army. Indeed, the Yivo was so active in producing documents supposedly found in the Rosenberg Ministry that it may very well have some enlightening information on the origins of their supposed text of Himmler's Posen speech. The first part of the document is written on the stationery of the Ministry. It is a letter to Lohse, dated October 31, 1941, with a typewritten signature by Dr. Leibbrandt and an illegible handwritten endorsement by somebody else. It reads:
"The RSHA has complained that the Reichskommissar for the Ostland has forbidden executions of Jews in Libau. I request a report in regard to this matter by return mail."
The second part of the document is the reply, handwritten on the reverse side of the first part, supposedly in the hand of Trampedach and initialed by Lohse (with a letter "L" about 1-1/2 inches high). It reads:
"I have forbidden the wild executions of Jews in Libau because they were not justifiable in the manner in which they were carried out.
I should like to be informed whether your inquiry of 31 October is to be regarded as a directive to liquidate all Jews in the East? Shall this take place without regard to age and sex and economic interests (of the Wehrmacht, for instance, in specialists in the armament industry)? Of course, the cleansing of the East of Jews is a necessary task; its solution, however, must be harmonized with the necessities of war production.
So far, I have not been able to find such a directive either in the regulations regarding the Jewish question in the 'Brown Portfolio' or in other decrees."
Obviously, Lohse could not have any conceivable reason to contest the authenticity of these documents because, though they suggest exterminations, they emphatically excuse him.
Another document from the Yivo is 3428-PS, supposedly a letter from Kube to Lohse, reporting shipments of German, Polish, and other Jews to the Minsk area and the liquidation of some of them. From the mimeographed summary examined, it is not clear whether or not the document is supposed to have a handwritten signature. Wilhelm Kube was assassinated in September 1943.
Other documents that are relevant are numbered 3660-PS through 3669-PS (excepting 3663-PS). The documents are attributed to various people, e.g. Kube and Gewecke, and in every case the descriptive material accompanying the document specifies that the location of the original is unknown and that only a photostat is available. With only a couple of exceptions, there are no handwritten signatures.
Even Reitlinger seems puzzled by the existence of these reports and other documents, because he remarks:
"It is not easy to see why the murderers left such an abundant testimony behind them, for in spite of their wide circulation list, Knobloch's [the Gestapo official who edited the reports] reports seem to have been designed primarily to appeal to Himmler and Heydrich. Thus, in addition to much juggling with the daily death bills in order to produce an impressive total, there are some rather amateur essays in political intelligence work."
It is the "amateur essays" that convince one of forgery here; the contents of these reports are ridiculous in the selection of things reported. To give a few examples from excerpts reproduced in NMT volume 4:
"The tactics, to put terror against terror, succeeded marvelously. From fear of reprisals, the peasants came a distance of 20 kilometers and more to the headquarters of the Teilkommando of Einsatzgruppe A on foot or on horseback in order to bring news about partisans, news which was accurate in most of the cases. [...]
In this connection, a single case may be mentioned, which proves the correctness of the principle 'terror against terror.' In the village of Yachnova it was ascertained on the basis of a report made by the peasant Yemelyanov and after further interrogations and other searches that partisans had been fed in the house of Anna Prokovieva. The house was burned down on 8 August 1941 at about 21 hours and its inhabitants arrested. Shortly after midnight partisans set light to the house of the informer Yemelyanov. A detachment sent to Jachnowa on the following day ascertained that the peasant woman Ossipova had told the partisans that Yemelyanov had made the report, which had caused our action.
Ossipova was shot and her house burned down. Further, two 16-year-old youths from the village were shot because, according to their own confession, they had rendered information and courier service to the partisans. [...]
[...] Several Jews who had not been searched thoroughly enough by the Lithuanian guards drew knives and pistols and uttering cries like 'Long live Stalin!' and 'Down with Hitler!' they rushed upon the police force of whom 7 were wounded. Resistance was broken at once. After 150 Jews had been shot on the spot, the transport of the remaining Jews to the place of execution was carried through without further incident.
In the course of the greater action against Jews, 3,412 Jews were shot in Minsk, 302 in Vileika, and 2,007 in Baranovichi.
The population welcomed these actions, when they found out, while inspecting the apartments, that the Jews still had great stocks of food at their disposal, whereas their own supplies were extremely low.
Jews appear again and again, especially in the sphere of the black market. In the Minsk canteen, which serves the population with food and is operated by the city administration, 2 Jews had committed large-scale embezzlements and briberies. The food, which was obtained in this way, was sold on the black market."
It is not difficult to see why these documents exist: without them, the authors of the lie would have no evidence for their claims except testimony. We have seen that with Auschwitz there was an abundance of material facts to work with and whose meanings could be distorted: shipments of Jews to Auschwitz, many of whom did not return to their original homes, large shipments of a source of hydrogen cyanide gas, elaborate cremation facilities, selections, the stench. The situation with the Einsatzgruppen was different; there was only one fact: the executions. Standing alone, this fact does not appear impressive as evidence, and this consideration was no doubt the motivation for manufacturing these documents on such a large scale. This is in contrast to the Auschwitz hoax, for which forgery of documents is not nearly so prominent and where the forgeries were accomplished with more care. With Auschwitz, we are dealing with a lie manufactured by Washington, but with the Einsatzgruppen, we are dealing with one manufactured by Moscow, and the hand is correspondingly heavier.
It is worth mentioning that the "gasmobiles" were not charged in Soviet propaganda until the middle of the war. Massacres of Jews were claimed, of course, early in the development of the propaganda, and the New York Times story of April 6, 1942 (Chapter 3, p. 91), is an example. The massacres are not claimed to have taken place via gasmobiles. A contemporary Soviet propaganda production was the book We Shall Not Forgive! (Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1942). The book opens with a summary, presented by Molotov on April 27, 1942, of the crimes that the Germans had supposedly committed in their invasion of Russia. The remainder of the book elaborates the charges with commentaries and photographs, with quite a few obvious phonies in the collection. Since the Germans are charged with virtually every crime imaginable, they are naturally charged with pogroms and massacres of Jews, but gasmobiles do not appear in the charges. As far as we can see, the first claims of gasmobile exterminations on Russian territory (as distinct from claims of gasmobiles at Chelmno in Poland) came in July 1943 during a Soviet trial of 11 Russians accused of having collaborated with the Germans at Krasnodar. This suggests that the Russian claims may have been inspired by the gas chamber propaganda that had started in the West late in 1942. In any case, the late appearance of the gasmobile charges, just as in the case of the Auschwitz propaganda, is further proof that the charges are inventions.
There is also a certain amount of testimony that should be mentioned. At the risk of belaboring a perfectly simple point, let us again observe what had been pointed out here from many different angles: that a witness testifies in court to the truth of X, under conditions where the court is already committed to the truth of X, is historical evidence of absolutely nothing.
The most frequently referred to testimony is that of Ohlendorf, an SS Lieutenant General and an economist who had had some differences with Himmler and consequently found himself assigned to command group D for one year - summer 1941 to summer 1942 - in southern Russia. Ohlendorf was the most literate of the people involved in this matter.
At the IMT, when other people were on trial, Ohlendorf had appeared as a prosecution witness and had testified in agreement with the extermination claims. He testified that he had received oral orders to add extermination of Jews to his activities, that gasmobiles were used to exterminate women and children, that document 501-PS was authentic (Becker's letter), and that the Wehrmacht was implicated in these things. Thus, this charge regarding the Einsatzgruppen was part of the IMT judgment, which even stated that Ohlendorf exterminated Jews with group D. As we have seen, these statements in the judgment constituted "proof of the facts stated" when Ohlendorf, no doubt contrary to his expectations, was put on trial as the principal defendant in Case 9. In view of the legal constraints involved here, nobody's position could have been more hopeless than Ohlendorf's at his own trial.
Ohlendorf's NMT testimony was simply contradictory; he was stuck with his IMT testimony, which the prosecution was mindful of holding him to, but he tried to squirm out anyway, and the result was a story having no coherency whatever. He retracted his earlier statement that there had been specific extermination orders, but under cross examination he said that he was killing all Jews and gypsies anyway, but that this was just an anti-partisan operation, not part of a program to exterminate all Jews and gypsies on racial or religious grounds. However, the total number of persons of all categories executed by group D during his year in Russia was only 40,000, and not the 90,000 that he had testified to at the IMT and which the NMT prosecutor attempted to hold him to. Either figure, of course, especially the former, makes some sense, if the executions were only in connection with anti-partisan measure, but make no sense at all if one is supposed to be executing all Jews and gypsies at the same time, including women and children.
Ohlendorf's NMT testimony is thus hopelessly contradictory, as it was bound to be in the circumstances, in which he found himself. One should note, however, that Ohlendorf did not testify to the reality of any executions, which his court was not formally committed, a priori, to accepting as factual anyway. The only part of Ohlendorf's testimony that may be of value is his attack on the Einsatzgruppen reports as "edited."
Ohlendorf's testimony contrasts with that of Haensch, an SS Lieutenant Colonel who was in command of a Sonderkommando in group C for about seven weeks. The fact that Haensch had not testified previously when others were on trial and the fact that his lower rank made the a priori constraints on Case 9 of lesser effect in his case, gave him a freedom that Ohlendorf did not enjoy. He testified that absolutely nobody, in giving him his orders, had ever mentioned Jews as such in connection with executive activities of the Einsatzgruppen and that his Sonderkommando had not, as a matter of fact, had a policy of executing Jews as such. He estimated that his Sonderkommando executed about sixty people during his period of service. All of these claims were completely in conflict with what are said to be the reports of the Einsatzgruppen, as the court pointed out in detail in the judgment, concluding that in connection with Haensch:
"[...] one can only dismiss as fantastic the declaration of the defendant that his predecessor who had admittedly executed thousands of Jews under the Führer Order, and whose program Haensch was to continue, said nothing to Haensch about that program. And when Haensch boldly uttered that the first time he ever had any inkling of the Führer Order was when he arrived in Nuremberg six years later, he entered into the category of incredulousness which defies characterization."
Ohlendorf and Haensch were both sentenced to hang. Ohlendorf's sentence was carried out in 1951, but Haensch's sentence was commuted to fifteen years. Presumably, he was out sometime during the Fifties.
Of course, the basic plea of all defendants in Case 9 as well as in almost all other cases was that whatever they did was done in obedience to orders that could be disobeyed only under circumstances that would have resulted in the execution of the disobedient person. Incidentally, in my opinion this is a perfectly valid defense, and it may have been this consideration that played a role in whatever inducements were offered to Germans to become prosecution witnesses at the IMT trial; it did not imply his guilt or, at least, it logically did not, if it was done in obedience to orders. In fact, this was the case in the German military law that the German witnesses were familiar with. Disobedience of even an illegal order was a serious and punishable offense. People such as Höss and Ohlendorf had, no doubt, reasoned that their testimony at the IMT had incriminated them only in the sense of perjury, an offense that they knew the Allied tribunals would never charge them with. Ohlendorf's attempts to ingratiate himself with the U.S. prosecutors did not, moreover, end with the IMT for he was also used, after his own trial and while he was under sentence of death, as a prosecution witness against Wehrmacht generals in Case 12.
Personal guilt, obviously, is not involved, if the actions demanded or suggested by the accusers would have led to the clearly inevitable death of the accused. I suspect that every accuser of the Einsatzgruppen would have obeyed orders to participate in the air raids on Hamburg, Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki (none of which, incidentally, had credible military motivations).
However I do not want to create an impression that I am denying that the Einsatzgruppen executed apparent civilians, including women and children, in connection with their activities in Russia. All experience with anti-partisan warfare, whether conducted by the British, the French, or the Americans, suggests - quite independently of the tainted (to put it mildly) evidence of the trials at Nuremberg - that such things happened. In the Vietnam war, Americans did much of this with napalm and then made a big fuss over the fact that one obscure Lieutenant had been caught doing it with bullets.
Neither am I trying to create an impression that, actually, everybody is very brutal, but a thorough discussion of the problems involved would carry us far afield, so it will not be attempted; only the essentials can be outlined here.
It is an unhappy fact that partisan, irregular, or guerilla warfare, together with the measures taken to suppress such operations, is not only the dirtiest business in existence but has also been a regular feature of twentieth century history. It is dirty business even when the two sides are highly civilized and culturally similar. A good example is the British campaign against the Irish rebellion of 1916-1921, where both sides acted with remarkable brutality.
If one adds to the fact of guerilla warfare that at least one side is drawn from a primitive, uncivilized, or semi-civilized population, then one has a situation that it is most difficult for an ordinary civilized person to grasp, if he has no direct experience of it. It is too easy for us, sitting in the warmth of our living rooms, to generate moral indignation over operations, which involve the killing of "apparent civilians, including women and children." The typical West European or American has lived in a culture, in which certain standards of charity, kindness, and honor have been taken for granted, and it is difficult for him to understand that certain fundamental assumptions about other people would not hold in a context such as guerilla warfare in Asia or Russia; the viciousness involved exceeds the imagination. To give just one example drawn from our Vietnam experience: what do you do, if a child, despite signaled warnings to stay away, is obstinately approaching you asking for food or candy, and it is known that there is a good chance that there is a grenade attached to him?
Of course, many needless brutalities always occur in such circumstances, but one should attempt to understand the situation.
What I am denying with respect to the Einsatzgruppen is that one can give any credence to the story told by the trials evidence, which, while it is somewhat variable on some points, has the basic feature of asserting that the Einsatzgruppen, which had a total strength of about 3,000 for the anti-partisan operations for all of occupied Russia, regularly and as a matter of policy pursued a second set of objectives not related to military considerations, those objectives (exterminations) requiring substantial means for their attainment. We can, especially in view of the obvious forgery and perjury which has been practiced in connection with making this claim, dismiss all of that as propaganda. What did in fact happen, can only, most probably, be approximately grasped on account of the scantiness of reliable evidence. Unfortunately, it would appear that the events in Russia will never be established with exactitude, and that these episodes will remain partially in darkness.
|||Hilberg, 562; Reitlinger, 137, 567; Rassinier (1962), 80n.|
|||NMT, vol. 1, 876.|
|||NO-824 (Hitler order), NO-846 (Faulhaber letter), NO-844 (report on rumors).|
|||New York Times (Dec. 7, 1941), 45.|
|||IMT, vol. 20, 487-515.|
|||G.M. Gilbert's book should be read in its entirety, but pp. 15, 39, 46, 47, 64, 78, 152, 175, 242, 273-275, 291 are of particular interest.|
|||Hilberg, 599; Reitlinger, 460-463; IMT vol. 16, 445, 520.|
|||Speer, 375-376, 512.|
|||Speer, xvii; de Jong.|
|||New York Times Book Review (Aug. 23, 1970), 2, 16.|
|||In Göring's testimony, see especially IMT, vol. 9, 515-521, 609-619.|
|||IMT, vol. 11, 273-276, 335.|
|||IMT, vol. 22, 494-496.|
|||Case 6 transcript, 197.|
|||NMT, vol. 5, 664-676.|
|||DuBois, 230-231; NMT, vol. 8, 313-321; Case 6 transcript, 14321-14345.|
|||Eichmann, session 78, N1-O1; session 98, T1-W1.|
|||Eichmann, session 103, Jj1; session 106, V1.|
|||Eichmann, session 72, Aal-Kk11; session 73, A1-R1; session 74, Hh1-Iil; session 88, L1-P2 and appendices; session 104, T1-V1; session 105, W1-Z1; Life (Nov. 28, 1960), 19+; (Dec. 5, 1960), 146+.|
|||Eichmann, session 85, J1-K1, T1-U1; session 87, M1-O1, Y1; session 88, G1-H1.|
|||Aretz, 58; Naumann, 8.|
|||Naumann, 8-26, 416-417.|
|||Naumann, 412-413, 418-419, 422-423. Reitlinger, 551, 561.|
|||Michelet, 151-157, 313-314.|
|||Bardèche, 12, 73; Davidson, 44-47, 51.|
|||Eichmann, session 75, U1. For the fanatical measures taken to isolate Eichmann from the outside world during his imprisonment in Israel see, e.g., the London Jewish Chronicle (Sep. 2, 1960), 15.|
|||Solzhenitsyn has given the definitive account of the historical development of the Communist political "trial.". See also Conquest, 82-147.|
|||Reitlinger, 450-452; Hilberg, 524; Schmidt, 248.|
|||Last page of testament reproduced by Trevor-Roper, 180. Discovery and text of testament reported in New York Times (Dec. 30, 1945), 1; (Dec. 31, 1945), 1, 6. Text also given by Shirer (1947), 180-181.|
|||1919-PS in IMT, vol. 29, 110-173 (in German). Excerpts in English translation in NMT, vol. 13, 318-327.|
|||IMT, vol. 11, 561.|
|||NMT, vol. 13, 318.|
|||NMT, vol. 13, 457-487.|
|||NMT, vol. 5, 666, 675.|
|||Lochner, 126, 138, 147f, 241, viii. Oven's remarks are in Nation Europa (Apr. 75), 53-56.|
|||Veale, 220-224; Reitlinger, 83, 198; Dawidowicz, 125.|
|||Reitlinger, 82-84, 199-201; Hilberg, 187-188, 194-195.|
|||IMT, vol. 3, 560; vol. 26, 102-105. Poliakov & Wulf (1955), 140ff.|
|||IMT, vol. 3, 559.|
|||Reitlinger, 201, note 70 on page 611.|
|||NMT, vol. 13, 269-272 (excerpts only).|
|||IMT, vol. 37, 670-717; NMT, vol. 4, 154.|
|||Hilberg, 252n; Reitlinger, 232-233. documents 135-R and 3633-PS reproduced in Poliakov & Wulf (1955), 190ff.|
|||Hilberg, 709; Reitlinger, 560; 3428-PS in NMT, vol. 4, 191-193.|
|||NMT, vol. 4, 168-169, 187, 190.|
|||New York Times (Jul. 16, 1943), 7.|
|||IMT, vol. 4, 311-355.|
|||IMT, vol. 22, 478-480, 491-494, 509-510, 538.|
|||NMT, vol. 4, 223-312.|
|||NMT, vol. 4, 313-323,547-555.|
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