This is part 1 of 2.
[Final statements are recorded in mimeographed transcript, 2/13/1948, pp. 6605-6645.]
May it please the Tribunal, all literature published in the last two years dealing with the problems of National Socialism seriously and, particularly, religious literature, agrees that National Socialism is not the cause, but the effect of a spiritual crisis. That crisis which unfolded itself in the last centuries, and particularly, in the last decades, is twofold: it is a religious and a spiritual one, and it is a political and social one. Catholic and Protestant literature both agree that at least since the application of Gallican freedoms, Christian religion as the final aim of humanity was increasingly eliminated from the spheres of the state which form the core of historical development. The end of the Christian idea as a binding goal for humanity in its social systems and of the individual turning to the beyond, to life in God, had a double effect.
1. Man lacked absolute and uniform values in his life. In his mind and impulses he no longer found a uniform and firm guiding point which could have supplied him with the motives for his actions. Religious values and laws took an ever smaller space in his emotions, thinking, and acting. The Christian values, if they remained at all important, actually could not prevent man from being split into a "Sunday" and "week-day" individual. Week-day supplied him with different motives than an even temporary meditation on God's will. Life this side of the grave had not only acquired a significance of its own, but indeed ruled him independently with its concepts of autonomy, wealth, social position, and so forth.
2. Society, organized into separate states, found in this development no uniform values which might have been the constant objective of society or the state. As individuals and majority groups were in a position to make their separate aims the objects of society and politics, the inviolate metaphysical relatedness of politics was lost, and in consequence such social and political order as existed at a given time had to be disputed by the differing concepts of other individuals and other groups. The endeavors to preserve the status quo within the state and the nations was replaced by the will to eliminate the status quo by means of war or revolution.
My generation, when it became aware of social conditions around it, found this spiritual, religious, political, and social decay having a deep effect. There were no values for them which were not immediately attacked and opposed by different groups. Thirty or more parties fought for power in the state. They represented a number of opposing interests. This generation was not offered any idea for learning to live as human beings which was not contested. Their social future was without hope. It is understandable that under those conditions this generation did not regard wealth as their aim, for material wealth had become a questionable asset after inflation, financial crisis, and years of economic stress, during which century-old properties dissolved into nothing. They were longing for spiritual support, for a goal behind the social order into which they were born, a goal which promised them true human dignity, firm human objectives, and a spiritual and religious center for their development into human beings. This generation had become too realistic in their suffering to believe that by fixing their eyes at the beyond they would find the moral and social basis for their existence as human beings at this period in history. Confronted with daily life and social existence they found both these elements to be too clear cut not to be the touchstone of human existence. Indeed the split into a "Sunday" and "week-day" man appeared as one of the deeper causes for spiritual and material suffering. Thus, it becomes understandable that this generation searched for new religious values.
Also, the dependence of every individual on the constitution and condition of the society, the nation, and the state in which he lived was far too obvious for this generation not to look for ways and means to replace the changing rule of group interests by an order which was based on the conception of totality in relation to every single individual irrespective of his social status. In National Socialism we saw this idea and we expected it to furnish the basis of a new order. It was not in the spirit of frivolity that we spoke of The Thousand Years Reich because we knew that great developments of humanity take centuries, nay, thousands of years, until they mature and give rise to yet newer developments. Therefore our minds were not impatient, but we looked at the history of mankind, including their religious history, and that of the ups and downs of states and nations in order to find the guiding ideas in the growth and decline of the peoples in order to find the indications which would make it possible for us to fulfill justly the requirements of our time for the experiences and sufferings of history. From our search in history, we acquired the certainty that the great religious aims, the great moral and ethical issues always flank the actual historical events.
Both prosecution and defense have at the beginning of this trial repeatedly pointed to the great religious and moral law contained in the Ten Commandments of Moses. Nobody will deny their binding character and no one can escape the sacred earnest of the Commandments. But it would amount to misjudging reality if one would, in the Books of Moses, ignore the descriptions of real history which in all its frightfulness is said to have been ordered by the same God who transmitted the Ten Commandments through Moses. It is not an empty religious phrase to say that to God a thousand years are but a moment. Anyone familiar with history will note that it is the outward customs and means that change in the course of the centuries, but that in 1948 no ideas are conceived or discussed which were not the living contents of Indian religious and philosophical systems, the Persian and Egyptian mysteries, Greek philosophy, the political systems and battles of the Greek city-states, of neo-platonic philosophy, of the large emotions of early Christians, the Roman concepts of law and the state, of the great impulses of the Catholic Church and of Protestantism.
It would also mean misjudging reality if one spoke of the dark Middle Ages in the belief that in its wars the so-called modern age had become more humane than the Middle Ages, or than the even more distant times, the time of so-called barbarism.
Every age has its moral aims, its ethical urge, and the stamina to create martyrs for its ideals. But, independent of these aims and forces, every age has been a piece of human history in which individuals and nations engaged in contest for their existence, for great or small aims, for individual or collective objectives, the outward shape of which in its degree of frightfulness essentially depended on inner and outer suffering, and the degree of sincerity in these contests. As subject and object of history man stands in the middle of the development formed by sincere or insincere impulses. Man will take one or the other side or will be driven on by one or the other side. If we meditate on the character of man we come to the conclusion that he who is animated by religious ethics and moral impulses and who tries to understand them in himself in order then to apply them to living history, perhaps comes closest to the concept of man. But as this aim and its practical fulfillment will never coincide, there always will be a tragic tension in the individual life between the religious and moral impulses and their application to real life, not only because individual man is limited in his power, but also because he lives in a world of powerful groups and social conditions which can wholly ignore his intentions and dispose over him. That tension extends and becomes cruder in the history of the nations, both in the living body of the nations themselves, as well as in the relations between the nations. And yet all religions, especially the Christian religion, teach that God becomes manifest in history. Experiences in the last years have often shaken that conception, and yet no one with a spark of religion in himself can escape that knowledge.
The tension between the conception of history as a road to God and in God and historic reality as the outward manifestation of human ability and inability, human wisdom and human error, has grown into a general crisis in the human existence as such, since the elements of creations have shown themselves to man, and since human beings were not bound together by common ideals, bolshevism appeared as the idol, equipped not only with power and force, but even with martyrs.
At the end of WWII and with the defeat of National Socialism, the spiritual, religious, political, and social crisis still persists. A link between East and West has been eliminated and this perhaps has made the crisis yet more apparent. In analyzing our present time we will always find that ultimate values as criteria for the feeling, thinking, and acting of human beings and nations are still lacking. The metaphysical standards are missing. We must never forget that the basic laws of Christianity in its relatedness to God and individualism with man as its enter and its outward expression in the constitutions of states are diametrically and irreconcilably opposed to one another. To Christianity this will always be true of any social order or political constitution which has made man the sole measure for its motives, the objects of its policies. If the ideas and concepts of democracy, the ideas of human dignity and liberty are to be made the sole yardstick for the measuring of the recent period in history, it must not be forgotten that the idea of democracy is no substitute for the metaphysical obligation of the Christian or any other religious idea. The democratic idea is a formal one. It lacks all certitude which would comprehend the totality of human life; it assigns duties and privileges to people and social organizations; it grants individual liberties, but it does not give the reason why. Nor is this intended because this would contradict the objectives of democracy. To equip that idea with judicial authority by bestowing on its representatives a legitimacy from a binding religious and moral principle amounts to an entirely unjustified assumption that an idea or a law, which does not exist, is generally binding. As all metaphysical motivation is lacking, this usurpation will always be regarded as an effort by one group to maintain the status quo which will not serve to lessen the tension between the nations. Nothing can grow from this which would substitute force by an idea which is binding for all and from which there could come comprehensive motives for a human conception of law and for the shaping of a common history of the nations.
The most recent period in history is not different from any other period simply because a fight has taken place for moral and ethical principles and, through certain historic conditions, for the survival of nations, even if appearances seem different at a superficial glance. I regard myself as one of those who have become aware of the contrast of those two forces in history. I have myself sensed that tension and endeavored to find a solution. I have said time and again that I was tortured by the fear of the punishment which those in Germany who were responsible for the historic development seemed to invite by their words and deeds. Their frank ignoring of human lives, and of the basic ideas of their own religious and moral conceptions of the people made this fear grow in me, but today my fear of future punishment invited by present day events is greater still.
I have been now in the Palace of Justice in Nuernberg for 2.5 years. What I have seen here of life as a spiritual force, in these 2.5 years in Nuernberg, has increased my fear. Human beings who under normal conditions were decent citizens of their country were deprived of their basic conception of law, custom, and morals by the power of the victors. The fact that they were deprived of their conceptions which in the place of the lost religious values had given to the majority of human beings moral and ethical support, and the fact that the life which they led justified by those conceptions was now called criminal, made them give up their human dignity, which they should never have done. While they waited for the verdict which was really announced beforehand, when the victorious powers had condemned their basic conception of life, the march of history did not stop, which in its consequences for the peoples concerned put the powers on the judges' bench in the wrong before their own verdicts.
I am animated by the desire that the Tribunal may look beyond the over-simplified and over-generalized formulas of the post-war period and contemplate the events of this period from the point of view of the two basic forces which have always decided the flow of events. Not one nation alone is guilty, but ideas and the weight of concrete conditions among the nations fighting for their survival and future find human representatives who are capable of unloosening the pent-up tension. The concrete situation facing the nations after this war shows that the tension which still persists and grows daily goes deep back into the past and far beyond the German people and its intentions.
Thus I ask that in their deliberations for the verdict the Court will take into consideration that these defendants here were thrown into a historic development which they did not cause and which went on independent of their will. None of them has himself selected his place in that development as a result of which he now sits in this dock. They were the target of impulses which made them act as they did independently of their own aim in life. They entered on their task convinced that they were backed by a genuine and justified moral force. They felt that their work was necessary even if it opposed their own inner tendencies and interest, because the existence of their people was in deadly peril. They were the same good average citizens as you find them by the millions in all countries. They never thought of criminal activities or criminal aims. They felt that they had been put into an inevitable, awful, and gigantic war which was to decide not only on the survival of their nation, their families and themselves, but they saw in themselves the protective shield guarding also other nations against one common enemy. They were in no position to judge the necessity and methods of this war. They were not responsible and could not be responsible for it. Any other attitude would have been in contradiction to the state administration which had been in force for centuries, and in contradiction to the existing responsibility of the highest leaders of the nations. They had to accept the methods and the orders in this war as did all soldiers in all countries. And those who looked at history and who from the developments which history taught them concluded that the future would be the result of inexorable moral laws were as much as ever faced by the tension between the two basic forces in history; in their longing for the realization of ethic and moral ideas, and the power of actual history with its overwhelming strength. They also felt the natural human urge for peace and a normal life with their fellow beings. But the passion of their moral existence included the metaphysical stipulation that the existence of their people must be preserved.
I never lost faith in God being manifest in history; even though we may not understand His ways, no situation will deprive me of my faith that life and death in this world has a reason and must be regarded affirmatively. Never in one moment of my life have I failed to offset the overwhelming forces of practical history with religious, moral, and ethical impulses, whenever life demanded something of me. I always regarded history as the realization of ideas in which human beings were both the subjects and the objects and which yet seemed to point to something beyond them. I am of the opinion that this Tribunal will use the historic facts which have become known in the last two years on the background of the past period, facts which not only threaten the existence of the German people, but are a menace to the whole world, in order truly to understand the realities of history in their broad ideological and material implications. The fact that the victorious powers declared the German people guilty and the statement that its legal, moral, and ethical basis of the past had been illegal, immoral, and unethical have confused and uprooted the German people as well as the individuals who were heard here in Nuernberg as the representatives of that people. Thus, this legal, moral, and ethical suffering of the German people became greater than the material one which threatens its physical existence. May the verdict of this Court take into account the reality of historic conditions and developments and give the Germans, individually and collectively, the opportunity of true self-realization, lest they be kept in the grip of despair because their existence is held to take place outside historic reality and their future fate is based, not on the firmness of law, but on power and force.
If the Tribunal please, I do not wish to end my final statement without expressing my gratitude for the very generous way in which you have dealt with the problems which we have regarded as important to these proceedings.
Your Honor, having grown up in the years of need of the German people, I decided in 1928 to enter the NSDAP [National Socialist German Workers Party] because I believed that I found in this party the movement which alone would be able to prevent the decline of Germany, and would be in the position to offer resistance to the ever increasing pressure of bolshevism within Germany, and also abroad. I believed that I would best be able to fulfill my duty toward my people and my Fatherland by taking this path. This point of view also caused me to enter the SD in 1934, an organization which I considered a justified and necessary institution, an instrument capable of doing, particularly in an authoritarian state, constructive work and of offering necessary criticism.
In the late summer of 1941 I left the SD for tangible and personal considerations which I have spoken about at length.
Against my will and without my agreement I was elected Chief of Einsatzgruppe A, and Chief of the Security Police and SD Ostland in late 3/1942. With this assignment, and in connection with known orders then at hand, and other orders which were given to me later by my superior, I was charged with a singular responsibility, a responsibility which fortunately only few men have had to bear in the long course of history. The execution of the orders given me meant the death of 10000 people. The knowledge and acquaintance with the fate of these victims, and, in addition, about the inevitable fateful result of this order for the German people brought me to a state of conflict regarding my duties which cannot be described today with mere words. I decided in the course of this conflict to undertake everything in my power to render a further execution of these orders impossible, and to commit myself to the revocation of the orders. I myself gave no order, and I did not pass on the order which I received from Heydrich, and I did not carry out the instruction from the Reich Commissioner to rid the Ostland of Jews. I took this position because I had to take it. I did not act in this way in order to derive thanks from some person; neither did any opportunist considerations influence me. And, moreover, I certainly did not act in this way in order to have an alibi for a prosecutor one day, because in the summer of 1942 such thoughts would have been absurd. It was possible for me to prevent a further execution of this order for five months so that all Jews who lived in this area at the beginning of my activity there were still living at the end of my activity there. The prosecution has managed to prove 300 deaths in an area larger than Germany, and in a span of five months, and these deaths exclusively concern partisans, or such people who had forfeited their lives because of offenses against the laws of war. If, on a roll call I expressed that Jews, too, stood under the protection of the laws with their life and property, that was the expression of my conviction, namely, that even the Jewish people have their right as a part of God's creation in exactly the way that the German people, too, have their right to live.
The prosecution submitted among its rebuttal documents the examination of a certain Roman Loos, and this statement is supposed to be a standard for the activity of a commander when confronted with orders like the Fuehrer Order. I can only say that in my position I fulfilled all these conditions. I expressed to all my superiors my opinion and my point of view. I did not leave my subordinates in any doubt about my ideas. If the prosecution introduced documents of this nature, then they would have to be permitted to work favorably for the defendants who acted in accordance with the conditions therein contained. I personally was completely aware of the results which could follow from my actions. It was in the hands of my superiors to act in accordance with them, and finally they did so. Mr. Wartenberg stated in the course of a heated interrogation in 5/1947, "We know that you acted very decently in Riga. We know, too, that you have done everything humanly possible in opposition." This statement admits the compelling conclusion that they were in possession of material which was mitigating for me. But they did not submit it. During the five months I acted as my conscience prescribed, and I believe that as a German and as a man, I acted justly. I can justify my actions before myself and before any Tribunal in the world with a pure conscience.
Ill conditions within the German people, patriotism, and conscientiousness were the reasons which, in 1929, caused me to join the NSDAP. Inspired by the very same patriotism, and the same conscientiousness, I chose the opportunity, from 1928 on, to take part in the brief courses which were held in those days by the then Reichswehr, the predecessor of the later German Army, and, apart from exercising my profession, to train myself as a soldier in order to be able to defend my country, should the necessity arise. Thus I received my basic training and visited the noncommissioned officers' courses.
When in 1939 war broke out I frequently asked my chief, Heydrich, to let me join the army until I achieved my aim, and was able to join the army in 4/1940. However, this condition did not last for long. As early as 12/1940, I was to return to my former office. Owing to my personal acquaintance with General Juettner of the Waffen SS, who held then the corresponding rank of Chief of General Staff in the Waffen SS, I managed to remain with the army. But through a decree of Himmler I was recalled to my office in 3/1941. At the end of 11/1941 I took over Einsatzgruppe B by personal order of Heydrich, and thus became acquainted with the Fuehrer Order, which is being dealt with in this trial. Apart from instinctive objection against this order, there was the fact that this order had been given by the Supreme Commander, and the Chief of State during the war. Apart from the wish not to have to comply with this order, there were the considerations that the oath rendered to the Chief of State left no possibility to evade it, and the realization that it was a legal order, as it was given by the Chief of State. In this inner conflict of emotions, in this enormous collision between duty and conscience, I conducted myself as has been described by my counsel in his plea.
I want to use this opportunity to thank my defense counsel and his assistants for the labors they underwent in my behalf. Psychologically, I rejected this order. On the witness stand I have attempted to give as true a picture as possible of this inner conflict. The testimony of my comrades Steimle and Ott equally show how strong and how serious our objections were against this order. Steimle's and Ott's testimony supported my inner attitude, but we clearly recognized that we had neither the possibility nor the power to take any steps against the order. The Fuehrer Order was also the subject of discussions with my military superiors in Russia, the Commander in Chief of Army Group Center, Field Marshal von Kluge, and the Commander of the Army Group Rear Territory General von Schenckendorff. Also Field Marshal von Kluge, who exercised the entire executive power in central Russia, and who was the only man in this area who had immediate access to the Fuehrer, stated that there was no possibility to evade the Fuehrer Order. On many occasions I discussed this with General von Schenckendorff and the result was the same. I would like to say here that friendly relationship developed between von Schenckendorff and myself in spite of the high position and high rank, and his age; von Schenckendorff was then 68 years old.
To illustrate this I would like to say that in the course of time he became my fatherly friend.
I did not regard the war in the East as a German war of aggression. According to information that I had access to I believed that Germany had anticipated the immediate impending attack on the part of the Soviet Union. I was furthermore convinced that bolshevism was a great danger for Germany and Europe, and that all forces must be mobilized to avert this danger. How right this attitude was has been proved by the subsequent period. The causes which led to the cooling off of the inter-Allied relationship between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. prove, I believe, the accuracy of my original point of view.
There I was, a soldier and officer in the East. It was in accordance with my inclination as a soldier, that I should regard my assignment as a purely military one and that I complied with it accordingly. The situation in the army sector, and the very imminent partisan danger provided the opportunity for this. Therefore, I mobilized the forces of Einsatzgruppe B to a large degree for partisan reconnaissance and combat, which my superiors, later on, took as a reason to reprimand me.
It was also in accordance with my military inclinations that I should combine a battalion of Russians who voluntarily fought on the German side, and had put themselves at our disposal with the police company of the Einsatzgruppe B, a unit of members of the Waffen SS who were part of Einsatzgruppe B, and a number of voluntary Ukrainians into one combat unit, and reported voluntarily for combat against partisans as commander of this newly formed unit. This was approved by my superiors. In the course of this combat I was decorated with the Iron Cross First Class for bravery before the enemy. I merely mention this fact because the prosecution in their trial brief have mentioned this decoration as a reproach. I would like to tell the prosecution here that I am still proud of this decoration which I have earned for bravery before the enemy.
After about three months an end was put to my secret wish to remain a unit commander during the whole period of war, because, first, the battalion of Russians and, later, the mixed battalion were withdrawn from the territory of the army unit, and thus I had to dedicate myself entirely to the leadership of Einsatzgruppe B. I was a German soldier and officer in the truest sense of the word. Whenever I had to order, or to act anywhere, and anyhow on my own initiative, I have always acted in a humane manner. If I was confronted with an order by the Supreme Commander, or the Chief of State, I saw, just because I was an obedient soldier, no possibility to disobey this order, even though my inner attitude resisted it. When I was in Russia, it so happened that I took over Einsatzgruppe B only five months after the beginning of the war, and, therefore, I did not have to comply with the Fuehrer Order, because the Fuehrer Order had been given to the Chiefs of the Einsatzgruppen and of the Einsatzkommandos at the very beginning. To reject the order I had neither the power nor the possibility. The fact that obedience is the supreme duty of a soldier is shown in the well known speech of the British Field Marshal Montgomery of 1946, in which he says--
"No matter how intelligent the soldier is, the army would leave the nation in a lurch if it were not used to obey orders immediately. It is the duty of a soldier to obey all orders without questioning which the army, i.e., the nation, gives him."
The war has shown that not only the Germans but also the Allied soldier receives and executes severe and severest orders. How could it be possible otherwise that my home town of Dresden, which housed no factories nor any installations of war importance within her boundaries, should be destroyed within 36 hours, and, thus more than 200000 defenseless human beings, mostly old people, women and children were killed, buried, or cruelly wounded? How would it otherwise have been possible that the old city of my last garrison, old Nuernberg, had been turned into a rubble heap? How would it have been possible that the first atom bombs were thrown on Japan, and thousands and thousands of defenseless people were killed and that through the very consequences of the atom bomb even the unborn generation will have to suffer?
On both sides soldiers executed their orders, orders of their highest superiors, even if it was not in accordance with their conscience, when they had received the orders, with the reason that they were necessary in order to reach the war aim.
My position as chief of Einsatzgruppe B, my conduct in Russia, and my inner attitude have given me the confidence so that I was able to answer the question of the president of this Tribunal which he put to me on 9/15/1947, with a clear conscience and deep conviction by "Not Guilty."
May it please the Tribunal. On the charges made against me in this trial I have commented on the witness stand. That which could be summarized was put forth by my defense attorney Dr. Durchholz in his final plea. I have nothing to add to these statements because they corresponded with the truth. Thus, and in no other way, the events unfolded before me.
Therefore, my honor tells me that I must defend myself once more against the charges put forth by the prosecution to the effect that my statements are impeachable. On the day of capitulation I made myself unconditionally available for my own person and for the thing which I have to represent not in order to lie but to serve the truth.
Considering the unlimited means of investigation, which are more than ever available to the investigating authorities it must also have been an easy matter for the prosecution staff to test the truthfulness of my statements. If all these many men were interrogated, whose names Mr. Wartenberg read to me from a long list, then the result of the questioning cannot have been different from that which I stated myself, excluding the events, naturally, which took place within me [sic].
I must also expressly reject the monstrous charge of the prosecution according to which 12000 people have been shot under my responsible leadership of Einsatzkommando 5. Each member of Einsatzkommando 5 who was there during my time can truthfully say nothing other than that such a charge is devoid of any basis.
Wherever I have been, in almost twenty-five years of police service, human beings have always been holy for me. Just as I am concerned to maintain the purity of my own honor, I consider also the honor of my fellowmen, no matter who they are. And it was also not different in Russia. At no time did I hold irresponsible or unfeeling views on the subject of the fate of human beings.
My honor forces me also to emphasize once again--under my oath as a witness--that never in my life at any place or at any time have I maltreated or tortured a human being. Neither have I ever participated in an order to this end, nor have I tolerated such an act silently. Had I discovered such an inhumane act within my area, I should have committed myself against it with all means at my disposal. That this is the case is proved also by the affidavits which have been submitted,
which for the most part were made available most voluntarily by former political opponents.
If the prosecution believes in spite of all this, that it must draw a conclusion which is not in harmony with my conception, I wish to try to attain understanding here, too. But that cannot alter the fact that I can answer to my conscience for that which I have done and not done. This accounting to my conscience is the satisfaction which I am able to give to myself.
In my sacred duty to serve my Fatherland I never forgot my duty towards humanity, because I carried within me personally the conviction that the respect of my Fatherland is dependent upon that respect which it deserved from its environment. I acted in my position on this premise.
In the certainty that I acted in accordance with this premise, I confidently await the decision of the Tribunal.
Your Honor, I was always a scientist but never a policeman. My political work, whether at the desk of the university, or at the desk of an office, was devoted to understanding and not to hatred. The four weeks of my assignment in the East did not constitute an exception to this. And I do not have to reproach myself in anything as a man and as a soldier, than as today. Thus my first word in this trial can remain my last word: Not Guilty.
May it please the Tribunal. Contrary to the assertion of the prosecution that I did not serve at the front and that my activity did not take place in the confusion of the front line, I would like to say once more in conclusion, my assignment was exclusively in the combat area and not in the rear area. In addition, this assignment was the result of an order by the Reich Security Main Office which legally is to be considered equivalent to a war draft. Like every soldier I was subject to the harsh war laws. I too became enmeshed, by the assignment in the East, in conflict between law and morality, obedience and refusal to obey orders, harsh necessity of war, and personal feelings, a conflict which can hardly be retold today, and which can hardly be explained to the outsider.
I did not leave Pretzsch with the thought that I would have to order mass executions of Jews, Communists, and other enemies, since I personally lacked every prerequisite to bear the responsibility for such a decision.
At that time I could not interpret the speech by Major General [Gruppenfuehrer] Streckenbach as a final order. I expected certain executive orders. These were issued to me when I was subordinated to Sixth Army Headquarters.
Executions were not ordered by me personally. The executions which were carried out, at which I was present, were decided upon and ordered by the Commanding General of the Sixth Army, Field Marshal von Reichenau, according to documentary statements.
The number of 10000 to 15000 persons which I mentioned included, to my knowledge, all events with which any man belonging to Sonderkommando 4a had to deal. The documents concerning the often mentioned operation in Kiev show that by far the largest part of this number are due to this operation to which only a small group of men belonging to Sonderkommando 4a had been detailed. Whether any of these men took part in this execution is something about which I do not know anything personally, since I did not actively participate in this operation.
During the assignment in the East I was frequently in bad health due to infectious diseases. Only relatively late did this condition lead to my being relieved, after the superior authorities finally had received knowledge of the medical opinion about my reduced military fitness.
I am still afflicted with the after-effects of this illness, and the operations connected with it, as can be seen from the hospital papers which have been submitted.
I did my duty as a soldier towards my Fatherland according to the orders given to me by von Reichenau. I did not commit war crimes and crimes against humanity, as the prosecution asserts. I can face my wife and my children with a clear conscience, and I can look into their eyes. I am not guilty before God and my conscience.