Judgment on the SS as a Criminal Organization

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Judgment on the SS as a Criminal Organization

Post by David Thompson » 01 Feb 2003 07:44

This is the judgment of the International Military Tribunal on the issue of whether the SS should be judged a criminal organization. The opening argument for the criminality of the SS has been posted on this forum at:

http://www.thirdreichforum.com/phpBB2/v ... 5436427e89

The final argument against SS criminality is posted on this forum at:

http://www.thirdreichforum.com/phpBB2/v ... 5436427e89

The judgment of the court is taken from the IMT Proceedings, vol. 22, pp. 511-16. The proceedings are available on line at:


from The Avalon Project at Yale Law School: Nuremberg Trial Proceedings


Structure and Component Parts: The Prosecution has named Die Schutzstaffeln der Nationalsozialistischen Deutschen Arbeiterpartei (commonly known as the SS) as an organization which should be declared criminal. The portion of the Indictment dealing with the SS also includes the Sicherheitsdienst des Reichsfuehrer SS (commonly known as the SD). This latter organization, which was originally an intelligence branch of the SS, later became an important part of the organization of the Security Police and SD and is dealt with in the Tribunal's judgment on the Gestapo.

The SS was originally established by Hitler in 1925 as an elite section of the SA for political purposes under the pretext of protecting speakers at public meetings of the Nazi Party. After the Nazis had obtained power the SS was used to maintain order and control audiences at mass demonstrations and was given the additional duty of "internal security" by a decree of the Fuehrer. The SS played an important role at the time of the Roehm purge of 30 June 1934, and, as a reward for its services, was made an independent unit of the Nazi Party shortly thereafter.

In 1929, when Himmler was first appointed as Reichsfuehrer, the SS consisted of 280 men who were regarded as especially trustworthy. In 1933 it was composed of 52,000 men drawn from all walks of life. The original formation of the SS was the Allgemeine SS, which by 1939 had grown to a corps of 240,000 men, organized on military lines into divisions and regiments. During the war its Strength declined to well under 40,000.

The SS originally contained two other formations, the SS Verfuegungstruppe, a force consisting of SS members who volunteered for four years' armed service in lieu of compulsory service with

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the Army, and the SS Totenkopfverbaende, special troops employed to guard concentration camps, which came under the control of the SS in 1934. The SS Verfuegungstruppe was organized as an armed unit to be employed with the Army in the event of mobilization. In the summer of 1939, the Verfuegungstruppe was equipped as a motorized division to form the nucleus of the forces which came to be known in 1940 as the Waffen-SS. In that year the Waffen-SS comprised 100,000, men, 56,000 coming from the Verfuegungstruppe and the rest from the Allgemeine SS and the Totenkopfverbaende.

At the end of the war it is estimated to have consisted of about 580,000 men and 40 divisions. The Waffen-SS was under the tactical command of the Army, but was equipped and supplied through the administrative branches of the SS and under SS disciplinary control. The SS central organization had 12 main offices. The most important of these were the RSHA, which has already been discussed, the WVHA or Economic Administration Main Office, which administered concentration camps along with its other duties, a Race and Settlement Office together with auxiliary offices for repatriation of racial Germans (Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle). The SS central organization also had a legal office and the SS possessed its own legal system; and its personnel were under the jurisdiction of special courts. Also attached to the SS main offices was a research foundation known as the Experiments Ahnenerbe. The scientists attached to this organization are stated to have been mainly honorary members of the SS. During the war an institute for military scientific research became attached to the Ahnenerbe which conducted extensive experiments involving the use of living human beings. An employee of this institute was a certain Dr. Rascher, who conducted these experiments with the full knowledge of the Ahnenerbe, which were subsidized and under the patronage of the Reichsfuehrer SS who was a trustee of the foundation.

Beginning in 1933 there was a gradual but thorough amalgamation of the Police and SS. In 1936 Himmler, the Reichsfuehrer SS, became Chief of the German Police with authority over the regular uniformed Police as well as the Security Police. Himmler established a system under which Higher SS and Police Leaders, appointed for each Wehrkreis, served as his personal representatives in co-ordinating the activities of the Order Police, Security Police and SD, and Allgemeine SS within their jurisdictions. In 1939 the SS and police systems were co-ordinated by taking into the SS all officials of the Security and Order Police, at SS ranks equivalent to their rank in the Police.

Until 1940 the SS was an entirely voluntary organization. After the formation of the Waffen-SS in 1940 there was a gradually increasing number of conscripts into the Waffen-SS. It appears that

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about a third of the total number of people joining the Waffen-SS were conscripts, that the proportion of conscripts was higher at the end of the war than at the beginning, but that there continued to be a high proportion of volunteers until the end of the war.

Criminal Activities: SS units were active participants in the steps leading up to aggressive war. The Verfuegungstruppe was used in the occupation of the Sudetenland, of Bohemia and Moravia, and of Memel. The Henlein Free Corps was under the jurisdiction of the Reichsfuehrer SS for operations in the Sudetenland in 1938, and the Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle financed fifth-column activities there.

The SS was even a more general participant in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Through its control over the organization of the Police, particularly the Security Police and SD, the SS was involved in all the crimes which have been outlined in the section of this Judgment dealing with the Gestapo and SD. Other branches of the SS were equally involved in these criminal programs. There is evidence that the shooting of unarmed prisoners of war was the general practice in some Waffen-SS divisions. On 1 October 1944, the custody of prisoners of war and interned persons was transferred to Himmler, who in turn transferred prisoner-of-war affairs to SS Obergruppenfuehrer Berger and to SS Obergruppenfuehrer Pohl. The Race and Settlement Office of the SS, together with the Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle, were active in carrying out schemes for Germanization of occupied territories according to the racial principles of the Nazi Party and were involved in the deportation of Jews and other foreign nationals. Units of the Waffen-SS and Einsatzgruppen operating directly under the SS Main Office were used to carry out these plans. These units were also involved in the widespread murder and ill-treatment of the civilian population of occupied territories. Under the guise of combating partisan units, units of the SS exterminated Jews and people deemed politically undesirable by the SS, and their reports record the execution of enormous numbers of persons. Waffen-SS divisions were responsible for many massacres and atrocities in occupied territories such as the massacres at Oradour and Lidice.

From 1934 onwards the SS was responsible for the guarding and administration of concentration camps. The evidence leaves no doubt that the consistently brutal treatment of the inmates of concentration camps was carried out as a result of the general policy of the SS, which was that the inmates were racial inferiors to be treated only with contempt. There is evidence that where manpower considerations permitted, Himmler wanted to rotate guard battalions so that all members of the SS would be instructed as to the proper attitude to take to inferior races. After 1942, when the

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concentration camps were placed under the control of the WVHA, they were used as a source of slave labor. An agreement made with the Ministry of Justice on 18 September 1942 provided that antisocial elements who had finished prison sentences were to be delivered to the SS to be worked to death. Steps were continually taken, involving the use of the Security Police and SD and even the Waffen-SS, to insure that the SS had an adequate supply of concentration camp labor for its projects. In connection with the administration of the concentration camps, the SS embarked on a series of experiments on human beings which were performed on prisoners of war or concentration camp inmates. These experiments included freezing to death and killing by poison bullets. The SS was able to obtain an allocation of Government funds for this kind of research on the grounds that they had access to human material not available to other, agencies.

The SS played a particularly significant role in the persecution of the Jews. The SS was directly involved in the demonstrations of 10 November, 1938. The evacuation of the Jews from occupied territories was carried out under the directions of the SS with the assistance of SS Police units. The extermination of the Jews was carried out under the direction of the SS central organizations. It was actually put into effect by SS formations. The Einsatzgruppen engaged in wholesale massacres of the Jews. SS Police units were also involved. For example, the massacre of Jews in the Warsaw ghetto was carried out under the directions of SS Brigadefuehrer and Major General of the Police Stroop. A special group from the SS central organization arranged for the deportation of Jews from various Axis satellites, and their extermination was carried out in the concentration camps run by the WVHA.

It is impossible to single out any one portion of the SS which was not involved in these criminal activities. The Allgemeine SS was an active participant in the persecution of the Jews and was used as a source of concentration camp guards. Units of the Waffen-SS were directly involved in the killing of prisoners of war and the atrocities in occupied countries. It supplied personnel for the Einsatzgruppen, and had command over the concentration camp guards after its absorption of the Totenkopf SS, which originally controlled the system. Various SS Police units were also widely used in the atrocities in occupied countries and the extermination of the Jews there. The SS central organization supervised the activities of these various formations and was responsible for such special projects as the human experiments and "final solution" of the Jewish question.

The Tribunal finds that knowledge of these criminal activities was sufficiently general to justify declaring that the SS was a

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criminal organization to the extent hereinafter described. It does appear that an attempt was made to keep secret some phases of its activities, but its criminal programs were so widespread, and involved slaughter on such a gigantic scale, that its criminal activities must have been widely known. It must be recognized, moreover, that the criminal activities of the SS followed quite logically from the principles on which it was organized. Every effort had been made to make the SS a highly disciplined organization composed of the elite of National Socialism. Himmler had stated that there were people in Germany "who become sick when they see these black coats" and that he did not expect that "they should be loved by too many." Himmler also indicated his view that the SS was concerned with perpetuating the Mite racial stock with the object of making Europe a Germanic continent, and the SS was instructed that it was designed to assist the Nazi Government in the ultimate domination of Europe and the elimination of all inferior races. This mystic and fanatical belief in the superiority of the Nordic German developed into the studied contempt and even hatred of other races which led to criminal activities of the type outlined above being considered as a matter of course if not a matter of pride.

The actions of a soldier in the Waffen-SS who in September 1939, acting entirely on his own initiative, killed 50 Jewish laborers whom he had been guarding, were described by the statement that as an SS man, he was "particularly sensitive to the sight of Jews," and had acted "quite thoughtlessly in a youthful spirit of adventure," and a sentence of 3 years imprisonment imposed on him was dropped under an amnesty. Hess wrote with truth that the Waffen-SS were more suitable for the specific tasks to be solved in occupied territory owing to their extensive training in questions of race and nationality. Himmler, in a series of speeches made in 1943, indicated his pride in the ability of the SS to carry out these criminal acts. He encouraged his men to be "tough and ruthless," he spoke of shooting "thousands of leading Poles," and thanked them for their co-operation and lack of squeamishness at the sight of hundreds and thousands of corpses of their victims. He extolled ruthlessness in exterminating the Jewish race and later described this process as "delousing." These speeches show that the general attitude prevailing in the SS was consistent with these criminal acts.

The SS was utilized for purposes which were criminal under the Charter involving the persecution and extermination of the Jews, brutalities and killings in concentration camps, excesses in the administration of occupied territories, the administration of the slave labor program, and the mistreatment and murder of prisoners

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of war. The Defendant Kaltenbrunner was a member of the SS implicated in these activities. In dealing with the SS the Tribunal includes all persons who had been officially accepted as members of the SS, including the members of the Allgemeine SS, members of the Waffen-SS, members of the SS Totenkopfverbaende, and the members of any of the different police forces who were members of the SS. The Tribunal does not include the so-called SS riding units. The Sicherheitsdienst des Reichsfuehrer SS (commonly known as the SD) is dealt with in the Tribunal's judgment on the Gestapo and SD.

The Tribunal declares to be criminal within the meaning of the Charter the group composed of those persons who had been officially accepted as members of the SS as enumerated in the preceding paragraph, who became or remained members of the organization with knowledge that it was being used for the commission of acts declared criminal by Article 6 of the Charter, or who were personally implicated as members of the organization in the commission of such crimes, excluding, however, those who were drafted into membership by the State in such a way as to give them no choice in the matter, and who had committed no such crimes. The basis of this finding is the participation of the organization in war crimes and crimes against humanity connected with the war; this group declared criminal cannot include, therefore, persons who had ceased to belong to the organizations enumerated in the preceding paragraph prior to 1 September 1939.

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