NMT final statements of the Einsatzgruppe defendants

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NMT final statements of the Einsatzgruppe defendants

Post by David Thompson » 22 Sep 2004 21:47

These are the final statements made by the Einsatzgruppe defendants before their judgment on war crimes charges by an American military tribunal at Nuernberg. The texts are taken from Trials of War Criminals Before the Nuernberg Military Tribunals Under Control Council Law No. 10, Vol. 4: United States of America v. Otto Ohlendorf, et. al. (Case 9: 'Einsatzgruppen Case'), US Government Printing Office, District of Columbia: 1950. pp. 384-410.

This is part 1 of 2.

[Final statements are recorded in mimeographed transcript, 2/13/1948, pp. 6605-6645.]

Otto Ohlendorf
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.

Heinz Jost
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.

Erich Naumann
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."

Erwin Schulz
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.

Franz Six
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.
Paul Blobel
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.
Last edited by David Thompson on 23 Sep 2004 02:59, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by David Thompson » 22 Sep 2004 21:55

Part 2 of 2 (final):

Walter Blume
May it please the Tribunal, my defense counsel in his final plea and myself when in the witness stand commented already on the actual questions of this trial and its legal problems. Therefore I only want to add a few words with regard to my personality.

My education and training at home when I was in school and at the university acquainted me with the values of Western culture. At the same time Germany was a sacred concept for me. After the conclusion of my studies and at the beginning of my professional career in 1933 it was the aim of my life to become an official in the internal state administration. But fate sent me to the branch of the political police. In all those years from 1933 until 1945 I saw nothing else in all the developments in Germany than the great effort to eliminate the moral threat of bolshevism against our Western cultural values. According to my conviction of that time, this purpose was served by Adolf Hitler's policies, even when he, in the middle of 1941, led Germany into war against the Soviet Union.

My attitude towards the world and life is based on the belief in the inner values of man, and on the belief in ideals. I always tried to realize these ideals in my personal conduct of life as well as in my profession. This required in particular a correct and clean attitude as an official and the endeavor to serve justice and law in my professional activity. In those cases where my character could not agree with certain orders received in my activity, I tried, up to the last limit, to dominate with my own humane attitude. I therefore believe that during my entire professional activity, I helped incomparably more people without their knowing it, than I interfered in human destinies and made them suffer in the execution of the authority of the state.

All in all I feel myself free from any legal guilt. I therefore expect your judgment, your Honors, with perfect calm and confidence.

Martin Sandberger
I do not want to make any statement.

Willi Seibert
May it please the Tribunal, I do not wish to add to the statements of my defense counsel about the actions indicted here in this trial in Russia, because I am of the opinion that that which had to be said about it has already been said. I had requested my defense counsel not to make any lengthy statements about my character and my life otherwise. Above all the reason was that the Tribunal already knew my life if only in brief outline because of my testimony on the witness stand, and that my activity in the SD, especially outside of Russia, always took place in the economic department. The documents of the prosecution prove this.

In my work which I did after I was transferred from the army to the SD I feel myself so free of every guilt, according to the best of my knowledge, that I dare claim that it is no coincidence that the prosecution did not succeed during the time of my detention, which is more than 33 months, to mention even one human being who has been harmed through my activity.

I add that in 5/1945 I surrendered voluntarily to the British and that not only here but already in 1945 and 1946 I was interrogated about my activity longer than seven months in the headquarters of the British Secret Service in Nenndorf. After the completion of these interrogations in 2/1946 I was charged with nothing but I was committed then to an internment camp for automatic arrest.

I feel free of every guilt.

Eugen Steimle
May it please the Tribunal, before I say my final words may I tell the story of an event which I experienced at the end of 9/1941 or beginning of 10/1941 in Velizh, the headquarters of my Kommando, and which I related to Mr. Wartenberg during the interrogation?

In the area of Velizh a number of German soldiers had been murdered in a partisan attack. The competent military field commander handed over to me a number of farmers from collective farms from a village which was located near the site of the attack. He asked me to have these Russians shot as hostages by my Kommando. For this purpose I ordered an interrogation of the prisoners concerned. The investigation showed that these men could not have been connected with the partisan attack. I therefore ordered their immediate release.

Your Honors, I remembered this event especially distinctly when I received the indictment for participation in systematic genocide. As far as my situation is concerned, it seems to me to be especially symptomatic in this trial too, insofar as the interrogator at the time greeted my truthful story with sarcastic laughter and did not believe me. Whatever the prosecution may bring up, the inner certainty of having the truth on my side induces me once more to present the following concerning the charges made against me:

1. At no time during my command, either in Kommando 7a or in Kommando 4a, did I give orders to carry out the Fuehrer Order, just as little as this Fuehrer Order was carried out in my two Kommandos, to the best of my knowledge.

2. Numerous crimes against the security of the German troops which were punishable according to announcements, especially the appearance of partisans, gave my Kommandos cause, by order of the competent army, to take action against the bearers of this resistance movement and also to carry out death sentences in the process.

3. These convictions resulted on the basis of detailed interrogations which proved the individual guilt of the individual defendants.

4. At no time did my Kommandos carry out any collective measures during my command.

5. The Communist functionaries who are reported as having been shot were convicted as active leaders of the resistance movement.

Your Honors, I look forward to your judgment with a calm conscience. The documents submitted by the prosecution cannot brand me a criminal nor a war criminal. No witness who experienced my activity has supported this claim of the prosecution, even though the prosecution interrogated officers and men of my command in detail.

Inspired by youthful idealism and a fervent love for my country I came into contact with the National Socialist movement once upon a time. I wanted to serve Germany, to help the German people. The end of the war finds my generation facing an immense abyss. Where we dreamed of future well-being and peace, we found ruins and distress in their stead. No history-conscious man will claim that such an event is thinkable without human weakness and guilt. Likewise, every historically-minded man knows that it is impossible, after such an event, to distribute the guilt individually or even to charge all to one people alone. As a former SS officer and National Socialist I am prepared to take my guilt upon myself. It does not lie in a punishable act which I might have perhaps committed in Russia. If I am to express this sense of guilt only in an approximate manner I will say this; hundreds of thousands have, together with me, placed their faith and idealism into the hands of a few people with too great a confidence and have thereby laid the foundation of one of the causes of our unfortunate time. Thus alone did I and many others become enmeshed in the guilt of our time. Surely their guilt is not a criminal one, but a political one. As an upright man I will answer for it.

Ernst Biberstein
Your Honors, I have nothing to add to the deliberation of my defense counsel. As to all charges of the prosecution I do not feel guilty before God and my conscience.

Werner Braune
Mr. President, your Honors. I have nothing to add to the final plea of my defense counsel.

Walter Haensch
Your Honors, when this trial started I pleaded not guilty. With this idea I begin my final words. At no time did I have any connections with war crimes or crimes against humanity, and equally am I unable to see anything criminal in my membership in the SD and, therefore, also in the SS.

I owe it to a chain of circumstances, for which I am not responsible, that I am here today. Documents have been found, which appear to speak against me. However, a benevolent fate made it possible to prove to your Honors that I actually had nothing to do with the events reported in the documents. I underline here to its full extent what my defense counsel has said about this.

I went to Russia with a clean conscience and with a clean conscience I returned from there. I myself never did commit anything criminal, nor did I see others do so, nor did I ever hear of it. Also, nobody ever suspected me of committing a criminal act. What actually happened during this war in this respect especially the treatment of the Jews on account of their race--I have learned--and of this I assure you again--only after the collapse of Germany, and the full details I heard only in this trial. I did not know the so-called Fuehrer Order. One could, therefore, not ask me now to feel guilty about this which is something which does not correspond to the fact. I, therefore, do not want to deal with it at this point, but only want to say one thing--had such an order been given I myself would have left nothing undone in order to fight against it, just in the same way as otherwise I always interfered against injustice and corruption without consideration of my person.

Again and again, I asked my defense counsel, and all those whom I met during this trial, to check on my assertions and ask whomever they wanted to, about my person and activities because I did and have nothing to hide and, therefore, have nothing to fear. It was clear to me that only truth could wash the suspicion off me, which the false statements in the documents had cast on me. Therefore, I avoided everything which could have shaken the proof put forward in my defense in the remotest way, and I know that all those who have helped me in providing for my evidence or who testified for me, did the same. For this reason I even restricted to a minimum my personal correspondence with my family. This was in no way easy for me, worried as I was about my wife and my aged mother, both of them being almost without means of subsistence at the present time.

Concerning my membership in the NSDAP I may be permitted again to point out that I only joined this organization in the belief to serve my people best in this way. This was my conviction when I swore fidelity to the Head of the State. This oath was no obligation to blind obedience as far as I was concerned, but left sufficient amplitude to my own responsibility. I related which events induced me to join the National Socialist Movement. It was the situation created in Germany by bolshevism at that time. Everything I saw with my own eyes showed the development which could only end in chaotic destruction. To stem this danger I considered my duty, not only as a German, but also as a member of the entire civilized world. I do not think that I made a mistake in the recognition of this danger. It is still my conviction to this very day.

My defense counsel told everything about the circumstances which made me join the SD and the SS. I have nothing to add to this point.

Your Honors, all guilt that can be placed on man is the guilt of intention. My intention, however, was and is clean. Nobody can disturb the peace of my conscience. However, there is another thing, which ought to be defended. This is honor. It is exposed to outside attacks. Please do understand that I suffered a great deal and still suffer under the accusations of the prosecution, because they charged me with a guilt, of which I feel myself free. As a man who at one time was privileged to serve justice I trust that you, your Honors, will dispense justice to me, and will find me not guilty as my defense counsel has applied.

Gustav Nosske
Your Honors, I have declared since the very beginning that I was determined not to obey the Fuehrer Order. And indeed I did not carry it out.

My activity in Russia consisted in police and security tasks, just as during war time it is imperative in enemy country. On the other hand, the knowledge of this order prompted me to try with all means to sever my connection with the Gestapo [Secret State Police]. I have made many attempts in this direction, however, I failed. Only as late as 1944 I succeeded in leaving the Gestapo. I refused to obey an order, which I could not evade, but should have carried out. The consequences of my leaving the Gestapo was that I was sent to the front as a soldier, and this could be considered as extreme leniency towards me. Just as well I could have been court-martialed and executed for disobedience. I did not have an easy time as a soldier but was assigned to those places where fighting was hottest, which is proved by my combat wound. I ask you, your Honors, to consider all these circumstances, and I put my life in your hands.

Adolph Ott
Mr. President, your Honors. Since 1945 singular and most secret conferences and decrees have come to our knowledge which we never had access to before. I must confess that under the influence of these documents numerous conclusions seem at hand which, however, were never drawn by me as I have never had knowledge of the internal connections. Thus, the Fuehrer Order looks quite different if we look at it today as it did then in Russia where I did not have any idea of the happenings in the concentration camps and similar matters. In Russia I, as a soldier, was confronted with the task of doing my utmost towards securing the army territory for the fighting units. I carried out this task as well and as conscientiously as I was able to do. I saw no unjust war, I had no ideas of liquidations, but the decisive matter for me was my duty as a German and a soldier within the struggle for life of my own people. I only came in contact with the Jewish population of the sector of our assignment so far as individual Jews were members of the partisan groups which we fought against. I never searched for Jews in order to have them shot. In accordance with this, I used Sonderkommando 7b only as a unit for fighting partisans and for the prevention of acts of sabotage but never for liquidation operations. Even partisan counter-intelligence tasks I have tried to comply with using as lenient means as possible. Therefore, from my own initiative and under great difficulties I set up an internment camp in the vicinity of Orel to which I had people brought whose offenses would have sufficed to have them shot according to the general laws of warfare then in force. But I thought I would be able to secure their lives and merely punished them with 6, 9, or 12 months' confinement. By doing this I saved the lives of about 200 people.

I have never hunted for external honors. All my actions have been guided by reason and humane compassion. My assignment in Russia did not result in promotion; I received no decorations, no priority in subsequent employment. I did not apply for my assignment in Russia as part of the security police machinery, and I was finally re-appointed to the same post I had held before.

My conduct in other occupied territories before and after my Russian assignment, especially my activity in Lorraine was not regarded as one enforcing and supporting a terror rule by the population. It is most clearly shown in the letter of the French mayor, who, on his own initiative, says that I would be welcomed by the population of this particular French area at any time. My conduct in Russia was not different. Whenever and wherever I saw injustice done or unnecessary severity exercised, I openly applied to the responsible agencies as Gauleitung (district administration), Regierunggpraesidium (government office), and Labor office, or State Police in order not only to bring about exceptional treatment by deviating the normal channels but also to cause the suspension of any and all unjust measures; concerning this, evidence has been brought. Apart from this, any agency of my former domiciles can be asked concerning my behavior and conduct, be it my hometown Lindau, be it Norway, Saarbruecken, or Lorraine. Therefore I faced interrogators and judges with the same unburdened openness.

The charges against me are only of a general nature and as such contained in the common indictment. Yesterday the chief prosecutor, Mr. Ferencz, has stated that he will not submit a closing brief against me. I have only one special request to make to the honorable judges that they may arrive at their decisions only according to the defendant's own personal conduct and their motives, and not according to points of collective guilt. It is just because I was an old member of the Party that I know that we never as much thought of elimination as a solution of the racial question. This kind of solution was invented in the heads of a few leaders under the impression of war. And it was only carried out by few of them, based on orders which have nothing to do with the Fuehrer Order which is the subject of this trial. Even at the time when I was inspired by the idea of a new European Order under German leadership I never for a moment thought of violent methods, which would be considered a terror regime against other nations.

The war has caused many hardships. It also treated me with severity by taking my wife from me. She was shot down, in the street of a locality which was not defended when the enemy marched in, by an anti-tank gun through a well aimed shot, as she was just coming out of a shelter. In spite of this sorrow no bitter feeling has remained with me but only the wish that peoples may, in future, be saved from the horrors of war.

The following discussion took place regarding the statement of the defendant:

Presiding Judge Musmanno: The defendant Ott has made a statement with regard to trial brief. Does the prosecution intend to file a trial brief in his case?

Mr. Hochwald: If the Tribunal please, the Tribunal is aware of the fact that Einsatzgruppe B was handled entirely by Mr. Ferencz, however, I think that this is a mistake on the part of the defendant. As far as I know, trial briefs in all cases of all individual defendants are being filed and will be filed by the prosecution.

Presiding Judge Musmanno: We wouldn't want any defendant or defense counsel to be of the impression that a trial brief is not being filed if one is to be filed. We will repeat what we said before. The trial briefs will be accepted up to and including next Friday, 2/20/1948, but will not be accepted after that, and we recommend that both defense counsel and prosecution counsel get together, where briefs have not yet been filed, to see to it that with all expeditiousness possible they now be submitted to the Tribunal.

Mr. Hochwald: Very well, your Honor.

Eduard Strauch
The following discussion took place regarding the final statement of defendant Strauch:

Presiding Judge Musmanno: In their order, the next defendant would be Eduard Strauch. He is not here, we presume, for physical reasons. We would like to inform his counsel, Dr. Gick, that Eduard Strauch has the right to make his final statement in court and we do not know whether you purposely, Dr. Gick, did not have him brought in or whether it was just assumed that he would not be brought in, and perhaps he is actually in good physical condition to make his statement or it may be that Strauch doesn't care to make a final statement. We would appreciate it, Dr. Gick, if you would inform him that he is entitled to make this final statement unless he has already indicated to you that he waives that right. If he wishes to make the statement in open Court and you inform the Tribunal, the Tribunal will sit to hear his statement. It may be that he will be satisfied to make merely a written statement in the nature of a final statement and that will be accepted by the Tribunal. We will leave it entirely in your hands, Dr. Gick.

Dr. Gick: Your Honor, I saw the defendant Strauch yesterday in the hospital and I found him in a state of health which was worse than ever before. He gave completely confused answers and spoke nonsense. I was not in a position to make it clear to him that he, if necessary, could say a few final words; I was not in a position to make it clear to him what that meant. I believe that Strauch in his present state is not responsible for his actions. If the Tribunal will permit me to do so, I shall submit another medical certificate concerning the present condition of the defendant Strauch at a date to be fixed by the Tribunal.

Mr. Glancy: If it please the Tribunal, it is the prosecution's opinion that the defense counsel for the defendant Strauch is precluded from testifying as an expert in mental diseases. The Tribunal is well aware of his present condition and has been so advised by experts.

Presiding Judge Musmanno: Defense counsel has on previous occasions made comments similar to those which he has just now made and the facts established the contrary. The defendant was brought into court and did testify in a normal manner after two or three attempts and after examination had been made by competent physicians. So that the present statement of the defense counsel may not be accepted as evidence of the defendant's condition.

Dr. Gick: May I say a few brief words, your Honor? It is not my intention to give an expert opinion here. I am not in a position to do so, but it was merely my intention to tell the Tribunal how I found the defendant, and what impression I gained.

Presiding Judge Musmanno: Yes. Well, the Tribunal will ask you, Dr. Gick, to inform the defendant Strauch that he is entitled to make a final statement just like every other defendant is making. He may make it in writing.
Waldemar Klingelhoefer
Mr. President, Your Honors. The basis of my conception of life was influenced from my very early youth through the fact that I was born outside Germany. Besides my love for the German people and the inner obligation to dedicate my energy and my efforts to the good of the people, there always was the respect and the understanding for other peoples and nations.

The realization of the ever increasing Bolshevist danger in the East made me join the NSDAP at a time when the political, social, and economic conditions in Germany threatened to develop towards a chaos, which was bound to open the doors of Germany to bolshevism. I also realized the fact that for bolshevism Germany represented the key for the political conquest of Europe. From this point of view I considered the war in the East and therefore hoped for Germany's victory, being convinced that this victory in the East would also mean the final exclusion of the Bolshevist danger in the East.

At the beginning of the war with Soviet Russia, I was assigned to the Einsatz as an interpreter, because of my knowledge of languages. This assignment was based on a military order, which could not be objected to. My task in this assignment was restricted to intelligence duties and those duties resulting from my knowledge of the language and the country. In consideration of my subordinate position within the SD in Germany I never could be given the independent job of being the leader of a Kommando. My activity was therefore limited to the execution of orders and directives given to me, without ever being able to issue orders on my own initiative.

With regard to my attitude towards the Fuehrer Order I already declared that I personally objected to this radical order and tried to evade it. I also succeeded in doing so. I again declare expressly that at no time whatsoever was I in a position to have to carry out or pass on the Fuehrer Order in its radical and absolute form. I therefore never sent any persons to their death on the basis of this Fuehrer Order.

With the exception of the one case in Tatarsk, which, because of particular circumstances and under particular pressure I had to carry out on direct orders, and where my knowledge of the language played a decisive part, I never had anything to do with the executive tasks. This was entirely beyond the scope of my duties.

During my interrogation at Nuernberg I indicated from the start all the cases, where I had seen shootings or participated in them. At no time did I ever have the intention to deviate from the truth or to withhold something; in the witness stand as well as in all the interrogations and affidavits I always tried to speak the truth. I did not do anything which for any reasons--be it for fear of punishment or because of the knowledge of having done wrong--I had to withhold. Everything I did and however I may have reacted to the tasks assigned to me and orders I received was directed by the awareness of my duty as a soldier as well as by the intention to do only those things which according to my own and full conviction had to be done to maintain and guarantee order and security in the rear of the fighting army.

Therefore, it was with my full conviction when in answer to the question of the Tribunal at the beginning of the trial, I pleaded "not guilty," and with a clear conscience I can repeat this declaration at the end of the trial.

Lothar Fendler
Your Honors. On his final plea, my defense counsel Dr. Fritz stated our opinion on all points which might be of importance for the Tribunal in judging my case; he has arrived at the conclusion that the case in chief has undoubtedly turned out favorably for me. Therefore, I shall not go into details here again.

On the other hand, I would like to use this last opportunity to tell your Honors about my personal opinion concerning the indictment filed against me.

The opinion of the prosecution, that I was the deputy commando chief of Einsatzkommando 4b is just as incorrect as all conclusions drawn from that assertion. It is also unjustified for other reasons to make me responsible for the happenings in Einsatzkommando 4b which were discussed in the course of this trial. The truth is, and I solemnly confirm this, that my entire activity in the SD, both before, during, and after my assignment in the East, consisted exclusively of intelligence work. At all times, including during my assignment in the East, I only did what any state demands of its officials and officers entrusted with such jobs. I never had cause to fear that I was doing anything not permissible or even morally doubtful. Therefore I cannot hold a different opinion of my work during those years.

After severest self-examination, I have to refuse to assume responsibility for actions which I neither ordered nor carried out, in which I did not participate in any way whatsoever, and which I was even unable to prevent.

I can only repeat what I said at the beginning of this trial--I am not guilty!

Waldemar von Radetzky
Mr. President, your Honors. When I was given the indictment on 7/13/1947, to answer for myself before this Tribunal, I accepted it, being confident that the truth would be established in the course of the trial and that I would have an opportunity to justify myself for a period of my life which without my assistance took a course during which I was not able to decide freely for even one hour. I have now answered for myself before this Tribunal. I did not commit any crime. I need not ask for pardon for my actions. I only ask for unprejudiced understanding and I am confident that the Tribunal will arrive at a just verdict.

Felix Ruehl
Your Honors. My career, my position, and tasks, my activity, and my attitude from 1933 to 1945 have been discussed at such length during the case in chief that it does not seem necessary to me to go into details about this again at this point. I would only like to say the following:

I was 20 years of age when I joined the NSDAP and the SA and two years later I joined the SS with youthful faith in the truth and purity of the ideals and aims which were made known at the time. In this good faith I finally complied with the draft to the then completely unknown State Police in 1933 and worked there until 1940 on counter-espionage, having nothing to do with everyday political differences.

When, after concluding my studies, doubts and disappointment began to undermine this faith, apart from the outer duress, I felt myself obligated to stay at that post to which I had been ordered in the decisive battles of my people of my native country.

That I did my duty on this post as I thought I could answer for before my conscience is proved most clearly by my behavior in Augsburg. In opposition to binding orders from the highest authorities, I stood up for those people whom the prosecution believes it was my aim to persecute.

Therefore, it does not concern me either if the prosecution wants to ascribe motives to me in my action concerning the retransfer of those Jews in Mogilev-Podolski, which did not even occur to me, in view of my basic attitude, which has now been proven. The important part which I played there as an intermediary of an order, was only based on the idea to avoid terrible misery and to enable those people to return to their native land.

The charge of the prosecution that I had assumed authority to give orders in this case, to which I was not entitled, I do not consider incriminating. On the contrary I hold the opinion that I would justly be in the defendant's dock now, if I had refused to assist at the time and had let those people perish in misery by referring to my incompetency.

I am firmly convinced that the Tribunal will confirm my opinion that my conscience has not deceived me.

Heinz Schubert
Your Honors, being one of those tens of thousands of officers holding the same rank as I and holding the same position as adjutant, fate has placed me among those 220 German men who have to answer for themselves to the highest American Military Tribunals as the ones who held the most responsibility. As long as I live I shall never understand that decision. Yet, I shall never complain about my fate. I need have no fear for myself as to the verdict of this Tribunal.

Even if fate placed me in a prominent position in this manner, I feel eager to state my opinion at this point concerning the charge of the prosecution that every defendant was filled with boundless contempt for human life, because of the National Socialist ideology in which he believed.

I joined the SD when I was a young man 20 years of age, a member of a generation born during the First World War and the majority of them probably witnessed the second one in the front lines. Everywhere we were in the center of events without having ourselves held any responsibility worth mentioning.

And now once again, I am brought into the center of an event in the judgment of persons who were responsible for past happenings. I became a National Socialist and even more so an SD member, not because of contempt for human life, but because I always strongly approved of life in a community of human beings. The severe stroke of fate in my young life did not change this either, when, before my eastern assignment I lost my wife and child as a result of Allied operations during the war. The love for my people always made my duty towards my Fatherland a perfectly natural sentiment. While searching for a real life in a genuine community of people, we found our way to National Socialism. From 1934 to 1945, in the SD, I considered it my noblest duty to serve my people.

When we set out on the Russian Campaign we stood on the crossroads of events of decisive importance to the world, not only as far as time is concerned, but also because of the place, in a territory between two worlds. We did not set out to kill, but we set out to defend Western civilization.

Being an adjutant of an Einsatzgruppe, I was outside the sphere of the events contained in the indictment, but I was all the closer to the men in those units, who, the prosecution asserts, were filled with boundless contempt for human life.

I was with these men for months in the area of the assignment. I know the mentality of these men, their surroundings, their troubles, and worries. I saw them when carrying out the hard task they had been given and I saw their struggle between duty and conscience when they were concerned with having to carry out the Fuehrer Order discussed here. I know that there was no one in those units that could have carried out the tasks assigned to him only because he did not respect the sacredness of human life. I know that these men decided to do their duty to a great extent because they realized that the defense against bolshevism was the question: "to be or not to be" for their people, their wives, and their children. I do not believe that anyone has the right to charge these men with contempt for human life without having been in the same position himself at some time, since these men, as soldiers could only choose between obedience and the dishonorable death of a mutineer.

There is neither time nor space here to discuss all the tasks which were given to us in the Einsatz, but I wish that the ones who accuse us today would have once had the opportunity to witness the joy of liberation of the ethnic groups oppressed until that time by bolshevism and to see the Einsatzgruppen looking after the cultural interests of such ethnic groups and other peaceful tasks.

The prosecution has presented against me as sole incriminating material my own statements in the preliminary proceedings in the form of affidavits. I did not at any time keep anything secret about my activity from the first day of my captivity, since I was and still am of the opinion that I can be justly judged only if I give a clear picture of myself to the persons who are to pass judgment on me. I did not give any cause to the prosecution to make any further charges against me beyond my truthful and exhaustive statements.

I especially request the Tribunal not to judge the happenings of that time from the perspective of the present time, with the knowledge of connections gained in the meantime, but to imagine themselves in the area and in the situation into which we were placed at that time. Then it will become clear to the Tribunal that we did our duty not in contempt of human life, but in constant struggle between duty and personal feelings. Then I have the hope that the Tribunal will arrive at a just verdict.

Matthias Graf
Mr. President, Your Honors, it was not my wish that led me to join the SD in 1940. It was fate that I was ordered to the East. In exactly the same way it was fate that I am the only one of approximately 5000 noncommissioned officers and men in the Einsatzgruppen who came to this defendant's dock.

Surely, however, it was a benevolent destiny which did not involve me in the things which have been the object of the indictment here. I have confidence that a similarly benevolent destiny will restore my honor and my freedom to me, thanks to the objective and righteous judges.

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Post by WalterS » 23 Sep 2004 07:03

What is interesting here is that these defendants were allowed their day in court, and were allowed to make rather lengthy statements on their own behalf. This is in sharp contrast with the summary executions and wholesale slaughter without trial, described elsewhere in this forum as "executive action," carried out by the Einsatzgruppen in the East.

As I read through the snivelling, cowardly and deceitful statements of these defendants, who were only concerned with saving their own necks, I thought of the victims who were given no chance to plead for themselves.

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Post by Pieter Kuiper » 05 Oct 2005 11:15

There is a program by Swedish Radio (but completely in English, and a few words of German) about the Einsatzgruppen trials. Large parts are recent interviews with prosecuter Benjamin Ferencs, and recordings from the trial in 1947.

http://www.sr.se/cgi-bin/P1/program/art ... kel=269651
One can listen to it online: Real Audio-link (55 minutes).

Excerpts from the trial:
http://www.sr.se/cgi-bin/P1/program/art ... kel=269647
(Click on "Lyssna" to listen to the 1947 audio.)

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Post by David Thompson » 05 Oct 2005 16:45

Thanks for the links, Pieter.

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Post by Sven-Eric » 05 Oct 2005 16:52

Does anyone know if the whole verbatim records from the Nuremberg Trial are available in pdf-file somewhere?


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Post by David Thompson » 05 Oct 2005 17:00

Sven-Eric -- I know that the Einsatzgruppe trial proceedings are available in full on microfilm from the US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). I have never seen the full proceedings posted anywhere. Excerpts from the testimony and evidence at the Einsatzgruppe trial were published in the multi-volume set Trials of War Criminals before the Nuernberg Military Tribunals (NMT). Most of those volumes have been scanned and posted by The Mazal Library and are available online at http://www.mazal.org/NMT-HOME.htm

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Post by john h » 08 Oct 2005 17:26

after reading the field men by french maclean what really amazed me was how few einsatzgruppen men were actually brought to trial at the main trial nurenburg only three were actually hanged the french executed former einsatzkommando officer dr erich isselhorst t when you think of how many people were murdered by these men it is beyond belief that only seven were actually sentenced to death and executed paul blobel 7 june 1951 dr wilhelm fuchs unknown dr erich isselhorst 23 february 1948 august von meyszner 24 january 1947 erich naumann 7 june 1951 otto ohlendorf 7 june 1951 dr eberhard schongarth 15 may 1946

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Post by michael mills » 09 Oct 2005 13:10

From the statement by Dr Otto Ohlendorf:
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.
The above words express the empirical reality facing these men on the German side. They are a far more accurate judgement on the question of whether the men in the dock were criminal in nature than the simple application of the letter of the law.

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What pisses me off

Post by kordts » 10 Oct 2005 01:57

What pisses me off is when a nazi refuses to take responsibility for his actions. I can't believe that these clowns would torure, humiliate and murder countless people, and not be proud of it. If you are going to do something, go whole hog! Admit you like to kill and debase people. Don't conduct mass shootings and hide behind the old "I was following orders!" What a bunch of cowards. Stand up and say, "well, we were on top and got to do what we wanted, now, we lost, and it's our turn in the barrel."
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.
At least Otto Ohlendorf realized the root cause of it all.

Peace out,
Last edited by kordts on 10 Oct 2005 02:38, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by David Thompson » 10 Oct 2005 02:36

Kordts -- This is a research section of the forum. Please phrase your posts accordingly:
F. Miscellaneous

1. Low forms of speech

We have intelligent readers here, so low forms of speech are unwelcome. We're trying to move past the lavatory wall stage in discussing historical problems. Noncomplying posts are subject to deletion after warning, and in extreme cases, to deletion with no warning at all.
H&WC Section Rules

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My apologies

Post by kordts » 10 Oct 2005 02:43

my apologies. I edited the offending language. I was trying to make a semi-intelligent commentary on their statements to the court and got carried away. If you want me to delete the whole post I will.

Peace out,


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Post by David Thompson » 10 Oct 2005 05:11

Kordts -- No problem.

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Post by David Thompson » 11 Oct 2005 00:58

An off-topic opinion post from Michael Mills was deleted by this moderator -- Dt.

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Re: NMT final statements of the Einsatzgruppe defendants

Post by nny » 12 Oct 2005 08:11

Paul Blobel
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.
Blobels statements contrasted with Ohlendorfs have always been of interest to me.

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