NMT testimony of Dr. Rudolf Ibbeken on Balkan war crimes

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NMT testimony of Dr. Rudolf Ibbeken on Balkan war crimes

Post by David Thompson » 04 Oct 2004 21:53

This interesting background information was taken from "V: Hostages, Reprisals and Collective Measures in the Balkans. Measures Against Partisans and Partisan Areas: (C) Testimony of Defendants and Defense Witnesses: Extract from Testimony of Defense Witness Dr. Rudolf Ibbeken: Direct Examination", in Trials of War Criminals Before the Nuernberg Military Tribunals Under Control Council Law No. 10. Vol. 11: United States of America v. Wilhelm List, et al. (Case 7: 'Hostage Case'). US Government Printing Office, District of Columbia: 1950. pp. 1056-1077.

I apologize for the occasional lacunae in the text, which are on my copy as well.
[The complete testimony is recorded in the mimeographed transcript, 6-7 October 1947, pp. 3761-3836.]

DR. LATERNSER (counsel for the defendant List): Will you tell the Tribunal your full name?

WITNESS IBBEKEN: Dr. Rudolf Ibbeken.

Q. Witness, will you please pause before answering the question until the question has been translated, and then I will ask you to talk into the microphone. Will you please spell your name?

A. The full name?

Q. Only the surname. I-b-b-e-k-e-n. When were you born?

A. On 23 July 1902.

Q. And where?

A. In Schleswig.

Q. What are you by profession?

A. Historian.

Q. What were you as historian?

A. Academical lecturer at the University of Berlin for modern and ancient history.

Q. And what are you now?

A. I am in charge of an institute for tuberculosis in Hanover.

Q. Why did you change your profession?

A. After the collapse, I took up connections with the university of Berlin and Goettingen and connections which today still are in existence, but at the present time I do not want to return to my old profession because the subject of modern and middle history, on account of the German collapse, needs a reconsideration and review on the part of a German historian.

Q. Witness, I ask you to talk a little slower. What were you during the war?

A. During the war, I was an officer with the rank of second and first lieutenant of the reserve and I was employed to begin with in France and subsequently in Russia.

Q. Up to what time were you employed as officer?

A. In Russia until 20 April 1942.

Q. And up until what date were you in frontline service?

A. Until the date mentioned.

Q. And why after that were you no longer at the front?

A. On that date, I was wounded by shrapnel, and I lost the eyesight of the right eye, and therefore I was no longer fit for front service.

Q. You lost the sight of the right eye?

A. Yes, my right eye.

Q. What did you do then? After you were wounded during the war?

A. After I had been cured, I was appointed by Military District III to give lectures to the troops within the framework of the troop welfare program.

Q. On what subject did you give lectures?

A. The lectures were based on the knowledge of history and dealt with the basic features of the German and European history of the 19th and 20th century.

Q. How long were you in that job?

A. Until the end of the year 1943.

Q. And why did you not continue that activity?

A. In summer 1943, I gave a lecture in Bonn on the basis of which a Party procedure on the part of the then Reich Organization Leader Ley was started against me. It was, however, stopped by the Wehrmacht; and in a second clash at the end of 1943 with the office of Rosenberg there was a sharp difference of opinion on the basis of which I was declared as politically intolerable and unreliable and removed from my office.

Q. Who intervened on your behalf ?

A. The chief of staff in Military District Headquarters III, Berlin. That was Brigadier General von Ross who was informed of my lecturing activity and about my clashes with the Party, and I assume that he took my part and placed me under the protection of the Wehrmacht. He contacted the staff of the Commander in Chief Southeast, and with the help of the chiefs of staff, General Foertsch and General Winter, he achieved my transfer to the Balkans.

Q. What was then, subsequent to that, your activity during the war?

A. Within the staff and by the staff of the Commander in Chief Southeast, I was commissioned to develop an objective history of the military historical conditions in southeast Europe during the years 1941 until that time. That is 1944-45.

Q. Did you go to the Balkans for this purpose?

[A. Yes.]

Q. When did you arrive there?

A. At the beginning of the year 1944.

Q. To whom did you report?

A. I reported to General Winter, and in order to get more closely acquainted with my commission I was sent to the Ic [intelligence officer] Lieutenant Colonel von Harling.

Q. What was your commission?

A. My commission was to describe, on the basis of all the files and material available to the 12th Army and Army Groups E and F, the developments from the year 1941, up to the time of the end of the war, and to base this on historical facts in order to enable the responsible military authorities to hold such a description against any distorted descriptions - based on tendencies regarding this period.

Q. What was put at your disposal for this activity?

A. The files and documents of the 12th Army, of Army Groups E and F, as far as they were still available with the staff, and as far as they had already been sent to the army archives in Liegnitz.

Q. You already mentioned previously one of the purposes of your activity. That is, a historical description without any bias. What additional purpose did your commission have?

A. The Ic, Lieutenant Colonel von Harling, and - during a discussion - General Foertsch and General Winter also supported this idea; and they connected with my commission the intention to create a kind of manual; and this manual was supposed to serve the commanders who were acting in that area and to give them an insight, I might say, into the completely abnormal conditions in the Balkans which were difficult to see through by a commander, a commander who came from a completely different area to the Balkans.

Q. In what manner did you acquaint yourself with the conditions in the Balkans?

A. I gained and collected local knowledge by staying in Crete, Athens, in Salonika, in Belgrade, in Zagreb, in the area of Brod and Sarajevo, just to mention the most important ones.

Q. For this activity, did you bring with you historical knowledge of the Balkans?

A. My general training in the field of history, of course, had already at an earlier date acquainted me with problems prevailing in the Balkans, but I do admit that general book knowledge and purely scientific knowledge about the Balkans is inadequate in order to gauge what went on in that area and what opposing forces there were in that area.

Q. What were your first findings during the course of your work?

A. I believe that the first thing I learned was that I found myself confronted with a mix-up of forces which was hard to see through and it took a great amount of study to see the historical origin of this existing condition.

Q. What problems and conflicts were apparent in the Balkans during the occupation time?

A. The number of simultaneously existing conflicts in the Balkans is so large that I cannot say for certain that I am really naming all the conflicts in full, and I therefore limit myself to the most important tendencies within the area in order to at least consider those factors which confronted the German occupation force. I am asking now to be allowed to proceed geographically; so that, to begin with, I shall just go around the German occupation area, and then right diagonally through it.

I shall begin with the region roughly around Zagreb [Agram]. There we have the first great political difference - that is with Hungary and Italy at the flanks; but we also find the decisive contrast Zagreb, Belgrade that is - Croats against Serbs. Then we go down along the Dalmatian coast and we find the century-old problem continuing into the present times - that is Italy and the Dalmatian coast, the nucleus Trieste. Further south, we find Albania which is the battleground of attempts of Italy to take influence, attempts of Greece and England to take influence; and further south yet, towards Greece, we have the sphere of influence of England in contrast to Italy. Then we will turn around to Salonika and we find the complicated sphere of influence of the Bulgarian tendencies - that is, the Russian tendencies backing them.

And in the nucleus itself, I only recall to you the aliveness of Macedonian nationalism and I shall recall to you the border area between a Greek and Bulgarian conflict for the influence in the area Salonika-Aegean; and now we shall close the ring in pointing out the taking of influence of Bulgaria in the Serbian area which again led to a splitting of even the lowest classes of the country because the sympathies of the population here as in all other areas mentioned were unstable and followed whatever influences were prevailing on the part of the major powers.

I will show you this rough description of the conflicts in the Serbian area and in the southeastern area generally. I shall now turn to a picture of the Serb-Croat area; we see there a further mass of conflicts which only make it understandable that down there it was not a question of one conflict concerning the population on the one side and German armed forces on the other side, but that instead, within that one war, I might almost say, there was an enormous number of individual little wars within the country and I shall now mention these factors.

Q. Witness, before you mention these factors, I again have to ask you to make your sentences shorter. Now will you please continue?

A. Perhaps the most bloody conflict which existed in the country itself was the one between the Serbs and Croats, borne by the two organizations of the Ustasha on the part of the Croats and the Chetniks on the part of the Serbs. Simultaneously there was the fight of the Chetniks against the Italians. Simultaneously there was the fight of the Chetniks against the Moslems, and at the same time a fight by the Albanians against the Montenegro-Serbians. I believe with this figure of the existing conflicts, I have described roughly what forces there were pro and con in that area, but I have only shown up those larger groups which bore a name.

It is a significant factor of the conditions in the Serbian area during the time of the occupation that the so-called partisan activity was by no means bound to any groups and organizations which can be named, but it was a typical factor of the partisan activity that they existed independent of organizations, independent of any order, that they were in a position to appear at numerous spots in the country just because there was no organizational leadership and that fact made it nearly impossible for the occupation powers to get hold of them.

Q. Witness, you were just talking about the partisan movement. We will later come to certain details. I had just asked what problems and conflicts prevailed in the Balkans. You named first of all the conflict between the Serbs and the Croats.

I now ask you to tell us some more problems and conflicts, and after you name them we shall try to come to some details. What further problems were there in the Balkans?

A. Apart from the natural difference between a country and a foreign occupation force, and apart from the natural contrast between the Serbs and the Croats, which I have already mentioned, I can further name the conflicts which arose from these spheres of influence of the great powers, but in order to understand conditions in the Balkan area, it is in my opinion of decisive importance that one realize that all the acute indifferences had a deep historical root.

I am talking about the struggle between the Greek Orthodox sphere of religion and the Roman Catholic one. This area is the sphere of the clash between east and western Europe, and this clash is not merely a matter of the intelligentsia but in a rather peculiar manner this clash leads - I might almost say - to the development of the character of the men in the Balkans because to have the Greek Orthodox faith is almost the same as to be a national Serb. Religious belief got completely tied up with political national conviction and out of this religious root comes the whole struggle of the Serb nationalism, the incredibly strong fanaticism.

Quite similar is the case of the Croats who as Roman Catholics so feel politically segregated as well as religiously segregated.

These historical causes which have an effect on the individual person in the Balkans had also gained strong political weight through the fact that with the Greek Orthodox faith the feeling of a pan-Slavic connection had for centuries gradually developed like a mass of larvae from southeast to northeast and has pushed forward and, politically seen, developed the difference between Zagreb and Belgrade during the course of the centuries. This extremely increased controversy prevailed just at the moment when the German occupation force was in that area and through the fact that Yugoslavia as a state was defeated and through the fact that the majority of the weight was transferred to Zagreb; the national pride of the Serbs was severely hit - from a certain point of view, historically seen, rightly so, because for centuries the Nationalistic Serbs have shown themselves to be politically more gifted than the Croats who did not understand during the course of the last few centuries how to create a real state. Now, however, at the time when the German occupation power was in that area through the preference of Zagreb and through the instrument of the Ustasha which was available there the political-religious contrast to the Serbs was sharpened so much that a defeating or an abolishing of these conflicts - I don't want to make any judgment here, I am not justified in that - constituted a conflict for the German armed forces.

Q. What national-political problems existed in the Balkans?

A. If the religious-political contrasts of the Balkan area at that time had been restricted to the territorially limited areas, then the conflict would not have been so sharp. The danger is to be seen in the fact that the hostile parts of the Serbian population lived mixed up and were forced to live that way. I ask you to allow me to make a comparison. If one took a handful of salt and mixed it with a handful of sugar and then tried to separate the two things again, it is just as impossible to do that as it is to disentangle the mixed-up parts of the population on the Serbian-Croatian map.

Q. Witness, if I have understood you correctly, there was the difference on the one hand of the population and on the other hand the occupation powers; then the religious problems, Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic; the Serbs confronting the Croats; then the different spheres of influence of the great powers which met there. Now, what could be especially felt at that time during the occupation?

A. The decisive influences in the whole sector were without question the successes of the Tito organization. Here, too, one could make a false conclusion if at first glance one regarded the successes of this organization as the success of a Communist revolution. Long dealings with, and our knowledge of, all the notes about the Tito organization must lead to the conviction that here we are probably first faced with a sentimental love upon the part of the Slav nations to Mother Russia. At the moment it doesn't matter whether it is Communistic or anything else. The decisive factor was the feeling of common sentiment towards that great Russia that was now also a belligerent power and was able to fill the Slav nations with hopes.

Q. Witness, all the things which you have mentioned here, if I understood you correctly, were the main problems which confronted the occupation forces.

A. I believe that I have named them as completely as possible

Q. You mentioned first of all the relationship between the population and the occupation forces. How was that relationship in Serbia?

A. I can testify less about the relationship regarding the lower troops in the country because I didn't come to the Balkans until later, but from my knowledge of the files I ascertained a very impressive fact - a fact which impressed me deeply at that time - and that is that during the early period there was a kind of expectant and not really hostile attitude on the part of the Serbs towards the occupation force and that as a second phase, I might say roughly about 2 months after the end of the campaign, the German leadership in the Balkan area suffered almost a shock when suddenly and not recognizable in its connections on numerous isolated spots in the country there seemed to be an insurrection and revolutionary movement which, however, in the beginning only found its expression in individual, little enterprises by small bands. I believe at that time Field Marshal List was the person who as the first in a discussion ascertained that that couldn't possibly be unorganized activity; behind all that there had to be a central leadership. Actually, such a central leadership, as far as I remember, at the earliest, 6 months after the end of the campaign, was found and was more clearly recognizable in the person of Mihailovic. However, one did see that the numerous individual partisans gradually joined into smaller units although it was not possible to connect all these little organizations to a central leadership. I especially mention in this connection that Mihailovic did not succeed to the very last day in establishing real discipline among his followers. Instead, in addition to the many little wars mentioned within the country, there were struggles of the leaders of bands against their alleged leader. In order to clarify this, my statement, may I emphasize that this bad cooperation between the bands was the consequence of the character of the Balkan people. They are all individualists and they are gifted. All these band leaders were led and guided by the idea, eventually, to be the leader. Everybody had their own policy, and it was the great achievement of Tito to be the first to create a real comprehensive organization on the background of this half-Slav, half-Communist ideology.

Q. What were the methods of these bands?

MR. FENSTERMACHER: Your Honor, please, I object to the question. I don't think this man has been qualified to know what the methods of the bands were. I think he is testifying to certain conclusions which he draws from the documents he has read and not to anything he himself knows personally.

PRESIDING JUDGE CARTER: I suppose he ought to state the basis of his information.

DR. LATERNSER: That would have been the next question, Your Honor.

Witness, I have asked you about the methods of the bands, and will you now, please, name them to the Tribunal, and at the same time tell the Tribunal where you gathered your knowledge?

WITNESS IBBEKEN: At the beginning of my examination I stated that I had seen the records of the 12th Army and of Army Groups E and F, and that to my knowledge these documents form the bulk of all the available material in the headquarters of the army and the army groups, and that these documents also form the basis of my testimony.

DR. LATERNSER: Now, on the basis of these files what did you personally ascertain about the methods of the bands?

MR. FENSTERMACHER: I object to the question. I don't believe this man is competent to testify to the questions he is being asked. He is asked to state his conclusions from certain material which he has read.

PRESIDING JUDGE CARTER: I think we had a similar situation when the Greek correspondent testified. He gathered information in the same manner and testified to it here [Judge Carter refers to the prosecution witness Costas Triandaphylidis, a Greek newspaperman, who testified concerning the conduct of the partisan units serving under Colonel Zervas and of the Edes organization. His testimony may be found in the mimeographed transcript, 16-18 August 1947, 20 August 1947; pp. 2071-2176 and 2339-2352.].

MR. FENSTERMACHER: If you please, Your Honor, that man went back and forth and participated in battles, fired guns, and was an assistant to the commander in chief, and participated in what he testified to. He had personal knowledge of the jump to which he testified.

PRESIDING JUDGE CARTER: I think that is true to part of his testimony but not to the whole of it. I think the testimony will be admitted for what it is worth.

DR. LATERNSER: Witness, I had asked you about the methods, did you yourself look at any documents which might have shown the methods of the bands, above all did you see pictures, did you read reports; will you tell us something briefly about all this?

WITNESS IBBEKEN: In the documentary material mentioned, there are numerous reports about the methods of fighting of the partisans in such an abundance that somebody who for a year and a half studies these figures, for the period from 1941 to 1944, at least gains a file knowledge of these facts, and beyond that I can only personally state that to land with an airplane in the occupational area Zagreb would generally be in this way: As soon as one wanted to alight from the plane there would be machine guns from the partisans all around, and they would shoot until German antiaircraft guns quieted these guns, and then one would land.

Q. Did that happen to you personally?

A. Yes. And from personal knowledge I could personally say that during the time when I was in the Balkans, and repeatedly after I went home to the Reich to work in the archives, it was the regular situation that in each leave train a combat force was formed in order not to be surprised during sleep by partisan attacks. Those were matters of course to us.

Q. Witness, did you see pictures, photographs, which showed mutilated German soldiers?

A. The documentary material mentioned contained a considerable number of photographs which showed mutilations. The photographs which I remember concerned first of all atrocities between the fighting parties of the population, that is, Ustasha against the Serbs, and the Serbs against the Moslems. The pictures were submitted so often down there that finally one just pushed them aside, because they are not a very pleasant sight, but there is one detail I want to mention. Among the documentary material of the staff of the division stationed in Sarajevo in 1942 - these must be pictures which were submitted to the division judge - these pictures showed murdered women who were murdered by driving long wooden sticks into their genitals. Then there were numerous other pictures, and I ask not to have to testify about these, because I cannot give their sources exactly.

Q. Witness, we strayed from the actual subject. I had asked you about the actual relation between the occupation powers in Serbia and the population; what was the attitude of the officers, as far as you knew them, towards the Serbs?

A. I knew the officers of the staff of the Commander in Chief Southeast, and I was mainly interested in the political problems of the area. It was the constantly expressed opinion of these officers that the Serbs were the most remarkable and most gifted elements in that area and nobody really trusted them very far.

Q. What now were the relations between the occupation power and the population in Croatia?

A. This relation was completely different from a political and military point of view. It had to be different because Croatia was an independent state where the German armed forces, to put it quite briefly, had nothing to say. In Croatia, under the head of the state, the Poglavnik, who had come [back] from Italian immigration [exile]

Q. What does the word "Poglavnik" mean?

A. It means head of state, leader.

Q. Who was it at that time?

A. It was Pavelic.

Q. Will you spell the name?

A. P-a-v-e-l-i-c.

Q. Now, will you please continue in the description of the relationship toward the population?

A. There was no considerable relationship with the population, not to the same extent as in Serbia. Croatia was an independent state. It was not exposed to the hands of the German armed forces; instead, it was exposed to the hands of the Ustasha.

Q. What kind of an organization do we have in the case of the Ustasha?

A. The Ustasha is in its nucleus, a body guard of the Poglavnik; let us say, a Fascist military organization which has half the character of a police unit, too.

Q. Was the Ustasha the only Croat bearer of arms?

A. No.

Q. Who else carried weapons there?

A. The Croats tried in the Domobrans to establish a kind of armed force, without the comparison really being exact in detail, one might compare the relationship between the Domobrans and the Ustasha as the relationship between the SS and the armed forces in Germany. I don't know whether I may say that just as there was a continued difference between the SS and the armed forces, there was a continued difference between the Ustasha and the Domobrans.

Q. To whom were the Domobrans subordinate?

A. The Domobrans were subordinated to the Croat Ministry of War. But to this problem of the Domobrans I wanted to make a decisive statement; they supplied the partisans with weapons.

* * * [Lacuna in my copy of the original]

A. In going over to the partisans almost like regiments with their leaders, and their guns were fired against us.

Q. And that applies to Croatia, what you said just now?

A. I beg your pardon, I said almost like regiments, in order to be absolutely based on the material available to me, certainly in the size of battalions.

Q. Now, what you have stated about Domobrans and Ustasha applies to the sphere of the state of Croatia?

A. Yes.

Q. Now, about the Ustasha, to whom were they subordinate?

A. To the Poglavnik.

Q. And what were the methods of these Ustasha, and whom did the Ustasha fight?

MR. FENSTERMACHER: I wish to object to the question as not being covered by the indictment, and there is no charge at all brought by the prosecution as regard the activities of the Ustasha. I object to the question on the grounds that it is irrelevant and immaterial.

MR. LATERNSER: Your Honor, the defense maintains the point of view that the conditions in the Balkans are of decisive importance, because these conditions explain the measures which had to be, or which were, ordered by the military authorities; the total conditions which the prosecution describes as though they were normal European conditions. I have the duty, as defense counsel with the means at my disposal, to prove to the Tribunal how the conditions in the Balkans actually were at that time, and the Ustasha belongs to the whole problem.

PRESIDING JUDGE CARTER: The objection will be overruled.

DR. LATERNSER: Thank you.

Witness, I asked you about the Ustasha, and I had asked you what method they used and whom they fought. Will you be brief and clear on this subject?

WITNESS IBBEKEN: The main opponents of the Ustasha were the Serbs. The struggle of the Ustasha against the Chetniks was the struggle of the Fascist Croats against the National-minded Serbs, and finally, the struggle of the Ustasha against the Chetniks was the struggle of the Orthodox against the Catholics.

Q. What methods did the Ustasha apply?

A. Balkan methods, partisan methods.

Q. What do you mean by that?

A. Although they were an organized unit, they did not refrain from committing cruelties, cruelties which became known to us of the unorganized partisan groups. Through this, they made extreme difficulties for the German occupation, because, after all, the Ustasha was the instrument of the Croat Government, recognized by us, and of course all of the things which were committed by the Ustasha were put to our account as the political supporters of Croatia.

Q. Do you know whether the armed forces authorities tried to intervene against the Ustasha methods when they became known, or whether they tried to cause the Croat Government to take influence on the Ustasha?

A. I refer to the extensive correspondence between General Glaise-Horstenau and the Commander in Chief Southeast, which dealt with all of the Croat problems and with all Ustasha problems. These reports by General Glaise-Horstenau were one continuous complaint, and one continuous begging to free the German armed forces of the Ustasha and I know that the endeavors for a restriction of the influence of the Ustasha went right up to the highest German authorities on the part of the commanders in chief in the Southeast.

I believe that one of the representations to Hitler personally via the Reich Government was sabotaged by the Foreign Minister Ribbentrop, and never reached the Fuehrer Headquarters; the reason for this may well be that the German clinging to the Croat position in the whole area was first of all the result of the political tendencies of Foreign Minister Ribbentrop, and he and the SA envoy, Kasche, supported this Croat Fascist system, partly to the disgust of the armed forces.

Q. Witness, you have now shown us the relationship between the armed forces and the Serbs, and between the armed forces and the Croats; and you have already mentioned the difference, the contrast between the Serbs on the one hand and the Croats on the other hand. Of what kind were the differences between the Serbs and the Croats, and how did they affect the conditions at the time of the occupation?

A. Most sharply in the fact that the occupation power had no uniform tendency and directness when fighting the partisans, because the fighting activities in the total area were not clear cut and directed merely against the occupation forces from the opponents, but because there was fighting everywhere.

Q. How then, Witness, did the differences between Croats and Serbs show up; what was the consequence. How, for instance, were the Serbs treated in Croatia; and the other way around, how were the Croats treated in Serbia?

A. I believe one must not separate Croatia and Serbia thus sharply. Of course it was impossible for the Serbs to have a politically leading position in Croatia and Serbia; on the other hand there was a German occupation area. I am not quite clear about the meaning of the question which was put to me.

Q. I wanted to know the consequences of the differences between the Croats and the Serbs in the occupational area. For instance, during the occupation time did the Serbs remain in Croatia, and what measures would the Croats take against the Serbs, and the other way around?

A. During the course of the fights between the Croats and the Serbs, and the Ustasha and Chetniks, and later during the course of fights between Tito and Chetniks, and Tito and Ustasha, there were movements of the population which were quite considerable. Whole parts of the country were thrown into unrest; later they were torn away with the streams of partisans in the course of big military operations, so that one can well say that this inner struggle between Croats and Serbs at least furthered the dissolution of the whole social structure of the country considerably.

Q. The Serbs and Croats speak the same language?

A. There is a strong difference in dialect, not a basically different language, but there is a very great difficulty arising from the fact that the Serbs use Cyrillian handwriting, and the Croats the Latin handwriting.

Q. You have already mentioned the Moslems during your examination. What was the relation of the Moslems to the National Serbs?

A. One does not have to see a very great difference in the contrast between the Orthodox and Catholics on the one side, and the contrast between Orthodox and Moslems on the other hand. In both cases, the confessional, the religious contrast, has taken on a political nature and thus found its effect in the Balkan political differences.

If, on the basis of my documentary knowledge, I should draw conclusions, I would say that probably the most cruel thing which occurred in this Slav brother warfare was that it was carried out at the expense of the Moslems.

Q. Witness, you further mentioned the various spheres of influence of the great powers in the Balkans. I am not asking you now for political opinions. I am merely putting the question in order to establish a dividing effect on the population caused by these spheres of influence. How, as an occupation power, did one regard these spheres of influence?

A. The occupational power, through the existence of spheres of influence of the great powers on these areas, was confronted with the fact that the population of this area was now split into even more parties, even more than it had already been split into, on the basis of their own inner conflicts and of the differences to the occupation power, because traditionally, the sympathies of the Greeks are with Great Britain; that is caused through the old Mediterranean interests, but from the frontier, via Bulgaria, the stream of the Russian influence in the Communistic form penetrates, but that is by no means a free stream. I am talking of the time of the occupation. In this movement there is a new factor. While there is still a struggle between these English and Russian attempts of influence, right in the middle there is the old historical attempt of an independent nation, Macedonia. One more conflict is added. The influence of Italy by way of Trieste - Dalmatian Coast, Albania, made life difficult for the German armed forces - more difficult probably than any other factor caused by the great powers in those days. This influence played in the immediate military operations, where this influence led to catastrophe.

Q. Witness, I would like to ask you what political interest existed on the part of the Germans during the time of the occupation?

A. The German interest in the Serb-Croat area, or rather in the whole area of southeastern Europe, consisted first of all in the maintenance of the lines of communication between Zagreb, and Salonika up to Crete. There was further a strong political interest regarding the war in the country, and the real political interest was restricted and was comparatively small, because the political prestige of Italy had been fixed in the course of German policy. Only one direct political interest was essential and has to be named, this is the fact that Germany, in spite of allowing the Italians to retain prestige, still made a strong distinction between Italy and Hungary, and thus at least secured the political entrance into that area.

Q. Witness, what effects were caused by the various spheres of influence on the population of the Balkans?

A. This question I would like to answer by saying that the area, as I stated yesterday, was inhabited by a great number of various groups and political tendencies. All these tendencies conflicting with each other had, of course, the one tendency to find support and help from the outside in order to gain advantage over the opponent in this manner politically, as well as regards supply of ammunitions, etc. As a consequence we find in all these groups and tendencies the inclination to lean on the great power which is geographically closest, and thus to gain for their own fight and for their fight against the occupation powers certain advantages. As a consequence the answer of this question would again include a circle around the whole southeastern area, which I drew yesterday, and we would find that from Serbia, at least during the first years of the occupation, there was a strong tendency to keep contact away from Russia on the part of Mihailovic, as the representative of Serbia. We could, at first, clearly see a tendency to lean on England. The Tito movement again severed connections and leans on Russia. The Greek insurgents were divided in their political tendencies. The National Greeks looked for support in England, and the Communist bands again leaned on the eastern influence. The whole tendency goes towards making the influences of the great powers useful to them and thus leads politically and also practically to a splitting up of the whole Balkan area.

Q. In other words then Witness, in these spheres of influence, did that result in a further division of the population in political and other matters?

A. Yes.

Q. And now briefly turn to the partisan activities. How was it possible in the Balkans that such a strong partisan activity managed to exist; how do you explain that on the basis of the experiences which you gained there?

A. The ethnic explanation for the strong appearance of partisans in the Balkans again demanded action, and here again we have a struggle of political wills which was fed by religious sources, and therefore took on an enormously ethnic character. The distinction of the partisan groups, the fact that the partisans acted on their own initiative without any orders, the fact that they turned out of the smallest villages, out of every isolated hut, can be explained by the national character. The Balkans, especially the central area, the Serb-Croat area, partly until today lives in the concept of a patriarchal order. By this I mean the family is the political sphere, where the man lives and thinks. The smallest cells are the most important center to the simple man in the street. The head of the family to him is the most important authority he knows. An order by the head of the family or by the head of a clan of about 50 to 100 people is almost sacred. Such a head of a clan only has to say one word, like for instance, "Tomorrow morning on the first motor car that passes at a certain spot, stones shall be thrown," and that would be sufficient for this thing to be carried out on the next day. And through the fact that orders are observed within a very small circle it becomes possible that on numerous spots in the country there are simultaneously attacks on the German troops, which are disastrous. The partisans of the Balkans spring from population used to living with the idea of blood revenge. The history of the Balkans during the last 500 to 600 years can almost be regarded as a history of vendetta and party struggle. But the large scale point of view which makes up the history of a country or a state played a smaller part, and just because these smaller parts refused to become states only through the fact that they split up among themselves. There is only one exception from this partisan activity, and I might almost say activity without order, and that is Tito's Communist movement. That was something absolutely new in the Balkan area. The fact that Tito's partisans, for the first time, achieved a large scale movement seemed significant to us, and that he overcame these divisions and combined these numerous individual ideas under one leadership. In spite of this feat in which Tito succeeded, and which gave the partisans a slightly changed character, it did not mean a decreasing of the conflicts in the Balkans, but only a sharpening. The stronger Tito's partisans became, the more embittered the struggle became on the part of his people against the Chetniks, Ustashas, and against the German armed forces.

Q. Witness, how about the training of the population as francs-tireurs?

A. This training is the product of centuries. The individual partisans did not really need any training any longer. Partisan activity is something of a tradition. It originated from a time when these - historically viewed - unfortunate people were kept in slavedom over centuries by the Turks. It goes back to times when the so-called Heiduck [Haiduk] formed itself, and this tradition is alive, in folk songs, in legends about heroes, in literature, and in the whole political idea of the Balkan people.

Q. Witness, what you just said about the training, or one might call it preparedness, to be francs-tireurs on the part of the population - is that merely your opinion, or is this a scientific opinion and a scientifically recognized opinion?

A. This statement, as all statements of mine, is based on two factors. Not on my personal opinion, but first of all on the thousands of documents which I described initially in my examination, and secondly, on scientific knowledge. I mention only a few names where all the characteristics which I mentioned might be examined and found. There is, for instance, the research of Milkovic.

MR. FENSTERMACHER: I object to the second part of the witness' answer. I don't think he has been qualified as an expert on scientific opinions with respect to the Balkan people. I think he may testify to what he knows as a result of examining the documents, but not otherwise.

PRESIDING JUDGE CARTER: I think perhaps we should have some limitation on the examination, Dr. Laternser. Objection sustained.


Let us then drop this particular point, Witness, and we will talk about something else. Maybe we can touch what we have already talked about again by the answering of one question. Was the partisan activity a result only of the existence of the German occupation power, or did the preparedness of the population for such activities play an important part?

WITNESS IBBEKEN: Certainly, every country is pushed through a war into conditions which loosen up the generally existing order, and such a loosened-up condition provided in the Balkans an immediate occasion, or rather was used as an occasion, to release all the various conflicts among the population.

Q. Witness, how did it happen that partisan activity took place on such a large scale basis; what were the reasons for this?

A. In order to be a partisan, weapons are needed. The man in the Balkans is used to having his own weapons, firearms, and bayonets. The partisans in the Balkans would not think - if there is a poster to deliver up all arms - they would not think of really giving them up. At that moment they only think of how to hide their weapons even better. As a consequence, especially immediately after a campaign in which the Yugoslav Army capitulated, a great number of arms were dispersed over the country, and it a trivial thing for the population to hide these arms in this area in the Balkans. It was feasible to do that every day, and thus the guerrilla fighting started.

Q. Do you know anything about the extent of the supply of the population in the area on the part of the Allies?

A The files are full of reports about dropping of weapons by planes.

Q. When was that dropping of weapons done, during the day or during the night?

A. Without being able to answer this question exhaustively, I am just giving some answers from memory from the file notes which I read; I would say that weapons were most frequently dropped during the night in the small localities marked by lights. I have retained this impression because I memorized these remarks best.

Q. Where did these supplies come from?

A. As far as I know the German armed forces themselves did not know that.

Q. Do you know whether the supply was effected by Russia too?

A. I cannot make any statements about that.

Q. Witness, what then was the consequence of these lively Balkan activities; the consequences regarding the occupation powers?

A. The troops were desperate. At least during their first experience they felt helpless when confronted with this opponent.

Q. What opportunities were there for capturing the partisans?

A. First of all for geographical reasons, for instance five partisans fought in a mountain area making an attack on a column.

Q. Shortly before the recess, I had asked you what possibilities there were for the seizing of the perpetrators.

A. The geographical conditions were the worst possible, an attack by a very small partisan group, by three, five, or eight men in this mountain area demanded employment of troops of a much larger number. If mountain infantry really reached the suspected spot, then the knowledge of the locality on the part of the partisans and also their support by the population made it almost impossible to catch the actual perpetrators.

Q. Can you give a practical example and describe to us that which characterized the particular surprise attacks, which were almost every day routine?

A. A typical surprise attack was the dynamiting of bridges, rocks were dynamited and sent hurling down to the streets. One has to take into consideration that there were only very few highways in that area and how blasted sections were sufficient to delay any larger countermeasures for a long period; sometimes it was made impossible for a number of days.

Q. What did the troops expect?

A. Insofar as you mean by troops the common soldier, the ordinary guard or a small command post of 10 men or even a company, I would say that these people lived in constant fear of threat from ambush, and I can really only answer that question on the basis of discussions with officers from the Staff Southeast. These people again and again expressed the feeling, "just give us anything so we can fight this menace." Because normal military measures were not able to cope with this abnormal situation on the enemy's side, or at least were not able to cope adequately with it.

Q. What attempts were made by the occupation forces in order to pacify the Balkan area?

A. To begin with I have to point to large numbers of individual operations by which it was attempted to fight the respective partisan attacks which I have already briefly described and what difficulties had to be met. Besides, large military operations were attempted and it was also intended on the basis of negotiations to achieve the pacifications of at least certain sectors. These negotiations were not only based on the request of the German armed forces but the opponents had the same desire, and that applies especially to the Chetnik leaders. This desire on the part of the Chetnik leaders to enter into negotiations with German authorities was certainly not based on any special love for the Germans, but rather on an emergency situation in which the Chetniks found themselves, because they were simultaneously fighting the Communists, and in order not to have to fight on two fronts they often tried to at least arrive at a compromise, a healthy compromise with the German armed forces. That one could not put any faith in their proposal for negotiations is obvious, because one had to expect at the moment when the third opponent would withdraw to other areas, at the time when the Chetniks were ready to negotiate, they would have an immediate opportunity to attack the German soldier from ambush. A further factor which made the Chetnik negotiations more difficult can be found in the fact that the individual band leaders were not completely authorized by Mihailovic to negotiate with the German armed forces. Mihailovic, which can be seen from the radio addresses which were listened to by the German Intelligence Service, gave very ambiguous directives to his subleaders. To judge whether Mihailovic really meant it, if he admitted negotiations in individual cases would be difficult, but regarding the total impression of these negotiations one can say that all these negotiations with the Chetniks because of the behaviour of the Chetniks, did by no means represent a guarantee for the German armed forces that after a few weeks the negotiator of today would not be an opponent of tomorrow.

Q. Now, Witness, what was the relation to Nedic, who as we know was at that time the head of the Serb Government?

A. Nedic and his system constituted the most essential attempt on the part of the German armed forces authorities to achieve the ends without military operations, without harsh measures, but instead to build up a system of administration, of pacification, and thus to establish law and order. The favorable opinion, which existed in the staff of the Commander in Chief Southeast, regarding the Serbs played an important part. There was a certain antagonism against the Poglavnik, and I mentioned the Ustasha yesterday. I don't think I am wrong if I say that the Nedic system had for the Commander in Chief Southeast the importance of being a stable factor in this mixture of conflicting forces of the southeastern area. Therefore, one gave the Prime Minister Nedic his own ministry; it can be said that the occupying forces influenced this government, and that was in the nature of things, but there were certain attempts to give Nedic the possibility - to give Nedic Serbian forces in order to build up an administrative machine in order to keep the Serbian area peaceful and pacified.

Q. What was the success of these endeavors regarding the partisan activities?

A. There was a considerable pacification and a considerable decreasing of the partisan danger and it did not result from the Nedic system. The police force which was put at Nedic's disposal was most unreliable and pacification of the country in spite of this strong endeavor to build up its own national administration, at least in the long run, was not achieved.

Q. And what was the result of this fact for the occupation forces?

A. The occupation forces, because of the possibility of the seemingly increased dispersal of the partisan units over the whole country, were forced to plan large military operations.

Q. What was the course then of the large scale military operations which you have just mentioned frequently?

A. A short answer to this question will have to be restricted to the total measures of these operations. I assume that you did not mean the question in this way, that I should describe military operations.

Q. No, but tell us what importance these operations had for the situation of the partisan activities?

A. The employment of German troops against larger partisan units normally had the result that these partisans were compressed to narrower sectors and in the course of planned military actions their entire destruction would have been possible, if not one factor almost automatically had to be admitted in all these military operations. It was the task of the Italian troops to cooperate with the Germans and to cooperate together with them. Especially in the western sectors they had to achieve a certain restriction of the area. It was tragic for almost all large scale operations that the Germans managed to compress the partisans in a comparatively small area as they managed to catch them, but the Italians at the last moment opened the net and the partisans could thus break through. There was no entire mopping-up achieved of the fighting area, but all it meant was the fighting area was transferred to another district, the troops lost men and one had to attack yet another partisan unit.

Q. Dr. Ibbeken, we have now come to the end. All I want to ask you now is, what were the aims in combatting the partisans?

A. The aim of every fighting activity of the German occupation forces was the securing of the supply lines, the pacification of the country merely in order to be able to make use of the war potentialities of the country. The aim of the military leadership was to guarantee the mere existence of the troops in such an area interspersed by partisans. Orders and measures had the aim to give the military units the impression that they were not exposed to the enemy helplessly, but that they had means to defend their own lives in this area and that they could fulfill their larger military tasks.

Q. At that time did you hear anything about the existence of a tendency to exterminate them?

A. The question is a very strange and surprising one to me because we have talked here about measures of military necessity, and I wouldn't know how, in an area which one intends to secure and use economically, one can plan in such an area an extermination. I don't see the motive for that.

Q. Did you at that time hear anything about an extermination tendency towards the population, as is now being maintained?

A. In the 1 1/2 years of my activity with the Commander in Chief Southeast, I ascertained almost scientifically how one can secure and keep order in such an area, how one can bring order into the chaos which existed there. The word "extermination" was never mentioned and the thought never entered anybody's mind.

DR. LATERNSER: Thank you. I have no further questions [In addition to Dr. Ibbeken, the defense called another expert witness on Balkan history, Dr. Georg Stadtmueller. Dr. Stadtmueller acted as an interpreter for the defendant Felmy in Greece during the war. He testified mainly concerning Greek history and "band" warfare in Greece. His testimony may be found in the mimeographed transcript, 9-10 December 1947, pp. 74207480.]

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