This is part 1 of 3 parts:
DR. STAHNER: With the permission of the Tribunal I call as next witness, Field Marshal Kesselring.
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[The witness Kesselring took the stand.]
THE PRESIDENT: Will you tell me your name?
ALBERT KESSELRING (Witness): Albert Kesselring.
THE PRESIDENT: Will you repeat this oath after me:
I swear by God -- the Almighty and Omniscient -- that I will speak the pure truth -- and will withhold and add nothing.
[The witness repeated the oath in German.]
THE PRESIDENT: You may sit if you wish.
DR. STAHMER: Witness, since when have you served with the Luftwaffe?
KESSELRING: Since 1 October 1933.
DR. STAHMER: What rank did you hold on your transfer to the Luftwaffe?
KESSELRING: Up to that time I was a colonel and officer commanding artillery in Dresden. Then I was retired as air commodore.
DR. STAHMER: You helped to build up the Luftwaffe?
KESSELRING: During the first 3 years I was Chief of the Administrative Office, subsequently Chief of the General Staff, and I then served in the Gruppenkommando.
DR. STAHMER: Was the Luftwaffe being built up for defensive or aggressive purposes?
KESSELRING: The German Luftwaffe was purely a weapon of defense. I must, however, add the comment that the single plane as well as the whole of an air force by its very nature is an aggressive weapon. Even in land fighting, mere defense unaccompanied by offensive movements is considered not to lead to any appreciable results or successes. This applies to a still greater degree to air warfare. The air force covers a wider range, both for defense and attack. This had been realized by the Reich Marshal and his generals.
It is obvious that when an air force is being built up, only light machines are produced, or are the first types to reach the units. Thus, up to 1936-37 we had only light craft, fighters, Stukas, reconnaissance planes, and a few "old sledges" as we called them, such as Ju 52, Do 11 and D 13 -- all obsolete bomber types.
One may hold the view that defense can be successfully conducted with these light craft. On the other hand, I should like to point to the end of the World War, when the German defensive air force was smashed by the offensive air force of the enemy.
THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Stahmer, the Tribunal thinks the witness is dealing with this matter in far too great detail.
KESSELRING: I will go on. Up to 1937-38 there was no offensive air force, especially no bombers, and the bombers which were built
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later had neither the range nor the load capacity necessary for an offensive weapon. There were no four-engine bombers.
DR. STAHNER: Did you play any part in the attack on Warsaw?
KESSELRING: As Chief of Air Fleet 1, I led this attack.
DR. STAHMER: Did the military situation at the time justify this attack, and how was it carried out?
KESSELRING: Several attacks were made on Warsaw. In the German view, Warsaw was a fortress, and, moreover, it had strong air defenses. Thus the stipulations of the Hague Convention for land warfare, which can analogously be applied to air warfare, were fulfilled.
As to the first phase of the attack on Warsaw, according to the operational principle governing the employment of the Luftwaffe, the enemy air force and the aircraft factories in the immediate vicinity of the airfields were to be attacked. These attacks were in my opinion fully justified and they comply with the rules.
The second phase concerns the combating of the operational movements of the Poles. I may add that Warsaw is a junction for northern and central Poland. When our long-range reconnaissance reported -- this was confirmed by the final phase -- that the railway stations were crammed with material and that reinforcements in increasing numbers were moving on Warsaw, the air attack on these movements was ordered and carried out.
It was mainly directed against railway stations and sidings and the Vistula bridges. For the execution of these attacks I detailed Stukas and ground "strafer" aircraft, because the precision of these machines afforded the guarantee that mainly the military targets would be hit.
The third phase was the shelling of Warsaw. I consider the shelling to be an army action in which, at the request of the army, small units of the Luftwaffe were employed against military targets. I myself was over Warsaw, and after practically every air attack I consulted the army commanders about the execution. From my own experiences and reports I can assert that everything that was humanly possible was done to hit military targets only and to spare civilian targets.
DR. STAHMER: Can you confirm conclusively that these attacks were kept throughout within the limits of military necessity?
DR. STAHNER: Did you play any part in the attack on Rotterdam?
KESSELRING: As Air Force Chief 2, to which rank I had been promoted, I led air attacks on Holland, Belgium, and France, and
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the airborne corps operated under my command also. The airborne corps was commanded by General Student, who asked for his paratroops to be supported by a bomber attack. General Student had such a comprehensive knowledge of the ground situation that he alone must be considered responsible for preparation and execution of the attack. The Fourth Air Corps was ordered to provide air support, and one group, the smallest unit necessary for this purpose, was employed. The attack was carried out solely in accordance with the tactical requirements and technical possibilities. The orders of General Student reached my command very early. Thus all preparations could be made leisurely according to plan. At the instance of the Reich Marshal the unit was informed of possible changes within Rotterdam and of the approach of Panzer divisions. The objective set by General Student was quite elear as to extent, central and key points, and occupation. It was not difficult for seasoned troops to grasp the objective. There was radio communication between General Student's command, my staff, and other staffs, including the Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe. Any interruption of this communication could only have been a very short one as radio orders were transmitted by me or the Reich Marshal. The technique at that time made it possible to maintain contact through this radio communication between the tactical ground station and the flying unit via its ground station. The ground communications usual at that time such as flags, flares, and signal code designations at the front were maintained according to plan. They functioned without a hitch. In accordance with its training and its orders the formation had sent out a reconnaissance aircraft which kept them informed of the situation and the objective. In addition, by order of the Reich Marshal, there followed a General Staff officer attached to my air fleet who had the same mission.
DR. STAHMER: Had the order been given that the situation and the objective should be...
KESSELRING: I myself never had any doubt that the attack had to be carried out;
I was only not quite sure whether or not it should be repeated. And this was the question to which the signals referred. Judging from my knowledge of General Student and -- I stress this particularly -- his technique in leading an attack and his clearly stated requirements, I had to expect the attack to be carried out.
The attack was carried out according to plan and time schedule. The report that the target had been accurately bombed came through very quickly together with the message that no further attacks were necessary. During the 3 days of fighting in Holland the Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe was kept well informed. Particularly on the third day, that is, the day I am talking of, the Reich Marshal in his outspoken manner intervened more than usual
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in the direction of the air fleet and did, in my opinion, everything that could possibly be done from such a high position. I do not remember any message to the effect that the bomber attack was no longer warranted by the tactical situation.
DR. STAHMER: Bombs are said to have been dropped when negotiations about capitulation had already started.
KESSELRING: As I said, no message to this effect had been received by the command, neither had the formation operating over Rotterdam picked up a message from the ground. Probably some confusion occurred at the command In Rotterdam itself of which I know nothing. Neither do I know about the agreements reached between General Student and the officer commanding the Dutch troops in Rotterdam. I wanted later to have a talk with General Student on this question, but it was not possible because of his having received a serious head injury. If, contrary to my firm conviction, the attack had been no longer warranted by the situation, this would be most regrettable. As a soldier of 42 years' standing, as an artillery man, as an airman, as a General Staff officer, and as a leader for many years, I wish to make it clear that this case was one of those unforeseeable coincidences of war which, I am sorry to say, occur in the armed services of all countries more frequently than one might think; only the world does not know.
DR. STAHMER: How do you explain the big fires that still broke out in Rotterdam?
KESSELRING: When I received the report from the formation I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that the effect of the bombing was confined to the target area, but this war has shown that most of the destruction is not caused by the bombs themselves, but by the spreading of fires. Unfortunately a bomb had hit a margarine or some other factory in Rotterdam, causing oil to run out and the fire to spread. As after the attack the capitulation was already effective, it should have been possible to prevent the fires from spreading by bringing in the fire services and the troops.
DR. STAHMER: What were the military consequences of this attack?
KESSELRING: The immediate consequence of the attack was the surrender of the Rotterdam troops. General Wenninger, who was air attache at the time and who later was attached to my air fleet, told me that in consequence of this attack the whole of the Dutch Army capitulated.
DR. STAHMER: Did you lead the attack on Coventry in November 1940?
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KESSELRING: As Chief of Air Fleet 2 I took part in this attack, without any doubt. I cannot say now whether Air Fleet 3 took part in it as well, but I did.
DR. STAHMER: What was the object of the attack?
KESSELRING: According to the target index kept by the archives department of the Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, Coventry was an English armament center; it was known as "Little Essen." This index was compiled with meticulous care by experts, engineers, and officers, and contained maps, charts, photographs, description of targets, key points, et cetera. I myself, as well as my men, was fully familiar with these details. Furthermore, I had the aforementioned General Wenninger and several engineers with the Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe give lectures to the troops about targets, in order to make them acquainted with the nature of the targets, their vulnerability, and the effects of an air attack.
Preparations for an attack were made most conscientiously. I was very often present and the Reich Marshal himself occasionally inspected them. The case of Coventry was extremely simple, as during those nights favorable weather conditions prevailed, so that Coventry could be reached without radio navigation. The distribution of the targets in Coventry was likewise very simple, so that bombs could be dropped without the help of flares, and it was hardly possible to miss the target. But bombs follow the same law as other projectiles; in other words, in land and air warfare dispersion covers a wide range. With an air force this is the further peculiarity that if strong formations are employed not the individual target but only the target area as a whole can be aimed at, which naturally causes a deviation from the target itself. By order of the Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe and on the reconnaissance pilot's own initiative, all hits and attacks were checked the following day by air photographs. The ground visibility was good but, as I already said in the case of Rotterdam, the destruction of the objective was not caused so much by the bombs themselves as by the spreading of fire. I do not know whether I should add anything further. The Hague Convention on land warfare did not provide for the requirements of air warfare. In order to avoid an arbitrary selection of targets, the Supreme Command had to go into the question and issue general directives based on the preamble to the Hague Convention, the literature published in the meantime, and finally, the special conditions governing the Luftwaffe itself. Only those targets which we considered admissible according to international law were assigned to the air fleet or formation. This did not exclude the reconsideration and change of targets in individual cases, which were discussed with the Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, and we took the responsibility ...
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THE PRESIDENT: You are speaking too fast.
KESSELRING: By personal visits and other means we impressed upon our units the need to study preparation, the dropping of bombs, aiming, the meteorological conditions, so carefully that the highest degree of accuracy could be obtained and regrettable deviations into the perimeter of the objectives could be avoided. The case of Coventry was particularly fortunate as it presented an important military target, and no one could speak of it as an attack directed against the civilian population.
DR. STAHMER: I have no more questions.
THE PRESIDENT: Does any other defense counsel wish to ask questions?
DR. LATERNSER: Witness, since when were you commander of an army group?
KESSELRING: I became commander of an army group in September 1943 after, as commander of the German troops in the Supreme Command, I had already served in a supervisory capacity as far as general strategic and tactical questions were concerned.
DR. LATERNSER: The army group which you led was in Italy?
KESSELRING: The army group was in the Mediterranean area.
DR. LATERNSER: Do you know the composition of the General Staff and High Command group as presented by the Prosecution?
DR. LATERNSER: First I have a preliminary question. What is, strictly speaking, understood by the German General Staff of the individual branches of the Wehrmacht?
KESSELRING: The General Staff of the individual branches of the Wehrmacht comprises all those officers who assist the commanders-in-chief of the services and share their responsibility.
DR. LATERNSER: Would you please state how this group was composed and organized in the Luftwaffe, for instance?
KESSELRING: The General Staff of the Luftwaffe was the equivalent of the General
Staff of the Army and these organizations were as alike as two pins. The General
Staff consisted of the central department, called the Operations Staff in the Luftwaffe, headed by the Chief of the General Staff, the operational departments, the organizational groups, the departmental chiefs of the Luftwaffe, the supply office, et cetera. The various commands, from the air fleet down to the division, the ground staff and the Luftgaue, had General Staff officers attached to them to assist in the command. A chief of general staff no longer bore co-responsibility, as was previously customary, since this was held to be inconsistent with the
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Leadership Principle. These chiefs of general staffs and the chief of the central department of the General Staff exercised their influence regarding military and ideological training on all the General Staff officers within the Wehrmacht, without prejudice to the responsibility of the individual military commander.
DR. LATERNSER: If I summarize your reply that by General Staff of the Luftwaffe is meant the Chief of General Staff and the regimental staff officers, would I then be describing correctly the composition of the General Staff of the Luftwaffe?
KESSELRING: Most certainly.
DR. LATERNSER: Do you consider the term "General Staff" as has been employed in these proceedings to be in accordance with military usage?
KESSELRING: As I said before, the General Staff was composed of officers assisting in the command, which did not include the commanders and commanders-in-chief. According to German views they did not belong to that category, because not all the commanders and commanders-in-chief had had the same education and training as the General Staff officers. The commanders-in-chief were single individuals. They would be treated collectively only in connection with their rank as generals and for budget and pay purposes.
DR. LATERNSER: Would you consider it to be erroneous to apply the term "General Staff" to the high military commanders?
KESSELRING: According to the German conception it would be a misnomer.
DR. LATERNSER: Have at any time in the history of the Wehrmacht the high military commanders been subsumed under this group as is being done here?
KESSELRING: In Germany such subsumption was not indicated and for various reasons was not even admissible. Neither did the commanders-in-chief form a collective body to act in any way as a war council or as a similar assembly with definite tasks. They were not even, individually or collectively, members of the Reich Defense Council, but were only appointed ad hoc commanders of a front or a command post. To set up the commanders-in-chief as a collective body for any specific purpose was in my opinion quite impossible, for the simple reason that they were under the commander-in-chief of the Army, the Luftwaffe, or the Navy or under the High Command of the Armed Forces. Moreover, some were 100 percent under the German Supreme Command; others were 100 percent under Axis command. Some of them were under two different commands, some were independent commanders-in-chief, others were army commanders-in-chief subordinate to an army group.
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DR. LATERNSER: You are speaking too fast. Had the commanders-in-chief only to work out military problems set before them, or did they themselves draw up plans and submit them to Hitler for consideration?
KESSELRING: The commanders-in-chief were purely military leaders, responsible only for the task allotted to them. Within the scope of this task they could submit suggestions or improvements, et cetera, to the OKW or to the OKH, but their activities in the sense of collaboration were limited to these suggestions.
DR. LATERNSER: You just mentioned improvements and modifications. Did this mean that the commanders-in-chief were expected to suggest modifications of a plan only from the military-technical aspect, or also to submit suggestions as to whether or not a plan should be carried out at all?
KESSELRING: Generally it meant suggestions for modifications from the military-technical aspect only. In matters of minor importance they had a say also as to policy. If, however, the highest authority had made a decision, the others kept silent.
DR. LATERNSER: We will revert to this later. Did the "General Staff" group as presented here ever meet collectively?
DR. LATERNSER: Were there any rules providing for the organization of this group?
DR. LATERNSER: Did any members of this group ever suggest a departure from the rules of international law?
KESSELRING: I do not think so; rather the contrary.
DR. LATERNSER: Was there a frequent reshuffle of the holders of the offices which make up this group, or did they hold the offices for a long period?
KESSELRING: In the course of the later years the commanders-in-chief and commanders were rather frequently reshuffled.
DR. LATERNSER: What do you know about the conferences Hitler held with high-ranking military leaders?
KESSELRING: There were two kinds of conferences. First, an important address before a campaign to the higher leaders taking part in it. The object of the address was generally to inform the leaders of the situation and to brief them.
In view of the Fuehrer's persuasive rhetoric it was hardly possible for us to take any stand in the matter, particularly as we were not informed about all the details. At such conferences discussions did not take place; they
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were not allowed. There sometimes followed military-tactical consultations, and every leader had the chance of putting forward and stressing his views and requests. As I have said, we had no say in political questions. We were, as is known, faced with the accomplished fact, which we as soldiers had to accept.
DR. LATERNSER: Did you attend a conference held by Hitler on 22 August 1939, that is, shortly before the Polish campaign started?
DR. LATERNSER: Was it not made known at the end of this conference that we had concluded a treaty with the Soviet Union?
KESSELRING: At the end, after the address, we were all called together again and informed that the message had just been received that Russia would adopt benevolent neutrality.
DR. LATERNSER: What impression did this message have on you and the other high military leaders?
KESSELRING: It was a tremendous relief to me and to the others. Otherwise we could not have dismissed the possibility of an extension of the war toward the East. Now that Russia was going to hold herself aloof, the Luftwaffe at least -- I speak as an army commander -- had a superiority which guaranteed a rapid and decisive success, and which over and above this, in my opinion, would possibly prevent the expansion of the war.
DR. LATERNSER: In any case, the message was a great relief to you?
KESSELRING: Yes, very great.
DR. LATERNSER: Witness, can you tell me whether members of the General Staff and OKW group ever met and had discussions with leading politicians and Party men?
KESSELRING: If I may speak for myself, I was operating both in the Mediterranean area and in the West. In the Mediterranean area I had to work with the Gauleiter Rainer and Hofer and then in the West with ...
DR. LATERNSER: That was not the point of the question. I wanted to know whether the high military leaders ever met and discussed any political plans with leading politicians.
KESSELRING: No, no. That I can definitely say was not the case. We as soldiers generally did not bother about politics. Political decisions were made by the politicians and we had to carry them out.
DR. LATERNSER: Among military leaders, as a result of their many years of experience in the Wehrmacht, which foster the
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principle of giving the soldier a nonpolitical education, this attitude is customary, is it not?
KESSELRING: This policy has been developed in the German Army since the 18th century.
DR. LATERNSER: Do you know whether the higher military leaders had any contact with the Fifth Column?
KESSELRING: The military leadership had nothing to do with the Fifth Column.
This was beneath us.
DR. LATERNSER: What was your impression of the conference Hitler held with the higher military leaders before the Eastern campaign started? Was the situation presented to you in such a way that war had to be considered unavoidable?
KESSELRING: I had the definite impression that the purpose of the address to the leaders was to convince them of the necessity of the war as a preventive war; and that it was imperative to strike before the building up and the mobilization of the Russian armed forces became a danger to Germany.
DR. LATERNSER: Could you state the reasons for your impression?
KESSELRING: As I have already said, the purpose of the address was to give us a convincing picture of the general situation; of the military situation and its time schedule -- and it did convince us. In connection with the Russian campaign I should like to say that up to the last day of August I had no doubt...
THE PRESIDENT: Witness, will you go more slowly please and have some consideration for the interpreters.
DR. LATERNSER: Would you please repeat the last answer.
KESSELRING: I had still less reason to doubt Hitler's words because, up to the last moment, I, as Commander-in-Chief of Air Fleet 2, was engaged in operations against England and had had neither time nor the means to form a well-founded judgment of my own on the Russian situation. I had to confine myself...
DR. LATERNSER: This Trial has shown that the commanders-in-chief are being made responsible for what is bound to happen in a war. I should like you to describe the daily routine of a commander-in-chief of an army group, an army, or an air fleet.
KESSELRING: The daily routine depended of course on the personality of the individual leader. If I may speak of myself...
DR. LATERNSER: Witness, I ask you to be very brief.
THE PRESIDENT: Witness -- Dr. Laternser, surely, that is cumulative to what the witness has already been saying, and likely to be very long. About the description of the day of a commander,
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this witness already said the commander had nothing to do with politics and nothing to do with the staff. Why should we be troubled with what the commander's day consists of?
DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, I attach particular importance to this question for the following reasons: In view of the range of a commander-in-chief's activities, especially at the front, not every report can reach him because even reports from his own sector have to be dealt with by the respective officers. Thus, only those reports come to him which are of particular importance and of a decisive nature and which have a direct bearing on the conduct of the action.
THE PRESIDENT: Give it in that way then, rather than giving the witness a full day to describe.
DR. LATERNSER: Very well, I shall put it that way.
Witness, in view of the range of your activities as commander-in-chief did every report reach you, or only those which, after having been studied by the respective officers, were found to be of such importance that they had to be submitted to the commander-in-chief?
KESSELRING: Especially when an action was in progress all reports could not reach the commander-in-chief. In my particular case this was still less possible as I spent 50 to 70 percent of my time at the front. The staffs of the armies, air fleets, and navy units had to retain a responsibility of their own within their competence.
DR.LATERNSER: Did the many activities of a commander-in-chief allow all reports on violations of international law, even of a minor nature, to be submitted to him?
KESSELRING: This had to be aimed at. I doubt, however, for the afore-mentioned reasons, whether this was possible in every case.
DR. LATERNSER: In this matter, therefore, the commander-in-chief had to rely on his staff, had he not?
KESSELRING: Yes; 100 percent.
DR. LATERNSER: Were you commander-in-chief of an air fleet on the Eastern front from June to November 1941?
DR. LATERNSER: Did you hear anything about the extermination of Jews in the East?
DR. LATERNSER: Did you hear anything about the Einsatzgruppen of the SS?
KESSELRING: Nothing. I did not even know the name of these units.
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DR. LATERNSER: Did you get to know anything about the regrettable order that Russian commissars were to be shot after their capture?
KESSELRING: I heard of this order at the end of the war. The air fleet, not being engaged in ground fighting, had actually nothing to do with this question. I think I can safely say the Luftwaffe knew nothing whatsoever about it. Though I very frequently had personal dealings with Field Marshal Von Bock, with commanders of armies and armored units, none of these gentlemen ever told me of such an order.
DR. LATERNSER: Did you know about the Commando Order?
KESSELRING: Yes, I did.
DR. LATERNSER: And what did you think of this order?
KESSELRING: I considered such an order, received by me as commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean, where I held a double post, as not binding for me, but as the outline of an order which left me a free hand in its application. On this question I held the view that it was for me, as commander-in-chief, to decide whether a Commando action was contrary to international law or whether it was tactically justified. The view adopted more and more by the army group, which view was directed by me, was that personnel in uniform who had been sent out on a definite tactical task were to be treated and considered as soldiers in accordance with the provisions of the Hague Convention for land warfare.
DR. LATERNSER: The Commando Order was consequently not applied within your command?
KESSELRING: In one case, yes, it was certainly applied.
DR. LATERNSER: Which case do you mean?
KESSELRING: I mean the case of General Dostler.
DR. I.ATERNSER: The case of General Dostler has already been mentioned in this Trial. Did you know about this case when it was pending?
KESSELRING: As a witness under oath I have stated that I cannot remember this case. I think there are two reasons why I was not informed of it. Firstly, after a conversation with my chief, who spoke to another commander about it, it appeared that none of us knew anything. Secondly, because of the gigantic operations on the Southern Front, I was more often absent than not from my headquarters.
DR. LATERNSER: Witness, if you had been called upon to make a decision on the Dostler case, how would you have decided?
KESSELRING: I am not well enough acquainted with the case. I know it only from hearsay.
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MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: I do not think we can try Dostler's case, or that this witness should give his conclusions, inasmuch as Dostler's case has been tried by a competent court and that issue is disposed of. I have no objection to any facts that inform this Tribunal, but his conclusion as to the guilt of his fellow officer is hardly helpful.
THE PRESIDENT: Particularly as he said he cannot remember.
DR. LATERNSER: I withdraw the question.
Witness, can you quote other cases where the Commando Order was not applied in your area?
KESSELRING: Small scale landings behind the lines at Commazzio, south of Venice, also airborne landings north of Albenda in the region of Genoa and minor actions in the Lago di Ortona district. I am convinced the troops adopted this general view and acted accordingly.
DR. LATERNSER: You were commander-in-chief of an air fleet in the East. What can you say about the treatment of the Russian civilian population during the campaign?
KESSELRING: I was in Russia until the end of November and I can say only that the population and the troops were on the best of terms, and that the field kitchens were used everywhere for the benefit of the poor and the children; also that the morality of the Russian woman, which, as is known, is on a high level, was respected by the German soldiers to a remarkable extent. I know that my doctors, during the hours of attendance, were frequently consulted by the Russian population. I remember this, because the doctors spoke to me about the fortitude they showed in enduring pain. The war passed so quickly over the plains as far as Smolensk that the whole area presented quite a peaceful aspect; peasants were at work, fairly large herds of cattle were grazing, and when I visited the area I found the small dwellings intact.
DR. LATERNSER: Did you hear of any excesses committed by German soldiers in the East? Whenever cases of violations of international law were reported to you, did you take action with all the means at your disposal?
KESSELRING: I at least tried to do so, if only for the sake of maintaining the reputation of the German Wehrmacht and also in the interests of the relations of the Wehrmacht with our Italian allies. I therefore thought it expedient to deal severely with any German soldier who committed an offense. As I was mindful of the fact that war is a brutal business and the longer it lasts the more brutal it becomes, particularly if the leaders and subordinates are no longer able to cope with their tasks, I had recourse to preventive measures. The preventive regulations, which I am sure
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were seen at many places by the Allied Forces during their advance through Italy, my various announcements of the penalties imposed which became generally known, are the best proof of what I just said.
As a preventive measure I ordered whole towns, or if this was not possible, their centers to be cleared of military and administrative offices and soldiers, and barricaded off. Furthermore, as far as air raid precautions allowed, the soldiers were garrisoned and billeted in confined areas. I also ordered detached individual soldiers, who are usually the cause of such trouble -- for instance soldiers going on and returning from leave-to be grouped together, and nonmilitary vehicles to form convoys. For control purposes I had cordons drawn by military police, field police, gendarmes, with mobile courts and flying squads attached to them.
The buying-up of Italian goods, which was partly the cause of the trouble, was to be restricted by establishing stores, in cooperation with the Italian Government, along the return routes, and here the soldiers could buy something to take home. This was enforced by penalties. German offenders reported to me by the Italians, I had prosecuted or I myself took proceedings against them. Whenever local operations prevented my personal intervention, as for instance at Siena, I notified the Wehrmacht that I would have the case dealt with by court-martial at a later date. In other cases, when the situation was critical, I declared an emergency law and imposed the death penalty for looting, robbery, murder, et cetera. The death penalty was, however, rarely found to have a deterrent effect. I took action against officers who, naturally disposed to shield their men, had shown too great leniency.
I understand all files are available here, so that all details can be seen from the marginal notes on the reports sent in by the military police.
DR. LATERNSER: Witness, do you also know of any violations of international law by the other side?
KESSELRING: During my many visits to the front I did, of course, come across a large number...
GEN. RUDENKO: I protest against this question. In my opinion, the witness is not the person to make any statement as to whether Germany's enemies have violated international law. I think this question should be omitted.
DR. LATERNSER: May I explain my point? I am interested in an answer to this question because I want to follow it with the further question to the witness, whether after he heard of violations of international law by the other side, he became more lenient
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concerning violations of international law by his own men. That is why I am anxious to have this question answered.
THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal would like to know exactly what your question is and why you say it is competent.
DR. LATERNSER: The exact wording of the question is as follows:
I asked the witness, "Do you also know of any violations of international law by the other side?"
According to his answer I intend to put the further questions to the witness, whether, in view of such violations of international law by the other side, he either did not punish at all or dealt more leniently with violations of international law by his own men.
From the answer to this latter question I want to ascertain the attitude of the witness as a member of the group, and that is why I consider the answer to the first question to be important.
THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal would like to hear what Counsel for the United States says about it.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: If Your Honor please, I believe it is a well-established principle of international law that a violation on one side does not excuse or warrant violations on the other side. There is, of course, a doctrine of reprisal, but it is clearly not applicable here, on any basis that has been shown.
In the second place, even if the treatment of the subject matter were competent, I think it is being improperly gone into in this manner. Here is a broad question, "Did you hear of violations of international law?" It would at least, even if the subject were proper, require that some particularity of a case be given. A broad conclusion of a charge -- a violation of international law -- would hardly be sufficient to inform this Tribunal as to the basis on which this witness may have acted.
If there were some specific instance, with credible information called to his attention, there might be some basis; but surely the question as asked by counsel does not afford a basis here.
It seems to me we are getting far afield from the charges here and that this is far afield from anything that is involved in the case. I do not know what particular atrocities or violations of international law are to be excused by this method. There must have been atrocities committed, on the basis of which there is sought to be excused atrocities committed by somebody else. Who else committed them, why they were committed, is a subject we might have to try if we went into this subject. It seems to me that the inquiry is quite beside the point, and even if it were not, if there were any way that it is within the point, it is improperly put in this manner.
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DR. STAHMER: This question, which is of fundamental importance, was argued before this Tribunal some time ago. This was when I applied for permission to be given to produce White Books containing reports on atrocities. I think it was during the sitting of 25 February.
At that time Professor Exner defined his attitude to this question and the Tribunal then permitted me to produce these White Books, with the proviso that I would still have to state what I intended to present from these books. Already on that occasion attention was drawn to the importance of the question of whether atrocities were committed by the other side as well, because this very point may contribute to a more just and possibly to a more lenient judgment of German behavior. The motive of an act has always a decisive bearing on the findings, and the view will be taken here that an act on the German part will be judged differently if the other side has not really, shown entirely correct behavior.
Furthermore it is an important question whether measures taken may have been reprisals. On the strength of these considerations I hold that this important question should be admitted.
THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn for 10 minutes.
[A recess was taken.]
THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal have considered the questions which Dr. Laternser proposed to put to the witness and have also considered the objections made by General Rudenko and Mr. Justice Jackson, and they hold the questions are inadmissible.
DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, I assume that I am allowed to put the following question.
[Turning to the witness.] Witness, did you either not punish at all or deal more leniently with violations of international law by your own men when violations of this law by the other side were reported to you?
THE PRESIDENT: That seems to me to be putting in one question what before you put in two.
DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, this question is not meant to cause the witness to give instances of violations of international law by the other side. From the answer, I merely want to ascertain the fundamental attitude of the witness, namely whether he, as commander-in-chief, dealt most severely with violations of international law by his own men even if violations on the other side were reported to him. I withdraw the question.
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THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal would see no objection in your asking the witness whether he was anxious to avoid violations of international law; if you wish to put that question to him there will be no objection to that question. The question which you have suggested putting is really identical with the questions you put before.
DR. LATERNSER: Witness, during this trial severe accusations have been made because of atrocities committed by German soldiers. Was not every soldier sufficiently enlightened and instructed about the regulations of international law?
KESSELRING: I answer this question in the affirmative. The many talks given by me and the commanders under me always contained such admonitions and instructions.
DR. LATERNSER: Did you, as commander of an army group, spare art treasures and churches as far as possible?
KESSELRING: I regarded it as a matter of course as my duty to spare centers of art and learning and churches, and I gave orders accordingly, and acted accordingly myself in all my operations and tactical measures.
DR. LATERNSER: What do you know about the treatment of prisoners of war who had fallen into German hands?
KESSELRING: Prisoners of war were treated according to international law. Wherever inspections ordered by me revealed any neglect, I had it redressed and reprimanded the commandant in charge.
DR. LATERNSER: I have still three more questions. Were you, as Field Marshal, informed that Italy would enter the war?
KESSELRING: No, I had not been informed about that. As far as I know, the entry of Italy into the war was so spontaneous that even the political leaders were surprised.
DR. LATERNSER: And were you informed that war would be declared upon America?
KESSELRING: No. I cannot say anything about this question.
DR. LATERNSER: And now the last question. What was the position regarding the resignation of military leaders during the war?
KESSELRING: Resignation from the Wehrmacht of one's own free will, or an application for permission to resign from the Wehrmacht, was not allowed. In 1944 there was an order prohibiting this under threat of the severest penalties. The Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht reserved for himself the exclusive right to make changes of personnel in the leading positions.
DR. LATERNSER: Was there a written order to this effect?
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KESSELRING: Yes, I think so.
DR. LATERNSER: I have no further questions.
DR. JAHRREISS: Witness, you said before that the commanders-in-chief had, in military matters, the right and the opportunity to present their demands and views to Hitler, the Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht. Did I understand that correctly?
DR. JAHRREISS: Did you personally have differences of opinion with Hitler?
KESSELRING: Considerable differences about operational and tactical questions.
DR. JAHRREISS: Did it come to a real clash?
KESSELRING: "Clash" is perhaps putting it too strongly; rather a divergence of opinion on either side.
DR. JAHRREISS: Shall we say disputes? Were they frequent?
DR. JAHRREISS: After all we have heard, here, Adolf Hitler must have been a rather difficult customer.
KESSELRING: That must be admitted. On the other hand, I found him -- I do not know why -- understanding in most of the matters I put to him.
DR. JAHRREISS: Did you yourself settle these differences of opinion with Hitler?
KESSELRING: In critical cases Colonel General Jodl called me in if he could not carry his point.
DR. JAHRREISS: If you could not carry the point?
KESSELRING: No, if Jodl could not carry the point.
DR. JAHRREISS: If Jodl could not carry the point, you were called in?
DR. JAHRREISS: Did Jodl's opinions, too, differ from Hitler's?
KESSELRING: On the various occasions when I attended for reporting I observed very definite differences of opinion between the two gentlemen, and that Jodl -- who was our spokesman at the OKW -- put his point of view with remarkable energy and stuck to it right to the end.
DR. JAHRREISS: What do you mean, he was your spokesman? Whose spokesman?
KESSELRING: My theaters of war, speaking as a general in the Wehrmacht, were
so-called OKW theaters of war, and the East was
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an Army theater of war. The East was an Army theater of war, whereas the others were OKW war theaters.
DR. JAHRREISS: Had the OKW no say regarding the Army theaters of war in the East?
DR. JAHRREISS: And the Army had no say regarding the OKW theater of war?
DR. JAHRREISS: I think not everybody will be able to understand this difference.
KESSELRING: It would be asking too much, because I myself cannot understand it.
DR. JAHRREISS: So, you were in an OKW theater of war?
DR. JAHRREISS: What does OKW mean in this connection?
KESSELRING: Supreme Command of the Armed Forces.
DR. JAHRREISS: Yes, I know that.
KESSELRING: It meant that the commander-in-chief was directly under Adolf Hitler, and headquarters under Jodl's operations staff.
DR. JAHRREISS: In a previous interrogation you spoke of orders from the OKW, did you not?
DR. JAHRREISS: Who is the OKW? Who gave orders?
KESSELRING: Orders of a fundamental nature were issued by one person only, and that was Adolf Hitler. All the others were only executive officers. This did not prevent these executive officers from holding views of their own or sharing the views of the army groups under them. They presented these views energetically to Adolf Hitler.
DR. JAHRREISS: What you are saying now rather surprises me, since the opinion had been voiced that Jodl, who you say was a kind of spokesman for the commanders-in-chief, was a willing tool of Adolf Hitler.
KESSELRING: I think the one does not exclude the other. I cannot imagine any marriage of 6 years standing without both partners having tried to understand each other. On the other hand, I can very well imagine that even in the happiest marriage serious quarrels occur.
DR. JAHRREISS: But in the average marriage the husband does not necessarily have to be a willing tool.
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KESSELRING: Here the situation is still a little bit different. As with all comparisons, this comparison with marriage does not go the whole way. In addition to this, in the army there is the principle of unquestioning subordination.
DR. JAHRREISS: Yes, but what you have just told us, about Jodl's position as spokesman for the commanders-in-chief, sounds as if Jodl acted as an intermediary, does it not?
KESSELRING: Jodl represented our interests in an outstanding way and thus acted as an intermediary for all of us.
DR. JAHRREISS: Did he also pit his opinions against those of Adolf Hitler when Adolf Hitler, in one of his famous fits of rage, had issued an order?
KESSELRING: I can state only that, on the occasion of my few visits to headquarters, I saw Colonel General Jodl grow red in the face, if I may say so, and in expressing his views he went very near the limit of what is permissible for a military man.
THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn.
[The Tribunal adjourned until 13 March 1946 at 1000 hours.]
Nuremberg Trial Proceedings Vol. 9
Wednesday, 13 March 1946
THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal has made an order with respect to further proceedings on the charge against organizations and the applications of members thereof. I do not propose to read that order, but the order will be posted on the Defense Counsels information board and will be communicated to them and to the Prosecution.
Dr. Jahrreiss, had you finished your examination?
DR. JAHRREISS: Yes.
THE PRESIDENT: Very well. Does any other of the Defense Counsel wish to examine the witness?
[The witness Kesselring resumed the stand.]
DR. KAUFFMANN: Witness, have you any recollection when the Defendant Kaltenbrunner first came into the public eye?
KESSELRING: I have no knowledge of Kaltenbrunner's becoming particularly prominent in the public eye. I heard the name Kaltenbrunner for the first time when he appeared as successor to General Canaris.
DR. KAUFFMANN: Have you any recollection of him being made the Chief of the Reich Security Main Office in January 1943?
KESSELRING: I may have heard of it, but I have no certain recollection of it.
DR KAUFFMANN: Kaltenbrunner states that in April 1945 he tried to save the country of Austria from further acts of war. Have you by chance any recollection of that?
KESSELRING: I merely heard that Kaltenbrunner was one of those persons who were working for an independent Austria, but I have no definite, accurate knowledge of the situation.
DR. KAUFFMANN, Furthermore, Kaltenbrunner states that he, on the basis of an agreement with the Red Cross at Geneva, had arranged for the return of civilian internees to their homeland through the firing line. He had communicated a request to your office -- not to you personally -- to the effect that a gap should be created in the fighting line to let these civilian internees go home. Do you happen to remember that?
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