Source: Law-Reports of Trials of War Criminals, The United Nations War Crimes Commission, Volume XII, London, HMSO, 1949
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TRIAL OF WILHELM VON LEEB AND THIRTEEN OTHERS
UNITED STATES MILITARY TRIBUNAL, NUREMBERG,
(iii) Evidence Relating to Counts I and IV.
Crimes against Peace-Conspiracy
It was clear from the evidence that none of the accused had held positions on a policy-making level. Regardless of whether they had at any time had or had not actual knowledge of, or were involved in, concrete plans and preparations for aggressive wars or invasions, it was established by the evidence that they were not in a position which enabled them to exercise any influence on such a policy. No matter what their rank or status, it was clear from the evidence that they had been outside the policy-making circle close to Hitler and had had no power to shape or influence the policy of the German State. They had in their capacities as Commanders and Staff Officers below the policy level, and on orders, taken part in the planning of campaigns, preparing means for carrying them out and had fought the wars and carried out the invasions after they had been instituted.
The defence asserted that there was considerable opposition to Hitlers plans and orders by the higher military leadership. General Franz Halder, who was Chief of the German General Staff from 1938 to 1942, testified that
Hitlers plans to invade the Sudetenland caused the formation of a plot for a coup to overthrow Hitler, but that this plot was abandoned because of the Munich Pact. The success of Hitler at Munich, however, increased his prestige with all circles of the German people, including the higher military leadership.
In 1939, Hitler advised certain of the high military leaders of his decision to attack France by violating the neutrality of the Low Countries. On 11th October, 1939, the accused, von Leeb, wrote to his Commander-in-Chief, von Brauchitsch, inclosing a memorandum prepared by him advising against this course of action. In it he argued that the invasion would develop into a long-drawn-out trench warfare, and then continued :
Then, in discussing the political repercussions which would follow from is proposed action, he said :
Then on 31st October, 1939, von Leeb wrote von Brauchitsch a letter in which he said :
In spite of this, the plans went on for the invasion which, however, was delayed until the following May. Von Leeb testified that this delay was brought about by the efforts of von Bock, Halder, and himself, in the hope that the additional time might allow a diplomatic settlement. The reasons given for the delay were purely military ; for instance, that the roads were impassable and the equipment defective. The moral aspect was not considered.
So it seems clear that there was some opposition among the military leadership to Hitlers plans, but that in spite of their opposition, they allowed themselves to be used by him. Von Leeb was asked by a member of the Tribunal why it was that this leadership was impotent and helpless against Hitler, to which he replied :
The testimony of General Halder, referred to by von Leeb, was in response to a request that he give briefly his impression of Hitler, and is as follows :
In the closing statement of General von Leeb on behalf of all the defendants, he referred repeatedly to the difficulties confronting them, saying :
Again he said :
The following general factual findings of the International Military Tribunal as to the War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity committed by or under the responsibility of the German Wehrmacht (Footnote: See the Judgment of the International Military Tribunal, Nuremberg edition. pp. 226-238) were not only not contested, but were also fully sustained by the evidence submitted in the present case :
" The evidence relating to War Crimes has been overwhelming, in its volume and its detail. It is impossible for this Judgment adequately to review it, or to record the mass of documentary and oral evidence that has been presented. The truth remains that War Crimes were committed on a vast scale, never before seen in the history of war. They were perpetrated in all the countries occupied by Germany, and on the High Seas, and were attended by every conceivable circumstance of cruelty and horror. There can be no doubt that the majority of them arose from the Nazi conception of total war, with which the aggressive wars were waged. For in this conception of total war, the moral ideas underlying the conventions which seek to make war more humane are no longer regarded as having force or validity. Everything is made subordinate to the overmastering dictates of war. Rules, regulations, assurances, and treaties all alike are of no moment ; and so, freed from the restraining influence of international law, the aggressive war is conducted by the Nazi leaders in the most barbaric way. Accordingly, War Crimes were committed when and wherever the Fuehrer and his close associates thought them to be advantageous. They were for the most part the result of cold and criminal calculation. . . . "
"Other War Crimes, such as the murder of prisoners of war who had escaped and been recaptured, or the murder of Commandos or captured airmen, or the destruction of the Soviet Commissars, were the result of direct orders circulated through the highest official channels. . . .
" Prisoners of war were ill-treated and tortured and murdered, not only in defiance of the well-established rules of international law, but in complete disregard of the elementary dictates of humanity. . . .
" In the course of the war, many Allied soldiers who had surrendered to the Germans were shot immediately, often as a matter of deliberate, calculated policy. On 18th October, 1942, the defendant Keitel circulated a directive authorized by Hitler, which ordered that all members of Allied Commando units, often when in uniform and whether armed or not, were to be ; slaughtered to the last man, even if they attempted to surrender. It was s further provided that if such Allied troops came into the hands of the military authorities after being first captured by the local police, or in any other way, they should be handed over immediately to the SD. This order was supplemented from time to time, and was effective throughout the
remainder of the war, although after the Allied landings, in Normandy in 1944, it was made clear that the order did not apply to Commandos captured within the immediate battle area. Under the provisions of this order, Allied Commando troops, and other military units operating independently, lost their lives in Norway, France, Czechoslovakia, and Italy. Many of them were killed on the spot, and in no case were those who were executed later in concentration camps ever given a trial of any kind. . . .
"In March, 1944, the OKH issued the Kugel or Bullet decree, which directed that every escaped officer and NCO prisoner of war who had not been put to work, with the exception of British and American prisoners of war, should on recapture be handed over to the SIPO and SD. This order was distributed by the SIPO and SD to their regional offices. These escaped officers and NCOs were to be sent to the concentration camp at Mauthausen, to be executed upon arrival, by means of a bullet shot in the neck.
" In March, 1944, fifty officers of the British Royal Air Force, who escaped from the camp at Sagan where they were confined as prisoners, were shot on recapture, on the direct orders of Hitler. Their bodies were immediately cremated, and the urns containing their ashes were returned to the camp. It was not contended by the defendants that this was other than plain murder, in complete violation of international law. [See The Stalag Luft III Trial, Ed.]
" When Allied airmen were forced to land in Germany, they were sometimes killed at once by the civilian population. The police were instructed not to interfere with these killings, and the Ministry of Justice was informed that no one should be prosecuted for taking part in them.
" The treatment of Soviet prisoners of war was characterized by particular inhumanity; The death of so many of them was not due merely to the action of individual guards, or to the exigencies of life in the camps. It was the result of systematic plans to murder. More than a month before the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the OKW were making special plans for dealing with political representatives serving with the Soviet Armed Forces who might be captured. One proposal was that political Commissars of the Army are not recognized as Prisoners of War, and are to be liquidated at the latest in the transient prisoner-of-war camps. The defendant Keitel gave evidence that instructions incorporating this proposal were issued to the German Army.
" On 8th September, 1941, regulations for the treatment of Soviet prisoners of war in all prisoner-of-war camps were issued, signed by General Reinecke, the head of the prisoner-of-war department of the High Command. Those orders stated :
" The Soviet prisoners of war were left without suitable clothing ; the wounded without medical care ; they were starved, and in many cases left to die.
" On 17th July, 1941, the Gestapo issued an order providing for the killing of all Soviet prisoners of war who were or might be dangerous to National Socialism. The order recited
" The affidavit of Warlimont, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Wehrmacht, and the testimony of Ohlendorf, former Chief of Amt III of the RSHA, and of Lahousen, the head of one of the sections of the Abwehr, the Wehrmachts Intelligence Service, all indicate the thoroughness with which this order was carried out. . . .
" In some cases Soviet prisoners of war were branded with a special permanent mark. There was put in evidence the OKW order dated 20th July, 1942, which laid down that :
" The carrying out of this order was the responsibility of the military authorities, though it was widely circulated by the Chief of the SIPO and SD to German police officials for information..
" Soviet prisoners of war were also made the subject of medical experiments of the most cruel and inhuman kind. In July, 1943, experimental work was begun in preparation for a campaign of bacteriological warfare ; Soviet prisoners of war were used in these medical experiments, which more often than not proved fatal. . . .
" The argument in defence of the charge with regard to the murder and ill-treatment of Soviet prisoners of war, that the U.S.S.R. was not a party to the Geneva Convention, is quite without foundation. On 15th September, 1941, Admiral Canaris protested against the regulations for the treatment of Soviet prisoners of war, signed by General Reinecke on 8th September, 1941. He then stated :
" This protest, which correctly stated the legal position, was ignored. The defendant Keitel made a note on this memorandum :
" The territories occupied by Germany were administered in violation of the laws of war. The evidence is quite overwhelming of a systematic rule of violence, brutality, and terror. On 7th December, 1941, Hitler issued the directive since known as the Nacht und Nebel Erlass (Night and Fog Decree), under which persons who committed offences against the Reich or the German forces in occupied territories, except where the death sentence was certain, were to be taken secretly to Germany and handed over to the SIPO and SD for trial or punishment in Germany. This decree was signed by the defendant Keitel. After these civilians arrived in Germany, no word of them was permitted to reach the country from which they came, or their relatives; even in cases when they died awaiting trial the families were not informed, the purpose being to create anxiety in the minds of the family of the arrested person. Hitlers purpose in issuing this decree was stated by the Defendant Keitel in a covering letter, dated 12th December, 1941, to be as follows:
" Even persons who were only suspected of opposing any of the policies of the German occupation authorities were arrested, and on arrest were interrogated by the Gestapo and the SD in the most shameful manner. On 12th June, 1942, the Chief of the SIPO and SD published, through Mueller, the Gestapo Chief, an order authorizing the use of third degree methods of interrogation, where preliminary investigation had indicated that the person could give information on important matters, such as subversive activities, though not for the purpose of extorting confessions of the prisoners own crimes. This order provided :
" The brutal suppression of all opposition to the German occupation was not confined to severe measures against suspected members of resistance movements themselves, but was also extended to their families. On 19th July, 1944, the Commander of the SIPO and SD in the district of Radom, in Poland, published an order, transmitted through the Higher SS and Police Leaders, to the effect that in all cases of assassination or attempted assassination of Germans, or where saboteurs had destroyed vital installations, not only the guilty person, but also all his or her male relatives should be shot, and female relatives over 16 years of age put into a concentration camp. . .
" The practice of keeping hostages to prevent and to punish any form of civil disorder was resorted to by the Germans ; an order issued by the defendant Keitel on 16th September, 1941, spoke in terms of fifty or a hundred lives from the occupied areas of the Soviet Union for one German life taken. The order stated that it should be remembered that a human life in unsettled countries frequently counts for nothing, and a deterrent effect can be obtained only by unusual severity. The exact number of persons killed as a result of this policy is not known, but large numbers were killed in France and the other occupied territories in the West, while in the East the slaughter was on an even more extensive scale. In addition to the killing of hostages, entire towns were destroyed in some cases ; such massacres as those of Oradour-sur-Glane in France and Lidice in Czechoslovakia, both of which were described to the Tribunal in detail, are examples of the organized use of terror by the occupying forces to beat down and destroy all opposition to their rule.
" One of the most notorious means of terrorizing the people in occupied territories was the use of concentration camps. They were first established in Germany at the moment of the seizure of power by the Nazi Government. Their original purpose was to imprison without trial all those persons who were opposed to the Government, or who were in any way obnoxious to German authority. With the aid of a secret police force, this practice was
widely extended, and in course of time, concentration camps became places of organized and systematic murder, where millions of people were destroyed.
" In the administration of the occupied territories, the concentration camps were used to destroy all opposition groups. The persons arrested by the Gestapo were as a rule sent to concentration camps. They were conveyed to the camps in many cases without any care whatever being taken for them, and great numbers died on the way. Those who arrived at the camp were subject to systematic cruelty. They were given hard physical labour, inadequate food, clothes and shelter, and were subject at all times to the rigours of a soulless regime, and the private whims of individual guards. . . .
" A certain number of the concentration camps were equipped with gas chambers for the wholesale destruction of the inmates, and with furnaces for the burning of the bodies. Some of them were in fact used for the extermination of Jews as part of the final solution of the Jewish problem. Most of the non-Jewish inmates were used for labour, although the conditions under which they worked made labour and death almost synonymous terms. Those inmates who became ill and were unable to work, were either destroyed in the gas chambers or sent to special infirmaries, where they were given entirely inadequate medical treatment, worse food if possible than the working inmates, and left to die.
" The murder and ill-treatment of civilian populations reached its height in the treatment of the citizens of the Soviet Union and Poland. Some four weeks before the invasion of Russia began, special task forces of the SIPO and SD, called Einsatz Groups, were formed on the orders of Himmler for the purpose of following the German Armies into Russia, combating partisans and members of Resistance Groups, and exterminating the Jews and Communist leaders and other sections of the population. In the beginning, four such Einsatz Groups were formed, one operating in the Baltic States, one towards Moscow, one towards Kiev, and one operating ,in the south of Russia. Ohlendorf, former Chief of Amt III of the RSHA, who led the fourth group, stated in his affidavit :
" In an order issued by the defendant Keitel on 23rd July, 1941, and drafted by the defendant Jodl, it was stated that :
" The evidence has shown that this order was ruthlessly carried out in the territory of the Soviet Union and in Poland. A significant illustration of the measures actually applied occurs in the document which was sent in 1943 to the defendant Rosenberg by the Reich Commissar for Eastern Territories, who wrote :
" The foregoing crimes against the civilian population are sufficiently appalling, and yet the evidence shows that at any rate in the East, the mass murders and cruelties were not committed solely for the purpose of stamping out opposition or resistance to the German occupying forces. In Poland and the Soviet Union, these crimes were part of a plan to get rid of whole native populations by expulsion and annihilation, in order that their territory could be used for colonization by Germans. Hitler had written in Mein Kampf on these lines, and the plan was clearly stated by Himmler in July, 1942, when he wrote : It is not our task to Germanize the East in the old sense, that is, to teach the people there the German language and the German law, but to see to it that only people of purely Germanic blood live in the East. -
" In August, 1942, the policy for the Eastern Territories as laid down by Bormann was summarized by a subordinate of Rosenberg as follows :
" It was Himmler again who stated in October, 1943 :
" In Poland the intelligentsia had been marked down for extermination as early as September, 1939, and in May, 1940, the defendant Frank wrote in his diary of taking advantage of the focussing of world interest on the Western Front, by wholesale liquidation of thousands of Poles, first leading representatives of the Polish intelligentsia. Earlier, Frank had been directed to reduce the entire Polish economy to an absolute minimum necessary for bare existence. The Poles shall be the slaves of the Greater German World Empire. In January, 1940, he recorded in his diary that cheap labour must be removed from the General Government by hundreds of thousands. This will hamper the native biological propagation.? So successfully did the Germans carry out this policy in Poland, that by the end of the war, one third of the population had been killed, and the whole country devastated
" It was the same story in the occupied area of the Soviet Union. At the time of the launching of the German attack in June, 1941, Rosenberg told his collaborators :