Source: Nazi Conspiracy and Aggresion. Vol. II. USGPO, Washington, 1946, pp.316-400

[Note: The characters in brackets, eg, (2233-N-PS) refer to the official document numbers included in the series Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression.   A list of legal references and documents relating to the General Staff and High Command appears on pages 400-415.  For information on the referencing of Internet sources see Chapter 4 of S D Stein Learning, Teaching and Researching on the Internet. Addison Wesley Longman 1999-published Nov.1998]

Error Submission Form

The General Staff and High Command
of the Armed Forces

The Nuremberg Charges

Part V

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

War Crimes on the Eastern Front (part iii)

Conclusion

Another affidavit which sheds light on the relations between the Wehrmacht and the SS at the top level with respect to anti-partisan warfare (3711-PS) is sworn to by Wilhelm Scheidt, a retired captain of the German Army who worked in the War History Section of OKW from 1941 to 1945:

"I, Wilhelm Scheidt, belonged to the War History Section of the OKW from the year 1941 to 1945.

"Concerning the question of partisan warfare I state that I remember the following from my knowledge of the documents of the Operations Staff of the OKW as well as from my conversations in the Fuehrer's headquarters with Generalmajor Walter Scherff, the Fuehrer's appointee for the compilation of the history of the war.

"Counterpartisan warfare was originally a responsibility of Reichsfuehrer-SS Heinrich Himmler, who sent police forces to handle this matter.

"In the years 1942 and 1943 however counter-partisan warfare developed to such an extent that the Operations Staff of the OKW had to give it particular attention. In the Army Operations Section of the Operations Staff of the OKW a specific officer was assigned the development of counter-partisan warfare as his special job. It proved necessary to conduct extensive operations against the partisans with Wehrmacht troops in Russian as well as Yugoslavian territory. Partisan operations for a long while threatened to cut off the lines of communication and transport routes that were necessary to support the German Wehrmacht. For instance, a monthly report concerning the attacks on the railroad lines in occupied Russia revealed that in the Russian area alone from 800 to 1,000 attacks occurred each month during that period, causing among other things, the loss of from 200 to 300 locomotives.

"It was a well-known fact that partisan warfare was conducted with cruelty on both sides. It was also well-known that reprisals were inflicted on hostages and communities whose inhabitants were suspected of being partisans or of supporting them. It is beyond question that these facts must have been known to the leading officers in the Operations Staff of the OKW and in the Army's General Staff. It was further well-known that Hitler believed that the only successful method of conducting counter-partisan warfare was to employ cruel punishments as deterrents.

"I remember that at the time of the Polish revolt in Warsaw, SS-Gruppenfuehrer Fegelein reported to Generaloberst Guderian and Jodl about the atrocities of the Russian SS-Brigade Kaminski, which fought on the German side."

"( Signed) Wilhelm Scheidt
"Retired Captain of the Reserve" (3711-PS)

The foregoing documents show the arrangements which were made between the OKW, OKH and Himmler's headquarters with respect to anti-partisan warfare. They show conclusively that the plans and arrangements were made jointly, and that the High Command of the Armed Forces was not only fully aware of but an active participant in these plans. The same is true of the field commanders. General Roettiger, who attained the rank of General of Panzer Troops (the equivalent of a Lt. General in the American Army), has made three statements (3713-PS, 3714-PS). Roettiger was Chief of Staff of the German 4th Army, and later of Army Group Center, on the Eastern Front during the period of which he speaks:

"As Chief of Staff of the 4th Army from May 1942 to June 1943, to which was later added the area of the 9th Army, I. often had occasion to concern myself officially with antipartisan warfare. During these operations the troops received orders from the highest authority, as for example even the OKH, to use the harshest methods. These operations were carried out by troops of the Army Group and of the Army, as for example security battalions.

"At the beginning, in accordance with orders which were issued through official channels, only a few prisoners were taken. In accordance with orders, Jews, political commissars and agents were delivered up to the SD.

"The number of enemy dead mentioned in official reports was very high in comparison with our own losses. From the documents which have been shown to me I have now come to realize that the order from highest authorities for the harshest conduct of the antipartisan war can have been intended to make possible a ruthless liquidation of Jews and other undesirable elements by using for this purpose the military struggle of the army against the partisans." (3713-PS)

Roettiger's second statement reads :

"Supplementary to my above declaration I declare :

"As I stated orally on 28 November, my then Commander-in-Chief of the Fourth Army instructed his troops many times not to wage war against the partisans more severely than was required at the time by the position. This struggle should only be pushed to the annihilation of the enemy after all attempts to bring about a surrender failed. Apart from humanitarian reasons we necessarily had an interest in taking prisoners since very many of them could very well be used as members of native volunteer units against the partisans.

"Alongside the necessary active combatting of partisans there was propaganda directed at the partisans and also at the population with the object, by peaceful means, of causing them to give up partisan activities. For instance, in this way the women too were continually urged to get their men back from the forests or to keep them by other means from joining the partisans. And this propaganda had good results. In the spring of 1943 the area of the 4th Army was as good as cleared of partisans. Only on its boundaries and then from time to time were partisans in evidence at times when they crossed into the area of the 4th Army from neighboring areas. The army was obliged on this account on the orders of the Army Group to give up security forces to the neighboring army to the south.

"( signed) Roettiger" (3713-PS)

Roettiger's third statement reads:

"During my period of service in 1942/ 3 as chief of staff of the 4th Army of the Central Army Group, SD units were attached in the beginning, apparently for the purpose of counter- intelligence activity in front-line areas. It was clear that these SD units were causing great disturbances among the local civilian population with the result that my commanding officer therefore asked the commander-in-chief of the army group, Field Marshal von Kluge, to order the SD units to clear out of the front-line areas, which took place immediately. The reason for this first and foremost was that the excesses of the SD units by way of execution of Jews and other persons assumed such proportions as to threaten the security of the Army in its combat areas because of the aroused civilian populace. Although in general the special tasks of the SD units were well known and appeared to be carried out with the knowledge of the highest military authorities, we opposed these methods as far as possible, because of the danger which existed for our troops.

"( Signed) Roettiger" (3714-PS)

An extract from the War Diary of the Deputy Chief of the Armed Forces Operational Staff (Warlimont), dated 14 March 1943, deals with the problem of shipping off suspected partisans to concentration camps in Germany (1786-PS). It appears clearly from this extract that the Army was chiefly concerned with preserving a sufficient severity of treatment for suspected partisans, without at the same time obstructing the procurement of labor from the occupied territories:

"The General Quartermaster [General Quartiermeister] together with the Economic Staff (East) [ Wirtschaftsstab Ost] has proposed that the deportees should be sent either to prison camps or to 'training centres in their own area, ' and that deportation to Germany should take place only when the deportees are on probation and in less serious cases.

"In view of the Armed Forces Operations Staff [Wchrmacht-fuehrungstab] this proposal does not take sufficient account of the severity required and leads to a comparison with the treatment meted out to the 'peaceful population' which has been called upon to work. He recommends therefore transportation to concentration camps in Germany which have already been introduced by the Reichsfuehrer SS for his sphere and which he is prepared to introduce for the Armed Forces [Wehrmacht] in the case of an extension to the province of the latter.The High Command of the Armed Forces [Oberkommando der Wehrmacht] therefore orders that partisan helpers and suspects who are not to be executed should be handed over to the competent Higher SS and Police Leader [Hoehrer SS und Polizeifuehrer] and orders that the difference between 'punitive work' and 'work in Germany' is to be made clear to the population." (1786-PS)

A final group of four affidavits show that the SD Einsatzgruppen on the Eastern Front operated under the command and with the necessary support of the Wehrmacht, and that the nature of their activities were fully known to the Wehrmacht. The first of these is a statement (3715-PS) by Ernst Rode, who was an SS Brigadefuehrer and Generalmajor of the Police, and was head of Himmler's personal command staff from 1943 to 1945:

STATEMENT

"I, Ernst Rode, was formerly chief of the Command Staff of the Reichsfuehrer-SS, having taken over this position in the spring of 1943 as successor to former SS-Obergruppenfuehrer Kurt Knoblauch. My last rank was Generalmajor of Police and of the Waffen-SS. My function was to furnish forces necessary for antipartisan warfare to the higher SS and police leaders and to guarantee the support of army forces. This took place through personal discussions. with the leading officers of the Operations Staff of the OKW and OKH, namely with General Warlimont, General von Buttlar, Generaloberst Guderian, Generaloberst Zeitzler, General Heusinger, later General Wenk, Colonel Graf Kielmannsegg and Colonel v. Bonin. Since anti-partisan warfare also was under the sole command of the respective Army commander-in-chief in operational areas (for instance in the Central Army Group under Field Marshal Kluge and later Busch) and since police troops for the most part could not be spared from the Reichscommissariates, the direction of this warfare lay practically always entirely in the hands of the army. In the same way orders were issued not by Himmler but by the OKH. SS and police troops transferred to operational areas from the Reichscommissariates to support the army groups were likewise under the latter's command. Such transfers often resulted in harm to anti-partisan warfare in the Reichscommissariates. According to a specific agreement between Himmler and the OKH, the direction of individual operations lay in the hands of the troop leader who commanded the largest troop contingent. It was therefore possible that an army general could have SS and police under him, and on the other hand that army troops could be placed under a general of the SS and police. Anti-partisan warfare in operational areas could never be ordered by Himmler. I could merely request the OKH to order it, until 1944 mostly through the intervention of Generalquartiermeister Wagner or through State Secretary Ganzenmueller. The OKH then issued corresponding orders to the army groups concerned, for compliance.

"The severity and cruelty with which the intrinsically diabolical partisan warfare was conducted by the Russians had already resulted in Draconian laws being issued by Hitler for its conduct. These orders, which were passed on to the troops through the OKW and OKH, were equally applicable to army troops as well as to those of the SS and police. There was absolutely no difference in the manner in which these two components carried on this warfare. Army soldiers were exactly as embittered against the enemy as those of the SS and police. As a result of this embitterment orders were ruthlessly carried out by both components, a thing which was also quite in keeping with Himmler's desires or intentions. As proof of this the order of the OKW and OKH can be adduced, which directed that all captured partisans, for instance such as Jews, agents, and political commissars, should without delay be handed over by the troops to the SD for special treatment. This order also contained the provision that in anti-partisan warfare no prisoners except the above named be taken. That anti-partisan warfare was carried on by army troops mercilessly and to every extreme I know as the result of discussions with army troop leaders, for instance with General Herzog, Commander of the XXXVIII Army Corps and with his chief of staff, Colonel Pamberg in the General Staff, both of whom support my opinion. Today it is clear to me that anti-partisan warfare gradually became an excuse for the systematic annihilation of Jewry and Slavism.

"(Signed) Ernst Rode" (3715-PS)

Another and shorter statement by Rode reads:

"As far as I know, the SD Combat Groups with the individual army groups were completely subordinate to them, that is to say tactically as well as in every other way. The commanders- in-chief were therefore thoroughly cognizant of the missions and operational methods of these units. They approved of these missions and operational methods because apparently they never opposed them. The fact that prisoners, such as Jews, agents and commissars, who were handed over to the SD underwent the same cruel death, as victims of so-called 'purifications,' is a proof that the executions had their approval. This also corresponded with what the highest political and military authorities wanted. Frequent mention of these methods were naturally made in my presence at the OKW and OKH, and they were condemned by most SS and police officers, just as they were condemned by most army officers. On such occasions I always pointed out that it would have been quite within the scope of the authority of the commanders- in-chief of army groups to oppose such methods. I am of the firm conviction that an energetic and unified protest by all field marshals would have resulted in a change of these missions and methods. If they should, ever assert that they would then have been succeeded by even more ruthless commanders-in-chief, this, in my opinion, would be a foolish and even cowardly dodge.

"(Signed) Ernst Rode" (3716-PS)

In an affidavit by Colonel Bogislav von Bonin, who at the beginning of the Russian campaign was a staff officer with the 17th Panzer Division, the following statement is made:

"At the beginning of the Russian campaign I was the first General Staff officer of the 17th Panzer Division which had the mission of driving across the Bug north of Brest-Litovsk. Shortly before the beginning of the attack my division received through channels from the OKW a written order of the Fuehrer. This order directed that Russian commissars be shot upon capture, without judicial process, immediately and ruthlessly. This order extended to all units of the Eastern Army. Although the order was supposed to be relayed to companies, the Commanding General of the XXXVII Panzer Corps (General of Panzer Troops Lemelsen) forbade its being passed on to the troops because it appeared unacceptable to him from military and moral points of view.

" (Signed) Bogislav v. Bonin "Colonel" (3718-PS)

Finally an affidavit (3717-PS) by Heusinger, who was a Generalleutnant in the German Army, and who from 1940 to 1944 was Chief of the Operations Section at OKH, states as follows:

"1. From the beginning of the war in 1939 until autumn 1940 I was Ia of the Operations Section of the OKH, and from autumn 1940 until 20 July 1944 I was chief of that section.

"When Hitler took over supreme command of the Army, he gave to the chief of the General Staff of the Army the function of advising him on all operational matters in the Russian theater.

"This made the chief of the General Staff of the Army responsible for all matters in the operational areas in the east, while the OKW was responsible for all matters outside the operational areas, for instance, all troops (security units, SS units, police) stationed in the Reichscommissariates.

"All police and SS units in the Reichscommissariates were also subordinate to the Reichsfuehrer-SS. When it was necessary to transfer such units into operational areas, this had to be done by order of the chief of the OKW. On the other hand, corresponding transfers from the front to the rear were ordered by the OKW with the concurrence of the chief of the General Staff of the Army.

"The high SS and police leaders normally had command of operations against partisans. If stronger army units were committed together with the SS and police units within operational areas, a high commander of the army could be designated commander of the operation.

"During anti-partisan operations within operational areas all forces committed for these operations were under the command of the respective commander-in-chief of the army group.

"2. Directives as to the manner and methods of carrying on counter-partisan operations were issued by the OKW (Keitel) to the OKH upon orders from Hitler and after consultation with Himmler. The OKH was responsible merely for the transmission of these orders to army groups, for instance such orders as those concerning the treatment to be accorded to commissars and communists, those concerning the manner of prosecuting by courts martial army personnel who had committed offenses against the population, as well as those establishing the basic principles governing reprisals against the inhabitants.

"3. The detailed working out of all matters involving the treatment of the local populace as well as anti-partisan warfare in operational areas, in pursuance of orders from the OKW, was the responsibility of the Generalquartiermeister of the OKH.

"4. It had always been my personal opinion that the treatment of the civilian population and the methods of anti-partisan warfare in operational areas presented the highest po litical and military leaders with a welcomed opportunity of carrying out their plans, namely the systematic extermination of Slavism and Jewry. Entirely independent of this, I. always regarded these cruel methods as military insanity, because they only helped to make combat against the enemy unnecessarily more difficult.

"(Signed) Heusinger "Generalleutnant." (3717-PS)

(At this point, Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski was called upon for oral'testimony. His testimony on direct examination was sub-stantially to the same effect as his affidavit 3712-PS.)

   (c) Responsibility of the Group for War Crimes and Crimes Against Humunity: Counts 3 and 4 of the Indictment.

The foregoing evidence against the General Staff and High Command Group is such that no German soldier can view it with anything but shame. The German High Command developed and applied a policy of terror against commandos and paratroopers, in violation of the Hague and Geneva Conventions, on the Western Front. On the Eastern Front it descended to savagery. In advance of the attack against the Soviet Union, the High Command ordered the troops to take "ruthless action", left it to the discretion of any officer to decide whether suspected civilians shouId be immediately shot, and empowered any officer with the powers of a Battalion Commander to take "collective despotic measures" against localities. Offenses committed against civilians by German soldiers, however, were not required to be prosecuted, and prosecution was suggested only where desirable in order to maintain discipline ,and security from a military standpoint.

Soon after the invasion of the Soviet Union, German troops were told by the OKW that "a human life in unsettled countries frequently counts for nothing" and were encouraged to observe a punitive ratio of 50 to 100 Communists for one German soldier. German troops were told that they were to take "revenge on sub-human Jewry" and that they were not merely soldiers but "bearers of ruthless national ideology and avengers of bestialities". The High Command and the chief lieutenants of Himmler jointly planned the establishment of the Einsatzgruppen, the behavior of which has been shown in detail. These groups when in operational areas were under the command of the German Army, and German soldiers joined in their savagery. The Einsatzgruppen were completely dependent upon the Armed Forces for supplies with which to carry out their atrocities. The practices employed against the civilian population and against partisans were well known to all high ranking German officers on the Eastern Front. No doubt some of them disapproved of what was going on. Nonetheless, the full support of the military leaders continued to be given to these activities.

The record is clear that the General Staff and High Command Group, including the defendants, who were members of the Group and numerous other members ordered, directed, and participated in war crimes and crimes against humanity as specified in counts 3 and 4 of the Indictment.

C. Conclusion.

The world must bear in mind that the German High Command is not an evanescent thing, the creature of a decade of unrest, or a school of thought or tradition which is shattered or utterly discredited. The German High Command and military tradition have in the past achieved victory and survived defeat. They have met with triumph and disaster, and have survived through a singular durability not unmixed with stupidity. An eminent American statesman and diplomat, Mr. Sumner Welles, has written (" The Time for Decision", 1944, pp. 261-262) that:

"* * * the authority to which the German people have so often and so disastrously responded was not in reality the German Emperor of yesterday, or the Hitler of to-day, but the German General Staff.

"It will be said that this insistence that the German General Staff has been the driving force in German policy is a dangerous oversimplification. I am not disposed to minimize the importance of other factors in German history. They all have their place. But I am convinced that each of them has played its part only in so far as it was permitted to do so by the real master of the German race, namely, German militarism, personified in, and channelled through, the German General Staff ."

* * * * *

"Whether their ostensible ruler is the Kaiser, or Hindenburg, or Adolf Hitler, the continuing loyalty of the bulk of the population is given to that military force controlled and guided by the German General Staff. To the German people, the army to-day, as in the past, is the instrument by which German domination will be brought about. Generations of Germans may pass. The nation may undergo defeat after defeat. But if the rest of the world permits it, the German General Staff will continue making its plans for the future."

The German General Staff and High Command is indicted not now at the bar of history, but on specific charges of crimes against International Law and the dictates of the conscience of mankind as embodied in the Charter. The picture that emerges from the evidence is that of a group of men with great powers for good or ill who chose the latter; who deliberately set out to arm Germany to the point where the German will could be imposed on the rest of the world; and who gladly joined with the most evil forces at work in Germany. "Hitler produced the results which all of us warmly desired", Blomberg and Blaskowitz say, and that is obviously the truth. The converse is no less clear; the military leaders furnished Hitler with the means and might which were necessary to his mere survival, to say nothing of the accomplishment of those purposes which seem to the world so ludicrously impossible in 1932 and so fearfully imminent in 1942.

It was said above that the German militarists were inept as well as persistent. Helpless as Hitler would have been without them, he succeeded in mastering them. The generals and the Nazis were allies in 1933. But it was not enough for the Nazis that the generals should be voluntary allies ; Hitler wanted them permanently and completely under his control. Devoid of political skill or principle, the generals lacked the mentality or morality to resist. On the day of the death of President Hindenburg in August 1934, the German officers swore a new oath. Their previous oath had been to the Fatherland; now it was to a man, Adolf Hitler. It was not until 18 days later that the law requiring this change was passed. A year later the Nazi emblem became part of their uniform and the Nazi flag their standard. By a clever process of infiltration into key positions, Hitler seized control of the entire military machine.

No doubt these generals will ask what they could have done about it. It will be said that they were helpless, and that to protect their jobs and families and their own lives they had to follow Hitler's decisions. No doubt this became true. But the generals were a key factor in Hitler's rise to complete power and a partner in his criminal aggressive designs. It is always difficult and dangerous to withdraw from a criminal conspiracy. Never has it been suggested that a conspirator may claim mercy on the ground that his fellow conspirators threatened him with harm should he withdraw from the plot. In many respects the spectacle which the German General Staff and High Command group presents today is the most degrading of all the groups and organizations charged in the Indictment. The bearers of a tradition not devoid of valour and honour, they emerge from this war stained both by criminality and ineptitude. Attracted by the militaristic and aggressive Nazi policies, the German generals found themselves drawn into adventures of a scope they had not foreseen. From crimes in which almost all of them participated willingly and approvingly were born others in which they participated because they were too ineffective to alter the governing Nazi policies, and because they had to continue collaboration to save their own skins.

Having joined the partnership, the General Staff and High Command group planned and carried through manifold acts of aggression which turned Europe into a charnel-house, and caused the Armed Forces to be used for foul practices foully executed of terror, pillage, murder and wholesale slaughter. Let no one be heard to say that the military uniform shall be their cloak, or that they may find sanctuary by pleading membership in the profession to which they are an eternal disgrace.

General Staff and High Command Nuremberg Charges, Part IV

Document compiled by Dr S D Stein
Last update 18/01/99
Stuart.Stein@uwe.ac.uk
ęS D Stein

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