The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
27th February to 11th March, 1946

Seventy-Third Day: Monday, 4th March, 1946
(Part 1 of 7)

[Page 128]

COLONEL SMIRNOV: Sir. A few days ago the Tribunal issued instructions concerning the expedience of reading into the record the official British report on the responsibility for the slaying of fifty officers of the Royal Air Force coincidentally, as far as possible, with the proposed interrogatory of General Westhoff and the senior criminal counsel Wisling. May I read into the record some of the more essential passages from this report of the British Government. I shall read into the record those parts of the document which, on the one hand, testify to the general character of this criminal act and, on the other hand, establish the responsibility for the crime.

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Smirnov, you are offering the document, are you, as evidence? You are seeking to put the document in evidence?

COLONEL SMIRNOV: This document has already been presented in evidence and has already been accepted by the Tribunal. I only wished to read into the record certain extracts from this document. It has been submitted as Exhibit USSR 413.


COLONEL SMIRNOV: I am quoting Paragraph 1 of the official British report.

"1. On the night of 24/25th March, 1944, 76 R.A.F. Officers escaped from Stalag Luft 3 at Sagan in Silesia where they had been confined as prisoners of war. Of these, 15 were recaptured and returned to the camp, 3 escaped altogether, 8 were detained by the Gestapo after recapture. Of the fate of the remaining 50 officers the following information was given by the German authorities:
(a) On 6th April, 1944, at Sagan the acting Commandant of Stalag Luft 3 (Oberstleutnant Cordes) read to the Senior British Officer (Group-Captain Massey) an official communication of the German High Command that 41 officers (unnamed) had been shot 'some of them having offered resistance on being arrested, others having tried to escape on the transport back to their camp'. (b) On 15th April, 1944, at Sagan, a member of the German camp staff (Hauptmann Pieber) produced to the new Senior British Officer (Group-Captain Wilson) a list of 47 names of the officers who had been shot. (c) On the 18th May, 1944, at Sagan, the Senior British Officer was given three additional names, making a total of 50. (d) On or about the 12th June, 1944, the Swiss Minister in Berlin received from the German Foreign Office, in reply to his inquiry into the affair, a note to the effect that 37 prisoners of British nationality and 13 prisoners of non-British nationality were shot when offering resistance when found or attempting to re- escape after capture. This note also referred to the return of urns containing the ashes of the dead to Sagan for burial."
The official German version, the official version of the German authorities, indicated that these officers were shot allegedly while attempting to escape. As a matter of fact, as definitely proved by the documentation of the investigation

[Page 129]

carried out by the British Authorities, the officers were murdered, and murdered by members of the Gestapo on direct orders from Keitel and with the full knowledge of Goering.

I shall, with your permission, read into the record in confirmation of this fact two paragraphs, or rather - two points - from the official British report, i.e., Point 7 and Point 8.

"7. General-Major Westhoff at the time of the escape was in charge of the 'General' Department relating to Prisoners of War, and on 15th June, 1945, he made a statement in the course of which he said that he and General von Graevnitz, the Inspector of the German P.O.W. Organization, were summoned to Berlin a few days after the escape and there interviewed by Keitel. The latter told them that he had been blamed by Goering in the presence of Himmler for having let the prisoners of war escape. Keitel said, 'Gentlemen, these escapes must stop. We must set an example. We shall take very severe measures. I can only tell you that the men who have escaped will be shot; probably the majority of them are dead already.' When von Graevnitz objected, Keitel said, 'I do not care a damn; we discussed it in the Fuehrer's presence and it cannot be altered'."
Point 8: I begin the quotation of the official British report.
"Max Ernst Gustav Friedrich Wielen was then the officer in charge of the Criminal Police (Kripo) at Breslau, and he also made a statement dated 26th August, 1945, in the course of which he said that as soon as practically all the escaped R.A.F. officers had been recaptured he was summoned to Berlin where he saw Arthur Nebe, the Chief of the Kripo Head Office, who showed him a teleprint order signed by Kaltenbrunner which was to the effect that on the express order of the Fuehrer over half of the officers who had escaped from Sagan were to be shot after their recapture. It was stated that Muller had received corresponding orders and would give instructions to the Gestapo. According to Wielen the Kripo, who were responsible for collecting and holding all the recaptured prisoners, handed over to the Gestapo the prisoners who were to be shot, having previously provided the Gestapo with a list of the prisoners regarded by the Camp authorities as 'troublesome'."
I would also ask the Tribunal's permission to read into the record that part of the text of the official report of the British Government which deals with the methods of investigation in regard to individual officers. This documentation has been systematized and divided into three parts. I take the liberty of reading into the record the data of the findings referring to the three separate parts. I quote Page 3 of the Russian text, beginning from Paragraph 2:
"F/Lts. Wernham, Kiewnarski, Pawluk and Skanizklas. On or about 26th March, 1944 . . ."
THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Smirnov, are you going to read now some of the evidence upon which the report is based?

COLONEL SMIRNOV: Mr. President, I should like to read out only from the text proper and particularly those parts of the report which testify to the methods of investigation applied in the case of individual officers. I should like to begin reading from the paragraph dealing with the three groups of officers.

THE PRESIDENT: Paragraph 4?



COLONEL SMIRNOV: "On or about the 26th of March, 1944, these officers were interrogated at the Police Station in Hirschberg and were then moved to the civil gaol in that town. On the morning of the 29th March, Pawluk and Kiewnarski were taken away, and later in the day Skanizklas and Wernham. left.

[Page 130]

Both parties were escorted but their destination was unknown. They have not been seen since and the urns later received at the Stalag showing their names bear the date 30th March, 1944."

And now the next group of British officers.

"Squadron-Leader Cross, Flight-Lieutenants Casey, Wiley and Leigh and Flight-Officers Pohe and Hake.

Between 26th and 30th March, 1944, these officers were interrogated at the Kripo H.Q. in Goerlitz and then returned to the gaol there. During the interrogation Casey was told that 'he would lose his head,' Wiley that 'he would be shot' and Leigh that 'he would be shot'. Hake was suffering from badly frost-bitten feet and was incapable of travelling for any distance on foot. On 30th March the officers left Goerlitz in three motor cars accompanied by ten German civilians of the Gestapo type. The urns later received at the Stalag bear their names and show them to have been cremated at Goerlitz on 31st March, 1944.

Flight-Lieutenants Humpreys, McGill, Swain, Hall, Langford and Evans, Flight-Officers Valenta, Kolanowski, Stewart and Birkland.

"These officers were interrogated at the Kripo H.Q. in Goerlitz between 26th and 30th March. Swain was told that 'he would be shot,' Valenta was threatened and told that 'he would never escape again'. Kolanowski was very depressed after his interview. On 31st March these officers were collected by a party of German civilians, at least one of whom was in the party which had come on the previous day. The urns later received at the Stalag bore their names and show them to have been cremated at Liegnitz on a date unspecified."

I wish to draw the attention of the Tribunal to the fact that similar data also relate to different groups of British officers slain by the Germans in Stalag Luft 3.

The following page of the text includes identical data relating to Flight-Lieutenants Grisman, Gunn, Williams and Milford, Flight-Officer Street and Lieutenant McGarr. Similar information is given concerning Flight-Lieutenant Long, Squadron-Leader J. E. Williams, Flight-Lieutenants Bull and Mondschein, and Flight-Officer Kierath. The same information is given with reference to Flight-Officer Stower, Flight-Lieutenant Tobolski, Flight-Officer Krol, Flight-Lieutenants Wallen, Marcinkus and Brettell, Flight- Officer Picard, and Lieutenants Gouws and Stevens, Squadron- Leader Bushell and Lieutenant Scheidhauer, Flight-Officer Cochran, Lieutenants Espelid and Fugelsang, Squadron-Leader Kirby-Green and Flight-Officer Kidder, Squadron-Leader Catanach and Flight-Officer Christensen, and Flight- Lieutenant Hayter.

I shall, with your permission, read into the record one more paragraph from this official report. I refer to Paragraph 6 of the official British report and also to Paragraph 5, because it is of essential importance.

THE PRESIDENT: I was going to suggest you should read Paragraph 5.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: I am going to read Paragraph 5 of the English text.

"According to the evidence of the survivors there was no question of any officers having resisted arrest or of the recaptured officers having attempted a second escape. All were agreed that the weather conditions were against them and that such an attempt would be madness. They were anxious to be returned to the Stalag, take their punishment and try their luck at escaping another time.

6. The Swiss representative (M. Gabriel Naville) pointed out on 9th June, 1944, in his report on his visit to Sagan that the cremation of deceased prisoners of war was most unusual (the normal custom being to bury them in a coffin with military honours) and that was the first case known to him where the bodies of deceased prisoners had been cremated. Further it may be noted that if, as the Germans alleged, these fifty officers who were

[Page 131]

recaptured in widely scattered parts of Germany had resisted arrest or attempted a second escape, it is probable that some would have been wounded and most improbable that all would have been killed. In this connection it is significant that the German Foreign Office refused to give to the Protecting Power the customary details of the circumstances in which each officer lost his life."
Those are the parts of the official report of the British Government which I had the honour to communicate to the Court.

THE PRESIDENT: I think it would perhaps be better if you also read the Appendix so as to show the summary of the evidence upon which the report proceeded, Paragraph 9.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: I refrained from reading the Appendix because it had already been read by Sir David Maxwell Fyfe. I shall read it once more with pleasure.

"9. The Appendix attached hereto gives a list of the material upon which this Report is based. The documents referred to are annexed to this Report.


(1) Material upon which the foregoing Report is based:-

Proceedings of Court of Inquiry held at Sagan by order of the Senior British Officer in Stalag Luft 3 and forwarded by the Protecting Power.

(2) Statements of the following Allied witnesses:-

(a) Wing-Commander Day.
(b) Flight-Lieutenant Tonder.
(c) Flight-Lieutenant Dowse.
(d) Flight-Lieutenant van Wymeersch.
(e) Flight-Lieutenant Green.
(f) Flight-Lieutenant Marshall.
(g) Flight-Lieutenant Nelson.
(h) Flight-Lieutenant Churchill.
(i) Lieutenant Neely.
(k) P.S.M. Hicks.
(3) Statements taken from the following Germans
(a) Major-General Westhoff.
(b) Oberregierungs- und Kriminalrat Wielen (two statements).
(c) Oberst von Lindeiner.
(4) Photostat copy of the official list of dead transmitted by the German Foreign Office to the Swiss Legation in Berlin on or about 15th June, 1944.

(5) Report of the Representative of the Protecting Power on his visit to Stalag Luft 3 on 5th June, 1944."

THE PRESIDENT: Then, for the purposes of the record, you had better read in the signature and the department at the bottom.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: The document is signed by H. Chapcott, Brigadier, Military Deputy, and is certified by the Military Department, Judge Advocate General's Office, London, 25th September, 1945.

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Smirnov, so far as the Russian Chief Prosecutor is concerned, does that conclude the case for the prosecution?



DR. NELTE (counsel for the defendant Keitel): Mr. President, Paragraph 9 of the report which has just been read by the prosecution mentions the documents

[Page 132]

which served as a basis and says that they are attached to the report. The individual documents on which the report is based are listed in the Appendix. I ask the Tribunal to decide whether Exhibit USSR 413 satisfies the requirements of Article 21 of the Charter, since the material on which it was based, and which is expressly mentioned in the report, has not been produced along with it. I request that the prosecution be asked to make the Appendix available to the defence as well.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Nelte, do you mean that you have only had the report made by the Brigadier and you have not seen any part of the other evidence upon which the report proceeds?

DR. NELTE: Mr. President, the Tribunal decided during an earlier phase of this trial...

THE PRESIDENT (interposing) : Yes, but I did not ask you what we had decided. I asked what you had received. Have you received from the prosecution the whole of this document or only the report made by the Brigadier?

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