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-Seventh Day: Friday, 8th March, 1946
(Part 9 of 9)

[DR. STAHMER continues his direct examination of General Field-Marshal Milch]

[Page 257]

Q. Did you never hear anything of this kind?

A. No.

Q. What was the attitude of the Reichsmarshal towards captured flyers in general?

A. I sometimes used to speak to the Reichsmarshal about that.

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: I wish to interpose an objection. I think we have been very liberal. I think we have been very liberal in allowing all kinds of statements, but it does seem to me that this passes anything that is suitable as evidence. This witness has indicated that he has no knowledge of the subject; he did not know the orders which are in evidence, and he assumes to state the attitude of the Reichsmarshal. I have no objection to his making any statement of any facts from which this Tribunal may be informed of the attitude of the Reichsmarshal, but I think that for one witness to state the state of mind of another person, without any facts whatever, passes the bounds of what we can possibly allow here in evidence. It does not help to solve the problem and I respectfully object to the question and answer as not constituting credible and relevant evidence on any subject before the Tribunal.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Stahmer, I think you should confine yourself to any facts and observations of the defendant Goering. As the witness had just said that he never heard of any action against the terror flyers at all, I do not see how he could give evidence as to the attitude of the defendant Goering about it.

DR. STAHMER: Mr. President; I should like to formulate my question as follows:

Q. Did Reichsmarshal Goering discuss with you, as to how enemy flyers who had been shot down should be treated.

A. No.

Q. This, in your opinion, is a fact, is it not?

A. This was not discussed with me.

Q. I have one more question. Did he speak to you about the fact that he was opposed to any cruelty in the treatment of the enemy?

A. That was just what I wanted to say before. He said that to me before the war, remembering the first World War.

Q. And what did he say about it?

A. That once they have been shot down, they are our comrades; that was the gist of it.

DR. STAHMER: I have no more questions to put to the witness. I place him at the disposal of the defence or the prosecution.

THE PRESIDENT: Do any of you wish to ask this witness any questions?

BY DR. HANS LATERNSER (counsel for the General Staff and OKW):

Q. Witness, as you know, the prosecution has grouped together a certain circle of people consisting of the highest-ranking military leaders in order to declare this circle criminal. You probably know this circle?

A. Yes.

Q. Was there such a grouping of equivalent offices within the German Armed Forces?

[Page 258]

A. I did not understand the question.

Q. Was there ever a grouping of offices within the German Armed Forces like the one that has now been created in order to form that group?

A. Yes. I believe that, ever since an army existed, there have also been high-ranking leaders who were grouped under their Commander-in-Chief.

Q. Were the holders of these offices occupied with the elaboration of technical military problems on Hitler's orders, or did they work out subjects on their own initiative which were submitted to Hitler for execution?

A. No. The military leaders only acted upon the orders of their superiors, that is, the Generals of the Air Force on the orders of the Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force, who got his orders from the Commander-in-Chief of the Wehrmacht; that was Hitler, and before him, Hindenburg.

Q. Do you know whether this alleged group of the General Staff and the OKW, as they are now combined, ever met collectively?

A. Before the attack on Poland only the Army and Navy commanders who were assigned for action there, were called together by Hitler; likewise, those who were to go into action in the West in the Spring of 1940 were called together by Hitler; the same thing happened again, so far as I know, before the attack on Russia.

Q. Were you sometimes present at such conferences?

A. At some of them, yes.

Q. Could you describe the course of any such conference? Particularly I attach value to the point, whether the higher military commanders had an opportunity to make counter- suggestions during these conferences?

A. I remember the conference with Hitler which took place on the Obersalzberg before the Polish campaign. It was on 22nd August. The Commanders-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and the Commanders of the Armies attended. Hitler stood in front behind a large desk, and the generals sat in chairs next to or behind each other. He made a speech giving the reasons, the political situation, as he usually did, and his intention. During this conference any reply or discussion on the part of the generals was impossible. Whether there was a subsequent conference dealing with the details I do not know. I only know of this speech of Hitler's. Then, before the attack on Russia, there was a different procedure. We sat around a very large table, and the respective commanders of the Army Groups and Armies had to demonstrate on the map their intentions and the methods of executing the orders which they had received, whereupon Hitler agreed in general or, perhaps, in certain cases, said he would prefer greater strength here and less strength there; his objections, however, were only very slight.

Q. That means these conferences were more in the nature of a briefing?

A. Definitely, briefing.

Q. Can you tell me whether any member of the group "General Staff" or of the so-called group "General Staff and OKW" ever made suggestions to deviate from the International Law in force?

A. Not that I know of.

Q. Do you know whether members of this alleged group frequently met with politicians or high Party members?

A. In my opinion, no. I would like to say that for the majority of these gentlemen. It goes without saying that the Commanders-in-Chief of the Armed Forces or the Chief of the OKW, must frequently have held conferences with politicians also. But the average commanders of the Army Groups, Navy or Army commanders, had no opportunity to do so.

Q. Did the members of this so-called group, those who belonged to the Army, Navy or Air Force, have discussions amongst themselves?

A. If they were assigned to collaborate in a common task, for example, if the Commander-in-Chief of an Army or an Army Group had the Naval Commander-in-Chief working with him, there were naturally discussions of this kind. But

[Page 259]

with a neighbouring C-in-C the relationship was certainly loose, and with a more remote neighbour it did not exist at all.

Q. That means such discussions took place only with regard to the execution of a common task?

A. Yes, for that purpose.

Q. Within the Air Force, is it true that this circle of people included those officers who had held the position of Chief of Staff of the Air Force or Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force or of an air fleet during a certain period? I have a list here of those generals of the Air Force who belonged to that group, and I should like to ask you, with regard to a few of them, which rank and position these generals had when the war started. What was the rank of General Korten at the outbreak of war?

A. I believe either Colonel or Lieutenant- Colonel but I am not quite sure.

Q. Do you know what position he held?

A. I believe he was Chief of Staff of the Munich Air Fleet.

Q. Then, from August to October 1944, General Kreipe was Chief of Staff of the Air Force. What was this officer when the war started?

A. I presume Major or Lieutenant-Colonel.

Q. Yes. Do you know what position he had

A. No, at the moment I could not say exactly. It may be that he was Chief of Staff of an air corps.

Q. Yes. And what rank did he have at the time as Chief of Staff of an air corps?

A. From Major to Colonel; that depends.

Q. General Koller also was Chief of Staff of the Air Force for a short time. What was this officer when the war started?

A. I believe Lieutenant-Colonel.

Q. Then I have only a few more names. Do you know which rank and position Dessloch had at the outbreak of war?

A. I do not remember exactly; perhaps Major-General or Colonel. I do not know exactly.

Q. And General Pflugbeil?

A. The same.

Q. General Seidel?

A. Seidel, I believe, was already Major-General at the outbreak of war.

Q. And which position did he have at that time?

A. He was Quartermaster-General in the General Staff.

Q. Which rank did that position have compared with Commander, Commander-in-Chief, Divisional Commander ...?

A. Corps Commander is about the same as a Quartermaster- General.

Q. Yes. I have a few more questions concerning the Air Force itself and the highest military leaders. From your testimony it is to be concluded that in 1939 the Air Force was not fully prepared for war. As to this point, could you state the reasons for this unpreparedness of the Air Force for war?

A. During the few years between 1935 and 1939 - I mentioned the figures for industry before - it would have been impossible for any soldier in any country to build an air force equal to the tasks with which we were faced from 1939 on. That is impossible. It is neither possible to create the units nor to establish the schools and furnish them with adequate teaching staffs, nor is it possible to develop the planes which are necessary, and then to build them in series. Nor is it possible in that short period to train or produce air crews sufficiently qualified to meet the high technical standards necessarily demanded for modem aircraft. Likewise, it is impossible in such a short time to produce ground crews which are technically highly qualified, and to put them at the disposal of the Air Force and also of the aviation industry. At the same time also . . .

[Page 260]

THE PRESIDENT: He said, that it is impossible. It should not be necessary to go into this detail on this subject.

DR. LATERNSER: I have only a few more single questions.

Q. Did the Air Force expect resistance against the invasion of Austria?

A. No. We knew definitely that there would be no resistance. We did not take any arms with us.

Q. How was the reception there?

A. So friendly, it could not be friendlier in our own country.

Q. Were you, as Field-Marshal, informed in advance that war was to be declared against the United States?

A. No.

Q. In this trial there are serious accusations against German soldiers and their leaders on account of cruelties committed. Was not every soldier sufficiently informed and instructed about the regulations of International Law?

A. Yes. Each soldier had a pay book. On the first page of the pay book were pasted ten commandments for the soldier. They included all these questions.

Q. Can you give me examples of points contained in this memorandum?

A. Yes. For instance, that no soldier, no prisoner, should be shot; that looting was not permitted. By the way, I have my pay book here. Treatment of prisoners of war; Red Cross; civilian population inviolable; attitude of soldier when himself prisoner of war and, in conclusion, the threat of punishment for offences.

Q. If it became known that soldiers had committed offences or outrages against the civilian population, did the commanders concerned, so far as you know, interfere with the severity necessary?

A. I know of some cases, I knew of some cases where that was definitely the case, even the death penalty being imposed.

Q. So the commanders always strove under all circumstances to maintain the discipline of the troops?

A. Yes. I can give a notable example. A general of the Air Force had appropriated jewellery which belonged to a foreign lady. He was sentenced to death and executed. I think it was in 1943 or 1944.

Q. Witness, in particular during the critical days of 1939, you were in close official contact with defendant Goering. Did you ever hear through him about a large-scale plan for waging an extensive war?

A. No.

Q. In your opinion, did the other high military leaders hear or must they have heard about it?

A. No. All measures which were taken by Hitler, to begin with the occupation of the Rhineland, came very suddenly, as a rule only after a few hours' preparation. That applies to Austria; that also applies to Czechoslovakia and to Prague. The only time that we were told anything beforehand was the affair with Poland, which I mentioned before, where we had a conference on 23rd May.

Q. In all other cases, therefore, it was rather a surprise to the military leaders?

A. Yes, a complete surprise.

Q. Now I have one more question: What was the possibility of resignation for high military leaders during the war?

A. That has been explained several times. I have also experienced it myself that it was not permitted to hand in resignations. It was said if there was reason for anyone to leave he would be informed by his superiors. In an authoritarian state the subordinate, the citizen, had no right to resign on his own initiative, whether he were a soldier or a civilian.

DR. LATERNSER: I have no more questions.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn until Monday morning.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 11th March, 1946, at 1000 hours.)

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