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-Eighth Day: Monday, 11th March, 1946
(Part 3 of 12)

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

[Page 269]

DR. KAUFMANN (counsel for the defendant Kaltenbrunner):

Q. Witness, am I right in assuming that you were never in a position to issue orders to - i.e., never had anything to do officially either with the Gestapo or with the concentration camps?

A. No, I never had anything to do with them.

Q. When did you first hear of the establishment of these camps?

A. Through the general announcements in 1933 that such concentration camps or rather that one concentration camp, had, in effect, been established.

Q. Did you, during the years which followed, receive more detailed information concerning further establishments of this kind?

A. Until the war ended I had heard of Dachau and Oranienburg only. I knew nothing at all about any other concentration camps. At my own request and in the company of some high- ranking officers of the Luftwaffe, I inspected Dachau in 935. I saw no other concentration camps, nor did I know anything about what happened in them.

Q. During your inspection, what impression did you get of the establishment itself and the treatment of the internees, etc.?

A. At that time there was so much talk about these camps, even among the officers, that I decided to judge for myself. Himmler gave his immediate consent to my request. At that time, I believe, Dachau was the only concentration camp in existence. There I found a very mixed assortment of inmates. One group consisted of major criminals, all habitual offenders; other groups consisted of people who repeatedly committed the same offence, but who could not be classed as criminals. There was another group of persons who had participated in the Roehm "Putsch". One of the men I recognised as having seen before. He had been a high-ranking SA-Leader and was now an internee. The camp, run on military lines, was clean and properly organized. They had their own slaughterhouse and their own bakery. We insisted on having the food of the internees served to us. The food was good and one of the camp leaders explained that they fed the inmates very well as they were engaged on heavy work. All the inmates whom we approached explained the reason for their internment. For instance, one man told us that he had committed forgery twenty times; another, that he had committed assault and other offences fifteen times. There were many cases of this kind. I cannot, of course, say if we were shown everything in this large establishment.

Q. You have just mentioned that the question had been discussed in military circles, among the officers. Later, when you returned, did you convey your impressions of Dachau to anyone?

A. I scarcely mentioned them to anybody, only if my more intimate comrades broached the subject. As I have said before, I did not, go alone; there were several other gentlemen with me and, no doubt, they too, must have had occasion to discuss this subject in closer circles.

Q. Unheard-of acts of cruelty were perpetuated in the concentration camps. Did you come to hear of them and, if so, when did you first hear of them?

A. On the day on which I was captured it was revealed to me for the first time when internees from an auxiliary camp in the vicinity were led past the place where I was captured. This was the first time I saw it for myself. The rest I learned in captivity from the various documents which we were shown.

Q. Then it was completely unknown to you that more than two hundred concentration camps existed in Germany and in the occupied territories?

A. It was completely unknown to me. I have already mentioned the two camps whose existence was known to me.

Q. It could be held against you that it must have been impossible not to know of these facts. Can you explain to us why it was not possible for you to obtain better information regarding existing conditions?

[Page 270]

A. Because the people who knew about these conditions did not talk about them, and presumably were not allowed to talk about them. I understand this to be so from a document in the Indictment against the General Staff, in which Himmler - also erroneously considered as one of the high-ranking military leaders - had issued an order to this effect. This document dealt with some conference or other of high-ranking police leaders under Himmler, in 1943, 1 believe.

Q. Am I right in saying that any attempt to disclose conditions prevalent in the concentration camps was impossible unless the person in question was ready to risk his life?

A. In the first place, the large number of concentration camps was unknown to most people, as it was unknown tome. Secondly, nobody knew what went on there. This knowledge was apparently confined to a very small circle of people who were in the secret. Further, the SD was very much feared by the entire population. If anybody tried to gain access to these secrets he did so at the peril of his life. And again- how could the Germans know anything about these things, since they never saw them or heard about them? Nothing was said about them in the German Press, no announcements were made on the German radio, and those who listened to foreign broadcasts exposed themselves to the heaviest penalties, and most often it meant death. No one could ever be alone. You always had to think that if you yourself contravened this law, others would overhear and then denounce you. I know that in Germany a large number of people were condemned to death for listening to foreign broadcasts.

Q. Did it ever come to your knowledge that there had been mass deportations of Jews to the Eastern territories? When did you first hear about it?

A. I cannot give the exact date. Once, in some way or other, I can no longer remember how, the information did reach me that Jews had been settled in special "ghetto towns" in the East. I think it must have been in 1944, or thereabout, but I cannot guarantee that this date is exact.

Q. You have just mentioned ghettos. Did you know that these mass deportations were, in effect, a preliminary step to mass extermination?

A. No, we were never told.

Q. May I ask you further if, in this connection, you had any idea about the existence of the "extermination camp," Auschwitz?

A. No. I first heard of the name much later. I read it in the Press after I was captured.

Q. So-called" Einsatzkommandos "were formed in the East, where they carried out large-scale exterminations, also of Jews. Did you know that these "Einsatzkommandos" had been created by order of Adolf Hitler?

A. No. The first I heard of these "Einsatzkommandos" was here in prison in Nuremberg.

Q. Did you know that a special campaign was launched for the extermination of Jewish citizens in the south eastern provinces of the Reich, which, according to the statement of the leader concerned, named Eichmann, caused the death of from four to five million Jews?

A. No, I know nothing at all about it. This is the first time I have heard the name Eichmann mentioned.

Q. Am I correct in stating that in the Germany of the "Leadership Principle any opposition to a supreme order would most probably have meant death?

A. That has been proved in many hundreds of cases.

Q. Am I also correct in stating that the peril would have been equally deadly, even if the order had been opposed on legal and moral grounds?

A. I believe that here, too, one would have had to be prepared to pay the penalty, and not only one's self, but one's family as well.

DR. KAUFMANN: Thank you. I have no more questions to ask.

[Page 271]

DR. SIEMERS (counsel for the defendant Raeder):

Q. Witness, I have only a short question to ask you. You told us, on Saturday or on Friday, that in 1937 you had discussions with an English mission. This mission was headed by Air Vice-Marshal Courtney. I should like to know from you if, in the course of these discussions, it was agreed that the competent German and British authorities should exchange information concerning the establishment plans for their respective Air Forces.

A. Your surmise is correct.

Q. How was the agreement made?

A. The agreement was drawn up in writing.

Q. Had the British and German Air Forces establishment plans for each year?

A. No. The plans covered several years.

Q. How many years ahead were covered by the 1937 plan?

A. I cannot tell you from memory. At that time it may possibly have covered two or three years.

Q. That would have been 1938-1940?

A. Possibly 1937-1938-1939-1940. I cannot say for certain. I have forgotten.

Q. Had this plan a technical name? Was it called "Establishment Plan" (Aufstellungsplan), or did it have some other name?

A. I cannot remember now. We generally referred to it as the "Projected Establishment Plan" (Aufstellungsvorhaben).

Q. On the English side, were the plans also drawn up to cover a definite period, say three years?

A. I believe the periods covered were very much the same. The procedure was more or less the same.

DR. SIEMERS: Thank you very much.

THE PRESIDENT: Does the prosecution now wish to cross- examine? Perhaps it would be convenient to adjourn for ten minutes now.

(A recess was taken.)



Q. Witness, you are a prisoner of war of the United States at the present time?

A. No, I am not a prisoner of war of the United States. I was an English prisoner of war and since I have been here I have been declared an internee. I do not know what that means. At any rate, it is not correct to apply it to an officer prisoner of war who is taken by the enemy during action before the end of hostilities.

Q. You have been allowed to confer with counsel both while this trial was in progress and . . .

A. I have been able to confer with some of the defendants's counsel, not all, I assume that the other defence counsel did not desire it.

Q. Now you will save a great deal of time if you will answer my questions as briefly as possible and with "yes" or "no" where possible. You have been allowed to prepare, keep and bring to the Court notes, after your consultations with counsel?

A. The notes which I had with me were made by me before I conferred with defendants's counsel.

Q. You have made none of the notes since your consultations with counsel?

A. I made one note for myself about one consultation. It was merely about a date which had been mentioned to me and which otherwise I could not have remembered.

[Page 272]

Q. And you occupied a very high position in the German Air Force?

A. I was Inspector General.

Q. You frequently attended conferences on behalf of Goering?

A. On behalf of Goering, very rarely.

Q. You deny that you attended conferences on behalf of Goering frequently?

A. No. I do not deny it at all, but I was called upon to attend some of these conferences by virtue of my own office. I rarely had occasion to represent Goering, as he usually attended these conferences himself.

Q. You had a very large part in building up the Luftwaffe, did you not?

A. Yes.

Q. And you were honoured for that, were you not, in 1941, by the Hitler regime?

A. 1941 - no; I believe, Mr. Justice Jackson, you mean 1940.

Q. 1940 - well, perhaps I'm wrong.

A. You mean the promotion to Field-Marshal, do you not?

Q. When was your promotion to Field-Marshal?

A. On the 19th of July, 1940.

Q. And did you not receive a gift from the Hitler regime in recognition of your services?

A. In 1942, on the occasion of my fiftieth birthday, I received a recognition.

Q. And the recognition was in the form of cash, was it not?

A. Yes, it was a cash recognition, with which I could buy myself an estate.

Q. And what did it consist of?

A. The sum amounted to 250,000 marks.

Q. And now you come here to testify, as I understand your testimony, that the regime of which you were a part put Germany into a war for which it was in no way prepared. Do I understand you correctly?

A. It is correct insofar as Germany in 1939 entered into a war for which it was not prepared so far as the Air Force was concerned.

Q. Did the head of the Air Force ever give any warning of that fact to the German people?

A. That I am unable to say. I do not believe he could do that.

Q. You do not know that he ever did do it, do you?

A. I cannot remember that he ever gave such a warning to the people publicly. I assume that the warning was given to his superior military officer.

Q. And what officer would be above him?

A. That would be the Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler.

Q. The Fuehrer, yes.

A. As a soldier, the Reichsmarshal could not address himself to the public.

Q. Now, can you point to any time at any meeting of the High Command or at any other meeting that the Fuehrer called, when Reichsmarshal Goering in the presence of any of these people, raised the question that Germany was not prepared for war?

A. I cannot remember such a conference, because such conferences were held only between the two people concerned. The Reichsmarshal never strongly opposed the Fuehrer in public, nor before any large group of his officers, because Hitler would not have tolerated such opposition.

Q. Do you know of any occasion when any one of the defendants in the box ever took a public stand against going to war?

A. Publicly no, I cannot remember any occasion. But I rather think that, also to the gentlemen who now stand accused, the whole question of the war came as a great surprise.

Q. You would like to believe that?

A. I do believe it, yes.

Q. You do believe it. How long did it take the German Armed Forces to conquer Poland?

[Page 273]

A. To conquer Poland - eighteen days, I believe.

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