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 10 of 12)

[MR. ROBERTS continues his cross examination of General Field-Marshal Milch]

[Page 296]

Q. Yes, that is right. I just want to remind you who else was present. There were the Fuehrer, Goering, Raeder, von Brauchitsch, Keitel, yourself, Haider, General Bodenschatz, Warlimont - was Warlimont the deputy for Jodl?

A. I cannot say for whom he was there.

Q. Very well - and others; I will not mention the names. Now, witness, those were leaders of the German Armed Forces?

A. May I say, so far as I can remember, Field-Marshal Goering was not present. I cannot remember.

Q. He is down there as being present. You think he was not there?

A. Yes. I cannot remember any more, but to my recollection I was sent there at the last moment to represent him.

Q. Well, then, apart from Goering, if he was not there, those were mostly the leaders of the German forces, is that right?

A. Yes, it was the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, and the OKW, yes.

Q. Would you describe them, from your knowledge of them, as men of honour?

A. Yes.

Q. Is it one of the qualities of a man of honour that he keeps his word?

A. Yes.

Q. You knew, of course, did you not, that Germany had pledged her word to respect the neutrality of Belgium, of the Netherlands, and Luxembourg?

A. I suppose so, but I did not know the various agreements.

Q. Did you not know that less than a month before that meeting, namely on the 28th of April, Hitler in the Reichstag gave an assurance of his respect for the neutrality of a large number of countries, European countries, including the three I have mentioned? Did you not know that as a matter of history?

A. I suppose so, yes.

Q. We have seen the film, you know, in this Court, of that very occurrence with the defendant Goering presiding as President of the Reichstag while that assurance was given.

A. I have not seen the film. I do not know the film.

Q. Yes. It is a German newsreel. Do you remember that at that conference Hitler said these words, which are well known to the Tribunal:-

"The Dutch and Belgian air bases must be occupied by the Armed Forces. Declarations of neutrality must be ignored. An effort must be made to deal the enemy a heavy or decisive final blow right at the start. Considerations of right or wrong, or treaties do not enter into the matter."
Do you remember those words being said?

A. I cannot remember exactly what the words were. I know that it was a question of the Polish Corridor and Danzig, that in this connection Hitler explained what complications might follow in the West, and what he intended to do about it, but what he said in detail I can no longer remember.

Q. Was any protest made by any of these honourable men at the breach of Germany's pledged word?

A. During this meeting it was impossible for anyone present to speak at all, Hitler addressed us from his desk, and after the speech he left the room. A discussion did not take place, he did not allow it.

Q. You say it is impossible for an honourable man to protect his honour, witness?

[Page 297]

A. I cannot remember Hitler's actual words shown here.

Q. Can you give the Tribunal your opinion of it?

A. At this meeting I did not have the impression that Hitler said anything contrary to the obligations entered into. That I cannot remember.

Q. Are you now saying that these minutes are wrong?

A. No, I cannot say that either. I can only say I have no recollection of the exact words used. Whether the minutes are completely correct I do not know either. As far as I know they were recorded subsequently by one of the adjutants present.

Q. Because we know that is exactly what Germany did twelve months after, when she broke her pledged word to Belgium, to the Netherlands and Luxembourg, and brought misery and death to millions. You know that now, do you not?

A. That I know, yes, but as soldiers we had nothing to do with the political side. We were not asked about that ...

Q. Do you call the honouring of . . .

DR. RUDOLPH DIX: I do not speak now for the defendant Schacht, but for the entire defence. I ask the Tribunal that the witness be questioned about facts, and not about his opinion as to moral standards.

THE PRESIDENT: He is being asked about facts.


You have just said that you know now - we know that twelve months later Germany did violate the neutrality of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.

A. But we do not know what the reasons were for this, and what other obligations those countries might have entered into. It was not a job for the soldiers to judge this.

Q. Was it not, a job of the soldier to object, if he was asked to break his country's word?

A. I fully agree with you, if a soldier breaks his word in matters which are in his province and where he has a say as a soldier. As regards matters quite outside his province which he cannot judge, and about which he knows nothing, he cannot be made responsible and called to account.

Q. You can only speak for your own knowledge. Are you saying that you did not know that your country was pledged to observe the neutrality of these three small countries?

A. That I had read in the Reichstag speech. But I did not know how the other side had reacted to that promise. It was not known to me, and it could easily be that the other side did not at all want this protection, or this promise, or this guarantee. The soldier could not judge this at all, only the political authorities could know this.

Q. Well, we perhaps will have to ask that of the soldiers in the high command, who are now in the dock, when they get into the witness box. But I put it to you it must have been common knowledge in Germany that Hitler was giving guarantees and assurances to all these smaller countries?

A. Hitler has proposed and offered many things. He offered limitations of armaments for all countries, he offered not to use bombers but in these cases his proposals also were not accepted. Therefore only the political authorities could know what they should and could demand from their soldiers. The only duty of a soldier is to obey.

Q. Will you please answer my question. That was not an answer at all to my question. We know the facts now, witness, from the documents, from your own German documents. I want to test your knowledge and your ideas of honour. Did you not think it grossly dishonourable to give a pledge on 28th April, and to make a secret resolution to break it on 23rd May?

A. You are right, if the situation had not changed in any way, and that I cannot judge.

[Page 298]

Q. You must have your own code of honour, even though you are in the service. You know, of course, that the neutrality of Norway was violated?

A. Yes, according to our knowledge and in our opinion it was violated twice.

Q. Do you know that on the 12th and 13th of March, 1940, Jodl was putting in his diary, "The Fuehrer is still looking for a pretext to give out to the world, for an invasion of Norway." Do you know that?

A. I do not know this diary and this entry.

Q. You took an active part in the invasion of Norway, did you not?

A. A few days after the invasion started, I was in command of the air force up there for a short time.

Q. You actually had a command in Norway?

A. Yes.

DR. HERMANN JAHREISS (Counsel for the defendant Jodl):

I think it necessary to clear up a point which apparently concerns a misunderstanding by the interpreter. I have just heard that a diary entry by the defendant Jodl has been wrongly translated back into German. The German text says "nach einer Begruendung," i.e., "for a justification". I also believe the word "justification" is in the English translation. It should not have been interpreted as "Ausrede," that would be "pretexte" in French and that is something quite different.

MR. ROBERTS: Whatever it reads in the translation, witness, would you agree that according to the entry in the diary, the Fuehrer was still looking for it, whether it was a reason or an excuse. Now I only want to ask you one more question on this aspect of the case.

Q. You know that Belgrade was bombed in, I think, April 1941?

A. I heard about that from the Army report at the time.

Q. Without any declaration of war, or any warning to the civilian population at all, you heard that?

A. That I do not know, no.

Q. Did you not discuss it with Goering?

A. The attack on Belgrade? No, I cannot remember.

Q. Did not even he express regret, shall we say, regarding the large-scale bombing of a large capital without even one hour's warning to the civilian population?

A. I do not know, I cannot remember any such conversation.

Q. That is murder, is it not?

A. (No answer).

Q. Perhaps you would rather not answer that question?

A. I cannot answer yes or no, because I know nothing of the circumstances of the attack. I do not know whether war had been declared, I do not know whether a warning had been given. Neither do I know whether Belgrade was a fortress, nor which targets were attacked in Belgrade. I know of so many bombing attacks about which the same questions could be asked in the same manner.

Q. I asked the question, witness, because we had the use of the document in front of us, that it was Hitler's order that Belgrade was to be suddenly destroyed by waves of bombers, without any ultimatum, or any diplomatic arguments, or negotiations at all; would I put that question if I had not known of the document? Let me turn to something else.

A. May I say I have heard of this document only today because you quoted it.

Q. I want to put to you now an incident with regard to the Camp Stalag Luft III at Sagan. Do you know about what I am talking?

A. Yes, I know about that now.

Q. Do you know that on 24th and 25th March, 1944, about eighty Air Force officers, British and Dominion, with some others escaped from that Stalag Luft III Camp?

[Page 299]

A. I know about this from the British interrogation camp in which I was kept, where the whole case was posted up on the wall.

Q. We will come to that in a moment. Do you know that of those eighty, fifty were shot?

A. Yes.

Q. In various parts of Germany and the occupied countries from Danzig to Saarbrucken; you have heard of that?

A. I heard that about fifty were shot but did not know where.

Q. Have you heard that quite unusually the bodies were never seen again, but that urns said to contain their ashes were brought back to the camp, you heard of that?

A. I heard of it in the camp where I was kept, from a report of Mr. Anthony Eden's speech in the House of Commons.

Q. You heard that, although these officers were reported by your Government as having been shot while offering resistance or trying to escape, not one was wounded, and all fifty were shot dead.

A. At first I only heard from the official report in Germany, that these officers had been shot while resisting or trying to escape. We did not believe this version, and there was a lot of discussion about this without precise knowledge - we were afraid that these men might have been murdered.

Q. You were afraid that murder had been committed. It does appear likely, does it not?

A. We got that impression as the various details we heard could not be pieced together.

Q. It is quite clear that if that was murder the order for that murder would have to come from a high level, is it not?

A. Certainly. I heard further details about this from the Inspector General for Prisoners of War, General Westhoff, while both of us were in captivity in England.

Q. Now, I want to ask you, first of all, about the prisoner- of-war organization. Was the prisoner-of-war organization a department of the OKW?

A. In my opinion, yes.

Q. Which was called KGW, Kriegsgefangenenwesen?

A. I cannot say anything about its organization, because I do not know. I only know that there was a chief of the Kriegsgefangenenwesen with the OKW.

Q. And was the chief of the Kriegsgefangenenwesen at that time General-major von Graevnitz?

A. Von Graevnitz, yes.

Q. This was an air force camp? Stalag Luft III was an air force camp?

A. Yes. So it was called, but as I understand it all prisoners were under the OKW. That was my opinion. I cannot, however, state this definitely, because I did not know much about that organization.

Q. Was the directorate for supervising the air force camps, or the inspectorate, rather, called Inspectorate No. 17?

A. There was an inspectorate, which as its name indicates had to deal with supervision. What it had to do and what were its tasks, I cannot say. Whether it was just for interrogation, I would not know.

Q. Was the head of that Major-General Grosch?

A. I cannot say, it is possible, I know the name but not whether he held that post.

Q. And the second in command, Oberst Waelde?

A. Not known to me.

Q. You were No. 2 in the Air Force at the Air Ministry in March, 1944, were you not?

A. There were several No. 2s at that time. I held the same rank as the chief of the General Staff, the chief of the personnel office, and the chief of technical

[Page 300]

armament, Who were independent of me and on the same level. As to seniority, I ranked as second officer in the Air Force.

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