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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
14th May to 24th May, 1946

One Hundred and Thirty-Fifth Day: Tuesday, 21st May, 1946
(Part 6 of 9)

[DR. SIEMERS continues his direct examination of Karl Severing]

[Page 258]

Q. Herr Severing, did you and your Party friends have the possibility -

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Siemers, are you going to finish this examination, or are you going on? Do you see the clock?

DR. SIEMERS: Yes, I should like to leave the decision up to the High Tribunal as to whether we shall have a recess now. I understand there will be a cross-interrogation so that -

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, but presumably you know what questions you are going to ask; I do not.

DR. SIEMERS: I cannot say exactly. It depends on what answers the witness is going to give. It might take perhaps another ten minutes, your Honour.

THE PRESIDENT: Very well. We will adjourn now till a quarter past 2.00 o'clock.

(A recess was taken.)

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will not sit on Saturday morning.

Now, Mr. Dodd, could you tell us what the position is with reference to the documents of the defendants von Schirach, Sauckel and Jodl?

MR. DODD: As far as von Schirach is concerned, we are waiting for a ruling on those documents concerning which we were heard on Saturday. I'm sorry, that was on Seyss- Inquart. I wasn't sure the documents were ready.

The documents referred to are all ready; they are all translated and in book form.

THE PRESIDENT: Will it be necessary to have any further discussion of them?

MR. DODD: I believe not, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Very well, then, we can take it that we need not have another argument about those documents.

MR. DODD: No, sir, I see no need for any further argument on von Schirach's documents.

With reference to Sauckel, I have asked our French colleagues what the situation is, since they have the primary responsibility, and I am told that M. Herzog of the French prosecution staff is on his way here and he will be able to report more accurately.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we can mention that at a later stage then. Schirach at any rate then is ready to go on?

MR. DODD: He is ready to go on.


MR. DODD: Sir David has the information about the defendant Jodl.


[Page 259]

MR. ROBERTS: My Lord, the position with regard to Jodl's documents is that Dr. Jahreiss produced to me a draft book, just before Easter, which had a certain number of documents, all except four of which had already been exhibited, and therefore no objection could be taken to them.

My Lord, the other four were all short. Two, I thought, were objectionable on the ground that they referred to alleged war crimes by one of the Allies. But, my Lord, they were so short that I thought the best course would be for them to be translated - they were only a page or so, each of them - so that when the books had been translated, any objection could be taken, and then the Tribunal could shortly decide the matter.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, as there are only four of them and only two which might be objected to, that can be dealt with when we come to hear the case.

MR. ROBERTS: My Lord, there are only two.

THE PRESIDENT: We need not have any special hearing for it.

MR. ROBERTS: No, my Lord, certainly not. It could be disposed of in a very few minutes.

DR. EXNER (Counsel for defendant Jodl): Mr. President, I should like to say one more word about these Jodl documents. We are having difficulties over one of them. It is the affidavit of Dr. Lehmann, which we submitted in German, but which was not translated into English for us on the grounds that only such documents could be translated as the prosecution had already accepted; and the prosecution had adopted the standpoint that it cannot express any opinion on that document as it has not been translated into English.

I have mentioned this in a brief petition to the Tribunal, and I hope that the Tribunal will settle the matter.

MR. ROBERTS: My Lord, Lehmann's affidavit is very short - it goes principally to character - and it is really not objectionable, but I had to point out that it had not actually been allowed by the Tribunal in their order.

THE PRESIDENT: If it is accepted in the translation, that is all that is necessary.

MR. ROBERTS: My Lord, I entirely agree, and it is all on one page.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, very well. Let it be translated.

MAJOR ELWYN JONES: May it please the Tribunal, it may be convenient for me to indicate to the Tribunal at this stage of Raeder's case that with regard to the witness, Lehmann, the prosecution does not now desire to cross-examine that witness in view of the documents which are before the Tribunal, and the fact that the matters his affidavit dealt with were dealt with yesterday by my learned friend Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, in his cross-examination of Raeder, and finally, in view of the time that would be needed.

THE PRESIDENT: Do any other members of the prosecution want to cross-examine Lehmann?


THE PRESIDENT: Do any of the defendants' counsel want to ask any questions of Lehmann?

Very well, then I understand that the witness Lehmann is being kept here, and perhaps a message could be given to the Marshal, that he need not remain.

M. HERZOG: Mr. President, in the name of the French prosecution I should like to say a word about the documents presented by Sauckel's defence. I have no objection to the presentation of these documents, with the reservation of course that a ruling on them be made after they are presented. We have no objection to the documents being translated or presented.

[Page 260]

THE PRESIDENT Do you think it is necessary or desirable for there to be a special hearing with reference to the admissibility, or can that be done in the course of the defendant Sauckel's case? At the moment, I apprehend that the documents were looked at for the purpose of translation. They have now been translated. If you think it necessary that there should be any special hearing before the case begins, as to admissibility, we should like to know. Otherwise they would be dealt with in the course of the case, in the course of Sauckel's case.

M. HERZOG: I think, Mr. President, it will be sufficient if the Tribunal deals with these documents during the course of the defendant's case. I do not think we need a special hearing as far as these documents are concerned.





Q. Herr Severing, as far as I have been able to ascertain, you have not yet; answered one of my questions clearly.

With reference to the concentration camps, you said that you had heard of certain individual cases, and you named them. In order to avoid any misunderstanding, I just want to ask you in conclusion: did you hear of the mass murders which have been mentioned in this trial - at Auschwitz, for instance, an average of about two thousand persons a day were put to death in the gas chambers? Were you in possession of this knowledge before the collapse, or did you not know anything about that either?

A. I knew nothing whatsoever about these mass murders, which only became known in Germany after the collapse of the Hitler regime, partly through announcements in the Press and partly through trials.

Q. Herr Severing, what could you and your political friends do during the National Socialist regime, against the National Socialist terror which you have partly mentioned, and did anyone abroad support you in any way in this connection?

A. If you will limit the question to asking what I and my political friends could do and did do after 30th January to combat the Hitler regime, then I can only say - very little. If there was any question of resistance against the Hitler regime, then that resistance was not a centrally organized one. It was restricted to the extent that in various cities the opponents of the Nazis met to consider how one might, at least by propaganda, fight the mental terror. No open resistance was possible.

But perhaps I should here draw your attention to the following: On 30th January, I personally made a decisive attempt - or rather an attempt which, in my opinion, might have proved decisive - to oppose the Hitler regime. In the autumn of 1931 I had an interview with the Chief of the Army Command, von Hammerstein, during which Hammerstein explained to me that the "Reichswehr" would not allow Hitler to usurp the seat of the President of the State. I remembered that conference, and on 30th January, 1933, I inquired whether von Hammerstein would be prepared to grant me an interview. I wanted to ask him, during that interview, whether he was still of the opinion that the "Reichswehr" would not only declare itself to be against the Hitler regime, but would oppose such a regime by force of arms.

Herr von Hammerstein replied to the effect that, in principle, he would be prepared to have such an interview with me, but that the moment was not a propitious one. The interview never took place.

[Page 261]

If you were to ask me whether, in their efforts to fight the Hitler regime, at least by propaganda, my political friends had received any support from foreign personalities whom one might have called anti-Fascists, then I must say - unfortunately, no. On the contrary, we quite often noticed with much sorrow, that members of the English Labour Party, not officials, but private individuals, were Hitler's guests and that they returned to England to praise the then Chancellor Hitler as a friend of peace. I mention Philip Snowden in that connection, and the doyen of the Labour Party, Lansbury. In this connection I would like to draw your attention to the following facts: In the year -

THE PRESIDENT: The attitude of political parties in other countries has nothing to do with any question we have to decide, absolutely nothing.

DR. SIEMERS: I believe that this is sufficient. I have no further questions to ask, Herr Severing, and I thank you.

DR. LATERNSER (Counsel for the General Staff and the OKW):


Q. Herr Severing, during your term of office was the figure of 100,000 men, allowed by the Peace Treaty of Versailles for a normal army, ever exceeded?

A. I have no official knowledge of that. I would assume, however, that that was not the case.

Q. Do you know at all whether, at the end of 1932, the League of Nations made a promise or held out prospects that this army of 100,000 could be increased to 300,000 men?

A. Here, too, I am unable to give you any official information. I can, however, give the following explanations: In 1932 I received a letter from a party friend of mine, Dr. Rudolf Breitscheid, who was a member of the League of Nations Delegation, and in which he mentioned rumours of that kind; but he also added other information -

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Laternser, we do not think that rumours are relevant in the trial. He says he can't give us any official information. He then begins to give us rumours. Well, we don't want to hear rumours.

DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, what the witness is now saying is rather more than a rumour, and I think you will probably be able to judge for yourself when he has entirely answered the question.

THE PRESIDENT: He is speaking of rumours. If you have any fresh question to ask him, you can ask him.


Q. Did the increase of the army from 100,000 to 300,000 men ever assume any palpable shape - did it go beyond the stage of discussion?

A. I have just told you that Dr. Breitscheid was a member of the League of Nations Delegation, and that his information to me was not a fabric of his own invention. That information stated that an extension of the army had been envisaged, but that this extension would probably be made at the expense of the police. Dr. Breitscheid informed me accordingly.

DR. LATERNSER: Thank you very much, I have no further questions to ask.

DR. KARL HAENSEL (Counsel for the SS.):


Q. You have just told us that you had no knowledge of the Jewish mass murders in Auschwitz before the collapse. Did you have any knowledge of other measures taken, or acts perpetrated against Jews which you could define as criminal?

A. I experienced one such case personally. In 1944, a friend of mine in Bielefeld, Karl Henkel, was arrested and transferred to a labour camp near Emden, and he was shot on the third day.

[Page 262]

Q. Do you know who arrested him, what authority?

A. He was arrested by the Bielefeld Gestapo.

Q. Did that occur in connection with some large-scale action or was it an individual case?

A. It appeared to me to be an individual case.

Q. Did you hear of a number of such individual cases at that time, i.e., in 1944?

A. In 1944 I did not hear of any individual cases of murder, but I did hear of deportations from Westphalian towns to unknown destinations.

Q. What authorities dealt with these deportations?

A. I cannot say for certain, but I assume that it was the Gestapo.

Q. Are you of the opinion that considerable sections of the population knew of these occurrences?

A. You mean, of the deportations?

Q. Yes.

A. They usually took place quite publicly.

Q. Are you of the opinion that the same people were just as well acquainted with these events as the members of the organizations, as, for instance, the ordinary SS man, or would you say that the ordinary SS man knew more than other people?

A. Oh yes. He was informed of the purpose of these deportations.

Q. But I understood you to say that the convoys were not escorted by the SS you said it was the "Gestapo."

A. Yes, I have just stated that I assumed that the Gestapo had conducted the arrests and the lootings, but I did not receive any assurances that this was exclusively the work of the Gestapo.

Q. And the other measures - apart from the measures governing the deportations - was there some form of local "pogrom"? If I have understood you correctly, you did not hear of these very often?

A. Local pogroms occurred in November 1938.

Q. Did you actually see these things, of which we have often been told, or did you remain at home?

A. I remained at home. I only saw the results of these pogroms afterwards in the shape of destroyed Jewish firms, and in the remains of the synagogues.

Q. And to which organizations or groups do you attribute these events of November 1938?

A. My own judgement could not have any decisive value, but I tell you quite frankly - it was the SA or the SS.

Q. And what makes you think that it was precisely these two groups?

A. Because the members of these groups, in my home town of Bielefeld, were considered the instigators of the synagogue fires.

Q. By whom?

A. By the population in general. Their names were mentioned.

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