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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
29th July to 8th August 1946

One Hundred and Eighty-Ninth Day: Monday, 29th July, 1946
(Part 6 of 12)

[Page 27]

THE PRESIDENT: I call on the Chief Prosecutor for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

GENERAL RUDENKO: Your Lordship, your Honours.

We are summing up the results of the legal proceedings against the major German war criminals.

In the course of nine months all the aspects of the case and all the evidence presented to the Tribunal by the prosecution and by the defence have been subjected to the most meticulous and detailed examination.

Not a single deed of which the defendants have been accused has been left without verification, not a single significant circumstance has been overlooked during the investigation of the present case.

For the first time in the history of mankind, criminals against humanity are being held responsible for their crimes before an International Criminal Tribunal; for the first time nations are trying those who have flooded immense areas of the earth with blood, who have annihilated millions of innocent people, destroyed cultural treasures, who have instituted a system of massacre and torture, of the extermination of old people, women and children, and have made an incensed claim to world mastery and hurled the universe into an abyss of unprecedented misery.

Yes, indeed. This trial is the first of its kind to be held in the history of justice. A Tribunal sits in judgment, a Tribunal created by the peace- and freedom-loving countries, who represent the will and defend the interests of the whole of mankind in search of progress which does not desire the recurrence of calamities suffered, which will not permit a gang of criminals to carry out with impunity their preparations for the enslavement of nations and the extermination of peoples, prior to realizing their wild and fanatic plans. Mankind calls the criminals to account, and we, the prosecutors, on behalf of all mankind, are the accusers at this trial.

And how pitiful are the efforts to dispute the right of mankind to judge the enemies of mankind, how vain the efforts to deprive nations of the right to punish those who made enslavement and genocide their aim, and who for many years strove to realize this criminal aim by criminal methods.

The present trial is being so conducted that the defendants, who are accused of the most heinous crimes, are given every possibility to defend themselves and are offered all the necessary legal guarantees.

In their own country the defendants who stood at the helm of the Government destroyed all legal forms of justice, and discarded all the principles of legal procedure accepted by civilized mankind.

But they themselves are being tried by the International Tribunal in observance of all legal guarantees and they are assured of all the rights of defence.

We are now summing up the results of the legal proceedings, we are drawing conclusions from the evidence examined before the Tribunal, we are considering all the data upon which the accusation is based.

We now ask: were the charges levied against the defendants proved before the Tribunal, has their guilt been established?

There is only one answer to this question: the legal proceedings fully confirm the charges.

We incriminate the defendants only with those facts which have been fully established and proved to the Tribunal beyond all manner of doubt, whilst all the monstrous crimes have been proved, crimes which were prepared over a period of

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many years by a band of savage criminals, who had seized power in Germany, and who perpetrated these crimes during many years, without regard for the principles of law or the most elementary standards of human morality.

These crimes have been proved, the defendants' testimony and the arguments of the defence have been powerless to rebut the charges - they cannot be contended because it is impossible to contend the truth, and truth is the enduring result of this trial, the unfailing issue of our long and stubborn efforts.

The accusation has been proved in every element. It has been proved that there existed a Common Plan or Conspiracy for the preparation of aggressive wars, in violation of International Law and for the enslavement and extermination of peoples, in which the defendants participated.

There can be no doubt as to the existence of such a plan or conspiracy, just as there is no doubt about the leading part played in it by the defendants.

This point of the accusation is confirmed by all the data introduced during the legal proceedings by irrefutable documents, and by the testimonies of witnesses and of the defendants themselves.

All the activities of the defendants were directed towards the preparation and the launching of aggressive wars. All their so-called "ideological work" consisted in the cultivation of bestial instincts, in the installation of the absurd idea of racial superiority in the conscience of the German people, and in the practical realization of their plans for the extermination and enslavement of peoples of "inferior" races, who were supposed to serve for fertilizing the growth of the "master race."

Their "ideological work" consisted in a call to murder, to plunder, to the destruction of culture, and to the extermination of human beings.

The defendants prepared these crimes long in advance, and then committed them by attacking other countries, seizing foreign territories and exterminating the population.

When was this plan or conspiracy conceived?

Of course, it is scarcely possible to give an exact date, day and hour on which the defendants conspired to commit their crimes.

We cannot and shall not establish our conclusions and assertions on guesses and suppositions. But it must be considered as established beyond any possible doubt that from the moment when the Fascists seized power in Germany, they started the realization of their aims and utilized this power for the preparation of aggressive war.

All the activity of the defendants was directed towards the preparation of Germany for war.

The rearmament and reconversion of economy for war purposes is an irrefutable fact - it has been proved by documents and admitted by the defendants themselves.

We may ask, what was this war for which the defendants began to prepare immediately after the seizure of power? Could this possibly be a defensive war?

But then nobody intended attacking Germany; nobody had any idea of the kind, and - in my opinion - such an idea could not even have existed.

Since Germany was not preparing for a defensive war-and this fact has been established - it is evident that she was preparing for a war of aggression. That is the logic of the facts and such are the facts themselves. Germany initiated and waged this very war which she had been preparing, and in 1937-1939 occurred precisely that for which she had been preparing in 1933.

Hence the conclusion: the plan or the conspiracy existed at least since 1933, i.e., from the moment when the Fascists seized power and used it for their own criminal purposes.

These are the facts which are confirmed by the words of the defendants themselves uttered at a time when they did not suppose that they would ever be defendants.

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It is enough to mention the speeches of Schacht, Krupp and others in which they describe how the Fascist Government was preparing for war, and how all fields of political and economic life were subjected to this one purpose.

I consider as fully proved the charges against the defendants to the effect that in 1933, when the Hitlerites seized power in Germany, they created a plan or conspiracy including the perpetration of Crimes against Peace, War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity.

The legal proceedings have completely proved the Crimes against Peace committed by the defendants, which consisted in planning, preparing, initiating and waging aggressive wars, in violation of international treaties, agreements and assurances.

Here the facts speak for themselves; wars which involved innumerable victims and destructions; wars the aggressive nature of which has been undoubtedly established.

The guilt of the defendants in the perpetration of Crimes against Peace has been fully proved.

The charges of perpetrating War Crimes, in waging war by methods contrary to the laws and customs of war, have been fully proved.

Neither the defendants themselves nor their defence counsel could raise any objections to the very fact of their having committed these crimes.

All that they could say to this was that the defendants themselves had not committed these atrocities, the extermination of people, the "murder vans" and concentration camps; they had not destroyed the Jews with their own hands, and had not even known about such particular facts. But that such facts did exist the defendants themselves do not deny.

The defendants admit these facts.

A fruitless method of defence!

Certainly, the defendants themselves, occupying high leading posts in Hitler's Germany, were in no need of shooting, hanging, smothering, freezing live people to; death by way of an experiment, and so on.

Their subordinates did that according to their instructions; henchmen did the dirty work, so to speak, whilst the defendants only had to give orders which were obeyed without a murmur.

Therefore, the attempts of the defendants to deny their connection with the henchmen, to detach themselves from them, were hopeless.

This connection is evident and indisputable. If the Commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolph Hoess, extracted the gold teeth of the dead, we may say that the Reich Minister, Walter Funk, opened special vaults in the cellars of the Reichsbank in which to keep these gold teeth.

If Kaltenbrunner's subordinates exterminated people in "murder vans," the vans themselves were built at the works of Sauer, Daimler and Wenz, who again were the subordinates of the defendant Speer.

If the prisoners of war were destroyed by professional henchmen of the "Totenkopf" unit ("Death's Head ") and by the camp guards, the orders to exterminate were signed by Keitel, Field-Marshal of the German Army. That is to say, it is the defendants who set the deadline for extermination, issued the orders to create a special murder-technique, and explained the reasons for the right of the "master races" to exterminate "inferior races."

It was they who were calmly and ruthlessly watching the tortured victims as Hans Frank delivered solemn speeches about "one more step forward" taken by German Fascism towards ridding "the living-space" of "the inferior races."

The defendants are responsible for every murder, for every drop of innocent blood shed by Hitler's henchmen, for between them and the direct perpetrators of the crimes, murders, tortures, there is a difference only in rank and scope of action. Those are the direct henchmen, and these are the principal henchmen, chiefs of the henchmen, henchmen of a higher grade. They are far more dangerous

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than those trained in the spirit of hatred towards humanity and wild fanaticism whom they now repudiate in order to save themselves.

The criminality of the defendants in the perpetration of war crimes has been fully proved in the sense that they initiated a system of exterminating prisoners of war, peaceful inhabitants, women, old men and children; it is their fault that wherever the German soldier stepped there lay the heaps of murdered and tortured people, ruins and places left barren by fire, the land desecrated and soaked in blood.

The crimes committed against humanity have been completely proved. We cannot omit the crimes committed by the defendants in Germany during their domination: the extermination of all those who in any way expressed their discontent with the Nazi regime, the slave labour and the extermination of human beings in concentration camps, mass extermination of Jews, and the same slave labour and extermination of people in the occupied territories-all this has been proved and the charges are irrefutable. What means of defence have counsel used, what kind of proofs and arguments could they give to refute the charges ?

The arguments of the defendants may be divided into two main groups.

Firstly, a number of witnesses summoned by the defence counsel. These witnesses had to extenuate the guilt of the defendants with their evidence, to diminish the part taken by them in committing the crimes, in rehabilitating them by all possible means.

These witnesses themselves were, in most cases, defendants in other trials.

How can we discuss the objectivity and authenticity qf the evidence given by the witnesses for the defence, if the innocence of the defendant Funk should be confirmed by his deputy and accomplice, a member of the SS since 1931, Heller, bearing the rank of "Gruppenfuehrer SS"; if the criminal Rainer, member of the Fascist Party since 1930, and Gauleiter of Salzburg and then of Kaernten, was summoned to give evidence on behalf of Seyss-Inquart ?

Those so-called "witnesses" - such as for instance Buehler, the right- hand man of the defendant Frank, and accomplice in all his crimes, or Bohle, one of the principal leaders of the Hitlerite espionage activities and chief of the Fascist Party abroad - came here in order to commit a perjury to try to protect their former "bosses" and to save their own lives.

And yet most of the "witnesses" for the defence in the course of the interrogation became witnesses for the prosecution. They were convicted by the "mute witnesses" - documents, mostly of German origin; they themselves were forced to expose those whom they intended to protect.

Another type of the means used by the defence are legal arguments and considerations.

Some Legal Aspects of the Trial

The accusation in the present trial is based on an enormous quantity of irrefutable facts and firmly established on the principles of law and justice. Therefore, in the opening speeches for the prosecution, much attention has already been paid to the legal aspect of the responsibility of the defendants.

In the speeches of the defence a number of legal questions were again raised:

(a) On the importance of the principle "Nullum crimen sine lege."

(b) On the importance of the order.

(c) On the responsibility of the State and individuals.

(d) On the concept of conspiracy.

I, therefore, consider it necessary to return again to some legal questions in order to answer the attempts of the defence to confuse clear, simple statements and to change the legal argumentation into a kind of "smoke-screen" in an effort to conceal from the Tribunal the gruesome reality of the Fascist crimes.

(a) On the importance of the principle " Nullum crimen sine lege."

The defence attempted to deny the accusation by proving that at the time when the defendants were perpetrating the offences with which they were charged, the

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latter had not been foreseen by existing laws, and that therefore the defendants bear no criminal responsibility for them.

I would simply refer to the principle "Nullum crimen sine lege," as the Charter of the I.M.T., which is an immutable law, and provides that this Tribunal "shall have the power to try and punish persons who, acting in the interest of the European Axis countries, whether as individuals or as members of organizations," committed any of the crimes enumerated in Article 6 of the Charter.

Therefore, from the legal point of view, sentence can be pronounced and carried out without requiring that the deeds which incriminate the defendants be foreseen by the criminal law at the time of their perpetration. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the deeds of the defendants, at the time when they were being committed, were actual criminal acts from the standpoint of the then existing criminal law.

The principles of criminal law contained in the Charter of the I.M.T. are the expression of the principles contained in a number of international agreements, enumerated in my opening statement of 8th February, 1946, and in the criminal law of all civilized countries.

The law of all civilized countries provides criminal responsibility for murder, torture, violence, plunder, etc. The fact that those crimes have been initiated by the defendants on a scale surpassing all human imagination and bear the marks of unheard-of sadistic cruelty does not, of course, exclude, but, on the contrary, increases many times over, the responsibility of the defendants. If the defendants had committed the crimes on the territory and in respect of the citizens of any one country, then they, in accordance with the Declaration of the Heads of the Governments of the USSR, of Great Britain and the United States of America, published on 2nd November, 1943, and in full agreement with the universally accepted principles of criminal law, would be tried in that country and according to that country's laws.

This Declaration set forth that "the German officers, soldiers and members of the Nazi Party who were responsible for the above-mentioned cruelties, murders and executions, or who voluntarily took part in them, would be deported to the countries where those gruesome crimes had been committed, in order to be tried and punished according to the law of those liberated countries and free governments, which would be established there."

Nevertheless, the defendants are war criminals "whose offences have no particular geographical location" (Article 1 of the Agreement of the Four Powers of the 8th August, 1945), and, therefore, the I.M.T., acting in accordance with the Charter, is competent to try their crimes. Counsel for the defendant Hess took the liberty to affirm that there can be no doubt that the Crimes against Peace, as they are stated in Article 6, Paragraph 2, of the Charter, do not exist.

There is no necessity here to make any reference to the international agreements (as I have already mentioned them in my opening statement on the 8th February, 1946), in which aggressive war was declared an international crime.

They are charged with deeds which civilized humanity had long ago recognized as criminal.

(b) On the importance of the order.

Some of the defendants, in their deposition before the Tribunal, attempted to present themselves as pitiable dwarfs, blind and obedient executors of another's will - the will of Hitler.

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