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 Ninetieth Day: Tuesday, 30th July, 1946
(Part 5 of 11)

[DR. SERVATIUS continues his direct examination of Karl Otto Kurt Kauffmann]

[Page 80]

Q. Could the Reichsleiter also give instructions to the Gauleiter?

A. No, the Reichsleiter were limited to their specialized offices in the Gaue. The Gauleiter had the right to stop measures transmitted through this channel and originating from a Reichsleiter if he considered them inexpedient. In the case of differences, the Fuehrer or his deputy decided.

Q. How were the Gauleiter instructed on political intentions and measures?

A. The basic political intentions and measures of the Fuehrer were known to us through the Party programme and in part through his book Mein Kampf. In accordance with these the propagandistic and practical training of our co-workers was effected. After the seizure of power, the Gauleiter were informed of intended political actions, especially foreign political ones and even domestic ones, only after the action had taken place.

Q. Were there orders, instructions, or conferences? What can you say about that?

A. There were conferences which took place comparatively seldom.

Q. In which form did these conferences take place?

A. For the Party leaders, in the form of Reichsleiter and Gauleiter conferences. I must correct myself - not conferences but meetings.

Q. What is the difference between a conference and a meeting?

A. In a conference I see a possibility of discussion. This possibility of discussion in Fuehrer conferences existed without restriction up to the resignation of Strasser in 1932, in a limited form until the departure of Hess, and altogether disappeared when Hess was no longer there. From,this time on, the meetings consisted exclusively in the issuing of orders with no possibility for discussion or for inquiry. These meetings were directed by Bormann.

[Page 81]

The other way was through circular letters. Through circular letters, direct orders of the Fuehrer or orders in his name were transmitted to us, at first through the deputy of the Fuehrer and later through the Party Chancellery. That was essentially the channel of command that was customary.

Q. Did conferences with the Reichsleiter take place?

A. I do not recall any conference at which all Gauleiter were present with all Reichsleiter.

Q. Did leading political leaders have special tasks beyond their activities as political leaders?

A. There were high functionaries of the Party who, besides their Party office, had State and other offices. There were also those who were limited exclusively to their Party office.

Q. What was the content of the instruction which the political leaders received through official Party channels? Must one make a distinction between various periods-up to the seizure of power, up to the war, and during the war?

A. I have already partially answered that question. I can sum up briefly: Before the war they were of an organizational and propagandistic nature and during the war they were determined by the tasks of war, in the main dealing with social measures.

Q. Did the political leaders receive instructions on point one of the Party programme, which in effect contained the Anschluss of Austria to Germany,'and did such instructions refer to the preparation of a war of aggression?

A. The political leaders were in no way informed aboui the Anschluss of Austria, the way in which it was done and the time. The Anschluss of Austria was, of course, the goal of the Party, because Austria's desire for an Anschluss was known or became known to the political leaders from igi8, through the law of the then Chancellor Renner due to the result of the plebiscite in 1921 of the Federal State of Salzburg and Tyrol, and later through Austrian reaction to the entry, of German troops or to the AnschIuss.

Q. Did you receive instructions on point two of the Party programme which refers to the denunciation of the Versailles Treaty? Did these instructions refer to the preparation of a war of aggression?

A. The revision of the Versailles Treaty - and I emphasize "revision" - was an essential part of our political aims. The political leaders were, before the war and even before the seizure of power, of the firm conviction that this aim would have to be achieved by way of revision, that is, by way of negotiation. Any other instruction on methods by which to attain this goal the political leaders never received in all the time before the war.

Q. Did you receive instructions on point three of the programme which demands land for settlement? Did such instructions refer to the preparation for a war of aggression?

A. This point of the programme - I believe it is a point of the programme - was understood by the political leaders, and they were instructed to that effect, to mean the return of the German colonies. The discussions on other territories did not arise before the war but during the war. I emphasize "discussion."

Q. What instructions did you receive on the Jewish question which is dealt with from point four to eight of the Party programme? Did such instructions refer to the removal of the Jews because they would interfere with the war of aggression?

A. The programme points on the Jewish question were definitely set up. The attitudes on the Jewish question varied greatly. The political leaders with whom I was in contact were instructed by me, at least, that this question could be solved only. in a constructive way; that is, by a basic change in the existing system. Training and propaganda on this point never had anything to do with wars of aggression.

[Page 82]

Q. What instructions did you receive on the Church question, point twenty-four of the Party programme? Did you receive instructions to eliminate the Church as an enemy of war?

A. I never received such instructions based on such reasoning, nor did my political leaders. In spite of the interpretation which the different personalities of the Party gave this point, the programme point acknowledging positive Christianity remained binding until the end for my political leaders. That proves that the majority of the political leaders were and remained members of the Church.

Q. What instructions did you receive on point twenty-five of the Party programme on the dissolution of labour unions? Were they to be removed as opponents of war?

A. No. We, and that includes my political leaders, saw in the dissolution of the labour unions only a demonstrative act of an organic development which was taking place. The mass of union members, even before the dissolution of the unions, were members of the NSBO, and thus members of the National Socialist Labour Organization.

Q. I would like to break off here. The witness Hupfauer will be questioned more closely on this subject.

Did not the Anschluss of Austria take place with the entry of German troops Did the political leaders approve of this?

A. I have already mentioned that the political leaders were neither informed nor questioned on the entry of German troops into Austria, and that they welcomed the Anschluss all the more because it is an historical fact that the Austrian people welcomed it.

Q. Was not Alsace-Lorraine again incorporated into the German Reich, and did the political leaders approve of it?

A. The question of the incorporation of disputed areas is a question of peace treaties. The political leaders were of the opinion that Alsace- Lorraine, for the duration of the war, was under the special German Civil Administration, and after the victorious end of the war it was very possible that the incorporation of this territory into the German Reich could and would be a German demand, just as it was a French one after the First Worjd War.

Q. Were not the occupied territories in the East claimed as "Lebensraum" and did the political leaders approve of this?

A. The war against Russia was described to the political leaders by the political leadership as a preventive war. And so this information for the benefit of the political leaders did not, at least at the beginning of this war, contain anything concerning intentions of annexation.

Q. Were not the Churches in fact persecuted and did the political leaders approve this?

A. It is quite possible that, in spite of the Party programme to acknowledge positive Christianity, deviation from this particular point occurred in some Gaue, and that in these the Church was exposed to persecution. The Fuehrer himself never deviated from this point of the programme in his statements.

Q. Then you did not approve of this persecution?

A. Not only did I disapprove of the persecution, but I prohibited it in my Gau.

Q. Were not the unions actually abolished and did not the political leaders approve of it?

A. The political leaders and I saw in the German Labour Front the development to a great unified labour organization. If there were any doubts, the social improvements for the German worker caused them to disappear.

Q. Were the political aims thus realized not contained as aims in the book Mein Kampf, and thus generally known and approved by the leaders?

A. The book Mein Kampf was certainly known to part of the political leaders. Also the Party programme. The opinion about both in the Nazi Party was the same as in any other party, that some points were approved and were the reasons

[Page 83]

for joining, while other points did not seem to interest anybody, and the third group of points were even rejected. In every party and in the NSDAP as well, much thinking and discussion centred around the final aims of the Party, and this process was by no means completed.

Q. Were there then various tendencies in the Party?

A. In important questions of interpretation of the programme points, yes.

Q. What were these groups?

A. I should like to differentiate between three great groups. The Socialistic my opinion included most of the members and followers; a more nationalistic group; and a negative anti-Semitic group.

Q. What do you mean by a negative anti-Semitic group? Is that the Streicher tendency?

A. If you ask me, yes.

Q. To what party tendency did you belong in the Party?

A. I was and am a Socialist.

Q. To what group did the majority of the Reichsleiteer belong?

A. That is very difficult to say.

Q. The Gauleiter?

A. The Gauleiter from the industrial areas were for the most part Socialists.

Q. How about the Kreisleiter?

A. That depended essentially on their home district.

Q. The same is true of the Ortsgruppenleiter, Block- and Zellenleiter?

A. That is true of most of the political leaders and for the mass of Party members.

Q. What was the political influence of the various groups and where was the emphasis put?

A. That is very difficult to say. If you speak about influence, I presume that most of the Party members, like me, believed in the Socialistic ideals of the Fuehrer, but that there were men in his entourage who were less interested in Socialism than in other aims seems to me probable.

Q. Did you as a Socialist agree with the Party leadership?

A. I absolutely agreed with the Socialistic aims of the Fuehrer. On the other hand I did not agree with some men in leading positions and their ideas.

Q. Why did you and other political leaders who did not agree with these aims remain in office when you saw that the main policy was deviating from Socialist fields, and the persecution of the Church and Jews started?

A. To begin with, at no time up to the collapse did I or my associates have the impression that the Socialist aims had been given up. I have already emphasized that if an old National Socialist has worked almost twenty-five years for his Party, it is his duty to fight as long as possible for the realization of the aims as he understands them, and that is not possible outside the Party but only within the Party. That is one of the essential reasons why I remained in the Party.

Q. How were the subordinate Kreis- and Ortsgruppenleiter instructed?

A. To answer this question one must make a distinction between the city Gaue on the one hand and the provincial Gaue on the other. In the city Gau of Hamburg the political leaders were frequently called together and received their instructions orally. For the provincial Gaue instructions were mostly given, because of the distance, in writing.

Q. Were the Kreisleiter instructed to the same extent as the Gauleiter or did they learn only of less important matters?

A. Up to the beginning of the war I do not recall any case in which my Kreis-' leiter, and I assume it was similar in the other Gaue, did not learn of everything that 1 knew of. During the war that did not hold entirely true for reasons of secrecy.

Q. Did the political leaders receive instructions to commit war crimes or to permit them? How about the lynching of low-level flyers?

[Page 84]

A. Such orders as you mention were not known to me in a direct form, that is as a direct demand. I assume you are speaking, first, of the newspaper article by the former Reichsminister Dr. Goebbels; second, of the well-known decree of the Reichsfuehrer SS to the police, and third, of the repeatedly mentioned circular letter of Reichsleiter Bormann.

Q. Yes.

A. These orders were not clearly formulated in the sense of your question. I admit that their interpretation could lead to a development which then did lead in individual cases to the events described here. These orders came through the Gaustabsamt and were then sent from there to the competent Kreisleiter. The order, that is, the circular letter by Bormann, was stopped by me in my Gau - as I assume that it was done in other Gaue too - in view of the fact that, because of the intensity of the air warfare and its results, I wanted to keep my political leaders from giving a dangerous interpretation to this order. In addition, in view of the Goebbels article and in view of Himmler's decree, I sent the Kreisleiter and police presidents distinct counter-orders. I hope that similar steps were taken in other Gaue.

Q. What about the treatment of foreign workers? Did you receive instructions tending toward war crimes in that regard?

A. All instructions which I know of in this field refer exclusively to a demand for support of the social welfare work. For me, as a Socialist, it was a matter of course that my agents, that is in this case the Labour Front and the Kreisleiter, were instructed to give positive social care to foreigners also, and I visited the camps to ascertain whether this was done.

Q. What about the concentration camps in regard to foreigners? Did you have instructions to put or help to put foreigners in concentration camps? Did you know of what happened in the concentration camps?

A. I assume that the question of competence for the concentration camps is known to the Tribunal. As the supreme political leader of the Gau-

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Servatius, I do not know what the witness means by that, that the question of competence with reference to the concentration camps is known to the Tribunal.

DR. SERVATIUS: He did not want to say that he, as a Gauleiter, was not responsible for the concentration camps themselves. He only wanted to explain that he will immediately discuss his responsibility and will not give a long explanation on competency. For that reason he said-I assume the Tribunal is informed on that matter.

THE PRESIDENT: Then, are you saying that you were in charge of the concentration camps or responsible for them?

THE WITNESS: No, by no means.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, what do you mean by the competency for the concentration camps?

THE WITNESS: I wanted to indicate or say that I might assume that the Tribunal knows of this competency. If not, I am prepared to explain it briefly.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, will you explain it briefly?


The concentration camps, during the whole period of their formation and their management, were completely outside any knowledge or influence of the political leaders, who, consequently, had no authority as far as concentration camps were concerned and no idea of what actually happened in them. I myself, if I wanted to enter a camp, had to have a special written approval from the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Security Headquarters). I believe that that is sufficient explanation.

[Page 85]


Q. Were not flyers actually lynched and was that not so well known that every political leader knew about it and approved it by remaining in office?

A. I have already stated that in the Gau Hamburg such things did not take place and since I myself learned of such cases only as a prisoner, I must assume that my political leaders, like myself, learned of these things only in captivity.

Q. Was not the ill-treatment of foreign workers throughout the Reich so well known that every political leader must have known about it and approved it by remaining in office?

A. The political leaders were bound to their own districts, especially during the war. They could supervise only their sphere of activity and what I and my political leaders in Hamburg saw of these camps made only a favourable impression. The Kreisleiter had the obligation, where there were deficiencies and poor conditions, to take steps together with the Labour Front and industrial leaders to remove them.

Q. What was the relationship of the political leaders to the State organizations, administrations and other institutions?

A. The functions were completely varied and separate, except in those cases in which one person held two or more positions.

Q. And what relationships did the political leaders have to the SA and general SS?

A. The SA and the general SS were independent organizations with their own chain of command. The political leaders could ask them to support their work.

Q. Did the political leaders have any executive powers?

A. None at all. If they had no State function, as I said, they were exclusively limited to their Party sphere.

Q. Could the political leaders give instructions to the Gestapo or the SD?

A. That is shown from the answer to the previous question. However, the fact that in the State Police and the SD the vigilance over their own organizations was even more severe than in other formations was a matter of course.

Q. Witness, what was your relationship to the Fuehrer?

A. In the first years I venerated the Fuehrer. Later on I still venerated him but did not understand him on many points, and the measures which are now ascribed to him I would formerly not have considered possible.

Q. Can the political leaders, in believing Hitler to be an idealist and in having no knowledge of the extermination of the Jews and other events, essentially be considered of good faith?

A. In the correct judgment of their functions and their attitude and what they had to know or could know, this good faith must, in my opinion, be granted to the political leaders without reservation.

DR. SERVATIUS: I have no more questions to put to this witness.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn.

(A recess was taken until 1400 hours.)

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