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 Ninety-First Day: Wednesday, 31st July, 1946
(Part 5 of 11)

[Page 125]

DR. SERVATIUS: As my next witness, with the permission of the High Tribunal, I should like to call Dr. Hirt, a Blockleiter.

ERNST HIRT, a witness, took the stand and testified as follows:


Q. Will you state your full name, please?

A. Dr. Ernst Hirt.

Q. Will you repeat this oath after me:

I swear by God, the Almighty and Omniscient, that I will speak the pure truth and will withhold and add nothing.

(The witness repeated the oath.)

THE PRESIDENT: You may sit down.


Q. Witness, when were you born?

A. On 25th June, 1896.

Q. You are at liberty?

A. Yes.

Q. You are a Landgerichtsrat and during the war, from 1942 to 1945, you were Kreigsblockleiter here at Nuremberg?

A. Yes.

Q. Outside of your block, did you know about the political activity and attitude of the Block- and Zellenleiter?

A. Yes, I had contact with a number of other Block- and Zellenleiter and as a judge I had further opportunity to gather insight into the activity of Block- and Zellenleiter.

Q. Witness, please pause a little between questions and answers so that the interpretation can follow. In taking office as a Blockleiter during the war did you become a political leader through that step?

A. I was never that.

Q. Please wait while the red light is on.

A. No, I never became that. We were merely entrusted with the work connected with this office.

Q. Were there many such Block- and Zellenleiter during the war, men who were not political leaders as well?

[Page 126]

A. The majority of the Block- and Zellenleiter who were appointed during the war were not political leaders, that is, they were not nominated or confirmed by the Kreisleiter, and they received no certificate and had no right to wear a uniform.

Q. Did the Block- and Zellenleiter take over their office voluntarily?

A. The majority of the Block- and Zellenleiter during the war did not take over their office voluntarily.

Q. And how was it in peace time?

A. In peace time I rather assume that the larger part of Block- and Zellenleiter took over this activity voluntarily.

Q. Was not each Party member compelled to take such an office and do you understand by that that they did not come in voluntarily?

A. Per se, each Party member was compelled to work in the Party or for the Party, but in peace time it could readily be arranged to avoid taking over office. During the war, however, in most cases, this was quite impossible. A number of Block- and Zellenleiter had been called to the colours; the Ortsgruppenleiter ordered Party members who were still left to take over this or the other office and it was impossible to refuse without running the risk of some serious consequences.

Q. Why did Party members frequently refuse to take over such offices?

A. Well, an activity like that brought with it in many cases considerable work, and during the war each man who was fit for work was already additionally burdened in his main occupation.

Q. Were not political reasons often a cause for refusal?

A. Yes, a large part of the people who were supposed to take over an office like that were less and less in agreement with various measures taken by the Party and especially measures taken during the war.

Q. What was the task of the political leaders?

A. The tasks of the war Block- and Zellenleiter were first of all and to the greatest extent duties of a social nature. Apart from collecting money and running errands, the Blockleiter above all had to take care of the population as the misery due to the war grew greater, to carry out protective measures against air raids, to supervise collections for the needs of the Wehrmacht, and do other services which were for the common good.

Q. Did the office which you took over correspond with your position as judge?

A. In no way. I considered this work somewhat undignified, for the running of errands, the collection of funds, the keeping of files and similar services were in no way commensurate with my training and with my profession.

Q. If you had been used as a political leader then you would probably have been accorded a higher position?

A. Yes, I must assume that, but as war Blockleiter I was not concerned with political activity in any way.

Q. Then it was just a matter of carrying out practical work?

A. Yes, we war Block- and Zellenleiter did purely practical work as helpers in the Ortsgruppe.

Q. From what stratum of the population did the Block- and Zellenleiter come?

A. The Block- and Zellenleiter, for a large part . . .

Q. Witness, you must pause.

A. . . . were taken from the simple people, the working classes, and people who had rather insignificant positions.

Q. And what was the point of view according to which these people were chosen?

A. It was important to find people of good character who were reliable, for money matters were involved, and the honesty of the person had to be beyond suspicion.

[Page 127]

Q. Did the Block- and Zellenleiter not have a staff at their disposal, which would emphasize their importance as Hoheitstraeger?

The yellow light means that you must pause.

A. I never knew about such a staff, but I do know from various conversations that I had with other Block- and Zellenleiter, people who were active in former years, that there were block helpers where large blocks were involved. I myself did not have a helper of that kind in my block. On the other hand, there was a so-called " Hatiswart " (house warden) in each house.

Q. And how about the title "Hoheitstraeger"? What did it mean?

A. The Block- or Zellenleiter, in any event, could not consider himself a Hoheitstraeger, for he had no political authority to make or issue orders. In our opinion, Hoheitstraeger started with the Ortsgruppenleiter.

Q. Conversations took place with the Ortsgruppenleiter. Did the Blockleiter receive directives for the combating of political opponents?

A. At these so-called conversational evenings, an assignment to combat, question or spy on political opponents was never given.

Q. Now, as judge and because of your dislike for taking over this office, you probably looked at these things very critically.

A. Yes, that is something I can say about myself.

Q. How about this informing for the purpose of bringing people into concentration camps. Did you receive directives along that line?

A. At no time did such a directive go out. In my opinion, a Block- or Zellenleiter could not in seriousness -

Q. Witness, please pause longer; otherwise the interpreters will not be able to keep up with you.

A. I shall repeat. Such a directive was never given to us. In my opinion, a Block- or Zellenleiter could not, even on his own initiative, conceive of spying on the population or on individuals for purposes of denunciation, for otherwise his entire position in the Block or in the Zelle, a position which presupposed and necessitated a relationship of confidence with the people, would have been impossible immediately.

Q. In the Organization Book of the NSDAP it states that people spreading detrimental rumours were to be reported to the Ortsgruppe by the Blockleiter so that the competent authorities could be advised. Did you not act according to this book?

A. The Organization Book of the NSDAP was as unknown to me in times gone by as it was unknown to the other Block- and Zellenleiter.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Servatius; you realize that the Tribunal has got a very full summary of the evidence which this witness gave to the Commission. In addition to the actual evidence, we have got a summary, which consists of six pages of folio, and therefore I think it would be convenient to the Tribunal if you could summarize the evidence as much as possible and take it as shortly as you can, as we have the opportunity of seeing the witness and forming our opinion on the credence to be attached to him.

DR. SERVATIUS: Mr. President, my examination will not take very long.


Q. Did not the Blockleiter keep files in which they recorded the names of those who were politically suspicious?

A. Only a general card registration file was kept of the inhabitants; a special file for people who might be particularly suspicious, politically, is absolutely unknown to me.

Q. Did the Blockleiter have police authority?

A. In no wise.

Q. For what reasons did the political leaders in general join the Party?

[Page 128]

A. Well, at the assumption of power by the Party, there was widespread unemployment in Germany, which could be alleviated only in the course of years, but there were also other social needs, and most of the Block- and Zellenleiter with whom I had contact hoped by entering the Party to receive general support in their efforts to eliminate the German emergency.

Q. Now, witness, wars actually were fought, which according to the prosecution were wars of aggression. The persecution of the Jews is well known. The trade unions were dissolved. Did not the Block- and Zellenleiter have to recognize these incidents as aims of the Party which were set down in the Party programme and in the book Mein Kampf?

A. I consider that possible. I personally was more critical of all of these things than many others, but the Party programme, as well as the accompanying propaganda which was very strong in the Press and over the radio, could not show to the people the real aims and intentions Hitler had at the time he took over the power.

Q. Were not the things which are set up today as crimes under the Indictment so well and widely known that each Block- and Zellenleiter would of necessity have to know them?

A. The Block- and Zellenleiter as such did not learn any more than any other simple German or member of the Party could gather from the Fuehrer's speeches, from newspaper articles and publications and from radio reports.

Q. You saw many mistakes and you rejected them. You saw the practices followed by the Party. Why did you remain in office?

A. At that time I personally, as an official, could neither take over the office nor later could I seriously consider resigning from my office. As sufficient examples have already shown, that would have meant for me the loss of my profession, the ruin of my existence, and possibly something worse.

DR. SERVATIUS: I have no further question to put to this witness.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn.

(A recess was taken until 1400 hours.)

THE PRESIDENT: In accordance with the Tribunal's order on procedure for the organizations entered on 25th July, several applications have been made to the Tribunal for an extension of time for the closing speeches by counsel for the organizations. These applications are made, the Tribunal thinks, under some misapprehension as to the meaning of the orderof 25th July. It is not intended that the closing speeches should deal at length with the documents. When offering the documents, or during the examination of witnesses, or at the conclusion of the evidence, as counsel prefers, he may make brief references to the documents to explain their nature and the points to which they refer. All the material matters will thus be before the Tribunal. This will enable the closing speeches to be devoted to summarizing the evidence and commenting on any matters of law, and one half-day will be ample for that purpose. That is all.

DR. SERVATIUS (for the defendant Sauckel): Mr. President, I have a question on the given ruling. I submitted my documents and written evidence to the Tribunal without comment, according to the ruling as I understood it. May I then comment on this written evidence at the end of the total admission of evidence and ask the Tribunal to look through the documents P It is not possible now, as they are not available.

THE PRESIDENT: Certainly, Dr. Servatius.

DR. SERVATIUS: Thank you.

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