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-Second Day: Thursday, 1st August, 1946
(Part 2 of 11)

[LT.-COMMANDER WHITNEY HARRIS continues his cross examination of Dr. Karl Rudolf Werner Best]

[Page 156]

Q. Who - who in Denmark told you that this Einsatzkommando was opposed to the Kugel Erlass?

A. I was told that by the head of the executive, Dr. Hoffmann.

Q. Yes, Dr: Hoffmann. He was the head of the Gestapo in Denmark, was he not?

A. Of the Gestapo branch with the commander of the Security Police.

Q. Yes, and when, approximately, did Dr. Hoffmann tell you that?

A. I cannot remember exactly, whether through my conversation with Dr. Hoffmann I was reminded of these facts, or whether the individual measures which were turned down at that time were ever reported to me. It may be that this is a new piece of information for me, which confirms to me that this decree never was put into effect. No case of this kind ever occurred.

Q. Now, Dr. Best, you just said in your last answer that Dr. Hoffmann told you that the Gestapo was opposed to the Kugel Erlass in Denmark and that he told you this in Denmark. Now, is that true or is it not true?

A. I did not say when and where I learned of it. I said only that the decree was not put into effect on the initiative of the police. I did not say when and where I was told this.

Q. What was the Kugel Erlass?

A. Today I know, for I have read files and transcripts, that these were measures, I believe, dealing with prisoners of war who had escaped.

Q. Now - when you were asked about your knowledge of the Kugel Erlass before the Commission, you did not say anything about having had a conversation with Dr. Hoffmann about it, did you?

A. According to my memory, I was asked only whether at that time during my time of office I had known of the Kugel Erlass. I did not see the decree at that time. I believe I have mentioned this already. I read if only here.

LT.-COMMANDER WHITNEY HARRIS: If the Tribunal please, I have two documents which I would like to offer into evidence at this time. These documents have come to our attention and have been made available only in the last two days. Consequently, it has been impossible for us to present them to anyone speaking for the Gestapo before the Commission, and I think that this witness can assist in identifying some of the names. And I would like to ask the permission of the Tribunal merely to show these documents to the witness. They are quite long, and I will then try to summarize them as briefly as possible and develop what I can out of them in the shortest possible time, perhaps fifteen minutes for both documents, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, go on, Commander Harris.

[Page 157]

LT.-COMMANDER WHITNEY HARRIS: Then at this time I offer into evidence Document R-178, which becomes Exhibit USA 910, and I ask that the document be shown to the witness.

This document was captured by a combined British-American documents exploitation team and sent to the prosecution from the Air Documents Research Centre in London. It contains detailed correspondence concerning a complaint about a certain Major Meinel against the Gestapo officers in Munich, Regensburg, Nuremberg, and Furth over the screening out and murdering of Russian prisoners of war. I ask that the witness turn to Document F, which is Page 7 of the English translation.


Q. You will note, witness, that this is a report from the Gestapo office in Munich, in which are listed 18 camps screened by the Gestapo, showing a total of 3,088 Soviet prisoners of war screened, of whom 410 are screened out as intolerable. You will note, following Page 8 of the English translation, that the 410 Russians sorted out belong to the following categories: officials and officers, Jews, members of intelligentsia, fanatical Communists, agitators and others, fugitives, and incurably sick. You will note on Page 9 of the English translation that of the 410 Russians so sorted out, 301 had been executed at the concentration camp at Dachau at the date of this report. On Page 10 of the English translation, witness, you will find the following: namely, that these 410 Russians screened out at Munich represent a percentage of 13 per cent, whereas the Gestapo offices at Nuremberg, Furth, and Regensburg screened out an average of 15 to 17 per cent. This report, which is signed by Schuermer, states, quoting at the same place:

"I wish to refute most emphatically the complaints of the High Command of the Armed Forces that the screening of the Russians had been carried out in a superficial manner."
Now, witness, do you know Schuermer?

A. No, the name is not familiar to me.

Q. All right. Then I want you to turn to Document G. This is a report from the Gestapo office in Munich complaining about the attitude of Major Meinel; and on Page 13 of the English translation you will find a statement that Meinel was thought to have complained to the High Command of the Armed Forces that the Russians had been superficially screened out.

Now, you will note that a report was made against Major Meinel by the SD, in which Meinel was reproached with having shown, to some extent, aversion against the National Socialist creed. For example, he mentioned God but not the Fuehrer in an order of the day.

THE PRESIDENT: Where does that come?

LT.-COMMANDER HARRIS: Sir, you will find that on Page 13 of the English translation, in the middle of the page.


That was the mark of a bad National Socialist, was it not, Dr. Best - one who would put God before Hitler?

A. I do not know which question you want me to answer. As regards this entire connection, I should like to emphasize that at the end of May, 1940, I left my position in the Security Police Division at the Reich Ministry of the Interior, and therefore I had no knowledge of these things, which transpired in the year 1941.

Q. Then turn to Document G, Page 15 of the English translation. You will find this sentence:

"Experience, however, has shown that the Russians can be compelled to work only by the utmost severity and the use of corporal punishment."
Now, pass to Document H, Dr. Best. There appears on Page 17 of the English translation, this statement:

[Page 158]

"Furthermore, I pointed out to Major Meinel that the work of the Gestapo employment detachments was done with the consent of the High Command of the Armed Forces, and according to rules which had been drafted in collaboration with the High Command, Department of Prisoners of War."
Now, this document is signed by Schimmel. Was Schimmel known to you?

A. Schimmel? I cannot remember the name Schimmel, but I do recall that there was a Regierungsrat, I think, of that name, in the Gestapo.

Q. Turn to Document J, then, page 21 of the English translation. At the end of that, you will find that Meinel, in giving his reply to the accusations made against him, stated:

"When I mentioned that it weighed heavily on the officers' conscience to hand over the Russian prisoners, Regierungsrat Schimmel replied that the hearts of some of the SS man who were charged with executing prisoners were all but breaking."
Now, on Document M, witness, which is Page 26, you will find a notice that the Reich Commissioner for Defence was informed about these murders, and approved of them. This was for Defence Area VII. Do you know who the Reich Commissioner for Defence was in Defence Area VII who approved these murders?

A. A Reich Commissioner? You mean the Reich Defence Commissioner?

Q. Yes, the Reich Defence Commissioner. That, is what I said.

A. I do not recall the Reich Defence Commissioner in Area VII, for during that time I was away from the Reich and held a position outside the Reich boundaries.

Q. All right. Let us go on. There are many other cases of the screening of Soviet prisoners of war by the Gestapo for execution; that is, by local Gestapo offices within Germany proper, and I do not wish to take up further time about that. But I wish that you would turn to Document T, witness, because I want to get evidence of the result of this conflict with Major Meinel. Document T is a teletype from the Gestapo office in Berlin, and it states:

"The prisoners of war who have been screened out - "
THE PRESIDENT: What page is that?



"The prisoners of war who have been screened out will be transferred to the Buchenwald concentration camp, as the High Command has decided in a conference today. Will you please inform the Higher SS and Police Leader today about this and also that Meinel is getting a different assignment."
Now, this teletype emanated from the RSHA, Office IV A. That was the Gestapo, was it not, Dr. Best?

A. Yes.

Q. And you see it was signed by SS-Obersturmbannfuehrer Panzinger. Now you know who Panzinger was, do you not?

A. Yes. He was the deputy of Muller.

Q. Yes. And he was the head of this Department IV A, which was charged with the handling of opponents and sabotage, assassinations, protective security, and matters of that sort, was he not?

A. He was the head of the Department IV A. Just what was dealt within this department I cannot recall.

Q. Well, you can take my word for that.

LT.-COMMANDER HARRIS: For the Tribunal's information, that appears in Document L-219, and is already in evidence.

Now, I wish to offer the other documents. There are five documents here which are in a group, sir, and I will offer them in order:

[Page 159]

4050-PS becomes Exhibit USA 911; 4049-PS becomes 912; 4052- PS becomes 913; 4048-PS becomes 914; and 4051-PS becomes 915.

These documents have just come to us from the Berlin Document Centre, and we have not yet been able to obtain the originals. They sent to us only the photostatic copies. We have requested the originals, and they will be here, we are assured, in a matter of days. As soon as they come, we will, with the permission of the Tribunal and the approval of counsel, substitute the originals for these photostatic copies.


Now, Dr. Best, turning to Document 4050-PS first, you will see that this refers to the same SS-Oberfuehrer Panzinger. This is apparently a Foreign Office communication, in which it says that Panzinger reports that various changes have been made in the preparation of the matter discussed, and that he has promised a plan for the execution of our proposed action.

Now, if you will turn to the enclosure, which is Document 4049-PS, you will find just what that plan was. You will see there that the plan was to transfer 75 French generals from Koenigstein, in the course of which one general by the name of De Boisse was to have a misfortune - namely, his car was to break down - in order to separate him from the others. This was to provide the opportunity to have the general shot in the back while attempting to escape.

You will find that this document goes on to recite all the details of completing this murder, including this interesting statement, that "a decision has as yet to be reached whether or not the burial of the urn should be carried out with military honours"; and it goes on to say that the question will be looked into once more by the SD.

This is the basic report of November, 1944.

Now, if you will turn to the next document, 4052 -

THE PRESIDENT: Should not you read the last paragraph on Page 2?

LT.-COMMANDER HARRIS: Yes, sir, I will read that.

"Protecting Power investigations: It will be assured, through the selection of the persons concerned, and in the preparation of all documentary evidence, that in the event of the Protecting Power being desirous of an investigation, the necessary documents are available for the dismissal of any complaint."

O. Now, turning to the next document, witness, 4052-PS, you will find again the reference to this infamous SS- Oberfuehrer Panzinger. You see, witness, Panzinger had been promoted by this time. He states that the preparations in respect to the French generals had reached the stage where a report concerning the proposed procedure would be submitted to the Reichsfuehrer SS during the next few days. And you will find that he again explains this method of murder, and he says that they will carry it out by one of two methods, either by shooting during escape, or through poisoning by carbon monoxide gas.

Now, you have noticed, witness, that at the end of this document it shows that it was prepared for presentation to the Reich Foreign Minister, Herr von Ribbentrop.

Now, the next document is a particularly interesting one. It is Document 4048-PS. This document is dated 30th December, 1941.

THE PRESIDENT: Was Ambassador Ritter the ambassador in Paris?


Q. Witness, was Ambassador Ritter the ambassador in Paris?

A. I do not remember exactly. That must have been some time before I knew how the diplomatic posts were filled.

THE PRESIDENT: It does not matter.

[Page 160]

LT.-COMMANDER HARRIS: I am informed, sir, that he was a liaison officer between the Foreign Office and the Army. I am not sure of that, however.

Well, passing to Document 4049-PS, here is where the whole plan is laid out in summary form, and I would like to read this briefly. This is addressed to the Reichsfuehrer SS, and it says:

"The discussions about the matter in question with the Chief of Prisoner-of-War Matters and the Foreign Office have taken place as ordered and have led to the following proposals:

1. In the course of a transfer of five persons in three cars with army identifications, the escape incident occurs when the last car has a flat tyre, or

2. Carbon monoxide is released by the driver into the closed back of the car. The apparatus can be installed with the simplest means and can be removed again immediately. After considerable difficulties a suitable vehicle has now become available.

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