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 4 of 11)

[DR. MERKEL continues his direct examination of Karl Heinz Hoffmann]

[Page 164]

Q. What were the main tasks of a State Police office in Germany?

A. The main subjects that were dealt with were the combating of high treason, or treason; dealing with Church questions; with questions which arose from the treatment of the Jews; with so-called measures against the Treachery Act (Heimtueckegesetz); with criminal acts within the Party; and with certain important political questions from the whole complex formed by the Press and economy.

Q. How was the question of protective custody dealt with in the course of your activity with the Gestapo?

[Page 165]

A. The great majority of the cases were dealt with by means of a warning by the State Police, when the result of the inquiry was negative. In those cases where custody was necessary, we saw to it that the perpetrators were brought before the court. Protective custody was only given for a short time in all those cases where the matter was not ready to be brought to the court. Protective custody by being transferred to a concentration camp was only proposed by the Gestapo if the personality of the perpetrator, judged by his previous behaviour, gave one to expect that he would continue to be an habitual offender against the regulations. To my knowledge, at the beginning of the war there were twenty thousand inmates in the concentration camps, of whom I estimate at the most one-half were held for political reasons.

Q. For what reasons were the other half kept there?

A. They were mostly criminals.

Q. Did the Gestapo take any measures for looking after the members of the political inmates' families?

A. According to a decree of the Gestapo office, the State Police office, when taking people into protective custody, not only had to ask the welfare organizations to take care of the families, but the official who dealt with the particular case had periodically to make sure that they were actually looked after.

Q. Were inmates who were released from protective custody in a concentration camp forbidden to follow certain professions?

A. No, they could go into any profession.

Q. That deals with the period during which you were in charge of the State Police Office? Until what year?

A. That is during the time when I was deputy chief until May, 1940.

Q. The prosecution has said that the Gestapo had fought the churches; what do you know about that from the time when you were in Coblenz and Dusseldorf?

A. Church matters during my period were dealt with on the basis of a separation of Church and State; that is to say, we intervened when a priest violated the so-called "Kanzelparagraph" (pulpit paragraph) which had been put into the penal code in the days of Imperial Germany, or for violating the "Heimtueckegesetz" (treachery act), or if Church organizations were active in worldly matters, which was prohibited by a decree.

Q. What did one mean by "Jewish questions" during the period up to 1938?

A. The emigration of Jews.

Q. What was the number of officials who dealt with Jewish matters, at the two offices of the Gestapo known to you?

A. At the Coblenz Gestapo office, one Criminal Oberassistent, who also dealt with matters pertaining to freemasonry; at the Dusseldorf, Gestapo office, one Oberinspektor with, I believe, two or three assistants.

Q. Was there any change brought about by the order of Heydrich of 10th November, 1938, to arrest an unlimited number of Jews who were able to work?

A. That decree was a complete surprise for us, for the measure could in no way be expected on the basis of the measures which had heretofore been taken. Since to my knowledge the great majority of these Jews were released again later on, one could not recognize that as a basic change of the course pursued by the State leadership.

Q. Did you or the officials in your office have any knowledge that the deportation of Jews to the East, started in 1942 approximately, really meant their destruction, biologically speaking?

A. No. At that time I was an adviser in the Gestapo office. At meetings with the chief of Office IV, nothing was ever mentioned about that. The treatment of the Jewish question was at that time in the hands of Eichmann, who had not risen from the State Police, but had been transferred from the SD to the State Police. He and his personnel were living in a building set aside for that purpose

[Page 166]

and had no contact with the other officials. He particularly did not bring in the other departments by getting them to countersign, when for instance he ordered the deportation of Jews. To our objections in that regard he always answered that he was carrying out special missions which had been ordered by the highest authorities and that, therefore, it was unnecessary for the other departments to countersign, and thus to be able to state their own opinion.

Q. Were there regulations about secrecy always applied within the individual offices of the State Police?

A. Yes; even within the offices themselves. It was an old police principle as early as 1933 that individual cases should not be talked about. The secrecy was rendered more severe by the well-known Fuehrer decree. The SS and the police courts punished any offenders most severely and all these punishments were regularly made known to the officials.

Q. You were in charge of Office IV-D-4 in the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA) since 1941. What were the duties of that department?

A. To deal with the political and police problems of occupied territories from a uniform point of view and particularly to summarize them in reports to higher and to other offices; later, there was, in addition, the looking after the interned political prisoners and other personalities from these territories.

Q. What was your fundamental attitude, and therefore that of the main Gestapo office, about the origin of the national resistance movement in the occupied territories?

A. After these territories were occupied, the Allies also started to utilize the potential forces in these territories by setting up military organizations. That, in the beginning, was voluntary on the part of the people and whoever wanted to join any such military organization would do so for patriotic or political reasons. Once he had joined such an organization, he was subordinate to military orders with all their consequences. The measures which he had to carry out were carried out as part of the Allied strategy as a whole and not in the interests of his own country or on its behalf. As a result, all actions of the resistance movement were military actions which were not carried out spontaneously by the population, and from that it resulted that all measures of a general nature against the population were reactions against the activities of the military organization, and not only useless but also harmful to German interests, because the members of these military organizations were not deterred by such measures from carrying through their orders. The consequence was that a combating of these forces was only possible on two lines: first, to bring about by means of reports a policy on the part of Germany which would deter people from the political decision to fight against Germany; and secondly, to neutralise the active groups by capturing them.

Q. Why, then, did the State leadership not act in accordance with this fundamental conception of the Gestapo?

A. To begin with, because Himmler had not come from the ranks of the police and his decisions were not usually made according to the reports he received from the police, but primarily on the basis of individual information which he received from other sources, particularly from the Higher SS and Police Leaders. Moreover, the police were not able to report continuously and at the same time give an estimation of the situation. On the other hand, the Higher SS and Police Leaders and the local offices which represented the highest German authorities in the various territories, again and again interfered with the work of the police on the lower level.

Q. You just used the word "interfered." Did not the Gestapo have a well-defined chain of command?

A. No. The offices assigned in the occupied territories were not only subordinate to the Central Secret State Police Office but many other civilian and military authorities had influence and could, for instance, issue directives, especially

[Page 167]

the Higher SS and Police Leaders, Reich Commissioners, and in part also the military commanders.

Q. Can you give us two very striking examples.

A. First, the policy of Reich Commissioner Terboven, to carry out the shooting of hostages, and other general measures against the population. For three years we fought in order to prevent his measures, and by reports sent to Himmler we repeatedly tried to have him recalled. We took, for instance, prisoners from Norway to Germany in order to get them away from his jurisdiction, and later we were able to release them in Germany. When ship-sabotage in Denmark reached its climax in the autumn of 1944, a directive came from OKW to the military commander, to bring about a decree of the Reich plenipotentiary, so that dockers and their relatives could be arrested if any acts of sabotage occurred in their docks. After hard controversies the measure was revoked because it was evident from our experience that the dockers had nothing to do with those acts at all.

Q. How were Sipo and SD organized in the Western Occupied Territories?

A. The organization was not uniform. In Norway, and later in Belgium, there were commanders under the Commanders-in- Chief; in Denmark and the Netherlands there were branch offices (Aussenstellen) and in France there were commanders under the Commander-in-Chief. In all cases, the BDS was not only subordinate to Berlin but also to the Higher SS and Police Leader who again was immediately subordinate to Himmler, and who could bring about decisions which did not go through the RSHA.

Q. What was the composition of the personnel of these offices?

A. There was a tremendous shortage of trained Criminal Police officers. Therefore the State Police officers formed only a skeleton staff, which was supplemented by men of the Criminal Police, but primarily by men drafted for that service, who had been transferred with units of the Secret Field Police to Sipo. They represented a good deal more than fifty per cent. of the staff.

Q. Was it a voluntary matter to belong to Sipo in the Western Occupied Territories, or not?

A. No, one was transferred or drafted there. Only the native interpreters had volunteered with the State Police.

Q. Who ordered the deportation of Jews from Denmark?

A. That order came from Adolf Hitler through the Reichsfuehrer SS. The Commander of the Security Police tried in vain to have it deferred, but he was not successful, to my knowledge, as that was also one of the reasons why he was recalled.

Q. What was done on the part of the State Police to mitigate those measures as far as possible?

A. The ordinary police who were charged to carry out these measures in general were informed that doors could not be broken open by force. Secondly, with the help of the Reich plenipotentiary, it was made possible that no confiscation of property should take place, and the keys of the apartments were turned over to the Danish Social Minister.

Q. Was the deportation of Jews known in Denmark beforehand?

A. It had been known to the Danish population and discussed by them for a long time previously.

Q. Why were the Danish Police dissolved and part of them deported to Germany?

A. Because the Danish Police, in their entirety, were in the closest contact with the resistance movement and the British Intelligence Service. For instance, the Chief of the Danish Police turned over information on the composition of German troops on Jutland and Fuhnen to the British Intelligence Service, and was involved in carrying out sabotage work in case of invasion. Other leading officials were involved in a similar manner. Under these circumstances, the armed forces feared the Danish Police might be used to attack them from behind.

[Page 168]

Q. Did the State Police suggest and carry through deportations?

A. Deportations were not initiated by the State Police, but the Higher SS and Police Leader had already requested the approval of these measures by Himmler in the Fuehrer headquarters, when he told the State Police about his intentions.

Q. Was there a uniform order to use physical cruelty or torture during interrogations?

A. Brutal treatment and torture were strictly prohibited and were condemned by the courts.

Q. Do you know of any cases in which interrogation officers were sentenced by courts?

A. I remember two Gestapo officials in Dusseldorf who were sentenced for maltreatment of prisoners, by a regular court.

Q. Were third-degree methods used in interrogations in Denmark when you were in office there, and, if so, why?

A. Yes, third degree was carried out during interrogations. To explain this I have to point out that the resistance organizations occupied themselves with the following:

Firstly: Attempts on German soldiers.

Secondly: Attempts on trains, means of transport and Wehrmacht installations in the course of which soldiers were also killed.

Thirdly: Elimination of all so-called informers and people collaborating with the German Police or other German authorities.

In order to forestall those dangers and to save the lives of Germans, the third degree interrogation was ordered and carried out, but only in such cases. There was restriction in practice, in spite of the scope of the decree.

Q. What was discussed at the conference in Brussels in 1943, about the application of third-degree methods?

A. At a conference of officials it was stated, on the basis of experience gained, that it was already decided for the aforementioned reasons that it was advisable to restrict the application of third-degree methods to the extent mentioned.

Q. On whose orders were hostages shot in France, who suggested it?

A. As far as I know, it was a directive from Adolf Hitler. We constantly received reports from the Gestapo office, and we sent reports protesting against these measures, to the same extent as in other occupied territories, for the reason that I have already given.

Q. Why did the Gestapo especially reject the idea of shooting hostages as reprisal for the shooting of German soldiers in Paris?

A. Because we were of the opinion that this had been carried out by a relatively small group of people, and that general measures, therefore, would not only be useless but damaging in view of the considerations which I mentioned before. Facts really proved that in Paris these measures had been carried out by a group of not even one hundred persons.

Q. Who ordered and carried out the deportation of workers from France to Germany?

A. That was a measure of the manpower administration. It was not known to me that the State Police had carried out any deportation of workers. I have to make one limitation concerning France where, upon the orders of the Reichsfuehrer , as far as I remember the so-called Action "Meerschaum" was carried out, in the course of which French nationals, I believe five thousand, who had committed minor political offences were forcibly transferred to Germany in order to be used as workers.

Q. Who was responsible for the evacuation of Jews from France?

A. The evacuation of Jews was carried out by Eichmann's office as I have already explained, without it being possible for the older offices of the State Police to do anything about it.

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