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-Fourth Day: Saturday, 3rd August, 1946
(Part 4 of 4)

[DR. PELCKMANN continues his direct examination of Friedrich Karl Freiherr von Eberstein]

[Page 254]

Q. And now please distinguish between Police Presidents and Higher SS and Police Leaders. Please make clear to the Court what the difference is between these two positions.

A. The Police President was a State administrative official, while the position of Higher SS and Police Chief was created only during the war, without his being designated an official authority or a regional commander, for according to the official instructions from the Reich Minister of the Interior, his sole task was to represent the Reichsfuehrer SS and Chief of the German Police in his Defence Area (Wehrkreis). He did not have any authority to issue orders to the police.

[Page 255]

According to the decree of the Reich Minister of the Interior, the Chiefs of the Main Offices of the Regular Police and Security Police remained the superiors of the police. The power to issue orders rested in them. They used their own chain of command, while the Higher SS and Police Leader was secondary to them, without any authority to issue orders to the police.

Q. And now please answer the question: Is the assertion of the prosecution correct, that the Higher SS and Police Leader formed a close connection between the general SS and the police?

A. That was impossible

THE PRESIDENT: You have already asked him that once and he has answered it. Let us go on to the next question.

Q. Is the more sweeping assertion of the prosecution correct, that the general SS and the police officially formed one unit, and so was a State within a State? Is this assertion correct?

A. No.

DR. PELCKMANN: On this question, since I do not want to burden the High Tribunal with details, I shall refer to the depositions SS Affidavits 86 and 88, which I shall hand in later.

Q. You have already said, witness, that the Higher SS and Police Leader had no power to issue orders to the Regular Police or to the Security Police. But did the Higher SS and Police Leader have the power to issue orders to the Waffen SS or to the general SS?

A. The Higher SS and Police Leader had no power to issue orders to the Waffen SS; to the general SS only if he was Leader of the SS Oberabschnitt of the general SS at the same time, not otherwise. I ask to be allowed to add something to my previous answer. The Higher SS and Police Leader had the right, but not the duty, to carry out inspections and he could make suggestions. For my part, I am only in a position to testify on the activities of the Higher SS and Police Leader in the home territory. What the procedure was in the occupied territories I cannot judge.

Q. To sum up your testimony, could one say that the title "Higher SS and Police Leader" is misleading?

A. Yes.

DR. PELCKMANN: Concerning the testimony of the witness on the position of the Higher SS and Police Leader in the occupied territories with regard to Germany, I refer to Affidavit SS No. 87.

Q. In your capacity as Higher SS and Police Leader, did you ever receive information from the Reichsfuehrer SS on the treatment of enemy flyers when they had to make emergency landings?

A. Yes.

Q. For what purpose did you receive this information and how did you apply it?

A. This announcement said it was not the task of the police to interfere in altercations - I believe that was the expression - between the German population and enemy flyers who had bailed out. Nothing was said about any kind of treatment in this announcement. This announcement was signed by Himmler; and the Higher SS and Police Leaders were ordered by Himmler to inform the commanders of the Regular Police and the inspectors of the Security Police fully of the contents of this announcement.

Q. Had corresponding announcements been sent previously and subsequently to Party offices by the Fuehrer's Party Chancellery, Reich Leader Bormann?

A. Yes, to a great extent. There were announcements in the Volkischer Beobachter, in the paper Das Reich, and besides that, the Gauleiter of my district commented on it. Moreover, the commander of the Regular Police and the Inspector of the Security Police received this order from their superiors as well. I

[Page 256]

should like to remark that this was so throughout the entire Reich. A similar order was also issued by the Main Office of the Regular Police, giving the same information to the police offices, as well as by the Main Reich Security Office.

Q. On the basis of these decrees, did the attitude of the police in your district change in any way in cases of landings by enemy flyers?

A. In no way. It was a fundamental principle for us to adhere to the provisions of the Geneva Convention or the Hague Rules on Land Warfare; I do not know which of the two rules is applicable there, but in any case to treat prisoners as was proper.

Q. In spite of this, did the lynching of flyers occur in the district under you?

A. No. Lynchings did not occur, but unfortunately there were some shootings of flyers. It so happened with us that the flyers were taken out of the police stations and then shot. As I have now learned from the Press, trials have been held on this account and the murders atoned for. I have been under arrest now for a year and a quarter and get my information only from the papers. The reports of the trials indicate that the police treated the flyers decently in every respect, bandaged their wounds, and turned them over to the Luftwaffe, as was prescribed.

Q. Was it improper, or a violation of the Hague Rules on Land Warfare, if the flyers were arrested by the police and not by the Wehrmacht?

A. I can give no judgement on these regulations of International Law, as I said before.

THE PRESIDENT: He is not a witness on law. This is a matter for us to judge.

Q. Witness, was there a general order in existence since the beginning of the war that flyers who had made emergency landings had to be taken to a place of safety by the police?

A. Yes. The regulations read as follows: Flyers who had bailed out were to be arrested by the police. Besides that, according to German law, any other citizen was able to do this. Then they were to be taken to the police. The police stations had orders to inform the nearest Luftwaffe office that the police had enemy pilots and that the Luftwaffe was to come for them. There was a binding rule that these captured flyers were to be turned over to our Luftwaffe offices.

Q. What did you, as Higher SS and Police Leader, have to do with the Gestapo and the SD?

A. Nothing. According to existing regulations, the Inspector of the Security Service informed the Higher SS and Police Leader of what happened in the sphere of the Gestapo or Security Service. These two agencies, the Security Service and the Gestapo, received their orders directly from the, offices concerned, Offices III or IV of the Main Reich Security Office.

Q. And so you had no power to issue orders to the inspectorates of the Security Police and the SD?

A. I believe you made a mistake by saying "inspectorates." I could not have any power of command over inspectorates.

Q. You had no power to issue orders to the Security Police and the SD?

A. No.

Q. What did you, as leader of the Oberabschnitt of the general SS, have to do with the Gestapo or the SD?

A. As Oberabschnitt leader I did not have anything to do with them.

Q. Was it so throughout the Reich that the leaders of the general SS had no power to issue orders to the Gestapo and the SD?

A. Yes. The general SS had no executive powers and, besides that, it was not allowed to become active or to interfere as an intelligence service, that is, in the sphere of the Security Service.

[Page 257]

Q. Did your corps area (Oberabschnitt), or did the divisional areas (Abschnitt), regiments (Standarten) and companies (Sturme) of the General SS, have any official connection with the Gestapo or the SD?

A. No.

Q. As Higher SS and Police Leader, or as Oberabschnitt leader of the general SS, what did you have to do with concentration camps up to September, 1944?

A. Nothing.

Q. Is it true for all the Reich that the Police Presidents, the Higher SS and Police Leaders, and the leaders of the general SS had nothing to do with concentration camps?

A. Yes.

Q. What offices were responsible, first for delivery to and release from concentration camps, and second for the administration of the concentration camps themselves?

A. For admission to and release from a concentration camp, Office IV of the Main Reich Security Office was competent. For the administration and internal affairs of the concentration camps, the Economic and Administrative Head Office of the SS was responsible, Amtsgruppe D, Inspectorate of Concentration Camps.

Q. Therefore, can one conclude from your answer that for killings and atrocities committed against prisoners in concentration camps, neither the Police President of the district in question nor the Higher SS and Police Leader of this district, nor the leader of the Oberabschnitt of the general SS was responsible?

A. None of the offices mentioned was responsible for such things. The concentration camp system was a strictly independent apparatus, with its own chain of command.

Q. Do you know the concentration camp at Dachau, from your own experience?

A. Yes. In the course of the years from 1936 on, when I was transferred to Munich, I often received orders from Himmler that I was to take high German and foreign officials to Dachau to show them the concentration camp. Among others, I took the Royal Yugoslav Minister of the Interior there; once some high American police officials; a number of commandants of prisoner-of-war camps; high political personages from Italy, and so forth.

Q. Then since you say you had nothing else to do with the concentration camps, that was your only opportunity to obtain permission to enter them? And if I have understood you correctly, you received permission through the Main Reich Security Office just like the guests who were inspecting the camp?

A. Yes; that is, I received orders to go there, and the guests received permission. It was done in the following way: Either Himmler's staff or the RSHA, through the Inspectors of Concentration Camps, informed the competent camp commandant that guests were coming with me as their guide.

THE PRESIDENT: We do not think you need go into the details of the exact way in which the orders went. We do not want the details.


Q. Aside from the Rascher case, which I shall discuss in a minute, did you ever have any official reason to visit the camp at Dachau?

A. No.

Q. Did you, perhaps, for other reasons necessarily have the desire to obtain accurate information about conditions in the camp, perhaps because you had heard that mass killings were carried out there, and that the people were starving to death?

A. No, because from what I saw when I visited the camp everything was in order. The kitchen installation was shown, the hospitals, the dental station, the operating-rooms, showers, barracks; and there was also an opportunity here to

[Page 258]

see numerous prisoners who, in my judgement, in peace time - that is, before 1939 - were in an outstandingly good state of health. After 1939 - that is, during the war - they gave the impression of being normally well fed.

There were also thousands of prisoners, in Munich, for example, who were employed in the removal of bomb debris in public squares and streets and everyone could see the prisoners. From my point of view, on the basis of the knowledge I gained during my visits to the camp, I had no occasion to intervene, and I had no right to do so, either.

Q. On these visits, could you, because of your position, see more or less than the visitors whom you accompanied?

A. I cannot judge. Tours were conducted through the whole camp. For example, in the autumn of 1944, the commandants of prisoner-of-war camps were taken through. They were all experts who knew everything about camps and could go around everywhere, according to their own judgement, and see everything for themselves.

Q. Did you ever hear anything about biological experiments on living persons in the concentration camp at Dachau, and if so, when?

A. Yes. In the spring of 1944, in the course of criminal police investigations against an SS Hauptsturmfuehrer, Dr. Rascher, a physician, and his wife. The Raschers were accused of interchanging children (Kindesunterschiebung). That is a word which is very difficult to translate. In our law it means the illegal appropriation of other people's children.

Secondly, Rascher was accused of financial irregularities in connection with the research station at Dachau, where these biological experiments were carried on. This research station was directly subordinate to Himmler, without any intermediate authority.

Q. Did you know anything of those experiments beforehand?

A. No. It was only by accident that I found out about them.

Q. Please describe your investigation so that the Court may see that you did not close your eyes to such things?

A. On the basis of the proceedings which had already been commenced with the Criminal Police in Munich, I forced an entry into the camp at Dachau. I call your attention to the fact that it was by then 1944, and communications were so bad that I could not wait long for approval. With the help of a teletype message to the inspectorate I learned that I could go with the officials to Dachau in the course of the police investigation if I could obtain their permission. I did not know anything about the biological experiments at that time, but only of the two offences mentioned first. And when in a talk with the camp commandant I merely mentioned the name of Rascher, he, as well as the camp doctor, who had been summoned there, said that they considered Rascher a dangerous, incredible person who was carrying on the most abominable experiments on living human beings. He, Rascher, was vested with full powers from Himmler; and the camp commandant and his personnel were so intimidated that up to the time when I intervened, they did not dare oppose Rascher's activity in any way.

They felt that I would afford them the protection of a high SS leader, and so we came to discuss the experiments. Naturally, I did not release Rascher, who had been previously arrested by the Criminal Police for investigation, and immediately made a personal report to Himmler in his field headquarters in Eigen near Salzburg, and, indeed, I did this without being asked and on my own decision. Himmler had already reproached me bitterly by telephone for interfering at all.

He said I probably wanted to hold a sensational trial. I made the situation clear to Himmler, upon which he was very reserved toward me and said I did not understand anything about these things. He said that Herr Rascher was making very important experiments. He promised he would keep the documents which I had brought and submit the Rascher case to the Supreme SS and Police Court for punishment. The Supreme SS and Police Court was competent, because

[Page 259]

Himmler was Rascher's superior in this research office and Rascher was immediately subordinate to him. Unfortunately, he was not subject to the jurisdiction of my court.

Q. Were any proceedings brought against Rascher?

A. No.

Q. What became of Rascher?

A. Rascher remained under arrest as before. I kept complaining without interruption for weeks and months to Himmler's office and to the Supreme SS and Police Court. I learned later from the latter office that Himmler had not turned over the files to them at all.

Q. Did you learn later that Rascher was in a concentration camp?

A. Yes. Rascher remained under arrest in the detention house of the SS barracks, Munich-Freimann, apparently until the barracks, at least the detention house was evacuated because of the approach of the American troops. He was then sent to Dachau and I learned from the Press that he must have been shot during the last few days. I cannot give any further information about this, since I was relieved of my post on 20th April, 1945.

THE PRESIDENT: Before we adjourn, perhaps you can tell us how long you are going to be with this witness.

DR. PELCKMANN: I assume forty-five minutes, your Lordship.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 5th August, 1946, at 1000 hours.)

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