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-Fifth Day: Monday, 5th August, 1946
(Part 2 of 9)

[MR. ELWYN JONES continues his cross examination of Friedrich Karl Freiherr von Eberstein]

[Page 264]

Q. I will put the question to you again. I am surprised that you cannot understand the question. I will try again. You denied on Saturday that the SS was the heart of Nazism. Would you agree with me that it was the fist? This, the fist. (Indicating.)

A. Oh, the fist. I assume that the prosecutor means to say that with this fist we waged an attack. I can only point out that we, as Schutzstaffel, had to protect leading personalities.

Q. What I meant by the fist was that the SS supplied the brute force of Nazism. Is that not so?

A. I can only repeat what I described. Before 1933 we were a very small group of men who, up to 1933, amounted to about 25,000 to 30,000 in the whole of Germany. Germany had about 65 million people in 1933, but it was in no proportion to the size of the Party, and after 1933 -

Q. You are not answering my question, you know. You are wandering off into details that have no relevance to my question at all. I suggest to you that the killings by the SS on the 30th of June, 1934, were a characteristic use of the SS as the fist of Nazism.

A. The events of the 30th of June, 1934, were, according to my firm conviction and to that of my comrades, the result of a state of emergency, and the orders which were given were adhered to because they were the orders of the head of the State.

Q. You denied on Saturday that the SS had taken any part in the shootings of the 30th of June, 1934. Are you seriously saying to the Tribunal that that is your evidence on that matter?

A. I can only say that in my district the General SS were in the barracks of the Wehrmacht and the police, not on the street, and they did not shoot. The shootings -

Q. So you are saying that it was the Wehrmacht and the police that did the shooting, that it was the forces of General Keitel and the others who were doing the shooting, are you?

A. I did not mention those two names, nor did I say that the Wehrmacht had carried out the shootings. In answer to the question of the defence counsel, I

[Page 265]

said why I believed there was a state of emergency. I said that I received instructions to establish contact with the Commander of the Wehrkreis, but that does not mean that the Wehrmacht was to supply execution detachments or anything like that, but that they only wanted the Wehrkreis Commander to give his consent to their being billeted in the barracks.

Q. You were a frequent visitor to Dachau, were you not?

A. Yes.

Q. And you saw nothing there except good shower baths, good food, satisfactory sanitation; that was a rest camp? That was your evidence on Saturday about Dachau, was it not?

A. I did not use the words "rest camp." I had been a soldier since 1904 and I had an idea what troop billets and a camp should look like. I can only repeat that everything was scrupulously clean, the sanitary installations which I saw were in excellent order, that the prisoners were well nourished and, as I saw during the war, on the average their food was like the food of every German outside. I can only say here on oath what I myself saw with my own eyes.

Q. Did you ever ask to see the punishment cells, the completely dark cells where people were kept for three months on bread and water?

A. I can recall that on such a tour through the camp I went through the cells. Unlike the huts, that was a stone building -

Q. If you answer my questions, we shall get on faster.

A. Yes.

Q. Did you ever see the completely dark cells?

A. I must say that one cannot see from the outside whether a cell is dark. Of course, any cell in any prison can be darkened. I did not see any. As Chief of Police I know that for refractory prisoners there are cells without windows. I did not see them, but I will admit that there could have been such cells.

Q. Did you ever ask to see the camp regulations for the punishment of prisoners who committed offences in the camp?

A. No, I did not demand that. The camp commandant made an exhaustive report during the tours. I had no authority to intervene in his affairs before these guests.

Q. I just want you to look at what the regulations were as early as May, 1933.

MR. ELWYN JONES: I put the Document D-922, my Lord, which will be Exhibit GB 548.

Q. (continuing.) Now, these are the regulations for the camp of Dachau which was on your doorstep, you know, and you see in paragraph 3 the punishments that can be imposed on prisoners:

"Cells may be mild, medium, or severe. The maximum term of the first two kinds is eight weeks, and three months for the "severe" cells. This kind of punishment is generally carried out in solitary confinement. In the case of medium cells, the person undergoing punishment receives a hard bed and only bread and water for food. Severe cells are the same as the medium, but the cell is completely dark."
And then, if you will look at paragraph 8 of the regulations, you will see that there is given power of life and death to the camp commandant of Dachau and his staff. And paragraph 18 sets out the procedure to be followed in the event of charges of disobedience for which a death penalty is decided by a camp court, which consists of the camp commandant, one or two officers, to be nominated by the camp commandant, and an SS man belonging to the guard personnel.
"The prosecution is also to be undertaken by an SS man belonging to the camp commandant's office who is to be nominated by the camp commandant. In the case of an even vote, the president of the camp court has the casting vote. The president is the camp commandant at the time."

[Page 266]

Did you know that the power of life and death had been given in that way to these SS men who were running the concentration camps, witness?

A. This document has no heading and no signature. May I point that out? I have not seen these regulations.

Q. I would be obliged if you would answer my question. Did you know that the power of life and death was given to the SS officials who ran these concentration camps, as far back as 1933?

A. I did not know that. I cannot imagine such a thing. I assumed that executions were ordered by higher authorities, but I cannot pass judgement on that.

Q. But you were the Higher SS and Police Chief for many years. You were Himmler's man, you know, were you not?

A. In my testimony I have repeatedly stated that the Higher SS and Police Chief, the Oberabschnittsfuehrer of the General SS and the Chief of Police; had no influence whatever on internal arrangements in the camp and were not the superiors of the camp commandant.

Q. But whether you had influence or not, you were a confidant of Himmler, his personal representative. Are you saying to the Tribunal that you did not know what the details of Himmler's murderers' organization were?

A. As to these punitive regulations about which I am reproached, and which imply jurisdiction over life and death, I can only say that they were unknown to me, and that Himmler never once spoke to me about these things; nor did I ever receive regulations concerning concentration camps.

Q. Did you ever hear of Oswald Pohl?

A. Yes.

Q. He was the head of the Economics and Administrative Office of the SS, was he not, the WVHA?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you know that this organization, using SS personnel, was employing murder as a means to establish loot on a colossal scale for the benefit of the Waffen SS and other SS organizations?

A. Yes; I heard that from reports on this trial in the camp where I was. I had never heard before that gold teeth, etc. were collected.

Q. Did you know of the great business in death that was bringing millions of marks to the coffers of the Reichsbank? And it was involving numerous departments of the Third Reich.

A. No, I did not know that.

Q. Let me just read to you Oswald Pohl's affidavit, given to Dr. Kempner upon this matter - it is Document 4045-PS, which will be Exhibit GB 549 - so that perhaps your memory may be refreshed. The affidavit reads:

"1. My name is Oswald Pohl. I was born in Duisburg, Germany, on 30th of July, 1892. Since 1st February, 1934, 1 was chief of the Economics and Administration Main Office of the Elite Guard (Schutzstaffel) (WVHA). I occupied this position permanently until Germany's capitulation.

2. Through my activity as Chief of the WVHA I remember clearly two large business deals between my office and the Reich Ministry of Economics and the Reichsbank of Herr Walter Funk. One deal concerned clothing from persons killed in concentration camps. In this connection Himmler endeavoured to procure through Reich Economics Minister Walter Funk a higher allotment for the SS in the uniform material distribution. The other business deal concerned the business connection of my office with the Reichsbank President, Walter Funk, and the Reichsbank with regard to jewellery, rings, gold teeth, foreign exchange and other articles of value from the possessions of people, particularly Jews, who had been killed in concentration camps.

3. The connection of my office with the Reichsbank with regard to clothing of persons who had been killed in concentration camps was instituted in the

[Page 267]

year 1941 or 1942. At that time I received the order from the Reichsfuehrer SS and the German Police, Heinrich Himmler, who was my chief, to get in touch with the Reich Economics Minister, Walter Funk, to obtain a higher allotment of material for SS uniforms. Himmler instructed me to demand from Funk that we receive privileged treatment. The Ministry of Economics was receiving from the concentration camps a large delivery of clothing. This clothing had been collected in the extermination camp, Auschwitz, and other extermination camps, and then delivered to the proper office for used clothes.

4. As a result of this order received from my superior, Himmler, I visited the Reich Economics Minister, Funk, in his offices. I waited only a short while in his ante-room and then met him alone in his office. I informed Funk of my instructions that I was to ask him for more material for SS uniforms, since we had been able to deliver such large quantities of old clothes resulting from the actions against Jews. The meeting lasted around ten minutes. It was openly discussed that we perhaps deserved privileged treatment on account of the delivery of old clothes of dead Jews. It was a friendly conversation between Funk and myself, and he said to me that he would settle the matter favourably with the gentlemen concerned. How the subsequent settlement between Funk and his subordinates and my subordinates was handled in detail, I do not know.

5. The second business deal between Walter Funk and the SS concerned the delivery of articles of value of dead Jews to the Reichsbank. It was in the year 1941 or 1942 after large quantities of articles of value, such as jewellery, gold rings, gold fillings, spectacles, gold watches and suchlike, had been collected in the extermination camps. These articles of value came packed in cases and addressed to the WVHA in Berlin. Himmler had ordered us to deliver these things to the Reichsbank. I remember that Himmler explained to me that negotiations concerning this matter had been conducted with the Reichsbank and Herr Funk. As a result of an agreement which my chief had made, I discussed with Reichsbank Director Emil Puhl the manner of delivery. In this conversation no doubt remained that the objects to be delivered were the jewellery and valuables of concentration camp inmates, especially of Jews, who had been killed in extermination camps. The objects in question were rings, watches, eyeglasses, gold bars, wedding rings, brooches, pins, frames of glasses, foreign currency and other valuables. Further discussions concerning the delivery of these objects took place between my subordinates and Puhl and other gentlemen of the Reichsbank. It was a large quantity of valuables, since the delivery continued for months and years.

A part of these valuables of people killed in death camps I saw myself when Reichsbank President Funk and Vice- President Puhl invited us to an inspection of the Reichsbank vaults and afterwards to lunch. I do not remember exactly whether this was in 1941 or in 1942, but I do remember that I already knew Funk personally at that time from the clothing deals, as I have described above. Vice-President Puhl and several other gentlemen of my staff went to the vaults of the Reichsbank. Puhl himself led us on this occasion and showed us gold bars and other valuable possessions of the Reichsbank. I remember exactly that various chests containing objects from concentration camps were opened. At this point Puhl or Waldhecker, who accompanied him, stated in my presence and in the presence of the gentlemen of my staff that a part of these valuables had been delivered by our office.

After we had inspected the various valuables in the vaults of the Reichsbank, we went upstairs to a room in order to have lunch with Reichsbank President Funk; it had been arranged that this should follow the inspection. Besides Funk and Puhl, the gentlemen of my staff were present; we were about 10 to 12 persons. I sat beside Funk and we talked, among other things,

[Page 268]

about the valuables which I had seen in his vaults. On this occasion it was clearly stated that a part of the valuables which we had seen came from concentration camps."
Q. Now, is the material contained in that affidavit news to you, witness?

A. Yes, absolutely.

Q. You had no knowledge of it at all?

A. No.

Q. Did you know that SS personnel were used for the great manhunt of Jewish people all over Europe?

A. I have read reports here during the trial that a certain Eichmann, an SS member, had this task. I never saw Herr Eichmann; I never had anything to do with him. I know the facts from the report in this trial.

Q. Did you know that one of the objects of these manhunts, apart from murder, was to secure loot for the SS and for kindred Nazi organizations?

A. No, I did not know that. I may point out that I was always in the country and never had anything to do with these matters.

Q. Did you know your colleague, Higher SS and Police Chief Globocnik - G-L-O-B-O-C-N-I-K?

A. Yes; I met Globocnik once at a Fuehrer meeting. I talked to him once.

Q. He was a Higher SS and Police Chief like yourself, was he not?

A. No, I do not believe so. At that time he was Oberfuehrer or Brigadefuehrer.

As such he could not be Higher SS and Police Chief. And it was not in Germany. I know that.

Q. We may be at cross-purposes. I am speaking of the year 1943. In that year Globocnik was Higher SS and Police Chief in the operational zone of the Adriatic coast, was he not?

A. That may be; I do not know. It is possible, but not in the Reich.

Q. You have said, as to your own position as Higher SS and Police Chief that you had no power of command over the SS and no authority over the police. That seems to have been a summary of your functions as Higher SS and Police Chief; is that right?

A. Yes. I may remark that I expressly emphasized not only before this Tribunal but before the Commission as well that I cannot testify concerning the powers of the Higher SS and Police Chiefs outside of Germany because their tasks were different.

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