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 6 of 9)

[Page 281]

DR. PELCKMANN: Is it agreeable to you, Mr. President, if I do not call the next witness until two o'clock?

THE PRESIDENT: No, call the witness.

DR. PELCKMANN: I should like to call the witness Brill.

ROBERT BRILL, called as a witness, testified as follows:


Q. Will you state your full name, please?

A. Robert Brill.

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, what activity did you carry out which put you in a position to testify here about the affairs of the SS?

A. For twelve years I was with the Waffen SS. In 1933 I started my service as a private in the Leibstandarte. I was made an officer and then for four years, with interruptions due to my service at the front, I was in the Erganzungs Amt (Training Centre) of the Waffen SS. At the end of the war I was orderly officer in an SS Panzer Division.

Q. What does that mean, "Erganzungs Amt" of the Waffen SS?

A. The Erganzungs Amt of the Waffen SS concerned itself with the enrolment and examination of recruits for the Waffen SS as well as with the military supervision of the members of the Waffen SS. I was the head of a main department in the Erganzungs Amt and, as such, I dealt with the calling up and military supervision. However, I had sufficient insight into other departments of the Waffen SS so that I can testify here before this Tribunal.

Q. Is it correct to say that you could watch the development as far as figures are concerned in the Waffen SS?

A. Yes.

Q. And now tell the Tribunal as exactly as possible, and pay special attention to the question, were they volunteers or were they drafted into the Waffen SS?

A. The Waffen SS originated from the SS Verfugungstruppe (Emergency Troops). The Leibstandarte was made up of several hundred men. This had been set up in 1933 as a guard and representative group for the Reich Chancellery.

[Page 282]

Owing to the expansion of these representative tasks and guard duties, the Verfugungstruppe in the years 1934 to 1939 was made up of volunteers from all the levels of the German population. At the beginning of the war the Verfugungstruppe had about 18,000 men. Service in the Verfugungstruppe was military service. In addition to that, there was in existence on the 1st September, 1939, the Death's Head Unit which hid about 8,000 men. To these two units were added about another 36,000 men between the autumn of 1939 and the spring of 1940. These men had been drafted as an additional force for the police as a result of emergency service measures. These 36,000 men together with the Verfugungstruppe and the Death's Head Units made up the Waffen SS.

A directive of the High Command of the Wehrmacht in the spring of 1940, which appeared later in December, 1940, as an army service regulation, dealt with the military supervision, composition and recruiting of the Waffen SS. By the beginning of 1940 we had 100,000 men in the Waffen SS. There were 36,000 who had been drafted and 64,000 volunteers.

THE PRESIDENT: We will recess now.

(A recess was taken until 1400 hours.)



BY DR. PELCKMANN (for the SS):

Witness, you had just said that at the beginning of 1940 the Waffen SS had 100,000 men, 64,000 volunteers and 36,000 draftees. Will you continue about the development?

A. In the same year, 1940, we had 50,000 more recruits for the Waffen SS; 2,000 to 3,000 were drafted and the others were volunteers. In 1941 we received 70,000 men, 3,000 drafted, the rest volunteers. In 1942, 30,000 men were drafted.

THE PRESIDENT: Would it not be quicker and just as accurate to take all these figures as they have been given before the Commission? Presumably they are all in writing in the evidence given before the Commission. It is not necessary to repeat a series of figures of this sort for us. You could pass on to something which would be less statistical.

DR. PELCKMANN: Very well.

Q. From the comparative figures of the draftees and the volunteers, one could say on the basis of your testimony that 40 to 50 per cent of those called to the Waffen SS were drafted forcibly. In your opinion, was this percentage the same at the end of the war?

A. No, by no means. At the end of the war we had about 550,000 men in the Waffen SS. Up to October, 1944, there were 320,000 known casualties including dead, missing, and seriously wounded. Considering that the majority of the dead were our volunteers - I know this from carefully compiled reports on casualties - it results from this that at the end of the war there were more draftees in the Waffen SS than volunteers.

Q. The Tribunal will be interested in knowing where you have received such accurate knowledge.

A. For four years I worked on this material. I prepared statistics and made reports so that I have retained these figures in mind very accurately. In my office in Berlin I handled card indexes, etc. They were there when I left in January, 1945.

Q. Particularly for the years 1943 and 1944 have you made it clear how many men were drafted into the Waffen SS. Statistics for the earlier years, 1940, 1941 and 1942, have not been compiled by the Commissions. Perhaps you could give us examples of how non-volunteers were taken into the Waffen SS at such an early period.

[Page 283]

A. Yes. I have already mentioned the 36,000 men who were drafted by emergency decrees. In addition, in 1940 we drafted men from the police to set up our Field Gendarmerie. We drafted men from the Reichspost to secure our Army mail. We drafted the civilian employees of the SS-Verfugungstruppe (Emergency Troops) in 1941. We frequently drafted personnel for our cavalry units from the army. I recall further that about 800 army men were drafted into the Waffen SS in the summer of 1941. Doctors and technicians also were drafted in 1940 and 1941 - in addition, resettled persons who had become subject to military duty. Yes, even with the resettlement details (Umsiedlungskommandos) we drafted men who did not report voluntarily. In 1942 we deviated considerably from the volunteer basis. About 15,000 racial Germans were drafted into our division "Prinz Eugen," about 10,000 men were drafted from the police and the army for the police division, and 2,000 men of the Reichspost who were with the army as so-called front auxiliaries were drafted into the Waffen SS. They were civilian post-office employees with the army.

Q. Can you recall the transfer, on Hitler's order, of whole formations of the Luftwaffe?

A. Yes, that was particularly in 1944. Also in 1943 units of the Luftwaffe were taken over. I recall, for example, an agreement of Reichsmarschall Goering with our commander, Sepp Dietrich, of March, 1943, when 3,000 men of the Luftwaffe were transferred. In 1944 many men were transferred from the army as well.

Q. And now, to go back to the volunteers, can you tell us anything about the motives for volunteering?

A. Yes. In my office I saw thousands of requests for admission. I can say that up to 1939 the enthusiasm for the SS, for its decent and proper conduct, was the main reason for volunteering, but in addition there were many volunteers for professional reasons.

Q. And how was it after the beginning of the war?

A. After the beginning of the war, the main reason for volunteering was that the men wanted to do their military service in a clean, modern, elite formation. Professional reasons also played a part in volunteering. Very few came to the Waffen SS for political reasons after the beginning of the war: I also know that part of the volunteers were recruited by over-enthusiastic recruiters from the Hitler Youth or the Reich Labour Service. Formally they were volunteers but actually they were under a certain moral pressure. I know this from the letters of complaint which reached the Erganzungsamt.

Q. Letters from whom?

A. Letters from the parents of these men.

Q. How old were these boys?

Q. They were mostly seventeen. They had volunteered, but their parents did not want them to; influenced by recruiting speeches they had reported against their parents' wishes.

Q. Could a volunteer have recalled his application? Could he have left the Waffen SS? Could he have left, say, because he learned of some crimes, such as are alleged by the prosecution?

A. No, that would not have been possible. If the man once volunteered, there was no way out. Since he was drafted with an order from the Wehrmacht and to avoid punishment he had to report; once he had reported to the troops he was under military law and could not leave the Waffen SS.

Q. Did you receive complaints in this connection? Were there complaints that these volunteers were used for any sorts of crimes?

A. Yes, we did receive complaints, but they were primarily complaints from draftees who thought that the Waffen SS was given especially arduous duties and had exceptionally heavy casualties. For this reason, they wanted to go home again. It also happened that parents were afraid for their boys and also sent letters to us

[Page 284]

complaining that, the boys were drafted at seventeen on the basis of a Fuehrer order, without the approval of their parents, and asking that they should come back. We paid no attention to these complaints.

Q. As a Member of the Erganzungsamt no doubt you know something about the process of selection for the Waffen SS; for example, whether purely political reasons were primary for the acceptance of a volunteer or of a draftee.

A. I took part in inspections in the Leibstandarte and later directed them myself. I can say that we were interested only in healthy young men. We did not ask whether a man's father had a Communistic attitude or whether he and his parents were deeply religious. We were interested only in young men of firm character. We accepted a young man who had not been in the SA or the General SS much more readily into the Waffen SS than an older Party member who had a physical disability. We wanted young, clean soldiers. Of course later, in the case of those who were drafted and transferred, the selection was no longer so strict.

Q. For these inspections, did you have any secret instructions concerning the selection?

A. No. Our inductions always took place in public places. I remember that even before the war we held public inductions for the Waffen SS in Danzig, which was still under Polish authority. The manner of making our selections was not kept secret either. Anyone could see it in the recruiting pamphlets, which were published by the million.

Q. Did members of foreign countries serve in the Waffen SS besides Reich German soldiers?

A. Yes. Our good racial Germans should be especially mentioned. They formed the majority of these alien soldiers. The Reich had reached agreements and State treaties with the countries that these people were to do their military service in the Waffen SS. From the Germanic countries we took almost exclusively volunteers for our "Wiking" division and for the other Germanic units.

In 1943 - and still more in 1944 - we also set up alien units. Most of these people were volunteers, but many of them were drafted on the basis of the laws of their own countries. Among them, people of completely different racial, religious, and psychological backgrounds came into the ranks of the Waffen SS, and they were allowed to retain their own characteristics.

Q. Please give a brief survey of how great the number of such foreigners was, since it is important for the accusation that supposedly a unified ideological unit had been set up here.

A. I can give this set-up from the end of 1933 to the end of 1934.

Q. You mean 1944, do you not?

A. Certainly, 1944. I beg your pardon. Up to the end of 1944 we had drafted 410,000 Reich Germans, 300,000 racial Germans, 150,000 foreigners, and about 50,000 Germanic soldiers in the Waffen SS.

Q. I add a question of the President to the previous witness, von Eberstein. You surely know the relationship of the General SS to the inductions into the Waffen SS. For example, was a Fuehrer of the General SS taken into the Waffen SS while keeping the same rank?

A. One cannot speak of a transfer in a military sense. The General SS was a voluntary organization. The Waffen SS was considered a component part of the Wehrmacht. Up to 1942 a member of the General SS, if he felt drawn to the Waffen SS, first had to volunteer. Only after 1942 could we take the men without their volunteering and this only on account of the difficulty in getting replacements. I would emphasize that it was quite possible for a man of the General SS to have volunteered prior to 1942 and to have been rejected because of physical disability. After 1942, of course, we no longer rejected members of the General SS, but it was also quite possible that a member of the General SS could do his military service in other sections of the Wehrmacht, and I estimate that the majority of the General SS was taken into the Wehrmacht at the beginning

[Page 285]

of the war. A Fuehrer of the General SS, unless he already had military rank in the Wehrmacht, was taken into the Waffen SS as a common soldier. On the other hand, officers of the Wehrmacht were taken into the Waffen SS with equivalent rank.

Q. Then would you conclude, witness, that activity in the General SS was in no way evaluated as pre-military training, because a member of the General SS had to do military service in the Waffen SS or the Wehrmacht from the beginning just as a non-member did?

A. Yes, of course. That is the case.

Q. Is it true that in Germany the Waffen SS was considered as the fourth branch of the Wehrmacht and not, as the prosecution says, a Nazi troop?

A. Yes. That can be emphasized. Regarding my sphere that can certainly be said. Only the selection was carried out according to SS directives, while acceptance for the Waffen SS depended on the approval of the Wehrbezirkskommando. Induction into the Waffen SS took place with the induction order of the Wehrmacht. The volunteer contingents of the Waffen SS were prescribed by the High Command of the Wehrmacht, and forcible inductions always followed on the basis of the orders of the High Command of the Wehrmacht. One can also say that we had no connection whatever with the Party, for the Party gave us no orders.

The few Party members who were in the Waffen SS paid no Party dues for the period of their service. They did not receive awards of the Party. The whole replacement and supervision of the Waffen SS was effected according to regulations of the High Command of the army, as specified in the Army Service Regulation 8115. Since service in the Waffen SS and in the army were practically on the same footing we finally carried out in the autumn of 1944 the long-sought merger of the SS replacement offices with the army recruiting offices.

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