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 7 of 9)

[DR. PELCKMANN continues his direct examination of Robert Brill]

[Page 285]

Q. Going back to the question of the President to the witness von Eberstein, I should like to ask you something about the composition of the guard personnel of the concentration camps. Is it true, as the prosecution asserts, that the General SS during the war took over the guard duty at the concentration camps?

A. In no way can that be said. The 8,000 men of the Totenkopf formation, of which I spoke previously, at the beginning of the war consisted only in part of members of the General SS. In October, 1939, when the SS Totenkopf division was set up, these men were transferred to this front unit. These men were replaced by emergency service draftees. They included, I should perhaps say, 3,000 men of the General SS. But these men were taken from the General SS by the Emergency Service Regulation, which could equally have been applied to the induction of other men, which was done in part; for example, men of the Reichskriegerbund and of the Kyffhauserbund. During the whole war the General SS did not replace the guards for concentration camps unless one or another SS man who was incapable of emergency service at the front was transferred there.

Q. Please tell us briefly what the purpose of the so-called Emergency Service Regulation was and to whom it could be applied.

A. The Emergency Service Regulation was, in my opinion, and as far as I am informed, a regulation of the Reich according to which, in times of emergency, any member of the German Reich could be inducted for special service to the Reich. I have already mentioned this morning that 36,000 men were taken from the General SS on the basis of this regulation by the Reich Ministry of the Interior. The Reich Ministry of the Interior increased its contingent, as far as I know, to 1,000,000 men for police reinforcements and reserves, including these 36,000 men of the General SS.

Q. The Emergency Service Regulation and its effect are made clear by Document SS-26. Can you tell us who mainly took over the guarding of concentration camps during the war?

[Page 286]

A. For the most part during the war, racial Germans and members of the German Wehrmacht guarded the concentration camps. Let me explain this briefly. In 1940 and 1941 the guard personnel of the concentration camps were only replaced to a small extent. For the most part, there were members of the Kyffhauserbund, the Reich Warriors League (Reichskriegerbund), who came partly as inductees and partly as draftees of the emergency regulations. In 1942 racial Germans and volunteers from the Reich who did not, however, volunteer as guards for concentration camps, but for the Waffen SS, and who, because of unsuitability for service at the front, could not be put in the Waffen SS, were made guards. In 1943, the replacements were done similarly. That year, too, another contingent of veterans was drawn in, and in 1944 the last young men among the concentration camp guards were to be sent to the front. In this year the great majority of the guards in the concentration camps were members of the German Wehrmacht. I know that the OH reached an agreement with the inspectorate of the concentration camps that the army would take over the guarding. I myself saw the order. 10,000 men were mentioned in it.

Q. Can you give us figures on the concentration camp guards?

A. Yes. In the SS Main Office, the army had supervision of the guards at the concentration camps.

Q. What does "Wehruberwachung" mean?

A. That means that every man was included in a card index so that in case he was transferred, the office concerned would know exactly where the man was and when he would be available again. As I was saying, the record was kept of these men at the SS Hauptamt. Therefore, I know that about 7,000 such men were racial Germans, that about 7,000 were from the army and some from the Luftwaffe, and that there were 10,000 men who had volunteered for the Waffen SS, but as a result of unsuitability for front service were simply transferred to the guard personnel of concentration camps. This included the Kyffhauser members whom I have already mentioned, also SA members, non-party people, and so forth. About 6,000 men at the end of 1944 were from the Notdienstverordneten (Emergency Services draftees) and the old Frontkampferverbanden (Veterans Organizations) and a few injured members of the Waffen SS.

Q. What do you mean by that?

A. That means people who had been wounded at the front and were no longer able to do military service at the front, but were still suitable for guard duty.

Q. Now can you tell us whether the majority of the men, no matter where they came from, were volunteers or whether they were drafted?

A. No one ever volunteered for guard duty at concentration camps. The racial Germans as well as the Reich Germans who were used as guards were assigned there. The members of the Wehrmacht also, as far as I know, did not volunteer for this service but were sent there by order.

Q. Witness, what do you know about the administration of concentration camps?

A. The highest administrative authority for concentration camps was the Inspectorate KL (concentration camp). This Inspectorate KL was in 1939 or at the beginning Of 1940 in the hands of the General Inspector for the Totenkopfverbande. In 1942 the Inspectorate KL was transferred to the WVHA as Amtsgruppe D (Main Office for Economics and Administration).

I had no insight into the internal affairs of this Amtsgruppe such as I had with many other SS agencies. In the first place, this Amtsgruppe D was far away from us in Berlin. In addition, with the exception of the assignment of a few men, which was effected by telephone, we had no personal contact.

Q. Can you, on the basis of your long service in the Waffen SS and your position, give any information as to whether members of the Waffen SS in general had the opportunity to learn anything about the crimes which are now charged against the SS as a whole, or whether you yourself could learn anything of the same?

[Page 287]

A. Hundreds of thousands of people, mostly young men, were inducted into the Waffen SS. These people were 13, 14, perhaps 16 years old at the beginning of the war. When they came into the Waffen SS they were only used at the front. If they went home for a few days on leave they did not worry about politics or enemy propaganda, but only thought of seeing their families. Tens of thousands of wounded men in hospitals had only one desire - to regain their health. They did not listen to the enemy radio either so that they could not have learned anything. I talked to many of these men, and I know they were interested only in their military service. Only one per cent of those inducted were employed in the Waffen SS, in the offices and agencies of the Waffen SS. Very few of these were in a position to learn anything. However, they did not and would not tell us anything about what kind of service they had there anyway. In every office of the Waffen SS and SS as a whole there was a poster with an order from the Fuehrer which read, "You must know only as much as belongs to your official duties, and concerning what you learn, you must be silent."

Q. Was the reason for this Hitler order a military one?

A. I believe this order of the Fuehrer was in effect for the whole of the Reich. It applied as well to the troops as to the various offices.

Q. The troops - do you mean the Wehrmacht?

A. Yes, the Wehrmacht.

Q. Perhaps you know something about another point of the Indictment. When you were still with the staff of the Leibstandarte, did you learn anything, for example, about the proposed invasion of Austria?

A. Among the troops, it is true that the soldier always knows the least. The Leibstandarte was no exception. I recall very well the entry into Austria. Although the Leibstandarte was one of the first formations to march into Austria, we made no preparations for this entry. I know that exactly, since I was secretary with the staff, that neither the adjutant nor the Hauptsturmfuehrer in the staff knew anything half an hour before we left as to where we were going. When the Leibstandarte was in Austria, there was such enthusiasm that none of us would have thought that a crime had been committed here. The fact that we, as Leibstandarte, moved into Austria was a matter of course to us because the Fuehrer was there and we, as his bodyguard, went to Austria too.

Q. Witness, in view of the evidence which has been presented here, do you want to deny that millions of killings have taken place which are now being charged against the SS men?

A. I have talked to many members from various internment camps on this point. I can only repeat what we told each other. The Allies have given us a big puzzle with the discovery of this crime. We were always trained in honour, discipline and decency. For five years we fought in faithful duty for our fatherland. Now we sit behind barbed wire and everyone tells us we are murderers and criminals. I can only say one thing, and I say this for my comrades to whom I have spoken - we did not murder, we did not know of the abominable atrocities of Himmler who betrayed and deceived us too, by preferring death to responsibility. By committing suicide, he placed himself outside the ranks of the former SS, and that small circle of men who, perhaps through a false sense of obedience, became his assistants knew how to keep silent. Until today we knew nothing about it.

DR. PELCKMANN: Thank you. I have no more questions.



Q. Witness, you have said that the SS, and the Waffen SS in particular, was always trained in honour and decency. Himmler used to come and lecture to your division, the Leibstandarte, did he not?

A. I was not present at any speech which Himmler made to the Leibstandarte.

[Page 288]

Q. Did you know that he made speeches to the officers of the Leibstandarte?

A. Yes. As far as I recall, there was a speech at Metz when I was at the Erganzungsamt. My comrades told me about it.

Q. Do you know what Himmler said?

A. No.

Q. Did you riot think it was right to ask them?

A. Of course. I always asked, because as a former member of the Leibstandarte I was still interested in what was going on. But I did not discuss individual items such as, for example, the speech of the Reichsfuehrer.

Q. Because he was educating your division in what is the very opposite of honour and decency. Did you know, for instance, of the mass murder of the leaders of the Polish nation by the SS?

A. That cannot be possible. I read a great deal of the training material of the Waffen SS. I did not read any request to commit such mass murders.

Q. Let me read to you two or three sentences from a speech Himmler made to the officers of your own regiment. I refer to 1918-PS, Exhibit USA 304.

"Very frequently the member of the Waffen SS thinks about the deportation of this people here. These thoughts came to me today when watching the very difficult work out there performed by the Security Police, supported by your men, who helped them a great deal. Exactly the same thing happened in Poland in weather 40 degrees below zero, where we had to haul away thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands; where we had to have the toughness - you should hear this but also forget it again immediately - where we had to have the toughness to shoot thousands of leading Poles, otherwise one might later sorely regret it."
Are you saying that you did not know that Himmler said that to your regiment?

A. In the first place, I did not know it. In the second place, as far as I have heard, no members of the Waffen SS did that. Himmler said "we." I do not know who this "we" is. As far as I heard, that is not shown by the speech.

Q. Himmler was addressing the officers of your regiment, the Adolf Hitler SS Leibstandarte, and told them that the murders should be the work of the Security Police, namely, your men, the men of your regiment. That is perfectly clear, is it not?

A. No. That is not clear. The whole thing is wrong.

Q. Let me read to you another indication of the honour and decency in which you are apparently being inculcated. At Page 10 of the German text of Himmler's speech, Page 3 of the English text, you will see how Himmler - you need not trouble to read it at the moment - you will see how Himmler was telling your regiment of the SS that out of the slave labour of the victims of his organization, money was to be raised for the benefit of the SS men. I will read to you what he said.

THE PRESIDENT: We have had this document read before, I think.

MR. ELWYN JONES: Yes, my Lord, I am only going to refer to two sentences of it.

THE PRESIDENT: The witness said he was not there.

MR. ELWYN JONES: That is so, my Lord; what I am suggesting is that this was an address to the officers of his own regiment. Before the Commissioner, it was indicated he joined a month later.


Q. When did you rejoin the Leibstandarte, witness? In 1941?

A. I joined in 1933.

Q. Did you rejoin it again in 1941?.

A. In 1941, from June to August, I was on the Russian front with the Leibstandarte.

[Page 289]

Q. So you joined this regiment a few weeks after Himmler had addressed the officers of it?

A. I do not know exactly the date of Himmler's speech in Metz.

MR. ELWYN JONES: If it is not desired that I should put the document to the witness, I certainly should not do so against the wish of the Tribunal.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal would rather you did not.

Q. Can you explain to the Tribunal why it was that the Waffen SS, the personnel of the Waffen SS, were used in anti- partisan activity?

A. No. I did not know that the Waffen SS was particularly used against the partisans. On the basis of my position, I know that the Waffen SS was often subordinate to army units in the rear areas and here, perhaps in exceptional cases, was employed in anti-partisan activities. On the whole, however, the Waffen SS with its divisions was at the front. I know nothing of the special partisan units of the Waffen SS.

Q. I suggest to you that for military or other tasks that call for ruthlessness or political fanaticism, the Waffen SS was used. Is that not so?

A. I do not know that. I know nothing about it. Please give me an example so that I can comment on it.

Q. I will tell you what Field-Marshal Goering said about it to the Duce, in the Palazzo Venezia on, 23rd October, 1942. I am referring to the document D-729, Exhibit GB 281. He describes Germany's method in fighting the partisans. He describes the taking away of livestock and the other details of the technique that was advocated; and then Goering says, "Germany had experienced that, generally speaking, soldiers were of no use in carrying out such measures. Members of the Party discharged this task much more harshly and efficiently."

If you will be good enough to listen to me reading it, witness, it will come over the earphones. "Members of the Party discharged this task much more harshly and efficiently. For the same reason armies that were strengthened by a political creed such as the German (or the Russian) fought much more energetically than others. Also the SS, the guard of the old fighters of the Party, who have personal ties with the Fuehrer and who constitute an elite, confirm this principle."

That is correct, is it not, witness?

A. I do not know whether the Reichsmarschall gave any order to combat partisanship. What the Prosecutor has just read is a statement of opinion to another statesman. I see no orders in that to the Waffen SS; and for that reason I maintain my testimony that the Waffen SS as a unit was not used for combating partisans.

MR. ELWYN JONES: If it please your Lordship, in view of the evidence which is before the Tribunal on the employment of the Waffen SS and on its pay measures, I am not going to proceed with the cross-examination as to the general matters with which this witness dealt. The Tribunal has indicated that it does not desire me to put matters which should be put in cross-examination before the Commissioners and, under these circumstances, I have no further questions to ask but I will take my cross-examination before the Commissioners for the purposes of the Tribunal.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: I am going to ask a very few short questions with your permission, my Lord.

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