During World War Two 80 Royal Air Force officers escaped from Stalag Luft III at Sagan, 50 were recaptured and executed, the finding of Flight Lieutenant Alastair “Sandy” Gunn (who was one of the 50) downed Spitfire in Norway recently, has induced me to present the trail transcript’s of the International Military Tribunal of Major War Criminals at Nurnberg Germany 1945-46 pertaining to the event just mentioned.
INTERNATIONAL MILITARY TRIBUNAL–Vol IX: 78th Day Monday, 11 March 1946
Cross-exam of General Field Marshal Erhard Milch: By Mr. Justice Robert H. Jackson
- ROBERTS: I want to put to you now an incident with regard to the Camp Stalag Luft III at Sagan. Do you know about what I am talking?
MILCH: Yes, I know about that now.
- ROBERTS: Do you know that on 24 and 25 March 1944 about 80 air force officers, British and Dominion, with some others, escaped from the Stalag Luft III Camp?
MILCH: I know about this from the British interrogation camp in which I was kept, where the whole case was posted up on the wall.
- ROBERTS: We will come to that in a moment. Do you know that of those 80, 50 were shot?
- ROBERTS: In various parts of Germany and the occupied countries from Danzig to Saarbrücken; you have heard of that?
MILCH: I heard that about 50 were shot, but did not know where.
- ROBERTS: Have you heard that quite unusually the bodies were never seen again, but that urns said to contain their ashes were brought back to the camp; you heard of that?
MILCH: I heard of it In the camp where I was kept, from Mr. Anthony Eden’s speech in the House of Commons.
- ROBERTS: You heard that although these officers were reported by your Government as having been shot while offering resistance or trying to escape, yet not one was wounded, and all 50 were shot dead.
MILCH: At first I heard only the official report in Germany that these officers had been shot while resisting or trying to escape. We did not believe this version, and there was a lot of discussion about this without precise knowledge. We were afraid that these men might have been murdered.
- ROBERTS: You were afraid that murder had been committed. It does appear likely, does it not?
MILCH: We gat that impression, as the various details we heard could not be pieced together.
- ROBERTS: It is quite clear that if that was murder, the order for that murder would have to come from a high level, is it not?
MILCH: Certainly. I heard further details about this from the Inspector General for Prisoners of War, General Westhoff, while both of us were in captivity in England.
- ROBERTS: Now, I want to ask you, first of all, about the Prisoner-of-war Organization. Was the Prisoner-of-War Organization a department of the OKW?
MILCH: In my opinion, yes.
- ROBERTS: Which was called KGW, Kriegsgefangenenwesen?
MILCH: I cannot say anything about its organization, because I do not know. I only knew that there was a chief of the Kriegsgefangenenwesen with the OKW.
MR.ROBERTS: And was the chief of the Kriegsgefangenenwesen at that time Major General Von Graevenitz?
MILCH: Van Graevenitz, yes.
- ROBERTS: This was an air force camp? Stalag Luft III was an air force camp?
MILCH: Yes. So it was called, but I understand that all prisoners were under the OKW. That is what I thought. I cannot, however, state this definitely because I did not know much about that organization.
- ROBERTS: Was the directorate for supervising the air force camps, or the inspectorate, rather, called Inspectorate Number 17?
MILCH: There was an inspectorate, which as its name indicated had to deal with supervision. What it had to do and what were its tasks, I cannot say. Whether it was just for interrogation, I do not know.
- ROBERTS: Was the head of that Major General Grosch?
MILCH: I cannot say, it is possible, I know the name but not whether he held that post.
- ROBERTS: And the second in command, Colonel Waelde?
MILCH: Not known to me.
- ROBERTS: You were Number 2 in the Air Force at the Air Ministry in March 1944, were you not?
MILCH: There were several Number 2 people at that time. I held the same rank as the chief of the general staff, the chief of the personnel office, and the chief of technical armament, who were independent of me and on the same level. As to seniority, I ranked as second officer in the Air Force.
- ROBERTS: Was there a conference in Berlin on the morning of Saturday, the 25th of March, about this escape?
MILCH: I cannot remember.
- ROBERTS: Did not Gӧring speak to you about that conference?
MILCH: I have no recollection.
- ROBERTS: Did Gӧring never tell you that there was a conference between Hitler, Himmler, himself, and Keitel on that Saturday morning?
MILCH: No. I do not know anything about that. I do not remember.
- ROBERTS: At which the order for the murder’ of these recaptured prisoners of war was given?
MILCH: I cannot remember. According to what I heard later, the circumstances were entirely different. I had information about this from the previously mentioned General Westhoff and also from General Bӧdenschätz.
- ROBERTS: General Westhoff we are going to see here as a witness. He has made a statement about the matter saying…
MILCH: I beg your pardon. I could not hear you just now. The German is coming through very faintly. I can hear you, but not the German transmission.
- ROBERTS: General Westhoff…
- ROBERTS: …has made a statement. . .
- ROBERTS: …and we are going to see him as a witness.
- ROBERTS: So perhaps I had better not put his statement to you, because he is going to give evidence. Perhaps that would be fairer from the point of view of the Defense. But are you suggesting that action against these officers, if they were murdered-to use your words-having escaped from an air force camp that action could have been taken without the knowledge of Gӧring?
MILCH: I consider it quite possible in view of the great confusion existing in the highest circles at that time…
- ROBERTS: High confusion in March 1944?
MILCH: All through there was terrible confusion.
- ROBERTS: But it is quite clear. ..
MILCH: Hitler interfered in all matters, and himself gave orders over the heads d the chiefs of the Wehrmacht.
- ROBERTS: But did you never discuss this matter with Gӧring at all?
MILCH: No. I cannot remember ever speaking to Gӧring about this question.
- ROBERTS: Do you not think this is a matter which reflects shame on the Armed Forces of Germany?
MILCH: Yes; that is a great shame.
- ROBERTS: Yet Gӧring never spoke to you about it at all? Did you ever speak to Keitel?
MILCH: I could not say. During that time I hardly ever saw Gӧring.
- ROBERTS: Did you ever speak to Keitel about it?
MILCH: No, never. I saw even less of Keitel than of Gӧring.
- ROBERTS: Was there not a General Foster or Foerster at the Air Ministry?
MILCH: Yes, there was.
- ROBERTS: General Foerster?
- ROBERTS: Was he director of operations?
MILCH: No. He was chief of the Luftwehr. As such he had to deal with replacements of personnel and he worked with the departments concerned, with the General Staff, and also the Reich Marshal. During the war he was also in charge of civil aviation, and in that capacity he worked together with me, but during the war it was a very small job…
- ROBERTS: I was going to ask you, did he ever mention this shooting to you?
MILCH: I have been asked that before, but try as I may I cannot remember. It is possible that in the course of conversation he may have told me that officers had been shot, but whether he did so, and in what way, under what circumstances, I cannot recollect. I did not receive an official report from him; I had no right to ask for one either.
- ROBERTS: If Foerster told you, did you ever report it to Gӧring?
MILCH: I cannot remember a conversation with Foerster about it: I do not think I spoke to him. He did not give me a report either, which I should have had to pass on to Gӧring. Such a report would have been given by him to Gӧring direct, through quite different channels and much quicker.
- ROBERTS: Did you take any steps to prevent this shooting from being carried out?
MILCH: When I first heard about it was not clear to me what had actually happened. But even if it had been clear, it was evident from what Westhoff told me that it would unfortunately have been too late.
- ROBERTS: Why too late?
MILCH: Because Westhoff was the first officer to have knowledge of it. When he was informed he was told that the order had already been carried out. I may say that General Westhoff made this statement and will confirm it.
- ROBERTS: Very well, you never went to Gӧring at all in the matter, as you say.
MILCH: I do not know anything about it.
Cross-Exam (Defendant) Joachim Von Ribbentrop; BY: The Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe, P.C., K.C., M.P.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: You will say that to learned Counsel after you have answered my question on this. I want you now to direct your attention to Stalag Luft III. You may have heard me asking a number of witnesses a certain number of questions about it. These were the 50 British airmen who were murdered by the SS after they escaped. Do you know that? DO you know what I. am talking about?
VON RIBBENTROP: Yes, I do.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: You remember that my colleague, Mr. Eden, made a strong statement in the House of Commons, saying that these men had been murdered and that Great Britain would exact justice upon the murderers? Do you remember that, in June of 1944?
VON RIBBENTROP: I heard of this through the speech made by Mr. Eden in the House of Commons, yes.
SIR DAVID MAXWELLFYFE: And do you remember that the Reich Government issued a statement saying that, in a communication by the Reich Government conveyed to the British via Switzerland, this unqualifiable charge of the British Foreign Minister had been sharply refuted, that being issued in July 1944? DO you remember that being issued?
VON RIBBENTROP: No, I do not remember it. I remember only the following: That at that time we received evidence of what had happened and that it was communicated to us in a note from the protecting powers. That is all I know about it.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: That is what I wanted to ask you: Did you know at the time that this statement was issued-did you know that these officers had been murdered in cold blood?
VON RIBBENTROP: No, I did not. I heard that these men had been shot while trying to escape. At that time, to be are, we did have the impression that everything was not in order, I know that. I remember that.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Let me take it in two stages. Who told you the lie that these men had been shot trying to escape? Who informed you of that lie?
VON RIBBENTROP: I do not remember in detail. At that time we received the documentation from the competent authorities and a memorandum was forwarded to the Swiss Government.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: From whom did you get your documentation which contained that lie? Did you get it from Himmler or Gӧring?
VON RIBBENTROP: I do not know.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Then you told us, I think, that You had a good idea that things were not all right, hadn’t you?
VON RIBBENTROP: Yes.
Direct Exam of (Defendant) Wilhelm Keitel, BY: DR. OTTO NELTE (Counsel Defendant Keitel):
We now turn to the case of Sagan. The Prosecution originally accused you of giving the order for the killing of 50 Royal Air Force officers who escaped from Stalag Luft III at Sagan.
I am no longer clear as to whether the Prosecution still maintain this grave accusation since Reich Marshal Gӧring and the witness Westhoff have been interrogated, the latter outside these proceedings. I have the report of Westhoff’s interrogation before me and I have also submitted it to you. I should like to ask you now to amplify the statement which the witness Westhoff made during the preliminary proceedings and which he will make shortly in this court, and to say what you yourself know about this extremely grave incident.
KEITEL: The facts are that one morning it was reported to me that the escape had taken place. At the same time I received the information that about 15 of the escaped officers had been apprehended in the vicinity of the camp. I did not intend to report the case at the noon conference on the military situation held at Berchtesgaden, or rather, at the Berghof, as it was highly unpleasant, being the third mass escape in a very short period. As it had happened only 10 or 12 hours before, I hoped that in the course of the day the majority of them would be caught and that in this way the matter might be settled satisfactorily.
While I was making my report Himmler appeared. I think that it’ was towards the end of my report that he announced the incident in my presence, as he had already started the usual general search for the escaped prisoners. There was an extremely heated discussion, a serious clash between Hitler and myself, since he immediately made the most outrageous accusations against me on account of this incident.
Things are sometimes incorrectly represented in Westhoff’s account, and that is why I am making a detailed statement. During this clash the Führer stated in great excitement, “These prisoners are not to be sent back to the Armed Forces; they are to stay with the Police.” I immediately objected sharply. I said that this procedure was impossible. The general excitement led Hitler to declare again and with considerable emphasis, “I am ordering you to retain them, Himmler; you are not to give them up.”
I put up a fight for the men who had already come back and who should, according to the. Original order, be brought out again and handed over to the police. I succeeded in doing it; but I could not do anything more. After that very grave clash…
- NELTE: Will you tell me, please who was present during that scene?
KEITEL: As far as I remember, Colonel General Jodl was certainly present, at least for part of the time, and heard some of it, though perhaps not every word, since he was in the adjoining room at first. At any rate, Jodl and I returned to our quarters together.
We discussed the case and talked about the extremely unpleasant consequences which the whole matter would have. On returning to my quarters I immediately ordered General Von Graevenitz to report to me the following morning.
In this connection I must explain that Reich Marshal Gӧring was not present. If I was a little uncertain about that during my interrogation it was because I was told that witnesses had already stated that Gӧring was present. But right from the beginning I thought it improbable and doubtful. It is also incorrect; therefore, that Gӧring raised any accusations against me at the time. There had not been a conference in Berlin either. These are mistakes which I think I can explain by saying that Graevenitz, who came with Westhoff and saw me for the first time, was present during the report and witnessed a scene of a kind unusual in military life, because of the violence of my remarks in connection with the incident.
Do you want me to say anything more about the discussion with Graevenitz?
- NELTE: The only thing which interests me in this connection is, whether you repeated to Graevenitz the order previously given by Hitler in such a way that both Graevenitz and Westhoff who was also present, might get the impression that you yourself had issued the order for the shooting of the escaped officers.
KEITEL: According to the record of Westhoff’s interrogation, which I have seen, I can explain it, I think, as follows: First of all, I made serious accusations. I myself was extraordinarily excited; for I must say that even the order that the prisoners were to be retained by the police caused me extreme anxiety regarding their fate. I frankly admit that the possibility of their being shot while trying to escape remained in my subconscious mind. I certainly spoke in extreme agitation at the time and did not weigh my words carefully. And I certainly repeated Hitler’s words, which were, “We must make an example,” since I was afraid of some further serious encroachments upon The Prisoners of War Organization in other ways, apart from this single case of the prisoners not being returned to the Wehrmacht. On reading the interrogation report I saw the statement by Graevenitz, or rather, Westhoff, to the effect that I had said, “They will be shot, and most of them must be dead already.” I probably said something like, “You will see what a disaster this is; perhaps many of them have been shot already.”
I did not know, however, that they had already been shot; and I must confess that in my presence Hitler never said a word about anybody being shot. He only said, “Himmler, you will keep them; you will not hand them over.” I did not find out until several days later that they had been shot. I saw among other papers also an official report from the British Government stating that not until the 31st-the escape took place on the 25th-that not until the 31st were they actually shot.
Therefore Westhoff is also wrong in thinking that orders had already been issued saying that an announcement was to be made in the camp stating that certain people had been shot or would not return and that lists of names were to be posted. That order did not come until later, and I remember it; I remember it because of the following incident:
A few days afterwards, I think on or about the 31st, before the situation report, one of the adjutants told me that a report had been received that some had been shot. I requested a discussion alone with Hitler and told him that I had heard that people had been shot by the police. All he said was that he had received it too-naturally, since it was his report. In extreme disgust I told him my opinion of it. At that time he told me that it was to be published in the camp as a warning to the others. Only upon this the announcement in the camp was,ordered. In any case, Westhoff’s recollection of some of the facts, which he has sworn to, is not quite accurate, even if such expressions as those used by him and explained by me here may have occurred. We shall hear his own account of that.
- NELTE: Did Hitler ever tell you that he had ordered those men to be shot?
KEITEL: No, he never told me that. I never heard it from him. I heard it very much later, as far as I can remember, from Reich Marshal Gӧring, with whom the whole incident was, of course, the subject of discussions and conversations, especially as an Air Force camp was involved.
- NELTE: I should like to say in conclusion: Are you stating under oath, here, that you yourself neither ordered these Royal Air Force officers to be shot, nor did you receive and pass on such an order, nor did you yourself learn who gave the order?
KEITEL: That is correct. I neither received that order nor did I know or hear of it; nor did I pass on such an order. I can repeat this herewith under oath.
Cross-Exam (Witness) Adolf Westhoff; Testimony
THE PRESIDENT: 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.] You may sit down. General Westhoff, you made a statement before Brigadier Shapcott or before Captain J.B. Parnell, did you not?
WESTHOFF: I do not know the captain’s name. I made a statement in England.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. On the 13th of June 1945?
WESTHOFF: That is possible, yes.
THE PRESIDENT: You don’t know English, I suppose?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I will read you-have the Prosecution got another copy of this document?
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Yes.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Well, Sir David, if you would follow me whilst I read it and draw my attention to any passages which are really relevant. ..
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Yes.
THE PRESIDENT: Since it is a considerably long document, I don’t wish to read it all to the witness.
What the Tribunal wants to know, General Westhoff, is whether you adhere to this statement or whether you wish to make any alterations in it And I will read to you, so that you may remember it, the material passages from the statement.
WESTHOFF: Very well.
THE PRESIDENT: “I was in charge of the ‘General’ department (Abteilung ‘Allgemein’) when the shooting of the escaped R.A.F. P.W. from Stalag Luft III took place. It was the first occasion on which Feldmarschall Keitel had sent for me. I went with General Von Graevenitz. He had been sent for and I was to accompany him. A certain number of officers had escaped from the Sagan Camp.”
Am I going too fast? “I don’t remember how many, but I believe about 80…”
- NELTE: Mr. President, can I be of service to the Tribunal by handing him a German translation which has been placed at my disposal by the Prosecution?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, thank you.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: I am very grateful to Dr. Nelte.
THE PRESIDENT: General Westhoff, would you read that statement of yours through as quickly as you can? You will be able to see what are the really material passages, and then tell the Tribunal whether that statement is correct.
- NELTE: Mr. President, there is still another part of the statement which I have also received from the Prosecution. It was a very extensive compilation. May I also in addition submit this to the witness?
THE PRESIDENT: Do you mean that he has not the whole document?
- NELTE: No, he does not have all of it yet.
THE PRESIDENT: Oh yes, certainly.
- NELTE: I received it from the Prosecution in three sections and I should now like to give him these three parts so he may have it complete.
THE PRESIDENT: The statement that we have here in English is five pages done in type, and is certified in this way: “This appendix contains an accurate translation of oral statements made to me by Major General Westhoff on 13 June 1945 in reply to questions concerning the shooting of 50 R.A.F. officers from Stalag Luft III. Dated this 23rd day of the ninth month of 1945. J.E. Parnell, Captain, Intelligence Corps.” Is that on…
- NELTE: Mr. President, I do not know whether General Westhoff was not perhaps interrogated several times. In this document he also made statements regarding the whole policy regarding prisoners of war-in other words, not only about the Sagancase. We are here concerned with a continuous report, and the witness…
THE PRESIDENT: The only document which is in evidence is this document which I have in my hand, which is annexed to the report of Brigadier Shapcott.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: My Lord, I looked at the document, the part that Dr. Nelte has. I think my German is sufficient to identify it. It is the same document. If Your Lordship will look at Page 2, Your Lordship will see the passage, “Generalinspekteur, General Roettig.” My Lord, that is where it starts, and I have checked it as to the last paragraph. It is the same, “I cannot remember having received any reports….” As far as my German goes, that is the same here; so this part of the document is the last half of the document that Your Lordship has.
THE PRESIDENT: I see. Yes, Dr. Nelte, and Sir David, perhaps the best course would be if Sir David put the passages upon which he relies to the witness, and the witness could then be asked whether those were accurate.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Yes.
THE PRESIDENT: And Dr. Nelte can ask any questions that he wishes to after that. [Turning to the witness.] Witness, counsel is going to ask you questions upon this document now, so you need not go on reading.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Witness, have you had a chance of reading the first paragraph of this statement?
WESTHOFF: Yes, I have read it.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: And is that correct? Is that true?
WESTHOFF: There are a few things in it that are not entirely correct. For instance, on the first page there is. . .
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Let me take it, then I read it to you, and see how far it is correct: “I was in charge of the ‘General’ department (Abteilung ‘Allgemein’) when the shooting of the escaped R.A.F. P.W. from Stalag Luft I11 took place.” That is correct, is it not?
WESTHOFF: Here is missing the phrase, “. . . when the shooting took place.”
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Now: “It was the first occasion on which Feldmarschall Keitel had sent for me. I went with General Von Graevenitz. He had been sent for and I was to accompany him.” Is that right?
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: “A certain number of officers had escaped from the Sagan Camp. I do not remember how many, but I believe about 80.” That is correct, too?
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Now, the next sentence: “When we entered, the ‘Feldmarschall’ was very excited and nervous, and said, ‘Gentlemen, this is a bad business.’ ” Is that correct?
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Then: “We were always blamed whenever P. W. escaped. We could not tie them to our apron strings!” That is your own comment. Then you go on as to what the Field Marshal said: “This morning, Gӧring reproached me in the presence of Himmler for having let some more P.W. escape. It was unheard of!” You go on with your comment that: “Then they must have had a row because the camp did not come under us; it was a G.A.F. camp.” Is that correct, that the Field Marshal said: “This morning, Gӧring reproached me in the presence of Himmler for having let some more P.W. escape?”
WESTHOFF: Not in Himmler’s presence, but in Hitler’s presence. Hitler’s presence.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: It ought to be in Hitler’s presence?
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Now, the next sentence: “All G.A.F. camps came directly under the G.A.F. itself, but the inspector of P.W. camps was in charge of all camps for inspection purposes. I was not inspector yet.” We have had all that explained. I do not think that there is any dispute about the organization. I won’t trouble you about that.
We have gone into that in this court in some detail. Unless the Tribunal wants it, I did not intend to trouble this witness again. You say, “I was not inspector yet. General Von Graevenitz was inspector, and all camps came under him in matters concerning inspection and administration.”
Then you say: “Gӧring blamed Keitel for having let those men escape. These constant escapes were a bad show. Then Himmler interfered-I can only say what the Feldmarschall told us-and he complained that he would have to provide another 60,000 or 70,000 men as ‘Landwachen,’ et cetera.” Is that right? Did the Field Marshal say that?
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Now, the second paragraph: “Feldmarschall Keitel said to us, ‘Gentlemen, these escapes must stop. We must set an example. We shall take very severe measures. I can only tell you that the men who have escaped will be shot; probably the majority of them are dead already.’ Keitel said that to us at the conference.” Is that correct?
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Then you say: “We were amazed as that was a conception we had never come across before. The affair must have happened in March. We were sent to the ‘Feldmarschall’ in Berlin a few days after the escape, not on that account but for some other business. We knew they had escaped, and we were taken by surprise by that declaration at the conference.”
Then you go on again with your account of the conference: “General Von Graevenitz intervened at once and said, ‘But, Sir, that is out of the question. Escape is not a dishonorable offense. That is specially laid down in the Convention.’ ” Is that correct, that General Von Graevenitz said these words?
WESTHOFF: General Von Graevenitz made objections with reference to the Geneva Convention, but there is missing in this report the fact that the Field Marshal said to General Von Graevenitz that this was a matter of a Führer decree. That is missing here.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Well, if you look at the next sentence that I was going to read to you, you say: “He“-that is General Von Graevenitz-“raised these objections, whereupon Keitel said, ‘I do not care a damn; we discussed it in the Führer’s presence, and it cannot be altered.’ ” Is that correct?
WESTHOFF: No. The Field Marshal said, “That is a matter of indifference to me. That is a matter of indifference to me.”
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: I think it would be easier, General, if you told the Tribunal now, to the best of your recollection, what did the Field Marshal say after General Von Graevenitz had made his objections?
WESTHOFF: I have deposed a sworn statement to the Court on that subject, which I might perhaps read: “Regarding the presence of General Von Graevenitz and myself at the headquarters in March of 1944, Field Marshal Keitel .. .”
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: General Westhoff, the Tribunal may want that later. It would be easier if you would try to stick to this statement for the moment-whether it is right or wrong at the moment-and then we will deal with any other one later on.
It is just this point, if you could direct your mind to it: After General Von Graevenitz had made his objection, as you have told us, on the ground of the Convention, what did the Field Marshal say? What did he say at that point? If you would just try and do that, it would be a great help to us all.
WESTHOFF: The Field Marshal then said, “It is now a matter of indifference; we must set an example.”
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: I thought you said that he did mention that there was a Führer decree to that effect, or a Führer order, or something of that sort. Did he mention that?
WESTHOFF: That he had already said at the very beginning, that this was a matter of a Führer decree.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: In the next paragraph you point out in this statement-and I think it is only fair to yourself to read it; it is the second sentence: “But in this case none of our men-the men of the Wehrmacht-had shot any of the P.W. I made inquiries at once.”
Then you say: “None of them had been shot by a soldier, but by Gestapo men only or else police sentries. That proves that probably Himmler-of course, I do not know whether he made the suggestion to the Führer, or how they arranged it. It should be possible to find that out from Gӧring, who was present at the conference. Naturally, I do not know.” Do you remember making these answers?
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Then, you say again: “At any rate, it is a clear fact that our hen did not shoot any of them; they must all have been shot by policemen.”
And you point out in the last sentence: “But in this particular case, only those caught by our people were brought back to the camp, that is, those caught by soldiers.”
Now, in the next paragraph you say that you had no authority to give the police orders, and you repeat that the members of the Wehrmacht did not shoot any of them. And then in the third sentence you say: “I had a report sent me at once, and told General Von Graevenitz, ‘Sir, the only thing we can do is to see that no dirty business is carried out where we are in charge.’ ” Is that right: Does that correctly describe what you did, General?
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Now, you go on to say, a sentence or two later, that you were faced with a fait accompli; and then you say, after repeating General Von Graevenitz’s protests to Field Marshal Keitel, when he had said, “That’s quite impossible, we cannot shoot any people”: “How the shooting was carried out I heard from the representative of the protecting power, Herr Naville, of Switzerland.” Is that right?
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: How did you hear of the shooting?
WESTHOFF: I turned to the Gestapo and wanted the particulars of the shootings for the Foreign Office, and I did not get them. The representative of Switzerland, Herr Naville, whom I had sent to the camp, visited me on his return, and from him I learned the only thing that I ever heard about this matter, namely, that apparently a prisoner of war who had returned to the camp had seen that the escaped airmen had been driven out of the Gorlitz Prison on a truck heavily chained and under strong guard. That is the only thing I learned about this affair at all, and I have up to now not found out in what way these airmen perished. The Gestapo refused to inform me of this.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: But it is correct that generally what information you did receive you received from the representative of the protecting power. I don’t know if you remember whether his name was Naville or not. But it is right, isn’t it?
WESTHOFF: I did not understand the question.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: What information you did receive-you tell us that it was very little-you received from the representative of Switzerland, of the protecting power. Is that right?
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Well now, I want to deal with the next bit in the statement where you tried to get in touch with the Foreign Office, and if you look down the paragraph you will see that you say: “At any rate, we did not get any news, and so it was pointed out to the Field Marshal that such a state of affairs was impossible, that we had to get in communication with the Foreign Office. Then he emphatically stated that it was forbidden to get in touch with the Foreign Office.” Is that correct?
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: I will read on, two sentences: “Then the affair was raised in the House of Commons in England, and then a note was sent by our side. Then I was quite suddenly called up by Admiral Bürckner of the Foreign Department (Amtsgruppe Ausland) in the OKW, which keeps contact with the Foreign Office. He called me up by telephone at night and said, ‘The Feldmarschall has given me orders to prepare an answer for England immediately. What is it all about? I don’t know anything about the case.’ I said, ‘Herr Admiral, I am sorry, but General Von Graevenitz received strict orders not to talk to anyone about it. Nothing was allowed to be put down in writing either. Apart from that, we ourselves were faced with an accomplished fact. This order was apparently issued by Himmler, and the position was such that we could do nothing more at all about it.” Is that a correct account?
WESTHOFF: Here again the word “Himmler” stands where the word “Hitler” should stand.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: That should be Hitler. Apart from that, that is correct? I mean, in substance is that a correct account of the conversation between Admiral Bürckner and yourself?
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: You then go on to say that Admiral Bürckner wanted you to tell him about the affair; that you only knew what the gentlemen from Switzerland had told you; and that you had made various attempts to approach the Gestapo. And then, if you look, at just before the end of that paragraph: “Then the Foreign Office itself got into touch and took charge of this affair. Then another of my men, Lieutenant Colonel Kraff, went to Berchtesgaden while I was on a journey. At that time a note to England was to be prepared. Then, when we read this note to England in the newspaper, we were all absolutely taken aback. We all clutched our heads. Mad! We could do nothing about the affair.” Is that correct? Did you say that, and is that correct?
WESTHOFF: The matter was then turned over to the Foreign Office, and the Foreign Office was charged with the preparation of a note to England. At this discussion Lieutenant Colonel Krab was apparently called in as a specialist for the Sagan case to clarify any doubts, if such were still at hand. That is not to mean at all, however, that Lieutenant Colonel Kraff was in any way concerned with the preparation of the note; that was purely a matter for the Foreign Office. The Foreign Office had only called him in so that, if there were still any doubts about the matter, they could be clarified on the spot.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Now, General, the next part of the statement I did not intend to read unless the Tribunal wanted it, because you are making quite clear that in your opinion the Inspector General, General Roettig, had nothing to do with the affair at all. And if you accept it from me that that is the substance of the next two paragraphs, I won’t trouble you with it in detail. You are making clear that General Roettig had nothing to do with it. Is that right?
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Well, I am sorry. If you will look at the first sentence-I thought it represented it fairly. Look at the first sentence: “Generalinspekteur General Roettig had nothing to do with it, nothing at all. He did not have any hand in the affair at all. He was completely excluded from it by the fact that these matters were taken out of his hands, apparently at that conference with the Führer in the morning, that is to say, the conference between Himmler, Field Marshal Keitel, and Gӧring, which took place in the Führer’s presence.” Is that right? I only wanted to put it shortly that you were trying to and quite rightly if it is true, to give your view that General Roettig had nothing to do with it. Is that right, that is, that sentence I read to you? Did you say, “yes’?
WESTHOFF: The Inspector General was responsible for measures to prevent escape, but had nothing to do with this matter.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: There is no difference between us. That is what I was suggesting. Now, I’d like you to look at the next paragraph. It also deals with General Roettig. Then, after that, you explain the position of the officers. You say this: “I only know an order existed that only officers and, I believe; only those who were caught by the Gestapo should be handed over to them.”
Then you say-you talk about intelligence I don’t want to trouble you about that. Then, if you would look at the next paragraph: “I received a report from the camp saying so and so many men had been shot whilst attempting to escape. I did not hear from the Gestapo at all; It is like this. The reports are sent to the camp. Then the camp informed us that a certain number of men had been recaptured and a certain number shot. Things are reported in that way. The Gestapo sent me no information whatsoever; they merely told us casually whenever we made inquiries, that they had recaptured a certain number.”
Now the next sentence I want you to look at carefully: “The Field Marshal gave us detailed instructions to publish a list at the camp, giving the names of those shot, as a warning. That was done. That was a direct order which we could not disobey.” Is that correct?
WESTHOFF: It was ordered that a list of all those who were shot be posted up in the camp as a warning.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: And then the next sentence says: “Apparently the bodies were burned and the ashes put into urns and sent to the camp.” And then there is arrangement about the burial. Then you say that that raised great difficulties. A sentence or two later you say that matters of that sort were always passed to higher authority. They went to the Party Chancellery, and then there was hell to pay. The cremation of prisoners of war was forbidden.
And then later on, when you say that you raised the question of it being contrary to the Convention, you say: “Whenever I addressed the Officers’ corps and said, ‘Gentlemen, we only act according to the Convention,’ someone from higher authority from the Party Chancellery, arrived the following day and said, ‘Gentlemen, the Convention is a scrap of paper which doesn’t interest us.”‘ Is that correct as to the general procedure?
WESTHOFF: It is not entirely correct. The OKW took the point of view that the Convention should be observed, but the prisoner-of-war affairs as such in Germany were only apparently in the hands of the OKW. The people who really formed the decisions on prisoner-of-war affairs were the Party and economic offices.
Thus, for example, my office had to submit to the deputy of the Party Chancellery every order that was issued, and the Party Chancellery decided how this order was to be issued, and not the OKW at all.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: I don’t want to go into it in detail. You had an interview with Bormann’s deputy, Friedrich, at the Party Chancellery. And then in the next long paragraph beginning, “The Air Force P.W. camps were under G.A.F. administration...” We have gone into that, if Your Lordship agrees, in detail-the Air Force side of it. I did not intend to’ put that.
Then I want you to come to where it says, in the paragraph after you talked about the question of handing over prisoner-of-war camps tot Himmler’s organization-you see it reads, “We were told all men who get away are to be shot!” It may be the beginning of the next paragraph in my English version. Do you see it after a long paragraph about Air Force camps?
WESTHOFF: What page please?
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: The trouble is the pages are different, but it begins, “We were told all men who get away are to be shot...” It is the third last paragraph of the document. If you start from the end of the document, you will see a paragraph: “I cannot remember...” One before it: “We arranged with the ‘Feldmarschall‘ …” It is the one before that: “We were told all men who get away are to be shot…” Have you got it?
“The ‘Feldmarschall’ prohibited anything concerning this to be put into writing, nothing at all. Only the camp was to be informed in order to put them in the picture. I discussed the matter with Graevenitz once more. I can’t. tell you the exact details anymore. We contacted the Gestapo regarding the return of the bodies. We had to have them back. Then Von Graevenitz left for the front.”
Now it is the next bit I want you to look at carefully. “I then said to Oberstleutnant Krafft, ‘I won’t do it like that; I am going to cover myself at all costs so that we are not involved in it afterwards. It is true the “Feldmarschall” has forbidden it to be put in writing, but I want to have it in writing. It must be signed by the Führer.‘ ” Now that is what you said to Krafft-comparatively unimportant.
WESTHOFF: That is not entirely correct.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Tell us what you would like altered in it.
WESTHOFF: I wanted it in writing, signed by the Field Marshal, and for this ‘purpose I issued a memorandum describing this discussion. And thus I had the Field Marshal’s signature with my office for future events so that I would have something in writing to prove it actually true.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Now, just look at the next sentence. I think that entirely agrees with what you have said: “Contrary to Feldmarschall Keitel’s orders-I pretended that I had not understood properly-I worked the thing out on paper. I said to Oberstleutnant Kraff, ‘I want to have the word “shoot” included so that Keitel can see it in writing. He may adopt a different attitude then.’ “When I got the thing back, he had written the following in the margin: ‘I did not definitely say “shoot”; I said, “Hand over to the police or hand over to the Gestapo.” ‘”
WESTHOFF: That is not entirely correct.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: What change would you like to make in that, General?
WESTHOFF: I stated that clearly in my sworn statement, that the Field Marshal had written on the margin, “I did not say ‘shoot,’ but ‘turn over to the Gestapo.’ ”
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Is that the same as is in this statement? It says he wrote in the margin, ” ‘I did not definitely say ‘shoot’ I said, ‘hand over to the police or hand over to the Gestapo.’ “
WESTHOFF: Well, that is right.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: I wanted this to be quite clear, General. The draft order or note of information that you had put up to the Field Marshal contained the word “shoot“?
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Now there is only one other bit. You go on to say: “We arranged with the ‘Feldmarschall’ to have the matter submitted to the Führer. We had the feeling that there was something not quite in order.”
And then you say that you had to approach the police authorities on a slightly lower level, and about 10 lines down you say this: “In the end, I could not get where I wanted with this affair. So I went to Berlin myself-it was the only time I ever saw Kaltenbrunner-and I said to Kaltenbrunner, ‘This matter is still outstanding. It should be submitted to the Führer. I can’t carry on like this. A decision must be made some time. But apart from that, I am of the opinion that the whole affair should be dropped. The whole thing is madness.’ It has already let us into so much unpleasantness and is so monstrous that I am still of the opinion that this affair should either be stopped in some way or the Führer be dissuaded from continuing it any further.’“ Is that generally, again, in substance, a correct version of what you said to the Defendant Kaltenbrunner?
WESTHOFF: This does not directly concern this matter, however, but rather an order that was to be hued by Wagner in connection with it and to be submitted to the Führer in two ways, one via the chief of the OKW and the other via Himmler. This order had been submitted to Keitel in draft form which then went to the Gestapo. The Gestapo read this draft, and then the matter was carried no further. I was never able to find out why this was so, and for this reason I myself duly addressed Kaltenbrunner about this matter.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Was this the order in its final form that escaped prisoners of war should be handed over to the Gestapo or the police?
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: I see. So this, General Westhoff, if I may have your attention, was really dealing with the future, was it? This was dealing with what was to be done in the future?
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: My Lord, I don’t think one need go into it in details again, unless the Tribunal want My Lord, the rest of the statement is only a general account of the attitude of the British prisoners of war, and I have no complaint about it at all.
My Lord, there is me problem that has arisen which perhaps the Tribunal would now consider the convenient time. My friend, Colonel Pokrovsky, has certain quite different matters with regard to the treatment of Soviet prisoners of war which he wanted to raise with this witness, and perhaps the Tribunal would consider it a convenient time to do it.
THE PRESIDENT: It probably would be more convenient if Dr. Nelte put his questions to this witness, if he has any, first, before Colonel Pokrovsky.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: I should respectfully agree to clear up this topic first.
THE PRESIDENT: Unless Colonel Pokrovsky’s questions might relate to the Defendant Keitel?
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: They do relate, of course, to the position of the OKW with these prisoners of war, but they have nothing to do with Sagan.
THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Nelte, have you any questions you want to put to this witness?
- NELTE: Witness, what was just read to you was called a “statement” and was presented here. Have you ever given this statement in complete form orally or in writing?
WESTHOFF: I was interrogated on different occasions, and this interrogatory which has been presented to me is a summation of my testimony. Of course, I found errors here and there because it has been summarized, and the questions have been omitted.
- NELTE: In other words, this is a summation of the answers you gave to questions at various interrogations?
- NELTE: Was this summation ever submitted to you?
- NELTE: I had the impression that the passages read to you here just now were on occasion very, long and that you actually answered always only the latter part of these passages. I should like to ask you whether after this interrogation in London you were not again interrogated?
WESTHOFF: I was interrogated here in Nuremberg.
- NELTE: By Colonel Williams?
- NELTE: What did Colonel Williams say to you at the conclusion of this interrogation? What did he request of you?
WESTHOFF: At the conclusion of the interrogation, Colonel Williams asked me to describe briefly the basic central point of my testimony and to sum it up in a sworn statement.
- NELTE: Did you swear to this statement before Colonel Williams?
WESTHOFF: Yes, I swore to it.
- NELTE: Now, I should like first of all to go through with you the interrogation that you had with Colonel Williams, and which is to be found in Document RF-1450. I am having this document handed over to you.
THE PRESIDENT: What do you mean by Document 1450?
- NELTE: RF-1450 is contained in the document book, in my document book as Number 5.
THE PRESIDENT: But you mean RF-1450, do you?
- NELTE: Yes, RF. This document is entitled, “Summary of Interrogation of General Adolf Westhoff by Colonel Curtis L. Williams, on 2 November 1945.”
THE PRESIDENT: Just one minute, Dr. Nelte. Dr. Nelte, the Tribunal think that you can put to this witness, “Did you or did you not make a different statement in an interrogation at some other time?” But the document that you are referring to now is a document which the Tribunal refused to admit on your objections. When the French presented that document, you objected to it and it was therefore not allowed to be put in, so that the proper way in which to put the question now is, “Did you say to Colonel Williams so and so?”
- NELTE: I have here a compilation of those points in the document or in the notes of Colonel Williams which according to your declaration are supposed not to be: correct. I now ask you, what did you, or did you not upon being questioned by Colonel Williams…
THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Nelte, it is not right for you to say that they are different-you must ask him questions about it, not make statements yourself.
- NELTE: What did you say to Colonel Williams to his question, whether the prisoner-of-war camps in their entirety were supposed to be subordinate to the OKW and to Field Marshal Keitel?
WESTHOFF: The prisoner-of-war camps were subordinate to the OKW only to the extent that the OKW had the legal control of them and insofar as the protective powers, that is, the International Red Cross was involved. The OKW did not have the power to give orders or dole out punishment in the camps.
- NELTE: What did you answer tom Colonel Williams’ question, on the right of the OKW regarding the inspection of the camps?
WESTHOFF: The OKW was entitled to inspect. That can be seen also in my official orders in which it states clearly that the inspector was entitled to inspect the camp.
- NELTE: What did you answer to Colonel Williams’ question, to whom Stalag Luft III, Sagan, was subordinate?
WESTHOFF: Stalag Luft III, Sagan, was subordinate to the Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, because the Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, on his own wish and already at the beginning of the war, had all prisoner-of-war camps containing airmen placed under his control.
- NELTE: Did you answer to one of Colonel Williams’ questions that Gӧring, Himmler, Keitel, and Hitler had decided to shoot the officers who escaped in Sagan?
WESTHOFF: No, that is a mistake. Colonel Williams asked me what the Führer had said to Field Marshal Keitel; thereupon, I answered clearly that I could give no information about this, since I had not taken part in that conference. I could only make statements about the conference which Field Marshal Keitel had with General Von Graevenitz.
- NELTE: Did you answer Colonel Williams that Field Marshal Keitel, during this conference with Graevenitz, said, “This is my order“?
WESTHOFF: No, the Field Marshal could not issue an order regarding the shootings, since the shootings were not within the competence of the Wehrmacht but in that of the Gestapo.
- NELTE: During your interrogation, particularly also with Colonel Williams, did you state clearly that it never had been a question of an order issued by Keitel himself or of an order which Keitel transmitted to you on higher orders?
WESTHOFF: It concerned information given to General Von Graevenitz. That is also stated with no reservations in my sworn statement.
- NELTE: Then, if I understand you correctly, you declare that Field Marshal Keitel never issued an order of his own nor ever expressed the idea that he at all wanted to give you an order regarding a shooting of the officers?
WESTHOFF: No, that he could also not do.
- NELTE: During the previous interrogation by the prosecutor there was talk of a report which the camp commander at Gorlitz is supposed to have delivered to you. This is also in the notes. Did you ask for or receive a report from the camp commander?
WESTHOFF: I had no personal connection at all with the camp commander at Gorlitz. That must be a confusion with the statement of the Swiss representative, Naville.
- NELTE: Is it correct that during the discussion between Keitel, on the one hand, and General Von Graevenitz and you, on the other, two matters were brought up: First, the case of the escaped Royal Air Force officers; and, second, the question as to what should be done in the future, or how escapes should be prevented?
WESTHOFF: Yes, that is so.
- NELTE: I now have questions to ask you which I request you to answer, if possible, with “yes” or “no.” Is it true that in the first case, namely, the affair of the 50 Royal Air Force pilots, only conversation afforded the possibility of gaining information of what had happened in the higher circles?
- NELTE: Did General Graevenitz, upon his return from headquarters, not say to you, “What can we do at all if the Gestapo once gets things into their hands”?
- NELTE: In other words, it is clear from your whole conversation with Keitel, that it was a question here of an order directed to Himmler from Hitler?
WESTHOFF: In regard to the shooting, yes.
- NELTE: After Professor Naville visited the SaganCamp, did he say to you that his impression was that certainly stronger forces were at work here against which the OKW could do nothing?
WESTHOFF: Yes, he said that.
- NELTE: With reference to the escaped pilots, did the OKW do anything regarding their capture or treatment, or was it clear that in this respect this matter was unfortunately settled so far as the OKW were concerned?
WESTHOFF: The OKW could do nothing further because the matter had been taken entirely out of their hands.
- NELTE: Accordingly, then, it is not correct to say that, after this discussion between Keitel, Graevenitz, and Westhoff, a conference was again called by the OKW?
WESTHOFF: No, there was no further conference in the OKW.
- NELTE: A document has been submitted in which Colonel Walde-it is Document D-731, Mr. President-in which Colonel Walde deposes-and to be sure, he says at the beginning that he had to reconstruct from memory what had happened-according to his recollection, he believed that the OKW had called a conference that took place in the Prinz Albrechtstrasse. Do you know anything about that?
WESTHOFF: I only know about this conference from you yourself. It could not have been called by the OKW, for then it would have been held by us in Torgau. Without a doubt, however, it was held in Berlin, as you told me, and that is no conference called by the OKW.
- NELTE: Is it correct that prisoner-of-war officers recaptured by the Wehrmacht were again put in the SaganCamp and also remained there?
WESTHOFF: Yes, that is right.
- NELTE: Were recaptured prisoners of war, who were turned over to the camp in any case, let oat again?
- NELTE: On the other hand, is it true that you gave the camp commander strict orders on the part of the OKW that recaptured prisoners should under no circumstances be let out of the camp again?
WESTHOFF: The order was not given by me to the camp commander but to the cosmmanders in the military administrative districts in charge of prisoners of war.
- NELTE: But by them to the camps?
WESTHOFF: To the camps, yes.
- NELTE: An order was mentioned to the effect that the names of the escaped prisoners who had not come back, were to be published. You stated before “as a warning.” In order to clarify this question-the purpose of this order which, of course, came from above-I should like to ask you whether Field Marshal Keitel did not say as justification, “I hope, however, that the prisoners will be so shocked by this that in the future they will not escape any more“?
WESTHOFF: Yes, the Field Marshal said that.
- NELTE: You deposed, or rather, it was read to you that Field Marshal Keitel said to you and General Von Graevenitz that nothing should be put down in writing about the whole matter, nor should it be discussed with any other office.
- NELTE: Is it then correct to say that you drew up a memorandum regarding this matter, namely, the conference, and had it submitted to Keitel?
- NELTE: Is it correct that Field Marshal Keitel did not find fault with this fact as one might certainly really have expected but wrote his initial “K” on the upper corner of this memorandum?
- NELTE: Is it furthermore correct that you, because you had to report, repeatedly got in touch with the Reich Security Main Office in order to find out something about the fate of these unfortunate officers?
WESTHOFF: Not only did I get in touch with the Reich Security Main Office but, since I myself did not succeed in this effort, I also reported the matter to the General Office of the Wehrmacht, but as far as I know, it also did not succeed in this effort.
- NELTE: Is it further correct that you asked the representative of the International Red Cross, Dr. Naville, to visit the Sagan Camp in connection with this event?
WESTHOFF: I brought a boat this visit, yes.
- NELTE: Is it furthermore true that Field Marshal Keitel called you up and told you that the Foreign Minister had to have precise knowledge of the whole occurrence, in order to draw up a note of reply?
- NELTE: And that consequently you were to tell the Foreign Office about the occurrence in all its details?
- NELTE: Did Keitel say on this occasion that you were to conceal anything or to put anything in a false light?
- NELTE: Was the OKW involved in the composition of the note as it was sent in final form?
- NELTE: Is it correct that your representative, Lieutenant Colonel Kraff, was ordered by the Foreign Office to attend a meeting in Berchtesgaden for the sole purpose of giving correct information is reply to possible further inquiry by the representative of the Foreign Office, in case the information were demanded?
- NELTE: Is it finally correct that Lieutenant Colonel Kraff reported to you that the Foreign Office had presented a note to Hitler, and Hitler had rejected it and then composed the text himself?
WESTHOFF: So far as I recall, that is right.
- NELTE: The second part of the conferences between Keitel, Graevenitz, and Westhoff concerned itself with the question of what action should be taken in the future: You stated in this connection that an order was to be drawn up, and that it was a question of certain spheres of competence that had to be discussed with the Reich Security Main Office. Tell me in this connection what, if anything, did the Reich Security Main Office or Himmler have to do with the administration of prisoners of war?
WESTHOFF: Himmler was responsible for the security of the Reich and, insofar as all the prisoners of war were concerned, he had to concern himself with the search for all escaped prisoners.
- NELTE: Did he, because of this, come into conflict in any way with your OKW Prisoner of War Department?
WESTHOFF: Insofar as we often asked, whenever prisoners of war escaped, what had been done with them and received no information, or information with which we could do nothing, for which we had no use.
- NELTE: Does that mean that it was possible that Himmler or his office gave you no information when they caught prisoners of war?
WESTHOFF: That is absolutely possible, and we also supposed that such was the case repeatedly.
- NELTE: Did you on one occasion, while drawing up or drafting orders which were concerned with the treatment of escaped prisoners of war, use the words “Stufe III”?
- NELTE: Do you know whether the meaning of these words signifying a death sentence were known at all in the OKW?
WESTHOFF: They were not known to me. I was asked about that the first time in London and had to state then also that I could not give any information about that.
- NELTE: When you say, you personally, then you probably mean the organization as well, since you belonged to the OKW.
- NELTE: I have a document here, Number 1514-PS. It concerns a collective order of the commander of Wehrkreis VI regarding the treatment of escaped prisoners of war. You will see in this order a whole number of references to years as far back as 1942.
I ask you now according to your knowledge and experience, would not an order supposed to have been issued on 4 March 1944 also have been entered here, had its contents been very important?
WESTHOFF: If it was a question of a secret order, yes.
- NELTE: It is in the German. ..
THE PRESIDENT: Just a minute Dr. Nelte. Aren’t you getting very far away from the subject upon which this witness was being examined? I mean, he was being examined about an interview which he had with the Field Marshal Keitel, and here you are asking him about something which has nothing to do with that at all, as far as I am able to see.
- NELTE: I believe that I shall make clear that this has something to do with the second part of this conference, namely, regarding the treatment of recaptured escaped officers. These are preparatory questions that I must ask to make clear, in my opinion. .. ,
THE PRESIDENT: But it is a very long cross-examination of a witness whom you did not wish to call. The Tribunal wish you to make your cross-examination as brief as possible.
- NELTE: I shall make it as brief as the interests of the defendant permit. [Turning to the witness.] Is it not customary in the German system of issuing orders that in referring to an order issued by higher authorities the date and archive number is given?
WESTHOFF: Yes, always.
- NELTE: Did you ever give any information to the representatives of the protecting powers or to the International Red Cross that prisoners of war, of whose capture you were fully aware, that these had not been recaptured?
- NELTE: Do you know anything about-and here I have the last document shown you, 1650-PS… [Document 1650-PS was submitted to the witness.]
THE PRESIDENT: What was the point of showing 1514-PS to him? He has not been asked any relevant questions about it at all.
- NELTE: From this document I found corroboration of the answer of the defendant through the witness that if an order had been issued on 4 March 1944, as it was presented here, it would have had to be contained in this document.
THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal think it is a waste of time, Dr. Nelte.
- NELTE: I shall be through in a few minutes, Mr. President. [Turning to the witness.] Witness, would you please look on Page 3 of this document, under Number 2. It reads: “The OKW is requested to inform the prisoner-of-war camps that in the interest of camouflage the recaptured officers are not to be turned over directly to Mauthausenbut to the local State Police authority.”
Did you ever in your activity in the OKW know anything of such a request or such an order?
WESTHOFF: That is not familiar to me. That also took place at a time when I was not chief.
- NELTE: But on taking over on 1 April 1944 you must have known of all important events or must have taken note of them?
- NELTE: Did you ever find out in this connection that such a document had been presented?
WESTHOFF: No, I do, not know of it.
- NELTE: And now, the last question. Look at the first page of this document. It is a teletype from the Chief of the Sipo and SD, of 4 March ’44. It reads in the first part as follows: “The OKW has ordered the following: Every recaptured escaped prisoner of war officer-et cetera-“is, after his recapture, to be turned over to the Chief of the Sipo and SD with the code word ‘Stufe III’. …” The Defendant Keitel has stated here that he does not know of such an OKW order.
I ask you, did you find such a command, such an order in the files, in the files which must have been presented to you when you took over office on 1 April 1944?
WESTHOFF: I did not find such an order, but an order of this kind existed without a doubt.
- NELTE: In what way?
WESTHOFF: So far as I recall, General Graevenitz brought this order either from the field headquarters or from the General Office of the Wehrmacht.
- NELTE: How is it possible then that such an order was not in your files?
WESTHOFF: Because there was an order that this order was to exist only orally.
- NELTE: Then please tell me what the procedure was when such an order was given orally.
WESTHOFF: It could be transmitted orally:
- NELTE: That is, your office?
WESTIIOFF: It was then transmitted through the Chief of the Prisoner of War Department.
- NELTE: Chief?
- NELTE: And you know that such an order was transmitted?
WESTHOFF: General Von Graevenitz brought such an order with him and, as far as I know, the order was also transmitted further.
- NELTE: Then you certainly must have known what “Stufe III” meant?
WESTHOFF: No, that I did not know. I have said that I knew only that there was an order to turn over these recaptured prisoners to the Gestapo but I cannot remember details because I never saw a written order.
- NELTE: Can you then state that this order, as you see it there before you, was issued by the OKW?
WESTHOFF: No, that I cannot say.
- NELTE: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn.
THE COMMENTARY GAZETTE®
CONTRIBUTOR: Eddy Toorall