International Military Tribunal
The Nazi Regime in Germany
- The Origin and Aims of the Nazi Party
- The Seizure of Power
- The Consolidation of Power
- Measures of Rearmament
(A) The Origin and Aims of the Nazi Party
On 5th January, 1919, not two months after the conclusion of the Armistice which ended the first World War, and six months before the signing of the Peace Treaties at Versailles, there came into being in Germany a small political party called the German Labour Party. On the 12th September, 1919, Adolf Hitler became a member of this party, and at the first public meeting held in Munich, on 24th February, 1920, he announced the party's programme. That programme, which remained unaltered until the party was dissolved in 1945, consisted of twenty-five points, of which the following five are of particular interest on account of the light they throw on the matters with which the Tribunal is concerned:" Point 1. We demand the unification of all Germans in the Greater Germany, on the basis of the right of a self-determination of peoples.
Point 2. We demand equality of rights for the German people in respect to the other nations; abrogation of the peace treaties of Versailles and Saint Germain.
Point 3. We demand land and territory for the sustenance of our people, and the colonisation of our surplus population.
Point 4. Only a member of the race can be a citizen. A member of the race can only be one who is of German blood, without consideration of creed. Consequently no Jew can be a member of the race....
Point 22. We demand abolition of the mercenary troops and formation of a national army."
Of these aims, the one which seems to have been regarded as the most important, and which figured in almost every public speech, was the removal of the " disgrace " of the Armistice, and the restrictions of the peace treaties of Versailles and Saint Germain. In a typical speech at Munich on the 13th April, 1923, for example, Hitler said with regard to the Treaty of Versailles:" The treaty was made in order to bring twenty million Germans to their deaths, and to ruin the German nation.... At its foundation our movement formulated three demands.
"1. Setting aside of the Peace Treaty.
2. Unification of all Germans.
3. Land and soil to feed our nation."
The demand for the unification of all Germans in the Greater Germany was to play a large part in the events preceding the seizure of Austria and Czechoslovakia; the abrogation of the Treaty of Versailles was to become a decisive motive in attempting to justify the policy of the German Government; the demand for land was to be the justification for the acquisition of " living space" at the expense of other nations; the expulsion of the Jews from membership of the race of German blood was to lead to the atrocities against the Jewish people; and the demand for a national army was to result in measures of rearmament on the largest possible scale, and ultimately to war. On the 29th July, 1921, the Party which had changed its name to National Sozialistische Deutsche Arbeiter Partei (NSDAP) was reorganised, Hitler becoming the first " Chairman ". It was in this year that the Sturmabteilung or SA was founded, with Hitler at its head, as a private pare-military force, which allegedly was to be used for the purpose of protecting NSDAP leaders from attack by rival political parties, and preserving order at NSDAP meetings, but in reality was used for fighting political opponents on the streets. In March, 1923, the defendant Goering was appointed head of the SA.
The procedure within the Party was governed in the most absolute way by the leadership principle" (Fuehrerprinzip).
According to the principle, each Fuehrer has the right to govern, administer or decree, subject to no control of any kind and at his complete discretion, subject only to the orders he received from above.
This principle applied in the first instance to Hitler himself as the Leader of the Party, and in a lesser degree to all other party officials. All members of the Party swore an oath of " eternal allegiance " to the Leader.
There were only two ways in which Germany could achieve the three main aims above-mentioned, by negotiation, or by force. The twenty-five points of the NSDAP programme do not specifically mention the methods on which the leaders of the party proposed to rely, but the history of the Nazi regime shows that Hitler and his followers were only prepared to negotiate on the terms that their demands were conceded, and that force would be used if they were not.
On the night of the 8th November, 1923, an abortive putsch took place in Munich. Hitler and some of his followers burst into a meeting in the Burgerbrau Cellar, which was being addressed by the Bavarian Prime Minister Kehr, with the intention of obtaining from him a decision to march forthwith on Berlin. On the morning of the 9th November, however, no Bavarian support was forthcoming, and Hitler's demonstration was met by the armed forces of the Reichswehr and the Police. Only a few volleys were fired; and after a dozen of his followers had been killed, Hitler fled for his life, and the demonstration was over. The defendants Streicher, Frick and Hess all took part in the attempted rising. Hitler was later tried for high treason, and was convicted and sentenced to imprisonment. The SA was outlawed. Hitler was released from prison in 1924 and in 1925 the Schutzstaffel, or SS, was created, nominally to act as his personal bodyguard, but in reality to terrorise political opponents. This was also the year of the publication of " Mein Kampf", containing the political views and aims of Hitler, which came to be regarded as the authentic source of Nazi doctrine.
(B)The Seizure of Power
In the 8 years that followed the publication of "Mein Kampf", the NSDAP greatly extended its activities throughout Germany, paying particular attention to the training of youth in the ideas of National Socialism. The first Nazi youth organization had come into existence in 1922, but it was in 1925 that the Hitler Jugend was officially recognized by the NSDAP. In 1931 Baldur von Schirach, who had joined the NSDAP in 1925, became Reich youth leader of the NSDAP.
The party exerted every effort to win political support from the German people. Elections were contested both for the Eeichstag and the Landtage. The NSDAP leaders did not make any serious attempt to hide the fact that their only purpose in entering German political life was in order to destroy the democratic structure of the Weimar Republic, and to substitute for it a National Socialist totalitarian regime which would enable them to carry out their avowed policies without opposition. In preparation for the day when he would obtain power in Germany, Hitler in January 1929 appointed Heinrich Himmler as Reichsfuehrer SS with the special task of building the SS into a strong but elite group which would be dependable in all circumstances.
On the 30th January 1933, Hitler succeeded in being appointed Chancellor of the Reich by President von Hindenburg. The defendants Goering, Schacht, and von Papen were active in enlisting support to bring this about. Von Papen had been appointed Reich Chancellor on the 1st June 1932. On the 14th June he rescinded the decree of the Bruening Cabinet of the 13th April 1932, which had dissolved the Nazi paramilitary organizations, including the SA and SS. This was done by agreement between Hitler and von Papen, although von Papen denies that it was agreed as early as the 28th May,as Dr. Hans Volz asserts in "Dates from the History of the NSDAP"; but that it was the result of an agreement was admitted in evidence by von Papen.
The Reichstag elections of the 31st July 1932 resulted in a great accession of strength to the NSDAP, and von Papen offered Hitler the post of Vice Chancellor, which he refused, insisting upon the Chancellorship itself. In November 1932 a petition signed by leading industrialists and financiers was presented to President Hindenburg, calling upon him to entrust the Chancellorship to Hitler; and in the collection of signatures to the petition Schacht took a prominent part.
The election of the 6th November, which followed the defeat of the Government, reduced the number of NSDAP members, but von Papen made further efforts to gain Hitler's participation, without success. On the 12th November Schacht wrote to Hitler:"I have no doubt that the present development of things can only lead to your becoming Chancellor. It seems as if our attempt to collect a number of signatures from business circles for this purpose was not altogether in vain * * * "
After Hitler's refusal of the 16th November, von Papen resigned, and was succeeded by General von Schleicher; "but von Papen still continued his activities. He met Hitler at the house of the Cologne banker von Schroeder on the 4th January 1933, and attended a meeting at the defendant Ribbentrop's house on the 22d January, with the defendant Goering and others. He also had an interview with President Hindenburg on the 9th January, and from the 22d January onward he discussed officially with Hindenburg the formation of a Hitler Cabinet.
Hitler held his first Cabinet meeting on the day of his appointment as Chancellor, at which the defendants Goering, Frick, Funk, von Neurath, and von Papen were present in their official capacities. On the 28th February 1933, the Reichstag building in Berlin was set on fire. This fire was used by Hitler and his Cabinet as a pretext for passing on the same day a decree suspending the constitutional guarantees of freedom. The decree was signed by President Hindenburg and countersigned by Hitler and the defendant Frick, who then occupied the post of Reich Minister of the Interior. On the 5th March, elections were held, in which the NSDAP obtained 288 seats of the total of 647. The Hitler Cabinet was anxious to pass an "Enabling Act" that would give them full legislative powers, including the power to deviate from the constitution. They were without the necessary majority in the Reichstag to be able to do this constitutionally. They therefore made use of the decree suspending the guarantees of freedom and took into so-called protective custody a large number of Communist deputies and party officials. Having done this, Hitler introduced the "Enabling Act" into the Reichstag, and after he had made it clear that if it was not passed, further forceful measures would be taken, the act was passed on the 24th March 1933.
(C)The Consolidation of Power
The NSDAP, having achieved power in this way, now proceeded to extend its hold on every phase of German life. Other political parties were persecuted, their property and assets confiscated, and many of their members placed in concentration camps. On 26th April, 1933, the defendant Goering founded in Prussia the Gestapo as a secret police, and confided to the deputy leader of the Gestapo that its main task was to eliminate political opponents of National Socialism and Hitler. On the 14th July, 1933, a law was passed declaring the NSDAP to be the only political party, and making it criminal to maintain or form any other political party.
In order to place the complete control of the machinery of Government in the hands of the Nazi leaders, a series of laws and decrees were passed which reduced the powers of regional and local governments throughout Germany, transforming them into subordinate divisions of the Government of the Reich. Representative assemblies in the Laender were abolished and with them all local elections. The Government then proceeded to secure control of the Civil Service. This was achieved by a process of centralisation, and by a careful sifting of the whole Civil Service administration. By a law of the 7th April it was provided that officials "who were of non-Aryan descent " should be retired; and it was also decreed that " officials who because of their previous political activity cannot be guaranteed to exert themselves for the national state without reservation shall be discharged." The law of the 11th April, 1933, provided for the discharge of " all Civil Servants who belong to the Communist Party." Similarly, the Judiciary was subjected to control. Judges were removed from the Bench for political or racial reasons. They were spied upon and made subject to the strongest pressure to join the Nazi Party as an alternative to being dismissed. When the Supreme Court acquitted three of the four defendants charged with complicity in the Reichstag fire, its jurisdiction in cases of treason was thereafter taken away and given to a newly established " People's Court ", consisting of two judges and five officials of the Party. Special courts were set up to try political crimes and only party members were appointed as judges. Persons were arrested by the SS for political reasons, and detained in prisons and concentration camps, and the judges were without power to intervene in any way. Pardons were granted to members of the Party who had been sentenced by the judges for proved offences. In 1935 several officials of the Hohenstein concentration camp were convicted of inflicting brutal treatment upon the inmates. High Nazi officials tried to influence the Court, and after the officials had been convicted, Hitler pardoned them all. In 1942 " Judges' letters" were sent to all German judges by the Government, instructing them as to the " general lines " that they must follow.
In their determination to remove all sources of opposition, the NSDAP leaders turned their attention to the trade unions, the churches and the Jews. In April, 1933, Hitler ordered the late defendant Ley, who was then staff director of the political organisation of the NSDAP, " to take over the trade unions." Most of the trade unions of Germany were joined together in two large federations, the " Free Trade Unions " and the " Christian Trade Unions." Unions outside these two large federations contained only 15 per cent. of the total union membership. On the 21st April, 1933, Ley issued an NSDAP directive announcing a " co-ordination action" to be carried out on the 2nd May against the Free Trade Unions.
The directive ordered that SA and SS men were to be employed in the planned .' occupation of trade union properties and for the taking into protective custody of personalities who come into question." At the conclusion of the action the official NSDAP press service reported that the National Socialist Factory Cells Organisation had "eliminated the old leadership of Free Trade Unions" and taken over the leadership them selves. Similarly, on the 3rd May, 1933, the NSDAP press service announced that the Christian trade unions " have unconditionally subordinated themselves to the leadership of Adolf Hitler." In place of the trade unions the Nazi Government set up a German Labour Front (DAF), controlled by the NSDAP, and which, in practice, all workers in Germany were compelled to join. The chairmen of the unions were taken into custody and were subjected to ill-treatment, ranging from assault and battery to murder.
In their effort to combat the influence of the Christian churches, whose doctrines were fundamentally at variance with National Socialist philosophy and practice, the Nazi Government proceeded more slowly. The extreme step of banning the practice of the Christian religion was not taken, but year by year efforts were made to limit the influence of Christianity on the German people, since, in the words used by the defendant Bormann to the defendant Rosenberg in an official letter, "the Christian religion and National Socialist doctrines are not compatible." In the month of June, 1941, the defendant Bormann issued a secret decree on the relation of Christianity and National Socialism. The decree stated that:" For the first time in German history the Fuehrer consciously and completely has the leadership in his own hand. With the Party, its components and ,attached units, the Fuehrer has created for himself and thereby the German Reich Leadership, an instrument which makes him independent of the Treaty.... More and more the people must be separated from the churches and their organs, the Pastor. . . Never again must an influence on leadership of the people be yielded to the churches. This influence must be broken completely and finally. Only the Reich Government and by its direction the Party, its components and attached units, have a right to leadership of the people."
From the earliest days of the NSDAP, anti-Semitism had occupied a prominent place in National Socialist thought and propaganda. The Jews who were considered to have no right to German citizenship, were held to have been largely responsible for the troubles with which the nation was afflicted following on the war of 1914-18. Furthermore, the antipathy to the Jews was intensified by the insistence which was laid upon the superiority of the Germanic race and blood. The second chapter of Book 1 of " Mein Kampf " is dedicated to what may be called the " Master Race" theory, the doctrine of Aryan superiority over all other races, and the right of Germans in virtue of this superiority to dominate and use other peoples for their own ends. With the coming of the Nazis into power in 1933, persecution of the Jews became official state policy. On the 1st April, 1933, a boycott of Jewish enterprises was approved by the Nazi Reich Cabinet, and during the following years a series of anti-Semitic laws were passed, restricting the activities of Jews in the Civil Service, in the legal profession, in journalism and in the armed forces. In September, 1935, the so-called Nuremberg Laws were passed, the most important effect of which was to deprive Jews of German citizenship. In this way the influence of Jewish elements on the affairs of Germany was extinguished, and one more potential source of opposition to Nazi policy was rendered powerless.
In any consideration of the crushing of opposition, the massacre of the 30th June, 1934, must not be forgotten. It has become known as the " Roehm Purge " or " the blood bath ", and revealed the methods which Hitler and his immediate associates, including the defendant Goering, were ready to employ to strike down all opposition and consolidate their power. On that day Roehm, the Chief of Staff of the SA since 1931, was murdered by Hitler's orders, and the " Old Guard " of the SA was massacred without trial and without warning. The opportunity was taken to murder a large number of people who at one time or another had opposed Hitler.
The ostensible ground for the murder of Roehm was that he was plotting to overthrow Hitler, and the defendant Goering gave evidence that knowledge of such a plot had come to his ears. Whether this was so or not it is not necessary to determine.
On July 3rd the Cabinet approved Hitler's action and described it as " legitimate self-defence by the State."
Shortly afterwards Hindenburg died, and Hitler became both Reich President and Chancellor. At the Nazi-dominated plebiscite, which followed, 38 million Germans expressed their approval, and with the Reichswehr taking the oath of allegiance to the Fuehrer, full power was now in Hitler's hands.
Germany had accepted the Dictatorship with all its methods of terror, and its cynical and open denial of the rule of law.
Apart from the policy of crushing the potential opponents of their regime, the Nazi Government took active steps to increase its power over the German population. In the field of education, everything was done to ensure that the youth of Germany was brought up in the atmosphere of National Socialism and accepted National Socialist teachings. As early as the 7th April, 1933, the law reorganising the Civil Service had made it possible for the Nazi Government to remove all " Subversive and unreliable teachers ", and this was followed by numerous other measures to make sure that the schools were staffed by teachers who could be trusted to teach their pupils the full meaning of National Socialist creed. Apart from the influence of National Socialist teaching in the schools, the Hitler Youth Organisation was also relied upon by the Nazi Leaders for obtaining fanatical support from the younger generation. The defendant von Schirach, who had been Reich Youth Leader of the NSDAP since 1931, was appointed Youth Leader of the German Reich in June, 1933. Soon all the youth organisations had been either dissolved or absorbed by the Hitler Youth, with the exception of the Catholic Youth. The Hitler Youth was organised on strict military lines, and as early as 1933 the Wehrmacht was cooperating in providing pre-military training for the Reich Youth.
The Nazi Government endeavoured to unite the nation in support of their policies through the extensive use of propaganda. A number of agencies were set up whose duty was to control and influence the press, radio, films, publishing firms, etc., in Germany, and to supervise entertainment and cultural and artistic activities. All these agencies came under Goebbels' Ministry of the People's Enlightenment and Propaganda, which together with a corresponding organisation in the NSDAP and the Reich Chamber of Culture, was ultimately responsible for exercising this supervision. The defendant Rosenberg played a leading part in disseminating ,the National Socialist doctrines on behalf of the Party, and the defendant Fritzsche, in conjunction with Goebbels, performed the same task for the State.
The greatest emphasis was laid on the supreme mission of the German people to lead and dominate by virtue of their Nordic blood and racial purity and the ground was thus being prepared for the acceptance of the idea of German world supremacy.
Through the effective control of the radio and the press, the German people, during the years which followed 1933, were subjected to the most intensive propaganda in furtherance of the regime. Hostile criticism, indeed criticism of any kind, was forbidden, and the severest penalties were imposed on those who indulged in it.
Independent judgment, based on freedom of thought, was rendered quite impossible.
(D)Measures of Rearmament
During the years immediately following Hitler's appointment as Chancellor, the Nazi Government set about reorganising the economic life of Germany, and in particular the armament industry. This was done on a vast scale and with extreme thoroughness.
It was necessary to lay a secure financial foundation for the building of armaments, and in April, 1936, the defendant Goering was appointed coordinator for raw materials and foreign exchange, and empowered to supervise all State and Party activities in these fields. In this capacity he brought together the War Minister, the Minister of Economics, the Reich Finance Minister, the President of the Reichsbank and the Prussian Finance Minister to discuss problems connected with war mobilisation, and on the 27th May, 1936, in addressing these men, Goering opposed any financial limitation of war production and added that " all measures are to be considered from the standpoint of an assured waging of war." At the Party Rally in Nuremberg in 1936, Hitler announced the establishment of the Four Year Plan and the appointment of Goering as the Plenipotentiary in charge. Goering was already engaged in building a strong air force and on the 8th July, 1938, he announced to a number of leading German aircraft manufacturers that the German Air Force was already superior in quality and quantity to the English. On the 14th October, 1938, at another conference, Goering announced that Hitler had instructed him to organise a gigantic armament programme, which would make insignificant all previous achievements. He said that he had been ordered to build as rapidly as possible an air force five times as large as originally planned, to increase the speed of the rearmament of the navy and army, and to concentrate on offensive weapons, principally heavy artillery and heavy tanks. He then laid down a specific programme designed to accomplish these ends. The extent to which rearmament had been accomplished was stated by Hitler in his memorandum of 9th October, 1939, after the campaign in Poland. He said:" The military application of our people's strength has been carried through to such an extent that within a short time at any rate it cannot be markedly improved upon by any manner of effort . . .
" The warlike equipment of the German people is at present larger in quantity and better in quality for a greater number of German divisions than in the year 1914. The weapons themselves, taking a substantial cross-section, are more modern than in the case with any other country in the world at this time. They have just proved their supreme war worthiness in their victorious campaign . . . There is no evidence available to show that any country in the world disposes of a better total ammunition stock than the Reich . . . The A.A. artillery is not equalled by any country in the world."
In this reorganisation of the economic life of Germany for military purposes, the Nazi Government found the German armament industry quite willing to cooperate, and to play its part in the rearmament programme. In April, 1933, Gustav Krupp von Bohlen submitted to Hitler on behalf of the Reich Association of German Industry a plan for the reorganisation of German industry, which, he stated was characterised by the desire to coordinate economic measures and political necessity. In the plan itself, Krupp stated that " the turn of political events is in line with the wishes which I myself and the board of directors have cherished for a long time." What Krupp meant by this statement is fully shown by the draft text of a speech which he planned to deliver in the University of Berlin in January, 1944, though the speech was in fact never delivered. Referring !to !the years 1919 to 1933, Krupp wrote: "It is the one great merit of the entire German war economy that it did not remain idle during those bad years, even though its activity could not be brought to light, for obvious reasons. Through years of secret work, scientific and basic groundwork was laid in order to be ready again to work for the German armed forces at the appointed hour, without loss of time or experience.... Only through the secret activity of German enterprise together with the experience gained meanwhile through production of peace time goods, was it possible after 1933 to fall into step width the new tasks arrived at, restoring Germany's military power."
In October, 1933, Germany withdrew from the International Disarmament Conference and League of Nations. In 1935, the Nazi Government decided to take the first open steps to free itself from its obligations under the Treaty of Versailles. On the 10th March, 1935, the defendant Goering announced that Germany was building a military air force. Six days later, on the 16th March, 1935, a law was passed bearing the signatures, among others, of the defendants Goering, Hess, Frank, Frick, Schacht and von Neurath, instituting compulsory military service and fixing The establishment of the German Army at a peace time strength of 500,000 men. In an endeavour to reassure public opinion in other countries, the Government announced on the 21st May, 1935, that Germany would, though renouncing the disarmament clauses, still respect the territorial limitations of the Versailles Treaty, and would comply with the Locarno Pacts. Nevertheless, on the very day of this announcement, the secret Reich Defence Law was passed and its publication forbidden by Hitler. In this law, the powers and duties of the Chancellor and other Ministers were defined, should Germany become involved in war. It is clear from this law that by May of 1935 Hitler and his Government had arrived at the stage in the carrying out of their policies when it was necessary for them to have in existence the requisite machinery for the administration and government of Germany in the event of their policy leading to war.
At the same time that is preparation of the German economy for war was being carried out, the German armed forces themselves were preparing for a rebuilding of Germany's armed strength.
The Germany Navy was particularly active in this regard. The official German Naval historians, Assmann and Gladisch, admit that the Treaty of Versailles had only been in force for a few months before it was violated, particularly in the construction of a new submarine arm.
The publications of Captain Schuessler and Oberst Scherf, both of which were sponsored by the defendant Raeder, were designed to show the German people the nature of the Navy's effort to rearm in defiance of the Treaty of Versailles.
The full details of these publications have been given in evidence.
On the 12th May, 1934 the defendant Raeder issued the Top Secret armament plan for what was called the Third Armament Phase. This contained the sentence:" All theoretical and practical A-preparations are to be drawn up with a primary view to readiness for a war without any alert period."
One month later, in June 1934, the defendant Raeder had a conversation with Hitler in which Hitler instructed him to keep secret the construction of U boats and of warships over the limit of 10,000 tons which was then being undertaken.
And on the 2nd November, 1934, the defendant Raeder had another conversation with Hitler and the defendant Goering, in which Hitler said that he considered it vital that the German Navy" should be increased as planned, as no war could be carried on if the Navy was not able to safeguard the ore imports from Scandinavia."
The large orders for building given in 1933 and 1934 are sought to be excused by, the defendant Raeder on the ground that negotiations were in progress for an agreement between Germany and Great Britain permitting Germany to build ships in excess of the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles. This agreement (2), which was signed, in 1935, restricted the German Navy to a tonnage equal ,to one third of that of the British, except in respect of U-boats where 45 per cent was agreed, subject always to the right to exceed this proportion after first informing the British Government and giving them an opportunity of discussion.
The Anglo-German Treaty followed in 1937, under which both Powers bound themselves to notify full details of their building programme at least four months before any action was taken.
It is admitted that these clauses were not adhered to by Germany.
In capital vessels, for example, the displacement details were falsified by 20 per cent, whilst in the case of U boats, the German historians Assmann and Gladisch say:" It's probably just in the sphere of submarine construction Germany adhered the least to the restrictions of the German-British Treaty."
The importance of these breaches of the Treaty is seen when the motive for this re-armament is considered. In the year 1940 the defendant Raeder himself wrote:" The Fuehrer hoped until the last moment to be able to put off ,the threatening conflict with England until 1944-5. At the time, the Navy would have had available a fleet with a powerful U-boat superiority, and a much more favourable ratio as regards strength all other types of ships, particularly those designed for warfare on the High Seas."
The Nazi Government, as already stated, announced on the 21st May, 1935, their attention to respect the territorial limitations of the Treaty of Versailles. On the 7th March, 1936, in defiance of that Treaty, the demilitarised zone of the Rhineland was entered by German troops. In announcing this action to the German Reichstag, Hitler endeavoured to justify the re-entry by references to the recently concluded alliances between France and the Soviet Union, and between Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union. He also tried to meet the hostile reaction which he no doubt expected to follow this violation of the Treaty by saying:" We have no territorial claims to make in Europe."
International Criminal Court
Published online by Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights - 27 May 2002