(For Part 1 go to : The Nuremberg Trials and the Holocaust (Part 1) )
By Mark Weber
Allied prosecutors used torture to help prove their case at Nuremberg and other postwar trials. /72
Former Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss was tortured by British officials into signing a false and self-incriminating “confession” that has been widely cited as a key document of Holocaust extermination. His testimony before the Nuremberg Tribunal, a high point of the proceeding, was perhaps the most striking and memorable evidence presented there of a German extermination program. /73 Höss maintained that two and half million people had been killed in Auschwitz gas chambers, and that another 500,000 inmates had died there of other causes. No serious or reputable historian now accepts either of these fantastic figures, and other key portions of Höss’ “confession” are now generally acknowledged to be untrue. /74
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn has cited the case of Jupp Aschenbrenner, a Bavarian who was tortured into signing a statement that he had worked on mobile gas chambers (“gas vans”) during the war. It wasn’t until several years later that he was finally able to prove that he had actually spent that time in Munich studying to become an electric welder. /75
Fritz Sauckel, head of the German wartime labor mobilization program, was sentenced to death at the main Nuremberg trial. An important piece of evidence presented to the Tribunal by the US prosecution was an affidavit signed by the defendant. (Nuremberg document 3057-PS.) It turned out that Sauckel had put his signature to this self-incriminating statement, which had been presented to him by his captors in finished form, only after he was bluntly told that if he hesitated, his wife and children would be turned over to the Soviets. “I did not stop to consider, and thinking of my family, I signed the document,” Sauckel later declared. /76
Hans Fritzsche, another defendant in the main Nuremberg trial, was similarly forced to sign a self-damning confession while he was a prisoner of the Soviet secret police in Moscow. (Nuremberg document USSR-474.) /77
Nuremberg defendant Julius Streicher, who was eventually hanged because he published a sometimes sensational anti-Jewish weekly paper, was brutally mistreated following his arrest. He was badly beaten, kicked, whipped, spat at, forced to drink saliva and burned with cigarettes. His genitals were beaten. Eyebrow and chest hair was pulled out. He was stripped and photographed. Fellow defendant Hans Frank was savagely beaten by two black GIs shortly after his arrest. August Eigruber, former Gauleiter of Upper Austria, was mutilated and castrated at the end of the war. /78
Josef Kramer, former commandant of both the Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz-Birkenau camps, and other defendants in the British-run “Belsen” trial, were reportedly also tortured, some of them so brutally that they begged to be put to death. /79
Although most of the defendants at the main Nuremberg trial were not tortured, many other Germans were forced to sign affidavits and give testimony against their former colleagues and superiors. A simple threat to turn the subject over to the Soviets was often enough to persuade him to sign an affidavit or provide testimony needed in court. Threats against the subject’s wife and children, including withdrawal of ration cards, delivery to the Soviets or imprisonment, often quickly produced the desired results. If all else failed, the subject could be placed in solitary confinement, beaten, kicked, whipped or burned until he broke down. /80
The testimony of the prosecution’s chief witness in the Nuremberg “Wilhelmstrasse” trial was obtained by threat of death. The American defense attorney, Warren Magee, had somehow obtained the transcript of the first pretrial interrogation of Friedrich Gaus, a former senior official in the German Foreign Office. Despite frantic protests by prosecuting attorney Robert Kempner, the judge decided to permit Magee to read from the document. During the pretrial interrogation session, Kempner told Gaus that he would be turned over to the Soviets for hanging. Tearfully pleading for mercy, Gaus begged Kempner to think of his wife and children. Kempner replied that he could save himself only by testifying in court against his former colleagues. A desperate Gaus, who had already endured four weeks in solitary confinement, agreed. When Magee finished reading from the damning transcript, Gaus sat with both hands to his face, totally devastated. /81
American soldiers repeatedly beat former SS captain Konrad Morgen in an unsuccessful effort to force him to sign a perjured affidavit against Ilse Koch, a defendant in the US military’s 1947 “Buchenwald” case. American officials also threatened to turn Morgen over to the Soviets if he did not sign the false statement. /82
Luftwaffe General Field Marshal Erhard Milch was warned by a US Army Major to stop testifying on behalf of Hermann Göring in the main Nuremberg trial. The American officer told Milch that if he persisted, he would be charged as a war criminal himself, regardless of whether or not he was guilty. /83 Milch did not back down and was indeed charged. In 1947 a US Nuremberg court sentenced him to life imprisonment as a war criminal. Four years later, though, the US High Commissioner commuted his sentence to fifteen years, and a short time after that Milch was amnestied and released. /84
Reports of widespread torture at the postwar American-run “war crimes” trials at Dachau leaked out, resulting in so many protests that a formal investigation was eventually carried out. A US Army Commission of inquiry consisting of Pennsylvania Judge Edward van Roden and Texas Supreme Court Judge Gordon Simpson officially confirmed the charges of gross abuse. German defendants, they found, were routinely tortured at Dachau with savage beatings, burning matches under fingernails, kicking of testicles, months of solitary confinement, and threats of family reprisals. Low ranking prisoners were assured that their “confessions” would be used only against their former superiors in the dock. Later, though, these hapless men found their own “confessions” used against them when they were tried in turn. High ranking defendants were cynically assured that by “voluntarily” accepting all responsibility themselves they would thereby protect their former subordinates from prosecution. /85
One Dachau trial court reporter was so outraged at what was happening there in the name of justice that he quit his job. He testified to a US Senate subcommittee that the “most brutal” interrogators had been three German-born Jews. Although operating procedures at the Dachau trials were significantly worse than those used at Nuremberg, they give some idea of the spirit of the “justice” imposed on the vanquished Germans.
Virtually all of the US investigators who brought cases before American military courts at Dachau were “Jewish refugees from Germany” who “hated the Germans,” recalled Joseph Halow, a US Army court reporter at the Dachau trials in 1947. “Many of the investigators gave vent to their hated by attempting to force confessions from the Germans by treating them brutally,” including “severe beatings.” /86
The case of Gustav Petrat, a German who had served as a guard at the Mauthausen, was not unusual. After repeated brutal beatings by US authorities, he broke down and signed a perjured statement. He was also whipped and threatened with immediate shooting. Petrat was prevented from securing exonerating evidence, and even potential defense witnesses were beaten and threatened to keep them from testifying. After a farcical trial by a US military court at Dachau, Petrat was sentenced to death and hanged in late 1948. He was 24 years old. /87
Use of torture to produce incriminating statements has not been limited to postwar Germany, of course. Such techniques have been systematically used by governments around the world. During the Korean War, American airmen held as prisoners by the Communist North Koreans made detailed statements “confessing” to their roles in waging germ warfare. Under physical and psychological torture, 38 US airmen “admitted” dropping bacteriological bombs that caused disease epidemics and claimed many Korean civilian lives. These statements were later shown to be false, and the airmen repudiated them after returning to the United States. Their phony confessions were the same kind of evidence given by Rudolf Höss and others at the Nuremberg trials. Under similar circumstances, Americans proved at least as ready to “confess” to monstrous but baseless crimes as Germans. /88
One of the most important and revealing Nuremberg cases is that of Oswald Pohl, the wartime head of the vast SS agency (WVHA) that ran the German concentration camps. After his capture in 1946, he was taken to Nenndorf where British soldiers tied him to a chair and beat him unconscious. He lost two teeth in repeated beatings. /89 He was then transferred to Nuremberg, where American military officials intensively interrogated him for more than half a year in sessions that lasted for hours. Altogether there were about 70 such sessions. During this period he had no access to an attorney or any other help. He was never formally charged with anything, nor even told precisely why he was being interrogated.
In a statement written after he was sentenced to death at Nuremberg in November 1947 by the American military court (“Concentration Camp” Case No. 4), Pohl described his treatment. /90 He reported that although he was generally not physically mistreated in Nuremberg as he had been at Nenndorf, he was nevertheless subjected to the less noticeable but, as he put it, “in their own way much more brutal emotional tortures.”
American interrogators (most of them Jews) accused Pohl of killing 30 million people and of condemning ten million people to death. The interrogators themselves knew very well that such accusations were lies and tricks meant to break down his resistance, Pohl declared. “Because I am not emotionally thick-skinned, these diabolical intimidations were not without effect, and the interrogators achieved what they wanted: not the truth, but rather statements that served their needs,” he wrote.
Pohl was forced to sign false and self-incriminating affidavits written by prosecution officials that were later used against him in his own trial. As he recalled:
Whenever genuine documents did not correspond to what the prosecution authorities wanted or were insufficient for the guilty sentences they sought, “affidavits” were put together. The most striking feature of these remarkable trial documents is that the accused often condemned themselves in them. That is understandable only to those who have themselves experienced the technique by which such “affidavits” are obtained.
He and other defendants were “destroyed” with these affidavits, which “contain provable errors of fact regarding essential points,” Pohl wrote. Among the false statements signed by Pohl was one that incriminated former Reichsbank President Walter Funk, whom the Nuremberg Tribunal eventually sentenced to life imprisonment. /91
American officials also made use of false witnesses at Nuremberg, Pohl wrote:
Whenever these productions [affidavits] were not enough to produce the result sought by the prosecuting authorities, they marched out their so-called ‘star witnesses,’ or rather, paid witnesses … A whole string of these shady, wretched characters played their contemptible game at Nuremberg. They included high government officials, generals and intellectuals as well as prisoners, mental defectives and real hardened criminals … During the WVHA trial [of Pohl] a certain Otto appeared from a mental institution as a “star witness.” His previous lifestyle would have been considered exemplary by any hardened criminal. The same is true of prosecution witness Krusial who presented the most spectacular fairy tales to the court under oath, which were naturally believed …
Pohl also protested that defense attorneys were not allowed free access to the German wartime documents, which the prosecution was able to find and use without hindrance:
For almost two years the prosecution authorities could make whatever use they wanted of the many crates of confiscated documentary and archival material they had at their disposal. But the same access right was refused to the German defendants despite their repeated efforts … This meant a tremendous or even complete paralysis and hindrance of the defense cases for the accused, for those crates also contained the exonerating material that the prosecution authorities were able to keep from being presented to the court. And that is called “proper” procedure.
Because Pohl held the rank of general in the German armed forces, his treatment by the British and Americans was illegal according to the international agreements on the treatment of prisoners of war.
“As result of the brutal physical mistreatment in Nenndorf and my treatment in Nuremberg, I was emotionally a completely broken man,” he wrote. “I was 54 years old. For 33 years I had served by country without dishonor, and I was unconscious of any crime.”
Pohl summed up the character of the postwar trials of German leaders:
It was obvious during the Dachau trials, and it also came out unmistakably and only poorly disguised during the Nuremberg trials, that the prosecution authorities, among whom Jews predominated, were driven by blind hatred and obvious lust for revenge. Their goal was not the search for truth but rather the annihilation of as many adversaries as possible.
To an old friend Pohl wrote: “As one of the senior SS leaders I had never expected to be left unmolested. No more, however, did I expect a death sentence. It is a sentence of retribution.” /92
He was hanged on June 7, 1951. In his final plea to the Nuremberg court, Pohl expressed his faith that one day blind hysteria would give way to just understanding: /93
After distance and time have clarified all events and when passion has ceased and when hatred and revenge have stilled their hunger, then these many millions of decent Germans who have sacrificed their lives for their fatherland will not be denied their share of sympathy which today is being attributed to the victims of the concentration camps, although a large number of them owe their fate not to political, racial or religious characteristics, but to their criminal past.
Along with the millions of people around the world who avidly followed the Nuremberg proceedings by radio and newspaper, the defendants themselves were shocked by the evidence presented to substantiate the extermination charge. Above all, the testimony of Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss and Einsatzgruppen commander Otto Ohlendorf made a deep impression. Contrary to what is often claimed or insinuated, however, the Nuremberg Tribunal defendants declared that they did not know of any extermination program during the war. /94 These men were, in a sense, the first “Holocaust revisionists.”
The main Nuremberg defendant, Hermann Göring, who had been Hitler’s second-in-command and designated successor during most of the Third Reich years, vehemently denied knowing of any extermination program during the war. “The first time I learned of these terrible exterminations,” he exclaimed at one point, “was right here in Nuremberg.” The German policy had been to expel the Jews, not kill them, he explained, and added that, to the best of his knowledge, Hitler did not know of any extermination policy either. /95
During a rare unguarded break between court sessions, fellow defendant Hans Fritzsche privately asked Göring about the truth of the extermination charge. The former Reichsmarschall solemnly assured Fritzsche that the accusation was not true. The Allied evidence for the charge, he insisted, was inaccurate or incomplete and totally contradicted everything he knew about the matter. In any case, Göring added, if there had been any mass killings, they certainly were not ordered by Hitler. /96
General Alfred Jodl, chief of the operations staff of the Armed Forces High Command, and probably Hitler’s closest military adviser, gave similar testimony to the Tribunal. Responding to a direct question about this matter, he said: /97
I can only say, fully conscious of my responsibility, that I never heard, either by hint or by written or spoken words, of an extermination of Jews … I never had any private information on the extermination of the Jews. On my word, as sure as I am sitting here, I heard all these things for the first time after the end of the war.
Hans Frank, the wartime governor of German-ruled Poland, testified that during the war he had heard only rumors and foreign reports of mass killings of Jews. He asked other officials, including Hitler, about these stories and was repeatedly assured that they were false. /98
Frank’s testimony is particularly noteworthy because if millions of Jews had actually been exterminated in German occupied Poland, as alleged, hardly anyone would have been in a better position to know about it. During the course of the trial, Frank was overcome by a deep sense of Christian repentance. His psychological state was such that if he had known about an extermination program, he would have said so.
At one point during the proceedings, Frank was asked by his attorney, “Did you ever take part in any way in the annihilation of Jews?” His reply reflects his emotional state at the time: /99
I say yes, and the reason why I say yes is because, under the impression of these five months of the proceedings, and especially under the impression of the testimony of the witness [former Auschwitz commandant] Höss, I cannot answer to my conscience to shift the responsibility for this solely on these low-level people. I never built a Jewish extermination camp or helped to bring one into existence. But if Adolf Hitler personally shifted this terrible responsibility onto his people, than it also applies to me. After all, we carried on this struggle against Jewry for years … And therefore I have the duty to answer your question in this sense and in this context with yes. A thousand years will pass and this guilt of Germany will not be erased.
These words, and especially the final sentence, have often been quoted to give the impression that the defendants themselves admitted their guilt and acknowledged the existence of a wartime German policy to exterminate the Jews.100 Less well-known are Frank’s words during his final address to the Tribunal: /101
In the witness stand I said that a thousand years would not be enough to erase the guilt of our nation because of Hitler’s behavior in this war. [However,] not only the behavior of our wartime enemies against our people and our soldiers, which has been carefully kept out of these proceedings, but also the enormous mass crimes of the most terrible kind against Germans, which I have only now learned about, especially in East Prussia, Silesia, Pomerania and in the Sudetenland, which have been and are still being carried out by Russians, Poles and Czechs, have now already completely canceled out any possible guilt of our people. Who will ever judge these crimes against the German people?
Ernst Kaltenbrunner, wartime head of the powerful Reich Security Main Office (RSHA), was certain that he would soon be put to death regardless of the evidence presented to the Tribunal: “The colonel in charge of the London prison that I was in has told me that I would be hanged in any case, no matter what the outcome would be. Since I am fully aware of that, all I want to do is to clear up on the fundamental things that are wrong here.” In a question-and-answer exchange, Kaltenbrunner rejected the charge that he had ordered gassings: /102
Q. Witness after witness, by testimony and affidavit, has said that the gas chamber killings were done on general or specific orders of Kaltenbrunner.
A. Show me one of those men or any of those orders. It is utterly impossible.
Q. Practically all of the orders came through Kaltenbrunner.
A. Entirely impossible.
The case of Albert Speer, one-time Hitler confidant and wartime Armaments Minister, deserves special mention. His Nuremberg defense strategy was unique and also rather successful because he did not hang. While maintaining that he personally knew nothing of an extermination program during the war, he nevertheless declared himself morally culpable for having worked so diligently for a regime he belatedly came to regard as evil. After serving a twenty-year sentence in Spandau prison, the “repentant Nazi” was “rehabilitated” by the mass media for his somewhat subtle but fervent condemnation of the Hitler regime. His contrite memoir, published in the US as Inside the Third Reich, was highly acclaimed and sold very profitably in Europe and America.
Until his death in 1981, Speer steadfastly insisted that he did not know of any extermination program or gassings during the war. His position was remarkable because, if a wartime policy to exterminate the Jews had actually existed, almost no one would have been in a better position to have known about it. As Reich Armaments Minister, Speer was responsible for the continental mobilization of all available resources, including critically needed Jewish workers. That millions of Jews could have been transported across Europe and killed at a wartime industrial center as important as Auschwitz, and elsewhere, without Speer’s knowledge simply defies belief. /103
During the Nuremberg “Wilhelmstrasse” trial, the chief of the Reich Chancellery from 1933 to 1945, Hans Lammers, was asked if he “was still of the opinion that no program for exterminating the Jews was ever set up.” He answered: “Yes, I am of that opinion. At least the program never came to my attention. The program cannot have been set up.” Lammers, who was Hitler’s closest legal adviser, went on the explain: “I did not know of any mass killings and, of the cases I heard about, the reports were allegations, rumors … The fact that individual cases occurred here and there, the shooting of Jews in wartime in some towns or other, that I read something about that and heard something about that, that is very easily possible.” /104
Such testimony by the men who were most familiar with Germany’s overall Jewish policy is routinely dismissed as brazen lying. But the categorical and self-consistent nature of this testimony, sometimes by men who knew that death soon awaited them, suggests a core of truth. On the other hand, to accept the Holocaust extermination story means giving greater credibility to the most fantastic and often demonstrably false testimonies by very questionable witnesses.
Other Postwar Trials
During the decades since Nuremberg, many individuals have been tried in (West) Germany and other countries for alleged wartime participation in exterminating the Jews. Rarely, if ever, has a defendant ever substantially challenged the Holocaust story. The accused invariably adopted the defense strategy successfully used by Speer at Nuremberg: He accepted the extermination story but denied or minimized his own personal involvement. To deny an extermination program in trials that were organized on the working assumption that such a program existed would have been judicial suicide.
These trials are comparable in some respects to the Soviet show trials of 1936-1938. The defendants in the well-publicized Moscow trials never denied the existence of vast criminal conspiracies involving major Soviet personalities who supposedly plotted the most horrible crimes in league with hostile foreign powers. Instead, the accused pleaded that he was not personally guilty, or that his guilt was minimal and that he had truly repented. (Remarkably, even foreign observers who should have known better, such as US Ambassador in Moscow Joseph Davies, were inclined to accept the Stalinist show trials as genuine and essentially just.) /105
Comparisons have also been drawn between the “Holocaust” trials and the witchcraft trials of past centuries. Those accused of witchcraft never denied the existence or diabolical power of witches. Instead they insisted that they were not personally guilty of the charges against them. Nuremberg defendant Hans Fritzsche, who had been one of Germany’s most prominent and effective wartime radio news commentators, summed up the problem: “If someone accuses me of killing someone, than I can prove the contrary. But if I am accused of being the devil, there’s no way to disprove that, because it can’t be done.” /106
One of the most important of the post-Nuremberg “Holocaust” trials was the 1963-1965 Frankfurt “Auschwitz” trial of 22 former Auschwitz SS men. The lengthy case received worldwide media coverage and assumed something of the character of a show trial. /107 Deciding the guilt or innocence of the defendants was “extraordinarily difficult,” the judges declared in their verdict, because of the very inconclusive nature of the evidence. “We have no absolute evidence for the individual killings. We have only the witness testimonies.” The judges acknowledged that “the possibilities of verifying the witness declarations were very limited.” The judges further emphasized “this weakness of witness testimony” by citing the case of a Buchenwald official convicted of murdering an inmate who later turned up alive. /108
This situation was embarrassingly underscored during the trial when former inmate Rudolf Kauer suddenly repudiated earlier statements about his one-time SS masters. In pre-trial interrogation he claimed to have seen defendant Wilhelm Boger brutally beat a naked Polish woman with a horse whip, ripping off one breast and flooding a room with blood. When asked to repeat his statement in court, Kauer admitted: “I lied about that. That was just a yarn going around the camp. I never saw it …” Another claim that Boger had smashed an infant’s skull against a tree trunk was also not true, he confessed. Although Boger was not liked, Kauer told the court, he was actually a just SS man.
Another defendant, Klaus Dylewski, whom Kauer had called “one of the worse killers” at Auschwitz, was actually “harmless.” All of his pre-trial accusations were lies, Kauer said, calmly adding: “You can punish me if you want. I am used to that.” After the presiding judge admonished him several times for repudiating his earlier statements, Kauer replied: “We don’t need to lose any more words. It’s not worth it. What I say now is the truth.” /109
Former Auschwitz camp adjutant and SS Captain Robert Mulka, the main defendant in the trial, was pronounced guilty of participation in mass murder and sentenced to 14 years at hard labor, a verdict that many outsiders considered outrageously lenient. But less than four months later Mulka was quietly released, an outcome that should astonish only those not familiar with the nature of such trials. /110
Very few of those who glibly refer to “all the Nuremberg evidence” as proof for the Holocaust extermination story are familiar with either the real nature of this “evidence” or the character of these trials. On closer examination, solid documentary or forensic evidence of a wartime German policy to exterminate Europe’s Jews proves to be elusive. As we have seen, the evidence that has been presented consists largely of extorted confessions, spurious testimonies, and fraudulent documents. The postwar Nuremberg trials were politically motivated proceedings meant more to discredit the leaders of a defeated regime than to establish truth.
We do not need trials or “confessions” to prove that the Katyn massacre or the postwar deportation of Germans from eastern and central Europe actually took place. By comparison, the Holocaust story does not claim just a few isolated massacres, but a vast extermination program taking place across the European continent over a three-year period involving several governments and millions of people. The fact that the Holocaust story must rely so heavily on highly dubious testimony evidence and trials staged in a historically unparalleled atmosphere of hysteria, intimidation and propaganda demonstrates its inherent weakness.