“Your best title yet,” a friend of mine declared. Well, certainly my most attention-getting. I’m afraid this post plays a peculiarly nasty Jedi mind trick on you, especially if you’re a neo-Nazi or other Holocaust denier. But maybe not only if. In any case, my sensors detected a particularly strong uptick in Moldbug-hating among the “ethnic genetic interests” crowd, whose ire for my Semitic roots runs strong. Always trust content from nizkor.org! It’s always easy to tell who’s right on these controversial questions—you just have to look at who’s frothing at the mouth.
Western intellectuals spent two thousand years wondering what would have happened if Athens had won the Peloponnesian War. Might modern civilization, iPhones and all, have sprung directly from the society that created science, mathematics, literature and democracy? Was it the victory of the icy, militaristic Spartans over the cultured, humanistic Athenians that left the West waiting until the 1830s for its industrial revolution? If not for the Sicilian Expedition—would Caesar have had an iPhone?
Then we had the 20th century. And we found out what happens when Athens beats Sparta. Reader, you see it all around you. At a certain point the Thirty Tyrants don’t seem so bad after all.
The truth, I think, is that by the time the European virtues split into the Athenian and Spartan virtues, the tragedy has already happened. Should we judge a society by the resolution on its iPhones? If so, the task is without interest. Like all reactionaries, I feel we should judge a society by the quality of its men and women—and better yet, its best men and women. Every few centuries in our history sees some new Rome, which always rises because of the virtue of its elite, and always collapses when that virtue is lost. And when we see Athenian virtues without Spartan, or Spartan without Athenian, we know that the two will fight and both are doomed.
The curious quality of the Anglo-German wars of the 20th century is that, while the democrats are clearly Athenian and the fascists clearly Spartan, the 20th-century Athenians are far more Spartan than their grandchildren, and the 20th-century Spartans far more Athenian than their own pathetic remnants. Hitler loved opera. Show me a neo-Nazi who loves opera—I’ll show you a neo-Nazi in the AARP. And it goes without saying that Churchill is basically a fascist, at least as compared to David Cameron.
The point was driven home for me at Wilde Lake High School in 1988, where I found myself in an auditorium listening to a long, bathetic string of student awards. “Student-athlete of the year,” as I recall, was a 300-pound all-state offensive lineman who’d racked up an incredible 1150 on his SATs. Why couldn’t I be competing for this position? Being actually not bad at ping-pong, I was about as much of an athlete as he was a student.
Whereas in the 1500s we see men like the Admirable Crichton or the Earl of Oxford—both of whom are outliers, of course, but not exceptionally anomalous outliers. Both of whom are as Spartan as Otto Skorzeny and as Athenian as Leo Szilard. But, of course—no iPhones.
We still have Spartans. So did Honorius. If anything, it was his Athenians that sucked balls, and indeed you can’t throw a stone these days without hitting some 21st-century Symmachus. Not a good omen. What would it take to heal this Athenian-Spartan divide? Can it even be done, or should we just consign tomorrow to God’s mercy or the Huns’? No shortage of Huns, either.
But I digress. I was talking about Nazis. Since the Nazis were the Spartans, it’s hard to find an eloquent Nazi. We want to know the Nazi mind, because nothing human is foreign to us. The communist mind, the democratic mind (but I repeat myself), springs out at us in great torrents of loquacity. Athens is never lacking in logos—the problem is filtering.
But the Spartan speaks only with his sword. Books cannot really capture him, yet we have nothing else. Still, since even the Third Reich is surprisingly Athenian when you get to know it, the problem is not unsolvable. Most 21st-century intellectuals have a favorite eloquent Nazi: Albert Speer.
There is much to be said for Speer’s memoir, though it is not without its disingenuous moments, but the problem with it is that we never get to meet the Nazi Speer—the author, by the time he writes, has completely submitted (with or without internal reservation) to conquering liberalism. So what we read in Speer is a liberal perspective on the Third Reich. We can get this from many other places, even as a primary source, for despite the hard work of Judge Freisler our record is not short of July 20 memoirs—nor was Nazi Germany short of secret liberals. Indeed the Third Reich we know from secondary sources is largely rendered through their eyes.
And without German, I’m restricted to the very limited supply of Nazi writing translated into English. Reinhard Spitzy is certainly worth a look, but I have a new candidate for this position: Hans Fritzsche.
Unless someone else wrote his Sword in the Scales (English edition, 1953), Fritszche—a radio journalist and Goebbels protege, who sat in the dock with Goering and Hess, but was acquitted—is a real writer. He’s also, as we’ll see, a real Nazi. So I have nothing to do but step aside and let him speak. Chapter 13, “Can Such Things Be?”—complete:
To me the most tremendous point in the whole indictment lay in the massacre of the Jews. This was not a question of conflicting interpretation as was the subject of war-guilt, but of plain indisputable fact.
At first the evidence that several million Jews had been killed in Germany and German-occupied territory was submerged in the general flood of accusations about mass murders at hundreds of different places in which the total number of dead claimed by the Prosecution varied from five to eighteen million. Moreover, a number of the place-names mentioned by interrogators and prison officials as the scenes of these killings were soon shown to be incorrect; they spoke for instance of gas-chambers at Dachau, where, according to unimpeachable evidence, there had never been any. As a result of this sort of testimony a number of prisoners formed the impression that the whole charge was simply an exaggerated description of the pogroms which had been reported in 1941 from several places in German-occupied eastern Europe.
I myself called to mind the principle enunciated by enemy publicists even before 1939 as the essence of war propaganda: the enemy must be portrayed as a monster without relieving features. And I could not help thinking of the legend of children’s severed hands in the first World War, while at the same time I remembered the replies given by the German information centres to whom I had submitted all current reports of atrocities, and who had disputed their accuracy in no uncertain fashion.
Were then the present apparently overwhelming charges of mass murder only a continuation of Allied propaganda? The detailed verbal statements by prosecuting counsel of alleged crimes, which often displayed a surprising ignorance of German conditions, were not convincing; and many of the documents produced in their support seemed equally without foundation. Such documents often showed little more than that the same facts can be very differently described, and the same words very differently interpreted.
Then suddenly, surprisingly, came a change of tactics. We found ourselves watching a documentary film.
The hall was darkened and a row of little lamps on the edge of the dock lit up our faces from below so that Dr. Gilbert, the psychologist, who had planted himself in front, was in a good position to watch our reactions. In the face of these preparations many of the prisoners deliberately assumed blank expressions; some turned their backs on the screen, and Dr. Schacht remarked that he himself had been in a concentration camp and needed no film to tell him what it was like. Others however never took their eyes off the ghastly scenes now displayed before us.
One and all we were at first profoundly sceptical as to the authenticity of the pictures, though the rows upon rows of pitiful living skeletons reminded me of my fellow sufferers in the Lubianka. The bales of human hair aroused immediate doubts in our minds as to their origin, and those of us who were watching gazed searchingly at the successive heaps of corpses in an endeavour to light on a clue as to when and where these camera shots could have been taken.
In the end, however, all our resolve to be coolly critical gave way to sheer elementary pity for these tortured creatures. No matter where the pictures had been made, no one could doubt that they were pictures of human beings, men, women, children, who had once lived and breathed, loved and hoped, and had been foully done to death. Did it matter what language those lips had spoken before they were silenced for ever, what thoughts were housed in that brain before it was crushed to pieces? The poor body, so soon to be reduced to ashes, had once lain beneath a mother’s heart.
The majority of us, who had looked for some cunning ulterior motive behind this film display, were shaken to the depths. But out of our very emotion there arose once more the persistent question: might not this documentary show more than anything else simply be a new aspect of the blind murderous frenzy of war, of those horrors which in a single generation have grown from the soldiers who fell in Flanders to the women and children done to death in Dresden? Are not these frightful forms of death the work of primitive forces which man himself has unleashed and which have passed beyond his control? Or are they the outcome of individual cruelty and a deliberate will to destroy? The film showed the most hideous defilement of God’s image; was that defilement due to some power outside man, or to a brutal and cynical human purpose? Sickened though we were, this question tormented us as we marched back to our cells.
Almost immediately two of the psychologists came in. I begged them to leave me alone; they went away and returned with a doctor who offered me sedatives to help me sleep; I refused them. Confronted with such problems as this day had brought forth, it would have been impossible to take refuge in unconsciousness; I had to face them and come to terms with them.
Some of us did so to the best of our ability. Having no written information at our disposal, we argued among ourselves, basing our discussions on personal observations, conjecture, and posterior inferences. Finally, as a result of these discussions, we came to the conclusion that these harrowing pictures would probably not bear minute investigation; too many extraneous scenes, too many coincidences, appeared to have been incorporated in them so as to enhance their general effect. Moreover, even if the film as a whole did present an alarming image of what had really happened, it still did not constitute proof of any one of the particular mass murders which the Prosecution declared had taken place.
But this proof was furnished verbally by two witnesses, Ohlendorf and Höss, before whose testimony our scepticism (already shaken) about the accuracy of this part of the indictment gave way completely. They established beyond doubt that a systematic campaign of murder had been launched against the Jews. Ohlendorf described how tens of thousands in East Germany—men, women, and children—had been shot, one by one, by specially detailed squads; while Höss admitted having studied the arrangements made by the German Commissioner Wirth at Treblinka (a camp in Poland) so as to be able to reproduce them on a larger scale at Birkenau near Auschwitz, where by means of a vast industrially-organized human slaughter-house the number of slain ran into hundreds of thousands. There was nothing to indicate that either of these witnesses was telling anything but the stark, hideous truth; nothing that I heard at any time was calculated to shake their evidence.
Their statements naturally produced a tremendous effect in the dock. Nobody questioned the honesty of their evidence, but some of the most important details were called into question, and there were heated arguments both about the instigators of the massacres and the various circumstances attendant on them.
The Prosecution now furnished us with stacks of documentary material and produced whole groups of witnesses. There was evidence of atrocities committed on non-Jewish civilians in concentration camps, many of which were conclusively proved to have been carried out on lines similar to those established for the murders of Jews. Many of the witnesses of these events were obviously given to exaggeration and generalization, but there were those whom it was impossible to doubt, and their testimony was entirely sufficient.
These were followed by charges in connection with the treatment of foreign workers in Germany concerning which, in my opinion, the Prosecution were under a complete misapprehension; a point of view which was later justified by Sauckel’s examination.
Next came the problem of war-guilt, and I am bound to say that the material submitted by the Prosecution under this head made a deep impression on me, for it contradicted my earlier impression about the aims of the German Government. All the evidence submitted, however, disclosed only the merest fraction of the many-sided developments which led up to the second World War.
The documents furnished by the Allies were barely sufficient for the demands of political propaganda, let alone all the manifold requirements of a trial which was admittedly of supreme historical importance. The historian will have to seek further information, and at present it is only in America that the raw material is to be found for a really unbiased study of the origins of the First World War and the consequences of the Treaty of Versailles, a treaty which did not satisfy the victor, and caused the masses of the vanquished to plunge from one radical extreme to another. Moreover, such an investigation would be an essential preliminary for any analysis of the unrest that permeated central Europe in the ’20s and ’30s, and culminated in the second great conflagration.
The contention that, after a certain date, Hitler was bent on war with Poland, struck us as forced; unquestionably he did not want a simultaneous conflict with the West. Whether he would have provoked such a conflict later, or whether he simply would have put forward claims to more territory and a suzerainty over the western powers, remained one of the most hotly disputed points in the whole of the trial. Certainly none of the evidence showed any conclusive proof that he even entertained a wish to attack the American hemisphere.
But Hitler’s determination to smash the Soviet Union was proved. There is no doubt that he aimed at making the Russo-Ukrainian region a political province of a greater Reich; but, on the other hand, the supremely important question as to when, and for what reason, he made up his mind to launch the colossal attack at the moment he did remains open.
Any comments that I was able to make from my own knowledge on the evidence furnished by the Prosecution I wrote down afterwards in the quietness of my cell. These notes published but only in German—MM were made without the help of any written material, which was of course in one way a disadvantage, but on the other hand enhanced their value as an unprompted personal account, devoid of the distorting influence that other testimony, constantly referred to, often exerts on such documents. First my own conscience, and then the Prosecution and the Bench, submitted these notes to a very careful scrutiny.
When, after a year in Nuremberg prison, I came to testify in my own defence, and found the searchlight of public opinion focused on me, I was able because of this preparation to answer every question put to me without hesitation. Certain journalists, observing that I showed no signs of being at a loss for the right word (as was usually, and very naturally, the case with prisoners), accused me of lack of feeling, and reported that I had profited by the total breakdown of my former world to adopt a coldly intellectual position, and so build up the best possible personal defence of myself. The truth was that nothing the Prosecution could do in the matter of cross-examination could compare with the gruelling self-questioning which had preceded it. All that I produced in court were the burnt-out ashes of what had once been red-hot lava.
Do you find this treatment enlightening, or self-serving, or a bit of both? It is certainly historically accurate, so far as the facts go. A few pages later, Fritzsche writes:
The Prosecution at Nuremberg had submitted to Bach Bach-Zelewski an alleged confession of Peiper’s, according to which Himmler—in the presence of Peiper and others, including Bach – had drawn up a plan by which, under cover of the military campaign, forty million Slavs were to be slaughtered. At this point Bach—as he now averred—turned indignantly to the Prosecution’s interrogator and declared that Himmler had spoken of killing “only” thirty millions. In conclusion Bach told my informant that after this admission, he could no longer deny the fact of the proposal, and had to give his evidence accordingly.
Now, at last, we were getting near to the heart of the matter, and the former S.S. Leader from Himmler’s staff was able to put the whole story together. He remembered indeed the very occurrence on which it was founded. One evening early in 1941 Himmler and some of his cronies were sitting round the fire in the Wewelsburg; in addition to Bach and Peiper there were present Heydrich, Daluege, Obergrüppenführer Wolff, and Rauter, one of the Gestapo chiefs in Holland. Himmler spoke of an impending war in the east, which, he said, was unavoidable, the only question being when it would start and who would fire the first shot. He warned the company of the difficulty of the coming conflict and said in effect: “Germany is technically, Russia numerically, superior. The Soviet has unlimited power over its citizens and will sacrifice them without compunction: should Germany allow herself to be similarly tempted she will incur instead of strategical victory biological defeat.” Later in the evening, Himmler computed the possible casualties on both sides, and estimated that in view of their determination to resist, and taking into account epidemics and famine, the Russians’ losses might total anything up to thirty million.
What a revelation! Himmler’s calculations of the enormous losses caused by military action and the general results of war were of course something very different from a deliberate and diabolical campaign of murder. I was reminded of Clemenceau’s “vingt millions de trop” – an expression which had been exploited by our German propaganda. But surely we had never distorted that remark beyond the bounds of reason, as this not dissimilar calculation of Himmler’s had been distorted! I could see at last how, in the hands of a determined Prosecution, Himmler’s thirty million hypothetical casualties had become metamorphosed into thirty million victims of a premeditated murder.
Bach was not the type of man to avoid this kind of thing. His was the sort of mind peculiarly susceptible to the latest impressions it had received, and his outlook, formerly imbued with Nazi ideas, now bore the clear impress of Allied propaganda. This example of a particular piece of testimony, with its background and its sequel, might be cited as how it is possible to shift the emphasis of evidence from one point to another, and so alter its whole bearing and significance.
Sometimes, however, this “shifted emphasis” resulted quite simply from the overwhelming pressure of current public opinion; and for this I was to some degree prepared by my interviews with various leading figures in Berlin and Moscow, and later at Nuremberg, which had made me realise how much a human being’s point of view depends on the political climate he finds himself in.
It seems to me as though people can only manage to see things at all clearly when some political wind or other is blowing from behind them; if they turn against it, it blows directly into their eyes, and they become blinded. My first reaction to this discovery was a feeling of profound contempt for my fellows; a feeling which, on closer examination, turned out to be quite unjustified.
For our views about the world we live in are in truth like so many flags, kept flying by the prevailing current of opinion. If the wind is strong enough, they will continue to display their colours in the same direction—until the weather changes. In the dock I used often to discuss with Speer and Schirach the question of maintaining a happy medium between a too inflexible and a too impressionable political outlook; and we came to the opinion that many of the sufferings of our nation could be traced back to this one question, in which politics, morals, intellect and character all play their separate parts.
Fritzsche, though acquitted at Nuremberg, was retried by a West German court and released in 1950 only to die of cancer. A page translated from German notes:
To his own surprise, it did manage Fritzsche to portray themselves as insignificant before the Nuremberg Tribunal and subject to instructions. He could not repeat this success in the subsequent denazification procedures. The German justice saw him as a leading propagandists, who had hidden at his career’s sake, the criminal side of National Socialism. Although Fritzsche was not a fanatical Nazi, but was a loud both staunch supporters of the Nazi party and more efficient. According to tribunal he was a “deceiver” responsible for the prolongation of the war and was therefore sentenced to nine years in labor camp in 1947. For this he was dismissed in 1950. Had he not died shortly afterwards, he could have taken a similar role as a witness, as later, Albert Speer. He “would have it, perhaps even leave a nice impression,” said Bonacker.
Indeed. And in case we haven’t heard enough Nazi perspectives on the Holocaust, Fritzsche also links us to the very interesting testimony of SS Judge George Konrad Morgen (who came out with a clean enough sheet to later practice law in West Germany):
Q. Will you state your full name, please?
A. Georg Konrad Morgen.
Q. Will you repeat this oath after me:
I swear by God, the Almighty and Omniscient, that I will speak the pure truth and will withhold and add nothing.
(The witness repeated the oath.)
THE PRESIDENT: You may sit down.
DIRECT EXAMINATION BY DR. PELCKMANN:
Q. Witness, because of the significance of your testimony, I will first ask you in detail about yourself. Were you an SS judge of the Reserve?
Q. Please speak slowly and wait a little after every question.
What training did you have?
A. I studied law at the Universities of Frankfurt on the Main, Rome, Berlin f at the “Academie de Droit International” at the Hague and the “Institute for World Economy and Ocean Traffic” in Kiel. I passed the first, the senior law examination. Before the war I was a judge at the Landgericht in Stettin.
Q. Were you a specialist in criminology and in criminal law?
A. No, I had specialized in International Law, but later, during the war, when I had to deal with criminal matters and penal law, I did special work in that field.
Q. How did you come to the SS?
A. I was drafted compulsorily into the General SS. In 1933, I belonged to the Reich Board for Youth Training, whose group of students was taken over as a body. I was drafted at the beginning of the war into the Waffen SS.
Q. What rank did you have there?
A. In the General SS I was Staffelanwarter and SS Rottenfuehrer. In the Waffen SS I was latterly Sturmbannfuehrer of the Reserve.
Q. What example can you give that you did not believe you were joining conspiracy when you joined the SS. Very briefly, please.
A. In 1936 I published a book on War Propaganda and the Prevention of War. This book, at a time when war was threatening, showed ways and means to prevent war and the incitement of nation against nation. The book was examined by the Party and published. Therefore, I could not suppose that the SS and the policy of the Reich Government were directed towards war.
Q. How did you come to the investigations in the concentration camps?
A. At the order of the Reichsfuehrer SS, because of my special abilities in criminology, I was detailed by the SS Judicial Department to the Reich Criminal Police Office in Berlin, which was equivalent to a transfer. Shortly after I arrived there, I was given an assignment to investigate a case of corruption in Weimar. The accused was a member of the concentration camp of Weimar-Buchenwald. The investigations soon led to the person of the former commandant, Koch, and many of his subordinates, and in addition affected a number of other concentration camps. As those investigations became more extensive, I received full authority from the Reichsfuehrer SS to engage generally in such investigations in concentration camps.
Q. Why was a special power of attorney from the Reichsfuehrer necessary?
A. For the guards of the concentration camps, the SS and Police Courts were competent; that is, in each case the local Court in whose district the concentration camp was located. For that reason, because of the limited jurisdiction of its judge, the Court was not able to act outside its own district. In these investigations and their extensive ramifications it was important to be able to work in various districts. In addition, it was necessary to use specialists in criminal investigation, in other words, the criminal police. The criminal police, however, could not carry on any investigation directly among the troops, and only by combining juridical and criminal police activities was it possible to clear this up, and for this purpose I was given this special power of attorney by the Reichsfuehrer.
Q. Now, how extensive did these investigations become? You can be brief because the witness Reinecke answered this point in part.
A. I investigated Weimar-Buchenwald, Lublin, Auschwitz, Sachsenhausen, Oranienburg, Herzogenbosch, Cracow, Plaschow, Warsaw, and the concentration camp at Dachau. And others were investigated after my time.
Q. How many cases did you investigate? How many sentences were passed? How many death sentences?
A. I investigated about 800 cases, or rather, about 800 documents, and one document would affect several cases. About 200 were tried during my activity. Five concentration camp commandants were arrested by me personally. Two were shot after being tried.
Q. You caused them to be shot?
A. Yes. Apart from the commandants, there were numerous other death sentences against Fuehrers and Unterfuehrers.
Q. Did you have any opportunity of visiting and seeing for yourself the conditions inside concentration camps?
A. Yes, because I had authority to visit concentration camps myself. Only a very few persons had this permission. Before beginning an investigation, I examined the concentration camp in question in all its details, seeing especially those arrangements which seemed particularly important to me. I visited them repeatedly and thoroughly. I paid surprise visits. I was working mostly in Buchenwald itself for eight months. I lived there. I was in Dachau for one or two months.
Q. As so many visitors to concentration camps say they were deceived, do you consider it possible that you, too, were a victim of such deception?
A. As I have already pointed out, I was not a mere visitor to a concentration camp. I had settled down there for a long residence, I might almost say I established myself there. It is really impossible to be deceived for such a long time. In addition, the commissions from the Reich Department of Criminal Police worked under my instructions, and I placed them directly in the concentration camps themselves. I do not mean to say that, in spite of these very intensive efforts, I was able to learn of all the crimes, but I believe that there was no deception in regard to what I did learn.
Q. Did you gain the impression, and at what time, that the concentration camps were places for the extermination of human beings?
A. I did not gain this impression. A concentration camp is not a place for the extermination of human beings. I must say that my first visit to a concentration camp, namely Weimar-Buchenwald, was a great surprise to me. The camp was on wooded heights, with a wonderful view. The installations were clean and freshly painted. There were grass and flowers. The prisoners were healthy, normally fed, sun-tanned, working -
THE PRESIDENT: When are you speaking of? When are you speaking of?
A. I am speaking of the beginning of my investigations in July, 1943.
Q. What crimes—you may continue—please, be more brief.
A. The installations of the camp were in good order, especially the hospital. The camp authorities, under the Commandant Diester, aimed at providing the prisoners with an existence worthy: of human beings. They had regular mail service. They had a large camp library, even with foreign books. They had variety shows, motion pictures, sporting events. They even had a brothel. Nearly all the other concentration camps were similar to Buchenwald.
THE PRESIDENT: What was it they even had?
A. A brothel.
Q. What crimes did you learn about?
A. As I said before, the investigations were based on a suspicion of corrupt practices. In time, however, I was obliged to come to the conclusion that besides those crimes, killings had also occurred.
Q. How did you reach the suspicion that killings had occurred?
A. I learned that the starting-point was the assignment of Jews to the camps after “Action 38.” I had to learn all possible facts about this action, and in doing so I was obliged to notice that the majority of prisoners of whom it could be assumed that they might know something about these cases, had died.
This peculiar frequency of killings was noticeable—I noticed it—because other prisoners who were not in any key positions remained in Buchenwald for years in the best of health, and were still there, so that it was rather remarkable that it was just certain prisoners who could have been witnesses who had died. I thereupon examined the files concerning these deceased prisoners.
The files themselves did not then give cause to suspect illegal killings. The dates of the deaths were years apart, and the different causes of death were always given. But I noticed that the majority of these deceased prisoners, shortly before their death, had been put into the camp hospital or were in the detention quarters.
This first aroused my suspicion that in these two places murders of prisoners might possibly have occurred. Thereupon I appointed a special official, whose sole task was to investigate the suspicious circumstances, and rumours which were circulating in the detention quarters, the so-called “Bunker,” regarding the killing of prisoners. He was a very zealous and able criminal official, but he had to report again and again that he had not found the least confirmation of this suspicion of mine.
After two weeks of completely unsuccessful activity, the criminal official refused to continue his task and asked me ironically whether I myself believed that such, rumours of illegal killing of prisoners could be true. Only by accident, much later, was I put on the trail. I noticed that in the case of certain prisoners, in the books of the Kommandantur prison, and in the hospital books, they had been recorded in both books at the same time. In the prison book, for example, it said, “Date of release, 9th May, 12 o’clock.” In the hospital register, “Patient died 9th May, 9.15 a.m.”
I said to myself, this prisoner cannot be in the Kommandantur Prison and at the same time a patient in the hospital. False entries must have been made here. I therefore concentrated my efforts on this and I succeeded in finding out about this system, for it was a system under Kommandant Koch.
The prisoners were taken to a secret place and were killed there, mostly in a cell of the Kommandantur prison, and sick reports and death certificates were prepared for the files. They were made out so cleverly that any unsuspecting reader of the documents would get the impression that the prisoner concerned had actually been treated and had died of the serious illness which was indicated.
Q. Then what did you do after learning of these facts?
A. I found out that the medical officer at Buchenwald, SS Hauptsturmfuehrer Dr. Hoven, was principally responsible and I had him arrested. I informed my investigating commission of these cunning forgeries and directed their particular attention to investigate systematically the concentration camps which we visited and to ascertain whether such murders had also been committed in other concentration camps. We satisfied ourselves at the time of the investigation, and I am speaking of the second half of 1942, that in the concentration camps at Sachsenhausen and Dachau no such killings occurred, as far as it was humanly possible to judge. In the other concentration camps, however, such cases were found. The persons believed to be guilty were accused, arrested and charged.
Q. Why was this not done earlier?
A. I have already said that these deceptive measures were so cunningly contrived that it was not possible to discover them earlier. Above all, there, was no possibility of clearing up the matter, besides these things were always done without witnesses. These cases had to be investigated by the SS Courts and they were investigated, for every unnatural death of a prisoner was reported by teletype to the central agency. In addition, the specially sworn-in Court officer who was in the camp had to go immediately to the place of the occurrences to question the witnesses; sketches and photographs had to be made of the scene and it was a regulation that an autopsy had to take place in every such case of unnatural death.
Those reports of unnatural deaths, or of deaths suspected of being unnatural, were sent regularly to the SS and Police Court; but as I have already said, these reports were so cunningly contrived and the files were in such good order that even an expert could not have suspected an illegal killing. Of course, frequently proceedings were taken against members of the concentration camp, some followed by sentences, even death sentences. But these deaths appeared to occur at quite a normal rate.
If nothing at all had been reported to the SS Courts from the concentration camps, it would of course have seemed suspicious, just as it would also have been suspicious if too many such reports had been made to us. But it was a normal average and one could have no suspicion that the concentration camps were a hotbed of such dangerous crimes. It was through my investigation, which as I said was caused by accident, that we received our first insight into the true state of affairs.
Q. How did you come on to the track of mass killings? You have just spoken of individual killings.
A. I found traces of mass killings also by accident. At the end of 1943, I discovered two trails at the same time, one leading to Lublin and the other to Auschwitz.
Q. Please describe the Lublin trail first.
A. One day I received a report from the Commandant of the Security Police in Lublin. He reported that in a Jewish labour camp in his district a Jewish wedding had taken place. There had been 1,100 invited guests at this wedding.
As I said, 1,100 guests participated in this Jewish wedding. What followed was described as quite extraordinary owing to the gluttonous consumption of food and alcoholic drinks. With these Jews were members of the camp guard, that is to say some SS men or other, who took part in this function. This report only came into my hands in a roundabout way, some months later, as the Commandant of the Security Police suspected that the circumstances indicated that some criminal acts had occurred.
This was my impression as well, and I thought that this report would give me an indication of another big case of criminal corruption. With this intention, I went to Lublin and I went to the Security Police there, but all they would tell me was that the events were supposed to have happened at a camp of the “Deutsche Ausrustungswerke.” But nothing was known there. I was told it might possibly be a rather peculiar and “opaque” (this was the actual term used) camp in the vicinity of Lublin. I found out the camp and the commandant, who was Kriminalkommissar Wirth.
I asked Wirth whether this report was true and what it meant. To my great astonishment, Wirth admitted it. I asked him why he permitted members of his command to do such things and Wirth then revealed to me that on the Fuehrer’s order he had to carry out the extermination of Jews.
Q. Please go on, witness, with what you did.
A. I asked Wirth what this had to do with the Jewish wedding. Then, Wirth described the method by which he carried out the extermination of Jews and he said something like this: “One has to fight the Jews with their own weapons, and one has to cheat them.”
Wirth built up an enormous deceptive manoeuvre. He first selected Jews who would, he thought, serve as column leaders, then these Jews brought along other Jews, who worked under them. With those smaller or medium-sized detachments of Jews, he began to build up the extermination camps. He extended this staff, and with them, Wirth himself carried out the extermination.
Wirth said that he had four extermination camps, and that about 5,000 Jews were working at the extermination of Jews and the seizure of Jewish property. In order to win Jews for this business of extermination and plundering of their brethren of race and creed, Wirth gave them every freedom and, so to speak, gave them a financial interest in the spoliation of the dead victims. As a result of this attitude, this extraordinary Jewish wedding had come about.
Then I asked Wirth how he killed Jews with these Jewish agents of his. Wirth described the whole procedure that went off like a film every time. The extermination camps were in the East of the Government General, in big forests or uninhabited waste lands. They were built up like a Potemkin village. The people arriving there had the impression of entering a city or a township. The train drove into what looked like a railroad station. The escorts and the train personnel then left the area. Then the cars were opened and the Jews got out.
They were surrounded by these Jewish labour detachments, and Kriminalkommissar Wirth or one of his representatives made a speech. He said: “Jews, you were brought here to be resettled, but before we organize this future Jewish State, you must of course learn how to work. You must learn a new occupation. You will be taught that here. Our routine here is, first, everyone must take off his clothes so that your clothing can be disinfected and you can have a bath so that no epidemics will be brought into the camp.”
After he had found such calming words for his victims, they started on the road to death. Men and women were separated. At the first place, one had to give his hat; at the next one, his coat, collar, shirt, down to his shoes and socks. These places were set up like check-rooms, and the person was given a check at each one so that the people believed that they would get their things back. The other Jews had to receive the things and hurry up the new arrivals so that they would not have time to think. The whole thing was like an assembly line. At the last stop they reached a big room, and were told that this was the bath. When the last one was in, the doors were shut and the gas was let into the room.
As soon as death taken place in, the ventilators were started. When the air could be breathed again, the doors were opened, and the Jewish workers removed the bodies. By means of a special process which Wirth had invented, they were burned in the open air without the use of fuel.
Q. Was Wirth a member of the SS?
A. No, he was a Kriminalkommissar in Stuttgart.
Q. Did you ask Wirth how he arrived at this devilish system?
A. When Wirth took over the extermination of the Jews, he was already specialist in mass destruction of human beings. He had previously carried out the task of getting rid of the incurably insane. On behalf of the Fuehrer himself, whose order was transmitted through the Chancellery of the Fuehrer, he had, at the beginning of the war, set up a detachment for this purpose, probably composed of a few officials of his, I believe, the remainder being agents and spies of the criminal police.
Wirth very vividly described how he went about carrying out this assignment. He received no aid, no instructions, but had to do it all by himself. He was only given an old, empty institution in Brandenburg. There he undertook his first experiments. After much consideration and many individual experiments, he evolved his later system, and then this system was used on a large scale to exterminate the insane.
A commission of doctors previously investigated the files, and those insane who were considered to be incurable were put on a separate list. Then the institution one day was told to send these patients to another institution. From this institution the patient was transferred again, often more than once. Finally he came to Wirth’s institution. There he was killed by gas and cremated.
This system which deceived the institutions and made them unknowing accomplices, this system which enabled him with very few assistants to exterminate large numbers of people, this system Wirth now employed with a few alterations and improvements for the extermination of Jews. He was also given the assignment by the Fuehrer’s Chancellery to exterminate the Jews.
Q. The statements which Wirth made to you must have surpassed human imagination. Did you immediately believe Wirth?
A. At first Wirth’s description seemed completely fantastic to me, but in Lublin I saw one of his camps. It was a camp which collected the property or part of the property of his victims. From the quantity—there were an enormous number of watches piled up—I had to realize that something frightful was going on here. I was shown the valuables. I can say that I never saw so much money at one time, especially foreign money—all kinds of coins, from all over the world. In addition, there were a gold-smelting furnace and really prodigious bars of gold.
I also saw that the headquarters from which Wirth directed his operations was very small and inconspicuous. He had only three or four people working there for him. I spoke to them too.
I saw and watched his couriers arrive. They actually came from Berlin, Tiergarten Strasse, the Fuehrer’s Chancellery, and went back there. I investigated Wirth’s mail, and I found in it confirmation of all this.
Of course, I could not do or see all this on this first visit. I was there frequently. I pursued Wirth up to his death…
“Q: You caused them to be shot? A: Yes.” I mean, the man is a playa. Who, in 2011, causes anyone to be shot? At best we execute them with a joystick. We came, we saw, he died!
It’s really not entirely clear to me that the rest of human history will, like Judge Morgen, find the 20th century even credible. But this indeed is how it was. I hope I’ve done my part to make the Holocaust seem a little more like the real event it was, not the screenplay legend it’s become. Perhaps the Elders of Zion will be pleased.