What Nazi Leaders Said about Mass Gassing of Jews

One of the accusations most often hurled at Holocaust revisionists is that even the Nazi leaders acknowledged the mass murder of Jews, claiming that they were just following orders.

Here is what was actually said by those Nuremberg defendants who addressed the charges of genocide. (Not all the defendants addressed this issue, but here is what was said by those who did.) Note that virtually all of the defendants accepted the fact that mass exterminations of Jews had occurred.

Two Hundred and Sixteenth Day, Saturday, 31 August 1946

[Trial of the Major War Criminals Before the International Military Tribunal. Volume XXII. Proceedings: August 31, 1946. pp. 366-394.]

THE PRESIDENT: Article 24 D (j) provides that each defendant may make a statement to the Tribunal. I therefore now call upon the defendants who wish — whether they wish — to make statements. Defendant Hermann Wilhelm Göring.

HERMANN WILHELM GÖRING (Defendant): … Repeatedly we have heard here how the worst crimes were veiled with the most secrecy. I wish to state expressly that I condemn these terrible mass murders to the utmost, and cannot understand them in the least. But I should like to state clearly once more before the High Tribunal, that I have never decreed the murder of a single individual at any time, and neither did I decree any other atrocities or tolerate them, while I had the power and the knowledge to prevent them.

The new allegation presented by Mr. Dodd in his final speech, that I had ordered Heydrich to kill the Jews, lacks every proof and is not true either. There is not a single order signed by me or signed in my behalf that enemy fliers should be shot or turned over to the SD. And not a single case has been established where units of my Luftwaffe carried out things like that…

THE PRESIDENT: I call on the Defendant Rudolf Hess.

RUDOLF HESS (Defendant): … it is of the utmost importance that what I am saying be said under oath. Therefore I now declare once more: I swear by God the Almighty and Omniscient, that I will speak the pure truth, that I shall leave out nothing and add nothing. I ask the High Tribunal, therefore to consider everything which I shall say from now on as under oath. Concerning my oath, I should also like to say that I am not a churchgoer; I have no spiritual relationship with the Church, but I am deeply religious person. I am convinced that my belief in God is stronger than that of most other people. I ask the High Tribunal to give all the more weight to everything which I declare under oath, expressly calling God as my witness…

I was permitted to work for many years of my life under the greatest son whom my people has brought forth in its thousand year history. Even if I could, I would not want to erase this period of time from my existence. I am happy to know that I have done my duty to my people, my duty as a German, as a National Socialist, as a loyal follower of my Führer. I do not regret anything.

If I were to begin all over again, I would act just as I have acted, even if I knew that in the end I should meet a fiery death at the stake. No matter what human beings may do, I shall some day stand before the judgment seat of the Eternal. I shall answer to Him, and I know He will judge me innocent…

THE PRESIDENT: I call upon the Defendant Ernst Kaltenbrunner.

ERNST KALTENBRUNNER (Defendant): The Prosecution holds me responsible for the concentration camps, for the destruction of Jewish life, for Einsatzgruppen and other things. All of this is neither in accord with the evidence nor with the truth. The accusers as well as the accused are exposed to the dangers of a summary proceeding…

In the Jewish question I was just as much deceived as other high officials. I never approved or tolerated the biological extermination of Jewry. The anti-Semitism found in Party and State laws was still to be considered in time of war as an emergency defense measure. The anti-Semitism of Hitler, as we understand it today, was barbarism. I did not participate in either of these forms and maintain, as I shall show, that the discontinuance of the extermination of the Jews is to be traced to my influence on Hitler.

After the presentation of evidence several photographs were submitted which allegedly show my knowledge of crimes in concentration camps, the camp at Mauthausen, and my knowledge of the criminal tools which were used there. I never set foot in Camp Mauthausen, only that part of the labor camps where the stone quarry was located, where hardened criminals were employed according to law, but no Jews or political prisoners. The pictures show an administration building and nothing else. Affidavit USA-909, pictures 894 to 897-F, are therefore factually impossible and wrong. The picture with Hitler shows the visit to a building site in Linz, 35 kilometers away from Camp Mauthausen…

Does not the Prosecution even now see any discrepancy in the fact that Amt V of the RSHA exposed the crimes of Amt IV of the RSHA and the secret criminal clique? In this I see the proof of the fact that I never knew what was really going on, and at the moment when I realized what was taking place, I protested in my own office…

… The speed and excitement of the cross-examination did not permit me to recall that at the time when the commission of Amt V had long been active in the camps, I could no longer believe that there was any danger to Jewish life. My credibility has been doubted ever since then, but it would have been restored immediately if an enquiry had been made by the Prosecution with the International Red Cross at Geneva in proceedings which were not so summary…

THE PRESIDENT: I call on the Defendant Alfred Rosenberg.

ALFRED ROSENBERG (Defendant): … The thought of a physical annihilation of Slavs and Jews, that is to say, the actual murder of entire peoples, has never entered my mind and I most certainly did not advocate it in any way. I was of the opinion that the existing Jewish question would have to be solved by the creation of a minority right, by emigration, or by settling the Jews in a national territory over a ten-year period of time. The White Paper of the British Government of 24 July 1946 shows how historical developments can bring about measures which were never previously planned…

I frankly welcome the idea that a crime of genocide is to be outlawed by international agreement and placed under the severest penalties, with the natural provision that neither now nor in the future shall genocide be permitted in any way against the German people either…

THE PRESIDENT: I call upon the Defendant Hans Frank.

HANS FRANK (Defendant): Your Honors:…

There is still one statement of mine which I must rectify. On the witness stand I said that a thousand years would not suffice to erase the guilt brought upon our people because of Hitler’s conduct in this war. Every possible guilt incurred by our nation has already been completely wiped out today, not only by the conduct of our war-time enemies toward our nation and its soldiers, which has been carefully kept out of this Trial, but also by the tremendous mass crimes of the most frightful sort which — as I have now learned — have been and still are being committed against Germans by Russians, Poles, and Czechs, especially in East Prussia, Silesia, Pomerania, and Sudetenland. Who shall ever judge these crimes against the German people?…

THE PRESIDENT: I call upon the Defendant Wilhelm Frick.

WILHELM FRICK (Defendant): I have a clear conscience with respect to the Indictment. My entire life was spent in the service of my people and my fatherland. To them I have devoted the best of my strength in the loyal fulfillment of my duty…

THE PRESIDENT: I call upon the Defendant Julius Streicher.

JULIUS STREICHER (Defendant): Your Honors:

At the beginning of this Trial I was asked by the President whether I pleaded guilty in the sense of the Indictment. I answered that question in the negative.

The completed proceedings and the evidence presented have confirmed the correctness of the statement I gave at that time.

It has been established that:

(1) Mass killings were carried out exclusively upon orders by the Head of the State. Adolf Hitler, without other influence.

(2) The mass killings were carried out without the knowledge of the German people and in complete secrecy by the Reichsführer SS, Heinrich Himmler.

The Prosecution had asserted that mass killings would not have been possible without Streicher and his Stuermer. The Prosecution neither offered nor submitted any proof of this assertion.

It is clearly established that on the occasion of the Anti-Jewish Boycott Day in 1933, which I was ordered to lead, and on the occasion of the demonstration of 1938 ordered by Reich Minister Dr. Goebbels, I, in my capacity as Gauleiter, neither ordered, demanded, nor participated in any acts of violence against Jews.

It is further established that in many articles in my weekly paper, the Stuermer, I advocated the Zionist demand for the creation of a Jewish state as the natural solution of the Jewish problem.

These facts prove that I did not want the Jewish problem to be solved by violence.

If I or other authors mentioned a destruction or extermination of Jewry in some article of my weekly paper, the Stuermer, then these were strong statements in reply to provoking expressions of opinion by Jewish authors in which the extermination of the German people was demanded. According to his last testament the mass killings ordered by the leader of the State, Adolf Hitler, were supposed to be a reprisal which was only brought about by the course of the war, then recognized as becoming unfavorable.

These actions of the leader of the State against the Jews can be explained by his attitude toward the Jewish question, which was thoroughly different from mine. Hitler wanted to punish the Jews because he held them responsible for unleashing the war and for the bombing of the German civilian population.

It is deeply regrettable that the mass killings, which can be traced back to the personal decision of the leader of the State, Adolf Hitler, have led to a treatment of the German people which must also be considered as not humane. I repudiate the mass killings which were carried out, in the same way as they are repudiated by every decent German.

Your Honors! Neither in my capacity as Gauleiter nor as political author have I committed a crime, and I therefore look forward to your judgment with a good conscience…

THE PRESIDENT: I call upon the Defendant Walter Funk.

WALTER FUNK (Defendant): … Now, horrible crimes have become known here, in which the offices under my direction were partly involved.

I learned this here in court for the first time. I did not know of these crimes, and I could not have known them.

These criminal deeds fill me, like every German, with deep shame. I have examined my conscience and memory with the utmost care, and I have told the Court frankly and honestly everything that I knew and have concealed nothing. As far as the deposits of the SS in the Reichsbank are concerned, I only acted in performance of the official duties incumbent on me as President of the Reichsbank. According to law, the acceptance of gold and foreign currency was one of the business tasks of the Reichsbank. The fact that the confiscation of these assets was taking place through the SS agencies subordinate to Himmler could not arouse any suspicion in me. The entire police system, the border control, and especially the search for foreign currency in the Reich and in all occupied areas were under Himmler, but I was equally deceived and imposed upon by Himmler.

Until the time of this Trial, I did not know and did not suspect that among the assets delivered to the Reichsbank there were enormous quantities of pearls, precious stones, jewelry, gold objects, and even spectacle frames, and — horrible to say — gold teeth. That was never reported to me, and I never noticed it either. I never saw these things. But until this Trial I also knew nothing of the fact that millions of Jews were murdered in concentration camps or by the Einsatzkommandos in the East. Never did a single person say even one word to me about these things.

The existence of extermination camps of this kind was totally unknown to me. I did not know a single one of these names. I have never set foot in a concentration camp either.

I, too, assumed that some of the gold and foreign currency which was deposited in the Reichsbank came from concentration camps and I frankly stated this fact from the beginning in all of my interrogations. But according to German law everyone was obliged to deliver these assets.

Apart from that, the kind and quantity of these shipments from the SS were never made known to me. But how was I even to suspect that the SS had acquired these assets by desecrating corpses?

If I had known of these horrible circumstances, my Reichsbank would never have accepted these assets for storage and conversion into money. I would have refused, even risking the danger that it might have cost me my head. If I had known of these crimes, Your Honors, I would not be sitting in the defendant’s dock today, you may be convinced of that. In that case the grave would have been better for me than this tormented life, this life full of suspicions, slanders, and vulgar accusations.

Not a single human being has ever lost his life because of any measures decreed by me. I have always respected the property of others. I have always tried to help people in need and, as far as it lay within my power, to bring happiness and joy into their lives And for that, many will be grateful to me and remain grateful…

I, too, have made many mistakes; I, too, have let myself be deceived in many things and frankly acknowledge, I admit, that I have let myself be deceived all too easily, and in many ways have been too unconcerned and too gullible. Therein I see my guilt. but I consider myself free from any criminal guilt which I am supposed to have incurred in discharging my official duties. In that respect. my conscience is just as clear today as on the day when I entered this courtroom 10 months ago for the first time.

THE PRESIDENT: I call upon the Defendant Hjalmar Schacht.

HJALMAR SCHACHT (Defendant): … Justice Jackson has raised a new accusation against me in his final speech, which has not been discussed at all in the Trial until now. I am said to have planned to release Jews from Germany in exchange for a ransom in foreign currency. This, too, is untrue. Disgusted by the Jewish pogrom of November 1938, I managed to obtain Hitler’s approval to a plan which was to facilitate emigration for the Jews. I intended to place 1.5 billion Reichsmarks taken from confiscated Jewish property under the administration of an international committee, and Germany was to undertake the obligation to repay this amount to the committee in 20 yearly installments and in foreign currency, which is the exact opposite of what Justice Jackson asserted here.

I discussed this plan in December 1938 in London with Lord Bearsted of Samuel and Samuel, with Lord Winterton, and with the American representative, Mr. Rublee. They were all sympathetically disposed towards the plan. But since I was removed from the Reichsbank shortly afterwards by Hitler, the matter was dropped. Had it been carried through, not a single German Jew would have lost his life…

THE PRESIDENT: I call upon the Defendant Erich Raeder.

ERICH RAEDER (Defendant): This Trial, now that the evidence has been concluded, has had a beneficial result for the German nation; but an unexpected one for the Prosecution. Unimpeachable testimony has cleared the German people and with them all the persons in the same situation as myself of the most serious charge, the charge that they had known of the killing of millions of Jews and other people, if they had not actually participated in it. The attempt of the Prosecution, who through earlier interrogations had known the truth for a long time, and who nevertheless continued and repeated their accusations — with the raised finger of the preacher of morals — in the trial briefs and during cross-examinations, this attempt to defame the entire people has collapsed upon itself…