Translated by Shoahbloger
Translation of a secret speech for Gauleiters (district leaders of NSDAP) held 2 weeks after the assassination attempt on Hitler by Stauffenberg. Himmler talks about the treacherous and defeatist attitudes activities in the leadership of the Wehrmacht before and during the War, about the conspiracy to kill Hitler and take power in Germany, and the consequences of the 20th of July. A copy of this speech was deposited by Martin Bormann in the Central Archive of NSDAP and today it is at the Institut for Zeitgeschichte in Munich. It was published in Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte in 1953.
Shoahbloger noted: The speech may appear a little rambling but, according to witnesses, Himmler just improvised it without notes and the only text of the speech was that taken down by stenographers.
Carolyn’s commentary: On the contrary, it seems to me to follow a definite sequence of events for something not written down. Compared to this, Hitler’s Platterhof speech in May, 1944 appears more rambling. Hitler said of Himmler that he was an organizational genius, organizing the SS, the Security Police and anything else given to him to do, brilliantly. I think we see this ability in the clear inner structure of this “improvised” talk.
Himmler explains how the most harmful defeatism that occurred in the Great War and again, in spite of changes made, in the second world war, was found primarily in the “clique of intellectual officers” in the General Staff of the Army.
NOTE: A military staff (General Staff or Army Staff, Navy Staff, Air Staff within the individual services) is a group of officers and enlisted personnel that are responsible for the administrative, operational and logistical needs of its unit. It provides bi-directional flow of information between a commanding officer and subordinate military units.
A staff also provides an executive function where it filters information needed by the commander or shunts unnecessary information. Wilhelm Keitel was Chief of the OKW General staff during most of WWII. Franz Halder was chief of the OKH (Army) General staff from Oct. 1938-Sept. 1942.
Both OKW and OKH were headquartered in Zossen, 20mi/30km south of Berlin.
As Himmler outlines the continual growth of his own responsibilities over these years, we see that it is becoming a strain even for him, the dutiful and clear-minded servant of the National-Socialist State and of its leader Adolf Hitler. Toward the end of the speech, he confides:
This is, of course, difficult. You can imagine what a fury I sometimes have in my heart when I see all the mess which they (the traitorous Army Staff) have left behind, which now has to be made up with hard work. It is hard, but we must not show these things on the outside. We are doing this for Germany, and above all for the man whom we all love, who has the hardest task on Earth, for our Führer.
I get a sense that Himmler may have felt that Hitler was too lenient and forgiving, but always accounted it to his generous nature. Himmler’s view was that of the head of security police, while Hitler, as Führer, was concerned to not destabilize the overall morale of the nation and the troops by removing top officers.
Five months after this speech, Hitler, out of desperation perhaps, charged Himmler, in spite of his lack of professional military training, with the command of the Army Group Vistula, hastily formed to halt the Soviet offensive into Pomerania. When Himmler failed to devise a plan to complete the objectives, Hitler sent General Walther Wenck to Himmler’s headquarters to take over command of a counter-offensive. But it was found not to be possible to move the troops that were needed to carry out this offensive. Hitler is said to have blamed Himmler’s inaction for the failure and relieved him of his command on March 20.
The Reichsführer-SS, who had been under his doctor’s care since February 18, went straight to the SS sanatorium at Hohhenlychen, north of Berlin, to recover his health. Their last meeting was on Hitler’s birthday – April 20 – in Berlin when Himmler swore his loyalty, which I believe was certainly sincere. The events that took place in the last desperate days of the regime were, in my opinion, the acts of men trying to do what they thought best, according to what was possible to each, for the sake and in the interests of the Reich.
I think this is one of the most interesting documents of the 1944 period, full of insights into this misunderstood man. I would argue that it was treason by Army staff that lost the war for Germany, not Adolf Hitler’s poor military decisions. This treason was intimately associated with the resentments and beliefs of the old “aristocratic” class structure in Germany that had not truly joined the National-Socialist “revolution,” but had only gone along with the strong current of its popularity. All this is further fleshed out in a complimentary reading found on this website: Valkyrie!: Part 1-4.
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REICHSFÜHRER-SS Heinrich Himmler Speech to the Meeting of Gauleiters on August 3, 1944 in Posen
Dear Party members!
At the beginning of my presentation and my report I would like to state the following:
I consider it necessary that we, in this narrow governing body of the Reich and the Party, have total clarity over what happened. However, I would like to ask you to communicate to the outside world only those facts which will be made known through the judgments and verdicts of the People’s Court in the coming weeks and months. This speech is what we need for our own guidance and clarification.
With this assassination attempt on 20th July, for the first time in our history a German officer violated his oath and laid his hand on the Commander-in-Chief to whom he vowed his loyalty. But this was just the last expression of a long process.
This is a long story. The German general Staff acquired its fame and reputation thanks to the first Moltke. Already the second Moltke* – the chief of the General Staff in the Great War – regrettably distinguished himself with a fit of hysteria and weeping upon the beginning of that war, as he was desperate and convinced of a coming defeat.
[the general’s health broke down as a consequence of this clash (with Wilhelm II), and on 25 October 1914, he was succeeded by Erich von Falkenhayn.]
Strange things happened during that war. Strange phenomena occurred, which are difficult to explain. It is hard to explain the Battle of the Marne.* How to explain the fact that the mutiny of the entire French army remained unknown to the German side and a general offensive was not undertaken. According to most optimistic assessments only 3 or 4 divisions were not involved in this mutiny. It is strange that such an enormous breakdown, such a catastrophe of the enemy remains undetected by our side.**
*Although earlier in the campaign German generals and the press had been proclaiming the campaign as good as won, on 4 September Moltke was found despondent that the lack of prisoners meant that the Germans had not yet really won a decisive victory.:186–7
Moltke may well have been overly preoccupied with the unsuccessful German offensive in Lorraine, and he issued no orders to the First, Second and Third Armies between 2 and 5 September whilst the Battle of the Marne was in progress.:192
Following the German retreat from the Marne, Moltke allegedly reported to the Kaiser: “Your majesty, we have lost the war.”
He wrote to his wife on the night of the 9th, “Things have not gone well. The fighting east of Paris has not gone in our favour, and we shall have to pay for the damage we have done”.
** http://www.crf-usa.org/bill-of-rights-in-action/bria-17-3-a-the-french-army-mutinies-of-world-war-i There were 110 cases of “grave collective indiscipline” reported between April and September 1917. These cases of mutiny occurred in 50 divisions that made up over half of the French Army. At least 100,000 soldiers (out of an army of 4 million) were involved in the mutinies which mainly took place just behind the French lines.
According to official French records, of those court-martialed for mutiny, 3,427 were found guilty. More than 500 received the death sentence, but only 49 were executed. Most of those convicted of mutiny were assigned to disciplinary military units or deported to prisons outside France. But the official records are probably wrong about the number of executions. Some mutineers faced charges other than mutiny and were shot. Many others undoubtedly were shot without any trial and listed as “dead in action.”
The Germans received reports of mutinies in the French Army from spies and escaped prisoners of war, but refused to believe such a thing was really happening. By adopting this view, Germany squandered an opportunity to push on to Paris and win the war in the summer of 1917.
Another fact which Führer once mentioned: that in 1918 several hundreds naval guns which were mounted on terrain tractors as an antitank weapon remained behind the front. They never appeared on the front line.
Finally, the very fact of the collapse at the end. We, the National-Socialists, know it very well – it was a communist, Bolshevik, social democratic revolution. We are very familiar with this. It was partly an uprising of the disappointed, decent German soldiers, partly of the disappointed and ill-treated workers, but above all, it was an uprising of sub-humans: the deserters, Jews, asocials and criminals.*
*Himmler tends to use the word “untermensch” for those who fall short of what is expected. Here he includes deserters, asocials and criminals with Jews.
It goes without saying that we highlight these facts in our propaganda. But in this narrow circle it must be said that all this would not have happened had the leadership kept their oath, at least its letter. Had the generals and the members of the General Staff not lost their nerve, the revolution, the uprising and the soldiers’ councils would not have taken place. We have to say this – and history is as unmerciful as it is unsentimental – that the generals left their Commander-in-Chief* in the lurch and gave him the advice to flee abroad.
Following this collapse and that terrible defeat came the riotous years, the events in the Ruhr, Munich, the Soviet Republic etc., everything that we witnessed. And the building of the new Reichswehr.
It was largely rebuilt by the old General Staff. And it is known to us that, not by accident, many capable officers who later have become known as National-Socialists, had to disappear from the army.
It is further to be noted that in this army of 200.000 and later 100.000, a systematic negative selection was taking place. While the Navy has learned a lesson from the collapse and mutiny of 1917/18 and, small as it was, rebuilt itself with people from the freikorps, and therefore became sound, the army, on the other hand, built on the most unsound part, the “intellectual” part of the General Staff.
We need to be clear that those we have considered our national heroes and national generals (Volksgenerale), as Schobert, Dietl, Hube, Schörner, were suppressed for years, were not promoted, got no command. They were loathsome to that particular clique, considered unreliable to them as outsiders. One could describe in detail how difficult it was, even at the time when the Führer was already supreme commander of the armed forces, to give a man like Schobert his first division, then a corps, then a higher command; how difficult it was to get a man like Dietl out of oblivion, how difficult it was to give to a man like Schörner – that “never promoted” lieutenant colonel at the age well over 40 – that was in 1940, he must have been 44 by then – a mountain division. That same Schörner – I know that today – was summoned before the Commander in Chief of the army, and had to answer to Herr von Brauchitsch, because I once visited him in Pontarlier in the Jura. He was summoned to Berlin and had to answer for how it came to this unlawful, illegal visit by a notorious National-Socialist.
That’s how this army was formed. The young who joined had good will. They learned a lot, they worked diligently. But the belief in a large-scale rearmament was not present in this army. I think the Führer could tell you a lot, how hard it was, now that the army finally had a government that wanted to do everything for them, to carry out anything so that they finally could get a new cannon or some more divisions. The army became complacent, became an end in itself. These 100,000 men, who would be a decisive factor as the only armed body in the country in a civil war scenario. For that reason they had the enormously inflated and bloated military district staffs with very strong Ic-staffs (intelligence), the clandestine structures for the event of a civil war. It was outwardly an apolitical army, but in reality it was, in the General Staff at least, a highly politicized army.
He’s talking about the Home Army, which exists to take care of any civil strife within the Reich or any attempt to take over the government (putsch), as well being a reserve army. Thus he’s saying it was political because it would determine what was a threat or not a threat. It was too large (bloated) compared to the field army, or regular army. The General Staff did not want the level of rearmament Hitler wanted it to have. Valkyrie was a plan in place for the protection of the Reich by the Home Army.
The year 1933-34 initially brings good beginnings. The army can not resist the momentum. The man who is at the head of the War Ministry or the Reichswehr Ministry, Blomberg – I have to say today exactly as I said it in all previous years – is decent, loyal and faithful. But he was soft, could not enforce anything and acted foolishly in private life. But he was decent and loyal to the Führer. That’s why he had enemies in his own ranks.
In 1934, in my opinion, great opportunities were available. It was the time of rearmament where we went over to the People’s Army (Volksheer), the introduction of general conscription, for one year, later for two years. Then in 1934, Röhm, had he not had his unfortunate disposition, his ill-fated aspirations, his unfortunate infidelity, could have gained some influence on the army with the SA. June 30th 1934 destroyed this possibility.* The army emerged from it as loyal, faithful and brave.
*The Röhm putsch, popularly tagged “The Night of the Long Knives.”
Mr. Fritsch was the supreme commander of the army. After him – I can summarize it here – comes Mr. von Brauchitsch. The Chief of Staff is Mr. Beck, later Mr. Halder. The characteristics of these gentlemen, especially the latter, I would like to reserve for later.
The march into Austria in 1938: many participated only reluctantly.* Only such hotheads like Schobert and the good general Weichs of Nuremberg were enthusiastic. Of course, they obeyed the command. That is clear. Obedience to a command is never denied outwardly. That is not possible. For this they have mastered the forms too well. One will never expose oneself, one will never be rude. One will justify everything and everything was justified. And they were intoxicated with that cheap and bloodless war, they were the big victors.
*These Generals didn’t want a dispute with Austria, let along a fight, but when it turned out to be bloodless due to the enthusiasm for Hitler, they were happy to claim victory! It was the same with the Czechs.
Already during the Czech crisis nervous breakdowns began. Mr. Beck gets his usual hysterics at the thought that we should go against the Czechs. Another, his deputy – the name I forgot at the moment – gets a memory disorder and crying spells. One plays the role of the blessed Moltke the Second. Further, Mr. Beck – I can describe him here – is certainly a very intellectual man. I have in all the years disrespectfully called him the Moltke impersonator. Because he, pinching the lips razor-sharp, leaning slightly forward, in as distinguished, military way, attempted to bring out some words, phrases and witty bon mots, and there was never anything in the way of content. It was all meaningless. He should have become an actor. He would have been great.
The march into the Sudetenland succeeds. Again they do not have to fight, they do not need to take responsibility. Then comes the spring 1939 and then the war finally comes.
The Polish campaign and the western campaign are blitzkriegs. Our fabulous Luftwaffe, established by the Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, and the revolutionary tactics of the armored troops, enforced by the Führer against great opposition,* succeed.
*This is true. It was Hitler’s plan and he pushed it through. When it succeeded so brilliantly, Halder claimed it to be his. You can read more about it here.
Something more succeeds as well. In many ways we are better, have more modern arms. The old trash which was lying in the depots forever is not there. We had to destroy it in 1918/19.*And further: compared to the Western armies we were a bit less calcified. We were more revolutionary. Our army was more revolutionary. That’s why we won, among many other reasons: the National-Socialist attitude of men, NCOs and many officers. That was probably the main reason.
*The Allies forced Germany to destroy all it’s weaponry and keep only a 100,000 man armed forces.
Now comes 1941, the war against Russia. In these circles there was a big hesitation. They said: “We don’t need the war with Russia. Stalin would have never done anything to us.” But alone the fact that Herr Stalin gathered 20,000 tanks at the border speaks for itself. What we found at the border speaks for itself. I recently told someone: “You know, it is clear, you’re absolutely right, that Stalin put his army together just to play a little war game, that’s why he needed those 20,000 tanks and the huge air force.”
We were lucky, even if we should not keep a square meter of Russia, as it looks today. But we’ll get back many thousands of kilometers. No doubt about it.
But even if we should not keep a square meter, this decision of the Führer was the rescue of Germany and Europe in 1941.
In the beginning of the Russian campaign in 1941, the lightning victories take place thanks to the bold, revolutionary, Blitzkrieg strategy and tactics of the Führer, and the generals are duly enthusiastic. But already at that time, I am beginning to see some problems and errors which I have been trying to remedy, especially in the training of my officer corps. I am talking primarily of moral shortcomings of that once excellent officer corps.*
*He is saying up until the Russian campaign, the Army officers conducted themselves very well. It began to change at that time.
I will randomly highlight a few examples for you which I experienced painfully for years as Reichsführer-SS and leader of the Waffen-SS. In 1939, for example, the Oxhöfter Kempe near Danzig was being stormed. The battalion which was storming was a battalion of SS Heimwehr Danzig. We had the misfortune that the regimental commander had been wounded, or had an accident the day before, and was therefore absent. From the famous Pomeranian Landwehr Division, which at that time had a very reactionary officer corps, they received Graf Rittenberg as a temporary battalion commander, and they stormed the Oxhöfter Kempe with him. And afterwards it was reported: The umpteenth Pomeranian Landwehr Division led by Graf Rittenberg has taken Oxhöfer Kempe. This was in the Wehrmacht communique.* I was in Sopot and said: Mein Führer, that’s not true at all, that was my battalion. And the Führer says to me: That was the battalion of Graf Rittenberg, what are you talking about? I said: Mein Führer, I can prove it; our dead are lying around there, it suffices to take a look. So they asked back (at the Wehrmacht): Yes, of course, they responded, it was a battalion of the SS, but on that day it was placed under the command of the Division, and the battalion is of course named after the commander – that was not necessary – and that’s why it was called the battalion of Graf Rittenberg.
*The SS battalion was led temporarily by a reactionary Wehrmacht officer, who then took the credit for victory for his battalion, while it was SS men who actually fought and died. Himmler sees this as moral failure.
I’ve seen this same phenomenon in hundreds or thousands of cases with – I can not call it otherwise – Romanesque phraseology. We have got used to this phraseology which is not much different from the Italian. The same things we experienced already in the western campaign, but especially since 1941, for example, the double counting of prisoners. All these things, my dear party members, I have seen for myself. In the years 1941, 1942, 1943 I have been travelling a lot by car, saw the withdrawals from Kiev to Kharkov, and have seen all the mess. I watched that too during the advance. There was a knocked-out tank with the inscription: 111. Division. Then another division comes by and one crosses it out and writes: 78th Div. So it was already captured twice. Then comes the next, the 11 Div. and the tank is counted three times. The soldiers had the nerve to lie and say: We destroyed or conquered it, while in and of itself it’s the task of booty collection units with some brave 50 or 60 year old men to haul the tank away. We have deceived ourselves about our exploits in many cases. I will not diminish anything. There has been an untold number of real soldierly deeds and exploits. But we put up with too much in this army, and the army has developed a habit to “organize” those heroic deeds.
One could go on with this endlessly. This is indecency. And everything comes out of it. If people are indecent among themselves, they behave no better against others. For example, those regiments or battalions which were transferred from other divisions – I can sing a song about it – were sent to all the miserable tasks and the riskiest attacks, and used according to the principle: This battalion does not belong to our division, so we want to “consume” it first. Of course there were many exceptions! There was a number of decent battalion commanders. But that attitude and practice was intelligent! And (the officer corps) was indeed very much bred on sophistication and intellect. It was indeed wise. They were allowed to take the worst attacks, they were sent into miserable situations, they were given less awards, and they were given, of course, no canteen merchandise.
Himmler is strongly recommending “decency” in wartime, by which he means behaving toward your fellow German soldier honestly and fairly … even if in different branches, or between SS and Wehrmacht, certainly not stealing his glory in order to add to your own. He also means that it’s the German way to be. Himmler uses the word decent a lot, I have noticed, in other speeches also; it speaks well for him.
He’s also telling how his SS detachments were misused by some Wehrmacht officers. He’s painting an ugly picture of some of the Wehrmacht officer corps.
I sometimes got those battalions which were treated in this way transferred to me, when they only had 1 officer and 10 men left. Then it was said: The III. Battalion Regiment “Totenkopf” transferred back to the “Totenkopf” Division. Once I received a company back where there was 1 NCO and 1 man left. I had given it away with 150 men, that is – not given, it was taken away from me. The day before there still were 10 men and 1 NCO there. This one officer and 10 men still had to go patrol all day, until there were just 1 NCOs and 1 man left. Then came an order from the army staff that this company of the umpteenth Division shall be sent back again.
Do not think that I have experienced this only once. That has been the ordeal of our brave SS men for many years. I am not complaining here. I am not used to complaining. I have only had the opportunity to get a deep insight into the characters of people and see those who are really decent, and who are not. Many treated our SS men decently, no matter whether it was fashionable or not. I have had a great opportunity to really get to know the characters well, especially at the time when it was unfashionable to have good relations with the SS or even with me, but where you could earn a little cross by treating us as badly as possible. In the winter of 1941 began the first major crises in the staffs. It required the unprecedented energy of the Führer to bring the front to a halt. Everybody wanted to escape, everyone wanted to – this word be cursed – resign, or in plain German – to run away.
Hitler has said it was at this time the rash of officers not following orders began. When he questioned an officer as to why he did not follow the instructions he, as commander in chief, had given, the officer would sometimes simply offer to resign. As Himmler says, this was the same as running away. Hitler would say, I cannot simply resign because things are difficult, and you cannot either! I refuse your offer of resignation. That’s why Himmler says, This word be cursed.
The winter clothing had been neglected completely. I can tell you about it. I knew that the Russian campaign would come. In February 1941 I visited the party comrade Terboven in Norway and talked to him, and he was kind enough to show me around and organize everything and we flew together up to Kirkenes and Vardo and the Vadsoe. I wanted to get experience in winter war, in winter clothing and all the things you need for the winter.
With this experience, both from the Finns and the Norwegians – rich experience – I came back and ordered that winter clothing be made for the then 5 or 6 SS divisions. Obergruppenführer Pohl and his men had to apply for the foreign currency to buy all these skins and furs. In May we still had none. In June we received them, and with an occasional inquiry from the generals, for what we needed the winter clothing, we received the classic answer: The German soldier does not need winter clothing, he does not freeze. In September/October Herr Brauchitsch showed to the Führer 10 or 12 men in fine winter clothing. They, however, existed only in the models, otherwise not.
That’s just a part of the hustle and bustle of this clique in these years. I always talk only of this clique but all that has rubbed off, of course, on the others who had been taught those bad habits. It’s all part of the tone that a decent officer could allow himself.
It was normal in those years that in the moments where the front was falling apart and there were gaps, the Führer, in his anxiety ‘where can I get one division, where can I get a regiment’ very often got this answer from the Home Army or the Commander-in-Chief of the Army: We have no free regiments, we must fall back. Then, when it was really through, the Führer asked me: ‘Do you have a spare police regiment, do you have anything at all? I had the ambition to never, or almost never, say No to the Führer. When I did say it, I really had nothing more. For these reasons I had to pull more and more police, which you, dear party comrades, as Gauleiters and Reich Governors, indeed felt, because you often had no police for the most urgent tasks. It was always a balance: Should I say ‘no’ to the Führer, while I know exactly that he cannot get anything from the army, and should I allow that a disaster happens at the front, or I should take it on my hump and say: Yes, I still have a police regiment? Those regiments had an average age of 39 or 40 years. I gave away regiments with an average age of 46 years to the front. In most cases I have been denied the armor-piercing weapons for them.
It was terribly difficult for the Führer in all these years. It was hard to understand what was going on. You could feel it but you could not grasp it, and you could not prove it. But we in the troop of the SS knew, of course, exactly: This one is decent, that one not, he belongs to the clique, that one does not belong to it. We knew that when we came to an army corps. I was free to travel and have seen the whole German front from the Fisherman’s Peninsula to Taganrog. I knew them all in the years 1941-42. I was in most army quarters, knew them all, knew that here or there something was not right. But I lacked a proof.
“Increasing defeatisim trickled down from the staffs”
One thing was clear: In the years 1941, 1942 and 1943 the increasing defeatism trickled from the staffs and down. But the front was in good shape. And when a brave front commander came to a staff, there appeared a chief of staff (do not take it amiss), in many cases a member of this undissolved in 1933/34 Masonic “Schlieffen Association,”* or that typical general staff-type, who with a worried face explained to this brave front-line soldier on the map, how hard it was, how perilous and tense the situation was. They have those beautiful expressions that belong in their vocabulary. It was explained that, naturally, due to tactical reasons we should take this line, the Gustav-Dora-X line, but unfortunately, of course, you can not talk about it, it’s an order from headquarters – against all military rules we must not do it. But of course, we are soldiers and we obey. Sometimes I was about to explode out of rage when I looked at all this and could not comprehend it, could not grasp it.
*The 1933-34 Masonic “Schlieffen Association” must refer to the 100,000 man Reichwehr that Hitler inherited upon assuming the Chancellorship. And the “typical general staff-type” whose manner of speaking implied always that the Führer as Commander in Chief gave bad orders, they should not be followed, but of course we as soldiers have to obey.
Once I caught such a pig. I could prove that the major had spoken in defeatist terms, in the crudest form. Of course, I fetched him and reported him to his service. He was then to be interrogated by an appropriate judge. But the Herr judge did not interrogate him to determine what happened, but said to the major: You should say: I did not say this-and-this in this company – you have to add to your statement the following: “The foreign newspapers say so” – then you can not be punished. The major took the advice, and naturally came out unpunished. I got a letter that the attitude of the major was proper, because he was an impeccable man, an impeccable officer. Now, most embarrassingly, the major and the judge sit together in one prison cell.
This shows the limits of the powers Himmler wielded. He respected the rulings of the courts, as did Hitler. But they “sit in one prison cell” now because they were both involved in the July 20 assassination attempt.
Such things happened to us throughout the years. Police regiments which I sent with 2000 men, while there still were 300 men in them and I claimed them back, or rather asked for them, I could get the response: Of course if you want to take responsibility for the fact that the front collapses here, then of course, we will give it to you, but militarily it is irresponsible and the regiment must stay – even if it’s only 300 men. It was always so: I gave them something, and in the end I had to apologize even if I demanded the return of the rest of what I had given them.
It was so even in smallest details. The Leibstandarte was with the Army Group South under Field Marshal Manstein, the Marshal Lewinski. His name is Lewinski, not Manstein. He is a born von Lewinski and has only later changed name to von Manstein. I say this, so here is clarity regarding him. With the Herr Marshal von Lewinski it was common when the Leibstandarte was used, that even our highly trained technical people were sent to battle, and not until the last battalion of these technical people had kicked the bucket before they were pulled out. This is the reason why we have those above average losses in the SS, and why so many SS commanders lie under the grass.
Himmler confirms that Manstein was a Jew. Was he less tolerant of Jews/partial Jews remaining in the military than Hitler? In any case, Himmler is experiencing firsthand the “indecency” of this Field Marshal toward the Leibstandarte-SS Adolf Hitler.
We never wanted to speak about it, even when it would have made sense in many cases. But when we saw that all was in vain, when we watched that some malevolent people had the intention to kill this uncomfortable troop off, and get it out of the way for possible future developments,* then I must say, we were bitter when we saw this best blood flow.
I think “possible future developments” refers to the Valkyrie operation of taking control of Berlin using the Home Army.
At these staffs, articles from foreign press – especially the lousy foreign press – were often copied and sent around, although it was forbidden. Foreign broadcasters were not only listened to, but intercepted, written down and disseminated. Orders were very often transmitted with 24 hours’ delay. They were sent in a meaningless form, although the transmitter of the command knew exactly that this sense of the order was not intended. But if you are a hair-splitter or word-splitter, of course, you can make any order into something else. It was sometimes impossible not to see these things. But how do you prove that this order was deliberately sent 24 hours too late? You can not prove it, because they will respond: I have sent it to so-and-so many but there was line noise, sorry. Or: I tried to radio him, but his radio station was down. Or: We wanted to radio him, but our radio station was broken down. Or: I have sent over an officer with the Storch but he got stuck, I’m sorry. That then the division falls apart because it took off too late, while both neighboring divisions had already been cut off, is embarrassing. “I am terribly sorry, but such things happen in war” they would reply. It is strange that it always “just” happens. But it happens and it is unbelievable.
“Concept of duty in the staffs was disastrous”
The concept of duty, especially in the staffs, was disastrous in many cases. I speak about the officer corps, because now I have to educate them quite openly. I tell them: For all of us, all the soldiers and officers, I can wish only one thing: that no one gets the idea to publish a book about how the positions were in this campaign, take photographs of Russian positions and German positions facing each other. The positions on Don, Donets, Dniepr, Wolchow, or wherever we were, for then you would see at once where the Russian positions were. For they had many positions. The German positions are only few, a couple of rifle pits, because the gentlemen officers had to live in the village in a Russian house, with Russian women at the time, because they were not forward with their men, and, of course, if the officer is not forward, the men are not there either. They just dug a few pits, and after the Russian preparatory artillery fire, the men, the vehicles, the tanks were hit where they stood, or killed in the pits, and the Russian infantry went to the attack supported by tanks. “If a man has no tank foxhole then, of course he gets run over or flees even before they start the attack. In this way many front collapses begin.”
With great difficulty one could here and there iron out the break-in again. So it was still in the years 1941-42, sometimes in 1943 where the infantry still had some punch. But all this unnecessarily cost the men’s lives.
And afterwards they laid down in new foxholes again.
They would, of course, not treat the Russian population badly if they lived with them and amused themselves with them. When we said: Bring the Russian women forward so that they build positions, they said: We cannot treat women of another nation in this way. Once when I was in Mariupol I said: Why have you not built a road to Taganrog long ago? In this mess all vehicles break down! They responded: We have no workers. I say: But you have the whole city of Mariupol, take those people. – Yes, but who will organize the food for the workers? I said: Do you think that the Russians organized catering for them? You should say: Starosta or Commissar of the city, at 6:00 clock in the morning is here with 10.000 women and men with spades, pickaxes and shovels and if not, you all go to Siberia, a camp at the Arctic Ocean or somewhere else. You just have to say to the women: here you dig a machine gun stand, there – this-or-that. They will do it better than any sapper officer. They can do it; they got a great education from the communists. Then an officer told me this in Mariupol: Yes, you are actually right, the Russians have built a great tank ditch 20 km away from here. They made the population of Mariupol dig it. They marched away at 3.00 in the morning, were on the spot at 6 or 7.00, and in the evening they marched back. They had to bring their own food. I said: Of course, the Russians can do it and we can’t. Instead we let our vehicles break down, and then we have no tanks to put in the front line, and no supplies either.
We built, as I said, no positions. At the beginning the break-ins (breaches, openings in the line) occurred, and had to be repaired with blood and blood again. Later, the break-ins were beyond repair. A regiment was rolled up, then a division, and then armies were rolled up, in no small part because the mood was carried down from the top, from these defeatists, these despondent people, so that the officers became neglectful. He was not arrested if no position was built. Everybody squinted rearwards. And they withdrew again and again.
One thing was also typical. Wherever things went well, then it was the Herr Commander of the umpteenth army, the Herr Commander of the Army Group so-and-so who has achieved the victory. Generous as the Führer was, he said: Oh, let it be, it’s ok.* If something went bad because a great command was performed miserably, or was carried out wrongly or disobediently, then they said: This is what the Führer ordered. They went so far that they – that was almost normal – in every tiny issue and decision and responsibility always said: We have to ask the Führer, he has to decide. They pushed on him all responsibility where it was natural that the Herr officer, the Herr Commander should do it himself. Conversely, they used to say maliciously: The Führer interferes in everything, in leading of each battalion, you can not lead in this way; Mr. Beck and Mr. Höppner, those brilliant people would not do such a thing! – I believe that. Then came the fatal trend where they said: The war is unwinnable. They were fanatical, I might almost say, insane defeatists and pessimists because they fanatically spread this opinion.
*This may be a subtle criticism. But he follows up with a defense of the Führer to their constantly blaming him when anything went wrong. He puts it that the commands of the Führer were “great” but were performed badly or wrongly. From Hitler’s earlier performance in the West, I agree that is most likely the case.
A climax for this defeatist wave came in August 1943 after the Badoglio treachery in Italy when the Duce was arrested. Then it was said in these circles: Wonderful, Fascism came to an end, gorgeous, they arrested Duce, why not arrest the Führer, that would be nice if it happened here, why should it not happen here? The Duce was then liberated and when I became the minister of the interior, we took down a number of those people.* And it became quieter.
At present, there is one thing of which we never spoke before. I can openly tell you about it in this circle. In the security police we were on track of these reactionary conspiracies for a long time. The first stage in such things is that one feels: There is something rotten here. This is the first stage in anyone who later turns out to be swine. Heydrich, for example, was classic in these things. In our circles we called him jokingly our “creator of suspicions of murder”. But he really had a nose. I think he enjoys himself in his grave, as he now realized that all these pigs which we had recognized as pigs for years, decided to expose themselves** and that there still is justice and that all of them come before the court.
*Himmler became Minister of the Interior in August 1943
**They are now flushed out into the open and their crimes are visible and proven.
“The Führer should retire”
At a certain stage, we had the conviction that the reaction was going to do something. Here I must remind you of something which caused our party member Stürtz a lot of grief. Backe too had a lot of grief with it. Such a little thing will show you a lot, my dear comrades. Sometimes I suddenly demand something without justifying it. Even when I know that something causes problems and inconvenience, and I do it anyway, then there has to be a reason. But I often cannot tell about the reason. Recently I required a military training area near Berlin. On all sides it was said: Why? There are so many areas already here. You can borrow it from the Army. I said: No, I can not. I could also prove that all those military training areas were full to capacity in recent months. The units of SS were already training at the Army area near Neuhammer, and at another with 8 or 10,000 men. There was no place for more. I then said to myself that for this coming coup I need a military training area near Berlin where troops can wait, without attracting attention, where I am the master of the house, where no one can peep. For, better safe than sorry, and more is better; I did not want to be surprised.
That was a good ground for the military training area, which I had acquired in Lausitz, among the, excuse me, the swine-people (Sauvolk) there. This was a very Communist district at the time – it’s there in the middle of a reactionary area – and they already in February 1943 said: But it’s no use, the Russians are coming soon anyway. The told us this!
There was that case of a strange man, a minister Popitz, who tried for many months to get in touch with me. I had been told by a middle man that he would urgently discuss something with me. We let this middle man talk and he told us the following: It would be necessary to end the war now, we must come to an understanding with England and the condition would be that the Führer should retire to a honorary post of president. He said that his group was aware that they could not do it against the SS, so he hoped that I would be a sensible German, do it for Germany of course and not for selfish reasons, and that I would participate.
When I heard this for the first time, I immediately went to the Führer and said: I’ll kill this guy right away, it’s outrageous of him to expect something like this from me. The Führer laughed and said: No, you will not kill him, but listen, let Popitz come for once, and let him say what he wants. That’s interesting, and if he exposes himself at the first interview, then you can arrest him immediately. I said: I must have plein pouvoir (full powers) so that I can arrest him at once or later. There will of course be a terrible wave of complaints back and forth. There were some other gentlemen involved. One of them went now to the Catholic side and is sitting in Switzerland, and another, a high clergyman,* we have already arrested. There was also a man from the Foreign Office involved here who is already sentenced to death, the Herr envoy Kiep. He was also in this thing. We were absolutely at the right circle here.
*Probably means Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Herr General Halder was there too. We had to use aliases for all these people. The whole problem went under the code name “Baroque” because it was so baroque. Mr. Halder went under the name “Reservist” because he kept himself in reserve to take over the German army. There were several candidates for this, you see. The first discussion with Mr. Popitz was very interesting. It was my first act as Minister of the Interior, how strange. We have recorded the conversation. He came and visited me at the Ministry of the Interior. But he dared not be quite as open as I would have liked.
Soon he asked for another meeting. At that time it seemed to me too early to arrest him. I went to the Führer, explained the situation and said: it’s too early, the case is too immature. If we take him out now, we will in the best case catch a couple of small fish together with him. Popitz is far from the center of this. He has a small part in this and the important figures are somewhere else. They are to be found in the circles around Herr Halder.
At that time I arrested the middle man, however, and left Popitz to dangle under observation. He looked increasingly sick. Those who saw him said, he was white as paper, a walking bad conscience. He kept calling me and asking about the middle man but I left him in uncertainty about my involvement in his arrest. I knew that he was too great a coward to escape and also to do anything. He was just too afraid. And he didn’t.
Nor did we arrest Herr Halder. We just watched him. He was close by, in Aschau, and socialized with all kinds of officers and NCOs.
One who seemed dangerous in this whole “Baroque” complex was the degraded general Höppner. Those involved as well were the old excellency Solf, the widow of ambassador Solf, the family von Zarden, a really reactionary bunch. Many of them have already been sentenced. All of them have been arrested. Unfortunately, we did not have enough proof to implicate the Army in this. You can imagine how impatient we were, but we just did not have enough material.
“Break-down in the Army group Center”
Then came the break-down in the Army-group Mitte (Center). In this connection you have to understand that something incredible happened here. You cannot explain this in a logical way that an army-group of 28 divisions disintegrates just like that. On the one side, the command was either non existent or defeatist, on many levels. On the other side, the officer corps was internally demoralized. The soldiers were in fine shape. When led by a good officer, they stood up and went to attack. Everything was then possible.
But the officer corps was in really bad shape. During the break-down at Minsk, I threw there three of my units. One of them was a Russian unit, the Kaminski Brigade, with 6 or 7000 men, led by a Russian. My German staff told me that they had gathered lots of cigar boxes filled with Iron Crosses first and second class lying at the roadside, thrown away. All my people returned well equipped from that break-down. I told the Führer at that time: my people are doing best when there is a break-down somewhere. They always return with clean, new uniforms, canteen wares, everything they could dream of. We always return with more tanks than we had before. We just have to gather what others had thrown away or left behind. We always return with more guns, more weapons than we had had at the outset.
Another unit was under the command of a young obersturmbannführer and colonel of security police, Sickling. The man had had two or 3000 Russians in his unit. During the retreat he clad nine or 10.000 of his men in fine uniforms. I asked: where from? He said: the depots were at the front. The Russians had not arrived yet and the Wehrmacht was already gone. The administrators were still there, and for a couple of bottles of spirits we managed to change uniforms and take all the new weapons and ammo we could bear before they put everything on fire.
The third unit there was that of Dirlewanger. In 1941 I’d set up the “wild regiment” Dirlewanger. Dirlewanger is a good Schwabian, wounded 10 times, an original.
I had asked Führer permission to recruit from Germany’s prisons all poachers who had hunted with shotguns. I got around 2000 of them. Out of these good people only 400 are still alive. I have then been replenishing this regiment with SS men on probation. You see, we have in SS very tough jurisdiction. Our people get years of prison for a couple of days’ AWOL. In this way the troop remains sound. The battalion that parachuted on Tito’s HQ consisted exclusively of people on probation, excluding the officers, naturally. All those 800 soldiers were restoring their reputation in this way.
When there we not enough poachers, I told Dirlewanger: ‘go to our concentration camps and get yourself all appropriate and capable professional criminals’.
The tone in this regiment is often, as you can imagine, pretty rough, pretty mediaeval. We use whipping for punishment. Or if someone begins to doubt whether we win this war, he can pretty soon fall dead under the table with a round in his head. This is the only way to handle such types. These guys, many of whom had been sitting in KZ camps a mere 6 weeks ago, came back from this famous collapse, marching in good order, with brand new uniforms and weapons, as well as 1000 Asiatic Soviet prisoners, after having broken through the Soviet front.
I am describing for you these three examples just to show you what a profound collapse, what a terrible internal breakdown has happened in the Army. On the one side it happened because the staffs were increasingly defeatist and failed, on the other, because the Soviets have been sending agents from the Seydlitz-Committee* to our side. Those people infiltrated our units and, in best Jewish style, called on soldiers to shoot their officers, or transmitted conflicting orders. It led to soldiers demanding soldier’s books from each other all the time. This was a total breakdown with a great loss of weapons and withdrawal of tanks. Those who were at the eastern border, gauleiter Koch and other eastern gauleiters, can confirm what a calamity this was.
*Walther von Seydlitz-Kurzbach was an officer from the noble Prussian Seydlitz family. At the Battle of Stalingrad, he argued forcefully for a breakout or surrender, contrary to Hitler’s orders. FM Paulus relieved him of his command. He fled the German lines under fire from his own side with a group of other officers, into Soviet custody. He formed the League of German Officers and was made a member of the Communist-dominated National Committee Free Germany. He was sentenced to death in absentia in Germany.
A kind of interaction developed: From the staffs the defeatism permeated down to the front. And when the front began to wobble, this in itself increased the defeatism in the staffs, and they said: See, the ostfront is crashing! We have to have a ceasefire or sue for peace.
Herr Beck and the committee
And here we come to Herr Beck and the gremium (committee) around him. He was to become Governor General of the Reich. An interesting detail about Herr Beck. We know this because we interrogated his maid. She, a brave girl, said that she had wondered why the bedclothes of Herr Beck were soaking wet the five nights prior to the 20th July. The revolutionary was sweating from anxiety. Afterwards he went to the Bendlerstrasse, the central command, and shot himself. I shall return to this later. I’ll tell you later how this happened. All this sounds like a cheap criminal novel, quite miserable.
Another one was Herr Höpner. In my eyes – I had never met him before – a disgusting, indecent man, whom the Army expelled itself; he’d been degraded from the rank of general. Unfortunately, I was unable to arrest him because we had to respect the psyche and psychology of the Army.
And there was also a man like Herr general Olbricht, who had a key position in Army’s Main Office. When one tries to reconstruct the whole organization, the whole mechanism, one can only come to the following conclusion: This was a typical mechanism of civil war. A secretive, complicated structure where most members didn’t even know what its purpose was, and which was meant to have a key place in the State, just like in the times of the 100,000 man army where they were practically the only real executive force in the State.
Then there was quartermaster general Wagner. From the very beginning I disliked that eastern round-head. Always false and unable to ever keep a promise.* His role was difficult to assess. He fell victim of the recent epidemics of suicides. He shot himself as well.
*On the Eastern Front he had a role in ensuring that suitable winter clothing was supplied to the German forces and on 27 November 1941 he reported that “We are at the end of our resources in both personnel and material. We are about to be confronted with the dangers of deep winter.”
He was a conspirator against Adolf Hitler and when Claus von Stauffenberg sought approval for an assassination attempt on 15 July 1944 he was cited as being definite that the assassination of Hitler should only be attempted if Heinrich Himmler was also present. On 20 July 1944 he arranged the airplane that flew Stauffenberg from Rastenburg back to Berlin after the July 20 plot bomb had exploded.
Another one was the bow-legged intelligence general Fellgiebel, of whom I made two separate reports in 1942 and 1943. Already in 1942 he spoke very defeatist in Vinnitsa, and it repeated itself 3 or 6 months later at a hotel in Berlin. He spoke of these things to complete strangers, one of whom was quite accidentally a SS-oberscharführer in civilian clothes. “This war cannot be won, this is ridiculous” etc. It turned out that the Herr general Fellgiebel belonged to a quite large circle of gentlemen who knew that the Führer should be violently murdered. I believe that this circle comprised several dozen people.
Another one was a poisonous dwarf, a man whom I would have been ashamed to have as an orderly. It’s the Herr general Stieff. He always appeared to me to be a debased version of the Italian king: high heels and high cap, so that people could notice him at all, dark skin, a really fine figure. This man had known for at least a year that an attempt was being prepared.
In this circle he was considered very wise and cunning. He wanted to show the Führer a new model of uniform and a new rucksack. He had this incredibly cunning plan to put explosives into the rucksack on the back of some poor soldier and detonate it during the show for the Führer. Herr Stieff waited with the undertaking for at least 9 months, as far as I understood, only because he wanted to be present at the explosion, so that he could be killed as well. As far as I can see, this was the only reason. (…)
Herr Gördeler, from Mutschemanns Gau, was chosen to become Reich Chancellor. We are looking for him, the prize for his head being 1 million mark.
Herr von Witzleben was to become the Commander in Chief of the Wehrmacht. A morphinist who was a sick man already in 1938/9, so much so that during an inspection of the West Wall with the Führer he was unable to crawl out from a bunker. The Führer, in his generosity, made him a marshal after the campaign in the West. This man, this mummy, this spiritual and mental corpse was elected to play a role of the Commander in Chief. When we came to arrest him on the second day, I saw him in the car: he wailed in the car.
Among many, many others there was one major general von Treskow, chief of staff of one of the most important armies in the Army-group Center. He’d been in the conspiracy for 1½ years. On the 21st July he was killed or killed himself.
One graf Lehndorf from East Prussia, Steinort, had connections to him. (…)
It is remarkable how cleverly all the posts in the General Staff were filled. The clique had their men in all important positions.
There were several figures on the civilian side as well. The government president (Regierungspräsident) graf Schulenburg, the son of our old, decent general and SS obergruppenführer, the man who was the only one to keep his oath to the Commander in Chief in the Great War. The son desecrates the memory of his father. For many months, graf Schulenburg tried to get a job at my Ministry. I had an aversion against him and said No, I don’t want him here. He was trying his best. He was to become a director of department or Minister of the Interior. Now I understand why he wanted to get in here so much.
Now to something really sad. In this company there was a Party member, graf Helldorf. He was in this treasonous conspiracy for 6 months to a year. He, of all the people! This is most paradoxical. He complained that the Party became a party of bonzes. His interrogator – this was gruppenführer Müller – replied to him that he himself was one of the biggest bonzes. Dr. Goebbels and I had to pay his debts two or three times.
Dr. Goebbels (who was in attendence as gauleiter of Berlin): “80,000 mark, and he possesses now 4 apartments in the bombed out Berlin!”
It is not that important but one of the minor players was Herr regierungspräsident graf Bismarck in Potsdam. A major role in the complex Popitz-Kiep-”Baroque” played our old friend Herr Werner von Alvensleben who – I can promise you this – is now going to break his neck. Our old friend Alvensleben.
Dr. Goebbels: “The former contact man to Schleicher?”
Jawohl! Now he is breaking his neck.
What I am telling you here can only be a short overview, Gentlemen. You can be sure that there is much more in other sections (of the government – sb.). Another player was Herr general Stüpnagel in Paris, and with him, a colonel von Hofacker, the fanatical defeatist and pessimist, whom I met before. I think he is a pessimist out of religious considerations. Unfortunately, he is so pessimistic that he is able to attract others with his pessimism. We should understand the simple fact that many of those who took part in this were initially pulled into it without any ill will. As apolitical officers they simply didn’t understand it. They were presented with clever, supposedly wise, logical arguments and they were unable to escape the conclusions. Until they lost their reputation, broke their oath and now are going to be shot.
The city commandant absolutely played a role in it too. It does not follow that if his name is Haase (rabbit – sb.), than he knew nothing. He definitely knew something.
Interesting is the role of colonel general Fromm. I can describe him as follows:
He is so smart and cunning that we cannot prove that he took part in this. However, we can easily prove that he has not believed in victory, that he was neglectful in the discharge of his duties and lazy. Thousands of people can confirm it. The first impression I and Dr. Goebbels got of the man was strange. I have to mention here that at 11:30 PM young officers were arresting their generals outside of the Bendlerstasse-complex. Their attitude, as well as the attitude of the guard battalion, which Dr. Goebbels contacted, were gratifying. But the moment Herr Fromm, who had been arrested by Olbricht and other officers, was released, a strange, kitschy movie-like scene played itself out. It looked like a bad movie. Nobody would believe that something like this can happen in reality. And therefore it is very interesting:
Herr Beck was at his office at Bendlerstrasse. Commanders of military districts call and want to talk to Fromm. But at Fromm’s office sits the great revolutionary Herr Höppner. Commanders refuse to take orders from Höppner. Höppner responds: ok, then don’t, I don’t care.
Fromm enters the room where the future German Government gathered. Thereupon, Herr Beck, who is in civilian clothes, stands up and says: Excuse me. He has a gun in his hand and he shoots himself. First shot in the eye. The second shot also unsuccessful. Upon which Herr Fromm gives him coup de grace with his own gun. Excuse me!
Then Herr Fromm did something strange. At 11:30 PM, when everything was clear, he organizes a drumhead court-martial in Berlin and condemns Herr Olbricht, Herr Stauffenberg, Mertz von Quirnheim and colonel von Haeften, the adjutant of Stauffenberg, to death on the charge of high treason and breach of oath, AND on the suspicion of the participation in the assassination attempt on the Führer. As is well known, nobody can be condemned to death on a suspicion. There was, above all, no need to shoot them at 11:30 PM. It was enough to just arrest them.
I must say that I cannot avoid the impression that what went on here was a liquidation of, if not witnesses, so at least unpleasant conversation partners.
They were buried so quickly that Herr Olbricht and the other gentlemen were interred with Knight’s Crosses on their breasts. The next day they were dug up again and their identity was once again established. I then gave the order that their bodies be cremated, and the ashes be strewn in the fields. We do not wish to make for these people any kind of graves or monuments. The Reichsmarshall put it right: it is too decent to scatter it over the fields. Strew it into a sewage plant.
As a small side effect, I was alerted by Gauleiter Bürckel to the person of Herr general graf Sponeck. He sat in the fortress in Germersheim and enjoyed himself. This is a general who in the Crimea in 1942 shamefully ran from his own division, and only later pulled the division back. At that time, the Reichsmarschall put the greatest effort in organizing a court martial and only with extreme difficulty he succeeded in bringing the associate judges – generals – to condemn the coward to death. The Führer, in his goodness, commuted the sentence.
I said to some officers of the army: You know, I’ll tell you something, if a big or even smaller man in the SS would do something like that, you can be sure that his comrades within the first 24 hours would bring the gun and say: Now it is time that you disappear, deliver us from your presence. Or they would send him a gun, and he’d have an hour or two, and then he’d disappear. We have learned this in the old German army. I kept it in the SS, and we want to introduce it in the army. You can be sure I will bring in all the good old ways again.
But no one came to Herr Sponeck. On the contrary, he is a devoted Catholic. They would write letters to him: “We suffer with you, we are with you, we wish and hope that you have the courage to rise again,” which is to say to disobey orders again, etc. Herr Sponeck was cared for in Germersheim with particular love. On the night of the 21st I asked the Führer: Shouldn’t I let him be shot right away? And the first thing in the morning I had a telephone conversation: Shoot the man and call me back when it’s done. And he died.
Today, a street in Germersheim is named Hans Graf Von Sponeck Straße in his honour.
In these circles such things are instructive. Because what I do, this is not petty revenge. The time is too serious and I have no taste for that. I know you believe me. But we need to educate the army in the toughest and kindest form again to what it once was, especially the officer corps. We must bring in this concept of unconditional loyalty again, a loyalty that keeps the oath, just as it was in the time of Friedrich the Great, so that a man, even if he is degraded, standing on the sand pile (before execution) would shout: Long live the Führer! Heil Hitler! We must bring in again such loyalty and such obedience. Because that has made us great. We must also bring in truthfulness, a sense of honor, hardness against oneself. All these things we have to bring in by all means necessary, and all means of education will be used.
How shall we carry on?
I have summarized what has happened up to now. What will the punishment be, and how shall we carry on?
First. In the next week the first major trial before the People’s Court* will begin. I went ahead and asked the Führer about making the process run before the People’s Court, especially because some of the perpetrators are members of the Army.
*The People’s Court (Volksgerichtshof) was established in 1934 by Chancellor Adolf Hitler, with jurisdiction over political offenses against the Reich, which included crimes like black marketeering, work slowdowns, defeatism and treason. These crimes were viewed by the court as Wehrkraftzersetzung (“disintegration of defensive capability” or sedition) during wartime.
Only a few, one or two are members of the Air Force, there is a couple from the Navy, as well as a few are from the police, Helldorf among them, unfortunately. For Helldorf and maybe one more person one would have to have a trial before the Supreme SS and Police Court. And all the civilians, Schulenburg, Gördeler, Bismarck etc. will have a trial before the people’s Court. You can not hold several processes and fragment the whole thing. The German People have People’s Court and it was my request that all the process takes place before it, and it was approved.
Secondly, and I think this is very important. We need to understand that even though we are unhappy about many things in the Army, it is still a German People’s Army and we need it, with these 7 million that are in today, to win the war. We will later transform it and develop something new, of which I can tell you later. But is a prerequisite for the transformation that the army eliminates these people, the traitors, by itself. Thanks God, they took this opportunity, or Fortune has so ordained, that they took care of things in their own ranks, and we on our part – Dr. Goebbels and I – saw to it that no one from the Air Force or the Navy, no one from the SS and police, intervened. The Army had to do it itself. And it is important that it continues in this way. It was always my intention and plan that the Army takes this as an opportunity to clean itself. I suggested creation of a court of honor of a few field marshals and generals, which would ask the Führer to degrade the Field Marshal Witzleben and transfer him, and some other generals etc., to the People’s Court. Some other officers, where the case is not so clear, would be dismissed from the army and transferred to the People’s Court too, and only if they are acquitted, would they be readmitted to the Army.
We must follow the great historical example of another army which was totally compromised by treason and corruption. This was the Prussian army in the years 1797 to 1806, from the cannonade of Valmy till the capitulation of the fortresses. This army could be resurrected only due to the fact that the Immediatkommission was created, and that there were people at that time who had the strength of soul to do so. These were young people, Gneisenau, Scharnhorst, Clausewitz* and a few outsiders, thrice cursed and insulted outsiders, who were able to assert themselves. And the army had to disband approximately 2/3 if not 3/4 of the old regiments of Frederick the Great, and to degrade the generals who were guilty, and thus have the army cleaned up.
*Prussian Generals of the 19th Century
The big process will most certainly be followed by a number of smaller processes, because I am determined to take care of every smallest root in the ministries and offices. There will be some interesting dismissals followed by new ramifications. I am convinced that we will find branches in the business and in the Foreign Office, in the various ministries. We will probably find them everywhere, and with diligence and hard work we will take care of everything.
Second. We will introduce the kin liability (Sippenhaftung). We have done it before. I have a following view. When a man distinguishes himself, no matter, a small soldier or a statesman, the state will reward him, as they have been rewarded by the old German or Austrian states. They were often rewarded with a piece of land. We are planning to reward our front-line soldier generously. He will get a farm of 30 hectares, no luxuries but pretty decent, and almost debt free. Some great general or a great soldier will receive a sum of money or a respectable estate. When a soldier or a general is rewarded with a farm or an estate, not only he receives it but it becomes the family estate. If the family lives, it still has it four or five generations later. So, in reality, it is awarded to the whole clan, and the whole clan gets strengthened in their prosperity and their property. When a bearer of the Knight’s Cross falls, then, apart form the normal, generous help, the family receives a particular help from the Office of the Führer, financial and otherwise.
When we are doing it on the positive side, we should, I think, absolutely do it on the negative side too. No one will come to us and say, that’s Bolshevik what you’re doing. No, do not take it amiss, that’s not Bolshevik, but a very old tradition of our ancestors. You need only read the Germanic sagas. If a family was banished or declared outlaw, or when there was a blood feud in the family, they were extremely consequential. If a man has committed treason, his blood is evil because there is treason in it, it had to be cut off. And in blood feud an entire clan was exterminated to the last link. The family of graf Stauffenberg will be wiped out to the last link.
It (the fate of Stauffenberg and his family -sb.) must become a unique warning example.
Besides, all in Germany who are so unlucky to bear the name of this traitor and scoundrel Stauffenberg, will be able to request a name change.
We will confiscate the estates of all the families, whose member has been involved in this treason. But it must happen in an – I will here use a good Austrian expression – optically flawless fashion. It must not be said: ‘What a great Hitlerjugend hostel or a fine Party school’. No, everything has to go to the Reich Commissioner for settlement and be reserved for soldiers of this war. In this connection I have a plea to the Reich Minister of Agriculture to do it flawlessly. Nobody should be able to say: ‘Aha, the Party or some Party member benefits from the whole thing, of course, this is revenge.’ No, we are doing this for our front-line soldiers.
If we now confiscate some 30 or 40 such estates, then we will see some more fidelity and loyalty! What some other people are now showing in the way of faithfulness and loyalty is incredible! It is my firm conviction that we will have the conditions just like the Prussian kings. For, the Prussian kings did not treat their nobility with silk gloves. Once in a while a noble was losing his head. Once in a while an estate was confiscated, which was a great way to boost loyalty and obedience to the warlord, so it was a pure joy to see. He could then drill them and they had great accomplishments. We don’t want to be unfair. Our nobility has contributed in this war too. You can now be sure the last Aunt Frieda will say to her nephew, or her son: You keep your oath, son, otherwise you‘ll bring the whole family in danger.
Thirdly, I will do the following. The fortress Germersheim is now under my orders. This is now my recovery home for certain people. People on whom we do not have direct incriminating evidence, but of whom we know that not everything was all right. Those whom we will now retire. Because in this final year of the war I do not want to have a bunch of discontented nobles running around. They are going to keep each other company at dinner parties. I even have a candidate for the table elder on my mind. They will have all the time in the world to discuss things, and some will be lucky to have such an illustrious company. Many more will have to retire. And I want to tell you here that the Office of Personnel under the seriously injured Schmundt and his deputy Burgdorf are doing a great job. They coined a fine slogan: An officer of whom we have to think, what to do with him, should retire. And I want to tell you something: The strength of the former army was in that one never knew if one would get promoted to captain, to major or to colonel. One never knew if one was not going to get thrown out. This was a well considered means of selection. It was not always handled quite fair, but it was a balanced means of selection and of obedience, of absolute discipline and allegiance. It is also a very honorable thing to become a major. I remember from my days as a young boy, when someone was a retired major or captain. For us he was a respectable person.
Not every captain must necessarily become a colonel. They will make an extra effort when they know that not everyone is going to make it.
In order to be sure that those retired are going to be useful to society, I made sure that the Office of Personnel will inform their district employment offices and their respective gauleiters of their retirement. And I’d like to ask you to be prudent and wise in these cases. I do not want somebody to say that we are taking petty revenge at the employment offices. Do not say to them: You were colonel, now we have to teach you a lesson, but: We need you. We do not have a director job for you, but now in the war, while this holy people’s war is aflame, everyone must join in, please come to the factory, you can take over the supervision of 20 Russians and 20 other foreigners. You will fit in, you can do it. I believe that a positive word will in many cases influence people who otherwise have a negative attitude. Such people can have a decent guy in them and can still do something useful. After some time, he will get to know the German worker for the first time, he will see the faith and decency, and it may even happen that some of those families will change their attitude. I would like to ask you, in those cases where the man is neither good nor evil, that no petty revenge takes place. Do not, for example, say to them: You want to work in this factory? No, you are going to that one, three hours away, you can walk. You should say instead: Naturally, you can start here tomorrow. You should not say: This is the dirtiest work, you go there. I request that you treat these people reasonably. Generally, I am asking you to help me with this job which the Führer has given me. I am asking you for help, my old Party comrades.
We need to be aware of another thing, and it is the impression shared by many decent officers. As one general told me: This Army and this officer corps are not going to recover after the blow of the 20th July. I said: What are you talking about? He said: I am convinced that the German People will find something new, and something new will be born. This Army, built on the foundation of that 100,000 Reichswehr is destined to go to its grave. He is probably right and he said it well.
Another characteristic example. The Army has a small volunteer contingent. I think 36% of the volunteers are assigned to the Army. But they do not get even this number. It was very interesting yesterday when I heard that only 10% of cadets from officer schools reported for active service as an officer in the Army, while 90% have not reported and are reserve officers. In the Waffen-SS I probably have three times as much. Of course it must be advertised. One has to tell them: Come to us. The very fact that a huge army of 7 million does not get the 70,000 volunteers which it needs, that it no longer gets the candidates for the active officer profession, is an obvious sign that this institution has no inner attractive power, no inner life anymore.
On the other side, we are going through the greatest crisis of this war. And there are no pauses. We can not afford to be radical or rough, to hit them really hard. Because with this Army, good or bad, we have to win this war. It would be much easier in peacetime when there’s an army of 1 million people. Today the army is a body of 7 million people, over-bred, bloated and watered down. (…)
More work to do
Now we are slowly recuperating after the collapse of Army-group Center. The Führer has ordered establishment of 15 new divisions which will stand under my command. That was actually the first step which was taken even before July 20th. He gave me all the rights that the commander in chief of the army has with the exception of tactical and strategic leadership at the front. I now travel from division to division, from one officer corps to another, let me introduce each officer, and speak to them for 1½-2 hours. Sometimes I feel like in the years 1933-34, when I talked to every SS-Standarte just before the Röhm crisis, and spoke to them about the basic concepts of loyalty, obedience and comradeship. I must now, 10 years later, deal with these same basic concepts. I do not need to tell you that this is very troublesome, beside all my other duties. I do not need to explain to you how much energy this requires. Because these divisions must succeed, and I must succeed in awakening in their officer corps the old concepts of honor, obedience, steadfastness and faithfulness, and in lighting in their hearts the fire of the holy People’s war.
And here, dear Party comrades, I’d like to ask you, wherever you can, speak to these soldiers, above all to the officers, try to influence them, so that they do not run away, do not resign, so that they again have that holy fire and the code of honor in their hearts, never throw the weapons, so that the officer never lets his men down, etc.
This is, of course, difficult. You can imagine what a fury I sometimes have in my heart when I see all the mess which they have left behind, which now has to be made up with hard work. It is hard but we must not show these things on the outside. We are doing this for Germany, and above all for the man whom we all love, who has the hardest task on Earth, for our Führer.
We need to be clear, that one-third or one-fourth of the officer corps is very good. They are totally determined, they are heartbroken over this. Then, there are those 50-60% in the middle, as it always is in life, neither evil nor particularly active. When properly approached and educated, they willingly participate and do a decent job. They were not actively resisting the rot. But in a decent corps they will function well. When the corps is honorable again, they feel three times better than before. The issue is: when. They have to be encouraged, so that they can say: Great, finally things are ok. The large center must be shaken up, and we must explain things to them, but we must not hurt or offend them. Because the company commanders and battalion commanders are the most important; this is the great mass.
Then there are the 5-15% who are real swine, those who belong to the clique. We want them out, and, if hostile, we will judge and convict them. I am now the highest authority for those units and they are going to feel it. They all know it. I am getting on my table every sentence and I won’t tolerate those typical officer verdicts where one colleague covers for the other. And I am not talking just about judges. The judges are in many cases the toughest, tougher than the associate judges who will never seriously punish a colleague from another branch, those who typically will convict to three months fortress or 6 weeks house arrest. You have to really punish. I said: When a soldier does something, he will be punished; if an officer does something, he will be punished twice or three times as hard.
When Brauchitsch or Fritsch were Commander-in-Chief, the entire officer corps was never really addressed by their former superiors – the commanders of the armies and army-groups. It is my goal that they clean their own house. The Führer took the command years ago. However, what he lacked was the loyal and capable people who can say to their officer: You have acted indecently, you have to go. Or: I forbid you to speak about the commander-in-chief in these terms; how dare you! Führer can not do anything about things like that, can not see such things from where he is.
I’d like to ask you to understand that, when I’m at the training grounds, I never invite the Gauleiter, or the Higher SS and Police Leader to these speeches; these things have to be spoken of without outside observers. In these cases I am representing the commander-in-chief. I want to speak to them of those unpleasant things – and there are plenty – and I can’t reprimand them while the highest dignitaries of the state are present. The situation is very serious, and each of these divisions has to go now and close the gap in the East, and stand on its own.
The second responsibility I got on my shoulders on July 20th was the Home Army, the Replacement Army, and the responsibility of the chief of armament of the Army. We have immediately delivered the 40 march battalions which the Chief-of-General Staff needed; more than that – we put in the field another 6 new brigades.
It was an improved performance of Valkyrie; because everything ran under the name of Valkyrie. They kept all these troops at home in order to have a civil war army. The first, unsuccessful Valkyrie performance was on July 20, and I have now made an improved one, namely I have formed the 6 ‘Valkyrie brigades’ and immediately sent them to battle.
You can be sure about one thing: I will never need an order from the Führer to form new divisions. I will constantly form them, and when they have got their weapons, I will go to the Führer and ask: Where do you need a division? That’s the way I see the duty of the Commander of Replacement Army (BdE = Befehlshaber des Ersatzheeres).
Here I must ask for another thing. The production of weapons is more important than ever before. There is a false impression that we had many weapons in stock. At least until now, I have unfortunately not discovered anything in armories, etc., with which I could arm new divisions. During this combing through of warehouses we are finding a great deal individual things and pieces of equipment. Unfortunately, I have discovered very few weapons, and it is difficult to arm new divisions today. Therefore it is extremely important that the production continues at the highest gear. I need your help in this process.
I now have a third mission, which I’ll probably get transferred tomorrow through Führer’s signature: the reorganization of the whole quartermaster office and administration of the Army and simplification of all its institutions. I think I will be able, firstly, to retrieve many people for the front, and, secondly, to send the older ones, who are unable to bear weapons, to the armaments industry, and in the way of exchange, to get the younger men, the cohort of 1918 and younger, from the factories to the front. Those guys, who are unable to do anything when we remove them from the staffs, will at least stop bothering others with their unnecessary writings.
You have read my order of the day. I have written in it everything I considered necessary, and informed my warriors of everything I want done. But I am asking you – I must say it again and again – not to expect miracles or magic from me. You will certainly – and for that I am grateful – give me a wealth of tips, about what is rotten in the country. I am sometimes unable to react immediately, because, as I said, the machine of the State must run constantly for the front. But I will roam constantly and through the work for the front, automatically be everywhere, cut, move, dissolve staffs, and even though I can’t be everywhere at the same time, I will tackle one problem after another. I have hired obergruppenführer Jüttner as my chief of staff who is in charge of my main office in Berlin.
I am so grateful to you when you inform me of particularly poor and miserable people, just as I am grateful when you inform me of good people. But I prefer above all when you tell me: He is an old, brave National-Socialist but unsuitable for leadership positions. We cannot afford to place all the old National-Socialists in places where they are going to fail professionally. It would be a mistake. But when I know that this or that captain is a great guy and a good adjutant at the military district command, I will take him to me, also as an adjutant, and I will thus have two more loyal eyes. I must not make the mistake in taking him to a battalion commander office, or at a higher position in a staff, where he fails; I am asking you to take this into account.
The next important thing which I will suggest to the Führer is to place under my command the supervision of prisoners of war. Please do not think I want to rob you. I have enough to do as it is.
“National-Socialist People’s Army”
The mission, which the Führer gave me, to rebuild and reorganize the Army, requires that I have power over many areas. The next thing I will look into is the prisoners of war, with the exception of the English and Americans. Now, perhaps including the English and Americans, because I can now do it as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Commander of the Replacement Army.
I am firmly convinced that during our combing of the “indispensable” positions we will make many interesting discoveries. If think that we are going to discover here some 150–200,000 men – the most skilled shirkers on Earth. You know how it is: The son of Herr so-and-so, who had invited the district commander for hunting and supplied him with meat and liquor, becomes suddenly an experienced metal worker without ever having had a file in his hand, and thus becomes indispensable for the war effort. I firmly believe that we will find the most tenacious shirkers who managed to escape our attention for the last 4 or 5 years. We are not going to put them all in one division. We will distribute them in existing divisions and march battalions. Others will go to new divisions.
One thing you can take for granted from me. My command will be clear and rigorous. I have written about my wishes and instructions in the order of the day. (…) I am unfortunately unable to be everywhere and see everything, I do not have enough time for this, but I pay sudden visits in garrisons. The other day a commander of a battalion came to me and said: I cannot get rid of my recruits. For 3 months I have been offering 400 well trained soldiers, but nobody wants them. I am sure that such things happen quite often. (…)
Again, please, do not expect any magic from me. I need months to change things. To complete the reconstruction will require years. Gradually, we will grow a new Army. In my order of the day I mentioned how I imagine this Army’s name could be: National-Socialist People’s Army. I asked the Führer – and the Führer agreed – that the new divisions which are being formed, be called Volksgrenadierdivisionen. We are moving away from the concept of Reichswehr and everything connected with it. We have to find a name which will express the national-socialist character of this holy war which this Army must win.
Concluding, I would like to tell you that we had hardly ever been happier than on the evening of the 20th July. Because the consequences, had the attempt been successful, would have been horrible, had God not helped us on that day. It would have been the end of our Greater German Reich and of our German Nation. The danger was great. When we now read the orders of the conspirators, we are wondering over the extent of their idiocy. I will give you a couple examples: overtaking of concentration camps, disarmament of guards and promise of the release of the inmates. We have now 550.000 inmates, of whom 450.000 are foreigners. That would mean to have a half million of worst bitter political and criminal enemies, political enemies of the Reich and criminal enemies of any social order, spilled over the whole land. That would have meant that within the next 2 or 3 weeks we would have had chaos in the streets. What they prepared for us is clear from their plans: arrest of district governors, gauleiters, liquidation of every Party office, in Berlin – overtaking of the High Command of the SS, of the Main Office of Security, arrest of Dr. Goebbels, etc., etc. They went after the whole Party, the whole movement. After the death of the Führer, the whole Party was to be liquidated.
This was the plan and purpose of these people who said they did it for Germany, but who, on the one side were criminally stupid, on the other side – I am convinced, were in the service of the enemies of Germany, secret agents of the Jesuits and Freemasons. As always with secret agents, they have been activated precisely when the war entered the decisive phase, in order to tip the balance.
For us there is one lesson from this experience: we have to stand together, more than ever before. When we now think of all our problems and someone sees some ridiculous differences of opinion, some conflict of competences etc., it is all unimportant, we have to bury it, it doesn’t matter. Everything depends on our unity in the final stage of this struggle. Because this is a final stage. Sooner or later, when the final round is over, the coalition will disintegrate, it can not hold. And the moment the coalition is broken, we have won this war. When it becomes clear that nobody in this coalition, or the coalition as a whole, is able to conquer us, we have won.
I came to understand one more thing. I have already decided this, also for the SS. When somehow a ceasefire comes, I will work on the Army and the SS like never before. I will create a new army with 30-40 panzer divisions and a number of active infantry divisions, which will be trained in everything, from basic training till ideological training, from antitank tactics to surviving in minus 40 grades. Further, 12 SS panzer divisions and 30 European divisions which, as we have seen at Narva, are able to fight quite well. When then someone begins to talk of peace, when someone on the other side gets weak, then the Führer will have good arguments in his hand in order to be able to decide the conditions of this peace. And we do not need to talk now when we are going to reconquer those hundreds of thousands or a million square kilometers which we’d lost in the East. This is obvious. The program is unchangeable. It stands fast that we will move our national border 500 km to the east. That we will settle the area. It is unshakable that we will create the Germanic Reich. It stands fast that 30 million Germanic peoples will join our 90 million, so that our racial basis will grow to 120 million. We will be the force of order in the Balkan and in Europe in general. We will organize the whole continent militarily, politically and economically. We will fill the East with our settlements and create a garden of Germanic blood. We will move our security border far to the East. Because we can be sure that, unless our Luftwaffe has its bases on the Ural, our children or grandchildren will lose a war in one or two generations. Those who do not have a security margin of 2000 or 3000 km in a future air war, will lose it.
Besides, I find it wonderful that already today we understand our economical, political, human and military tasks in the gorgeous East. If the Cossacks could conquer the whole area to the Yellow Sea for the Tsars, our sons will do it for us. And year after year, generation after generation we will equip and send treks of settlers a couple of hundreds of kilometers further, create new bases, settle new areas and push out the others. This is our task.
In the East we will have our training areas where we will practice each winter, with so-and-so many divisions, in ice and snow and cold. Just like their fathers in 1941, the children will practice here in later years, they will live in Finnish tents, and every generation will practice sharp shooting, will show their worth, so that the danger which every victory brings with itself, the danger of becoming soft and comfortable, will be averted in the coming decades and centuries.
Also, I find it excellent that fate is so kind and so hard to us at the same time. It melds us together, we are more united than ever.
It gives us the ability, after the gloomy 20th July, to fill with our beliefs and educate those organizations which up till now did not share our beliefs. It showed us all our weak points. It eliminated all those who were weak. Weak psychologically, health-wise, those who were unable to bear the burden any longer. Excellent that they are folding together. This is a selection process of nature. And, as always, those who are stronger in this fight remain. And we have only one ambition: When the history of this time will be written, one dogma will be expressed: Adolf Hitler was the greatest Aryan, not only the greatest Germanic, leader – and they will say about us, his henchmen: His Paladins were faithful, obedient and steadfast, they were worthy to be his comrades, to be his paladins.
(Long-lasting, stormy applause)
Source: Carolyn Yeager