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Nuremberg Trial Judgements:
Hans Fritzsche


Nuremberg Judgements: Table of Contents | Hermann Goering | Julius Streicher


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Fritzsche is indicted on Counts One, Three, and Four. He was best known at a radio commentator, discussing once a week the events of the day on his own programme, " Hans Fritzsche Speaks." He began broadcasting in September, 1932; in the same year he was made the head of the Wireless News Service, a Reich Government agency. When on 1st May, 1933, this agency was incorporated by the National Socialists into their Reich Ministry of Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda, Fritzsche became a member of the Nazi Party and went to that Ministry. In December, 1938, he became head of the Home Press Division of the Ministry; in October, 1942, he was promoted to the rank of Ministerial Director. After serving briefly on the Eastern Front in a propaganda company, he was, in November, 1942, made head of the Radio Division of the Propaganda Ministry and Plenipotentiary for the Political Organisation of the Greater German Radio.

Crimes against Peace

As head of the Home Press Division, Fritzsche supervised the German press of 2,300 daily newspapers. In pursuance of this function he held daily press conferences to deliver the directives of the Propaganda Ministry to these papers. He was, however, subordinate to Dietrich, the Reich Press Chief, who was in turn a subordinate of Goebbels. It was Dietrich who received the directives to the press of Goebbels and other Reich ministers, and prepared them as instructions, which he then handed to Fritzsche for the press.

From time to time, the " Daily Paroles of the Reich Press Chief " as these instructions were labelled, directed the press to present to the people certain themes, such as the leadership principle, the Jewish problem, the problem of living space, or other standard Nazi ideas. A vigorous propaganda campaign was carried out before each major act of aggression. While Fritzsche headed the Home Press Division, he instructed the press how the actions or wars against Bohemia and Moravia, Poland, Yugoslavia, and the Soviet Union should be dealt with. Fritzsche had no control of the formulation of these propaganda policies. He was merely a conduit to the press of the instructions handed him by Dietrich. In February, 1939, and before the absorption of Bohemia and Moravia, for instance, he received Dietrich's order to bring to the attention of the press Slovakia's efforts for independence, and the anti-Germanic policies and politics of the existing Prague Government, This order to Dietrich originated in the Foreign Office.

The Radio Division of which Fritzsche became the head in November, 1942, was one of the twelve divisions of the Propaganda Ministry. In the beginning Dietrich and other heads of divisions exerted influence over the policies to be followed by Radio. Towards the end of the war, however Fritzsche became the sole authority within the Ministry for radio activities. In this capacity he formulated and issued daily radio " paroles " to all Reich Propaganda Offices, according to the general political policies of the Nazi regime, subject to the directives of the Radio-Political Division of the Foreign Office, and the personal supervision of Goebbels.

Fritzsche, with other officials of the Propaganda Ministry, was present at Goebbels' daily staff conferences. Here they were instructed in the news and propaganda policies of the day. After 1943 Fritzsche himself occasionally held these conferences, but only when Goebbels and his State Secretaries were absent; And even then his only function was to transmit the Goebbels' directives relayed to him by telephone.

This is the summary of Fritzsche's positions and influence in the Third Reich. Never did he achieve sufficient stature to attend the planning conferences which led to aggressive war; indeed according to his own uncontradicted testimony he never even had a conversation with Hitler. Nor is there any showing that he was informed of the decisions taken at these conferences. His activities cannot be said to be those which fall within the definition of the common plan to wage aggressive war as already set forth in this Judgment.

War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity

The prosecution has asserted that Fritzsche incited and encouraged the commission of war crimes, by deliberately falsifying news to arouse in the German people those passions which led them to the commission of atrocities under Counts Three and Four. His position and official duties were not sufficiently important, however, to infer that he took part in originating or formulating propaganda campaigns.

Excerpts in evidence from his speeches show definite anti-Semitism on his part. He broadcast, for example, that the war had been caused by Jews and said their fate had turned out " as unpleasant as the Fuehrer predicted." But these speeches did not urge persecution or extermination of Jews. There is no evidence that he was aware of their extermination in the East. The evidence moreover shows that he twice attempted to have publication of the anti-SemiticDer Sturmer” suppressed, though unsuccessfully.

In these broadcasts Fritzsche sometimes spread false news, but it was not proved he knew it to be false. For example, he reported that no German U-boat was in the vicinity of the " Athenia" when it was sunk. This information was untrue; but Fritzsche, having received it from the German Navy, had no reason to believe it was untrue.

It appears that Fritzsche sometimes made strong statements of a propagandistic nature in his broadcasts. But the Tribunal is not prepared to hold that they were intended to incite the German people to commit atrocities on conquered peoples, and he cannot be held to have been a participant in the crimes charged. His aim was rather to arouse popular sentiment in support of Hitler and the German war effort.

Conclusion

The Tribunal finds that Fritzsche is not guilty under this Indictment, and directs that he shall be discharged by the Marshal when the Tribunal presently adjourns.


Sources: The Avalon Project

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