The Nuremberg Trials: Testimony of Albert Speer
Albert Speer,(1) one of Hitler's closest confidants and Minister of Armaments in the Third Reich, who was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment at the Nuremberg Trial of German Major War Criminals, in an affidavit, sworn and signed at Munich on 15th June 1977, deposed as follows:(2)
"Hatred of the Jews was Hitler's motor and central point perhaps even the very element which motivated him. The German people, the German greatness, the Empire, they all meant nothing to him in the last analysis. For this reason, he wished in the final sentence of his testament, to fixate us Germans, even after the apocalyptic downfall in a miserable hatred of the Jews.
"I was present at the session of the Reichstag of 30th January 1939, when Hitler assured us that in case of a war, not the Germans, but the Jews would be annihilated. This dictum was pronounced with such certainty that I would not have felt permitted to question his intention to carry it through. He repeated this announcement of his intentions on 30th January 1942, in a speech I also know of: The war would not end, as the Jews imagined, by the extinction of European-Aryan peoples, but it would result in the annihilation of the Jews. This repetition of his words of 30th January 1939 was not unique. He would often remind his entourage of the importance of this dictum
"When speaking of the victims of the bomb raids, particularly after the massive attacks on Hamburg in Summer 1943, he again and again reiterated that he would avenge these victims on the Jews; just as if the air-terror against the civilian population actually suited him in that it furnished him with a belated substitute motivation for a crime decided upon long ago and emanating from quite different layers of his personality. Just as if he wanted to justify his own mass murders with these remarks.
"So long as Hitler had temperamental outbursts of hate, there was yet hope for a change towards more moderate directions. Therefore, it was the resoluteness and coldness which made his outbreaks against the Jews so convincing. In other areas when he announced horrifying decisions in a cold and quiet voice, those around him, and I myself knew that things had now become serious. And with just this cold superiority he declared also, when we occasionally had lunch together, that he was set to destroy the Jews in Europe.
"In Summer 1944, the District Leader of Lower Silesia, Karl Hanke, paid me a visit. Hanke had distinguished himself by bravery in the Polish and French campaigns. He was certainly not an easily frightened person. Therefore it was of particular moment, when, at that time, he told me in a shocked manner, that monstrous things were happening in the concentration camps of his neighbouring district, Upper Silesia. He said he was there and would never be able to forget what atrocities he had witnessed there. Admittedly, he did not mention any names, but he must have meant Auschwitz in Upper Silesia. From the agitation of this battle-hardened soldier, I could derive that something unheard of was happening, if it could cause this old party leader of Hitler's to lose his composure.
"Hitler's method of work was that he gave even important commands to his confidants verbally. Also in the leader's records of my interviews with Hitler completely preserved in the German Federal Archives - there were numerous commands even in important areas which Hitler clearly gave by word of mouth only. It therefore conforms with his method of work and must not be regarded as an oversight, that a written order for the extermination of the Jews does not exist.
"That the Jewish inmates of the extermination camps were murdered was established at Court (IMT), by witnesses and documentation, and in fact not seriously contested by any of the accused. Himmler's speech before the SS leaders of 4th October 1943, which clearly illustrated the happenings in the extermination camps, was not discredited as forgery by the defence, as it for instance happened with the 'Hossbach-Protokoll.'
"Frank has never disputed the genuineness of his diary that by his own admission, he surrendered to the Americans on the occasion of his arrest. The diary contains remarks proving that the Jews in Poland were, except for a remainder of 100 000, quite annihilated. The accused also accepted these statements of Frank's and criticism was limited to the stupidity in handing over this incriminating diary to the 'opponents.'
"Schirach confirmed in a confidential conversation already during the trial, that he was present at a speech which Himmler gave to the district leaders in Posen (on 6th October 1943), in which Himmler clearly and unambiguously announced that the projected killing of the Jews had been largely carried out. He returned to this subject, which weighed on his mind also during his imprisonment in Spandau.
"In his final address to the Court, Goering spoke of the serious crimes which had been uncovered during the trial and he condemned the atrocious mass murders which he said escaped his comprehension. Streicher also condemned the mass murders of the Jews in his final address. For Fritzche, also in his final address, the murder of five million was a horrifying warning for the future. These words of the accused's support my contention that in the Nuremberg Trial the accused as well as the defence have recognised as a fact that the mass murders of the Jews had taken place.
"The Nuremberg Trial stands for me still today as an attempt to break through to a better world. Still today I acknowledge as generally correct the reasons of my sentence by the International Military Tribunal. Moreover, I still today consider as just that I assume the responsibility and thus the guilt for everything that was perpetrated by way of, generally speaking, crime, after my joining the Hitler Government on the 8th February 1942. Not the individual mistakes, grave as they may be, are burdening my conscience, but my having acted in the leadership. Therefore, I for my person, have in the Nuremberg Trial, confessed to the collective responsibility and I am also maintaining this today still. I still see my main guilt in my having approved of the persecution of the Jews and of the murder of millions of them."
(Signed) ALBERT SPEER
15 June, 1977
Sources: Suzman, Arthur and Denis Diamond. Six million Did Die. Johannesburg, 1978.
1 Speer is the author of his memoirs, Inside the Third Reich. NY: Touchstone Books, 1997.
2 This affidavit is in German and what follows is a duly certified translation. A facsimile of the original affidavit in German is included here as Appendix III.