Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Nuremberg ten

Seventy years ago today, on 16th October 1946, ten prominent members of the Nazi regime were executed by hanging in Nuremberg having been found guilty at the International Military Tribunal of crimes against humanity and other offences: Hans Frank, Wilhelm Frick, Alfred Jodl, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Wilhelm Keitel, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Alfred Rosenberg, Fritz Sauckel, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, and Julius Streicher. Four of the top Nazis - Hitler, Goebbels, Himmler and Bormann - had all committed suicide more than a year earlier, and Hermann Göring, tried and found guilty at Nuremberg, had been due to be executed with the other ten but managed to suicide the day before.

A few of these prominent Nazis left behind some kind of diary record. The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, written while Keitel was awaiting execution, has been published - see Amazon. Some information about Jodl’s diary can be found at the Jewish Virtual Library; and extracts from Hans Frank’s diary can be found at the libraries archive website of the University of Connecticut. Alfred Rosenberg’s diary has had an interesting history, as recounted in The Devil’s Diary, though its substance is disappointing in the opinion of The Guardian’s reviewer. Otherwise, I can find no evidence that any other of the ten kept a diary - certainly not Ribbentrop, according to an article in Political Science Quarterly.

Goebbels’ diary is by far the most important and detailed diary kept by a Nazi leader. The Diary Review marked the 70th anniversary of the death of Goebbels last year - see We can conquer the world for more about Goebbels and his diaries. By way of marking the 70th anniversary of the 10 Nuremberg executions, I have returned to Goebbels’ diary, and selected two or three paragraphs about each of the executed Nazis. All extracts are taken from The Goebbels Diaries - translated and edited by Louis P. Lochner, published by Hamish Hamilton, 1948. Generally, the book’s index mentions each person roughly 5-10 times, with the exception of Kaltenbrunner (just once), and Streicher (not at all, except in a note concerning a magazine he published).

Hans Frank, German lawyer and politician (b. 1900)
25 April 1942
‘I had a long talk with Governor General Dr. Frank. He described conditions in the General Government. They are extremely complicated. Dr. Frank and his collaborators have succeeded absolutely in balancing the budget of the General Government. He is already squeezing all sorts of money out there. The food situation, too, has been brought into equilibrium. Frank is convinced that much more could be got out of the General Government. Unfortunately we lack manpower everywhere to carry out tasks like these. He must get along with a minimum of help.’

9 March 1943
‘I related some incidents illustrating conditions in the occupied areas to the Fuehrer, but he already knew most of them. In this connection we happened to talk about the case of the Governor General [of Poland], Dr. Frank. The Fuehrer no longer has any respect for him. I argued with the Fuehrer, however, that he must either replace Frank or restore his authority, for a governor general - in other words, a viceroy - of Poland without authority is of course unthinkable in these critical times. Added to everything else, Frank is unfortunately mixed up in a divorce, about which he is not exactly behaving nobly. The Fuehrer refused to let him get a divorce. This, too, serves to play havoc with the Fuehrer’s relationship to Frank. Nevertheless he wants to receive him within the next few days to determine whether he can still be saved, and if so, to strengthen his authority once more. Frank is not acting very sensibly in this whole situation. He vacillates between brusque outbursts of anger and a sort of spiritual self-mortification. That’s no way, of course, to lead a people. One must have absolute self-assurance, as it is the only thing which can radiate assurance to others.’

28 May 1943
‘Secretary of State Frank received the Government of the Protectorate and revealed the background of the attempt on Heydrich’s life, stressing especially the directives issued by Benes. Undoubtedly this speech will attract great attention in the Protectorate. For obvious reasons we are devoting only a few lines to it in the German press.’

Wilhelm Frick, German lawyer and politician, German Minister of the Interior (b. 1877)
11 February 1942
‘A number of domestic problems demand solution. Administrative reform is under discussion. Frick is trying to inject himself into the work started by Dr. Lammers, but he is only partially successful in this. The Ministry of the Interior as a simplifier of administration is a real joke.’

10 May 1943
‘Frick, who was present at this talk, cut a very poor figure. The centralized administration that he built up is neither approved of nor even appreciated by the Fuehrer. The Fuehrer criticized the Ministry of the Interior so outspokenly that Frick ought to draw certain conclusions. But he is too old and too fond of his office for this.’

Alfred Jodl, German general (b. 1890)
21 September 1943
‘I had a very serious clash with Dr. Dietrich and General Jodl about the Salerno news handouts. They both felt badly compromised. They would like, in all the circumstances, to prevent my reporting this questionable matter to the Fuehrer. I can only refrain from doing so, however, if given binding assurances that incidents of this sort won’t be repeated. I have no mind to let my good name be discredited by the journalistic amateurishness of inferior officers.’

23 September 1943
‘. . . the abilities of Jodl are much greater. He is in fact a very good and solid worker whose excellent general staff training is revealed time and again.’

4 December 1943
‘In Italy the enemy has started new assaults on our front. They have succeeded here and there in making inroads. But considerable reserves of ours are on the march, so that people in the Fuehrer’s G.H.Q. are not worrying about further developments. The operations are chiefly under Jodl’s command. But Jodl does not seem to me any too competent at evaluating a critical military situation. He has so often been wrong in his prognoses that personally I am unable to drop my worries about the southern Italian front.’

Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Austrian SS officer (b. 1903)
14 March 1943
‘S.S. Croup Leader Kaltenbrunncr sent me a general report on enemy sabotage activity during the year 1942. It appears that it was rather over-estimated. While it is true that a number of regrettable events occurred, they did not affect the situation seriously. We can be quite satisfied with developments thus far, considering, after all, that we are now in the fourth year of war.’

Wilhelm Keitel, German field marshal (b. 1882)
9 March 1943
‘The Fuehrer once more gave detailed expression to his opinion of the generals, for whom he has nothing but contempt. Like myself, he thinks you need only imagine these gentlemen in civilian clothes, to lose all respect for them. About Keitel, the Fuehrer can only laugh. The Fuehrer’s experiences with the generals have embittered him beyond measure. He even becomes unfair and condemns decent officers as well en masse. One must therefore soft-pedal rather than resort to a crescendo.’

11 March 1943
‘From a letter from Murr I gather that prominent army officers at home are criticizing the Fuehrer very much. That is low-down and disgusting. Naturally a man like Keitel hasn’t the necessary authority to stop this sort of thing. One can only agree with the Fuehrer’s opinion of the top officers. They aren’t worth a hoot.’

18 March 1943
‘Whenever Goering cannot himself preside over the Council of Ministers for the Defence of the Reich, which is to meet every week, he wants me to be chairman. This is to develop into my becoming his permanent deputy. Lammers would thereby be relieved unostentatiously of his post as deputy to Goering and pushed back into the secretarial position which had always been intended for him. Bormann and Keitel, too, are really nothing but departmental secretaries to the Fuehrer and have no authority to act on their own. They are assuming authority at present because the persons who were given far-reaching powers by the Fuehrer failed to use them.’

Joachim von Ribbentrop, German lieutenant and politician, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany (b. 1893)
2 March 1943
‘Goering also thinks little of Ribbentrop. He referred very critically to our complete and obvious lack of an active foreign policy. He especially blames Ribbentrop for failing to draw Spain over to our side. Franco, of course, is cowardly and irresolute; but German foreign policy ought nevertheless to have found a way to bring him into our camp. Ribbentrop also lacks the elegant touch in handling people. Goering gave me some quite devastating examples by way of illustration. Goering consistently claims that this war is Ribbentrop’s doing, and that he never made any serious attempt to achieve a modus vivendi with England, simply because he has an inferiority complex. But there’s no point in brooding over this today. We must deal with facts and not with the reasons behind them. There will be plenty of time for that after the war.’

14 November 1943
‘I had a heavy set-to with Ribbentrop about our propaganda section in France. Ribbentrop claims that France must be regarded as a foreign country and not as a defeated state because it has a chief of state and a prime minister. Consequently, only the Foreign Office has a right to political activity there. I opposed this standpoint violently and Field Marshal General Keitel joined in my protest. For, after all, we have defeated France and there is a military occupation force in France. The Embassy in Paris is only, so to speak, an outside sub-bureau of the Foreign Office, but it can in no way be considered a diplomatic representation of the Reich in a free and sovereign France. The argument went back and forth. Ribbentrop is trying to solve the situation by a fait accompli, by-passing the Fuehrer. But I shall in no circumstances agree to this. It is amazing with what fanaticism the Foreign Office, and especially Ribbentrop, deal with points of such subsidiary importance.’

30 November 1943
‘I discussed a number of personnel questions with Bormann. He, too, is worried about German foreign policy. Ribbentrop is too rigid to be able to spin his web in this difficult war situation. But I don’t believe the Fuehrer is ready to part company with his Foreign Minister. Yet Ribbentrop would not be able to negotiate either with London or with Moscow were such an eventuality to arise. Both sides consider him too heavily compromised.’

Alfred Rosenberg, Estonian architect and politician (b. 1893)
29 January 1942
‘Rosenberg’s office has worked out a scheme of agrarian reform for the occupied areas which envisages the gradual elimination of the kolhose [collective community farm] and the return of land to private ownership. I expect very much from this scheme when it is brought to the attention of the broad masses of the farmers. If we should be in a position actually to give the farmers land, they would look forward to an eventual return of the Bolsheviks with decidedly mixed feelings.’

6 February 1942
‘Had a minor set-to with Rosenberg about the manner of conducting our ideological celebrations. He knows nothing about organization, that’s why he is monkeying so much with it. I shall hold my own against him, however.’

8 February 1942
‘Rosenberg wrote me a letter stating that he intends to oppose the idea of a fight against the religious denominations. That’s really too funny for words! Now, when we are in a tight pinch, everybody poses as a champion who fights against the very things that he himself started. I suppose the final result will be that those of us who have for years opposed the folly of our pronouncements on the religious question and similar things will be regarded as the real originators of the difficulties resulting from this folly!’

2 March 1943
‘[Goering] has the lowest possible opinion of Rosenberg. Like myself, he is astonished that the Fuehrer continues to stick to him and clothes him with powers which he is incompetent to use. Rosenberg belongs in an ivory tower, not in a ministry that must look after almost a hundred million people. The Fuehrer thought of the Ministry of the East as a guiding and not an administrative instrument when he created it. Rosenberg, following his old inclination to fuss with things which he knows nothing about, has made a gigantic apparatus of it which he is now unable to control.’

Fritz Sauckel, German sailor and politician (b. 1894)
9 March 1943
‘The Fuehrer shares my worries about the carrying through of the 800,000-manpower programme. He has now become rather distrustful of Sauckel, who lacks the ability to carry through in practice the necessary transition process for this programme. He depends too much upon the labour offices, which arc quite unsuitable for this purpose.’

13 April 1943
‘There were some very serious clashes between Sauckel on the one side and Speer and Milch on the other. The meeting was not particularly harmonious. Sauckel had prepared for this meeting whereas Speer and Milch came totally unprepared. They had depended completely on my familiarity with the situation and on my professional knowledge, which, alas, was not available to them. As a result Sauckel had somewhat of an advantage and won the race by default.’

28 April 1943
‘Sauckel has been appointed Reich Plenipotentiary for manpower. When he comes to Berlin the next time I am going to talk to him and outline my wishes. Undoubtedly his strong National Socialist hand will achieve miracles. It should not be difficult to mobilize at least a million additional workers from among the German people; one must merely tackle it energetically and not be scared by the constant difficulties.’

Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Austrian lawyer and politician, 16th Federal Chancellor of Austria (b. 1892)
28 January 1942
‘I am authorizing Seyss-Inquart to open a theatre in the Hague in which opera, comic opera, and drama are to be produced. I do this with one eye weeping and the other laughing for, really, the Dutch don’t deserve such great cultural support. Perhaps they don’t even have the proper appreciation for it. But Seyss-Inquart is very insistent, and after all the Germans in Holland have some right to such a theatre.’

6 March 1943
‘I had a very lengthy talk with Seyss-Inquart. He is an enthusiastic supporter of my policies and has great expectations for them in the occupied areas. He reported that our generals sometimes get weak in the knees. But that, after all, has always been the case with the generals! I can see from this talk that the chances for the success of my political directives are everywhere on the increase.’

Julius Streicher, German journalist and politician (b. 1887)
5 January 1942
‘The Fuehrer sent word to me that he does not desire the circulation of the Stuermer reduced or that it should cease publication altogether. I am very happy about this decision. The Fuehrer stands by his old Party members and fellow fighters and won’t let occasional trouble and differences affect him. Because he is so loyal to his co-workers, they, in turn, are equally faithful to him.’
[Note: ‘The Stuermer was a pornographic anti-Semitic weekly published by Streicher. [. . .] Streicher’s debaucheries and graft became so scandalous that Hitler had finally to relieve him of his Gauleiter job. But he permitted him to continue publication of the Stuermer. All over Germany there were glass-covered bulletin boards for exhibiting the current editions of this publication. Parents protested vigorously that their children were being corrupted by reading filthy articles and seeing the pornographic cartoons in The Streamer.’]

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