Comment: 2nd part of Gilbert's account of Hoess. Of particular interest is Ribbontrop's, Jodl's, Sauckel's and Goering's reactions. Much of the material on propaganda also turns up in Goldensohn's Nuremberg Interviews. Of possible interest: http://littlegreyrabbit.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/rudolf-hoess-on-aktion-reinhard-camps-did-he-have-a-clue-about-what-he-was-saying/
AFTERNOON IN JAIL
Colonel Hoess's Cell: After completing today's test, Hoess said: "I suppose you want to know in this way if my thoughts and habits are normal."
"Well, what do you think?" I asked.
"I am entirely normal. Even while I was doing this extermination work, I led a normal family life, and so on."
"Did you have a normal social life!"
"Well, perhaps it is a peculiarity of mine, but I always felt best alone. - If I had worries I tried to work them out myself. - That was the thing that disturbed my wife most. - I was so self-sufficient. I never had friends or a close relationship with anybody - even in my youth. - I never had a friend. And in company, I was sometimes present, but not spiritually. I was glad when people enjoyed themselves, but I could never participate with them."
"Did that ever bother you?"
"No, never - even now, while I was in the farm, hiding, I felt best when I was alone with the horses in the field."
"In hiding, yes, but before?"
"yes - I was always alone. - Of course, I loved my wife, but a real spiritual union - that was lacking."
I asked him if he had ever considered whether the Jews whom he had murdered were guilty or had in any way deserved such a fate. Again he tried patiently to explain that there was something unrealistic about such questions because he had been living in an entirely different world. "Don't you see, we SS men were not supposed to think about these things; it never even occurred to us. - And besides, it was something already taken for granted that the Jews were to blame for everything." I pressed him for some explanation of why it was taken for granted. "Well, we just never heard anything else. i was not just newspapers like the Stuermer, but it was everything we ever heard. Even our military and ideological training took for granted that we had to protect Germany from the Jews."
In all the discussions Hoess is quite matter-of-fact and apathetic, shows some belated interest in the enormity of his crime, but gives the impression that it never would have occurred to him if somebody hadn't asked him.
April 15 Colonel Hoess Testifies
At lunch there was a depressed silence in all the lunchrooms and they sat for the most part in their own corners, even reluctant to take advantage of my presence to start a conversation as they otherwise invariably did. Only one comment could be elicited from Goering and later from Doenitz. The comment was virtually identical and seemed to have been agreed upon them in the dock; Hoess was not a Prussian but quite obviously a southern German; a Prussian could never bring himself to do things like that.
April 16 Propaganda
Colonel Hoess’s Cell: Tracking down the source of the anti-Semitism which made him feel that Himmler’s explanation for the extermination of the Jews was right, I asked him how he got his anti-Semitic views. He said that he read Goebbel’s editorials in Das Reich every week for many years, as well as his books and his various speeches; Rosenberg’s The Myth of the 20th Century, and some of his speeches; and of course, Hitler’s Mein Kampf, as well as hearing and reading most of his speeches. In addition to these authors, there were the ideological pamphlets and other educational material of the SS. He read Streicher’s Stuermer only occasionally, because it was too superficial. (He noticed that those of his subordinates who had been in the habit of reading the Stuermer were usually men of narrow outlook.) Goebbels, Rosenberg, and Hitler gave him more food for thought. All these writings and speeches constantly preached the idea that Jewry was Germany’s enemy.
“For me as an old fanatic National Socialist, I took it all as fact – just as a Catholic believes in his Church dogma. It was just truth without question; I had no doubt about that. I was absolutely convinced that the Jews were at the opposite pole from the German people, and sooner or later there would have to be a clash between National Socialism and World Jewry – that was even in peacetime. On the basis of these doctrines, I assumed that other people would sooner or later be convinced of the Jewish danger, and would likewise take a stand against it. All these books and writings and speeches said that the Jewish people were a minority in all countries, but, because their material power as so great, they influenced and controlled people to such an extent they could maintain their power. It was shown how their control of Press, film, radio, and education controlled German life. We assumed it was likewise the case in other countries, and that in time other countries would break their power as we did. And if anti-Semitism did not succeed in wiping out this Jewish influence, the Jews would succeed in bringing about a war to wipe out Germany. – But everybody was convinced of this; that was all you could hear or read. That was even before the war.”
”You said you accepted this propaganda like church dogma. Was your early training strongly religious?”
“Yes, I was brought up in a very strict Catholic tradition. My father was really a bigot. He was very strict and fanatical. I learned that my father took a religious oath at the time of the birth of my youngest sister, dedicating me to God and the priesthood, and after that leading a Joseph married life (celibate). – He directed my entire youthful education toward the goal of making me a priest. I had to pray and go to church endlessly; do penance over the slightest misdeed – praying as punishment for any little unkindness to my sister, or something like that.”
Hoess described how he became more and more alienated from religion, until he broke with the Church completely in 1922. Once having done so, he seems to have substituted Nazi propaganda for religion.
LUNCH HOUR: Fritzsche started the discussion on propaganda, quoting somebody who called propaganda “the first step to hell.” He insisted against Schirach’s protest that Rosenberg was the father of Nazi ideology. He traced the new German anti-Semitism to the Handbook of the Jewish Question by Fritsch, a little known author.
“Yes, that was until The International Jew was published by the same publisher, and gave the whole movement a boost,” Schirach observed.
“Yes, and then Rosenberg became the high priest of the Nazi ideology,” Fritzsche added. He went on to say that one can carry on propaganda with all kinds of means; one cane ven lie with the truth, merely by stating the facts out of context, and robbing people of the proper concept of the whole truth.
Fritzsche continued his analysis of anti-Semitism. “Apart from the century-old anti-Semitism, the Nazi propaganda was first based on a few one-sided facts like the anti-nationalism of the Jews and the cases of Jewish Communists.” (He implied that his own propaganda was of this mild nationalistic variety, taking his stand only against the internationalism of the Jews.) “But then the fanatics like Goebbels, Streicher, and Rosenberg whipped it up to a fever pitch and came out with the most extreme Jew baiting in every direction.”
“- Like Rosenberg digging up the old forged Protocols of Zion,” I remarked
“Yes, that is lying with lies. I never gave the Protocols a moment’s serious thought.”
Page 169 April 19-22
“….Tell me – I wasn’t in court on Monday. – Did Hoess actually say that Hitler had ordered the mass murders?”
“He said that Himmler gave him a direct Fuehrerbefehl for the extermination of the Jews in 1941.”
Ribbentrop held his head in his hand and repeated in a descending whisper, “ – ’41, - ’41 – ’41 – My God! - Did Hoess ay in ’41?”
“Yes, transports started arriving as soon as he got the Fuehrerbehfel. From all over occupied Europe – me, women, and children who had been living a perfectly peaceful family life. They were undressed, led into gas chambers and murdered by the thousands. Then the gold rings and teeth were removed from the corpses, the hair was cut off the women’s heads, and the bodies were burned in the crematorium.”
“Stop! Stop! Herr Doktor – I cannot bear it! All those years – a man to whom children came so trustingly and lovingly. It must have been a fanatic madness – there is no doubt now that Hitler ordered it? I thought even up to now that perhaps Himmler, late in the war, under some pretext -. But ’41, he said? My God! My God!”
What did you expect? You were all making reckless statements about solving the Jewish problem. There is no reasonable limit to human hatred when you have whipped it up to such a fury as you Nazi leaders did.”
“But we never dreamed it would end like this. We only thought they had too much influence – that we could solve the problem with a quota system or that we would transport them to the East or Madagascar. You know, I didn’t know anything about the exterminations – until the Maidanek affair came out in ’44 – My God!.....”
He then asked me whether it was in 1941 that Hoess had got the Fuehrerbefehl to start the extermination of the Jews in Auschwitz – i.e.., before the military situation had become serious. I confirmed that, also reminding him that the extermination had already started in Treblinka in 1940, but that Hoess had improved the methods. Jodl hung his head and I ventured to read this thoughts: “ – And that man sat in GHQ with you and spoke of protecting the Fatherland and preserving German honour –“ I suggested
Down in the dock, Goering, who was feeling very ill at ease because of the developments in the trial and the coolness shown by many of the defendants, started to make conversation, but nobody was paying much attention. Finally, nervous little Sauckel went over to him and asked him if he thought it was really true that 2.5 million Jews had been exterminated at Auschwitz.
“No, no – of course not,” Goering said off-handedly. “I’ve thought it over – it’s technically impossible.”
“You heard Hoess’s testimony,” I reminded him, “ and you know that Hoess described the whole procedure to me in detail. It was a regular mass production system.”