Source: Trial of the Major War Criminals Before
the International Military Tribunal, Vol.3, Nuremberg, 1947, pp. 446-462
Testimony of Erwin Lahousen,
before the International Military Tribunal
30 November 1945
Now, to the best of your knowledge and recollection, will you please
explain....exactly what was said and what took place at this conference in the Führer's
train? [September 12, 1939]
*** While we were still in the carriage of the Chief of the OKW [Keitel],
Canaris expressed his serious misgivings regarding the proposed bombardment of Warsaw, of
which he knew. Canaris stressed the devastating repercussions which this bombardment
would have in the foreign political field. The Chief of the OKW, Keitel, replied,
that these measures had been agreed upon directly by the Führer and Göring, and that he,
Keitle, had had no influence on these decisions. ***
Secondly, Canaris very urgently warned against the measures which had come
to his knowledge, namely the proposed shootings and extermination measures directed
particularly against the Polish intelligentsia, the nobility, the clergy, and in fact all
elements which could be regarded as leaders of a national resistance. Canaris said
at that time- I am quoting his approximate words: "One day the world will also hold
the Wehrmacht, under whose eyes these events occurred, responsible for such methods."
The Chief of the OKW replied-and this is also based on my notes, which I
re-read a few days ago-that these things had been decided upon by the Führer and that the
Führer, the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, had let it be kinown that, should the ARmed
Forces be unwilling to carry through these measures, or should they not agree with them,
they would have to accept the presence at their side of the SS, the SIPO and similar units
who would carry them through. A civilian official would then be appointed to
function with each military commander. This, ibn outlines was our discussion on the
proposed shooting and extermination measures in Poland.
***According to the Chief of the OKW, the bombardment of Warsaw and the
shooting of the categories of people which I mentioned before had been agreed upon
And what were they?
Mainly the Polish intelligentsia, the nobility, the clergy, and, of
course, the Jews.
I have another subject to take up now. In 1941 did you attend a
conference at which General Reinecke was present?
Who was General Reinecke?
General Reinecke was at that time Chief of the General Wehrmacht Department, which was
part of the OKW.
Do you recall the approximate date of that meeting?
It was roughly in the summer of 1941, shortly after the beginning of the Russian
campaign; approximately in July.
To the best of your knowledge and recollection, will you state exactly who was present
at that conference?
At this conference, which is also recorded in the notes taken for Canaris, and in which
I participated as his representative, the following were present: General Reinecke as the
presiding officer, Obergruppenfiihrer Müller of the RSHA, Colonel Breuer representing the
Prisoners of War Department, and I, as the representative of Canaris, of Ausland-Abwehr.
Will you explain who Müller was and why he was at this meeting?
Müller was a division chief in the Reich Central Office of Security (RSHA), and took
part in the session because he was responsible for putting into practice the measures for
the treatment of Russian prisoners of war, that is, responsible for carrying out the
Will you explain who Colonel Breuer was and why he was there?
Colonel Breuer was the representative of the Prisoners of War Department. I do not know
of which organization this department was a part at that time. At any rate, he was
responsible in the OKW for questions relating to prisoners of war.
What was the purpose of this conference?
The purpose of this conference was to examine the orders issued for the treatment of
Russian prisoners of war, to comment on them, to explain and account for them on
Did you learn from the conversation at this conference what the substance of these
orders under discussion was?
These orders dealt with two groups of measures which were to be taken. Firstly, the
killing of Russian commissars, and secondly, the killing of all those elements among the
Russian prisoners of war who, under a special selection program of the SD, could be
identified as thoroughly bolshevized or as active representatives of the Bolshevist
Did you also learn from the conversation what the basis for these orders was?
The basis for these orders was explained by General Reinecke in its outlines as
follows: The war between Germany and Russia is not a war between two states or two armies,
but between two ideologies-namely, the National Socialist and the Bolshevist ideology. The
Red Army soldier must not be looked upon as a soldier in the sense of the word applying to
our western opponents, but as an ideological enemy. He must be regarded as the archenemy
of National Socialism, and must be treated accordingly.
Did Canaris tell you why he was selecting you to go to this conference?
Canaris gave me two or perhaps three reasons and motives for ordering me to this
conference although he himself was in Berlin. Firstly, he wanted to avoid a meeting with
Reinecke, for whom, as the prototype of the ever-compliant National Socialist general, he
possessed strong personal dislike. Secondly, he told and directed me to attempt through
factual argument-that is, through appeals to reason-to have this brutal and completely
senseless order rescinded or at least mitigated in its effects as far as possible. He also
selected me for tactical reasons since he, as department chief, could by no means be as
outspoken as I, who,. thanks to my subordinate position, could use much stronger language.
Thirdly, he was well acquainted with my personal attitude, especially in this question, an
attitude which I manifested wherever possible during my many journeys and trips to the
front where I witnessed ill-treatment of prisoners of war. This is also clearly recorded
in my notes.
Did Canaris and the other members of your group have a particular name for Reinecke?
Not only among our group but also in other circles, he was known as the "little
Keitel" or the "other Keitel".
Prior to your going to this conference, did Canaris make any other comment on these
Even at the time when these orders were issued, Canaris expressed strong opposition to
them in our circles-when I say our circles, I mean mainly the divisional chiefs-and had a
protest made through the Ausland Division, that is, through Bürckner. I no longer
remember whether it was made in writing or whether Bürckner made it orally to Keitel
directly; I think it was done in both ways. Bürckner should be well informed about
this [see Bürckner affidavit].
When you say "protested through Bürckner," what do you mean?
When I say Bürckner, I mean his division, or a group, or perhaps even a representative
in his office, where questions of international law were dealt with by Count Moltke who,
incidentally, also among the circle. ..
Will you repeat that?
This protest or this counter-argument on the question of the treatment of Russian
prisoners of war was forwarded by Canaris through the Ausland Division, that is, through
Bürckner. The Ausland Division included a section which dealt with questions of
international law, and the competent authority in that section was Count Moltke who was a
member of Oster's inner circle, and who was executed after the 20th of July.
Would that be a convenient time to break off?
Until 2 o'clock.
Yes, Colonel Amen. [Witness Lahousen resumed the stand]
Prior to the luncheon recess you were testifying about a conference in1941 with
Reinecke and others. Prior to that conference did Canaris tell you what kind of appeal to
make to those present at the meeting?
Before the discussion Canaris said, as I have already pointed out, that I should use
factual arguments in order to have this order withdrawn or at least to weaken its effects,
but that otherwise I should not take it into my head to use arguments of a humanitarian
nature lest I make a fool of myself.
And now will you explain to the Tribunal, to the best of your recollection, exactly
what happened and what was said in the course of that conference?
The discussion was opened by General Reinecke, and he explained these orders in the
manner in which I described them before the recess. He said that these measures were
necessary and that it was essential that this idea should also be made clear to the
Wehrmacht, and particularly to the officers' corps, since they apparently were still
entertaining ideas which belonged to the Ice Age and not to the present age of National
What views did you present at this conference?
According to instructions I held the view of the Amt Ausland Abwehr-that is of
Canaris-and in the main I pointed out, first of all, the most unfavorable effect of such
measures on the troops, namely on the front troops, that they would never understand such
orders, particularly not the simple soldier. Besides, we had reports that the executions
were sometimes carried out before their eyes. Secondly, I brought forward the objections
of my office in regard to activities of the office itself, the unfavorable effect of these
measures on the enemy, that is, the virtual hindering of Russians, who were surrendering
to the last man without resistance, from deserting; and furthermore, the great
difficulties which beset the Abwehr Division in acquiring agents, that is, people who, for
various reasons, had voluntarily declared themselves ready to help the Germans.
In order that this may be clear on the record, because I think there was quite a bit of
confusion in the translation, I want to point out one or two of those arguments again.
What did you say at this conference about the effect of the execution of these orders on
I pointed out, first of all, that through these orders some elements among the Russian
soldiers who were inclined to surrender were prevented from doing so. Secondly, that.
people who for any reason would have offered their services to the Abwehr would also be
hindered by these measures. And that, in summa, an effect opposite to that
which they had desired would result and the resistance of the Red Army soldiers would be
increased to the utmost.
And in did you say about the the German troops?
I said, that from several reports we had from the front, the effect on the morale and
discipline of the troops was devastating.
Was there any discussion about international law at this conference?
No. In this connection there was no discussion of international law. The manner of
selection of the prisoners of war was particularly stressed. It was completely arbitrary
apart from the general order in itself.
We will get to that in a moment. Were your views accepted at. this conference?
My views which were the views of the Amt Abwehr, which I was representing, were opposed
in the sharpest possible manner by Müller, who with the usual cliches rejected the
arguments that I had produced, and who made the sole concession that the executions, out
of consideration for the feelings of the troops, should not take place before them but at
a place some distance apart. He also made a few concessions in the question of the
selection, which was completely arbitrary, and was just left to the Kommando leaders or to
the prejudice of the Kommando leaders.
And subsequent to this conference did you learn whether an order was issued with
respect to having these killings take place outside the sight of the German troops?
Except for Müller's promise, which I have just mentioned, I heard no more about it at
the time. I found a confirmation of the results of this conference and the promises then
made to me in an order which was submitted to me only now.
Was there a conversation at this conference about the manner in which these orders for
the killings were being executed?
Yes. In the course of discussions the entire problem was under discussion including the
manner in which these orders were carried out-according to my recollection-by the
Einsatzkommandos of the SD. These SD squads were in charge both of singling out of persons
in camps and in assembly centers for prisoners of war, and of carrying out the executions.
Reinecke also discussed measures regarding the treatment of Russian prisoners of war in
the camps. Reinecke emphatically accepted the arguments put forth, not by me but by
Müller, and voiced his conviction in very decisive and excessively sharp manner.
Now, will you explain to the Tribunal from what you learned at this conference the
exact manner in which the sorting of these prisoners was made and in what way it was
determined which of the prisoners should be killed?
The prisoners were sorted out by Kommandos of the SD and according to peculiar and
utterly arbitrary ways of procedure. Some of the leaders of these Einsatzkommandos were
guided by racial considerations; particularly, of course, if someone were a Jew or of
Jewish type or could otherwise be classified as racially inferior, he was picked for
execution. Other leaders of the Einsatzkommando selected people according to their
intelligence. Some had views all of their own and usually most peculiar, so that I felt
compelled to ask Müller," Tell me, according to what principles does this selection
take place? Do you determine it by the height of a person or the size of his shoes?"
Müller was very emphatic in rejecting these and any other objections, and Reinecke
adopted rigidly the same point of view as Müller, instead of accepting my opinions, that
is, those of the Amt Ausland Abwehr, which were offered him as a "golden bridge"
for his acceptance. That was essentially the contents of the discussion in which I
And had you received knowledge about the manner in which these orders were executed
through official reports which you received?
We were currently informed of all happenings by our officials at the front or in the
camps. Officers of the Abwehr Division III were active in these camps, and in this way,
that is, through the normal service channels, we were informed by reports and oral
presentation of all these measures and of their effects.
Was the information which you received secret and confidential information not open to
The information was confidential in accordance with the manner in which our offices
were run. De facto, however, the happenings in the camps and the
occurrences taking place at the selections were known to large groups of the Wehrmacht.
Now, at this conference did you learn anything from Reinecke with respect to the
treatment of Russian prisoners in prison camps?
In this discussion the treatment of Russian prisoners in the camps was discussed by
Reinecke, and Reinecke was of the opinion that in the camps their treatment must not be
the same as the treatment of other allied prisoners of war, but that here, too,
appropriate and discriminating measures must be applied. The camp guards, at all events,
had to be furnished with whips, and at the slightest sign of an attempted escape or other
undesirable act, the guards should have the right to resort to arms.
Besides the whips, what other equipment were the Stalag guards given?
Those are details which I do not remember for the moment. I can only say what was
mentioned in this discussion.
What, if anything, did Reinecke say about the whips?
Reinecke said that the guards, that is, the guard details, should make use of their
whips or sticks or whatever instruments they had.
Now, through official channels did you learn of an order for the branding of Russian
prisoners of war?
Colonel Amen, I think you should refer to them as "Soviet", not
Yes, Your Honor.
[Continuing the interrogation.] Did you learn of such an order?
I have heard about it in one of the discussions at which most of the previously
mentioned divisional chiefs were usually present. At least a majority of them must have
Do you know whether any protests were made with respect to that order?
When the intention of branding these Soviet prisoners was made known, a very sharp
protest was voiced at once by Canaris through the Amt Ausland, that is, by Bürckner
What, if anything, did Canaris tell you with regard to this order?
Canaris told us that the question had already been expounded in a medical opinion by
some physicians; and that there were actually people to lend themselves to treating such a
mad subject in a written medical opinion. That was the main topic of this discussion. COL.
Amen: What information, if any, did you receive through official channels regarding plans
to bring Soviet prisoners back to German territory?
In the same context and in the same circle-I must always repeat it-that is, in
discussions between Canaris and the chiefs of his divisions I learned that the General
Staff had prepared to bring Soviet prisoners into Germany, but that their transportation
was suddenly abandoned. I remember that this was by direct order of Hitler-which resulted
in the conditions developing in camps in the theater of operations where prisoners were
crowded together, could not be fed, and could not be adequately clothed or housed, so that
epidemics and cannibalism resulted in these camps.
I am not sure but what we missed some of your previous answer. Will you start again to
tell us about the change which was made in these orders?
Will you please repeat the question?
You referred to a change in the plans to take the Soviet prisoners back to German
territory. Is that correct?
Yes, they were not brought back into Germany.
And what was the result of this action, namely of their not being brought back at the
direct order of Hitler?
The result was as described just now.
But I want you to repeat it because we lost some of the answer in the interpreting
process. Please just repeat it again.
The enormous crowds of prisoners of war remained in the theater of operation, without
proper care-care in the sense of prisoner of war conventions-with regard to housing, food,
medical care; and many of them died on the bare floor. Epidemics broke out, and
cannibalism-human beings driven by hunger devouring one another-manifested itself.
Were you personally at the front to observe these conditions?
I made, several trips with Canaris and I saw some of these things which I have just
described, with my own eyes. At the time I made notes of my impressions which were found
amongst my papers.
Did you also obtain information as to these matters through official channels of the
Yes, I received this information through the office subordinate to me and through the
From your official information, to what extent was the Wehrmacht involved in the
mistreatment of these prisoners?
According to my information, the Wehrmacht was involved in all matters which referred
to prisoners of war, except the executions, which were the concern of the Kommandos of the
SD and the Reichssicherheitshauptamt.
But is it not a fact that the prisoner-of-war camps were entirely under the
jurisdiction of the Wehrmacht?
Yes, prisoners of war were under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Command of the
But before they were placed in these camps, the Special Purpose Kommandos of the SS
were responsible primarily for the executions and the selection of the people to be
executed, is that correct?
Did you receive through official channels information regarding the existence of an
order for the killing of British Commandos?
What action, if any, did Canaris or yourself take with respect to this order?
The order, and as far as I remember, even the mere intention that such an order was to
be issued, were discussed in our circle, that is between Canaris and his section chiefs.
We all, of course, unanimously agreed on its rejection. The reasons, apart from the
aspects of international law, were that the Amt Ausland had under its command a formation,
which was attached to our section named "Regiment Brandenburg" which had a task
similar to the Commandos. As the head of the section to which this regiment was attached
and for which I considered myself responsible, I immediately and most emphatically
protested against it in view of the retaliation measures which were to be expected as a
result of this order.
Did you personally assist in the drafting of these protests?
I know that twice a protest was lodged against this order by Canaris, and by Amt
Ausland, through Bürckner. The first time orally, or in writing as soon as the order was
issued, and the second time after the first executions had been carried out in pursuance
of this order. I myself helped to draft one of these written protests-I do not know
whether the first or the second-making a contribution in the interest of my section, and
the Regiment Brandenburg, whose functions were similar, very similar, to those of the
To whom in the ordinary course did these protests go?
The protests were addressed to Canaris' superior officer, that is to say, to the Chief
of the OKW.
Who was that?
It was Keitel, at that time.
Did these protests in the ordinary course go also to Jodl?
That I cannot say, but it is possible.
Now,'will you tell the Tribunal what were the grounds of the protests which you made?
The grounds were above all, that it was contrary to the interpretation of international
law that soldiers, that is to say, not agents or spies, but soldier clearly recognizable
as such, should be killed after they had been taken prisoner. That was the main point
which was also of concern to my section since it also comprised soldiers who had to carry
out such or similar tasks in their capacity as soldiers.
Were there any other grounds urged in protest against these orders?
Certainly. Other reasons were also mentioned in accordance with the interests of the
different sections affected by these orders. For the Amt Ausland, it was the point of view
of international law. The Abwehr Division III was particularly interested in the
interrogation of soldiers captured in commando raids, but never in seeing them killed.
Were there any other chiefs of the Abwehr Department who assisted in the preparation of
As far as I remember today, no.
You mentioned Admiral Bürckner, did you not?
Yes, Bürckner was not the chief of the Amt Ausland Abwehr, but only of the Amt