Skoblin's History Blog

This blog is composed of articles and translations written by Skoblin pertaining to the Soviet Security forces, White Russian underground movements and Russian counter-revolutionary forces during the 1920s and 1930s. Skoblin can be reached at

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Handwritten testimony of Field Marshal E. von Kleist regarding the German campaign in southern Russia: Parts IV-V

IV. Battle for the Dnieper
1. Brauchitsch in command
At roughly the end of August, the western bank of the Dnieper had been reached along its entire length - from Nikolayev-Kherson to a point north of Kiev. Bridgeheads had been established or were being established near Kherson (11th Army), Dnepropetrovsk (3rd Panzer Corps of the panzergruppe), Kremenchug (17th Army) and north of Kiev (6th Army). Information had been received concerning large enemy forces in the Nogai Steppe and in front of the Dnepropetrovsk bridgehead, as well as a very strong concentration of enemy forces near Kiev and to the east of the city. Field Marshal von Brauchitsch decided to attack by surrounding the large concentration of enemy forces near Kiev by means of an enveloping maneuver on the part of Army Groups Center and South.
For this, Army Group South was to 1) pin down enemy forces along the front, and 2) take the enemy from the rear by advancing from the east to the west, with the main attacks as follows: by an attack from the bridgehead north of Kiev and directed towards the south-east; by units of the 17th Army striking out from the Kremenchug bridgehead toward the north-west and; by panzer forces also moving out from the Kremenchug bridgehead. These panzer forces (one panzer corps*) were to be brought up from the Nikolayev area. Alongside these panzer forces, striking from Kremenchug, and the units of the 6th Army, attacking from the bridgehead north of Kiev, the operation was to also include units belonging to Army Group Center and the 2nd Panzergruppe.
A preliminary condition for success of this encirclement operation lay in surprise, as if carried out suddenly in a span of a day, so that the enemy was unable divine our intentions prematurely.
In order to coordinate all necessary movements, Colonel-General Halder flew out to the army group headquarters to discuss details of the operation.

2. Forward!
This battle had still not concluded, when the panzer corps, belonging to Army Group South and which was advancing in the sector of Rovno from east to west, was transferred to the 2nd Panzergruppe.** The headquarters of the 1st Panzergruppe and the XIV Panzer Corps, which were operating in an easterly direction, were placed at the disposal of Army Group South for further assignments.
Meanwhile, the 11th Army had invaded the Nogai steppe, in order to push back the Russian army located there and to seize the approaches to the Crimea. The 11th Army became engaged in heavy fighting between the Sea of Azov and the Dnieper bend.
The army group command radioed the 1st Panzergruppe: “Turn back! Free the III Panzer Corps from its encirclement at the Dnieper bridgehead. Attack the enemy line along the river. Strike the forces fighting the 11th Army from the rear. The 11th Army awaits. Forward!”
At that moment, the XIV Panzer Corps struck southwards. I consider this to be a remarkable example of allowing for the freedom of operations. After this battle on the shores of the Sea of Azov at the beginning of October, the entire left bank [eastern bank – skoblin] of the Dnieper was now in the hands of the army group. The 11th Army captured the Tartar Wall along the Perekop, while Rumanian forces seized Odessa.

3. End of the 1st Panzergruppe
It was around this time that the 1st Panzer Army was formed on the basis of the 1st Panzergruppe, with the headquarters staff of the panzergruppe transformed into an army staff. A large strategic-operational armoured formation, consisting of panzer and motorised divisions, ceased to exist in its pure form. In its place arose a typical army which still possessed panzer formations. Later, there would occur cases when panzer armies would in general not have panzer units yet still be referred to as panzer armies, as occurred with the 2nd Panzer Army.
In the final analysis, the panzer army was in no wise distinguishable from any other army, yet it existed at the expense of the tradition of the old panzergruppe. Armies, with their vast operational and supply apparatus were connected to an operational area, to a specific territory. The panzergruppe, however, as a resource under the operational command of the army group, could be compared to a hunting falcon, which hovers over the entire operational theater of the army group, observes the fighting taking place in the army sectors, and is quickly thrown to that spot where its appearance alone will decide the outcome of the battle.
Thus, for example, in France: one day, at the mouth of the Somme river near Abbeville, Calais and Boulogne, then with the 18th Army outside Dunkirk. Immediately afterwards, with the 6th Army through the Weygand Line southwards, with the XVIII Army Corps across the Marne, near Lyons in the vicinity of the Italian Alps, and then alongside Biatritz on the coast of the Bay of Biscay and the Italian border.
And then here, in the summer of 1941: near Kiev with the 6th Army, then in the sector of the 17th Army***, near Nikolayev with the 11th Army, near Kiev with the 2nd Panzergruppe, and immediately afterwards on the shore of the Sea of Azov as the saviour of the 11th Army. For me, tank warfare ended with this battle on the shore of the Azov – whether it was still conducted on other fronts by the Germans, I do not know.
I assume the Red Army employed a large tank force in the capture of Berlin, during the advance from the north-east through Renluch and upon forcing through the line at Nauen-Deberitz.

V. To the Donets Basin
1. Further to the east
During my sojourn in England****, Feldmarschall von Rundstedt told me that he had proposed a plan that the Germans should dig in behind the Dnieper river after the fighting on the east bank had ended. From several rejoinders, the details of which I have already forgotten, I concluded that Feldmarschall von Brauchitsch also insisted that the German eastern army should cross over to positional warfare for the winter. Events, however, transpired otherwise. Following the battles on the sector of Army Group Center at the beginning of October, Hitler arrived at the conviction that the Red Army was finished. Accordingly, despite the lateness of the season, he ordered an offensive against Moscow and a last gasp pursuit of the enemy along the entire front. Thus, Army Group South began a further advance with the 1st Panzer Army on the right flank, the 17th Army in the center, and the 6th Army, which advanced to Khar'kov, on the left flank. Meanwhile, the 11th Army was to storm the Crimea.
This advance was halted along a general line running from Taganrog to Khar'kov. The lengthy marches and incessant fighting had sapped the strength of the infantry, difficulties arose with supply and the tanks were out of fuel. The railway line ended on the western bank of the Dnieper and then vast distances had to be surmounted amidst the fall rasputitsa*****. Supply of the armies by air was insufficient.
Fighting stretched out for several weeks, in the course of which the German armies closed up, as did the Russian front facing the German army group. Winter with its severe cold arrived especially early that year. Winter uniforms, which had been prepared earlier by the German High Command, could not be brought up, as the lengthy offensive operations and marches made ammunition, fuel and provisions the priority. Generalfeldmarschall von Brauchitsch was subsequently relieved of duty on account of illness and Hitler personally took command of the land armies and thus the Eastern Front.

2. Positional warfare during the winter of 1941-1942
Thus,from a “last gasp pursuit of the enemy,” positional warfare arose. Army Group South's front ran along the Mius-Donets line until a point north of Khar'kov. Both sides began feeling each other out and an initial foray was made against Rostov. The Red Army displayed significant initiative, making an amphibious landing on the Crimea, near Feodosiya, while attacking constantly at various places along the army group front. We reckoned that the Red Army forces surpassed us by a factor of 2 or 3, and they had excellent weapons and equipment.

Handwritten testimony of Field Marshal E. von Kleist regarding the German campaign in southern Russia: Parts I-III

“Operations on the Southern Front [1941-1944]
23 February 1951

I. Introduction
It is difficult to describe the operations in which I participated when these events occurred ten years in the past and I have neither maps nor additional materials at my disposal. I remember well only those for which I have given repeated evidence over the past years and which were also a topic of discussion at Nurnberg. Other events I remember only poorly - especially dates, and can no longer even recall in which month some events took place. I can only describe operations in the most general terms, otherwise I become lost in the details.

II. Between Two Campaigns
1. Field Marshal von Rundstedt makes a visit
On approximately 1 May 1941, I had arrived home from Balkans, having left my headquarters staff behind. I had only been home a few days before Generalfeldmarschall von Rundstedt and his wife dropped by for a visit (they were residing at the hotel Monopol' in Breslau). Our families had been friends for a long time. The main command of the army group was located at that time somewhere south of Krakow.
Feldmarschall Rundstedt took me aside a told me roughly the following: “War is unavoidable. Both armies are deployed along the border against each other. Military operations may begin any day now. We will begin our offensive when those formations earmarked for the Eastern Front are freed up from their present location in the Balkans – especially the panzer and motorised divisions. This may take an additional six weeks. If the Russians attack before this, we will be ready to go on the defensive.
As part of the army group, you will command three panzer corps comprising the 1st Panzergruppe. You will not take part in the border fighting, but you will still fall under my operational command. Accordingly, you will receive additions to your staff as well as your own quartermaster forces.
Hitler has categorically demanded that you and your staff not enter the operations zone until the very last moment. You may remain here at home at your leisure. We will move your headquarters to outside of Breslau so you may get to it quickly at any time. The motorised divisions, which will be gradually arriving into the operational zone, will be under the command of the 6th Army, but the latter will not involve them in the preparations for the offensive. Depending upon the outcome of the border fighting, I intend to make use of your panzergruppe for operational purposes. Your chief of staff may get in touch with General von Sonderstern upon arriving in Breslau.
If you have any special requests regarding the transfer of any divisions currently subordinated to other corps and whose commanders you are already acquainted with as a result of previous campaigns, feel free to bring this request to my attention. In the meantime, while on leave, you may freely grant furlough to those officers and officials of your staff who have been on continuous duty since last May.”

2. The middle of June
In roughly the middle of June, the headquarters of the 1st Panzergruppe was transferred to the army group's operational area and set up in a isolated forester's house between Zamost'e and Bil'gurai.
The chief of staff made a trip to the army group and brought back the following information: The 17th and 6th Armies had finished their offensive preparations. The 11th Army was deployed further back to be employed later. The panzer units, which were to be handed over to us later, had still not fully arrived. Some of them were still resting in Czechoslovakia or Silesia, while others were still on their way back from the Balkans. It was doubtful the latter would be at full-strength. Then he reported the army group's instructions regarding the operation, which were roughly as follows: 1) Major forces of the Red Army were situated in front of the army group and further back at the great bend of the Dnieper 2) The army group had the task of destroying these forces and preventing them from withdrawing beyond the Dnieper. 3) To this purpose, the army group would begin its offensive on a designated day and at a designated hour, deploying the 17th and 6th Armies. The 17th Army had the task of quickly seizing the city of L'vov, while the 6th Army was to cross the Bug river, establish a bridgehead, and breakthrough the enemy front. The 11th Army was to cover the deep right flank of the 17th Army and tie up enemy forces. One corps, deployed in the north, was to cover the left flank of the 6th Army against enemy attack from the Volhynian forests.
The panzergruppe, which will take command of all panzer and motorised divisions on a designated day, will be ready be ready for combat operations from that moment, in order to force the [Bug] river once the 6th Army has established bridgeheads in depth. It was very important that the panzergruppe advance eastwards quickly and move ahead of the 6th Army. Under no circumstances was it to allow itself to be pinned down or forced to fall back as a result of fighting those enemy forces which the 6th Army will engage. Moreover, the panzergruppe will have the task of searching out and engaging tank forces deep in the enemy rear. In this regard, the panzergruppe will be under the operational command of the army group.

III. Operations in the great bend of the Dnieper
1. The war begins
In the early morning of 21.6.1941, the headquarters of the 1st Panzergruppe was transferred to a command post prepared by the 6th Army and situated alongside the Zamost'e-Tomashuv road. Here, it took command of three panzer corps, which were deployed side by side east of the road and echeloned in depth. The panzergruppe already had a working line to the corps' headquarters and to the staff of the 6th Army, and through the latter to the army group.
The 17th and 6th Armies began their attack at dawn, on 21.6.1941 [should obviously be 22.6.1941 - skoblin]. The battle for the frontier had begun, and the panzer forces awaited the outcome of the fighting. One resulting circumstance: around mid-day, I was informed that the 13th Panzer Division, which I had intended to leave in its deployment area far in the rear, was on the march in the direction of Vladimir-Volhynskiy under orders of the 6th Army command. Indignant, I contacted Field Marshal von Reichenau by telephone. Before I could tell him anything, however, he declared: “Kleist, the greatest battle of all time is occurring on the frontier. We are facing the whole Russian army”. “Take it easy...,” I thought to myself. When I asked him how it came to pass that he was in command of my forces, he muttered something about the necessities of war and that the 13th Panzer Division had still been under his authority only the day before. From this I formed the opinion that the fighting was going tough. I could not simply take command of the panzer division and have it turn back, as its marching columns were spread out over 120 km. I had to attach it to the III Panzer Corps, which it remained a part of until the winter of 1942-1943. Here is an example of how a chance event may turn out decisive in the long run.

2. How the army group command assessed the situation
After two weeks of fighting, the army group command had arrived at the following opinion:
The enemy is giving battle in order to gain time with the intention of either: a) transferring new major forces across the Dnieper which would be able to attack the army group's flanks, for example, with an attack from the vicinity of Kiev and the north-west [Kleist probably means the north-east - skoblin] towards the south-west with a simultaneous blow from the vicinity of Kherson to the north-west, or b) constructing a strong defense line along the Dnieper and the creating defended areas on the western bank with a subsequent withdrawal to these bridgeheads.
The task for the army group, however, remained the same: to smash the enemy forces standing before it before those forces could either be reinforced or withdrawn behind the Dnieper. Meanwhile, what was the army group's situation in relation to this?
The 17th Army was facing the mass of the enemy's forces. It was waging a frontal attack and was advancing only slowly.
The 11th Army was covering the right flank of the 17th Army and was trying to establish direct contact with the latter with its left flank.
The panzergruppe, after battling enemy forces near Dubno, Rovno and to the east [this would be the tank battle of Brody - skoblin], had overcome the defenses on the old Russian-Polish frontier at Tsviagel' and to the south, and had reached the area west of Kiev and Belaya Tserkov. Thus, it had already penetrated deep into the flank and halfway into the rear of the main Russian forces. However, the panzergruppe was now pinned down along the front and found itself in a dangerous position. It faced the threat of enemy forces in the Kiev bridgehead as well as Russian forces deployed in the forests of Volhynia, which threatened its left flank and supply routes. The panzergruppe's right flank, meanwhile, was threatened by new Russian forces, which had crossed the Dnieper south of Kiev and were attacking westwards.
The 6th Army, following behind the panzergruppe, was advancing faster than the 17th Army. It was positioned ahead of the latter army and could now advance southwards.
It was now necessary, however, the free up the panzergruppe for operational employment in the rear of the main Russian forces and against their rearward communications as well as for defending against new enemy forces, which may cross the Dnieper near Kremenchug, Dnepropetrovsk and Zaporozh'e.
Thus, the 6th Army could not advance any further south, since it had to pick up the task from the panzergruppe of providing flank cover in the general vicinity of Korsun' – Kiev and to the northwest. The 6th Army, thus, had to move with great haste.

3. Uman'
On 8.8.[19]41], the battle against the main Russian forces deployed west of the Dnieper concluded in the vicinity of Uman'. Hitler and Mussolini were in attendance at the end of the battle. The 17th Army, and parts of the 11th Army and 1st Panzergruppe were involved in this engagement. The 6th Army had positioned itself near Kiev and to the south, facing those those Russian forces attacking from the east, while the panzergruppe lay further to the south and units of the 11th Army moved up against those Russian forces coming from the south-east.
The army group command now considered it necessary to destroy the Russian forces which were operating in the lower bend of the Dnieper and to claim the western bank of the river in its entirety. After that, the task placed before the army group in the middle of June was accomplished. The battle for the great bend of the Dnieper was over.

Interrogation of Colonel-General E. G. Jaenecke, Commander German 17th Army

Interrogation of Colonel-General E. G. Jaenecke, Commander German 17th Army
Evacuation of the Kuban

22 November 1947

Interrogation beginning at 2330 hours
Interrogation ending at 0345 hours

Question: When and what positions did Field Marshal von Kleist occupy in the German Army on the Eastern Front in the war against the Soviet Union?
Answer: As far as I know, in 1941 Field Marshal von Kleist commanded a panzer army - which one I do not recall. He and his army operated somewhere in the south, but I cannot state the specific area of operations.
In the fall of 1942, Manstein was recalled from the Crimea and sent to the Leningrad front. Von Kleist assumed command of the southern group of German armies in his place. His operational area covered the Crimea, the Kuban and some of the southern regions of the Ukraine.
Appointed commander of the 17th Army on 5 July 1943, I arrived in the Kuban and took up command of the army, coming into direct subordination to Field Marshal von Kleist. Prior to assuming command, I had had a meeting with von Kleist in Simferopol', during which von Kleist placed before me the task of bringing order into the army, which had become disorganized in connection with the combat operations of the Soviet armies against the southern group of German forces.
Question: When did the situation become threatening for the the German 17th Army in the Kuban and what orders in connection with this did you receive from von Kleist?
Answer: At the beginning of August 1943, Soviet forces broke through near Krymskaya Station, while Soviet landing operations became active near Novorossiysk – both of which created a difficult situation for the 17th Army under my command. At that time, a Soviet offensive had begun near Melitopol', which created a threat to the 17th Army, which found itself thrust far forward. As a result of the unfolding situation, I received orders from von Kleist to prepare withdrawing from the Kuban. This was in August 1943.
Question: What was envisioned by this order?
Answer: By this order, the commander of the southern group of forces, Field Marshal von Kleist, proposed withdrawing the forces of the German 17th Army and carrying out a total economic cleansing of the Kuban.
Question: What was meant by an “economic cleansing” of the Kuban?
Answer: Regarding the matter of the economic cleansing of the Kuban, von Kleist's order envisioned: the removal from the Kuban of all food stores, cattle, grain, butter, wine and all other agricultural products, industrial materials and equipment. The order also envisioned the removal of railway equipment, while everything that could not be removed was to be subject to demolition and destruction. In this same order, von Kleist proposed the forcible removal of the entire population of the Kuban capable of either working or bearing arms. This order had some sort of code name, but what it was exactly I no longer recall. I carried out von Kleist's order completely, as I reported in detail during the preceding interrogations.
Question: How did von Kleist evaluate the operation you conducted regarding the economic cleansing of the Kuban?
Answer: When I met von Kleist in the town of Simferopol on 11 October 1943, I reported to him the results of carrying out his order for the economic cleansing of the Kuban. He gave the operation high marks in execution and was left completely satisfied in the measures undertaken in regards the economic cleansing of the Kuban, in particular: the evacuation of the population and the removal of food stores, industrial equipment and railways, as well as the demolition and destruction of those installations which we could not remove. At his army group headquarters, Kleist was kept continually informed about the progress of the “economic cleansing” of the Kuban through a special transit staff he had set up and stationed in the town of Kerch, headed by General Forster. This staff managed the reception of all material assets and persons, evacuated by me from the Kuban to the Crimea. The Soviet citizens evacuated from the Kuban we made use of in the construction of defensive installations and for agricultural labour. Where this staff subsequently sent these material assets and people, I do not know.
Question: What tasks did von Kleist assign to you upon the arrival of your army in the Crimea and in connection with the military situation created there?
Answer: Upon arriving in the Crimea, I received the following orders from von Kleist: to organise the defense of the Crimea by all forces at my disposal and to eliminate the two centers of the partisan movement in the Crimea – one around the Kerch quarries and the other in the vicinity of the Yayla mountains.
I should mention, that in crossing over from the Kuban to the Crimea, I had 10 German and between 6 and 7 Rumanian divisions under my command. Of these, I was ordered by von Kleist to hand over 9 German divisions to the German 6th Army, which was operating near Melitopol and which was also under the overall direction of von Kleist. The 6th Army was retreating at that time under the pressure of Soviet forces, the latter which reached the Perekop and cut off the Crimea on 28 October 1943.
In connection with the Soviet advance to the Perekop and the unfolding threat of isolation for the German forces grouped in the Crimea, von Kleist issued an order in October 1943 for the evacuation of the Crimea through the Perekop. This order envisioned the removal of prisoners of war as well as the destruction of all installations and equipment.
Despite issuing this order, von Kleist was ordered to rescind it 24 hours later by Hitler's headquarters. Still, individual groups of soldiers from my army carried out the demolition of the coal mines at Bishu and burned down the warehouses in Kerch.
Question: Provide us with details about the orders you received from von Kleist regarding the elimination of the partisan movement centers at the Kerch quarries and in the Yayla mountains.
Answer: Kleist's order indicated that the paramount task of the 17th Army in the Crimea was the suppression the partisan movement. According to this order, I was to work out the required measures myself as commander of the army. I have already indicated during the preceding interrogations those measures which my army undertook, in particular, the creation of a “dead zone” and other operations.
Question: Did you inform von Kleist that in carrying out his order you were creating a “dead zone” in which settlements were burned down, the population driven out and their property confiscated?
Answer: I reported to von Kleist daily through the army combat reports and informed him about the progress in creating a “dead zone” as well as the other operations taking place at the Kerch quarries. In addition, orders involving the 17th Army were sent to von Kleist everyday, which shed light on the progress of operations involved in the creation of the “dead zone”. Thus, von Kleist was continually informed about the measures being conducted by the 17th Army regarding the “dead zone”. In these reports, von Kleist was informed about the number of burned settlements and other results of each operation after they were carried out.
Question: When did you report to von Kleist about the arrival in the Crimea of the special commando from the High Command of the German Armed Forces for the employment of gas at the Kerch quarries against the partisans and civilians who were hiding there?
Answer: I do not recall precisely when this was reported to von Kleist, but a special report was sent to Kleist's headquarters at Army Group South regarding the arrival of the special commando and the operations carried out by them at the Kerch quarries. The existence of such gas and the preparation for its use should have been known by von Kleist even earlier as asphyxiating gas was to be used in 1940 against the Maginot Line, where von Kleist commanded a German panzer group in the vicinity of Sedan.
Question: What do you know about von Kleist's orders during the time he commanded the 1st and 6th Panzer Armies?
Answer: I know nothings about this. I was not under his command at that time and never spoke to him about this

Chief of Operations Group MVD USSR Lieutenant- Colonel KARLIN
Assistant of Operations Group MVD USSR Major NAZAROV

Translation conducted by the translator VOITENKO

Interrogation record of General Weidling, Commandant of Berlin (III)

Interrogation of General Weidling, Commandant of Berlin
Questions regarding Hitler's "commissar order"
Atrocities against the civilian population around Rzhev

25 November 1951

Weidling, Helmut, born 1891,
native of the town of Halbertstadt (Germany),
German, German national, former
commander of the defense of Berlin, General
der Artillerie

Interrogation beginning at 1415 hours
------ “ ------ ending at 1940 hours

German translator Makeev has been advised regarding his responsibility for conducting a correct translation according to Article 95 of the Criminal Code of the USSR.

Question: What criminal orders of Hitler's are you aware of in regards to captured political officers of the Soviet Army?
Answer: I know that Hitler had issued an order at the start of the war that captured political officers of the Soviet Army were to be executed. I did not, however, see this order in writing.
Question: The imprisoned former Colonel-General of the German Army, Schmidt, Rudolf, testified during interrogation on 31 October 1951, that Hitler's orders concerning the execution of political officers of the Soviet Army had been given by word of mouth several days before the start of the war with the Soviet Union.
Answer: Apparently, this was so, for otherwise a written copy of the mentioned order would have been found at my divisional headquarters.
Question: Who informed you of this barbarous order on the part of Hitler?
Answer: I first heard about the existence of such an order during my first days on the Soviet-German front. On approximately 2 January 1942, I arrived at the sector of the 86th Infantry Division, which Hitler had ordered me to command. Upon assuming divisional affairs, I was informed of the existence of Hitler's order regarding the execution of political officers of the Soviet Army by my chief of staff: Colonel of the German General Staff von der Greben.
Question: How did you carry out this order of Hitler's?
Answer: I gave out no instructions regarding Hitler's order to the units and everything remained as it was before.
Question: In other words, the soldiers of the 86th Infantry Division under your command continued to execute captured political officers of the Soviet Army?
Answer: I do not recall cases of political commissars of the Soviet Army being executed by my subordinates. I do not deny, however, that cases where political commissars were executed could have taken place, but I was neither informed of this nor did I require my subordinates to stay apprised of this matter.
Question: It was like similar unwritten rules regarding bandit gangs. Is that right?
Answer: Indeed. Hitler's order regarding the execution of captured political officers of the Soviet Army was carried out in secret, without any written record, and in the same manner as a secret cabal..
It was only in captivity that I understood the entire criminal nature of Hitler's machinations against humanity. At that time, however, I believed the Nazi propaganda regarding the superiority of the German race over other peoples. In my mind, the Russians were not fully human [lit. full-value people] and thus their life had no value.
I acknowledge myself guilty of not revoking Hitler's criminal order regarding my division and of thus facilitating the implementation of this order. It is true, that I attempted to broach the matter of rescinding this order with the higher authorities. However, fearing for my personal military career, I did practically nothing to hinder the execution of Hitler's criminal order within my own formation.
Question: You have not been fully sincere in your testimony and this is attested to by the fact you have not recognised your guilt even now. The investigation has at its disposal material indicating that your subordinates from the 86th Division executed even rank and file soldiers and wounded prisoners of the Soviet Army. Why are you silent about this?
Answer: I acknowledge the fact that men of the 86th Division under my command executed prisoners of war – soldiers of the Soviet Army. I was informed about this but did nothing to stop it. As for the execution of seriously wounded Soviet prisoners, I do not recall a single instance and doubt it occurred under my command.
Question: Was there a Colonel Schenemann under your command?
Answer: Yes. Colonel Schenemann, the commander of the 184th Regiment of the 86th Division Division, was under my command. I have already testified to this.
Question: A former prisoner, the soldier Wagner, Heinrich of the 184th Regiment, 86th Division, stated: “Individual soldiers were not taken prisoner. They would first be put to use carrying machine guns and ammunition and then shot in the evening. Wounded Russians were also not bothered with as they were generally shot on the spot. On one occasion, we arrived in a Russian village late in the evening. Our platoon captured a house with 11 wounded Red Army men inside (I was at that time in the 8th Company, 184th Regiment, 86th Infantry Division). Our platoon commander, Sergeant Fogel, gave the order to collect the wounded men in a barn and shoot them. The order was carried out.
On another occasion, our regiment captured a large Russian village (I have forgotten the name). In this village there was a brick building in which lay some 200 seriously wounded Russians... The regimental commander, Colonel Schenemann, issued an order to shoot these seriously wounded men.” You must be aware of these facts.
Answer: I do not doubt Wagner's statement that these cases of Soviet prisoners of war, including the seriously wounded, being executed took place. But I believe, that the cases described took place before my arrival at the division.
Question: If you mean by this that such cases did not occur under your command, then you are contradicting yourself. You have, indeed, acknowledged that you allowed the bestial orders of your predecessor regarding the treatment of political officers to remain in force. As a result, the men under your command could continue to commit any atrocity against Soviet prisoners of war without hindrance.
Answer: That is correct. Everything had remained as it was under my predecessor, Witthöft. I acknowledge that atrocities against Russian prisoners of war continued to take place even under my term as divisional commander. I am greatly at fault for not rescinding this cruel order of the former divisional commander, Witthöft, regarding prisoners of war.
Question: In your handwritten testimony from 10 January 1946, you state that Witthöft's order rescinding the execution of captured Soviet political officers remained in force under you. Why was the purpose behind this testimony?
Answer: My testimony from 10 January 1946 was written when I had still not recognised my criminal actions in a better light.
In actual fact, I did not leave in force such an order on the part of Witthöft regarding the revocation of the execution of political commissars, since such an order could not have existed. Witthöft would not have taken it upon himself to revoke Hitler's order. Lieutenant-Colonel von der Greben told me that Witthöft had allegedly attempted to bypass Hitler's order by sending captured commissars to the camps, but I do not believe this. Hitler's order regarding the execution of captured political commissars remained in force under my command.
Question: Colonel Schenemann apparently executed seriously wounded Soviet prisoners without your knowledge.
Answer: Colonel Schenemann did not inform me personally about such cases, but it was known within the division that he took part in the execution of Soviet prisoners of war. Thus, in the summer of 1942, during the fighting in the “Rzhev sack,” soldiers of the 184th Regiment under Schenemann's command executed Russian soldiers who had been taken prisoner.
I would like to point out that Hitler's newspapers, which printed articles about so-called “Bolshevik atrocities,” stirred up base animalistic instincts in the German soldiers and incited them to commit criminal acts.
Question: You knew about the atrocities committed by Colonel Schenemann?
Answer: I knew about cases where Russian soldiers had been executed by Schenemann's regiment, but I did nothing to halt further atrocities being committed against prisoners of war.
Question: In other words, you were an accomplice in the execution of those crimes committed by your subordinates.
Answer: I confess, that I was an accomplice in the execution of crimes against Soviet prisoners, which were committed by the division under my command.
In this sense, my actions – as divisional commander – bore a criminal aspect in regards the laws and customs of war.
Question: Your former subordinate, Wagner, reports further in his statement: “During our flight from the Red Army at the beginning of 1942, we received orders to create a 50-kilometer zone where everything was to be burned to the ground... The civilian population suffered inhuman torments as a result of our actions. The entire civilian population, including women and children, were driven out of their homes in -30 to -40 degree weather with no idea where to go. Whoever resisted the forcible measures of the Germans were punished by death.” Do you corroborate this?
Answer: I corroborate Wagner's testimony fully and entirely. I would like to introduce only one correction however: the events described by Wagner occurred in the spring of 1943, not in 1942. At the beginning of 1943, it was decided to free up a number of formations which had been hopelessly bogged down in the “Rzhev sack”. This was in connection with with the planned offensive which was to occur in the area of the “Kursk salient”. The commander of the 9th Army, Model, worked out a plan named “Buffalo Movement,” according to which the vast territory of the “Rzhev sack” was to become a “desert zone” following the withdrawal of German forces. According to this plan, my division was to withdraw westwards, destroying literally everything behind it: installations and buildings were burned down or blown up and the population driven out. Resisters were executed.
Question: Was Model's plan detailed?
Answer: Model's plan on balance consisted of general instructions and designated zones of “destruction” for each division. In accordance with this plan, each divisional commander issued orders, taking into account the details of the impending “operation”.
Question: How did you carry this out in practice?
Answer: In March 1943, I issued an order: upon withdrawing from the “Rzhev sack,” everything was to be destroyed along the path of retreat, the population driven to the west and those resisting shot. The order – with my signature – was sent out to all the units of the division for immediate execution.
Question: Your order was carried out?
Answer: Yes. My order was carried out. After the division withdrew from the “Rzhev sack” there remained only ruins: everything was burned down or blown up and the population driven westwards.
Question: Was this order called for by military necessity?
Answer: No. The order to burn everything down to the ground in an area of tens and hundreds of square kilometers was not called for by military necessity.
Question: The former soldier, Blumenkamp, from the 5th Company, 167th Regiment, 86th Infantry Division has stated the following regarding the withdrawal of Germans from the area of Rzhev and Byeliy: “Here I saw how men belonging to the field police of the 86th Infantry Division beat the civilian population without cause as they drove the civilian population to forced labour and they mercilessly grabbed everything that they were in need of”. Did such facts take place?
Answer: I think Blumenkamp has stated the truth, although I did not personally observe such occurrences.
Question: But the field police were following your instructions.
Answer: I did indeed issue orders to the field police to compel the civilian population to perform various forced labour in clearing streets, roads, and so on. In carrying out my orders, the police resorted to physical coercion on those persons who did not want to work for the Germans.
Question: Besides the testimony of your former troops, you have also been exposed in your criminal activity by the Extraordinary State Commission concerning the crimes of the German-Fascist invaders in the cities of Vyazma, Gzhatsk and Sychevka in Smolensk province and in the city of Rzhev, Kalinin province from 6 April 1943, and by the investigation regarding the crimes of the Germans in the city of Rzhev from 20 October 1943.
These documents indicate that troops belonging to the units and formations comprising Model's 9th Army and the XXVII Army Corps and, consequently, your division as well, not only beat peaceful civilians, burned and destroyed installations and drove the Soviet people into servitude, but also subjected innocent people to inhuman torments and tortures, shot and hanged Soviet prisoners of war and robbed and starved the civilian population. Do you acknowledge your participation in the crimes committed by the Germans in the territory around Rzhev?
Answer: The soldiers of the 86th Infantry Division under my command committed such crimes as indicated in the documents of the Extraordinary State Commission. My 86th Division comprised part of the XXVII Army Corps which was under the immediate command of the 9th Army.
I bear responsibility, as commander of the indicated division, for those crimes which were committed by my subordinates. I ask only to make note that neither I nor my forces were in the city of Rzhev and that I am not responsible for the crimes committed there.
Question: In the documents concerning the crimes of the German-Fascist invaders in the Rzhev area (Case No. 510, 11-13) the following is noted: “Upon withdrawing through the village of Starushevtsi (Chentsovskiy village soviet), the Germans drove into the rear the entire civilian population, two of whom were shot for refusing to go into servitude. The rest of the population which could not leave were driven into a barn which was readied to be set on fire and only the timely arrival of a Red Army detachment saved these unfortunate people from death”. Is this how your order appeared in practice: the population driven into the West and resisters shot?
Answer: Due to the passage of time, I do not recall individual cases of repression against the inhabitants and I have also forgotten the names of the settlements through which we withdrew. However, the atrocity committed by German soldiers against the inhabitants cited in the document could also have taken place within the confines of the 86th Division's withdrawal.


Interrogator: Ass[istant] Sections Ch[ief] of the Investigations Department, 2nd M[ain] Adm[inistration] MGB USSR, Sen[ior] Lieutenant LISOVETS

Translator: Translator for the Investigations Department of the 2nd M[ain] Adm[inistration] MGB USSR, Lieutenant MAKEEV

Interrogation record of General Weidling, Commandant of Berlin (II)

Interrogation of General Weidling, Commandant of Berlin
Questions regarding Generalfeldmarschall Schörner

20 November 1951

Weidling, Helmut, born 1891
native of the town of Halbertstadt (Germany)
German, German national, former
commander of the defense of Berlin, General
der Artillerie.

Interrogation beginning at 1120 hours
------ “ ------ ending at 1650 hours

German translator Makeev has been advised regarding his responsibility for conducting a correct translation according to Article 95 of the Criminal Code of the USSR.

Question: Do you know the former Generalfeldmarschall Schörner, Ferdinand?
Answer: Yes. I know Generalfeldmarschall Schörner of the former German Army.
Question: When and under what circumstances did you become acquainted with him?
Answer: I first met Schörner in January 1941, when he was the commander of the 6th Mountain Division, which was deployed near the Semmering pass in the Alps. The 6th Mountain Division had come under the command of the XL Panzer Corps at that time. As the artillery commander of the XL Panzer Corps, I headed off to meet Schörner in order to establish direct contact and check on the condition of division's artillery. I was then struck by the model order and harsh discipline, which Schörner had established in his division.
Question: What kind of relations did you have with Schörner?
Answer: I had normal relations with Schörner.
Question: Did you and Schörner take part in the criminal war against the Soviet Union as members of the same corps?
Answer: No. I did not serve with Schörner in the war against the Soviet Union. I only saw Schörner during the first weeks of the war in the Balkans, in April 1941. As part of my duties I had to spend time with his division. Schörner's division left the XL Panzer Corps shortly before the war with the Soviet Union and I no longer encountered Schörner.
Question: It is known, that in 1945 Schörner was in command of Army Group 'Center,” while you were the commander of the LVI Panzer Corps. Is it not true that your corps was part of Schörner's army group?
Answer: In April 1945, Hitler ordered me to take command of the LVI Panzer Corps, which was part of the 9th Army. The 9th Army, however, reported directly to Hitler and was not part of Army Group “Center”. The 9th Army most likely had dealings with the northern Army Group “Vistula”, while Schörner's group was located on the right flank of the 9th Army. Generalfeldmarschall Schörner's army group subsequently fought somewhere in Silesia and Czechoslovakia.
Question: What German crimes did Schörner and those forces under his command commit in the territory of the Soviet Union?
Answer: I do not know.
Question: What reputation did Schörner enjoy among the German generals?
Answer: I heard at various times from many acquaintances among the generals (I do not remember the names), that Schörner was a fervent national socialist according to his political convictions and was a fanatic admirer of Hitler. I heard little regarding his military skill, but he was known for his love of strict discipline and textbook order among the troops.
Question: Schörner's fascist convictions and admiration of Hitler played a large role in his advance in the service. Is this not true?
Answer: Many generals told me at the time that Schörner owed his career to Hitler, who knew about his fanatic admiration for National Socialism and thus assisted in his rapid rise in the service. Schörner also had some success as a military commander.
Question: What did Hitler have to say about Schörner?
Answer: I do not remember if Hitler spoke about Schörner in my presence. However, the fact that Hitler in his will and testament appointed Schörner to the post of War Minister in the new government speaks for itself. If Hitler did not value Schörner highly, then his name would naturally not have appeared among the members of the proposed government.
Question: Can you provide a more detailed account of this?
Answer: On the evening of 30 April 1945, I was summoned to Hitler's personal bunker where I met Goebbels, Bormann and Krebs.
The latter informed me in a somber tone that Hitler had killed himself and that he had appointed a new government in his will and testament: Grossadmiral Doenitz was appointed Reichsprasident, Goebbels as Reichschanceller, Bormann – Minister for Party Affairs, Generalfeldmarschall Schörner as Minister of Defense and Seyss-Inquardt as Minister of Foreign Affairs. I did not personally see Hitler's political testament.
Question: Was Schörner officially announced as the new German Minister of Defense on 30 April 1945?
Answer: All those who were located in the bunker near the Reich Chancellery during the final days of the battle of Berlin were completely isolated from the outside world.
Thus, Hitler's testament was not officially announced in Germany. Moreover, Goebbels, Bormann and others were afraid that news of Hitler's death would have a negative influence on the crumbling morale of the German Army. Thus, as far as I know, Schörner was not officially recognised as the German Minister of Defense.
Question: Did you encounter Generalfeldmarschall Greim of the Luftwaffe in Hitler's bunker?
Answer: Yes. I saw Generalfeldmarschall Greim of the Luftwaffe in the bunker several days before Hitler's death. Hitler had ordered that Greim be appointed as head of the Luftwaffe in place of Goering. Greim was in Berlin for only a few hours and then flew out with the pilot Hannah Greitsch to an unknown destination.
Question: During the interrogation on October 30 this year, the prisoner Schörner testified that you enjoyed a great deal of trust on the part of Hitler and worked out military plans with him. Do you corroborate this?
Answer: Yes. I certainly enjoyed Hitler's trust, otherwise he would not have appointed me as the commander of Berlin's defenses. It stands to reason, that I took part in working out the plans for the defense of Berlin alongside Hitler, as I have already related to the investigation.
Question: During the same interrogation, the prisoner Schörner stated that during the battle of Berlin you were found to be under the significant influence of the then Berlin Defense Commissioner, Goebbels. Is this true?
Answer: I do not deny that there were normal relations between me and Goebbels, which the latter did not enjoy with Reymann. As is known, my predecessor in command of the defense of Berlin, General Reymann, was unable to work with Goebbels and was removed from his post.
I was not, however, under the influence of Goebbels and could not be under his influence, as he had no understanding of military questions.


Interrogator: Dep[uty] Ch[ief] of the Section, 2nd M[ain] Adm[inistration] MGB USSR, Sen[ior] Lieutenant LISOVETS

Translator: Translator for the same section, Lieutenant MAKEEV

Interrogation record of General Weidling, Commandant of Berlin (I)

Interrogation record of General Weidling, Commandant of Berlin
Statement of charges for war crimes

7 September 1951. Moscow

Weidling, Helmut, born 1891
native of the town of Halbertstadt, German,
secondary school education, former Military
Commandant of Berlin, General der Artillerie

Interrogation conducted in German. Translator for the Investigations Section of the 2nd M[ain] Adm[inistration] MGB USSR, Lieutenant Makeev, had been advised of his responsibility in conducting a correct translation according to Article 95 of the Criminal Code of the USSR.


Interrogation beginning at 1355 hours
Interrogation ending at 1645 hours

Question: You have been charged according to points 1 “a” and 1 “b” of Article II, Law No. 10, of the Control Council in Germany*. Do you understand?
Answer: I understand the charges.
Question: Do you acknowledge yourself guilty of the charges brought against you?
Answer: I acknowledge myself fully guilty of the charges brought against me.
Question: In what specifically do you acknowledge your guilt?
Answer: I acknowledge my guilt first of all in that being a career officer in the German Army and occupying a leading position in it, I carried out in practice Hitler's idea of aggressive wars of conquest conducted by Germany in Europe. Due to the intensive propaganda conducted by the National Socialist party along racist lines and against other peoples, I became a Nazi by conviction, although I was not formally a member of the party.
I acknowledge the fact that I participated in the war against the USSR and that this war, which was directed at the destruction of the Soviet people, which took place throughout the occupied territory, was an atrocity.
This especially relates to the generals of Hitler's Army, who – in prosecuting the war – carried out the delirious ideas of Hitler and his ruling circle in the destruction of some peoples and the subjugation of others.
I was a participant of the First World War and also took part in the war against Poland, France and Balkan countries. I also actively participated in the war against the USSR and thus I can state that the war against Soviet Russia was distinguished from all other wars Germany conducted. This was a war not only between Hitler's Army and the Soviet Army but also a war against the Soviet people. It was conducted with the intention of destroying the Soviet people and eliminating Bolshevism. For four years, Hitler's army – under the leadership of his generals – did everything possible in pursuit of these goals.
Question: Describe your active participation in Hitler's aggressive forces, in particular, against the Soviet Union.
Answer: In the aggressive war against Poland in 1939, I commanded an artillery regiment of the 20th Division and took part in the fighting against the Polish Army. I took part in the fighting against the French Army as an artillery commander of a panzer corps. I served in this same post during the fighting in the Balkans. I began the war against the Soviet Union as the artillery commander of XL Panzer Corps and then, from January 1942, commanded the 86th Infantry Division. From October 1943, I continued fighting against the Soviet Army as the commander of a panzer corps. On 24 April 1945, I was appointed by Hitler as the Military Commandant of the city of Berlin and under his direction carried out the defense of the Berlin, resisting Soviet forces until 2 May 1945, when I was taken prisoner.
Question: In what atrocities did you take part?
Answer: I am guilty of the fact that the 86th Infantry Division, under my command, destroyed populated centers during the withdrawal in the area of Rzhev, according to a general plan developed earlier by the German command, and drove the civilian population westwards. I took no part in other atrocities committed against the civilian population or against Soviet prisoners of war.


Interrogator: Dep[uty] Ch[ief] of the 5th Section, 2nd M[ain] Adm[inistration] MGB USSR, Major GONCHAROV

Translator: Translator for the Investigations Section of the 2nd M[ain] Adm[inistration] MGB USSR, Lieutenant MAKEEV