The Holocaust Historiography Project

Translation of document 3712-PS


[This statement is substantially the same as the testimony
given by Bach-Zelewski on direct examination before the
International Military Tribunal at Nurnberg, 7 January 1946.]

1. I was born in 1899 in Lauenburg in Pomerania. In 1914 I
joined the German army. I was twice wounded and received the
Iron Cross Second and First Class. After 1918 I was taken on
in the 100,000-man army. I had to give up active service in
1924 when two of my sisters married Jews. I remained active
as an battalion commander in the Frontier Defense and also
went on exercises every year as an officer of the reserve.
In this war I have held various commands at the front in
addition to my activities as Chief of Anti-Partisan units
and on the recommendation of my superiors in the Armed
Forces I have received clasps to the Iron Cross Second and
First Class, the German Cross in Gold and the Knight’s Cross
to the Iron Cross.

1. I joined the Party after the elections of September 1930,
which showed that sooner or later the NSDAP would enter the
government. My ideological reason was my nationalist
viewpoint; my personal motive was fear of once more — as in
1924 — seeing
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my career and my living sacrificed because of Anti-Semitism.
I hoped by joining the movement to avert the danger which
was threatening my family and myself. The question of what I
would do in the Party now arose. Pure politics did not
appeal to me as a professional soldier. The SA leaders in my
district were young men without military experience, to whom
I did not wish to be subordinated. Moreover the SA refused
to have anything to do with Frontier Defense. Since at this
time the new semi-military body — the SS — was beginning
to be set up, I joined it. Between then and 1934 I
established Allgemeine SS and SS Frontier Defense units in
the districts of Frankfurt/Oder and Schneidemuehl. From 1934
to the beginning of the Russian campaign I was
Oberabschnittsfuehter in East Prussian and Silesia. I was
opposed to Himmler’s exaggerated racial and Germanic ideas
as early as 1934 when his pronouncements were becoming
clearer and clearer. At the beginning of the Polish campaign
and after Himmler’s speech at the Wewelsburg I was filled
with the profoundest misgivings because I saw that my
national status would be questioned by reason of my half
Slav descent and my Jewish relations.

3. At the beginning of the war I had the rank of SS-
Gruppenfuehrer and Generalleutnant of the Police. I took
part in the opening phase of the Russian campaign as Higher
SS and Police Leader in Central Russia, i.e. in the Rearward
Zone of Army Group Centre. The commander of this Rear Zone
under the Army Group commander was General von
Schenkendorff. I was mainly concerned with Anti-Partisan
warfare. In 1941 I was promoted to the rank of SS-
Obergruppenfuehrer and General of the Police.

In 1943 I was appointed Chief of Anti-Partisan units, a post
created for me and in which I was directly subordinated to
Himmler. My functions involved close cooperation with the
Wehrmacht and the use of Wehrmacht units, since SS and
police units would not have sufficed by themselves. The
conduct of an operation was always entrusted to that arm --
whether Wehrmacht, Waffen SS, or Police — which provided
most of the troops. The Wehrmacht had charge of most of the
operations since it usually provided the greater part of the
force. Both participants, however, had the same experiences
with the result that Schenkendorff and I always agreed in
our reports to Himmler and QMG of the Army.

4. The opening of Partisan warfare found the German soldier
entirely unprepared. Quite apart from the material losses,
tens of thousands of German soldiers were without question
killed by partisans, not to mention the wounded. The troops
took to reprisals. These reprisals differed in scope and
severity according
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to the quality of the troops and the character of their
commander. However, when whole peoples rise, as was the case
in the east and southeast, leaders at the top who are
conscious of their responsibilities cannot abandon the
execution of reprisals to the caprice of individual
commanders. This lack of direction in responsible quarters
is a cowardly devolution of responsibility on to lower
echelons. But if it is obvious to everyone that lack of
direction leads to chaos of reprisals and nevertheless no
clear orders are given, then the only possible conclusion is
that this chaos is intended by the leaders at the top. There
is no question but that reprisals both by Wehrmacht and by
SS and Police units overshot the mark by a long way. This
fact was repeatedly established at conferences with Generals
held by Schenkendorf. Moreover the fight against Partisans
was gradually used as an excuse to carry out other measures,
such as the extermination of Jews and gypsies, the
systematic reduction of the Slavic peoples by some
30,000,000 souls (in order to ensure the supremacy of the
German people), and the terrorization of civilians by
shooting and looting. The Commanders-in-Chief with whom I
came in contact and with whom I collaborated (for instance,
Field Marshals von Weichs, von Kuechler, Bock and Kluge,
Col. General Reinhardt and General Kitzinger) were as well
aware as I of the purposes and methods of Anti-Partisan
warfare. At a conference with the QMG of the Army at
Headquarters I was able to establish, that he also was as
well informed as I about Anti-Partisan warfare. Throughout
the whole of 1943 I was flying from one C-in-C to another
and organizing countless conferences and I constantly
observed the close collaboration between Wehrmacht, SS,
Police and SD units. Examples of this are as follows:

(a) In the summer of 1943 the Higher SS and Police Leader in
the Ukraine — Obergruppenfuehrer Pruetzmann — was given by
Himmler the newly set up 1 SS Calvary Division for the
fighting against the Partisans in the Pripet marshes north
of Zhitomir. I flew to Rovno in order to get information on
the spot about the Partisan situation and to find out how it
was proposed to use the Cavalry Division. The conference
took place in the Wehrmacht casino. Not only was the
Wehrmacht commander present in person, but also the two
other generals and his whole staff. The Wehrmacht commander,
as well as Pruetzmann, held forth at length on the
situation. I got the impression that both of them were
working together most closely on all details. This was
further evidences by the fact that the Wehrmacht commander
kept a permanent liason with Pruetzmann’s staff in the
person of the Wehrmacht Major von Bredow.

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(b) The liaison between the chiefs of the SD Operations
Groups and the Intelligence officers of the Army Groups was
particularly close. In the case of Army Group Centre the HQ
of the Chief of the Operations Group was always at the same
place as the HQ of the Army Group.

(c) In Autumn 1943 almost the entire area on the junction of
Army Groups North and Centre was occupied by a boldly-led
Partisan group. On my map of Partisan dispositions I
labelled this area “Partisan Republic.” Both the competent
army commander in Vitebsk — Col. General Reinhardt — and I
drew attention to this danger in memoranda. These memoranda
were exchanged between the RFSS HQ Staff and the OKW. It was
suggested that there should be one chief of Anti-Partisan
units and the supposition was that I myself should lead the
undertaking, for the Partisan area overlapped the areas of
two commanders. That the OKH recognized the operational
significance of this undertaking is shown by the fact that
it appointed a liaison officer of its own to my Battle HQ.
This officer was of the greatest service to me for he kept
both Army Groups currently informed on the battles my units
were engaged in and also organized at Army Group the
bringing up of artillery and the whole question of
ammunition supply. For both these every Anti-Partisan
undertaking was always referred to Wehrmacht depots anyway
because the Police had not supply organization of its own.
Even the fuel required for the movement of the troops could
only be supplied by the Wehrmacht.

First I flew to Army Group Centre, where I and
Gruppenfuehrer von Gottberg negotiated with the Chief of
Staff, General Krebs, for the setting up of a Corps von
Gottberg. Krebs assented to everything, the corps was set up
and deployed without any sort of friction and Gottberg set
up his Corps Battle HQ in Polock. Then I flew to Army Group
North. First the Wehrmacht Commander (Cavalry General
Bremer) Obergruppenfuehrer Jeckeln and I held a conference
in Riga. Bremer stressed that his support went without
saying as he was a bosom friend of Jeckeln. From Riga I
drove with Jeckeln to Army Group at Pleskau. Here everything
had been prepared for a conference. It was led by Field
Marshal Kuechler in person. He had also invited the three or
four army generals who were carrying on the fight against
the Partisans in the North on behalf of the army. First
there was a general discussion on the whole question of the
Partisans and how to combat them. Kuechler himself made
quite a long speech and indicated on a map which Partisan-
held territories were to be pacified first. Then he turned
to me and stressed

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how close and good cooperation with Jeckeln was and how he
could only continue to express to him his gratitude and his
recognition for the services he rendered. Then we discussed
the large scale undertaking planned and Kuechler promised
the fullest support. While the battle was in progress
Kuechler came to visit Jackeln’s Corps Battle HQ in a
Fieseler-Storch aircraft.

                             [Signed] von dem BACH  27.11.45


Before me, Walter H. Rapp, Captain, Cavalry, ASN 0-454231,
an officer duly qualified to take oaths, appeared SS-
Obergruppenfuehrer und General der Polizei Erich von dem
Bach-Zelewski, to me known, who in my presence signed the
foregoing statement consisting of seven pages in the German
language, and swore that the same was true on the 27th day
of November 1945.

                                     [Signed] Walter H. Rapp
                                              WALTER H. RAPP
                                                Captain, CAV