“Out-of-school education was my responsibility” [70 Years After Nuremberg]

Nuremberg Palace

The defense of Baron von Schirach began on May 23, 1946. Baldur von Schirach was indicted on charges of Crimes against Peace, War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity for his activities associated with the policies of the Nazi  government, specifically with the Nazi Youth Movement (appointed head of the Hitler Youth in 1933) and his participation in the persecution of Jews and Christians as Governor of Vienna appointed 1940).   Schirach was responsible for sending 65,000 Viennese Jews to German concentration camps. [1]

His defense before the Tribunal would highlight his “moderate” position due to his statements on the treatment of the eastern European peoples and criticism of the living conditions of Jews in the camps.  However, his September 1942 speech clearly outlined his earlier opinion that their deportation was a “contribution to European culture.”[2]

The defense began with von Schirach’s positions and educational philosophy and it is this concerning this charge that Tom Dodd began his cross examination the following day.

From the Tribunal transcript [http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/05-23-46.asp, accessed 5/25/2016]:

DR. SAUTER: What offices did you fill in that connection, that is, offices in the Party and in the Government-please state also how long you held these various offices?

VON SCHIRACH: Party positions were the office of Reich Youth Leader of the NSDAP, and that of Reich Leader for Youth Education. Government positions: The Youth Leader of the German Reich, at first subordinate to the Minister of the Interior as I have described or under the Minister for Education, and then in an independent position.

Individual reposibility of the Defendant Baldur von Schirach

DR. SAUTER: Witness, you were removed from some of these offices in 1940. What positions in Youth Leadership did you lose in 1940, and what positions did you still continue to fill to the end?

VON SCHIRACH: In 1940 I left the position as the leader of Youth, that is, I left the office of the Reich Youth Leadership of the NSDAP, but I retained the office of Reichsleiter for Youth Education and with that the entire responsibility for German youth. I received as an additional new post that of Gauleiter of Vienna, which was combined with the governmental post of Reichsstatthalter of Vienna and also that of Gauleiter of Vienna, which was combined with the governmental post of Reichsstatthalter of Vienna and also that of Reich Defense Commissioner for Wehrkreis XVII…..

VON SCHIRACH: I do not want to limit this affidavit in any way. Although during the last years of his life Hitler gave orders to the Youth of which I do not know and also my successor, Axmann, particularly in 1944, gave orders with which I am not acquainted since the relationship between us had been broken off due to the events of the war, I stand by the statement that I have made in the expectation that the Tribunal will consider me the only person responsible in Youth Leadership and that no other Youth Leader will be summoned before a court for actions for which I have assumed responsibility.

DR. SAUTER: Witness, I would now be interested in knowing whether possibly principles and directives which you received from Hitler or from any Party office or from any governmental quarter were the formula for your youth education; or whether, for your youth education, the principles were derived from the experiences which you had during your own youth and among the youth leaders of that time.

VON SCHIRACH: The latter is correct. Of course, education of the Hitler Youth was an education on the basis of the National Socialist idea. But the specifically educational ideas did not originate with Hitler, they also did not originate with other leaders in the Party; they had their origin in youth itself, they originated with me, and they originated with my assistants. [http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/05-23-46.asp, accessed 5/25/2016]

The cross-examination of the witness began on the afternoon of May 24.

From the transcript [http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/05-24-46.asp, accessed 5/25/2016]:

MR. DODD: Mr. Witness, we understood you this morning to make a statement in the nature of a confession with respect to, at least, the persecution of the Jews; and while that part of it that you gave was perhaps bravely enough said, I think there is much of it that you neglected to say, perhaps through oversight.  Now, I wish you would tell the Tribunal whether or not it is a fact that your responsibility for young people in Germany under the National Socialists was fundamentally concerned with making really good National Socialists out of them, in the sense of making them fanatical political followers.

Prosecution notes concerning von Schirach

VON SCHIRACH: I considered it my task as educator to bring up the young people to be good citizens of the National Socialist State.

MR. DODD: And ardent followers and believers in Hitler and his political policies?

VON SCHIRACH: I believe I already said this morning that I educated our youth to follow Hitler. I do not deny that.

MR. DODD: All right. And while you said to us that you did not have the first responsibility for the educational system, I am sure you would not deny that for all of the other activities with which young people may be concerned you did have first responsibility?

VON SCHIRACH: Out-of-school education was my responsibility.

Tom Dodd’s cross-examination of von Schirach is available online.

–Owen Doremus and Betsy Pittman

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baldur_von_Schirach, accessed 5/25/2016.

[2] Wistrich, Robert S. Who’s Who in Nazi Germany. London : Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1982, p. 121.
[Owen Doremus, a junior at Edwin O. Smith High School, is supporting this blog series with research and writing as part of an independent study.]

The majority of the letters from Tom Dodd to his wife Grace have been published and can be found in Letters from Nuremberg, My father’s narrative of a quest for justice. Senator Christopher J. Dodd with Lary Bloom. New York: Crown Publishing, 2007.

Images available in Thomas J. Dodd Papers.

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