germanvictims… “You are mistaken. I knew as early as March 1939 that Roosevelt had determined to bring about a world war, and I knew that the British were cooperating in this, and that Churchill was involved. God knows that I certainly did not want a world war…
An Interview With General Otto Ernst Remer
Conducted by Stephanie Schoeman – ca. 1987
Translated by Mark Weber
Q: General Remer, what was your role in the Second World War?
A: … I was a front-line commander, and I led combat units throughout the war years. The only exceptions were a three-month period in Berlin as commander of the Berlin guard regiment and another three months as commander of the bodyguard brigade of Hitler’s headquarters.
Eventually I became a general and division commander. By personal order of Hitler, my division was sent into combat on the Eastern front only in the most critical areas, as a kind of fire brigade. And I remained a combat commander until the final day of the war.
Q: What is your view of the Polish Corridor crisis and the outbreak of the war in 1939?
A: In September 1944, when I was commander of the guard unit at Hitler’s headquarters, I spoke with Hitler during a walk together outside. I asked him: “My Fuhrer, may I speak frankly with you for a moment?” “Of course,” he replied. I then asked him: “Why did you really attack Poland? Couldn’t you have been more patient?”
Hitler had only asked for an extra-territorial highway and rail line across Polish territory, and he wanted the return of Danzig to the Reich. These were really very modest demands. With a bit more patience, couldn’t he have obtained these, in much the same way that Austria and the Sudetenland had been united with the Reich?
And Hitler replied:
“You are mistaken. I knew as early as March 1939 that Roosevelt had determined to bring about a world war, and I knew that the British were cooperating in this, and that Churchill was involved. God knows that I certainly did not want a world war. That’s why I sought to solve the Polish problem in my own way with a kind of punishment expedition, without a declaration of war. After all, there had been thousands of murders of ethnic Germans and 1.2 million ethnic German refugees. What should I have done? I had to act. And for that reason, four weeks after this campaign, I made the most generous offer of peace that any victorious leader could ever have made. Unfortunately, it wasn’t successful.
And then he said: “If I had not acted as I did with regard to the Polish question, to prevent a second world war, by the end of 1942 at the latest we would have experienced what we are now experiencing in 1944.” That’s what he said.
Q: Was Hitler too soft on England?
A: …That was a mistake of Hitler’s. Hitler always pursued policies based on ideology. One result was the alliance with Fascist Italy, which ended in the betrayal by Italy. And Hitler always believed in the Nordic-Germanic race and in the Nordic people, which included the English. That’s why he made repeated offers of peace to Britain, which were always brusquely rejected. That’s an important reason why we never occupied Britain, which would have eliminated Britain from the war. But for. ideological reasons, Hitler did not do that, which was certainly a mistake. But, after all, who does not make mistakes?
Hitler once said to me: “Every day that this war continues keeps me from doing the work that I am still destined to accomplish for the welfare of the German people.”
He was referring to his domestic policies and programs. Hitler was terribly unhappy that he couldn’t accomplish these things, but instead had to devote himself to the war. The period of peace lasted only six years, but what a great transformation was achieved during that short time!
Q: What about Dunkirk?
A: Treasonous officers, who knew about the German plan to invade Britain, which was known as operation “Sea Lion,” reported to Hitler that a sea invasion of England was not militarily possible. They made this report, even though they knew it was not true, in order to prevent the invasion for political reasons. All this came out after the war. [Fabian von] Schlabrendorff testified to this effect at my trial.
Q: Did you agree with Hitler’s policies, particularly his policy toward Russia?
A: Regarding the military campaign against the Soviet Union:
First of all, it should be clearly understood that at the time of the Balkans campaign in Yugoslavia and Greece in early 1941, when we had ten divisions on the entire length of the Soviet border, the Russians had stationed 247 major military formations on our border. After the conclusion of the Balkans campaign, we then quickly placed at most 170 major military units on the border with the Soviet Union. The Russians had readied themselves for an attack.
The initial successes of our forces against the Soviets were due to the fact that the Russians were not stationed in defense positions, but were instead positioned right at the front for attack, which made it possible for us to quickly encircle large Soviet forces. Thus, in the first weeks of the war, we were able to capture more than three million prisoners of war as well as enormous quantities of war equipment, all of which was on the frontier, positioned for attack.
That’s the truth of the matter, which can be proven. I recently spoke with a Mr. Pemsel, who was a long-range aerial reconnaissance pilot. In the period before the beginning of the Soviet campaign, he flew as far as the Don River and observed and reported on this enormous concentration of Soviet forces on the border.
I also know from my own experience in the Russian campaign, and with the Russian prisoners, about the preparations by the Soviets for an imminent attack against Europe. The Russians were hoping that we would move against Britain so that they could then take advantage of the situation to overrun Europe.
Q: Do you believe war with the Soviet Union was inevitable following Hitler and Molotov’s meeting in November 1940?
A: Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov demanded the Dardanelles. That is, we were supposed to approve the turning over of foreign territory which belonged to the Turks. Molotov thus made provocative demands which simply could not be met. Hitler was also conscious of the Soviet takeover of territory in Romania, at a time of supposed peace. Hitler also knew that the anti-German uprising in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, was organized by the Soviets. It was the Russians who wrecked the relationship between Germany and the Soviet Union.
And after he received more and more reports of Soviet preparations for an attack against Germany and Europe, Hitler reacted. I am thus absolutely certain that Hitler did not originally plan to attack the Soviet Union. Instead, he acted as the changing situation demanded.
Q: Is it true that the Germans referred to the Russians as “subhumans”?
A: Nonsense! The Russians are human beings just like everyone else.
Your question, whether we called the Russians “subhumans,” is nonsense. We had a first-class relationship with the Russian people. The only exception, which was a problem we dealt with, was with the Soviet Commissars, who were all Jews. These people stood behind the lines with machine guns, pushing the Russian soldiers into battle. And anyway, we made quick work of them. That was according to order. This was during a war for basic existence, an ideological war, when such a policy is simply taken for granted.
There was sometimes talk about the so-called Asian hordes, and ordinary soldiers sometimes spoke about subhumans, but such language was never officially used.
Q: Wouldn’t the Russians have fought with the Germans if they had not been so badly treated?
A: The Russians, that is, the Ukrainians and the people from the Caucasus, volunteered to fight, but we were not in a position to take advantage of this. We didn’t have enough weapons. In war, there is a lot that ideally should be done, but we simply couldn’t do it.
The Arabs also wanted weapons from us so that they could liberate themselves. And the Spanish leader Franco also wanted weapons as a condition for entering the war, but we simply didn’t have enough ourselves.
The German armaments program did not really get going until after the war against the Soviets was underway. We started with 3,260 tanks. That’s all we had, but the Soviets had 10,000. At that time our monthly production was 35 tanks. Imagine that! It wasn’t until October 1944 that we reached the high point of our production of 1,000 tanks per month. So, our monthly production of tanks went from 35 in 1941 to 1,000 in late 1944. That’s quite a difference, and it’s proof that we were simply not militarily prepared for a world war.
Q: Where were you serving when the Soviet forces reached Germany?
A: I was the guard commander at the Wolfsschanze, Hitler’s headquarters in East Prussia. I was there with part of my unit. It was still being organized, and wasn’t yet ready. I participated in the counter-attack near Goldap, which was meant to throw back the Russians. However, that action lasted only eight days.
Q: Can you say something regarding Soviet atrocities against German civilians?
A: I myself saw cases involving women who had been killed, their legs spread apart and sticks thrust in, and their breasts cut off … I saw these things myself, in Pomerania.
I spoke about this on the radio, and described it Dr. Goebbels asked me to describe this in detail, and he sent a radio team to interview me for that purpose. That was in the area around Stargard, where I saw this.
Q: What of the Soviet “Asiatic” troops?
A: It was terrible. The soldiers who did those things were at the front …Asians, Mongols, and so forth.
Q: Were these atrocities part of conscious policy?
A: These things were done very consciously. They sought, in this way, to break our so-called class or elite mentality.
Q: Before you spoke of the Jewish commissars …
A: The problem was that in the Soviet army, in contrast to our army and all other armies, the Russians had political commissars who, along with the military commanders, had authority to give orders. Almost all of them were Jews.
For example, in this regard, I observed something in Tarnapol and in Zolochev, which are east of Lvov [in Ukraine], during the course of a very rapid and successful military offensive.
We had captured Zolochev and a couple of my tanks were stuck behind. The troops took a rest on the edge of the town because we didn’t yet know if there would be an enemy counterattack or if we were to continue our own attack. I wanted to call back my tanks. Anyway, in that little town I saw small children who had been thrown out of windows, and I saw women lying on the street who had been beaten to death with clubs. They [the criminals] were Jews.
I called to a [local] woman, and she came into my vehicle. And she said to me: “I’ll show you why we did this.”
We drove to the local prison. There was an area surrounded by a wall for the prisoners to walk around in. And in that area corpses were lying there this high … The blood was still flowing from the corpses.
Just two hours earlier, as the Russians were leaving the town, they had used machine guns to kill all of the local Ukrainian nationalists who were prisoners there.
In this case as well, it was the Jewish commissars who had done this. And that’s why the local Ukrainians had carried out pogroms against the Jews. And so, whenever a Ukrainian saw a Jew, he immediately killed him. But we were blamed for these deaths, even though we had no influence at all locally at that time. We weren’t able to establish order until later.
Q: Was this done on purpose to discredit the Germans?
A: No, these anti-Jewish pogroms were an expression of the outrage of the people. They hated the Jews.
In Poland as well, there were often pogroms. As you may know, in Poland.there were even pogroms against the Jews after the war. That was really something. The outrage of the people in the East against the Jews, who always portrayed themselves as decent people and good merchants, is indescribable.
We Germans did not have this hatred of Jews, of ordinary Jews. The Jews lived among us without any problem. We had the Nuremberg racial laws because we didn’t want any racial mixing. In Israel, of course, such laws are even more strict. At the time, the Zionists welcomed the [German] racial laws, because they were in keeping with their outlook. The Zionists were against racial mixing. Instead, they wanted all the Jews to migrate to Israel.
Q: What was Hitler like socially?
A: He was a perfect host. When I was at Hitler’s headquarters in the Wolfsschanze, I often observed that he would always pay special attention whenever anyone was scheduled to arrive as a guest.
And before he would meet a guest at the train station, he would always make sure that everything was just right in the headquarters.
He would check to see if the carpet did not match the silverware, or whatever, and he would drive everyone crazy making sure that everything was tastefully done in preparation for the guest. He had a real personal concern for his guests.
Hermann Geisler, Hitler’s architect, wrote a book about Hitler. [This is Ein anderer Hitler, a memoir]. It’s a fantastic book that you ought to read. He [the author] was a really great guy, and he could imitate very well, especially Robert Ley [head of the Reich Labor Serviced And Hitler knew this. Hitler would urge him to imitate Ley’s way of speaking. And he would [humorously] say: “My Führer, I can’t do that, he’ll put me in a concentration camp.” “Ah, go ahead,” Hitler would jokingly say, “I’ll get you back out again.” And that’s what Hitler was like. And he would imitate Ley. [Remer imitates the imitation of Ley.] And Hitler would laugh so hard that tears came to his eyes.
Q: What about Hitler’s love life?
A: Hitler had no time for that. He always said that he didn’t have time for a wife. And Eva Braun played her part very well. No one knew about their relationship, which was kept private. She handled herself well when there were many guests around.
I don’t think he was a great lover. I don’t think so. He had a cousin, Geli Raubal, during the period of struggle before he became Chancellor. Hitler wasn’t able to pay enough attention to her, but she loved him, and she took her own life. I think she was the only woman that Hitler really loved.
Q: Did Hitler father any children?
A: Nonsense. He didn’t want any children.
Hitler thought of himself as a representative of the nation, and he rejected anything in his personal life that was inconsistent with that image. He always thought of himself as a statesman and he accordingly made very sure that his image was completely consistent with what the people expected of him.
Q: And didn’t the people want their Führer to have children?
A: Yes, but for that he would have had to marry and become a husband. But he always said that he didn’t have time for that.
I was with Hitler when he was just moving into his new headquarters, which was protected with concrete seven meters thick. And he entered his new bedroom where there was an ordinary soldier’s bed there for him, except that it had two mattresses on it. And when he saw that, he curtly asked: Since when does a soldier sleep on two mattresses?” An adjutant present looked embarrassed, and then Hitler said: “You can take away one of them.” And that’s what Hitler was like. He did not ask for any special consideration for himself.
He paid for the entire defense perimeter around his general staff headquarters with his own money. He never received a penny of salary from the government. And until the end of the war, he paid for the defense perimeter himself, including the six kilometers of roadway, which cost a lot.
Hitler was a wealthy man, particularly from royalties from the sale of his book, Mein Kampf, which sold more than a hundred million copies. But he never took a penny of government money.
Q: General Remer, you have called for German-Soviet cooperation. Can you tell us about that?
A: We Germans must leave the NATO alliance. We must be militarily independent. We must create a nuclear-free zone. We must come to an understanding with the Russians. That is, we must obtain reasonable borders from the Russians. They are the only ones that can do that. The Americans don’t have any influence at all in that regard.
In return, we will guarantee to buy [Russian] raw materials, and cooperate on hundreds of projects with the Russians, and that will eliminate our unemployment. All this has nothing to do with ideology. The Russians are so economically backward that they will readily and happily agree to this, and they’ll be free of ideology.
Q: How would the French react to this?
A: France will have to work together with us. France is so much economically weaker than we are that it must trade with us in the West or not at all. The Americans are our mortal competitors.
Q: Might not a German-Soviet alliance lead to war?
A: No. On the contrary, we would prevent war. The Russians do not need a war. That’s why Gorbachev makes his proposals. It’s America that wants war.
Q: Wouldn’t America try to provoke hostilities?
A: If we really come to an understanding with Russia, then it’s all over for America.
Let me say frankly: the government of Adenauer [the first postwar West German chancellor] retained the entire wartime staff of Goebbels, and put them in government positions in Bonn. And as a result, the wartime anti-Communist outlook of Dr. Goebbels, which was quite proper during the war, was continued right up to the present. They were all Goebbels’ people … Who still really believes in Communism these days? We are really against Communism.
Q: What role do Jews play in the Soviet Union?
A: I can tell you that the Soviet leadership under Lenin was paid for by the Jews, who spent 220 million dollars. At that time, [German General] Ludendorff also gave Lenin money in order to end the war, and that was understandable.
Among the Soviet leaders at that time, 97 percent were Jews. And then Stalin came to power, and politicians who pursued a [non-ideological] policy in the interests of Russia, including the “Great Patriotic War” [that is, the Second World War], which he won.
Stalin not only had millions killed who were on the periphery of power, such as peasants, but he also had 1.6 million of Lenin’s followers, including Trotsky, systematically shot as well. And as a result, Russia today is regarded as the only country that is anti-Jewish or free of Zionist influence. We Germans ought to be glad for the rivalry between Washington and Moscow. We have to take advantage of these differences.
Q: What sort of Jewish influence was there in the U.S.S.R. during the Second World War?
A: After the war, many Jews were deported to the Ural area, and the Polish Jews fled. The Russians needed soldiers, and some of the Jews were used as partisans. And the Russians saw that the people didn’t want them. They weren’t happy with them, and they deported them. During the war we estimated that there were perhaps 1.8 million, or perhaps 2 million, I don’t know for sure, Jews in the Soviet Union. There weren’t that many.
Q: And Jewish influence in the Soviet Union today?
A: There are certainly [still] a few, but their influence has decreased drastically. In the Supreme Soviet today less than four percent are Jews, as opposed to 97 per cent [in Lenin’s time]. So you can see how things have changed.
Q: What of Jews in Soviet professional life?
A: Yes, but they don’t matter. They don’t have any political influence.
Q: Have you spoken with the Russians?
A: Yes, I’ve spoken with the Soviet ambassador Valentyn Falin. I meet with him when I visit Bonn, or with the press secretary in Cologne. They welcome me, and we speak together as freely as you and I do here. It’s completely normal for someone in political life to speak freely with his adversaries.
Q: Do you think the Russians will really cooperate?
A: For the time being, we don’t count. We are not a political force. We can only act as a political factor when we are a political power.
I’ve written a pamphlet which I sent to Moscow and which I discussed with the Soviet embassy. They were in agreement and said that if all Germans thought like I do, political relations would be a lot simpler. However, [they said] we have to deal with Bonn, and because Bonn is in the NATO alliance, Bonn is our adversary. So that’s the situation.
Q: Why is the publication of your organization called The Bismarck German?
A: That’s because Bismarck pursued a policy oriented toward the East, and as a result of his “Reinsurrance Treaty”  with Russia, we had 44 years of peace.
From The Journal of Historical Review, Spring 1990 (Vol. 10, No. 1), pages 108-117.
About the Author
Otto Ernst Remer (1912-1997) was a German soldier during the Second World War. In July 1944 he played a key role in putting down the conspiracy to murder Hitler and seize control of the German government. After the war Remer was an influential publicist and author, and for a time was active in German political life. He addressed the Eighth (1987) Conference of the Institute for Historical Review, where he spoke on “My Role in Berlin on July 20, 1944.”
My Role in Berlin on July 20, 1944
By Otto Ernst Remer – ca. 1987
My assignment to the guard regiment “Grossdeutschland” in Berlin was actually a form of rest and recreation — my first leave from the front — after my many wounds and in recognition of my combat decorations, including the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves and the Close Combat Badge in Silver (48 days of close combat). Later I would be wounded again. In all I was to command the guard regiment for only four months, since I felt obligated to be back with my comrades at the front.
My mission as commander of the guard regiment “Grossdeutschland,” which I took over at the end of May 1944, was, aside from purely ceremonial duties, to safeguard the Reich government and the Reich capital. Since there were more than a million foreign workers in Berlin and its immediate vicinity, the possibility of internal unrest had to be taken into account. Around noon on July 20, 1944, First Lieutenant Dr. Hans Hagen, who had been severely wounded at the front, concluded his lecture on cultural history before the officers and NCOs of the regiment. He was attached to my regiment only administratively and in no way as a National Socialist political officer, as has often been reported. I was the regiment’s sole leader, politically as well as militarily.
I had invited Hagen to lunch afterward in my quarters at the Rathenow barracks, together with my adjutant, First Lieutenant Siebert. Siebert, who had lost an eye in combat, was a pastor of the Confessional Church [a branch of the German Protestant Church that opposed Hitler]. He attended services every Sunday at the Garrison Church, with my express permission, although I myself had left the church. Among us personal freedom was the rule. Nor did it bother me that, after having been an SA stormtrooper and a member of the party during the years of struggle before Hitler came to power, he had resigned from both organizations to protest defamatory remarks by his local party leader concerning the ancestry of Jesus Christ. Lt. Siebert suffered no adverse consequences due to his resignation.
In those days that sort of thing was entirely possible, with no repercussions. Indeed, before I chose Siebert, due to his character, as my adjutant, he confided to me that while still a stormtrooper he had broken into a Gestapo office in order to obtain documents incriminating colleagues in the Confessional Church. For me Siebert’s frank admissions were just a further evidence of the personal élan that recommended him as a trustworthy adjutant That’s the way it was in the Third Reich, so widely demonized nowadays. Neither in my unit nor in the officer corps as a whole did there prevail the stubborn narrowmindedness, not to mention the sort of terror against dissenting opinions, that is carried on against nationalists in Germany today by the “Office for Constitutional Protection.” Nor have I ever heard that Pastor Siebert considered himself to be a “resistance fighter” or that he later pretended to have been one.
During the early afternoon of July 20, 1944, my regiment, like all units of the Replacement Army, was alerted by the codeword “Valkyrie.” “Valkyrie” provided for the mobilization of the Replacement Army in case of internal unrest. While my regiment automatically implemented the prescribed measures, I was summoned from the swimming pool. In compliance with my orders I drove immediately to my designated post, the Berlin City Command Center, directly across from the “Eternal Watch” honor guard. While the other unit commanders waited in the anteroom, I alone was admitted to the city commander, Major General von Hase, and given the following briefing on the situation and my assignment:
The Führer has had a fatal accident! Civil disorder has broken out. The Army has assumed executive authority! The guard regiment is ordered to concentrate a strong force, reinforced for counterattack, to seal off the government quarter so that nobody, not even a general or a government minister, can enter or leave! To support you in sealing off the streets and subways, I’m seconding Lieutenant Colonel Wolters to your command!
As these orders were being issued, I was struck by the circumstance that a younger officer of the general staff, Major Hayessen, assisted, while the former and senior general staff officer, whom I knew personally, stood about, idle and noticeably nervous.
I was naturally very shocked by the general’s words, since I felt that with Hitler’s death the possibility of a favorable turn in the war had almost disappeared. Immediately I asked:
Is the Führer really dead? Was it an accident or has he been assassinated? Where have civil disturbances occurred? I saw nothing unusual while driving here through Berlin. Why is executive authority passing to the Army and not to the Wehrmacht [Armed Forces]? Who is the Führer’s successor? According to Hitler’s testament, Hermann Goering is automatically his successor. Has he issued any orders or proclamations?
Since I received neither detailed information nor clear answers to my questions, the situation became even murkier, and I felt a certain sense of mistrust even from the beginning. When I tried to get a brief glimpse of the papers which lay before me on the table, above all to see who had signed the orders, Major Hayessen ostentatiously gathered them up and put them in a folder. As I returned to my regiment I kept thinking: “Hitler’s dead. Now confusion reigns, and various people will probably try to seize power.” I contemplated the future struggles for succession.
I decided that, in any case, I would not allow myself to be misused in my capacity as commander of the only elite unit on active duty in Berlin. My regiment was made up entirely of picked, proven combat soldiers with high decorations for bravery. Every officer sported the Knights Cross. I was also mindful of the events of 1918, after which the Berlin guard units had been reproached for their hesitancy, which contributed to the success of the revolution. I had no desire to expose myself to a similar reproach before History.
When I returned to my troops, I gathered my officers and informed them of the situation and our orders. The alleged death of Adolf Hitler sent officers and men into shock. Never in my life, even at Germany’s final defeat, have I witnessed such despondency. Despite the numerous stories which flourish today, that is the absolute truth: I vouch for it.
I made no secret to my officers that there was a lot that was still unclear, indeed mysterious to me, and that I would in no way allow myself or my unit to be exploited. I expressly demanded unconditional confidence and absolute obedience, just as at the front, from every one of my officers. This somewhat unusual demand was due to a telephone call I received during the briefing from a general I didn’t recognize — it was probably Major General Friedrich Olbricht — at the High Command of the Replacement Army, requisitioning a company from my unit for a special assignment. This demand I explicitly rejected, pointing out that I had been entrusted with a clearly defined mission and that dispersing my forces didn’t seem advisable.
After the briefing I received two reports which further disturbed me. The first was from First Lieutenant Dr. Hagen, a member of my staff, who informed me that while on the way to the barracks he had seen Field Marshal Brauchitsch, in full uniform, driving his car on the streets of Berlin. This was strange, for Brauchitsch was retired. Given the circumstances, his appearance in uniform seemed remarkable. It later turned out that the officer seen by Dr. Hagen could not have been Brauchitsch. Probably it was one of the conspirators.
The second disconcerting report was from Lt. Colonel Wolters, who had been attached to my regiment as a liaison officer by the Command Center. He told me that I musn’t believe he was there to keep tabs on me as an informer. Such a remark was completely uncalled for. Not only was it incongruous and annoying, it awoke precisely the suspicion it was designed to allay: somebody had something up his sleeve. As it turned out, the briefing I gave my officers caused the colonel misgivings. In order to avoid responsibility, he simply went home — an unthinkable course of action for an officer on active duty.
I had my doubts that Major General von Hase’s description of the situation matched the facts. I also doubted another version of the story, according to which Hitler had been murdered by the SS. Those doubts convinced me that I had to determine the facts for myself. I decided to telephone every command post I could. That was just basic reconnaissance, a matter of course for every commander before committing his troops. Needless to say, this type of thinking and acting is quite at odds with the notorious corpse-like obedience that denigrators of the Third Reich’s army attribute to it.
Among other things I decided to send First Lt. Dr. Hagen, who had eagerly volunteered, to the Reich Defense Commissioner for Berlin, Dr. Joseph Goebbels. Dr. Hagen had earlier worked under Dr. Goebbels in the Propaganda Ministry, and I believed that by dispatching him to Dr. Goebbels I would be informed not only about the military but also the political situation. Dr. Goebbels was not only Reich Propaganda Minister. He was also Gauleiter and Defense Commissioner for Berlin. As a consequence of those two latter positions, he was patron of the “Grossssdeutschland” Division, which was made up of soldiers from all the provinces of the Reich.
About an hour and a half after the “Valkyrie” order was given, my regiment, by then combat-ready, moved into the areas to be sealed off in accordance with its orders. The normal guard units, such as those at the War Memorial and the Bendlerblock, the headquarters of the Commander of the Replacement Army and of the Defense Production Office, remained at their posts. At about 4:15 p.m. Lt. Arends, the duty officer in the Bendlerblock, reported to me that he had been ordered to seal off all entrances to the building. A Colonel Mertz von Quirnheim, whom Lt. Arends didn’t know, had given him this assignment. Lt. Arends had further been instructed by General Olbricht to open fire on any SS units that might approach.
After personally inspecting my troops in their new positions, at about 5:00 p.m. I returned once more to the City Commander, General von Hase, to inform him that I had carried out his orders. At that time I was asked to establish my command post there in the City Command Center, opposite the War Memorial. I had already set up a message center, commanded by Lt. Gees, in the Rathenow Barracks, with which I maintained telephone contact. Then von Hase gave me an additional assignment: to very tightly seal off a block of buildings north of the Anhalt Rail Station (he showed me where on the map).
As I began carrying out these orders, I ascertained that the designated block housed the Main Office of Reich Security. The unclearness, not to mention the deception, of this misleading order, only strengthened my suspicions. Why wasn’t I given explicit orders to place the Main Office of Reich Security under guard? It goes without saying that I would have carried out even that order.
Thus, on my third visit to General von Hase, I asked him directly “Herr General, why am I receiving orders formulated so obscurely? Why wasn’t I simply told to pay special attention to the Main Office of Reich Security?” Von Hase was quite nervous and excited. He didn’t even respond to my question. If one wonders today how a young officer like me could allow himself such liberties with a general, it should be borne in mind that we young commanders saw ourselves as battle-hardened, proven combat leaders, and we had scant regard for the chairborne warriors of the home front.
In this connection I should like to point out something based on my long experience at the front. Just as in the First World War, it was the veteran commanders of the shock companies who epitomized the front experience, so also in the Second World War it was the young commanders, come of age on the front, who had forged with their troops a sworn fellowship of combat. These men not only could fight, they wanted to fight, particularly since they believed in Germany’s victory.
While in General von Hase’s office I overheard from a conversation between the General and his First General Staff Officer that Goebbels was now to be arrested, and that this assignment was to be mine. Since I found this an unpleasant duty in light of my attempt to contact Goebbels, I jumped in and told General von Hase:
Herr General, I consider myself unsuited for this assignment As you know, I’ve been with the “Grossssdeutschland” Division, I’ve worn its stripe for years. This mission would be very unchivalrous for me, for as you are doubtless aware, Dr. Goebbels, in his capacity as Gauleiter of Berlin, is at the same time the patron of the “Grossdeutschland.” Only two weeks ago I paid Goebbels my first call as new commander of the guard regiment. On these grounds I consider it inappropriate that I, in particular, be ordered to arrest my patron.
Possibly von Hase sympathized with my arguments. For whatever reason, he now ordered the military police to take Reich Minister Dr. Goebbels into custody.
Around 5:30 p.m. Lt. Dr. Hagen finally met with Dr. Goebbels in his private residence, at 20 Hermann-Goering-Strasse beside the Brandenburg Gate, after having tried in vain to see him at the Propaganda Ministry. The Reich Minister had no idea of the danger he was in. It was only after Hagen, in order to emphasize how serious the situation was, pointed out vehicles from the guard regiment as they drove by, that Goebbels took fright. He cried, “This is impossible! What shall we do?” To that Hagen suggested, “The best thing would be for you to summon my commander here.” Goebbels asked curtly: “Can your commander be trusted?” “I’d lay down my life for him!” replied Hagen.
As I was going down the corridor just after leaving the City Commander’s office, I finally found my bearings as a result of Hagen’s contacting Goebbels.
Hagen had driven back to the barracks, gave Gees his instructions, and then drove to my new command post at the Command Center, which was heavily guarded. To avoid any hindrance, he did not enter the building, but informed my adjutant, Lt. Siebert, and my orderly, Lt. Buck, of the situation, asking them to inform me without delay. They reported as follows:
There’s a completely new situation! This is probably a military putsch! Nothing further is known! The Reich Defense Commissioner requests that you come to him as quickly as possible! If you’re not there within twenty minutes, he will assume that you are being forcibly restrained. In that case he will be compelled to alert the Waffen-SS. To avoid civil war, he has until then ordered the Leibstandarte [Hitler’s personal bodyguard, the 1st Division of the Waffen-SS] to stay where it is.
When I learned these things from my adjutant, I decided to see General von Hase one more time. That I still trusted the Major General, even then, is shown by my having Lt. Buck repeat to me once again, in the presence of von Hase, the message from Goebbels. I didn’t want to seem an intriguer; as a veteran combat officer it was my practice to lay all my cards on the table. Von Hase bluntly rejected my request to comply with the Reich Defense Commissioner’s summons so that I might clarify the situation in the interest of all concerned.
After leaving the Command Center without interference, I deliberated, together with my adjutant, Lt. Siebert — today a pastor in Nuremberg — about what I should do. My key role in this difficult and obscure situation, which I had not caused, was increasingly clear to me. By now I felt that my head was on the line too. After evaluating the situation as carefully as I could at that time, I decided that in spite of von Hase’s order to the contrary I would go to Goebbels. My reasons were as follows:
First, under no circumstances did I want to be deprived of my freedom of action, as often happened at the front. Often there was a very thin line between being awarded a high decoration, or being sentenced to death by a court martial.
Second, I felt myself still bound by my oath. The report of the Führer’s death was still at least doubtful. Thus, I had to act in keeping with the oath I swore on the flag.
Third, at the front I had many times made responsible decisions on my own, decisions the correctness of which were confirmed by my being awarded high decorations. Many a situation can only be mastered by decisive action. I felt as one with my comrades at the front, who wouldn’t understand if I were to stand idly by out of a lack of civic courage. I could not allow myself the responsibility of letting things come to a fatal head. I thought of 1918.
Fourth, I was under compulsion, since Goebbels had plans to alert the Waffen-SS, raising the possibility that a fraternal war between two forces, each proven in combat, might break out. As the commander of the only elite unit in Berlin on active duty I was responsible for the lives of the men entrusted to me. To employ them in a totally confused affair was not my duty.
Nevertheless, I didn’t entirely trust Goebbels either, for I still assumed that Hitler was dead, and believed that a struggle for succession was possible. I was far from wanting to let myself and my unit be thrust into a latterday Diadochian struggle. Inasmuch as Goebbels’ role remained unclear, I took along Lt. Buck and a platoon of soldiers. Their orders were to come and get me if I didn’t emerge from Goebbels’ residence in 15 minutes.
Then, after releasing the safety catch of my pistol, I entered the Reich Minister’s office, where I had been eagerly awaited, and asked Goebbels to orient me. With that Goebbels asked me to tell him everything I knew. I did so, although I didn’t reveal that von Hase intended to arrest him, since I was still unclear as to Goebbels’ role in all this. When he asked me what I intended to do, I told him that I would stick to my military orders and that I was determined to carry them out. Even if the Führer were no longer alive, I felt bound by my oath and could only act in accord with my conscience as an officer. At that Goebbels looked at me in amazement and cried: “What are you talking about? The Führer is alive! I’ve spoken with him by telephone. The assassination failed! You’ve been tricked.”
This information came as a complete surprise. When I heard that the Führer was still alive, I was greatly relieved. But I was still suspicious. Therefore I asked Goebbels to assure me, on his word of honor, that what he said was true and and that he stood unconditionally behind the Führer. Goebbels hesitated at first, because he didn’t understand the reason for my request. It was only after I repeated that as an officer I needed his word of honor in order to see my way clear that he obliged.
My wish to telephone the Führer’s headquarters coincided with his. Within seconds I was connected to the Wolf’s Lair at Rastenburg in East Prussia. To my great surprise Hitler himself came on the line. Geobbels quickly explained the situation to the Führer and then handed me the receiver.
Adolf Hitler said to me, approximately, the following: “Major Remer, can you hear me? Do you recognize my voice? Do you understand me?” I replied affirmatively, but I was nevertheless uncertain. It flashed through my mind that someone could possibly be imitating the Führer’s voice. To be sure I had become personally acquainted with the Führer’s voice during the previous year, when, after he had awarded me the Oak Leaf to the Knight’s Cross, I had been able to speak with him alone and completely frankly for an hour about the cares and miseries of the front. It was only as he continued speaking over the telephone that I became convinced that I was indeed speaking with Hitler. He went on:
As you can tell I’m alive. The assassination has failed. Providence didn’t intend it. A small clique of ambitious, disloyal, and traitorous officers wanted to kill me. Now we’ve got these saboteurs of the front. We’ll make short work of this treacherous plague, by brute force if necessary.
From this moment on, Major Remer, I am giving you complete authority in Berlin. You are responsible to me personally and exclusively for the immediate restoration of peace and security in the Reich capital. You will remain under my personal command for this purpose until Reichsführer Himmler arrives there and relieves you of responsibility.
The Führer’s words were very calm, determined, and convincing. I could breathe a sigh of relief, for the conversation had removed all my doubts. The soldier’s oath which I had sworn to the Führer was still binding, and was the guiding principle of my actions. Now my only concern was to eliminate misunderstandings and to avoid unnecessary bloodshed by acting quickly and decisively.
Goebbels asked me to inform him of the content of my conversation with Hitler, and asked me what I intended to do next. He placed the downstairs rooms of his house at my disposal, and I set up a new command post there. By this time it was 6:30 p.m. About 15 minutes later, the first report of the bomb attack in the Führer’s headquarters was broadcast over the Greater German Radio Network.
Due to my visit to the Berlin City Command Center I had a rough idea, for the most part, of the dispositions of the units advancing on Berlin. To let their commanders know the real situation, I dispatched staff officers in all directions to bring the word. Success was total. The question “The Führer — with him or against him?” worked miracles. I would like to state unequivocally that every one of these commanding officers, who like me were outraged at what had happened, subordinated themselves unconditionally to my command, although they all outranked me. Thus, they demonstrated that their soldier’s oaths were binding for them as well. Difficulties, temporary in nature, arose here and there, where personal briefings were not immediately possible.
Due to the prevailing uncertainty and because of misunderstanding — some thought that the guard regiments sealing off its designated area meant that it had mutinied — on two occasions my regiment came within a hair’s breadth of being fired on by other units. At the Fehrbelliner Platz an armored brigade had assembled at the order of the conspirators, but an order radioed by Lt. General Guderian removed it from the conspirators’ control. Thereafter this unit undertook reconnaissance and mistakenly concluded that the guard regiment “Grossdeutschland” was on the side of the conspirators and had apprehended Reich Minister Goebbels. Several of the brigade’s tanks advanced tentatively, and bloodshed would have been a near thing had I not intervened personally to clear up the confusion.
The same thing happened in front of the Bendlerblock, the headquarters of the Commander of the Replacement Army, when a panzergrenadier company tried to take over from my guard, which had been authorized by the Führer. The energetic intervention of officers from my regiment made possible a clarification at the last moment and prevented German soldiers from firing on each other. Here too the question “Hitler — with him or against him?” proved decisive. I had sent one of my company commanders, Captain Schlee, to the Bendlerblock in order to clear things up. At this point I had no idea that the leadership of the conspiracy had its Headquarters there. Schlee had orders to withdraw our guards, because I wanted, as much as possible, to avoid bloodshed. When he arrived he was ordered to see General Olbricht. He took the precaution of telling the guard to bring him out by force in the event he didn’t return promptly. In fact he was placed under arrest in the general’s waiting room by Colonel Mertz von Quirnheim, who told him to stay there. When Mertz went into Olbricht’s office, however, Schlee simply walked away.
When he returned to our guard, Lt. Arends informed him of a strange occurrence. He’d heard shouts coming from an upper story of the building and just then a typewriter and a telephone came flying through the window and into the courtyard. Schlee did an about-face and led a patrol back up to find out what was going on. He quickly identified the room from which the noise was coming; it was locked, but not under guard, and the key was still in the lock. Inside was General von Kortzfleisch, commanding general of the Berlin Military District. It was he who had thrown the objects out the window. The general had been summoned to the Bendlerblock to receive his orders. On his arrival, he steadfastly refused to cooperate with the conspirators. He was arrested and locked in, but left unguarded. Now that he was free, he gave us our first information regarding the leadership of the conspiracy.
At 7:30 p.m. our guards were relieved, in keeping with orders. Olbricht had to replace our guard detail with his own officers. The commander of the new guard was Lt. Colonel Fritz von der Lancken. As he was moving out Schlee learned from a captain in the communications center in the Benderblock that I had been ordered by the Führer to put down the putsch. They had been able to overhear my conversation with the Führer, and recognized that the telexes they were to send out were the conspirators’ orders. Thus the men in the communications center deliberately delayed sending the messages, or in some cases didn’t dispatch them at all.
Truly a masterfully prepared plan: the conspirators had no accomplices! Furthermore, telexes and telephone messages continued to come in from the Führer Headquarters, making the actual state of affairs quite clear.
Countless orders were given that late afternoon of July 20th. Among other measures I moved the replacement brigade of the “Grossdeutschland” from Cottbus to the outskirts of Berlin as a combat reserve. The brigade, too, had been given different orders earlier by the conspirators. Its tried and true commander, Colonel Schulte-Neuhaus, who had lost an arm in combat and whom I knew from the front, reported to my command post. I introduced him to Goebbels. Meanwhile I concentrated my own troops more tightly around the Reich Chancellory complex, and formed a strong combat reserve in the garden of Goebbels’ official residence. Goebbels asked me to address the troops assembled there, which I did. Their outrage at the traitorous goings-on was so great that they would have torn every single conspirator to pieces, had they been there.
Then I sealed off the City Command Center, for I’d gotten the impression that there was a number of questionable characters there. I also learned that after my refusal to arrest Goebbels, the military police had been ordered to do so. I waited in vain for them to appear. Later I heard that not a single unit was ready to arrest Dr. Goebbels, so that it was left to von Hase himself. At this point the City Commander was at the headquarters of the deputy commander, to which he had driven in order to work out further measures with the general who had been installed there by the conspirators. They had discussed things for two hours without coming to a decision, which was typical behavior for these combat-shy conspirators.
After General von Hase’s return to the City Command Center was reported to me, I asked him over the telephone to come by my command post at Goebbels’ residence in order to clarify the situation. At first he refused my invitation, and demanded that, since I was his subordinate, I should report to him at the Command Center. I informed him that I had been ordered personally by the Führer as his immediate subordinate, to restore peace and order, that von Hase was therefore under my orders, and that I would come and get him if he didn’t appear of his own free will. Only then did the general arrive. At this point I was still under the impression that von Hase, who had often been my guest at the officers’ club, who frequently expressed his solidarity with the soldiers at the front, and who never omitted a “Sieg Heil!” to his beloved Führer from any speech, had been deceived, just as I had been, and was unaware of the facts. Therefore I apologized for my unusual behavior. On his arrival von Hase was affability personified; he even praised me for my independence and decisiveness, and for seeking out Goebbels, by which I had averted a good deal of mischief.
Even with Goebbels von Hase played the innocent, and acted as if he had no inkling of any conspiracy. He was asked to stand by for further information, and a room was placed at his disposal. As von Hase left Goebbels’ office, there was an embarrassing incident, which made me, as a German officer, blush for shame. In these very tense circumstances, von Hase stated that he had been busy the whole day and hadn’t had a thing to eat. Goebbels immediately offered to have a sandwich prepared and asked him if he would like a glass of Mosel or Rhine wine as well. As soon as von Hase had left the office, Goebbels sneered:
“My name is Hare [Hase], I know nothing.” That’s the stuff our revolutionary putsch generals are made of. With the irons still in the fire they want to be wined and dined, and call their mommies on the telephone. In their place I’d see my tongue ripped out before I’d make such contemptible requests.
Two events illustrate how little thought and planning went into the putsch. My conversations and orders were routed through the same communications center in the Bendlerblock, headquarters of the conspiracy, from which the plotters’ orders were being disseminated in all directions. The communications officers could have delayed my orders or not transmitted them at all, or they could have interrupted my telephone calls, none of which they did. I even received a message from the Reich Broadcasting Service, asking what was going on. As a result, I was able to give the order that under no circumstances was any unscheduled transmission to be made. As a result, this important communications medium was also denied to the plotters. What transpired at the Broadcasting Center on the Masurenallee? Major Jacob had been ordered to occupy the Broadcasting Center. Astonishingly enough he had been ordered neither to broadcast any announcements nor to shut down the station. He attempted to telephone the conspirators to report his occupation of the radio station and to request additional orders. He had no luck, however. He wasn’t put through, as happened at many offices. For front-line soldiers the loss of telephone connections was a frequent occurrence. In such a case the normal procedure was to establish radio communications or to send a courier. Major Jacob had a teleprinter at his disposal as well, but he used none of those methods. Stauffenberg, the General Staff officer who planned the putsch, gave no thought to furnishing motorcycle couriers. Such trivial details were studiously overlooked.
Rudolf-Günther Wagner, the man who was to broadcast the conspirators’ proclamations, said later:
I had known for years that I was to broadcast the proclamation on the day of the putsch. I awaited with feverish excitement the arrival of the lieutenant who was to bring me the proclamation. Unfortunately I waited in vain, until I heard from Goebbels’ loudspeakers that the assassination had failed.
As is now well known, General Lindemann, who had the text of the proclamation, was nowhere to be found. General Beck was not willing to step in; he ordered Hans-Bernd Gisevius, a conspirator with the Abwehr, to bring the proclamation. First, however, Gisevius had to speedily draft a new statement, while the conspirators Stauffenberg, Hoepner, Yorck, Schwerin, and Schulenburg shouted suggestions at him. For this fiasco, too, Stauffenberg, the “manager” of the conspiracy, bears responsibility. To keep a broadcasting station in operation requires skilled and trustworthy personnel. A team had been ordered to the City Command Center, but it waited there idly until it was arrested during the counteraction. Hans Kasper, who was part of Operation Jacob, later commented:
It was around that time that the July 20 [attempted putsch] collapsed. From the perspective of a radio editor it was tragic. Tragic because the way in which details were handled made it obvious that this revolt had had very little chance of succeeding.
In the meantime Lt. Schlee had reported to me what was happening at the Bendlerblock. I knew nothing of the inside story, nor that Lt. General Fromm, Commander in Chief of the l Replacement Army, had withdrawn from the plot and been arrested by the conspirators. Schlee was further ordered, after our guards ad been relieved, to surround and seal off the Bendlerblock, without entering the buildings. At about 7:00 p.m. I felt I had the situation in Berlin in hand. The tension began to subside.
About the Author
Born in 1912, Otto Ernst Remer enlisted in the German army in 1930. During the Second World War he served as a front line officer in Poland, the Balkans, and in the campaign against the Soviet Union. He was wounded eight times, and his courage and ability earned him the German Cross in Gold, the Iron Cross, and other decorations. In May 1944 he was given command of the Guard Regiment “Grossdeutschland” in Berlin.
Remer played a key role in putting down the attempt by Claus von Stauffenberg and other conspirators to kill Hitler and seize control of the German government on July 20, 1944. On that day, one of the conspirators, Paul von Hase, ordered Remer and his troops to seal off the government buildings in central Berlin and arrest Reich minister Dr. Goebbels. However, Goebbels put Remer in direct telephone contact with Hitler, who ordered him to arrest the conspirators in the German capital and put down the attempted coup. Remer did this quickly and with no loss of life.
Promoted to Colonel, he took part in the Dec. 1944 Ardennes offensive. He was promoted to Generalmajor on Jan. 30, 1945. In the final weeks of the war he commanded a panzer division in Pomerania. After the war he helped found the Socialist Reich Party (SRP), which was later banned. After a court sentenced him to prison for “Holocaust denial,” he emigrated to Spain, where he died in exile in Oct. 1997.
This essay is from The Journal of Historical Review, Spring 1988 (Vol. 8, No. 1), pages 41-53. It is translated by Mark Weber from a chapter of Otto Ernst Remer’s memoir, Verschwörung und Verrat um Hitler (“Conspiracy and Treason Around Hitler”). A review of this book appears in the same Spring 1988 issue of the IHR Journal. This essay parallels Remer’s address at the Eighth IHR Conference (1987).
Audio – Reality and Legacy – of 1944 Valkyrie – Conspiracy to kill Adolf Hitler
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