The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
12th March to 22nd March, 1946

Eightieth Day: Wednesday, 13th March, 1946
(Part 8 of 10)

[DR. STAHMER continues his direct examination of HERMANN WILHELM GORING]

[Page 66]

Q. Who was indicted?

A. Hitler was indicted, first of all, and naturally all those who had been present and were apprehended. I had been in Upper Bavaria for several days in a seriously wounded state and was then brought to the border, was arrested there, and then brought back by the Bavarian police. I asked Hitler at that time whether I should appear at the trial; he begged me urgently not to do that, and that was a good thing. The proceedings could not be held behind closed doors, because I had made the statement that if that were done I for my part would make an appropriate public statement in regard to the trial.

Then, after my recuperation, I spent about a year in Italy, and then elsewhere abroad. In the year 1926 or 1927 there was a general amnesty for all the people involved in the different illegal - if I should call them that - incidents which had been brought about not only by us but also by the Leftists and the peasants: I was therefore able to return to Germany.

The next time I met Hitler again was 1927, when we had a rather brief conversation in Berlin. I was not active in the Party then; I wanted first to

[Page 67]

provide myself with an independent position again. After that I was not again in touch with Hitler for months. Shortly before the May elections for the Reichstag in 1928 Hitler called me and told me he wanted to set me up as one of the first on the list of Reichstag candidates for the National Socialist Party and asked me whether I were willing, and I said "yes." He also asked me whether my activity in the Party to a stiff greater extent...

Q. One question: Had you meanwhile joined the S.A.?

A. No, at that time I had nothing more to do with the S.A. In the meantime there were new appointments in the S.A. and the new leader of the S.A., von Pfeffer, naturally wanted to keep his position and would not have liked to see me in close touch with that body.

Q. Then after 1923 you had no office or position in the S.A.?

A. After 1923 my active position in the S.A. ceased. Not until after the seizure of power, at a later date, when the so-called honorary offices were created, did I receive, as an honorary post, the highest rank in the S.A. But to come back to 1928, I was elected to the Reichstag and from that time on I toured the country as a speaker for the Party.

The S.A., I do not recall in what year, had been re- established and was now no longer limited to Bavaria, but had been extended to the whole Reich.

Q. Was it prohibited after 1923?

A. After 1923, it was prohibited for the time being.

Q. When was this prohibition rescinded?

A. I cannot say exactly, but it was, at any rate, before I returned to Germany. In any case, it had spread over all Germany and was now urgently needed. All the larger Parties at that time had their so-called fighting units. Especially active, I remember, was the Red Front, a collection of the fighting units of the Communists, our severest opponents, with whom we had repeated clashes and who very often tried to break up our meetings. In addition there was the Reichsbanner, the organisation of the Social Democrats of the Democratic Party; there was the Stahlhelm - that was a Nationalist organisation of the Right - and then there was our S.A.

I should like to emphasise that at that time the S.A. often had to suffer heavily. Most of the S.A. men came from the broad masses; they were small employees, men who took part only for idealistic reasons and who had to work nights and evenings without receiving anything in payment, and who did so only out of their real faith in the Fatherland. They were often most severely wounded and a number of them were shot in the clashes. They were persecuted by the Government. They could not be officials; an official could not be in the S.A. They had to endure a terrific pressure. I should like to emphasise that I had the highest respect and affection for these men, these S.A. men, who were not determined, as has been pictured here, simply to do something cruel, but who were rather men who really exposed themselves voluntarily to the most difficult trials and vexations because of their idealism and their goals, and renounced many things in order to realise their ideals.

Q. What was your position in the Party during the period from 1928 until the taking over of power?

A. I had no office in the Party. I was never a political leader in the Party - that is perhaps strange - neither in the Reich Party directorate nor elsewhere. I was first of all, as I said, a member of the Reichstag and thereby a member of the Reichstag faction of the Party and at the same time the Party speaker - that is, I travelled from city to city and did whatever I could to extend the Party, to strengthen it, to recruit and convince new members and especially to win over to our side Communist and Marxist adherents in order to create a broad base among the people in the Party.

[Page 68]

In the middle of 1932, after numerous elections had taken place, entailing an enormous amount of electioneering - holding many meetings, two and three daily, often lasting throughout the night - we became the strongest Party, and I was elected President of the Reichstag, and thereby took over a definite political task.

Shortly before, at the end of 1931, when I saw that the Party had grown to an extraordinary extent and was making gains, the Fuehrer once said to me that he would very much like to have a direct representative who was independent of a Party office and who could carry out political negotiations. This person was not to be tied down to any particular Party office. He asked me whether I would take over this function, especially since I was living in the Reich capital anyway.

I took over this commission - it was not an office, but rather a commission of a general nature. In a few sentences he gave me the liberty to negotiate with all Parties, from the Communists to the extreme Right, in order, let us say, to undertake specific joint action in the Reichstag, or other suitable political steps - naturally also, in this connection, the task of working for the dissemination and the penetration of our ideals into all circles.

To these circles belonged, as has already been mentioned, industrial and clerical groups. Since I had connections with and access to all these circles, it was self-evident that the Fuehrer considered me specially suited for this task, inasmuch as he could absolutely depend upon me in this regard and knew that I would muster all my powers to advance our ideas. As President of the Reichstag, my task in this capacity was really eased, for now I was, so to speak, legally authorised, and, even obliged, to participate in political events.

If, for instance, a Government resigned in the Reichstag or was brought to fall by a vote of no confidence, it was my duty, as President of the Reichstag, to suggest to the Reich President, after having negotiated with the Parties, what the possibilities were in my opinion for a new coalition Government. Thus the Reich President was always bound to receive me in this capacity with regard to these matters. Therefore I could bring about a rather close connection between the Reich President and myself But I should like to emphasise that this connection had already existed before; it was a matter of course that Field-Marshal von Hindenburg, if I requested it, would always receive me, because he had known me in the First World War.

Q. What part did you play in the appointment of Hitler as Reich Chancellor?

A. I should just like to explain first that when I said that I held no office in the Party, no political office, my position had nevertheless naturally become stronger and stronger, especially since the end of 1931, from which time on I worked more and more closely with the Fuehrer and was considered his right-hand man - but only on the basis of normal and natural authority which increased greatly after the seizure of power. As to my part in the appointment of Hitler - if I am to explain this to the Tribunal I must first describe the situation briefly. The balance among the Parliamentary Parties had been disturbed as early as the end of 1931 or the beginning of 1932. Things were going badly in Germany and no proper enduring Parliamentary majority could actually be produced, and already at this time the Enabling Act then in force had come into play to the exclusion, in part, of the Constitution. I call to mind the Bruning Cabinet alone, which had to work to a large extent with the Enabling Act and which at the time was also greatly concerned with Article 48 of the Reich Constitution. Then there followed the Cabinet of von Papen, which also could not put itself, on a Parliamentary basis, on a more lasting or firmer basis. Herr von Papen at that time tried to make that possible and, in order to get a Parliamentary basis, he demanded also of the National Socialists, the strongest Party at that time, that they, together with the other Parties, establish

[Page 69]

such a basis. There was some talk - von Papen's name had been given to the President as a nominee for Reich Chancellor - that Hitler should become the Vice-Chancellor in this Cabinet. I remember that I told Herr von Papen at that time that Hitler could become any number of things, but never as "Vice." Whatever he was to become, he would naturally have to be in the highest position, and it would be completely unbearable and unthinkable to place our Fuehrer in any sort of "Vice" position. We would then have played the role of being governed, which was quite impossible for us; and Hitler, as the representative of the strongest Party, would have had to cover up these things. This we declined categorically. I do not emphasise that, because Herr von Papen is in the dock with me, he knows that we always respected him personally; but I told him then, after this suggestion had come to naught, that we would not only not support him but would also oppose his Cabinet in the Reichstag to the utmost, just as we would consistently fight every Cabinet which did not give us the leading influence in the Chancellery.

There came then - I do not remember exactly for how many months Herr von Papen ruled - the well-known clash between him and me, he as Reich Chancellor, I as the President of the Reichstag, in which it was my intention to bring his Government to a fall, and I knew there was a motion of no confidence by the Communists, in which practically everybody would participate. It was simply necessary to declare this vote of no confidence under all circumstances in order to show the Reich President that one could not rule with such Cabinets without some sort of strong reserve. I saw the Red portfolio and knew that the order for dissolution was in it, but let the voting be carried through first. Thirty-two votes were for von Papen and about five hundred were against him. The Cabinet of von Papen resigned.

Until that point all the Parties, except the few very small ones, had set up Cabinets. All men who were available had already been presented to the people at some time. Towards the end Reich Defence Minister von Schleicher had been more and more the political figure behind the scenes. There were, therefore, only two possibilities: either the actual proportion of power would be taken into account and the leader of the strongest Party, as is generally customary, would be brought into conference and entrusted with this power, or else the man who was operating behind the scenes, the only other possibility would be brought in. The latter happened. Herr von Schleicher himself took over the chancellorship in connection with - and this is important - the office of Reich Defence Minister; and it was clear to us, and not only to us, but also to the other Parties, since Herr von Schleicher had far fewer personal sympathisers than Herr von Papen and could not bring about a majority, that ultimately a military dictatorship was aimed at by the former. I had negotiations with Herr von Schleicher and told him that at that moment it might be possible to form a Parliamentary majority. Through conferences I succeeded in bringing together German Nationals, National Socialists, Centre, German People's Party and smaller supporting groups, to form a majority. It was clear to me that such a majority could be only temporary because the conflicting interests were too great. But it was a matter of indifference to me by what means I brought our Party to power - if by means of Parliamentary negotiations, very good; if through appointment by the Reich President, all the better.

These negotiations were turned down by Herr von Schleicher because he knew that he then would not be able to remain Chancellor. Then again, there were Emergency Laws and Enabling Acts. The Reichstag had thus been more or less excluded even before our seizure of power.

I immediately issued the same challenge to Herr Schleicher in the Reichstag much more emphatically than previously to Herr von Papen. In the meantime the presidential election had taken place and after that a Reichstag election, in which, after the dissolution of von Papen's Cabinet we lost several seats, being

[Page 70]

reduced from 232 to 196. Then in January there were further elections, which showed an extraordinary rise in favour of our Party and proved that the short crisis had been surmounted, and that the Party was on the upgrade more strongly than ever before.

On Sunday, 22nd January, 1933, I was in Dresden at a large political meeting, when I was called in the morning by the Fuehrer to go to Berlin immediately. I arrived that afternoon, and he told me - what I already knew - that the Reich President was no longer satisfied with von Schleicher and saw that political matters could not go on this way; nothing was ever accomplished; the Reich President had independently arrived at the conclusion that somehow responsibility must now be given to the strongest Party. Before that time, in a very clever way, a wrong personal impression of the Fuehrer had been created in the old gentleman's mind and he was prejudiced - he probably took offence at the word Socialism, because he understood that in a different way.

Then, briefly, Hitler revealed to me on that day that that evening I was to speak to the Field-Marshal's son at the home of Herr von Ribbentrop. I believe Herr von Papen was to be present also and - I am not sure about this - Meissner, who was the State Secretary of the Reich President. The Field-Marshal's son wanted to inquire on behalf of his father what were the possibilities of Hitler as Chancellor and the inclusion of the Party in responsibility. In a rather lengthy conversation I declared to the son that he should tell his father that one way or another, von Schleicher would lead to shipwreck. I explained to him the new basic conditions for forming a new Government, and then heard of the Field-Marshal's willingness to entrust Hitler with the chancellorship, thereby regarding the Party as the main basis for a future Government majority, if Adolf Hitler were also able to succeed, on this occasion, in drawing in the German Nationals and the Stahlhelm - for he wanted to see a clear-cut national basis. The Stahlhelm was not a Parliamentary Party but it had many followers. The German Nationals under Hugenberg were a Parliamentary Party.

We did not discuss very much more that evening. I told von Hindenburg's son that he could tell his father that I would undoubtedly bring that about, and the Fuehrer gave me orders to take care of negotiations during the coming week with these Parties on the one hand and with the Reich President on the other. There were difficulties here and there. I found that our conceding of ...

THE PRESIDENT: I think we will break off now.

(A recess was taken.)


Q. You were dealing with the question of your participation in the appointment of Hitler as Reich Chancellor. Would you continue.

A. I had arrived at the last decisive period. The negotiations had become somewhat difficult because the Field- Marshal, Reich President von Hindenburg, who up till then knew the Fuehrer personally only from two conversations and who had not yet overcome his distrust of him, which had been instilled and nourished for many years by a variety of influences, simply because he did not know him, had at that time demanded some severe restrictions, so that we, as the strongest and now the leading Party, which had to be responsible to the nation for future measures, would be relatively very restricted and, in view of our strength, weakly represented in the Government.

One must not forget that at this moment Germany had arrived at the lowest point of her downward development; 8,000,000 unemployed; all programmes had failed; no more confidence in the Parties; a very strong rise on the part of the revolutionary Leftist side; and political insecurity. In consequence those measures were necessary which the people would expect of us, if we were in the Government, and for which we had to stand, and it was a very heavy burden

[Page 71]

to take over such a responsibility with such severe political restrictions imposed. Von Hindenburg made the following conditions:

(1) That under any circumstances, Herr von Papen should become Vice-Chancellor in this Cabinet. Aside from his sympathetic personality, Herr von Papen did not bring us anything, because there was no Party behind him. The Reich President demanded, however, beyond that, that Herr von Papen should be present when the Fuehrer, after being appointed Reich Chancellor, made the necessary reports to the Reich President. This condition, however, was abandoned very quickly, and by the Reich President himself.

(2) That the Foreign Ministry, independent of all Parties, should be in the hands of Herr von Neurath. Herr von Neurath also brought us nothing in the way of political power, aside from his knowledge and ability.

(3) That the position of Prussian Minister President which, next to that of the Reich Chancellor, was always the most important in Germany during the period after the World War, should likewise be filled by the person of Herr von Papen. Before the World War, as is known, the offices of Reich Chancellor and Prussian Minister President were for these reasons always combined in one person.

(4) That the office of Reich Defence Minister also be in the hands of an independent person, a soldier. The Reich President actually chose General von Blomberg, at that time at the Disarmament Conference in Geneva, to fill that post, and we had no voice in the matter. Herr von Blomberg was personally known neither to the Fuehrer nor to me at that time.

Even though the essential and decisive and most important posts in the Cabinet were thus already filled by persons in whose choice we had had no influence, still further demands developed in the course of the week. It was demanded that the Finance Ministry be in the hands of Count Schwerin- Krosigk, again a man backed by no political Party. The Ministry of Transportation was to be under Herr von Eltz, to whom the same applied. The leader of the Stahlhelm, Seldte, was to be taken into the Cabinet. Certainly the Stahlhelm was a large and extensive movement, but not politically, and not represented by a single delegate in the Reichstag.

There was left, as a really political Party, only the German National Party, with 36 seats - our only Parliamentary ally, so to speak. Here, too, extraordinary demands were made, which were in no correct proportion to the smallness of that Party.

In the end we, as the strongest Party at that time with 232 seats, got only the following, as far as I remember: the office of Reich Chancellor of course; then Dr. Frick as Reich Minister of the Interior in the Cabinet; and I next, as the third member of the Reich Cabinet, with an assignment as Reich Commissar for Aviation - that is, of a very small subordinate division, an insignificant branch of a small aviation department in the Ministry of Transport, but no department otherwise. But then I succeeded in becoming, without conditions attached, Prussian Minister of the Interior and thereby a political Minister of the largest German State, as Prussia was actually the place where the rise to internal power started.

It was therefore an extraordinarily difficult affair. At the last moment the formation of the Cabinet threatened to fail because of two factors. The Fuehrer had made the unconditional demand that shortly after the appointment of the new Cabinet a new Reichstag election should take place, knowing, correctly, that the Party would be greatly strengthened thereby and thus possibly could alone represent the majority and so be in a position to form the Government platform by Parliamentary means.

Hugenberg, as leader of the German National Party, absolutely opposed this, knowing that his Party would probably disappear more or less in this

[Page 72]

election. Even five minutes before the meeting of the Cabinet there was still danger that it would fall apart, for this reason. It was pure chance that, at this moment, the Reich President undertook to administer the oath to the new Ministers; and so the Cabinet was formed.

The second danger threatened from Schleicher who, through his confidant, on Sunday made the following offer to the Fuehrer and me: He wanted to stress that the Reich President was not a sure factor as far as the new Government was concerned; it would serve the purpose better if he - even though he had withdrawn the day before - were to join us to form a Government now, quite definitely not on a Parliamentary basis of any kind, but rather on the basis of an entirely new situation, a coalition of the Reichswehr and the N.S.D.A.P.

The Fuehrer refused, recognising that this would be impossible and that the intentions were not honest.

When Herr von Blomberg arrived at the railroad station from Geneva on Monday morning, he received two orders, one from Herr von Hammerstein, Chief of the Army Command Staff and his superior, to come to him immediately, the other from Hindenburg, his Commander-in-Chief, similarly worded.

There was at that time, known only to a few, the threat of a putsch by Schleicher and Hammerstein with the Potsdam Garrison.

On Sunday evening I pointed that out to Reich President von Hindenburg, and that is the reason why Herr von Blomberg, two hours before the rest of the Cabinet, was appointed Minister of War, or, at that time, Reich Defence Minister, in order to prevent any wrong move by the Reichswehr.

At 11 o'clock on the morning of the 30th, the Cabinet was formed and Hitler appointed Reich Chancellor.

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