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 10 of 10)

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

[Page 76]

Q. Which offices did you hold after the taking over of power?

A. First I was President of the Reichstag, as before, and I remained so until the end. In the Reich Cabinet I received at first the post of a Reich Minister and Reich Commissioner of Aviation, not of the Air Force. In parentheses, I should like to say that from the very beginning it was clear to me that we had to establish an Air Force.

In Prussia I received the position of the Prussian Minister of the Interior, then, on 20th April, 1933, in addition the post of Prime Minister of Prussia.

The Reich Commissariat for Aviation had before this time, I believe already in March, 1933, become a Reich Ministry of Aviation.

Then there were still several not very important offices, President of the State Council, and so on.

Decisive at that time, however, were the two offices of Prime Minister of Prussia on one hand and Minister of Aviation on the other hand. The office of Prussian Minister of the Interior I handed over to the Reich Minister of the Interior at the beginning of 1934, because it was part of the consolidation of power and of the clarification necessary for proper governing authority in the Reich that the Prussian Ministries be consolidated with those of the Reich, as only in this way was it possible for the Reich Ministries to receive practical information about the political work of the day and about the work of the departments. Only through this consolidation was that possible.

Q. Did you, in your capacity as Prussian Minister of the Interior, create the Gestapo and the concentration camps which have so often been mentioned here? When and for what purpose were they established?

A. I mentioned before that, for the consolidation of power, the first prerequisite was to create along new lines that instrument which at all times and in all nations is always the inner political instrument of power, namely, the police. There was no Reich Police, only State Police. The most important of these was the Prussian Police.

This police had already been filled by our predecessors, the former Parties, with their own people, each according to its political attitude. I mentioned the filling of the offices of police chiefs and those of the chiefs of the main police offices within the Prussian Ministry of the Interior. Thus it was that our opponents, the most bitter opponents, who up to then had always opposed us most harshly with their police powers, were still in the subordinate offices.

A slight loosening up had taken place before I took charge, during the time when the Social Democratic Braun-Severing Government was replaced by the Government of Herr von Papen. At that time the bitterest opponents were also removed from the police. Nevertheless, the most important positions were still in the hands of definite political opponents. I could not very well expect that those who until yesterday were ready to employ the police with particular severity against us would to-day show the same loyalty to the new State.

Before our time there was also a Political Police in Prussia. That was Police Department 1-A, and its task was, first of all, the surveillance of and the fight against the National Socialists and also, in part, against the Communists.

Now, I could have simply put new people in this Political Police and let it keep on running the old set-up. But the situation had changed because of our seizure of power, for at this time, as I have mentioned before, the Communist Party was extraordinarily strong. It had over six million voters, and in its Red Front organisation it had a thoroughly revolutionary instrument of power, and it was quite self-evident to the Communist Party that if we should stay in power for any length of time it would ultimately lose this power.

The danger positively existed that at that time - one has to think back to the political tension, the atmosphere of conflict-revolutionary acts could have

[Page 77]

taken place on the part of the Communists, particularly since, even after we came to power, political murders and political shootings of National Socialists and policemen by that Party did not stop but, at times, even increased. Also, the information which I received was such that I became extremely fearful of a sudden shift in that direction. Therefore, under the existing conditions, I could not ward off this danger. I needed a reliable Political Police not only in the main office but also in the branch offices. I therefore had to enlarge this instrument.

In order to make clear from the outset that the task of this police was to make the State secure I called it the Secret State Police and at the same time I established branch offices in this police department. I took in a great number of political officials who were experienced, and at the beginning took fewer people from the Party, because for the time being I had to attach importance to professional ability.

I also wanted this police to be concerned exclusively with protecting the State first of all against its enemies. The leader whom I selected for this police force was not from the Party but came from the former police. He, Diehls, was already there, at that time as Oberregierungsrat and later as Ministerialrat, and likewise the main chiefs of the Gestapo were officials who were not from the Party. Later the Party element appeared in the police more and more. Their mission was first of all to create as quickly as possible all assurance of security against any action from the Left. I knew - it proved afterward to be true - that the headquarters of the Communists in Berlin, the Liebknecht House, was strongly fortified and contained very many arms; we had also at that time brought to light very strong connections between the Russian Trade Delegation and the German Communist Party. Even though I arrested, as I did, thousands of Communist functionaries at one blow, so that an immediate danger was eliminated at the outset, the danger as such was by no means eliminated. It was now necessary to expose the secret connections, the network of these secret connections, and to keep them constantly under observation. For this purpose a police leadership would have to crystallise. The Social Democratic Party on the whole seemed to me not nearly so dangerous, especially as far as its members were concerned. But of course they were also absolute opponents of our new State. A part of their functionaries were radical, another part less radical. The more radical I likewise placed under observation, while a whole number of former Social Democratic Ministers, heads of Prussian provinces and higher officials, as I said before, were quietly retired and received their pension, and nothing further was undertaken against them. Of course there were also other functionaries of the Social Democratic Party whom we definitely had to watch carefully. Thus the Secret State Police was created by me for these tasks, first of all in Prussia, because I had nothing to do with the other provinces at that time. The organisation of the rest of the police is not of such importance here.

Q. The concentration camps?

A. When the need for creating order, first of all, and removing the most dangerous element of disorder directed against us now became evident, I reached the decision to have the Communist functionaries and leaders arrested all at once. I therefore had a list made for that purpose, and it was clear to me that, even if I arrested only the most important and most dangerous of these functionaries, it still would involve several thousands of them; for it was necessary to arrest not only the Party functionaries, but also those from the Red Front organisation, since the Communists also had affiliated organisations. These arrests were in accordance with reasons of State security and State necessity. It was a question of removing a danger. Only one possibility was available here, that of protective custody; that is, first of all, whether or not one could prove that these people were involved in a traitorous act or an act hostile

[Page 78]

to the State, whether one could expect such an act from them or not, to prevent such an act and to eliminate the possibility by means of protective custody. That was nothing new and was not a National Socialist invention, for already before this such protective custody measures had been carried out, partly against the Communists, and chiefly against us, the National Socialists. For this purpose the prisons were not at our disposal, and also I want to stress from the very beginning that this was a political act for the defence of the State Therefore, I said that these men should first of all be gathered in camps - one to two camps were proposed at that time - because at this time I could not tell for how long the internment of these people would be necessary, nor how the number would be increased by the further exposure of the entire Communist movement. When we occupied the Karl Liebknecht House we found so many arms, material and preparations for a civil war that, as I said, one could not gain a general view of its extent. I had already indicated that, in view of the great political tension that existed between the extreme wings of these political opponents, and in view of the bitterness of the opposition brought about by the continuous fighting in the streets, and the mutual tension resulting from the political struggle, the situation would conceivably not be a very pleasant one for the inmates. For this reason I gave instructions that the guard should as far as possible, consist of police forces; only where these were not adequate should auxiliary forces be called. I have taken a stand with regard to the question of concentration camps and I should like to point out that this name was not created by us, but that it appeared in the foreign Press and was then adopted. Where the name originated is rather a historical matter: At the end of 1933, in a book which at first appeared in English at the request of an English publisher, and which has already been presented by the prosecution as evidence, I stated my views of this quite openly. I point out again that it was for foreign countries, for English-speaking countries. At that time I made the following statement quite openly:
"Of course in the beginning there were excesses; of course the innocent were also hurt here or there; of course there was fighting here and there and acts of brutality were committed; but compared to all that has happened in the past and to the greatness of the events, this German revolution of freedom is the least bloody and the most disciplined of all revolutions known to history."
Q. Did you supervise the treatment of the prisoners?

A. Of course I gave instructions that such things should not happen. That they did happen and happened everywhere to a smaller or greater extent I have just stated. I always stressed that these things should not happen, because it was important to me to win over some of these people for our side and to re-educate them.

Q. Did you do anything about abuses which you heard about?

A. I personally took an interest in the concentration camps until the spring of 1934. At that time there were two or three camps in Prussia.

Witness Koerner has already mentioned the case of Thaelmann. I would like to speak about it briefly, because it was the most striking case, since Thaelmann was the leader of the Communist Party. I could not say to-day who it was who hinted to me that Thaelmann had been beaten.

I had him called to me directly and without informing the higher offices and questioned him in my room very exactly. He told me that he had been beaten during, and especially at the beginning, of the interrogations. Thereupon, as the witness, who was present, has said already, I told Thaelmann that I regretted that. At the same time I said, "Dear Thaelmann, if you had come to power, I probably would not have been beaten, but you would have chopped my head off immediately." He confirmed that. Then I told him that in the

[Page 79]

future he should feel free, if anything of this sort should happen to him or to others, to let me know. I could not always be there, but it was not my intention that any act of brutality should be committed against them.

Just to demonstrate this case, which was not an unimportant one, I want to stress that later Thaelmann's wife turned to me for help and that I answered her letter immediately.

At that time I also - this I can prove by evidence - helped the families of the inmates financially so far as that was necessary.

At this opportunity I should also like to mention the unauthorised concentration camps which have been mentioned, the purpose of which come under the heading of abolition of abuses. At first I did not know anything about them, but then I found out about such a camp near Stettin. It had been established by Karpfenstein, at that time Gauleiter of Pomerania. I had this camp closed at once - my defence counsel will remember that he, independent of me, received information about this, during the trial, from an inmate whom I do not know at all - and had the guilty persons who had committed acts of brutality there brought before a court and prosecuted by the State attorney. This, too, can be proved. Karpfenstein was expelled from the Party.

A second camp of that kind was found in Breslau, which Heines had established. I do not remember to-day what happened there. At any rate, it was a camp not authorised by me. This one I likewise closed down and dissolved immediately. Heines was one of the closest collaborators of Roehm, about whom I shall speak later.

As far as I can remember - I cannot name the place exactly any more - close to Berlin another unauthorised concentration camp had been secretly established by Ernst, the S.A. leader in Berlin, whom I had always suspected of acts of brutality.

That also was closed. Ernst belonged to these evil figures who were eliminated in the Roehm Putsch. It is possible to question persons who were inmates of these camps at that time, 1933 and the beginning of 1934, as to whether during that time anything happened even approaching that which happened later.

Q. Did you, after a consolidation of power had taken place, ever free inmates to any great extent and at what time did you do so?

A. At Christmas of 1933 I directed that the lighter cases - that is, the less - dangerous cases and those cases of which one had the impression that the people had resigned themselves to the situation - be released, about 5,000 people. I repeated that once more in November, 1934, with 2,000 inmates. I stress again that that refers only to Prussia. At that time, as far as I remember - I cannot say exactly - one camp was dissolved or at least closed temporarily. That was at a time when nobody thought that it would ever be the subject of an investigation before an international tribunal.

Q. How long were you in charge of the Gestapo and the concentration camps and until what date?

A. Actually I was in charge until the beginning of 1934 - that is, at the beginning of 1934 Diehls was the head and he gave me frequent reports about the Gestapo and also about the concentration camps. Meanwhile, outside Prussia a regrouping of police had taken place in such a way that Himmler was in charge of the police in all provinces of Germany with the exception of Prussia only. Probably following the example of my measures, he had thus installed the Secret State Police there, because the police at that time was still a matter of the States. There was a Bavarian, a Wurttembergian, a Badensian, a Hessian, a Saxonian Police, etc.

He had become the leader of all these police forces, and, of course, he now sought to get the leadership of the police in Prussia as well. I was very satisfied with Diehls at that time, and from my point of view I saw no reason for letting any change take place.

[Page 80]

These efforts, I believe, started as early as in the late summer of 1933. Shortly after I had transferred the Prussian Ministry of the Interior to the Reich Ministry of the Interior, in the spring of 1934, and thereby left this Ministry. After this event Himmler, I assume, probably urged the Fuehrer more strongly that he be put in charge of the Prussian Police as well. At that time I did not expressly oppose it. It was not agreeable to me, I wanted to handle my police myself. But when the Fuehrer asked me to do this and said that it would be the correct thing and the expedient thing and that it was proved necessary that the enemy of the State be fought throughout the Reich in a uniform way, I actually handed the police over to Himmler, who put Heydrich in charge. But legally I still retained it, because there was still no Reich Police in existence.

The rest of the police, the State Police, that is, the uniformed police, I did not turn over to him, because, as I shall explain later, I had to a large extent organised this police in Prussia along military lines, in order to be able to fit it into the later rearmament programme. For this reason I could not and did not want to give him the uniformed police, because it had been trained for purely military purposes - by me, at my instigation and on my responsibility, and had nothing to do with the actual police, and was turned over to the Armed Forces by me in 1935.

In 1936 the Reich Police Law was issued, and thereby the office of the Chief of the German Police was created. By virtue of this law the police was then legally and formally turned over to the Reichsfuehrer S.S., or, as he was called, the Chief of the German Police.

Q. You mentioned before the Roehm Putsch. Who was Roehm, and with what event was this putsch connected?

A. Roehm had become leader of the S.A., Chief of Staff of the S.A.

THE PRESIDENT: I think we had better adjourn. It is 5 o'clock.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 14th March, 1946, at 10.00 hours.)

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