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

Eighty-First Day: Thursday, 14th March, 1946
(Part 2 of 8)

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

[Page 85]

Q. Did you know about the development of the attitude of the Party and the State toward the Church, in the course of time?

A. Certainly. But as my final remark on the Roehm Putsch I should like to emphasise that I assume full responsibility for the actions taken against those people - Ernst, Heidebrecht and several others - by the order of the Fuehrer, which I executed or passed on, and that, even to- day, I am of the opinion that I acted absolutely correctly and from a sense of duty. That was confirmed by the Reichspresident, but no such confirmation was necessary to convince me that here I had averted what was a great danger for the State.

On the attitude towards the Church: The Fuehrer's attitude was a generous one, at first extremely so. I should not like to say that it was positive in the sense that he himself was a positive or convinced adherent of any one confession, but it was generous and positive in the sense that he recognised the necessity of the Church. Although he himself was a Catholic, he wished that the Protestant Church should have a stronger position in Germany, since Germany was two-thirds Protestant.

The Protestant Church, however, was divided into provincial Churches; there were various small differences which the dogmatists took very seriously, for which reason they once in the past, as we know, fought against each other for 30 years; but these differences did not seem so important to us. There were the Reformed, the United and the pure Lutherans - I myself am not an expert in this field.

Constitutionally, as Prussian Prime Minister, I was, to be sure, in a certain sense the highest dignitary of the Prussian Church, but I did not concern myself with these matters very much.

The Fuehrer wanted to achieve the unification of the Protestant and Evangelical Churches by appointing a Reichsbishop, so that there would be a high Protestant Church dignitary as well as a high Catholic Church dignitary. To begin with, he left the choice to the Evangelical Churches, but they could not come to an

[Page 86]

agreement. Finally they produced one name, the very one which did not suit us. Then a man, who had the Fuehrer's confidence to a higher degree than any of the other provincial bishops was appointed Reichsbishop.

As regards the Catholic Church, the Fuehrer ordered a concordat to be concluded by Herr von Papen. Shortly before that was done I visited the Pope myself. I had numerous connections with the higher Catholic clergy because of my Catholic mother; and thus - I am myself a Protestant - I had a view of both camps.

One thing, of course, the Fuehrer and all of us, I too, stood for: to remove politics from the Church in as far as possible. I did not consider it right - and that I should like to say quite openly - that one day the priest in the church should humbly concern himself with the spiritual welfare of his flock and then on the following day make a more or less belligerent speech in the Parliament.

This separation was planned by us - that is to say, the clergy were to concentrate on their own sphere and refrain from getting involved in political matters. Because we had in Germany political Parties with strong Church leanings, a considerable muddle had arisen, and that is the explanation of the fact that, because of this political opposition that originally played its role on the political level in the Parliament and in election campaigns, there arose in certain of our people an antagonistic attitude toward the Church.

For one must not forget that such election fights, discussions and speeches often took place, before the elections, between political representatives of our Party and clergymen who represented those political Parties which were more closely bound to the Church.

Because of this situation and a certain animosity, it is understandable that a more rabid faction - if I may use that expression in this connection - did not forget this fight and now, for its part, carried it over to a false level. But the Fuehrer's attitude was that the Churches should be given the chance to exist and develop. It is logical that, in a movement and a Party which gradually had absorbed more or less the greatest part of the German nation, and which now in its active political aspect had also absorbed the politically active persons of Germany, not all the members would be of the same attitude in every regard, despite the leadership principle. The speed, the method, the attitude can be different; and in such large movements, even if they are ever so authoritatively led, certain groups form in response to certain problems. If I were to name the group which still saw in the Church, if not a political danger, at least an undesirable institution, then I should mention above all two people: Himmler on one side and Bormann, particularly later, and much more completely than Himmler, on the other.

Himmler's motives were less of a political and more of a confused mystical nature. Bormann's aims were much more clear-cut. It was clear, too, that from the large group of Gauleiters, one or another might be more keenly interested in this fight against the Church. Thus there were a number of Gaue where everything was in good order as far as the Church was concerned, and there were a few others where there was a keen fight against the Church.

I did interfere personally on frequent occasions. First of all, in order to demonstrate my attitude and to create order, I called in to the Prussian State Council, as men in whom I had special confidence, a high Protestant and a high Catholic clergyman.

I myself am not what you might call a church-goer, but I have gone now and then, and have always consciously belonged to the Church and have always had those functions over which the Church presides - marriage, christening, burial - carried out in my house by the Church.

My intention thereby was to show those weak-willed persons who, in the midst of this fight of opinions, did not know what they should do that, if the

[Page 87]

second man in the State goes to church, is married by the Church, has his child christened and confirmed by the Church, then they can do the same. From the number of letters which I received as a result, I can see that I did the right thing.

But as time went by, in other spheres as well as this, the situation became more critical. During the early years of the war I spoke to the Fuehrer about it once more and told him that the main thing now was that every German should do his duty and every soldier go to his death bravely if need be. If, in that connection, his religious belief is a help and a support to him, whether he belongs to this or that denomination, it can be only an advantage, and any disturbance in this connection could conceivably affect his power of endurance. The Fuehrer agreed absolutely. In the Air Force I deliberately had no regular chaplain, because I was of the opinion that every member of the Air Force should go to the clergyman in whom he had the most confidence.

This was repeatedly told the soldiers and officers. But the Church itself I told that it would be good if we had a clear division of duties. You should pray in church and not drill there; in the barracks you should drill and not pray. In that manner, from the very beginning, I kept the Air Force free from any religious disturbances and I ensured complete liberty of conscience for everyone.

The situation became rapidly more critical - and I cannot really give the reasons for this - especially in the last two or three years of the war. This may have been due to the fact that, in some of the occupied territories - particularly in the Polish territory and also in the Czech territory - the clergymen were strong nationalist representatives and this led again to clashes on a political level which were then naturally carried over to a religious level. I do not know whether this was one of the reasons, but I consider it probable. On the whole I should like to say that the Fuehrer himself was not opposed to the Church, in fact, he told me on one occasion that there are certain things in respect to which even as a leader one cannot entirely have his way, even if they are still undecided and in need of reform, and that he believed that at the time much was being thought and said about the reorganisation of the Church. He said that he did not consider himself destined to be a church reformer and that he did not wish that any of his political leaders should win laurels in this field.

Q. Now, in the course of years, a large number of clergymen, both from Germany and especially from the occupied territories - you yourself mentioned Poland and Czechoslovakia - were taken to concentration camps. Do you know anything about that?

A. I knew that in Germany, to begin with, a number of clergymen were taken to concentration camps. The case of Niemoeller was common knowledge. I do not wish to go into it in detail, because it is well known. A number of other clergymen were sent to concentration camps, but not until the later years, when the fight became more critical, because they made political speeches in the pulpit and criticised measures of the State or the Party; and, if this criticism was too severe, the police intervened.

I told Himmler on one occasion that I did not think it was clever to arrest clergymen, that as long as they talked only in church they should say what they wanted; but that if they made political speeches outside the Church then he could proceed against them, just as he would in connection with any other people who made speeches hostile to the State. Several clergymen who went very far in their criticism were not arrested. As far as the arrest of clergymen from occupied territories is concerned, I heard about it; and I said earlier that this did not occur so much on the religious level, just because they were clergymen, but that it occurred because they were at the same time nationalist - from their point of view - and consequently often involved in actions hostile to the occupying forces.

[Page 88]

Q. The Party Programme included two points dealing with the question of the Jews. What was your basic attitude towards this question?

A. This question, which has been so strongly emphasised in the Indictment, forces me under all circumstances to make certain statements.

After Germany's collapse in 1918 Jewry became very powerful in that country in all sectors of life, but particularly in the political and economic fields. The men came back from the front with nothing to look forward to, and found a large number of Jewish elements who had come in during the war from Poland and the East, in high positions, particularly economic positions. It is known that, as a result of the war and during demobilisation, there were great possibilities for doing business. Then came inflation and deflation, and enormous shifts and transfers took place in property and capital.

There were many Jews who did not show the necessary restraint and who more and more became public figures, so that they actually invited certain comparisons, because of what they represented and the positions they controlled, in contrast to the German people in general. In addition there was the fact that those Parties especially, which were avoided by nationalistically minded people, had a Jewish leadership, which was out of proportion, numerically, to the total number of Jews.

That did not apply only to Germany, but also to Austria, which we have always considered a part of Germany. There the entire Social Democratic leadership was almost exclusively in Jewish hands. They played a very considerable part in politics, particularly in the Left-wing Parties, and they also became very prominent in the Press.

At that time there were continuous attacks against everything national - national concepts and national ideals. I draw attention to all the magazines and articles which dragged through the mud things which were holy to us; I likewise call attention to the distortion which was practised in the field of art in this direction; to plays which dragged the fighting at the front through the mud - flung mud at the ideal of the brave soldier. In fact, I could submit an enormous pile of such articles, books, and so forth. But this would lead too far afield and I am not too well informed on the subject. All this led to a defence movement, by no means created anew by National Socialism but already in existence, which was strong during the war and which became even stronger after the war, when the influence of Jewry had such effects.

In addition, in the cultural and intellectual sphere many things which were not in accordance with German feeling came to be expressed. Here, too, there was a great split. In addition there was the fact that in economy, if one overlooks the Western industry, there was an almost exclusive domination on the part of Jewry, and, indeed, consisting of those elements which were most sharply opposed by the old-established Jewish families.

When the movement, then, drafted its programme, which was the work of a few simple people - as far as I know, not even Adolf Hitler himself took part in it, at least not yet as a leader - this programme took up that point which, at that time, was a strong defensive point amongst large sections of the German people. Shortly before that there had been the Workers' and Soldiers' Council Republic (Raete-Republik) in Munchen and the murder of hostages. Here, too, the leaders were for the most part Jews. One must understand that therefore a programme created in Munich by simple people quite naturally took this up as a defence point. News also came of the Workers' and Soldiers' Council Republic (Raete- Republik) in Hungary - again consisting mainly of Jews. All this had made a very strong impression. When the programme became known, the Party - which was at that time extremely small - was at first not taken seriously and was laughed at. But then, from the very beginning, a concentrated attack on the part of the entire Jewish Press or the Jewish-influenced Press began against the movement. Everywhere Jewry was in the

[Page 89]

lead in the fight against National Socialism, whether in the Press, in politics, in cultural life by making National Socialism contemptible and ridiculous, or in the economic sphere. Whoever was a National Socialist did not get a position: the National Socialist business-man could not get supplies or advertisements. This state of affairs resulted in a strong defensive attitude on the part of the Party and led from the very beginning to an intensification of the fight, such as had not originally been the intention of the programme. For the programme desired, above all, one thing very clearly: that Germany should be led by Germans. It was desired that the leadership, especially the political shaping of the fate of the German people, should be in the hands of German persons who could raise the spirit of the German people again as could no other persons. Therefore the main point was, at first, merely to exclude Jewry from the leadership of the State.

Later on, the cultural field was also included because of the very strong fight which had developed in this field in particular between Jewry on the one side and National Socialism on the other.

I believe that if, in this connection, many a hard word which was said by us against Jews and Jewry were to be brought forward, I should still be in a position to produce magazines, books, newspapers and speeches in which the expressions and insults coming from the other side were equally violent. All that obviously led to intensity of feelings.

Shortly after the accession to power countless exceptions were made. Jews who had taken part in the World War and who had been decorated were treated differently and shown consideration; they remained unaffected by measures excluding Jews from Civil Service.

As I have said, the chief aim was, first, the exclusion from the political sphere, then from the cultural sphere.

The Nuremberg Laws were intended to bring about a clear separation of races and, in particular, to do away with the concept of a person of mixed blood in the future, since the concept of the half-Jew or the quarter-Jew led to continuous distinctions and confusion. Here, too, I wish to emphasise that I personally had frequent discussions with the Fuehrer regarding the concept of persons of mixed blood and that I pointed out to him that, once such Jews were clearly separated, it would be impossible to have still another category between the two which constituted an unclarified section of the German people, standing on the same level as the other Germans. I suggested to him that he, by a generous act, do away with the concept of the person of mixed blood and place these people on the same footing as the other Germans. The Fuehrer was greatly interested in this suggestion and was all for adopting it. In this direction he had, in fact, given certain preparatory orders. Then came more troubled times, as far as foreign policy was concerned; the Sudeten crisis, the occupation of the rest of Czechoslovakia, and afterward the Polish crisis; and the question of persons of mixed blood faded into the background. At the beginning of the war the Fuehrer told me that he was prepared to solve this matter in a positive, generous fashion, but only after the war.

The Nuremberg Laws were to exclude, for the future, that concept of persons of mixed blood by means of a clear separation of races. Consequently it was provided, in the penal regulations of the Nuremberg Laws, that never the woman but always the man should be punishable, no matter whether he were German or Jewish. The German woman or the Jewess should not be punished. Then quieter times came, and the Fuehrer always was of the opinion that for the time being Jews should remain in economic, though not in leading and prominent, positions, until a controlled emigration, at first gradual, then intensified, should solve this problem. In spite of continuous disturbances and difficulties in the economic field, the Jews on the whole remained unmolested in their economic positions.

[Page 90]

The extraordinary intensification which set in later did not really do so until after the events of 1938, and then to a still greater extent in the war years. But here, again, there was naturally one group more radical than the others, a group to which the Jewish Question was more significantly in the foreground than it was for other groups of the movement. In the same way, as I should like to emphasise at this point, the concept of National Socialism as a philosophy of life was differently understood; by one person psychologically and philosophically, by another mystically, by a third practically and politically. This was also true of the different points of the programme. For one person certain points were more in the foreground, for another person less so. One person would see the main point of the programme in the part directed against Versailles and toward a free and strong Germany; another person, perhaps would consider the Jewish Question the main point.

THE PRESIDENT: Would that be a convenient time to break off? Dr. Stahmer, can you inform the Tribunal how much longer you think the defendant Goering's examination will last?

DR. STAHMER: I think that we shall finish in the course of to-morrow morning.

THE PRESIDENT: That is a very long time.

DR. STAHMER: I shall do my best to shorten it.

(A recess was taken.)

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