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 3 of 8)

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Q. To what extent did you participate in the issuing of the Nuremberg Laws of 1935?

A. In my capacity as President of the Reichstag I announced these laws and the law concerning the new Reich flag simultaneously here in Nuremberg, where the Reichstag was meeting at that time.

Q. In the Indictment it says that the destruction of the Jewish race was part of the planning of aggressive wars.

A. That has nothing to do with the planning of aggressive wars; also, the destruction of the Jewish race was not previously planned.

Q. Were you a party to the action against the Jews in the night of 9th-10th November, 1938?

A. I should like to discuss that briefly. I gathered yesterday, from the cross-examination of the witness Koerner, that a misunderstanding had arisen in regard to this. On 9th November the march on the Feldherrnhalle was, celebrated. This march was repeated every year and on this occasion the prominent leaders of the movement gathered. Koerner referred to that when he said that everybody came to Munich. It was customary that, after the march was over, practically everybody met at the Munich City Hall for a dinner, at which the Fuehrer was also present.

I never attended that dinner in any of the years in question, since I used to utilise my stay in Munich by attending to various other matters in the afternoon of that day; I did not take part in the dinner on this occasion either, nor did Koerner. He and I returned in my special train to Berlin in the evening. As I heard later, when the investigation was carried on, Goebbels announced at that dinner, after the Fuehrer had left, that the seriously wounded counsellor of the Embassy in Paris had died of his wounds. There was a certain amount of excitement and then Goebbels apparently spoke some words about retaliation - he was in his way probably the very strongest representative of anti-Semitism -and that must have brought on this development of events, but that was after the Fuehrer had left.

I myself heard of the events upon my arrival in Berlin. First of all the conductor in my car told me that he had seen fires in Halle. Half an hour later I called my adjutant, who reported to me that riots had taken place during

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the night, that Jewish stores had been broken into and plundered and that synagogues had been set on fire. He did not know anything further about it.

I proceeded to my apartment and at once had a call put through to the Gestapo. I demanded a report of the events of that night. That is the report which has been referred to here and which was made to me by the Chief of the Gestapo, Heydrich, with reference to the events, in so far as he knew about them at that time, that is, on the evening of the following day, I believe. The Fuehrer, too, arrived in Berlin in the course of the morning. Having in the meantime heard that Goebbels had at least played an important part as instigator, I told the Fuehrer that it was impossible for me to have such events take place at this particular time, that I was very much concerned, in connection with the Four-Year Plan, in concentrating the entire economic field, and that I had, in the course of speeches to the nation, asked that every old tooth paste tube, every rusty nail, every bit of scrap metal be collected and utilised. I said that it could not be tolerated that a man who was not responsible for these things should disturb my difficult economic tasks by destroying so many things of economic value on the one hand and by causing so much disturbance in economic life on the other hand.

The Fuehrer made some apologies, but on the whole he agreed that such events must not be allowed to take place. I pointed out to him that, coming so soon after the Munich Agreement, such incidents would have an unfavourable effect on foreign policy also.

In the afternoon I had another discussion with the Fuehrer. In the meantime Goebbels had been to see him. The latter I had told over the telephone, in unmistakable terms and in very sharp words, my view of the matter. I told him then, with emphasis, that I was not anxious to suffer the consequences of his uncontrolled utterances as far as economic matters were concerned.

In the meantime the Fuehrer, influenced by Goebbels, had somewhat changed his mind. Just what Goebbels told him and to what extent he referred to the excitement of the crowd, or to urgently needed reforms, I know not. At any rate, the Fuehrer's views were not the same as they were on the occasion of my first complaint.

While we were talking, Goebbels, who was in the house, joined us and began to talk in his usual way: that it could not be tolerated, that this was the second or third murder of a National Socialist committed abroad by a Jew and so on. It was on that occasion that he first made the suggestion that a fine should be imposed. Indeed, he wished that each Gau should collect such a fine and he named an almost incredibly high sum.

I contradicted him and told the Fuehrer that, if there were to be a fine, then the Reich alone should collect it, for, as I said, Herr Goebbels had most of the Jews here in Berlin and would therefore not be a suitable person for this, since he was the most interested party. Apart from that, if such measures were to be taken, then only the sovereign State had the right to take them.

After a short discussion, this way and that, about the amount, one billion was settled upon. I pointed out to the Fuehrer that under certain circumstances that figure would have repercussions on the tax returns. The Fuehrer then expressed the wish and ordered that the economic solution also be carried through now. In order that there be no further occasion for such events, first: Those businesses obviously Jewish and known to be Jewish were to be Aryanised; in particular, the department stores, since these were often a source of friction, as the officials and employees from the Ministries, who could shop only between 6 and 7 in the evening, often went to these stores and met with difficulties. He ordered, in general terms, what should be done.

Thereupon I called the meeting of 12th November with those departments having jurisdiction over these matters. Unfortunately, the Fuehrer had demanded that Goebbels should be represented on this commission - actually a

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commission was to be appointed. He was, in fact, present, although I maintained that he had nothing to do with economic questions. The discussion was very lively; we were all irritated at this meeting. Following the meeting I had the economic laws drafted, and later I had them published.

I rejected other proposals which lay outside the economic sphere, such as restriction of travel, restriction of residence, restrictions in regard to bathing resorts, etc., since I was not competent to deal with these things and had not received any special orders. These were issued later on by the police authorities, and not by me; and later I intervened in order to mitigate them and make various adjustments.

I should like to emphasise that although I received oral and written orders and commands from the Fuehrer to issue and carry out these laws, I assume full and absolute responsibility for them. They bear my signature; I issued them, and consequently I am responsible, and do not propose to hide in any way behind the Fuehrer's order.

Q. Now to another matter. What were the reasons for the refusal to take part in the Disarmament Conference and for the withdrawal from the League of Nations?

A. The chief reasons for that were, (1) that the other States which, after the complete disarming of Germany, were also bound to disarm, did not do so. (2) That we also found a lack of willingness to meet in any way Germany's justified proposals for revisions; (3) there were repeated violations of the Treaty of Versailles and of the statutes of the League of Nations by other States, Poland, Lithuania, etc., and these violations, at first censured by the League of Nations, did not cease, but were, indeed, accepted as accomplished facts; (4) all complaints by Germany regarding questions of minorities were, indeed, discussed, and well- meaning advice was given to the States against which the complaints had been brought, but nothing was actually done to relieve the situation.

Those are the reasons for leaving the League of Nations and the Disarmament Conference.

Q. Why did Hitler decide to rearm and reintroduce compulsory service?

A. When Germany left the League of Nations and the Disarmament Conference, she simultaneously announced to the leading Powers concerned her clear-cut decision to achieve universal disarmament. The Fuehrer then made various proposals which it can be assumed are historically known: restriction of the active armed forces to a certain number of men, restriction of weapons to be used, abolishing of certain weapons as, for example, bombers, and various other points. Each one of these proposals was refused, however, and did not come to the point of being carried out universally, not even to the point of being discussed.

When we and the Fuehrer recognised clearly that the other parties did not think of disarming and that, on the contrary, that mighty Power to the East of us, Russia, was carrying out a greater armament programme than ever before, it became necessary, in order to safeguard the most vital interests of the German people, their life and their security, for us to free ourselves from all ties and to rearm to such an extent as was now necessitated by the interests and security of the Reich. That was the first reason for the necessity of reintroducing compulsory service.

Q. To what extent did the Air Force participate in this rearmament?

A. In 1933, when I founded the Air Ministry, we did not at first tackle the question of rearmament. In spite of that I did arrange for certain basic conditions. I immediately extended manufacture and increased air traffic beyond the extent of necessary traffic, so as to be able to train a larger number of pilots. At that time I took over a number of young people, lieutenants

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and ensigns, who then had to leave the Armed Forces in order first to enter into commercial flying and there to learn to fly.

I was aware from the beginning that protection in the air was necessary as one of the most essential conditions for the security of my nation. Originally it was my belief that a defensive Air Force, that is a fighter force, might suffice; but upon reflection I realised - and I want to underline what witness Field-Marshal Kesselring said on that subject - that one would be lost with merely a fighter force for defence purposes, and that even a defensive force must contain bombers in order that it can be used offensively against the enemy Air Force on enemy territory.

Therefore I had bomber aircraft developed from commercial aeroplanes. In the beginning rearmament proceeded slowly. Everything had to be created anew since nothing existed in the way of air armament.

In 1935 I told the Fuehrer that I should now consider it proper, since we had repeatedly received refusals in answer to our proposals, to declare to the world openly that we were creating an Air Force, and that I had already established a certain basis for that. This took place in the form of an interview which I had with a British correspondent.

Now I could proceed to rearm on a larger scale; but in spite of that we confined ourselves at first to what we called a "Risk Air Force," that is a "Risk" in so far as an enemy coming to attack Germany should know that he could expect to meet with an Air Force. But it was by no means strong enough to be of any real importance.

In 1936 followed the famous report which was presented to the witness Bodenschatz, in which I said that we must, from this moment on, work on the basis of mobilisation, that money mattered nothing, and that, in short, I should take the responsibility for overdrawing the budget.

Since nothing had existed before, I should be able to catch up quickly only if the aircraft production on the one side were made to work with as many shifts as possible, that is, with maximum effort and on a mobilisation basis, and if, on the other hand, the extension of the organisation of the ground forces and similar matters were carried out at once with the greatest possible speed.

The situation in 1936 is defined by me in that report to my co-workers as serious. Other States had, to be sure, not disarmed, but here and there they had perhaps neglected their Air Force and they were catching up on lost ground, and violent debates were taking place in England in regard to modernising and building up the Air Force; feverish activities were taking place in Russia, in regard to which we had reliable reports. I shall refer to the question of Russian rearmament later.

When the Civil War broke out in Spain, Franco sent a call for help to Germany and asked for support, particularly in the air. One should not forget that Franco with his troops was stationed in Africa and that he could not get the troops across, since the fleet was in the hands of the Communists, or, as they called themselves at the time, the competent Revolutionary Government in Spain. The important thing was, first of all, that the troops come to Spain.

The Fuehrer thought about the matter. I urged him to give support under all circumstances, firstly, in order to prevent the further spread of Communism in that theatre of war, and, secondly, in order to try out my young Air Force on this occasion from certain technical points of view.

With the permission of the Fuehrer, I sent a large part of my transport fleet and a number of experimental fighter units, bombers, and anti-aircraft guns, and in that way I had an opportunity to ascertain, under combat conditions, whether the material was equal to the task. In order that the personnel, too, might gather a certain amount of experience, I saw to it that there was a continuous flow - that is, that new people were constantly being sent and others recalled.

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The rearming of the Air Force required, as a basic condition, the creation of a large number of new industries. It would not be helpful to build a strong Air Force and have no petrol for it. Here, too, therefore, I had to force the refineries to the extreme. There were other auxiliary industries, above all, aluminium. Since I considered the Air Force the most important part of the Armed Forces as far as the security of the Reich was concerned and in view of the modernisation of technical science, it was my duty as Supreme Commander to do everything to develop it to the highest peak and, since nothing was there to begin with, there had to be a supreme effort and a maximum amount of work. That I did.

Much has been said here in a cross-examination about four- engine bombers, two-engine bombers, et cetera. The witnesses made statements to the best of their knowledge and ability, but they were familiar only with small sections and they gave their opinions from this point of view. I alone was responsible and am responsible, for I was Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force and Minister of Air. I was responsible for the rearmament and building up of the Air Force and for its spirit.

If at the beginning I did not build any four-engine bombers, then it was not because I had qualms that they might be construed as an aggressive force. That would not have disturbed me for one minute. My only reason was that the necessary technical and production conditions did not exist. This kind of bomber simply had not yet been developed by my industry, at any rate not so that I could use it. Secondly, I was still short of aluminium, and anyone who is even half an expert knows how much aluminium a four-engine bomber swallows up and how many fighters - that is, two-engine bombers - one can build with the same amount.

To start with, I had to ascertain who were likely to be Germany's opponents in a war. Were the technical conditions adequate for meeting an attack against Germany by such an enemy? Of all possible opponents, I considered Russia the main opponent, but of course England, France and Italy also had to be considered. It was my duty to consider all possibilities.

As far as the European theatre of war was concerned, I could, for the time being, be satisfied with bombers which could operate against the important centres of the armament industry and an enemy air attack. Thus, for the time being, I did not need anything more than that aircraft which would enable me to do that, but it was important to have more of this kind.

But in a speech to the aircraft industrialists I let it be clearly known that I desired most urgently to have a bomber which, loaded with the necessary bombs, could fly to America and back. I asked them to work on that diligently so that, if America should enter into war against Germany, I could also reach the American armament industry. In other words, it was not that I did not want them. I even, as far as I remember, established a prize competition for bombers capable of flying at great heights and at great speeds over long distances. Even before the beginning of the war we had begun to develop propeller-less aircraft.

Summing up, I should like to say that I did everything possible, under the technical and production conditions then prevalent, to rebuild and rearm a strong Air Force. The technical knowledge of that time led us to believe that, after five years of war, new technical and practical advances would be made. That is a principle based on experiences. I wanted to be prepared to have an Air Force which, however the political situation might develop, would be strong enough to protect the nation and to deal blows to Germany's enemies. It is perfectly correct for Mr. Justice Jackson to ask whether the speedy elimination of Poland and France was due to the fact that the German Air Force, acting according to modern principles, contributed so much. That was the decisive, factual prerequisite. On the other hand, though this does not

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concern me, the use of the American Air Force was also a necessary condition for the Allied victory.

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