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 4 of 8)

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

[Page 95]

Q. Does the fact that you were given control of raw materials in April, 1936, have something to do with this rebuilding of the Air Force?

A. I need not repeat what the witness Koerner elaborated on yesterday or the day before yesterday with regard to my gradual rise in the economic leadership. The starting point was the agricultural crisis in the spring of 1935. In the summer of 1936 the then Minister of War, von Blomberg, the then Minister of Economy and President of the Reichsbank, Schacht, and Minister Kerrl came to me and asked me whether I was prepared to back a suggestion of theirs which they wanted to submit to the Fuehrer, namely, that I be appointed Commissioner for Raw Materials and Foreign Exchange. It was agreed that I should not function as an economic expert, which I was not; but someone was needed to take care of the difficulties due to shortage of foreign currency, which continuously arose because of our heavy demands, and at the same time to make available and accumulate raw materials - someone who was capable of taking measures which would not be understood by many people and who would be backed by his authority. Secondly, it was decided that in this sphere, though not as an expert, I should be the driving power and use my energy.

Minister Schacht, who was an expert, had difficulties with the Party. He was not a member of the Party. He was at that time on excellent terms with the Fuehrer and me, but not so much with the members of the Party. The danger arose that the appropriate measures might not be understood by the latter, and in this connection I would be the right man to make these things known to it and to the people.

That is how that came about. But since I, as Minister of Air, was, as I have explained, interested in raw materials, I played an ever-increasingly important role. Then the differences between agriculture and economy in regard to foreign currency came more to the fore, so that I had to make decisions, decisions which became more severe. Thus I entered the field of economic leadership. I devoted a great deal of time to this task, particularly to procuring the raw materials necessary for economy and for rearmament. Out of this the Four-Year Plan arose, which gave me far-reaching plenary powers.

Q. What was the aim of the Four-Year Plan?

A. The Four-Year Plan had two aims: firstly, German economy in as far as possible, and particularly in the agricultural sector, should be made secure against any crisis; secondly, in the event of war Germany should be able as far as possible to withstand a blockade. Therefore it was necessary, first to increase agriculture to the greatest extent, to seize hold of it and direct it, to control consumption, and to store up supplies by means of negotiations with foreign countries; and secondly to ascertain which raw materials, imported up until then, could be found, produced, and procured in Germany itself; and which raw materials that were difficult to import could be replaced by others more easily obtainable. Briefly, as far as the agricultural sector was concerned: utilisation of every available space, regulation of cultivation according to the degree of need of the crops, control of animal breeding, collection of reserves for times of need or crop failures. As far as the industrial sector was concerned, the creation of industries supplying raw materials: first coal; although there was sufficient coal, its production would have to be increased considerably, since coal is the basic raw material on which so many other things are dependent; then iron: our mining industry had made itself so dependent on foreign countries that, in the event of a crisis, the most disastrous situation could arise here. I can quite understand that from the purely financial and business point of view the position was quite satisfactory but, nevertheless, we should have to promote and make available the German iron ores which were in existence, even though

[Page 96]

they were inferior to the Swedish ores; to co-ordinate industry by force, and force it to rely on German ores.

I recklessly allowed industry a year's time. Since industry by then had still not expanded, I founded the Reich works, which were given my name, a Reich company primarily for opening up iron ore reserves in German soil and using them in the mining industry. It was necessary to found oil refineries, aluminium works and various other works, and then to promote the development of the so-called synthetic material industry, in order to replace necessary raw materials which could be obtained only from abroad and under difficult circumstances. In the field of textiles this involved the conversion of the textile industry and of I.G. Farben.

That, roughly was the task of the Four-Year Plan.

Naturally, a third question is of importance in this connection: the question of labour. Co-ordination was necessary here, too. The most important industries had to have workers, less important industries had to dispense with them. The control of this labour employment, which before the war functioned only within Germany, was another task of the Four-Year Plan and its department "Labour Employment."

The Four-Year Plan as such very quickly assumed large proportions as an official organisation. Then, after Schacht had left, I took over the Ministry of Economy for two months and fitted the Four-Year Plan into it, retaining, only a very small staff of collaborators and carried out the tasks with the assistance of the Ministries competent to deal with these things.

Q. Was the purpose of carrying out these plans that of preparing for aggressive war?

A. No, the aim of the plans was, as I said, to make Germany secure against economic crises and to make her secure against a blockade in the event of war and, of course, within the Four-Year Plan to provide the necessary conditions for rearmament. That was one of its important tasks.

Q. How did the occupation of the Rhineland come about?

A. The occupation of the Rhineland was not, as has been asserted here, a long-prepared affair. What had been discussed previously did not deal with the occupation of the Rhineland but with the possibility of an attack on Germany and the question of mobilisation measures in the Rhineland.

The Rhineland occupation came about for two reasons. The balance which was created through the Pact of Locarno had been disturbed in Western Europe, because a new factor had arisen in France's system of allies, namely Russia, who even at that time had an extraordinarily large Armed Force. In addition there was the Russian-Czechoslovakian Mutual Agreement Pact. Thus, the conditions upon which the Locarno Pact had been based no longer existed, according to our way of thinking. There was now, therefore, such a threat to Germany, or the possibility of such a threat, that it would have been a neglect of duty and honour on the part of the Government if it had not done everything to ensure here, too, the security of the Reich. The Government accordingly - as a sovereign State, a sovereign Reich - made use of its sovereign right and freed itself from the dishonourable obligation not to take a part of the Reich under its protection, and did take this important part of the Reich under its protection, by building strong fortifications.

The construction of such a strong, extensive and costly fortification is justified only if this frontier is regarded as final and definitive. If I had intended to extend the border in the near future, then it would never have been advisable to go through with an undertaking so expensive to the whole nation as was the construction of the West Wall. This step was taken - and this I want to emphasise particularly from the very beginning - only in the interests of defence and as a defensive measure. It made the Western border of the Reich secure against a threat, which became apparent because of the recent shift of power

[Page 97]

and the new constellation of Powers, such as the Franco- Russian Mutual Agreement Pact. The actual occupation, the decision to occupy the Rhineland, was adopted at very short notice. The troops which marched into the Rhineland were of such small numbers - and that is a historical fact - that they provided for merely a theoretic occupation. The Air Force itself could not, for the time being, enter the Rhine territory on the left at all, since there was no adequate ground organisation. It entered the so-called demilitarised territory on the right of the Rhine, Dusseldorf and other cities. In other words, it was not as if the Rhineland were suddenly occupied with a great wave of troops, but, as I said before, it was merely that a few battalions and a few batteries marched in, in order to declare, according to programme, that the Rhineland was now again under the full sovereignty of the sovereign German Reich and would in the future be protected accordingly.

Q. What were Hitler's aims when he created the Reich Defence Council and when he issued the Reich Defence Law?

A. The Reich Defence Council, during the last months, has played a very important role here. I hope I shall not be misunderstood; I believe that in these months more has been said about it than was ever said since the moment of its creation. In the first place it is called Reich Defence Council and not Reich Council for the Offensive. Its existence is taken for granted. In some form or other it exists in every country, though the name may be different. First of all, there was a Reich Defence Committee in existence before the accession to power. In this committee there were official experts from all the Ministries for the purpose of carrying out mobilisation preparations or, to put it better, mobilisation measures, which automatically come into consideration in any kind of development - war, the possibility of war, or a war involving bordering States, and the subsequent need to guard one's neutrality. The usual measures have to be taken according to the immediate needs - how many horses have to be levied in case of mobilisation, what factories have to be converted, whether bread ration cards and fat ration cards have to be introduced, regulation of traffic, etc. - all these things need not be dealt with in detail, because they are so obvious.

Discussions on these matters took place in the Reich Defence Committee - discussions by the official experts presided over by the then Chief of the Ministerial Office in the Reich Ministry of War, Keitel. The Reich Defence Council was created, for the time being, as a precautionary measure, when the Armed Forces were again introduced, but it existed only on paper. I was, I think, Deputy Chairman or Chairman - I do not know which - I heard it mentioned here - but I assure you under oath that at no time and at no date did I participate in a meeting at which the Reich Defence Council as such was called together. Discussions which were necessary for the defence of the Reich were held in a completely different connection, in a different form and depending on immediate needs. Naturally, there were discussions about the defence of the Reich, but not in connection with the Reich Defence Council. This existed on paper, but it never met. Even if it had met, that would have been quite logical, since this concerns defence and not attack. The Reich Defence Law, or rather the Ministerial Council for the Reich Defence, which is probably what you mean, was created only one day before the outbreak of the war, since the Reich Defence Council factually did not exist. This Ministerial Council for Reich Defence is not to be considered the same as, for instance, the so-called War Cabinet that was formed in England, and perhaps in other States, when the war broke out. On the contrary, the function of this Ministerial Council for the Reich Defence was - by using shortening procedure - to issue only the necessary war laws, laws dealing with daily issues, and it was to relieve the Fuehrer to a considerable extent, since he had reserved for himself the leadership in military operations. The Ministerial Council therefore

[Page 98]

issued, first of all, all those laws which, as I should like to mention, are to be expected in any country at the beginning of a war. In the early period it met three or four times, and after that not at all. I, too, did not have the time after that. To shorten procedure, these laws were circulated and then issued. A year or a year and a half afterwards - I cannot remember exactly - the Fuehrer took the direct issuance of laws more into his own hands. I was the co-signer of many laws in my capacity as Chairman of the Ministerial Council. But that, too, was practically discontinued in the last years. The Ministerial Council did not meet again after 1940, I think.

Q. The prosecution has presented a document, 2261-PS. In this document a Reich Defence Law of 21st May, 1935, is mentioned, which was originally drafted by order of the Fuehrer. I shall have that document shown to you and I ask you to give your views of it.

A. I am familiar with it.

Q. Would you please state your views?

A. After the Reich Defence Council had come into existence a Reich Defence Law was prepared in 1935 for the event of a mobilisation. The agreement or, rather, the decision, was made by the Reich Cabinet and was to apply and be effective in the case of a mobilisation. Actually it was replaced, when mobilisation did come about, by the law I have mentioned in connection with the Ministerial Council for the Reich Defence. In this law, just before the time of the Four- Year Plan, that is, 1935, a Plenipotentiary for Economy was created for the event of a mobilisation and a Plenipotentiary for Administration; that is, if war occurred, then all the departments of the entire administration would be concentrated under one Minister, and all the departments concerned with the economy and armament were likewise to be concentrated under one Minister. The Plenipotentiary for Administration did not function before mobilisation. The Plenipotentiary for Economy, on the other hand - this title was not to be made known to the public - was to begin his tasks immediately. That was indeed necessary. This is the explanation of the fact that the creation of the Four-Year Plan necessarily led to clashes between the Plenipotentiary for Economy and the Commissioner for the Four-Year Plan, since both of them were more or less working on the same or similar tasks. When, therefore, in 1936, I was made Commissioner for the Four-Year Plan, the activities of the Plenipotentiary for Economy practically ceased.

DR . STAHMER: Mr. President, ought I to stop now with the questions?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I think it would be a good time.

(A recess was taken until 14.00 hours.)


Q. Repeatedly a term has been used here: Reich Research Council (Reichsforschungsrat). What kind of an institution was that?

A. I believe it was in the year 1943 that I received the order to concentrate the entire field of German research, particularly in so far as it was of urgent importance to the conduct of war. Unfortunately, that was done much too late. The purpose was to avoid parallel research and useless research, to concentrate all research on problems important for the war. I myself became President of the Reich Research Council and established directives for research for the purpose mentioned.

Q. Did this have any connection with the Research Office of the Air Force?

A. No, the Research Office of the Air Force was something entirely different, and it had nothing to do with either research or the Air Force. The expression was a sort of camouflage, for when we came to power there was considerable confusion in the technical sector of the control of important information. Therefore, I established for the time being the Research Office - that is, an office

[Page 99]

where all technical devices for the control of radio, telegraph, telephone, and all other technical communications would be provided. Since I was then only Reich Minister for Air I could do this only within my own Ministry and therefore used this camouflaged designation. This machinery served primarily to exert control over foreign missions, important persons who had telephone, telegraph and radio connections with foreign countries, as is customary in all countries, and then to put the information thus extracted at the disposal of other departments. The office had no agents, no Intelligence Service, but was a purely technical office taking care of broadcasts, telephone conversations and telegrams, wherever it was ordered, and passing on information to the office concerned. In this connection I may stress that I have also read much about those communications made by Mr. Messersmith, which have been prominent here. He was at times the main source for such information.

Q. What was the purpose and importance of the Secret Cabinet Council which was created a short time after the seizure of power?

A. In February, 1938, there came about the retirement of the War Minister, Field-Marshal von Blomberg. Simultaneously, because of particular circumstances, the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, Colonel-General von Fritsch retired - that is to say, the Fuehrer dismissed him. The coincidence of these retirements or dismissals was, in the eyes of the Fuehrer, disadvantageous to the prestige of the Wehrmacht. He wanted to divert attention from this change in the Wehrmacht by means of a general reshuffling. He said he wanted above all to change the Foreign Ministry because only such a change would make a strong impression abroad and would be likely to divert attention from the military affairs. At that time I argued with the Fuehrer very strongly about this. In lengthy, wearisome personal conversations I begged him to refrain from a change in the Foreign Ministry. He believed, however, he would have to insist upon it.

The question arose as to what should be done after Herr von Neurath's retirement or after the change. The Fuehrer intended to keep Herr von Neurath in the Cabinet by all means, for he had the greatest personal esteem for him. I myself have always expressed my respect for Herr von Neurath. In order to avoid lowering Herr von Neurath's prestige, I myself was the one to make a proposal to the Fuehrer. I told him that in order to make it appear abroad as if von Neurath had not been entirely removed from foreign policy, I would propose to appoint him chairman of the Secret Cabinet Council. There was, to be sure, no such Cabinet in existence, but the expression would sound quite nice, and everyone would imagine that it meant something. The Fuehrer said we could not make him chairman if we did not have a council. Thereupon I said, "Then we will make one," and offhand I marked down names of several persons. How little importance I attached to this council can be seen in the fact that I myself was, I think, one of the last on that list.

Then an outer form was given to the council - giving of advice on foreign policy. When I returned I told my friends, "The matter has been well taken care of, but if the Fuehrer does not ask the Foreign Minister for advice, he certainly will not ask a cabinet council on foreign policy; we shall have nothing to do." I declare under oath that this cabinet council met at no time, not even for a few minutes; there was not even an initial meeting for laying down the rules by which it should function. Some members may not even have known that they were members.

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