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 5 of 8)

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

[Page 99]

Q. When was the Reich Cabinet in session last?

A. As far as I remember, the last meeting of the Reich Cabinet was in 1937, and, as far as I can remember, I presided over the last meetings, because the Fuehrer had left shortly after the beginning. He did not think much of Cabinet meetings; it was too large a circle for him, and perhaps there was too much discussion of his plans, and he wanted that changed.

[Page 100]

From that time on there were only individual conferences - conferences with single Ministers or with groups of Ministers from the Ministries concerned. But since the Ministers found, very rightly, that this made their work difficult, a solution was adopted whereby I, under the heading "Four-Year Plan," called the Ministers together more frequently, in order to discuss general matters with them. But at no time in the Cabinet or the Ministerial Council was any political decision of importance mentioned or discussed, as, for instance, those decisions - the annexation of Austria, the Sudetenland, and Czechoslovakia which finally led to war. I know how much importance the Fuehrer attached to, the fact that in all these matters only those Ministers who absolutely had to be informed because of the nature of their work should be informed, and then only at the very last minute. Here, too, I can say under oath that quite a number of Ministers were not informed about the beginning of the war or the march into Czechoslovakia, the Sudetenland or Austria until the next morning, when they learned about it by radio or through the Press, just as any other German citizen.

Q. What part did you have in making the Munich Pact of September, 1938?

A. The annexation of the Sudeten Germans or, better said, the solution of the Sudeten German problem, I had always emphasised as something necessary. I also told the Fuehrer after the annexation of Austria that I should regret it if his statements were misunderstood to mean that with the annexation of Austria, this question had been settled.

In November, 1937, I stated to Lord Halifax that the annexation of Austria, the solution of the Sudeten German question in the sense of a return of the Sudeten Germans, and the solution of the problem of Danzig and the Corridor were integral parts of German policy; whether they were tackled by Hitler one day or by me or somebody else the next day, they would remain political aims. which under all circumstances would have to be attained sometime. However, both of us agreed that all efforts should be made to avoid a resort to war.

Furthermore, in my conversations with M. Benes, I had always taken the very same position. I told every other person, publicly and personally, that the above-mentioned three points had to be taken care of and that the settlement of the one would not make the others unimportant.

I also want to stress that if, in reference to this and also in reference to other things, the prosecution accuses us that we have not kept this or that particular promise that Germany had made in the past, including the Germany that existed just before the seizure of power, I should like to refer to the many speeches in which both the Fuehrer - this I no longer remember so well - and I, as I know very well, stated that we were warning foreign countries not to build any plans for the future on the basis of any promises of the present Government, that we would not recognise these promises when we acquired power. Thus there was absolute clarity in respect to this.

When the Sudeten question approached a crisis and a solution was determined by the Fuehrer, I, as a soldier and Commander- in-Chief of the Air Force, as, was my duty, took preparatory measures, as ordered, for any eventuality. As a politician I was extremely happy at the attempts which were made to find, a peaceful solution. I acknowledge that at that time I was very happy when I saw that the British Prime Minister made all sorts of efforts. Nevertheless, the situation on the day before the Munich Agreement had again become very critical.

It was about 6.30 or 7 o'clock in the morning when the Italian Ambassador, Attolico, called me up and said that he had to see me immediately on orders from Mussolini, that it was about the solution of the Sudeten problem. I told him he should go and see the Foreign Minister. He said he had a special order from Mussolini to see me alone first. I met him, as far as I can remember, at 9 o'clock in the morning, and he told me that Mussolini was prepared to

[Page 101]

mediate, and suggested that a meeting should be called as soon as possible between Germany: Adolf Hitler; England: Prime Minister Chamberlain; France: Prime Minister Daladier; and Italy: Mussolini, in order to settle the question peacefully. He, Mussolini, saw a possibility of that, and was prepared to take all necessary steps, and asked me personally to use all my influence in this direction. I took the Ambassador and, also, Herr von Neurath, although he was not Foreign Minister at that time, at once to the Reich Chancellery and reported everything to the Fuehrer. I tried to persuade him, explained to him the advantages of such a step and said that this could be the basis for a general easing of tension. Whether the other current political and diplomatic attempts would be successful one could not yet say, but if the four leading statesmen of the four large Western European Powers were to meet, then much would be gained.

Herr von Neurath supported my argument, and the Fuehrer agreed and said we should call the Duce by telephone. Attolico, who waited outside, did that immediately, whereupon Mussolini spoke to the Fuehrer officially, and it was agreed that the meeting should take place at Munich.

Late in the afternoon I was informed by the Italian Embassy that both the British Prime Minister and the French Prime Minister had agreed to arrive at Munich the next day.

I asked the Fuehrer, or rather I told him, that under all circumstances I would attend the meeting. He agreed. Then I suggested that I should also take Herr von Neurath with me in my train. He agreed to that also.

I took part in some of the discussions and, when necessary, contributed to the settlement of many arguments and, above all, did my best to create a friendly atmosphere on all sides. I had personal conversations with M. Daladier and Mr. Chamberlain, and I was sincerely happy afterwards that everything had gone well.

Q. Before that the annexation of Austria to Germany had taken place. What reasons did Hitler have for this decision, and to what extent did you play a part in these measures?

A. I told the Tribunal yesterday when I gave a brief outline of my life that I personally felt a great affinity for Austria, that I spent the greatest part of my youth in an Austrian castle, that my father, even at the time of the old empire, often spoke of a close bond between the future of the German country Austria and the Reich, since he was convinced that the Austrian Empire would not hold together much longer.

In 1918, while in Austria for two days, having come by plane, I experienced the revolution and the collapse of the Hapsburg Empire. Those countries with a predominantly German population, including Sudeten Germany, convened at that time in Vienna, declared themselves free of the dissolved Hapsburg State, and stated that they, as well as representatives of the Sudeten German part of Austria, were a part of the German Reich. This happened, as far as I know, under the Social Democratic Chancellor Renner. This statement by the representatives of the Austrian German people, that they wanted to be in the future a part of Germany, was changed by the Peace Treaty of St. Germain, and prohibited by the dictate of the victorious nations. Neither for myself nor for any other German was that of importance.

It was a matter of course that the time and the conditions had to be created for the union of the two brother nations of purely German blood and origin. When we came to power, as I have said before, this was, of course, an integral part of German policy.

The assurances which Hitler gave at that time regarding the sovereignty of Austria were no deception; they were meant seriously. At first he probably did not see any other possibility. I myself was much more radical in this direction and I asked him repeatedly not to make any definite commitments

[Page 102]

regarding the Austrian question. He believed, however, that he had first of all to take Italy into consideration.

It was evident that, especially after the National Socialist Party in Germany had come to power, the National Socialist Party in Austria was also growing more and more. This Party, however, had existed in Austria even before the coming to power in Germany, just as the origin of the National Socialist Workers' Party goes back to Sudeten Germany. The Party in Austria was therefore not a Fifth Column for the Anschluss, because the Austrian people themselves had always wanted the annexation. If, therefore, the idea of the Anschluss did not exist so clearly and strongly in the Austrian Government of that time, then it was not because it did not want to be joined to Germany but because the form of government of National Socialism was incompatible with the form of government then in existence in Austria.

Thus there resulted that tension, first in Austria itself, which has repeatedly been mentioned by the prosecution in its charges. This tension was inevitable because the National Socialists took the thought of annexation with Germany more seriously than did the Government. This resulted in political strife between the two. That we were on the side of the National Socialists as far as our sympathies were concerned is obvious, particularly since the Party in Austria was severely persecuted. Many were put into camps, which were just like the concentration camps but had different names.

The leader of the Austrian Party at a certain time was a man by the name of Habicht from Wiesbaden. I did not know him before; I saw him only once there. He falsely led the Fuehrer to believe that the Austrian Armed Forces were prepared to undertake something on their own in order either to force the Government into accepting the Anschluss or else to overthrow it. If this were the case, that the Party in Austria was to support whatever the Armed Forces undertook along these lines, then, so the Fuehrer thought, it should have the political support of the Party in Germany in respect to this matter. But the whole thing was actually a deception, since it was not the Austrian Army which intended to proceed against the Austrian Government but rather a so- called "Wehrmacht Standarte," a unit which consisted of former members and released or discharged members of the Austrian Army who had gone over to the Party or joined it.

With this deceptive manoeuvre Habicht then undertook this action in Vienna. I was then in Bayreuth with the Fuehrer. He called Habicht at once and reproached him most severely and said that he had given him false information, tricked him and deceived him.

He regretted the death of Dollfuss very much because politically that meant a very serious situation as far as the National Socialists were concerned, and particularly in regard to Italy. Italy mobilised five divisions at that time and sent them to the Brenner Pass. The Fuehrer desired an appeasement which would be quick and as sweeping in its effect as possible. That was the reason why he asked Herr von Papen to go as Ambassador Extraordinary to Vienna and to try to ease the atmosphere as quickly as possible.

We must not forget the somewhat absurd situation which has already developed in the course of years, namely, that a purely German country such as Austria was not influenced in governmental matters most strongly by the German Reich but by the Italian Government. I remember a statement of Mr. Churchill's - that Austria was practically a branch of Italy.

After the action against Dollfuss, Italy assumed a very definitely aloof attitude toward Germany and made it clear that Italy would be the country which would do everything to prevent the annexation. Therefore, besides the internal clearing up of Germany's relations to Austria by Herr von Papen, the Fuehrer had also to try to bring about a change in Mussolini's attitude to

[Page 103]

this question. For this reason he went to Vienna shortly afterwards - maybe it was before - at any rate, he tried to bring about a different attitude.

But I was of the opinion that, in spite of everything we may have had in common, let us say in a philosophic sense - Fascism and National Socialism - the annexation of our brother people was much more important to me than this coming to an agreement. And if it were not possible to do it with Mussolini, we should have to do it against him. Then came the Italian-Ethiopian war. In regard to the sanctions against Italy, Germany was given to understand, not openly but "under the counter," that it would be to her advantage, as far as the Austrian question was concerned, to take part in these sanctions.

That was a difficult decision for the Fuehrer to make. Either to declare himself out and out against Italy, and to achieve the Anschluss by these means, or to bind himself by obligation to Italy through a pro-Italian, correct attitude and thus to exclude Italy's opposition to the Anschluss. I suggested to him at that time, in view of the somewhat vague offer regarding Austria made by English-French circles, to try to find out who was behind this offer, and whether both those Governments were willing to come to an agreement in regard to this point, and to give assurances to the effect that this would be considered an internal German affair, and that the offer did not merely represent vague assurances of general co-operation, etc.

My suspicions proved right; we could not get any clear assurances; and under these circumstances it was more opportune to prevent Italy's being the main opponent to the Anschluss by not joining in any sanctions against her.

I was still of the opinion that the great national interest in the union of these German peoples stood above all considerations regarding differences between the two present Governments, and that this could not be achieved by the Government of the great German Reich stepping into the background and perhaps joining Germany to Austria; rather the Anschluss would have to be executed sooner or later.

Then came the Berchtesgaden agreement. I was not present at this. I did not even agree to it because I was opposed to any definite statement which lengthened this period of indecision; for me the complete union of all Germans was the only conceivable solution.

Shortly after Berchtesgaden there was the plebiscite which the then Chancellor Schuschnigg had called. This plebiscite was of itself an impossibility, a breach of the Berchtesgaden agreement. This I shall pass over. But the way in which this plebiscite was supposed to take place was unique in history. One could vote only by "yes," every person could vote as often as he wanted, five times, six times, seven times. If he tore up the slip of paper, that was counted as "yes," and so on. It is of no further interest. In this way it could be seen from the very beginning that if only a few followers of the Schuschnigg system utilised these opportunities sufficiently the result could be only a positive majority for Herr Schuschnigg. The whole thing was a farce.

We opposed that; first of all a member of the Austrian Government who was at that moment in Germany, General von Glaise-Horstenau, was flown to Vienna in order to make clear to Schuschnigg or Seyss-Inquart, who, since Berchtesgaden, was in Schuschnigg's Cabinet, that Germany would never tolerate this provocation. At the same time troops which were stationed near the Austrian border were alerted. That was on Friday, I believe, the 11th. On that day I was in the Reich Chancellery with the Fuehrer. I heard by telephone the news that Glaise-Horstenau had arrived and made our demands known clearly and unmistakably, and that these things were now being discussed. Then, as far as I remember, the answer came that the plebiscite had been called off and that Schuschnigg agreed to it. At this moment I had the instinctive feeling that the situation had become mobile and that now, finally, that possibility which we had long and ardently awaited was there - the possibility of

[Page 104]

bringing about a total solution. From this moment on I must take one hundred per cent. responsibility for all further happenings, because it was not the Fuehrer so much as I myself who set the pace and, even overruling the Fuehrer's misgivings, brought everything to its final development.

My telephone conversations have been read here. I demanded spontaneously, without actually having first spoken to the Fuehrer about it, the immediate retirement of Chancellor Schuschnigg. When this was granted, I put my next demand - now that everything was ripe for it - and that was the Anschluss. And that took place, as is known.

The only thing - and I do not say this because it is important as far as my responsibility is concerned - which I did not bring about personally, since I did not know the persons involved, but which has been brought forward by the prosecution in the last few days, was the following: I sent through a list of Ministers, that is to say, I named those persons who would be considered by us as desirable as members of an Austrian Government for the time being. I knew Seyss-Inquart, and it was clear to me from the very beginning that he should get the Chancellorship. Then I named Kaltenbrunner for security. I did not know Kaltenbrunner, and that is one of the two instances where the Fuehrer took a hand by giving me a few names. Also, by the way, I gave the name of Fischbock for the Ministry of Economy, without knowing him. The only one whom I personally brought into this Cabinet was my brother-in-law, Dr. Huber, as Minister of Justice, not because he was my brother-in- law, but because he had already been Austrian Minister of Justice in the Cabinet of Prelate Seipel. He was not a member of the Party at that time, but he came from the ranks of the Home Guards (Heimwehr) and it was important to me to have someone from this group too - with whom we had initially worked together, but had since opposed - represented in the Cabinet, and I wanted to be sure of my influence on this person, so that everything would now actually develop toward a total Anschluss. For already plans had again appeared whereby the Fuehrer only, because he was the head of the German Reich, should also be the head of German Austria, and there would otherwise be a separation. That I considered intolerable. The hour had come and we should make the best use of it.

In the conversation which I had with Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop, who was in London at that time, I stressed that the ultimatum had not been put by us but by Seyss-Inquart. That was absolutely true de jure; de facto, of course, I put it. But this telephone conversation was being listened to by the English, and I had to conduct a diplomatic conversation, and I have never heard yet that diplomats in such cases say how it was de facto; rather they always stress how it was de jure; and why should I make an exception here? In this telephone conversation I demanded of Herr von Ribbentrop that he ask the British Government to name British persons in whom they had the fullest confidence. We would make all arrangements so that these persons could travel all over Austria, in order to see for themselves that the Austrian people, in an overwhelming majority, wanted this Anschluss and greeted it with enthusiasm. Here, during the discussion of the Austrian question, no mention was made of the fact that already - this conversation took place on Friday - the Sunday before, in Styria, one of the most important lands with predominantly German population, an internal partial Anschluss had practically taken place, that the population there had already declared itself in favour of the Anschluss and had more or less severed its ties with the Viennese Government.

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