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-Second Day: Friday, 15th March, 1946
(Part 4 of 7)

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

[Page 131]

Q. During the last days we have heard here repeatedly about the aerial attacks on Warsaw, Coventry and Rotterdam. Were these attacks carried out beyond military necessity?

A. The witnesses, and especially Field-Marshal Kesselring, have reported about part of that. But from these statements I had to realise once more, which is of course natural, how a commander of an army, an army group or an air fleet views in the last analysis only a certain sector. As Commander-in- Chief of the Air Force, however, I am in a position to view the whole picture, since I, after all, was the man responsible for issuing orders, and according to my orders and my point of view the chiefs of the fleets received their instructions and directives as to what they had to do.

Warsaw: First of all I should like to state that on the first morning of the attack on Poland a number of Polish cities, I believe the British prosecutor mentioned their names, were attacked. I do not remember their names any more. In my instructions for the first day of the attack on Poland it says specifically: First target: destruction and annihilation of the enemy Air Force. Once that had been achieved the other targets could be attacked without difficulty. Therefore I gave the order to attack the following airfields - I am certain, without having the names at hand at the moment, that 80 per cent. of the names mentioned were cities in which there were air bases. The second main target, which was, however, to be attacked only to a slight extent on the first day or with the first main blow, were railway junctions of decisive importance as far as the dislocation of troop units was concerned. I point out that shortly before the last and decisive attack on Warsaw, an air attack about which I will speak in a minute, the French Military Attache in Poland sent a report to his Government, which we are in a position to submit here and which we found later in Paris, from which it can be seen that even this opponent declared that the German Air Force - he had to admit that himself - had attacked exclusively military targets in Poland, "exclusively" particularly emphasised.

At the beginning Warsaw contained only one or two targets long before - "long before" is the wrong expression because it went too quickly - in other words, before the encirclement of Warsaw. That was the airfield Okecie, where the main enemy Polish Air Force was concentrated, and the Warsaw railway station, one of the main strategic railway stations of Poland. However, those attacks discussed were not the decisive ones, but rather after Warsaw was encircled, when it was asked to surrender. That surrender was refused. On the contrary, I remember the appeals which urged the entire civilian population, as well as the inhabitants of Warsaw, to offer resistance, not only military but also civilian resistance, although contrary to International Law, as is known. Still we gave another warning. We dropped leaflets at first, not bombs, in which we urged the population to cease fighting. Secondly, when the commanding officer persisted in his stand we urged the evacuation of the civilian population before the bombing.

When a radio message was received that the commanding officer wanted to send a truce emissary we agreed, but waited for him in vain. But then at least we requested that the Diplomatic Corps and all neutrals leave Warsaw on a road designated by us, which, in fact, was done.

Then, after it was clearly stated in the last appeal that we would now be forced to attack the city most severely if no surrender took place, we proceeded to attack first the forts, then the batteries put up within the city, and the troops. That was the attack on Warsaw.

In Rotterdam the situation was entirely different. In order to terminate the campaign in the Netherlands as quickly as possible and thereby to avoid further bloodshed, inasmuch as we had no basic differences, but had to execute this campaign for the previously mentioned reasons, I had suggested the use of the Parachute Division in the rear of the entire Dutch forces deployed against

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Germany; especially in order to capture the three most important bridges, one near Mordyk across the Rhine, another near Dortrecht and the third near Rotterdam. Thereby, from the beginning the way was paved in the rear of the entire troop deployment and, were we to succeed, the Dutch Army, with all its valour, could only hold out for a few days. This landing of my Parachute Division on the three bridges proved entirely successful.

While at Mordyk and Dortrecht resistance was overcome quickly, the unit at Rotterdam got into difficulty. First it was surrounded by Dutch troops. Everything hinged on the fact that the railway bridge and the road bridge, which were next to each other, should under all circumstances fall into our hands without being destroyed because then only would the last backdoor to the Dutch stronghold be open. While the main part was in the Southern section of Rotterdam, a few daring spearheads of the Parachutists had crossed both bridges and stood just North of both bridges, at one point in the railway station, right behind the railway bridge North of the river, and in the second place, within a block of houses which was on the immediate North side of the road bridge opposite the station, and which was the well-known butter or margarine factory, later playing an important role. This spearhead held its position in spite of heavy and superior attacks.

In the meantime a Panzer Division of Germans approached Rotterdam from the outside via the Mordyk and Dortrecht bridges, and here I would like to correct a misapprehension which arose in the cross-examination of Field-Marshal Kesselring by Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, concerning persons involved. Lieutenant-General Schmidt belonged to this group which came from the outside and led the Panzer troops. General Student led the Parachute Division which was in Rotterdam, that is, inside, and that explains the fact that at one, time there were negotiations for capitulation with the German commander of the troops coming from the outside, and at another time surrender negotiations with the commander of the Parachute troops within the city. Both were later co-ordinated - I do not want to go into details here whether clear agreements were arrived at - examining this chronologically one can trace it down to the very minute - and whether it could be seen at all, as to whether capitulation would come about or not, this, of course, for the time being concerned Rotterdam alone. At that time the group North of the two bridges was in a very precarious and difficult position. Bringing reinforcements across the two bridges was extremely difficult, because they were under heavy machine-gun fire. To this day I could still draw a precise picture of the situation. There was also artillery fire, so that only a few individuals, suspended by their hands, were able to work their way across, in order to get out of the firing line - I still remember exactly the situation at the bridge later on.

It had been ordered that these batteries standing North of the station and also those Dutch forces on the street between the station and the road leading North, representing a great handicap to our shock troops, be bombed, since at that time the Parachute troops had no artillery, and bombing was the only sort of artillery for the Parachute troops, and since I had assured my Parachutists before the venture that they would under all circumstances receive protection by bombers against heavy fire. Three groups of my squadrons were used. The call for help came over the radio station of the Paratroopers in Rotterdam, which did not function as well as has been claimed, and also from the clearly exhibited and agreed upon ground signals, which the reconnaissance planes brought back. These were signs such as arrows, indicators and letters which spelled out to the reconnaissance airmen: "We are pressed by artillery from the North, East, South, etc."

Thereupon I ordered the Air Force to use one squadron. The squadron started in three groups, about twenty-five to thirty planes. When the first group arrived, as far as I know, the surrender negotiations were in progress, but to no

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clearly defined end. In spite of that red flares were sent up. The first group did not grasp the significance of these flares, but rather threw their bombs, as agreed upon, exactly in that area as had been ordered. If I remember the figure correctly, there were at the most thirty-six twin- engined planes which chiefly released 50-kilo bombs. The second and third groups which followed understood the red signals, turned around, and did not drop their bombs.

There was no radio connection between Rotterdam and the planes. The radio connection went from Rotterdam by way of my headquarters, Airfleet 2, to division squadron, ground station, and from there there was a radio connection to the planes. That was in May, 1940, when, in general, the radio connection between ground station and planes was, to be sure, tolerably good but in no way to be compared with the excellent connections which were developed in the course of the war. But the main point was that Rotterdam could not send directly to the planes and therefore sent up the signals agreed upon, the red flares which were understood by groups two and three, but not by group one.

The great amount of destruction was not caused by bombs but, as said, by fire. That can best be seen from the fact that all the buildings which were built of stone and concrete are still standing in the ruined part, while the older houses were destroyed. The spread of this fire was caused by the combustion of large quantities of fats and oils. Secondly - I want to emphasise this particularly - the spread of this fire could surely have been prevented by energetic action on the, part of the Rotterdam Fire Department, in spite of the storm coming up.

The final negotiations for capitulation, as far as I remember, did not take place until about 6 o'clock in the evening. I know that because, during these surrender negotiations, there was still shooting going on, and the General of the Paratroopers, Student, went to the window during the surrender negotiations and was shot in the head, which resulted in a brain injury.

That is what I have to say about Rotterdam in explanation of the two Generals and their surrender negotiations, one from within and one from without.

Coventry: After the period from 6th or 7th September to November, only after repeated warnings to the English Government, and after the Fuehrer had reserved for himself the right to give the order for reprisal attacks on London and had long hesitated to give this order, and after German cities which were not military objectives had been bombed again and again, then London was declared a target for attack. From 6th and 7th September-the first attack was on 6th September in the afternoon - the German Air Force pounded London continuously. Although this seemed expedient for reasons of retaliation and for reasons of political pressure on the part of the political leadership, I did not consider it of ultimate value.

I do not wish to be misunderstood when I say that I knew from the First World War that the people of London can take a great deal and that we could not break their military resistance in this manner. It was important to me, first of all, to prevent an increase in the defence power of the British Air Force. As a soldier, or, better said, as Commander-in-Chief of the German Air Force, the weakening and elimination of the enemy Air Force was a matter of decisive importance for me.

Although the Fuehrer wanted, now as before, to see London attacked, I, acting on my own decision, made an exact preparation for the target Coventry since, according to my information, there was located in and around Coventry a main part of the aircraft and aircraft parts industry. Birmingham and Coventry were targets of decisive importance. I decided on Coventry because there the most targets could be hit within the smallest area.

I prepared that attack myself with both air fleets which I examined - I regularly examined the target information - and then with the first favourable

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weather, that is, a moonlight night, I ordered the attack and gave directions to carry it out as long and as repeatedly as was necessary to achieve decisive effects on the British aircraft industry there, and then to switch to the next targets in Birmingham and to large motor factories South of Bristol and London.

That was the attack on Coventry. That the city itself was greatly affected resulted from the fact that the industry there was widely spread over the city, with the exception of two new plants which were outside the city, and again in this case the damage was increased by the spreading of fire. If we look at German cities to-day, we know how destructive the influence of fire is. That was the attack on Coventry.

Q. In the year 1941, negotiations took place about collaboration with Japan. Were you present at these negotiations?

A. I myself did not take part in the negotiations. I can say very little about negotiations with Japan because from a military point of view I had very little to do with Japan and seldom met with the Japanese. During the entire war only once, and for a short time, I received a delegation of Japanese officers, attaches. Therefore, I cannot say anything about collaboration with Japan. We were instructed to exchange experiences, war experiences, with the Japanese, but that went through the various offices. Personally, I had nothing to do with the Japanese.

Q. When were you first informed that Hitler thought a war against Russia necessary?

A. Not until the late autumn of 1940 in Berchtesgaden was I informed about the intentions of the Fuehrer to get into a conflict with Russia under certain circumstances.

Q. Were you present at the conversation, which took place in Berlin in November, 1940, with the Russian Foreign Minister Molotov?

A. I personally was not present at the conversation between Hitler and Molotov. M. Molotov, however, also paid me a visit, and we discussed the general situation. I know, of course, about the conversation with Molotov, because the Fuehrer informed me about it in detail. It was just this conversation which very much increased the Fuehrer's suspicion that Russia was getting ready for an attack upon Germany, and this was brought out during this discussion by the remarks and demands which M. Molotov made.

These were, firstly, a guarantee to Bulgaria, and a pact of assistance with Bulgaria, such as Russia had made with the three Baltic States.

Secondly, it involved the complete abandonment of Finland by German to the extent that Russia, who had signed a peace with Finland a short time ago, thought herself justified in attacking Finland again in order not to have to be satisfied with the results of the previous agreements, trade, etc.

Thirdly, it dealt with discussions about the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus, and the fourth point was the possibility of penetration into Roumania through Bessarabia.

These were the points which were discussed with the Fuehrer. There was also a hint to the Foreign Minister about an occupation or securing of interests at the exit of the Baltic.

The Fuehrer viewed these demands in a different light. Although Russia might have been justified in making demands to Germany concerning Finland, he believed that, in connection with other reports which he had received about Russian preparations and deployment of troops, Russia wanted to strengthen her position in Finland in order to overtake Germany in the North and to be in immediate proximity to the Swedish ore mines, which were of vital or at least decisive importance to Germany in this war. Secondly, as to the advance, as demanded, into the Roumanian and Bulgarian area, the Fuehrer was not so sure that this pressure would not continue in the South, that is, the Dardanelles, or in a Near Eastern direction, but rather in a Western direction, that is to say,

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that here, also, Russia might push into the Southern flank of Germany and, by getting control of the Roumanian oilfields, make Germany absolutely dependent on Russia for deliveries of oil. In these demands he saw the camouflaged attempts to arrive at deployment of troops and troop positions against Germany. The suggestion of securing an outlet to the Baltic was not even up for discussion, as far as Germany was concerned at that time. All in all, that conversation caused the Fuehrer to feel that further relations would be menaced by Russia.

Already in his discussion with me the Fuehrer told me why he thought to anticipate the Russian push under certain circumstances. The information about feverish work on deployment preparations in the area newly acquired by Russia in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Esthonia and Bessarabia made him extremely suspicious. Until then we had sometimes only eight, later twenty and twenty-five, divisions along the entire Eastern border. Further reports came that Russia might be expected to attack us from the rear as soon as Germany was at war in the West, either because of an invasion by Britain or because Germany on her part had decided to invade England. His arguments were strengthened even more by the fact that shortly before, contrary to anything practised in Russia before this, engineers - that is, Germans, and, I believe, also officers of ours - suddenly were shown the tremendous Russian armament works of the aviation and tank industry. These reports about the surprisingly high production capacity of these armament works further strengthened the Fuehrer's conviction. He was so firmly convinced that he said - and this was his political thought - if England still does consider coming to an agreement with us, although she now stands alone against us, she must have something in the back of her mind. He had information that worried elements in England had pointed out two things to Prime Minister Churchill:

Firstly, that increased support by the United States could be expected, first of all in the technical field - that is, in respect to armaments, and then extending to other fields; and, secondly, this he considered even more probable, that Churchill had already come to an understanding with Russia in that direction, and he pointed out that here sooner or later there would be a clash. His calculations were the following:

Before the United States could be ready with her armaments and the mobilisation of her Army, he would have to destroy the Russian troops deployment, and to break down and weaken the Russian forces to such an extent by strong concentrated attacks that they would not represent a danger in the rear, in case he had to enter into an English-American conflict on the continent. These were the explanations of the Fuehrer.

Then came the visit of Molotov, which I just mentioned and which enhanced this point of view considerably.

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