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 6 of 7)

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

[Page 141]

Q. And what part did the Air Force have in the attacks on Leningrad?

A. The Air Force at Leningrad was very weak. The most Northern sector of our position had the very poorest air protection, so that the Air Force there had to take care of very many tasks simultaneously. At no time was there a concentrated attack by our Air Force on Leningrad, such as we have made on other cities, or as such attacks have been carried out on German cities to the greatest extent. The Fuehrer not once but repeatedly, in the presence of other gentlemen at briefing sessions, accused me that apparently the German Luftwaffe did not dare go into Leningrad. I replied:

"As long as my Air Force is ready to fly into the hell of London it will be equally prepared to go into the much less defended air of Leningrad. However, I lacked the necessary forces, and besides you must not give me too many tasks for my Air Force on the Northern front, such as preventing reinforcements from coming over the Ladoga Sea and other tasks."
Attacks were, therefore, made only on Kronstadt and on the fleet which was left in the outer bay of Leningrad and other targets, such as heavy batteries.

I was interested to hear once from the testimony, sworn to by the Russian professor for museums, that he was under the impression that the German Air Force was mainly out to destroy museums and then from the testimony - not sworn to - by I believe he called himself the Metropolitan, who had the impression that my Air Force had mainly chosen his cathedral as a target. I would like to call your attention to this contradiction - perhaps understandable for people who are not experts - St. Petersburg was, in fact, at the very front of the fighting, and it was not necessary to attack by air, for medium and heavy artillery was sufficient to get into the centre of the city.

Q. Was confiscation by the occupying Power in Russia limited to State property?

A. In connection with the last question I forgot to mention something briefly.

There has been a great deal of talk here about the great destruction in Russia, pictures and films were shown, impressive in themselves but not so impressive to a German, for they showed only a modest proportion of the destruction which we personally experienced in our own cities. But I would like to point out that much of this destruction took place in the course of battle - in other words, that destruction was not intended by the Air Force or by the artillery, but that cities, historical cities or art monuments were very frequently destroyed by battle action.

In Germany also, men of the rank of the musician and composer Tchaikowski, and the poets Tolstoy and Pushkin, are too highly revered that deliberate destruction of the graves of these great and creative men of culture could have been intended.

[Page 142]

Now to the question whether only State property was confiscated; as far as I know, yes. Private property, as has been mentioned here from State documents - I could easily imagine that in the cold winter of 1941-42 German soldiers took fur shoes, felt boots and sheep furs here and there from the population - that is possible. By and large there was no private property, therefore it could not be confiscated. I personally can speak only of a small section, namely of the surroundings of the city of Winniza and the city Winniza itself. When I stopped there in my special train with my headquarters I repeatedly visited the peasant country and villages in the vicinity of Winniza, because life there interested me.

I saw such unimaginable poverty there that I cannot possibly figure out just what one could have taken. As an insignificant but informative example I would like to mention that for empty marmalade jars, tin cans, or even empty cigar boxes or cigarette boxes - the people would offer remarkable quantities of eggs and butter because they considered these primitive articles very desirable.

In this connection I would, also, like to emphasise that no theatres or the like were ever consciously destroyed either with my knowledge or that of any other German person. I only want to recall the theatre in Winniza that I have visited. I saw the actors and actresses there and the ballet. The first thing I did was to get material, dresses, and all sorts of things for these people because they had nothing.

As the second example, the destruction of churches. It, also, is a personal experience of mine in Winniza, where I attended the dedication of the largest church which for years had been a powder magazine, and now, under the German administration, was reinstated as a church. The clergy requested me to be present at this dedication. Everything was decorated with flowers. I declined because I do not belong to the Greek Orthodox Church.

As far as the looting of stores was concerned, I could see only one store in Winniza that was completely empty.

Q. What was the significance of the Work-Camp Dora for the Air Force, which was mentioned by the French prosecution?

A. Before I go on to that, I must add that the accusation that we destroyed industry everywhere is incorrect, but rather for our own purposes we had to reconstruct a great part of industry. Thus I would like to recall the famous dam of Dniepropetrowsk which was destroyed and which was important for the electricity supply of the entire Ukraine and even for the Donetz area.

As far as industry and agriculture are concerned, I have spoken of that before and mentioned the scorched earth policy as it was described in the Russian order and as it was carried out. This scorched earth policy, the destruction of all stock, of everything, created a very difficult situation which was hard to overcome. Therefore, from the economic point of view, we also had much reconstruction to do.

As far as destruction of cities is concerned, I would like to add that over and beyond that which was shot to pieces in the course of battle during the advance or retreat, there were considerable parts and important buildings of cities that had been mined and at the proper time blew up, involving, of course, many German victims. I can cite Odessa and Kiev as two main examples.

Now I come to the question of Camp Dora. About Camp Dora, likewise, I heard here for the first time. Of course, I knew of the subterranean works which were near Nordhausen, though I was never there myself. But they had been established in the meantime. Nordhausen mainly produced V-l's and V-2's. With the conditions in Camp Dora as they have been described, I am not familiar. I also believe that they are exaggerated.

Of course, I knew that subterranean factories were being built. I was also interested in having production continued for the Air Force. I cannot see why the construction of subterranean works should be something particularly

[Page 143]

wicked or destructive. I had ordered construction of an important subterranean work at Kala in Thuringia for aeroplane production in which, to a large degree, German workers and, for the rest, Russian workers and prisoners of war were employed. I, personally, went there to look over the work being done and on that day found everyone in good spirits. On the occasion of my visit I brought the people some additional rations of beverages, cigarettes and other things, for Germans and foreigners alike.

The other subterranean works for which I requested concentration camp internees were not put up any more. That I requested inmates of concentration camps for the aviation industry is correct and it is, in my opinion, quite natural, because I was, at that time, not familiar with the details of the concentration camps. I only knew that many Germans were in concentration camps, such people as had refused to join the Army, who were politically unreliable, or who had been punished for other things as in times of war also happens in other countries. At that time everyone had to work in Germany. Women were taken into the ranks of labour, including those who had never worked before. In my own home parachute production was started, in which everyone had to participate. I could not see why, if the entire people had to take part in the work, the inmates of prisons, concentration camps, or wherever they might be, should not also be put to use for the work essential to the war.

Moreover, I am of the opinion, from what I know to-day, that it certainly was better for them to work in some plane factory than in their concentration camps. The fact per se that they worked, is to be taken as a matter of course, and also that they only worked for war production. But that work meant their destruction is a new concept. It is possible that it was strenuous here or there. I for my part was interested that these people should not be destroyed but that they worked and thereby could produce. The work itself was the same as done by German workers - that is, plane and motor production - no destruction was intended thereby.

Q. Under what conditions were prisoners of war used in anti- aircraft operations?

A. Prisoners of war were used for flak operations mainly for those stationary batteries at home which were used for the protection of factories and cities. And indeed these were auxiliary volunteers. They were chiefly Russian prisoners of war, but not entirely, as far as I remember. One must not forget that, in Russia, there were various racial groups who did not think alike and did not all have the same attitude to the system there. Just as there were so-called East battalions made up of volunteers, so there was also a great number of volunteers who, after the announcement in the camps, reported for service in the flak batteries. We also had an entire company of Russian prisoners of war who volunteered to fight against their own country. I did not think much of these people, but in time of war one takes what one can get. The other side did the same thing.

The auxiliary volunteers liked to go to the flak because they had considerably less work there and their food was better, since it was soldiers' rations; whatever other reasons they may have had I do not know. However, if one did look at a local German flak battery in the year 1944 or 1945, it made, I admit, a rather strange impression. There were German youths from 15 to 16 and old men from 55 to 60, some women and some auxiliary volunteers of all nationalities; I always called it my "Gipsy battery." But they shot, and that was the decisive thing.

Q. What was Sauckel's official relation to you?

A. I mentioned that in the Four-Year Plan in 1936 there was already a General Plenipotentiary for Labour Employment. In the year 1942, after he had become ill and was being represented by somebody else, I was taken aback by the direct appointment of a new General Plenipotentiary for Labour

[Page 144]

Employment - an appointment made directly and without my being consulted by the Fuehrer. But at that time the Fuehrer had already begun to intervene much more strongly and directly in such problems. If he did it here too, he did so because the labour problem became more acute from day to day. It had been suggested to him that he appoint a new deputy for the time being, perhaps a Gauleiter of a different name, the one from Silesia. But the Fuehrer decided on the Gauleiter from Thuringia, Sauckel, and made him Plenipotentiary. This order was countersigned by Lammers, not by me, but that is of no significance; and it was formally installed in the Four-Year Plan, for the Four Year Plan had general plenary authority for all matters concerning economy. For this reason up till the very end, even the appointment of Goebbels as General Plenipotentiary for the Total War, which had nothing at all to do with me, was also included in the plenary powers of the Four-Year Plan, since otherwise the entire legislative work of the Four-Year Plan, which I had gradually built up with its plenary powers, would have collapsed and we should have had to create entirely new conditions.

If Sauckel, from that time on, received his orders mainly from the Fuehrer, it was because the Fuehrer now intervened more strongly in all these matters; but I welcomed the appointment of Sauckel, for I considered him one of the calmest and most reliable Gauleiter, and was also convinced that he would fully dedicate himself to this new task. The connection with the offices of the Four-Year Plan was of course maintained, and in the case of important legislative decrees Sauckel and my offices of the Four-Year Plan worked together, as far as I know.

Sauckel himself talked to me on several occasions after he had been with the Fuehrer, and sent me also a few of those reports which he sent to the Fuehrer. If not in full detail I was, on the whole, informed.

Q. In March, 1944, seventy-five English Right officers from the prisoner-of-war camp, Stalag Luft III, escaped. As you surely know from the proceedings, fifty of these officers after their recapture by the S.D. were shot. Did this order for shooting come from you, and did you know about this intention?

A. I am closely familiar with the course of events, but unfortunately not until a later period of time. When these seventy-five or eighty English flight officers attempted to escape on 3rd March, I was at the moment on leave, as I can prove. I heard, one or two days later, about this escape. But since, prior to that, a few large escapes had already taken place and each time a few days later most of the escaped prisoners had been brought back to camp, I assumed that, in this case also, that would happen.

On my return from my leave, my Chief of General Staff told me that a number, but he could not give me the figure at the time, of these escaped flight officers had been shot. This had, to a certain extent, caused talk and excitement in our Air Force; one also feared reprisals. I asked from whom he had his information and what had really happened here. He said he knew only that some of the escaped men had been recaptured by the camp guards in the vicinity of the camp, by the police authorities in the immediate neighbourhood, and had been brought back to camp. On the other hand, of the fate of those who had been recaptured at a greater distance from the camp he knew only that some of them had been shot.

I turned to Himmler and asked him. He confirmed this without mentioning a definite figure, and told me that he had received this order from the Fuehrer. I called his attention to the fact that this was utterly impossible and that the English officers in particular were in duty bound to try at least one or two escapes and that we knew this. He said, I believe, that he had at least opposed the Fuehrer in this matter at first, but that the Fuehrer had absolutely insisted on it, since he maintained that escapes to such an extent represented an extreme danger to security.

[Page 145]

I told him then that this would lead to the most serious excitement in my forces, since no one would understand this; and that, if he had received such orders, he could at least inform me before carrying them out so that I would have the opportunity of countermanding such orders if necessary.

After this instruction I talked to the Fuehrer personally about this matter, and the Fuehrer confirmed the fact that he had given this order and told me why - the reasons just mentioned. I explained to him why this order, according to our opinion, was completely impossible and what repercussions it would cause in regard to my airmen employed against the enemy in the West.

The Fuehrer - our relations were already extremely bad and strained - answered rather violently that the airmen who were flying against Russia would also have to reckon with the possibility of being immediately beaten to death in case of an emergency landing, that the airmen going to the West should not want to claim a special privilege in this regard. I told him thereupon that these two things really had no connection with each other.

Then I talked with the Chief of my General Staff and asked him - I believe he was the Quartermaster-General - to write to the O.K.W. and say that I was now requesting, and that the Air Force was requesting, that these camps be taken away from its control. I did not want to have anything more to do with those prisoner-of-war camps if such things were to come up again. This letter is closely connected with those events, a few weeks after those events. That is what I know about this matter.

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