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-Fourth Day: Monday, 18th March, 1946
(Part 7 of 9)

[MR. JUSTICE JACKSON continues his cross examination of HERMANN WILHELM GORING]

[Page 196]

Q. Can you tell us what position he held in the German Army?

A. He was Chief of the General Staff of the Army, and I repeatedly pointed out to the Fuehrer, after the war started, that he would finally have to find a chief who knew something about such matters.

[Page 197]

Q. Now, the Roehm purge you have left a little indefinite. What was it that Roehm did, that he was shot? What acts did he commit?

A. Roehm planned to overthrow the Government, and it was intended to kill the Fuehrer also. He wanted to follow it up by a revolution, directed in the first place against the Army, the Officers' Corps - those groups which he considered to be reactionary.

Q. And you had evidence of that fact?

A. We had sufficient evidence of that fact.

Q. But he was never tried in any court where he would have a chance to tell his story as you are telling yours, was he?

A. That is correct. He wanted to bring about a putsch and therefore the Fuehrer considered it right that this thing should be nipped in the bud - not by a court procedure, but by smashing the revolt immediately.

Q. Were the names of the people who were killed in that purge, following the arrest of Roehm, ever published?

A. Some of the names, yes; but not all of them, I believe.

Q. Who actually killed Roehm? Do you know?

A. I do not know who personally carried out this action.

Q. To what organisation was the order given?

A. That I do not know either, because the shooting of Roehm was decreed by the Fuehrer and not by me, since I was the competent authority in North Germany.

Q. And who took into custody those who were destined for concentration camps, and how many were there?

A. The police carried out the arrest of those who were, first of all, to be interrogated, those who were not so seriously incriminated and of whom it was not known whether they were incriminated or not. A number of these people were released very soon, others not until somewhat later. Just how many were arrested in this connection I cannot tell you. The arrests were made by the police.

Q. The Gestapo, you mean?

A. I assume so.

Q. And if Milch testified that he saw seven or eight hundred in Dachau in 1935, there must have been a very much larger number arrested, since you say many were released. Do you know the number that were arrested?

A. I state again, I do not know exactly how many were arrested because the necessary arrests, or the arrest of those who were considered as having a part in this, did not go through me. My action ended, so to speak, on the date when the revolt was smashed. I understood Milch a little differently and I sent a note to my counsel in order that it be made clear, through a question, whether Milch meant by these seven hundred people those concerned with the Roehm Putsch or whether he meant to say that he saw altogether seven hundred arrested persons there. That is the way I understood it. But to clarify this statement we should have to question Milch again, for I believe this number of five, six, or seven hundred, to be far too high for the total number of people arrested in connection with the Roehm Putsch.

Q. Among those who were killed were von Schleicher and his wife. He was one of your political opponents, was he not?

A. That is right.

Q. And also Erich Klausner, who had been Chief of the Catholic Action of Germany?

A. Klausner was likewise among those who were shot. Actually, it was Klausner's case which caused me, as I stated recently, to ask the Fuehrer to give immediate orders to cease any further action, since, in my opinion, Klausner was quite wrongfully shot.

Q. And Strasser, who had been the former Number Two man to Hitler and had disagreed with him in December, 1932. Strasser was killed, was he not?

[Page 198]

A. Of Strasser it cannot be said that he was Number Two man after Hitler. He played an extremely important role within the Party before the taking over of power, but he was banned from the Party already before the taking over of power. Strasser participated in this revolt and he was also shot.

Q. And when it got down to a point where there were only two left on the list yet to be killed, you intervened and asked to have it stopped; is that correct?

A. No, that is not entirely correct. I made it fairly clear and should like to repeat briefly: not when there were only two left on the list did I intervene; I intervened when I saw that many were shot who were not concerned with this matter. And when I did so, two persons were left who had taken a very active part, and the Fuehrer himself had ordered that they be shot. The Fuehrer was particularly furious with one of the them, the chief instigator of the action. What I wanted to make clear was that I said to the Fuehrer, "It is better that you renounce the idea of having these two executed, and put an end to the whole thing immediately." That is what I meant.

Q. What date was that? Did you fix the time?

A. Yes, I can give you a definite time. As far as I recall, the decisive day was Saturday; on Saturday evening between 6 and 7 the Fuehrer arrived by plane from Munich. My request to stop the action was made on Sunday, some time between 2 and 3 in the afternoon.

Q. And what happened to the two men who were left on the list - were they ever brought to trial?

A. No. One, as far as I remember, was taken to a concentration camp, and, the other was for the time being placed under a sort of house arrest, if I remember correctly.

Q. Now, going back to the time when you met Hitler; you said that he was a man who had a serious and definite aim, that he was not content with the defeat of Germany and with the Versailles Treaty; do you recall that?

A. I am very sorry, the translation was rather defective and I cannot understand it. Please repeat.

Q. When you met Hitler, as I understand your testimony, you found a man with a serious and definite aim, in that he was not content with the defeat of Germany in the previous war and was not content with the Versailles Treaty.

A. I believe you did not quite understand me correctly here, for I did not put it that way at all. I stated that it had struck me that Hitler had very definite views of the impotency of protest; secondly, that he was of the opinion that Germany must be freed from the Dictate of Versailles. It was not only Adolf Hitler; every German, every patriotic German had the same feelings, and I, being an ardent patriot, bitterly felt the shame of the Dictate of Versailles, and I associated myself with the man, of whom I felt that he perceived most clearly the consequences of this dictate, and that probably he was the man who would find the ways and means to set it aside. All the other talk in the Party about Versailles was, pardon the expression, mere twaddle.

Q. So, as I understand you, from the very beginning, publicly and notoriously, it was the postulate of the Nazi Party that the Versailles Treaty must be set aside, and that protest was impotent for that purpose?

A. From the beginning it was the aim of Adolf Hitler and his movement to free Germany from the oppressive fetters of Versailles, that is, not from the whole Treaty of Versailles but from those terms which were strangling Germany's future.

Q. And to do it by war, if necessary?

A. We did not debate about that at all at the time. We debated only about the basic condition, that Germany should acquire another political structure which alone would enable her to raise objections to this dictate, this one-sided dictate - everybody always called it a Peace, whereas we Germans always called it a Dictate - and not merely objections, but such objections as would have to, receive consideration.

[Page 199]

Q. That was the means; the means was the reorganisation of the German State, but your aim was to get rid of what you call the "Dictate of Versailles"?

A. The liberation from those terms of the Dictate of Versailles which in the long run would make German life impossible, that was the aim and the intention. But by that we did not go as far as to say, "We want to wage war on our enemies and be victorious." Rather, the aim was to suit the methods to the political events. Those were the basic considerations.

Q. And it was for that end that you and all the other persons who became members of the Nazi Party gave to Hitler all power to make decisions for them, and agreed in their oath of office to give him obedience?

A. Again I have several questions put to me. Question one: The fight against the Dictate of Versailles was the most decisive factor in my joining the Party. For others, perhaps, other points of the programme or of the ideology, which perhaps seemed more important, may have been more decisive. Giving the Fuehrer absolute powers was not a basic condition for getting rid of Versailles, but for putting into practice our conception of the leadership principle. To give him our oath before he became the head of State was, under the conditions then existing, a matter of course for those who considered themselves close members of his leadership corps. I do not know, and I cannot tell exactly, just how the oath was given before the assumption of power. I can only tell you what I myself did. After a certain period of time, when I had acquired more insight into the Fuehrer's personality, I gave him my hand and said: "I unite my fate with yours, for better or for worse; I dedicate myself to you in good times and in bad, even unto death." I really meant it - and still do.

Q. If you would answer three or four questions for me "Yes" or "No," then I would be quite willing to let you give your entire version of this thing. In the first place, you wanted a strong German State to overcome the conditions of Versailles.

A. We wanted a strong State anyhow, regardless of Versailles; but in order to get rid of Versailles the State had, first of all, to be strong, for a weak State never makes itself heard; that we knew from experience.

Q. And the Fuehrer principle you adopted because you thought it would serve the ends of a strong State?

A. Correct.

Q. And this aim, which was one of the aims of the Nazi Party, to modify the conditions of Versailles was a public and notorious aim in which the people generally joined - it was one of your best means of getting people to join with you, was it not?

A. The Dictate of Versailles was such that every German, in my opinion, could not help being in favour of its modification, and there is no doubt that this was a very strong inducement for joining the movement.

Q. Now, a number of the men who took part in this movement are not here; and - for the record - there is no doubt in your mind, is there, that Adolf Hitler is dead?

A. I believe there can be no doubt about that.

Q. And the same is true of Goebbels?

A. Goebbels, I have no doubt about that, for I heard from someone whom I trust completely that he saw Goebbels dead.

Q. And you have no doubt of the death of Himmler, have you?

A. I am not certain of that, but I believe that you can be certain, since you know it much better than I, as he died a prisoner of yours. I was not there.

Q. You have no doubt of the death of Heydrich, have you?

A. I am absolutely certain about that.

Q. And probably of Bormann?

A. I am not absolutely certain of this. I have no proof. I do not know, but I assume so.

[Page 200]

Q. And those are the chief persons in your testimony who have been mentioned as being responsible - Hitler for everything, Goebbels for inciting riots against the Jews, Himmler, who deceived Hitler, and Bormann, who misled him about his will?

A. The influence exerted on the Fuehrer varied at different times. The chief influence on the Fuehrer, at least up till the end of 1941 or the beginning of 1942, if one can speak of influence at all, was exerted by me. From then until 1943 my influence gradually decreased, after which it rapidly dwindled. All in all, I do not believe anyone had anything like the influence on the Fuehrer that I had. Next to me, or apart from me, if one can speak of influence at all, Goebbels, with whom the Fuehrer was together quite a good deal, exerted an influence in a certain direction from the very beginning. This influence wavered for a time and was very slight, and then increased greatly in the last years of the war.

Before the taking over of power and during the years immediately following the seizure of power, Hess had a certain influence, but only in regard to his special sphere. Then in the course of the years Himmler increased his influence. From the end of 1944 on, this influence decreased rapidly. The most decisive influence on the Fuehrer during the war, and especially from about 1942 on, after Hess went out in 1941 and a year had elapsed, was exerted by Herr Bormann. The latter had, at the end, disastrously strong influence. That was possible only because the Fuehrer was filled with profound mistrust after 20th July, and because Bormann was with him constantly and presented and described to him all matters. In broad outline these are the persons who had influence at one time or another.

Q. You took over a special Intelligence organisation in 1933 which was devoted to monitoring the telephone conversations of public officials and others inside and outside of Germany, did you not?

A. I have explained that I had formed a technical organisation which, as you said, monitored the conversations of important foreigners to and from foreign countries - telegrams and wireless communications which were transmitted not only from Germany to foreign countries but also from one foreign country to the other through the ether and which were intercepted. It also intercepted telephone conversations made within Germany by (1) all important foreigners, (2) important firms at times and (3) persons Who for any reason of a political or police nature were to be watched.

In order to prevent any abuse on the part of the police, this office had to obtain my personal permission wherever I was to listen to telephone conversations. Despite this there could, of course, be uncontrolled tapping of wires at the same time, just as that is technically possible everywhere to-day.

Q. You kept the results of those reports to yourself, did you not?

A. No, the procedure was: Those reports in which the Foreign Office was interested were released to the Foreign Office. Those reports which were important to the Fuehrer went to the Fuehrer. Those reports which were important to the military went to the Minister for War or to the Air Ministry or the Ministry of Economy. I or my deputy decided whether a report was important for this or that office. There was a man there whose job and responsibility it was to see that these secret reports were submitted only to the chief. I could, of course, order at any time that this or that report should be exclusively for my knowledge and not be handed on. That was always possible.

Q. You had a good deal of difficulty with other police authorities who wanted to get possession of that organisation, did you not?

A. That is correct. The police did strive to get this instrument into their hands. But they did not get it from me, and perhaps they kept a watch of their own here and there. But the decisive control, which had to be directed through the Ministry of Postal Services, could technically be ordered only by me.

[Page 201]

Q. You have listened to the evidence of the prosecution against all the defendants in this case, have you not?

A. Yes.

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