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-Fifth Day: Tuesday, 19th March, 1946
(Part 1 of 8)

[Page 210]

DR. STAHMER (counsel for defendant Goering): With the permission of the Tribunal, I shall call as witness the civil engineer, Birger Dahlerus of Stockholm.

(BIRGER DAHLERUS, a witness, took the stand.)


Q. Will you state your name?

A. Birger Dahlerus.

Q. Will you repeat this oath after me: I swear by God the Almighty and Omniscient that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.

(The witness repeated the oath.)

THE PRESIDENT: You may sit down if you wish.



Q. Mr. Dahlerus, would you please tell the Tribunal how you, as a private individual and a Swedish citizen, came to work for an understanding between England and Germany?

A. I knew England very well, since I had lived there for twelve years, and I also knew Germany very well. I had been able to observe the First World War from both sides, as I stayed both in Germany and in England during that time.

During a visit to England at the end of June, 1939, I travelled around a number of cities, Birmingham, Coventry, Manchester and London, and I found everywhere an absolute determination that the British should tolerate no further aggressive acts on the part of Germany.

On 2nd July I met some friends in the Constitutional Club. We discussed the current situation and they gave a pretty clear picture of public opinion in Great Britain. As this summary of public opinion in Great Britain was the basis for my discussions afterward with Goering, I therefore think it appropriate to cite it.

"The outline of the conclusion obtained by observation of conditions in Great Britain and by conversations with people of the country:

(a) Agreement that Berchtesgaden and Czechoslovakia have shaken confidence. That, immediately after Berchtesgaden, before Czechoslovakia was possibly in the position to accomplish by co-operation, many things already decided upon by Germany.

(b) Public opinion in Great Britain now extremely bitter. It is resolved: So far and no farther. (c) Great Britain from now on has obligations which did not exist at time of Berchtesgaden meeting.

Poland and Danzig: An attack on Danzig means war with Poland and Britain. Great Britain will be involved automatically as a consequence of its obligations. Hence, automatically, war with Great Britain.

(d) Great Britain does not make her strength known; this is not even known to the British public."

[Page 211]

Then follows Statement No. 2, about Lord Halifax's speech:
"My personal observations indicate that England stands firmly behind its declarations. Lord Halifax underestimates England's situation, which is customary with the British; that is, he makes out the strength of Great Britain to be weaker than it actually is. Perhaps in Germany this is not fully realised.

Point No. 3: England wants peace, but not peace at any price. The German people is entirely acceptable to the British, and there seems to be no good reason for an armed conflict. As previously, Germany will certainly be defeated again and will accomplish far less by war than by peaceful negotiation. England and her friends will likewise have to suffer much; possibly it will mean the end of civilisation."

Having observed that there was a disinclination in the Third Reich to forward unfavourable reports, I felt both that it was my duty and that it might be of great value if these clear expressions of British opinion should be transmitted to the highest quarters in Germany.

Q. Mr. Dahlerus, may I interrupt with a question? Were these friends of yours Members of the British Parliament?

A. No, they were people from the business world, and if the Tribunal desires, I can submit a list of the names.

Q. What were their names?

A. May I save time and submit the list of names to the Tribunal?

THE PRESIDENT: Their names are not of any great importance, are they, if they were people in the business world?

A. After having agreed with my friends on the advisability of a trip to Germany, I left for Germany and received an appointment with Goering for 6th July at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, at Karinhall.

I told him what I had observed in England and strongly emphasised the necessity of doing everything to avoid the possibility of a war. Goering expressed doubt as to whether these observations were perhaps an attempt by the English to bluff. He likewise brought out that he was of the opinion that England wanted to control developments on the Continent.

I told him that I did not want him to accept statements of mine, of a neutral citizen; and I suggested to him that a meeting should be arranged where he and some other members of the German Government could have the opportunity of meeting British citizens who had absolute knowledge of conditions. I suggested that such a meeting could well take place in Sweden, possibly on the invitation of the King of Sweden, or the Swedish Government.

On 8th July I received from Goering a reply that Hitler had agreed to this plan, and I left for Sweden to ascertain whether it would be possible to make such an arrangement in Sweden.

The Swedish Government, for certain reasons, considered it inadvisable for the Swedish King or the Swedish Government to extend such an invitation, but they had no objections to private persons arranging such a meeting.

Count Trola Wachmeester willingly placed his castle, Trola Beelda, at the disposal of such a meeting. I left then, on 19th July, for London to begin the preparations.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Stahmer, can you not take the witness on, in order to save time, to the actual negotiations? All these preliminaries do not seem to the Tribunal to be very important. Can you not take him on to the actual negotiations?

DR. STAHMER: Yes, he will come directly to the meeting, to the preliminary meeting that took place on 7th August at Soenke Nissen Koog.

[Page 212]


Q. Witness, will you tell us of the meeting. You were about to state that on 19th July you flew to London and there on the 20th met Lord Halifax?

A. Yes.

Q. I consider this statement very material. Would you tell the Tribunal the details of this meeting with Lord Halifax?

A. I met Lord Halifax on 20th July; he stressed that he did not want any members of the British Government or Parliament to participate. However, His Majesty's Government would await the results of the meeting with the greatest interest. The meeting took place at Soenke Nissen Koog, in Schleswig Holstein, near the Danish border. The house belongs to my wife. Seven Englishmen, Goering, Bodenschatz, and Dr. Schoettl were present.

Q. On what day was this?

A. It was on 7th August, and the meeting started at 10 o'clock. The meeting started with Goering's request to the Englishmen to put to him any questions they desired. Then, a long discussion took place on political developments, particularly with reference to relations between Great Britain and Germany. Finally, both sides came to the question of Munich and the events after Munich. The English representatives emphasised that the policy of aggression in Europe would have to cease; then the question of the Corridor and Danzig was discussed.

The Englishmen made it perfectly clear that in case Germany should try with force to occupy a foreign territory, the British Empire, in accordance with its obligations to Poland, would stand at the side of Poland.

Goering indicated - on his word of honour as a statesman and a soldier - that, although he had direction and charge of the strongest Air Force in the world and might be tempted to lead this Air Force into battle, he would do everything in his power to prevent a war.

The result of the meeting was that all present agreed on the fact that it would be of the greatest value if a meeting could be arranged as soon as possible by representatives of England and Germany. The conference ended late at night, but next morning the English delegates suggested that such a conference should be extended to include four nations, Great Britain, France, Italy and Germany. I went to Sylt, where Goering was staying, and he was prepared to consent, in the name of Germany, to this modified proposal.

Q. Did English Members of Parliament participate in this meeting?

A. No, only English businessmen.

Q. Was a full report on this visit given to Lord Halifax?

A. The English participants left Germany early on 9th August, and immediately on their return submitted a report to the Foreign Office.

Q. Did this meeting that was planned then materialise, or how did the matter further develop?

A. I received a confirmation from Goering personally that Hitler agreed to such a conference. The matter was then discussed in London, and on 19th August a request came to me to go to Paris, evidently to receive a reply from the British side. Before I left, on 21st August, I was informed that a commercial agreement had been concluded between Russia and Germany. On the following day this was extended to an agreement covering other political questions. On 23rd August I was requested by Goering, who telephoned me in the morning at 10.30, to come to Berlin, if possible, at once.

Q. Did he, during this conversation, point out the gravity of the situation?

A. Yes. Goering stated that the situation had, in the meantime, become very serious.

Q. When did you meet Goering then?

A. I arrived in Berlin on 24th, and saw Goering at 2 o'clock in the afternoon.

Q. What was the subject of your discussion?

[Page 213]

A. He told me that the situation had become very serious due to the fact that no agreement had been reached between Poland and Germany. He asked me whether I could not go to London and explain the situation there.

Q. Were you to point out there in particular that Germany was prepared to come to an understanding with England?

A. Yes. Goering stated that Germany wanted to come to an understanding with England.

Q. Then when did you leave for London?

A. The following morning, on the 25th, a Friday.

Q. Did this trip take place with Hitler's agreement?

A. That I cannot say.

Q. With whom, then, did you have a discussion in London on the evening of 25th?

A. The important meeting took place late in the afternoon, at 6.30, with Lord Halifax.

Q. What did Halifax tell you on this occasion?

A. He informed me that on the same day Henderson had spoken with Hitler, and that Henderson was expected in London on Saturday the 26th. He expressed the hope, then, that now the official channels were open an agreement might really become possible. He thanked me for my efforts, and assured me that he did not think my services would be required any longer.

Q. Did you on the same evening have a telephone conversation with Goering?

A. Yes.

Q. What was discussed?

A. At 8 o'clock in the evening I tried to reach him on the telephone, but only after I had obtained help from the Foreign Office was I able to establish the connection. Goering revealed to me then that the situation had become extremely serious and asked me to do everything in my power to arrange a conference between representatives of England and Germany.

Q. Did you inform Lord Halifax of this conversation?

A. Yes. Mr. Roberts, of the Foreign Office received the exact wording of our conversation, and before midnight Lord Halifax had the report in his hands.

Q. Did you then on the next morning, that is, on Saturday, 26th August, have another conversation with Lord Halifax? What was the nature of this conversation?

A. I met Lord Halifax on Saturday, the 26th at 11 o'clock. I told him that I had learned the German Government was trying to bring about a decision with all haste. And I stressed the importance of such an attempt in order to make it clear to him that in such a serious situation it was necessary to proceed with the greatest responsibility and care; I asked him to emphasise to the German Government that the British Government wanted an understanding.

Q. Did anyone state that Goering was the only man on the German side who could prevent war?

A. Well, I personally had the impression that Goering was the member of the German Government who was most probably working for peace. I had this impression from the conversations that I had with him.

Q. What suggestion did you make, then, to Lord Halifax?

A. I suggested to Lord Halifax that he should write a letter to Goering. I would go at once to Berlin and deliver it to him personally.

Q. Was your suggestion taken?

A. Yes. Lord Halifax conferred with Chamberlain, and afterwards wrote an excellent letter in which he indicated in very clear and distinct words the desire of His Majesty's Government to bring about a peaceful settlement.

Q. Did you then fly back to Berlin with this letter?

A. Yes. I arrived in Berlin in the evening and met Goering at about 10 o'clock that same evening.

[Page 214]

Q. Describe to the Tribunal what happened during this conversation that you had as a consequence of your talk with Halifax.

A. I met Goering in his train which was just on the way to headquarters. I told him how matters looked in London and emphasised that there was no doubt that, if the German Government proceeded against Danzig, it would immediately be at war with England, but that I was convinced that the German Government was prepared to do everything in its power to avert the crisis. After I had made this explanation to him, I handed him the letter. He tore it open, and after having read it he placed it before me and asked me to translate it exactly, because it was of greatest importance that the content be understood exactly. He had his adjutant come immediately, had the train stopped at the next station, and declared that in his opinion Hitler must be informed immediately of the content of this letter. I followed him in a car to Berlin, and exactly at 12 o'clock midnight we arrived at the Reich Chancellery. Goering went in immediately to talk with Hitler, and I went to my hotel.

Q. That was then on 26th August, in the night - or early in the morning on 27th August.

A. Yes.

Q. Did you then have a further conversation with Hitler?

A. I was visited by two officers at a quarter past twelve, midnight, who requested me to go with them immediately to Hitler. I was received by him immediately upon my arrival. He was alone with Goering.

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