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-Seventh Day: Thursday, 21st March, 1946
(Part 4 of 10)

[SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE continues his cross examination of HERMANN WILHELM GORING]

[Page 302]

Q. But according to Mr. Dahlerus, he says:
"During our conversation, Goering described how he had been summoned to Hitler immediately after Henderson's departure, how Hitler, Goering and Ribbentrop had discussed the conference that had taken place with Henderson, and how satisfied all three of them were with the result. In this connection, Hitler had turned to Ribbentrop and said mockingly, 'Do you still believe that Dahlerus is a British agent?' Somewhat acidly Ribbentrop replied that perhaps it was not the case."
You say that is not true, either?

A. Herr Dahlerus is describing the events without having been present. From that description, too, it becomes clear that I arrived after Henderson had left. The description is a little colourful. Ribbentrop had no idea about what I was negotiating with Dahlerus, and the Fuehrer did not inform him about these negotiations either. He merely knew that I used Dahlerus as a negotiator, and he was, of course, opposed to him, because he, as Foreign Minister, was against any other channels being used.

Q. That was exactly the point, you know, that I put to you about seven minutes ago, that Ribbentrop did know you were using Dahlerus, so I will leave it.

A. No, I beg your pardon. I still say - please do not distort my words - that Ribbentrop did not know what I was negotiating with Dahlerus about, and that he had not even heard of it through the Fuehrer.

Q. You said "distort my words." I especially did not say to you that he knew what you were negotiating about. I said to you that he knew you were using Dahlerus and that, you agree, is right. I limited it to that, did I not, and that is right, is it not?

A. He did not know that I was carrying on negotiations with England through Dahlerus at that time, nor did he know about the flights.

Q. Well now, I want you just to help me on one or two other matters.

You remember that in January and October, 1937, the German Government gave the strongest assurances as to the inviolability and neutrality of Belgium and Holland. Do you remember that?

A. I do not remember it in detail, but it has been mentioned here in Court.

Q. And do you remember that on 25th August, 1938, the Air Staff put in a memorandum on the assumption that France and Great Britain - no, that France would declare war in case of "Fall Grun," and that Great Britain would come in? Do you remember that? It is Document 375-PS, Exhibit USA 84. I want you to have it generally in mind because I am going to put a passage to you.

A. May I ask whether the signature is Wolter? W - o - l - t - e - r?

[Page 303]

Q. I will let you know. Yes, that is right.

A. In that case I remember the document exactly. It has been given to me here.

Q. That is right. I want to recall your recollection to one sentence only:

"Belgium and the Netherlands in German hands represent an extraordinary advantage in the prosecution of the air war against Great Britain as well as against France. Therefore, it is held to be essential to obtain the opinion of the Army as to the conditions under which an occupation of this area could be carried out, and how long it would take."
Do you remember that? It is pretty obvious air strategy, but you remember it?

A. That is absolutely correct. This is the main job of a captain on the General Staff, 5th Department, who, naturally, when making his report, has to propose the best arguments.

Q. Then, after that, on 28th April, 1939, you remember that Hitler said that he had given binding declarations to a number of States and this applied to Holland and Belgium? I think that was the time when he made a speech in the Reichstag and mentioned a number of small States as well, but he said it, included Holland and Belgium.

A. Yes. Well, of course it has been mentioned quite a lot in here.

Q. Yes; now, do you remember that on 23rd May, in the document that I have already put to you, at the meeting at the Reichs Chancellery, Hitler said this, "The Dutch and Belgian air bases must be occupied by armed forces. Declarations of neutrality must be ignored."

Do you remember saying that?

A. It says so in the document, yes.

Q. And, on 22nd August, 1939, in the speech to the Commanders-in-Chief, which is Document 798-PS, Exhibit USA 29, he said:

"Another possibility is the violation of Dutch, Belgian and Swiss neutrality. I have no doubt that all these States, as well as Scandinavia, will defend their neutrality by all available means. England and France will not violate the neutrality of these countries."
Do you remember him saying that?

A. You can see for yourself from those words how often the Fuehrer changed his plan, so that even the plan he had in May was not at all final.

Q. They are perfectly consistent in my estimation. He is saying that they must be occupied; that declarations of neutrality must be ignored, and he is emphasising that by saying that England and France will not violate the neutrality, and so it is perfectly easy for Germany to do it.

A. No, what he means to say is that we on our part would not find it necessary to do so either. I merely want to point out that political situations always turn out to be different, and that at these interrogations and this trial we must regard the political background of the world as a whole.

Q. That was on the 22nd. You have agreed as to what was said. Immediately after that, on the 26th, four days later, Hitler gave another assurance. Do you remember that just before the war he gave another assurance?

A. Yes.

Q. And on 6th October, 1939, he gave a further assurance and on 7th October, the day after that last assurance, the order, which is Document 2329-PS (Exhibit GB 105) was issued.

"Army Group B has to make all preparations according to special orders for immediate invasion of Dutch and Belgian territory, if the political situation so demands."

[Page 304]

And on 9th October there is a directive from Hitler:
"Preparations should be made for offensive action on the Northern flank of the Western front crossing the area of Luxembourg, Belgium and Holland. This attack must be carried out as soon and as forcibly as possible."
Is it not quite clear from that that all along you knew, as Hitler stated on 22nd August, that England and France would not violate the neutrality of the Low Countries and you were prepared to violate them whenever it suited your strategical and tactical interests? Is not that quite clear?

A. Not entirely. If the political situation made it necessary and if in the meantime the British view of the neutrality of Holland and Belgium had been obtained.

Q. You say not entirely. That is as near agreement with me as you are probably prepared to go.

Now I want to ask you quite briefly again about Yugoslavia. You remember that you have told us in your evidence in chief that Germany, before the beginning of the war, had the very best relations with the Yugoslav people and that you yourself had contributed to it. I am putting it quite briefly.

A. That is correct.

Q. And that was emphasised, if you will remember, on 1st June, 1939, by a speech of Hitler at a dinner with Prince Paul.

A. Yes.

Q. Now, eighty days after that, on 12th August, 1939, the defendant Ribbentrop, Hitler and Ciano had a meeting, and just let me recall to you what Hitler said at that meeting to Count Ciano.

"Generally speaking - "
A. I beg your pardon, what is the number of the document?

Q. I am sorry, it was my fault - TC-77 (GB 48). It is the memorandum of a conversation between Hitler, Ribbentrop and Ciano at Obersalzberg on 12th August.

A. I merely wanted to know if this was from Ciano's Diary? That is important for me.

Q. Oh no, not from Ciano's Diary, it is a memorandum. This is the official report.

"Generally speaking, the best thing to happen would be for the neutrals to be liquidated one after the other. This process could be carried out more easily if on every occasion one partner of the Axis covered the other while it was dealing with an uncertain neutral. Italy might well regard Yugoslavia as a neutral of this kind."
That was rather inconsistent with your statement as to the good intentions towards Yugoslavia and the Fuehrer's statement to Prince Paul, was it not?

A. I should like to read through that once more and in detail and see in which connection that statement was made. As it is presented now it certainly would not fit into my statement.

Q. You know I do not want to stop you unnecessarily in any way, but that document has been read at least twice during the trial, and any further matter perhaps you will consider. But you will agree, unless I have wrenched it out of its context (and I hope I have not), that is quite inconsistent with friendly intentions, is it not?

A. As I said, it does not agree with them.

Q. Now, it was fifty-six days after that, on 6th October, that Hitler gave an assurance to Yugoslavia, and he said:

"Immediately after the completion of the Anschluss I informed Yugoslavia that from now on the frontier with this country would also be an unalterable one, and that we only desired to live in peace and friendship with her."

[Page 305]

Then again in March, 1941, after Yugoslavia joined the Tripartite Pact, the German Government announced that it confirmed its determination to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Yugoslavia at all times.

Now, after that of course, as I have always said when you dealt with this, there was the Simovic Putsch in Yugoslavia. But I think you said quite frankly in your evidence that Hitler and yourself never took the trouble, or thought of taking the trouble, to inquire whether the Simovic Government would preserve its neutrality or not. That is right, is it not?

A. I did not say that. We were convinced that they were using these declarations in order to mislead us. We knew that this putsch was first of all directed from Moscow, and, as we learned later, that it had been financially supported to a considerable extent by Britain. From that we recognised the hostile intentions as shown by the mobilisation of the Yugoslav Army, which made the matter quite clear, and we did not want to be deceived by the Simovic declarations.

Q. Well, I would like to say one word about the mobilisation in a moment. But on 27th March, that was two days after the signing of the pact I have just referred to, there was a conference in Berlin of Hitler with the German High Command, at which you were present. Do you remember the Fuehrer saying:

"The Fuehrer is determined, without waiting for possible declarations of loyalty by the new Government, to make all preparations in order to destroy Yugoslavia militarily and as a national unit. No diplomatic inquiries will be made nor ultimatums presented. Assurances of the Yugoslav Government, which cannot be trusted anyhow in the future, will be taken note of. The attack will start as soon as means and troops suitable for it are ready. Politically it is especially important that the blow against Yugoslavia be carried out with unmerciful harshness, and that the military destruction be done in a lightning-like undertaking. The plan assumes that we speed up schedules of all preparations and use such strong forces that the Yugoslav collapse will take place within the shortest possible time"?
It was not a very friendly intention toward Yugoslavia to have no diplomatic negotiations, not give them the chance of assurance or coming to terms with you, and to strike with unmerciful harshness, was it?

A. I have just said that after the Simovic Putsch we were completely clear about the situation, and that the declarations of neutrality on the part of Yugoslavia could only be regarded as a camouflage and deception. After the putsch Yugoslavia definitely formed part of the hostile front, and it was therefore obvious that we, too, should carry out deceptive moves and attack as quickly as possible, since our forces at that time were relatively weak.

Q. You realised, of course, that you, said that General Simovic was inspired by Moscow. I am not going to argue that point with you at all. But I do point out to you that this was three months before you were at war with the Soviet Union. You realise that, do you?

A. Yes, that is correct. It was exactly the Simovic Putsch which removed the Fuehrer's last doubts - that Russia's attitude towards Germany had become hostile. This putsch was the very reason which caused him to decide to take the quickest possible counter-measures against this danger. Secondly ...

Q. Just one moment. Do you know that it appears in the documents quite clearly that the attack on the Soviet Union was postponed for six weeks because of this trouble in the Balkans? That is quite inconsistent with what you are saying now, is it not?

A. No. If you will read again my statement on that point, you win see I said that a number of moves on the part of Russia caused the Fuehrer to order preparations for invasion, but that he still withheld the final decision on invasion,

[Page 306]

and that after the Simovic Putsch this decision was made. From the strategic situation it follows that the military execution of this political decision was delayed by the Yugoslav campaign.

Q. I want to ask you one other question about Yugoslavia.

You remember your evidence that the attack on Belgrade was due to the fact that the War Office and a number of other important military organisations; were located there? I am trying to summarise it, but that was the effect of your evidence, was it not?

A. Yes.

Q. Now, do you remember how it was put in Hitler's order which I have just been reading to you?

"The main task of the Air Force is to start as early as possible with the destruction of the Yugoslav Air Force ground installations."
Now, I ask you to note the next word - "and" -
"and to destroy the capital of Belgrade in attacks by waves. Besides, the Air Force has to support the Army."
I put it to you that that order makes clear that the attack on Belgrade was just another of your exhibitions of terror attacks in order to attempt to subdue a population that would have difficulty in resisting them.

A. No, that is not correct. The population of Belgrade did defend itself. Belgrade was the centre of military installations to a greater extent than the capital of any other country, and I would like to draw your attention to this.

Q. Well, now, I am going to pass from that matter to one or two points on which you gave evidence - I think at the instance of counsel for the Organisations. You remember you gave evidence, in answer to Dr. Babel, about the Waffen S.S.? Do you remember that - a few days ago?

A. Yes.

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