The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
2nd July to 15th July 1946

One Hundred and Seventy-Second Day: Friday, 5th July, 1946
(Part 3 of 9)

[Page 124]

DR. STAHMER, Continued:

At this camp conference in the presence of Keitel, Hitler did not order the shooting of the prisoners, who were to remain in Himmler's hands. Neither Keitel nor Jodl expected such measures. Jodl expected the escaped prisoners to be sent to a concentration camp for some time. Keitel and Jodl agree in their testimonies that Reichsmarschall Goering did not attend this meeting. Therefore, it cannot possibly be correct that General Field-Marshal Keitel declared in a conference with General Westhoff that he had been reprimanded by Goering at the camp meeting on account of the prisoners' escape.

General Koller has testified that General Korten assured him over the telephone around about the end of March or beginning of April, 1944, that the Luftwaffe, namely the Reichsmarschall and Korten himself, were not involved in the order and had only been informed of it later. Furthermore, Koller testified that the Reichsmarschall was extremely angry about the shooting. These statements are completely in accordance with the declarations of Reichsmarschall Goering, who was on a vacation at the time of the conference with Hitler. The fact of the escape reached him only through a telephone report of his adjutant. It was only after his return from vacation, some time around Easter, 1944, that he learned through his Chief of General Staff, Korten, about the fact that shootings of prisoners had taken place. Reichsmarschall Goering was very upset about this last report because he condemned the deed in itself, and, moreover, he feared reprisals for his own airmen.

Upon inquiry, Himmler then confirmed the executions to Reichsmarschall Goering with the justification that an order to that effect had been issued to him by Hitler.

It is made clear by this conversation how the execution came about and how the order for its perpetration was concealed from the Wehrmacht. In the absence of Keitel and Jodl, Hitler issued the order to Himmler to carry out the execution and Himmler then, unknown to the Wehrmacht, immediately passed on the order to the Reich Security Main Office - i.e., according to Kaltenbrunner's statement - to Muller or, as the case may be, to Nebe.

Not only did Reichsmarschall Goering severely upbraid Himmler - because the latter had executed the order without informing him - but he raised the most vigorous protest against this measure in a subsequent interview with Hitler. This resulted in a violent argument between Goering and Hitler.

Because Goering strongly condemned such proceedings, he requested shortly afterwards that the prisoner camps should be placed under the control of the OKW. On being questioned, Field-Marshal Keitel confirmed, as witness, that a few weeks after the occurrence he received a letter from the General Quartermaster of the Luftwaffe, in which the Luftwaffe requested the taking over of its camps by the OKW.

This result of the examination of evidence, which corrects the initial statements of the witnesses Westhoff and Wielen, which are contradictory in many respects, as well as Keitel's earlier declaration of 10th November, 1945, also justifies the assertion that Reichsmarschall Goering was in no way involved in this affair, that he condemned it most severely when he was informed of it, and that he, therefore,

[Page 125]

cannot be called upon to answer for this extremely regrettable and reprehensible order, which it was not within his power to prevent.

The prosecution has gone on to the question of "lynch law" which was carried out by the German population in individual cases in 1944, when enemy airmen had been shot down. For these occurrences, the defendants, especially Reichsmarschall Goering, are held responsible. The charge that defendant Goering, or the Wehrmacht are in any way involved in this action, that they issued orders or instructions to this effect, or even merely approved the action, is seen to be entirely unjustifiable. The examination of evidence here has thoroughly cleared up the matter in favour of the defendant.

To support their charges against Reichsmarschall Goering, the prosecution invokes first of all a protocol of 19th May, 1944 (L. 166) concerning the so-called "Hunting Conference" which was held on the 15th and 16th May, under the direction of the defendant.

Numbered as item twenty of this memorandum is a statement of the defendant saying he would suggest to the Fuehrer that enemy terror flyers should immediately be shot on the scene of their offence. The defendant most definitely denies having made any pronouncement to this effect, and justly points to the following circumstances which belie any such statement:

The session stretched over two days. Numerous technical and organisational questions were discussed. The question touched upon in item twenty had nothing whatever to do with the agenda for the rest of the session, least of all with the purpose of the session. The remark is placed in the midst of themes which deal with matters of an entirely different nature, and has no point in this connection. Besides, Goering, had he approved and wished it, himself could have immediately issued such an order without further ado, as everyone knew the Fuehrer was well disposed to him.

The decisive fact is that the statement is in the sharpest contradiction to the fundamental attitude of the defendant. He always stood for the view that the enemy airman who is shot down is his comrade, and must be treated as a comrade, a fact I have already remarked upon in another connection. Moreover, in the question as to how terror flyers were to be treated, he defended his position with all frankness against the conception upheld by Hitler and made no secret to Hitler of his entirely different opinion.

In view of this unwavering attitude, it is utterly out of the question that he should suddenly have urged Hitler to issue the above-mentioned order against the terror flyers - an order which he opposed with all his might and the execution of which he sought to prevent by every means as soon as it came to his knowledge. And he did succeed in fact in preventing the execution of this order.

If the terror flyers were actually discussed at the session, this discussion could only have occurred with regard to the Fuehrer having suggested such a measure.

With reference to the minutes, the following fundamental remarks must be added:

We have here the combined notes of a young officer, stretching over a two-day session, during which there had been a great ideal of talking and discussion. Experience of such note-taking in many other cases has shown that records of that kind are often very unreliable, and have even at times reproduced the subject of the discussion in an utterly perverted form, precisely because the person taking notes - especially when several participants were present, and were talking at random - could not follow the course of the discussion and, consequently, did not reproduce the substance of it accurately, particularly when, in addition to this, he was relieved by other people; this explains many factual errors as well as the inadequacy and unreliability of such records.

The minutes were never submitted to the defendant. He had not, therefore, been able to verify their contents nor to correct their errors.

Records of this sort, which are built up in the way described above, and which are not submitted to the perusal and approval of the parties concerned, are worthless

[Page 126]

in the production of evidence. They cannot in themselves alone serve as an adequate means of proof either to charge or convict the defendant. They can, therefore, only be made use of to the detriment of the parties implicated when the contended facts are confirmed by other material brought for evidence from sources external to these minutes. In the present case, there is no confirmation from other evidence that Goering actually made the statement contained in item twenty or made a request to Hitler to that effect.

The note dated 21st May (731-PS) fails to provide support for the claim. The note: "General Korten, according to a speech by the Reichsmarschall, reports ... " cannot, in view of the defendant's unrefuted statement, possibly mean that the Reichsmarschall delivered an address on this matter in Hitler's quarters, but solely that Korten reported on this subject to the Reichsmarschall and that Korten informed the Reichsmarschall of Hitler's order.

The rest of the examination of evidence has made it clear beyond doubt that Goering was against a special treatment of enemy terror flyers who had been shot down, and that he opposed Hitler's order.

Witness Colonel Brauchitsch pointed out during his interrogation on the 12th March, 1946, that in spring, 1944, there was a sudden increase in the losses among the civilian population through machine-gun attacks by enemy airmen.

These attacks by enemy airmen were directed, within Germany, against civilians working in the fields, minor railway lines without any military importance and against pedestrians and cyclists.

This constituted a gross violation of the Hague Rules of Land Warfare, according to which any combat act against the non-combatant population of the country is prohibited, and any attack or shelling of open cities, villages, residences or buildings is forbidden.

According to the opinion of the witness Brauchitsch this behaviour, which quite evidently violated International Law, caused Hitler to order special action against airmen guilty of such acts, in addition to the usual defensive measures. Relative to this, Hitler advocated - as far as is known to the witness - among other severe measures, encouragement of lynching.

This attitude of Hitler toward the violations of International Law by enemy airmen, however, did not meet with the approval of the armed forces, especially not with that of Reichsmarschall Goering and that of his Chief of Staff General Korten. Both of them did condemn to the utmost the attacks of enemy airmen which were exclusively directed against the defenceless civilian population. However, they nevertheless opposed the handing over of defenceless shot- down aviators to the aroused mob for the carrying out of lynch law, and they did not think these measures an appropriate means of combating this conduct which was in violation of International Law.

The witness General Koller expressed himself to the same effect. Early in June, 1944, General Korten informed this witness of the fact that the Fuehrer intended to decree an order to the effect that terror flyers were to be surrendered to public fury.

I come now to the part, which I have already read in great detail a few days ago. I can therefore summarize it, to the effect that Koller and Korten were of the opinion that the attacks of the enemy flyers on the defenceless population, school classes and kindergartens were horrible, but, nevertheless, they did not acknowledge the Fuehrer's intended order, as it was contrary to International Law and basic military concepts. The Wehrmacht shared this opinion and by protracted negotiations and discussions about establishing the concept of "terror flyers", attempted to draw out the matter as long as possible.

That is a summary of Pages 52 to 53. I read the details some days ago, and therefore did not wish to bring them up again.

I now continue on Page 54:

In particular, the margin note on Document 785-D (Exhibit GB 318), entitled:

"No answer received from Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force," admits of the [Page 127] conclusion that the Reichsmarschall purposely wanted to prolong the matter. Furthermore, Reichsmarschall Goering, as can be clearly seen from the letter of 19th June, 1944, maintained the opinion that in every instance he considered legal procedures against terror flyers as definitely necessary. If it is stated in a subsequent document of 26th June, 1944:

"The Reichsmarschall agrees with the announced formulation defining the concept of terror flyers and with the suggested procedure,"
then the agreement with the procedure refers exclusively to the procedure of publication suggested in the final paragraph of the letter of 15th June, 1944, for which Reichsmarschall Goering's approval had been requested. That the Reichsmarschall Goering, until the end of the war maintained the old airman standpoint - according to which enemy airmen as soon as they have been shot down are to be considered and treated as comrades - was not only expressly deposed by the witness, General Field-Marshal Milch, but is also emphasized by General Koller, who has. stated that the attitude of Goering, and his Air Force was always correct and chivalrous, and that comradely regard of the Air Force, even toward the enemy, was shown in particular by the Emergency Sea Service Unit of the Air Force which helped friend and foe alike.

I shall now read the concluding paragraph of the chapter.

"The armed forces and the defendant Goering, have rejected lynch law as well as all measures against the terror-flyers which are not in accordance with legal regulations, and have not issued any orders to troops under their command; in no case have enemy airmen been shot by the Air Force or by the Army, or handed over to the Security Service (SD)."
The prosecution accuses the defendant Goering of having established a reign of terror in Prussia immediately after 30th January, 1933, in his capacity as Prussian Minister of the Interior, and soon afterwards as Prussian Minister President, in order to suppress all opposition against the Nazi programme. In order to carryout his plans he had used the Prussian police; whom he had ordered as early as in, February, 1933, to protect the new government by proceeding ruthlessly against all political opponents without consideration of the consequences; and that in order to safeguard and consolidate the power, he had created the feared Secret State Police and established concentration camps as early as spring of 1933.

As to these accusations the following is to be said:

It was natural and cannot serve as an accusation against the defendant, and to do otherwise would rather have been a severe violation of the duties entrusted to the defendant, that he devoted himself with all his strength to the safeguarding of the new government and took every imaginable precaution in order to make any attack on this new government impossible from the very beginning. In order to achieve this goal, first of all the police institutions had to be considered.

It only remains to be examined, if the measures the defendant considered necessary were objectionable.

The question is to be answered in the negative because of the following considerations:

In every State the police is the inner political instrument of power; in every State its task is to support the Government, to protect it in every direction and to render the disturber of the peace and the violator of the law harmless, by force of arms, if necessary. The defendant gave the same tasks to the police under his direction, whom he ordered, in the speech mentioned by the prosecution, to act energetically and to fulfil their duties conscientiously. To what extent such an appeal for the performance of duty should not be permissible is incomprehensible.

In his interrogation, the defendant Goering, described expressly for what reasons. and along which lines he considered a reorganisation of the police as necessary, and his directives in the matter cannot be objected to.

I should like to point out in this connection that, according to the reorganised rules of International Law, a sovereign State has the right to regulate its internal affairs as it deems fit.

[Page 128]

The reform of the police is an exclusively internal affair. The violation of rules generally recognized by International Law is, therefore, out of question in this respect.

A political police was in existence in Prussia before the assumption of power as well. Before the 30th of January, 1933, it was called Police Department 1a, which, among other things, had to watch and to fight political adversaries, at that time the National Socialists and Communists in particular. Such a police dealing with the same tasks was also needed after the assumption of power in order to protect the new State against attacks which threatened it, especially from the very strong Communist Party.

In order to make clear that this department of the police was charged exclusively with safeguarding the State against enemies of the State it was named "Secret State Police".

As long as the defendant Goering was head of the police, which was, in fact, only until 1934 when Himmler was put in charge, he strictly confined himself to the tasks assigned to him, did not abuse his authority and no misuse of power worth mentioning occurred. Nor has the evidence produced shown anything against the defendant Goering for this period of time. If, at a later date, the Secret State Police abused their authority and committed illegal acts, the defendant had no knowledge of them and did not approve of them. For mistakes and crimes committed by his successors which remained unknown to him, he cannot be held responsible.

[ Previous | Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.