The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. To what extent did you participate in the issuing of the
Nuremberg Laws of 1935?

A. In my capacity as President of the Reichstag I announced
these laws and the law concerning the new Reich flag
simultaneously here in Nuremberg, where the Reichstag was
meeting at that time.

Q. In the Indictment it says that the destruction of the
Jewish race was part of the planning of aggressive wars.

A. That has nothing to do with the planning of aggressive
wars; also, the destruction of the Jewish race was not
previously planned.

Q. Were you a party to the action against the Jews in the
night of 9th-10th November, 1938?

A. I should like to discuss that briefly. I gathered
yesterday, from the cross-examination of the witness
Koerner, that a misunderstanding had arisen in regard to
this. On 9th November the march on the Feldherrnhalle was,
celebrated. This march was repeated every year and on this
occasion the prominent leaders of the movement gathered.
Koerner referred to that when he said that everybody came to
Munich. It was customary that, after the march was over,
practically everybody met at the Munich City Hall for a
dinner, at which the Fuehrer was also present.

I never attended that dinner in any of the years in
question, since I used to utilise my stay in Munich by
attending to various other matters in the afternoon of that
day; I did not take part in the dinner on this occasion
either, nor did Koerner. He and I returned in my special
train to Berlin in the evening. As I heard later, when the
investigation was carried on, Goebbels announced at that
dinner, after the Fuehrer had left, that the seriously
wounded counsellor of the Embassy in Paris had died of his
wounds. There was a certain amount of excitement and then
Goebbels apparently spoke some words about retaliation - he
was in his way probably the very strongest representative of
anti-Semitism -and that must have brought on this
development of events, but that was after the Fuehrer had

I myself heard of the events upon my arrival in Berlin.
First of all the conductor in my car told me that he had
seen fires in Halle. Half an hour later I called my
adjutant, who reported to me that riots had taken place

                                                   [Page 91]
the night, that Jewish stores had been broken into and
plundered and that synagogues had been set on fire. He did
not know anything further about it. I proceeded to my
apartment and at once had a call put through to the Gestapo.
I demanded a report of the events of that night. That is the
report which has been referred to here and which was made to
me by the Chief of the Gestapo, Heydrich, with reference to
the events, in so far as he knew about them at that time,
that is, on the evening of the following day, I believe. The
Fuehrer, too, arrived in Berlin in the course of the
morning. Having in the meantime heard that Goebbels had at
least played an important part as instigator, I told the
Fuehrer that it was impossible for me to have such events
take place at this particular time, that I was very much
concerned, in connection with the Four-Year Plan, in
concentrating the entire economic field, and that I had, in
the course of speeches to the nation, asked that every old
tooth paste tube, every rusty nail, every bit of scrap metal
be collected and utilised. I said that it could not be
tolerated that a man who was not responsible for these
things should disturb my difficult economic tasks by
destroying so many things of economic value on the one hand
and by causing so much disturbance in economic life on the
other hand.

The Fuehrer made some apologies, but on the whole he agreed
that such events must not be allowed to take place. I
pointed out to him that, coming so soon after the Munich
Agreement, such incidents would have an unfavourable effect
on foreign policy also.

In the afternoon I had another discussion with the Fuehrer.
In the meantime Goebbels had been to see him. The latter I
had told over the telephone, in unmistakable terms and in
very sharp words, my view of the matter. I told him then,
with emphasis, that I was not anxious to suffer the
consequences of his uncontrolled utterances as far as
economic matters were concerned.

In the meantime the Fuehrer, influenced by Goebbels, had
somewhat changed his mind. Just what Goebbels told him and
to what extent he referred to the excitement of the crowd,
or to urgently needed reforms, I know not. At any rate, the
Fuehrer's views were not the same as they were on the
occasion of my first complaint.

While we were talking, Goebbels, who was in the house,
joined us and began to talk in his usual way: that it could
not be tolerated, that this was the second or third murder
of a National Socialist committed abroad by a Jew and so on.
It was on that occasion that he first made the suggestion
that a fine should be imposed. Indeed, he wished that each
Gau should collect such a fine and he named an almost
incredibly high sum.

I contradicted him and told the Fuehrer that, if there were
to be a fine, then the Reich alone should collect it, for,
as I said, Herr Goebbels had most of the Jews here in Berlin
and would therefore not be a suitable person for this, since
he was the most interested party. Apart from that, if such
measures were to be taken, then only the sovereign State had
the right to take them.

After a short discussion, this way and that, about the
amount, one billion was settled upon. I pointed out to the
Fuehrer that under certain circumstances that figure would
have repercussions on the tax returns. The Fuehrer then
expressed the wish and ordered that the economic solution
also be carried through now. In order that there be no
further occasion for such events, first: Those businesses
obviously Jewish and known to be Jewish were to be
Aryanised; in particular, the department stores, since these
were often a source of friction, as the officials and
employees from the Ministries, who could shop only between 6
and 7 in the evening, often went to these stores and met
with difficulties. He ordered, in general terms, what should
be done.

Thereupon I called the meeting of 12th November with those
departments having jurisdiction over these matters.
Unfortunately, the Fuehrer had demanded that Goebbels should
be represented on this commission - actually a

                                                   [Page 92]

commission was to be appointed. He was, in fact, present,
although I maintained that he had nothing to do with
economic questions. The discussion was very lively; we were
all irritated at this meeting. Following the meeting I had
the economic laws drafted, and later I had them published.

I rejected other proposals which lay outside the economic
sphere, such as restriction of travel, restriction of
residence, restrictions in regard to bathing resorts, etc.,
since I was not competent to deal with these things and had
not received any special orders. These were issued later on
by the police authorities, and not by me; and later I
intervened in order to mitigate them and make various

I should like to emphasise that although I received oral and
written orders and commands from the Fuehrer to issue and
carry out these laws, I assume full and absolute
responsibility for them. They bear my signature; I issued
them, and consequently I am responsible, and do not propose
to hide in any way behind the Fuehrer's order.

Q. Now to another matter. What were the reasons for the
refusal to take part in the Disarmament Conference and for
the withdrawal from the League of Nations?

A. The chief reasons for that were, (1) that the other
States which, after the complete disarming of Germany, were
also bound to disarm, did not do so. (2) That we also found
a lack of willingness to meet in any way Germany's justified
proposals for revisions; (3) there were repeated violations
of the Treaty of Versailles and of the statutes of the
League of Nations by other States, Poland, Lithuania, etc.,
and these violations, at first censured by the League of
Nations, did not cease, but were, indeed, accepted as
accomplished facts; (4) all complaints by Germany regarding
questions of minorities were, indeed, discussed, and well-
meaning advice was given to the States against which the
complaints had been brought, but nothing was actually done
to relieve the situation.

Those are the reasons for leaving the League of Nations and
the Disarmament Conference.

Q. Why did Hitler decide to rearm and reintroduce compulsory

A. When Germany left the League of Nations and the
Disarmament Conference, she simultaneously announced to the
leading Powers concerned her clear-cut decision to achieve
universal disarmament. The Fuehrer then made various
proposals which it can be assumed are historically known:
restriction of the active armed forces to a certain number
of men, restriction of weapons to be used, abolishing of
certain weapons as, for example, bombers, and various other
points. Each one of these proposals was refused, however,
and did not come to the point of being carried out
universally, not even to the point of being discussed.

When we and the Fuehrer recognised clearly that the other
parties did not think of disarming and that, on the
contrary, that mighty Power to the East of us, Russia, was
carrying out a greater armament programme than ever before,
it became necessary, in order to safeguard the most vital
interests of the German people, their life and their
security, for us to free ourselves from all ties and to
rearm to such an extent as was now necessitated by the
interests and security of the Reich. That was the first
reason for the necessity of reintroducing compulsory

Q. To what extent did the Air Force participate in this

A. In 1933, when I founded the Air Ministry, we did not at
first tackle the question of rearmament. In spite of that I
did arrange for certain basic conditions. I immediately
extended manufacture and increased air traffic beyond the
extent of necessary traffic, so as to be able to train a
larger number of pilots. At that time I took over a number
of young people, lieutenants

                                                   [Page 93]

and ensigns, who then had to leave the Armed Forces in order
first to enter into commercial flying and there to learn to

I was aware from the beginning that protection in the air
was necessary as one of the most essential conditions for
the security of my nation. Originally it was my belief that
a defensive Air Force, that is a fighter force, might
suffice; but upon reflection I realised - and I want to
underline what witness Field-Marshal Kesselring said on that
subject - that one would be lost with merely a fighter force
for defence purposes, and that even a defensive force must
contain bombers in order that it can be used offensively
against the enemy Air Force on enemy territory.

Therefore I had bomber aircraft developed from commercial
aeroplanes. In the beginning rearmament proceeded slowly.
Everything had to be created anew since nothing existed in
the way of air armament.

In 1935 I told the Fuehrer that I should now consider it
proper, since we had repeatedly received refusals in answer
to our proposals, to declare to the world openly that we
were creating an Air Force, and that I had already
established a certain basis for that. This took place in the
form of an interview which I had with a British

Now I could proceed to rearm on a larger scale; but in spite
of that we confined ourselves at first to what we called a
"Risk Air Force," that is a "Risk" in so far as an enemy
coming to attack Germany should know that he could expect to
meet with an Air Force. But it was by no means strong enough
to be of any real importance.

In 1936 followed the famous report which was presented to
the witness Bodenschatz, in which I said that we must, from
this moment on, work on the basis of mobilisation, that
money mattered nothing, and that, in short, I should take
the responsibility for overdrawing the budget.

Since nothing had existed before, I should be able to catch
up quickly only if the aircraft production on the one side
were made to work with as many shifts as possible, that is,
with maximum effort and on a mobilisation basis, and if, on
the other hand, the extension of the organisation of the
ground forces and similar matters were carried out at once
with the greatest possible speed.

The situation in 1936 is defined by me in that report to my
co-workers as serious. Other States had, to be sure, not
disarmed, but here and there they had perhaps neglected
their Air Force and they were catching up on lost ground,
and violent debates were taking place in England in regard
to modernising and building up the Air Force; feverish
activities were taking place in Russia, in regard to which
we had reliable reports. I shall refer to the question of
Russian rearmament later.

When the Civil War broke out in Spain, Franco sent a call
for help to Germany and asked for support, particularly in
the air. One should not forget that Franco with his troops
was stationed in Africa and that he could not get the troops
across, since the fleet was in the hands of the Communists,
or, as they called themselves at the time, the competent
Revolutionary Government in Spain. The important thing was,
first of all, that the troops come to Spain.

The Fuehrer thought about the matter. I urged him to give
support under all circumstances, firstly, in order to
prevent the further spread of Communism in that theatre of
war, and, secondly, in order to try out my young Air Force
on this occasion from certain technical points of view.

With the permission of the Fuehrer, I sent a large part of
my transport fleet and a number of experimental fighter
units, bombers, and anti-aircraft guns, and in that way I
had an opportunity to ascertain, under combat conditions,
whether the material was equal to the task. In order that
the personnel, too, might gather a certain amount of
experience, I saw to it that there was a continuous flow -
that is, that new people were constantly being sent and
others recalled.

                                                   [Page 94]

The rearming of the Air Force required, as a basic
condition, the creation of a large number of new industries.
It would not be helpful to build a strong Air Force and have
no petrol for it. Here, too, therefore, I had to force the
refineries to the extreme. There were other auxiliary
industries, above all, aluminium. Since I considered the Air
Force the most important part of the Armed Forces as far as
the security of the Reich was concerned and in view of the
modernisation of technical science, it was my duty as
Supreme Commander to do everything to develop it to the
highest peak and, since nothing was there to begin with,
there had to be a supreme effort and a maximum amount of
work. That I did.

Much has been said here in a cross-examination about four-
engine bombers, two-engine bombers, et cetera. The witnesses
made statements to the best of their knowledge and ability,
but they were familiar only with small sections and they
gave their opinions from this point of view. I alone was
responsible and am responsible, for I was Commander-in-Chief
of the Air Force and Minister of Air. I was responsible for
the rearmament and building up of the Air Force and for its

If at the beginning I did not build any four-engine bombers,
then it was not because I had qualms that they might be
construed as an aggressive force. That would not have
disturbed me for one minute. My only reason was that the
necessary technical and production conditions did not exist.
This kind of bomber simply had not yet been developed by my
industry, at any rate not so that I could use it. Secondly,
I was still short of aluminium, and anyone who is even half
an expert knows how much aluminium a four-engine bomber
swallows up and how many fighters - that is, two-engine
bombers - one can build with the same amount.

To start with, I had to ascertain who were likely to be
Germany's opponents in a war. Were the technical conditions
adequate for meeting an attack against Germany by such an
enemy? Of all possible opponents, I considered Russia the
main opponent, but of course England, France and Italy also
had to be considered. It was my duty to consider all

As far as the European theatre of war was concerned, I
could, for the time being, be satisfied with bombers which
could operate against the important centres of the armament
industry and an enemy air attack. Thus, for the time being,
I did not need anything more than that aircraft which would
enable me to do that, but it was important to have more of
this kind.

But in a speech to the aircraft industrialists I let it be
clearly known that I desired most urgently to have a bomber
which, loaded with the necessary bombs, could fly to America
and back. I asked them to work on that diligently so that,
if America should enter into war against Germany, I could
also reach the American armament industry. In other words,
it was not that I did not want them. I even, as far as I
remember, established a prize competition for bombers
capable of flying at great heights and at great speeds over
long distances. Even before the beginning of the war we had
begun to develop propeller-less aircraft.

Summing up, I should like to say that I did everything
possible, under the technical and production conditions then
prevalent, to rebuild and rearm a strong Air Force. The
technical knowledge of that time led us to believe that,
after five years of war, new technical and practical
advances would be made. That is a principle based on
experiences. I wanted to be prepared to have an Air Force
which, however the political situation might develop, would
be strong enough to protect the nation and to deal blows to
Germany's enemies. It is perfectly correct for Mr. Justice
Jackson to ask whether the speedy elimination of Poland and
France was due to the fact that the German Air Force, acting
according to modern principles, contributed so much. That
was the decisive, factual prerequisite. On the other hand,
though this does not

                                                   [Page 95]

concern me, the use of the American Air Force was also a
necessary condition for the Allied victory.

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