The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. Does the fact that you were given control of raw
materials in April, 1936, have something to do with this
rebuilding of the Air Force?

A. I need not repeat what the witness Koerner elaborated on
yesterday or the day before yesterday with regard to my
gradual rise in the economic leadership. The starting point
was the agricultural crisis in the spring of 1935. In the
summer of 1936 the then Minister of War, von Blomberg, the
then Minister of Economy and President of the Reichsbank,
Schacht, and Minister Kerrl came to me and asked me whether
I was prepared to back a suggestion of theirs which they
wanted to submit to the Fuehrer, namely, that I be appointed
Commissioner for Raw Materials and Foreign Exchange. It was
agreed that I should not function as an economic expert,
which I was not; but someone was needed to take care of the
difficulties due to shortage of foreign currency, which
continuously arose because of our heavy demands, and at the
same time to make available and accumulate raw materials -
someone who was capable of taking measures which would not
be understood by many people and who would be backed by his
authority. Secondly, it was decided that in this sphere,
though not as an expert, I should be the driving power and
use my energy.

Minister Schacht, who was an expert, had difficulties with
the Party. He was not a member of the Party. He was at that
time on excellent terms with the Fuehrer and me, but not so
much with the members of the Party. The danger arose that
the appropriate measures might not be understood by the
latter, and in this connection I would be the right man to
make these things known to it and to the people.

That is how that came about. But since I, as Minister of
Air, was, as I have explained, interested in raw materials,
I played an ever-increasingly important role. Then the
differences between agriculture and economy in regard to
foreign currency came more to the fore, so that I had to
make decisions, decisions which became more severe. Thus I
entered the field of economic leadership. I devoted a great
deal of time to this task, particularly to procuring the raw
materials necessary for economy and for rearmament. Out of
this the Four-Year Plan arose, which gave me far-reaching
plenary powers.

Q. What was the aim of the Four-Year Plan?

A. The Four-Year Plan had two aims: firstly, German economy
in as far as possible, and particularly in the agricultural
sector, should be made secure against any crisis; secondly,
in the event of war Germany should be able as far as
possible to withstand a blockade. Therefore it was
necessary, first to increase agriculture to the greatest
extent, to seize hold of it and direct it, to control
consumption, and to store up supplies by means of
negotiations with foreign countries; and secondly to
ascertain which raw materials, imported up until then, could
be found, produced, and procured in Germany itself; and
which raw materials that were difficult to import could be
replaced by others more easily obtainable. Briefly, as far
as the agricultural sector was concerned: utilisation of
every available space, regulation of cultivation according
to the degree of need of the crops, control of animal
breeding, collection of reserves for times of need or crop
failures. As far as the industrial sector was concerned, the
creation of industries supplying raw materials: first coal;
although there was sufficient coal, its production would
have to be increased considerably, since coal is the basic
raw material on which so many other things are dependent;
then iron: our mining industry had made itself so dependent
on foreign countries that, in the event of a crisis, the
most disastrous situation could arise here. I can quite
understand that from the purely financial and business point
of view the position was quite satisfactory but,
nevertheless, we should have to promote and make available
the German iron ores which were in existence, even though

                                                   [Page 96]

they were inferior to the Swedish ores; to co-ordinate
industry by force, and force it to rely on German ores.

I recklessly allowed industry a year's time. Since industry
by then had still not expanded, I founded the Reich works,
which were given my name, a Reich company primarily for
opening up iron ore reserves in German soil and using them
in the mining industry. It was necessary to found oil
refineries, aluminium works and various other works, and
then to promote the development of the so-called synthetic
material industry, in order to replace necessary raw
materials which could be obtained only from abroad and under
difficult circumstances. In the field of textiles this
involved the conversion of the textile industry and of I.G.
Farben.

That, roughly was the task of the Four-Year Plan.

Naturally, a third question is of importance in this
connection: the question of labour. Co-ordination was
necessary here, too. The most important industries had to
have workers, less important industries had to dispense with
them. The control of this labour employment, which before
the war functioned only within Germany, was another task of
the Four-Year Plan and its department "Labour Employment."

The Four-Year Plan as such very quickly assumed large
proportions as an official organisation. Then, after Schacht
had left, I took over the Ministry of Economy for two months
and fitted the Four-Year Plan into it, retaining, only a
very small staff of collaborators and carried out the tasks
with the assistance of the Ministries competent to deal with
these things.

Q. Was the purpose of carrying out these plans that of
preparing for aggressive war?

A. No, the aim of the plans was, as I said, to make Germany
secure against economic crises and to make her secure
against a blockade in the event of war and, of course,
within the Four-Year Plan to provide the necessary
conditions for rearmament. That was one of its important
tasks.

Q. How did the occupation of the Rhineland come about?

A. The occupation of the Rhineland was not, as has been
asserted here, a long-prepared affair. What had been
discussed previously did not deal with the occupation of the
Rhineland but with the possibility of an attack on Germany
and the question of mobilisation measures in the Rhineland.

The Rhineland occupation came about for two reasons. The
balance which was created through the Pact of Locarno had
been disturbed in Western Europe, because a new factor had
arisen in France's system of allies, namely Russia, who even
at that time had an extraordinarily large Armed Force. In
addition there was the Russian-Czechoslovakian Mutual
Agreement Pact. Thus, the conditions upon which the Locarno
Pact had been based no longer existed, according to our way
of thinking. There was now, therefore, such a threat to
Germany, or the possibility of such a threat, that it would
have been a neglect of duty and honour on the part of the
Government if it had not done everything to ensure here,
too, the security of the Reich. The Government accordingly -
as a sovereign State, a sovereign Reich - made use of its
sovereign right and freed itself from the dishonourable
obligation not to take a part of the Reich under its
protection, and did take this important part of the Reich
under its protection, by building strong fortifications.

The construction of such a strong, extensive and costly
fortification is justified only if this frontier is regarded
as final and definitive. If I had intended to extend the
border in the near future, then it would never have been
advisable to go through with an undertaking so expensive to
the whole nation as was the construction of the West Wall.
This step was taken - and this I want to emphasise
particularly from the very beginning - only in the interests
of defence and as a defensive measure. It made the Western
border of the Reich secure against a threat, which became
apparent because of the recent shift of power

                                                   [Page 97]
                                                            
and the new constellation of Powers, such as the Franco-
Russian Mutual Agreement Pact. The actual occupation, the
decision to occupy the Rhineland, was adopted at very short
notice. The troops which marched into the Rhineland were of
such small numbers - and that is a historical fact - that
they provided for merely a theoretic occupation. The Air
Force itself could not, for the time being, enter the Rhine
territory on the left at all, since there was no adequate
ground organisation. It entered the so-called demilitarised
territory on the right of the Rhine, Dusseldorf and other
cities. In other words, it was not as if the Rhineland were
suddenly occupied with a great wave of troops, but, as I
said before, it was merely that a few battalions and a few
batteries marched in, in order to declare, according to
programme, that the Rhineland was now again under the full
sovereignty of the sovereign German Reich and would in the
future be protected accordingly.

Q. What were Hitler's aims when he created the Reich Defence
Council and when he issued the Reich Defence Law?

A. The Reich Defence Council, during the last months, has
played a very important role here. I hope I shall not be
misunderstood; I believe that in these months more has been
said about it than was ever said since the moment of its
creation. In the first place it is called Reich Defence
Council and not Reich Council for the Offensive. Its
existence is taken for granted. In some form or other it
exists in every country, though the name may be different.
First of all, there was a Reich Defence Committee in
existence before the accession to power. In this committee
there were official experts from all the Ministries for the
purpose of carrying out mobilisation preparations or, to put
it better, mobilisation measures, which automatically come
into consideration in any kind of development - war, the
possibility of war, or a war involving bordering States, and
the subsequent need to guard one's neutrality. The usual
measures have to be taken according to the immediate needs -
how many horses have to be levied in case of mobilisation,
what factories have to be converted, whether bread ration
cards and fat ration cards have to be introduced, regulation
of traffic, etc. - all these things need not be dealt with
in detail, because they are so obvious.

Discussions on these matters took place in the Reich Defence
Committee - discussions by the official experts presided
over by the then Chief of the Ministerial Office in the
Reich Ministry of War, Keitel. The Reich Defence Council was
created, for the time being, as a precautionary measure,
when the Armed Forces were again introduced, but it existed
only on paper. I was, I think, Deputy Chairman or Chairman -
I do not know which - I heard it mentioned here - but I
assure you under oath that at no time and at no date did I
participate in a meeting at which the Reich Defence Council
as such was called together. Discussions which were
necessary for the defence of the Reich were held in a
completely different connection, in a different form and
depending on immediate needs. Naturally, there were
discussions about the defence of the Reich, but not in
connection with the Reich Defence Council. This existed on
paper, but it never met. Even if it had met, that would have
been quite logical, since this concerns defence and not
attack. The Reich Defence Law, or rather the Ministerial
Council for the Reich Defence, which is probably what you
mean, was created only one day before the outbreak of the
war, since the Reich Defence Council factually did not
exist. This Ministerial Council for Reich Defence is not to
be considered the same as, for instance, the so-called War
Cabinet that was formed in England, and perhaps in other
States, when the war broke out. On the contrary, the
function of this Ministerial Council for the Reich Defence
was - by using shortening procedure - to issue only the
necessary war laws, laws dealing with daily issues, and it
was to relieve the Fuehrer to a considerable extent, since
he had reserved for himself the leadership in military
operations. The Ministerial Council therefore

                                                   [Page 98]

issued, first of all, all those laws which, as I should like
to mention, are to be expected in any country at the
beginning of a war. In the early period it met three or four
times, and after that not at all. I, too, did not have the
time after that. To shorten procedure, these laws were
circulated and then issued. A year or a year and a half
afterwards - I cannot remember exactly - the Fuehrer took
the direct issuance of laws more into his own hands. I was
the co-signer of many laws in my capacity as Chairman of the
Ministerial Council. But that, too, was practically
discontinued in the last years. The Ministerial Council did
not meet again after 1940, I think.

Q. The prosecution has presented a document, 2261-PS. In
this document a Reich Defence Law of 21st May, 1935, is
mentioned, which was originally drafted by order of the
Fuehrer. I shall have that document shown to you and I ask
you to give your views of it.

A. I am familiar with it.

Q. Would you please state your views?

A. After the Reich Defence Council had come into existence a
Reich Defence Law was prepared in 1935 for the event of a
mobilisation. The agreement or, rather, the decision, was
made by the Reich Cabinet and was to apply and be effective
in the case of a mobilisation. Actually it was replaced,
when mobilisation did come about, by the law I have
mentioned in connection with the Ministerial Council for the
Reich Defence. In this law, just before the time of the Four-
Year Plan, that is, 1935, a Plenipotentiary for Economy was
created for the event of a mobilisation and a
Plenipotentiary for Administration; that is, if war
occurred, then all the departments of the entire
administration would be concentrated under one Minister, and
all the departments concerned with the economy and armament
were likewise to be concentrated under one Minister. The
Plenipotentiary for Administration did not function before
mobilisation. The Plenipotentiary for Economy, on the other
hand - this title was not to be made known to the public -
was to begin his tasks immediately. That was indeed
necessary. This is the explanation of the fact that the
creation of the Four-Year Plan necessarily led to clashes
between the Plenipotentiary for Economy and the Commissioner
for the Four-Year Plan, since both of them were more or less
working on the same or similar tasks. When, therefore, in
1936, I was made Commissioner for the Four-Year Plan, the
activities of the Plenipotentiary for Economy practically
ceased.

DR . STAHMER: Mr. President, ought I to stop now with the
questions?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I think it would be a good time.

(A recess was taken until 14.00 hours.)

BY DR. STAHMER:

Q. Repeatedly a term has been used here: Reich Research
Council (Reichsforschungsrat). What kind of an institution
was that?

A. I believe it was in the year 1943 that I received the
order to concentrate the entire field of German research,
particularly in so far as it was of urgent importance to the
conduct of war. Unfortunately, that was done much too late.
The purpose was to avoid parallel research and useless
research, to concentrate all research on problems important
for the war. I myself became President of the Reich Research
Council and established directives for research for the
purpose mentioned.

Q. Did this have any connection with the Research Office of
the Air Force?

A. No, the Research Office of the Air Force was something
entirely different, and it had nothing to do with either
research or the Air Force. The expression was a sort of
camouflage, for when we came to power there was considerable
confusion in the technical sector of the control of
important information. Therefore, I established for the time
being the Research Office - that is, an office

                                                   [Page 99]

where all technical devices for the control of radio,
telegraph, telephone, and all other technical communications
would be provided. Since I was then only Reich Minister for
Air I could do this only within my own Ministry and
therefore used this camouflaged designation. This machinery
served primarily to exert control over foreign missions,
important persons who had telephone, telegraph and radio
connections with foreign countries, as is customary in all
countries, and then to put the information thus extracted at
the disposal of other departments. The office had no agents,
no Intelligence Service, but was a purely technical office
taking care of broadcasts, telephone conversations and
telegrams, wherever it was ordered, and passing on
information to the office concerned. In this connection I
may stress that I have also read much about those
communications made by Mr. Messersmith, which have been
prominent here. He was at times the main source for such
information.

Q. What was the purpose and importance of the Secret Cabinet
Council which was created a short time after the seizure of
power?

A. In February, 1938, there came about the retirement of the
War Minister, Field-Marshal von Blomberg. Simultaneously,
because of particular circumstances, the Commander-in-Chief
of the Army, Colonel-General von Fritsch retired - that is
to say, the Fuehrer dismissed him. The coincidence of these
retirements or dismissals was, in the eyes of the Fuehrer,
disadvantageous to the prestige of the Wehrmacht. He wanted
to divert attention from this change in the Wehrmacht by
means of a general reshuffling. He said he wanted above all
to change the Foreign Ministry because only such a change
would make a strong impression abroad and would be likely to
divert attention from the military affairs. At that time I
argued with the Fuehrer very strongly about this. In
lengthy, wearisome personal conversations I begged him to
refrain from a change in the Foreign Ministry. He believed,
however, he would have to insist upon it.

The question arose as to what should be done after Herr von
Neurath's retirement or after the change. The Fuehrer
intended to keep Herr von Neurath in the Cabinet by all
means, for he had the greatest personal esteem for him. I
myself have always expressed my respect for Herr von
Neurath. In order to avoid lowering Herr von Neurath's
prestige, I myself was the one to make a proposal to the
Fuehrer. I told him that in order to make it appear abroad
as if von Neurath had not been entirely removed from foreign
policy, I would propose to appoint him chairman of the
Secret Cabinet Council. There was, to be sure, no such
Cabinet in existence, but the expression would sound quite
nice, and everyone would imagine that it meant something.
The Fuehrer said we could not make him chairman if we did
not have a council. Thereupon I said, "Then we will make
one," and offhand I marked down names of several persons.
How little importance I attached to this council can be seen
in the fact that I myself was, I think, one of the last on
that list.

Then an outer form was given to the council - giving of
advice on foreign policy. When I returned I told my friends,
"The matter has been well taken care of, but if the Fuehrer
does not ask the Foreign Minister for advice, he certainly
will not ask a cabinet council on foreign policy; we shall
have nothing to do." I declare under oath that this cabinet
council met at no time, not even for a few minutes; there
was not even an initial meeting for laying down the rules by
which it should function. Some members may not even have
known that they were members.


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