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

Eightieth Day: Wednesday, 13th March, 1946
(Part 7 of 10)

[Page 62]

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Stahmer, the Tribunal thinks that you must re-examine the witness now and that if you wish to make an application hereafter to recall the witness you will have to show very strong grounds for doing it. You may make written application to recall the witness at a later stage, but I would point out to you that the cross-examination of this witness has not been relevant solely to the case of the defendant Goering. He is a member of the General Staff and, as was pointed out to him at the opening of one part of the cross-examination, he is one of the accused persons as such, and the evidence, therefore, may be relevant to Goering, or it may have been relevant to the General Staff. Is that clear to you?

DR. STAHMER: Yes, I quite follow; but I can naturally put questions to a witness only if I am in possession of the facts. I am not in such a position at this time because documents were referred to which are completely unknown to me, and, as far as I know, the prosecution has the intention of making this material available to us.

THE PRESIDENT: Documents were put to the witness and, as I say, the Tribunal will consider any application which you make hereafter to have this witness recalled, but you may continue now with your re-examination and finish with the witness.

DR. STAHMER: At present I have no further questions to address to the witness.

THE PRESIDENT: Very well. Then the witness can retire.

DR. LATERNSER (counsel for the General Staff and the O.K.W.): Mr. President, this morning I have noted that the witness has twice been called a defendant, once by a member of the prosecution and now in your statement. First of all, he appeared here as a witness, and further, it is not individual members of the group, but rather the group itself that is indicted, so that it cannot be correct to call the witness a defendant.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Laternser, possibly it was inaccurate to call him an accused person, but he is a member of the General Staff. I rather think that Sir David Maxwell Fyfe made it clear that he meant only a member of the group which the Indictment asked the Tribunal to declare criminal. That is all that is meant, and I was only pointing out to Dr. Stahmer that the questions which have been asked were not necessarily relevant to the case of the defendant Goering, but might be relevant and relevant only to the case of the General Staff.

[Page 63]

DR. LATERNSER: Mr. President, I fully understand the position of the individual Generals. I just wished to prevent the Generals being called defendants now, which they are not. For that I wanted to have evidence.


DR. STAHMER: If the High Tribunal agree, I wish to call the former Reichsmarschall, defendant Hermann Goering, to the witness stand.

(HERMANN WILHELM GORING, a defendant, took the stand and testified as follows:)

THE PRESIDENT: Will you give your name please?

A. Hermann Goering.

THE PRESIDENT: Will you repeat this oath after me:

I swear by God the Almighty and Omniscient that I will speak the pure truth and will withhold and add nothing.

(The witness repeated the oath.)

THE PRESIDENT: You may sit down if you wish.


Q. When were you born and where?

A. I was born on 12th January, 1893, in Rosenheim, Bavaria.

Q. Give the Tribunal a short account of your life up to the outbreak of the First World War, but briefly, please.

A. Normal education, first tutored at home; then cadet corps, then an active officer. A few points which are significant with relation to my later development: the position of my father as first Governor of Southwest Africa, his connections at that time, especially with two British statesmen, Cecil Rhodes and the elder Chamberlain; then the strong attachment of my father to Bismarck; the experiences of my youth, half of which was spent in Austria, to which I already felt in myself a close attachment, as to a kindred people. At the beginning of the First World War I was a lieutenant in an infantry regiment.

Q. What was your rank in the First World War?

A. As I just mentioned, at first as a lieutenant in an infantry regiment in the so-called border battles. From October, 1914, on I joined the Air Force as an observer. In June, 1915, I became a pilot, at first with a reconnaissance plane, then for a short time with a bomber, and in the autumn of 1915 I became a fighter pilot. I was seriously wounded in aerial combat. After recovery I became the leader of a fighter squadron, and after Richthofen was killed I became the commander of the then well-known "Richthofen Squadron."

Q. What war decorations did you receive?

A. First the Iron Cross Second Class, then Iron Cross First Class, then the Zaehring Lion with Swords, the Karl Friedrich Order, the Hohenzollern with Swords Third Class, and finally the Order Pour Le Merite, which was the highest decoration possible.

Q. Tell the Tribunal when and under what circumstances you came to know Hitler.

A. I should like to mention one basic fact in advance. After the collapse in the First World War I had to demobilise my squadron. I refused the demand to enter the Reichswehr because from the very beginning I was opposed in every way to the republic which had come to power through the revolution; I could not bring this into harmony with my convictions. Shortly afterwards I went abroad to find a position there. But after a few years I was drawn back to my own country. First, I spent quite a long time at a hunting lodge in the mountains and studied there. I wanted to participate in some way in the fate of my country. I could not and did not want to do that as an officer for the reasons mentioned above. I had first of all to build the necessary foundation and attended the university in Munich in order to study history and political science. I settled down in the neighbourhood of Munich and bought a house

[Page 64]

there for my wife. There one day, on a Sunday in November or October of 1922, the demand for the extradition of our military leaders was again placed in the foreground on the occasion of a protest demonstration in Munich. I went to this protest demonstration as a spectator, without having any connection with it.

Various speakers from Parties and organisations spoke there. At the end Hitler, too, was called for. I had heard his name briefly mentioned once before and wanted to hear what he had to say. He declined to speak, and it was pure coincidence that I stood nearby and heard the reasons for his refusal. He did not want to disturb the unanimity of the demonstration: he did not see himself in a position to speak, as he put it, to these "tame, bourgeois pirates." He considered it senseless to launch protests with no weight behind them. This made a deep impression on me; I was of the same opinion.

I inquired and found that on the following Monday evening I could hear Hitler speak, as he held a meeting every Monday evening. I went there, and there Hitler spoke about that demonstration, about Versailles, the Treaty of Versailles, and the repudiation of that treaty.

He said that such empty protests as that of Sunday had no sense at all - one would just pass on from it to the agenda - that a protest is successful only if backed by power to give it weight. As long as Germany had not become strong, this kind of thing was to no purpose.

This conviction was spoken word for word as if from my own soul. On one of the following days I went to the business office of the N.S.D.A.P. At that time I knew nothing of the programme of the N.S.D.A.P., and nothing beyond the fact that it was a small Party. I had also investigated other Parties. When the National Assembly was elected, with a completely unpolitical attitude I had voted democratic. Then, when I saw whom I had elected, I at first took no more notice of politics. Now, finally, I saw a man here who had a clear and definite aim. I just wanted to speak to him at first to see if I could assist him in any way. He received me at once and after I had introduced myself he said it was an extraordinary turn of fate that we should meet. We spoke at once about the things which were close to our hearts - the defeat of our Fatherland, and that one could not be content with that.

The chief theme of this conversation was again Versailles. I told him that I myself to the fullest extent, and all I was and possessed, were completely at his disposal for this, in my opinion, most essential and decisive matter: the fight against the Treaty of Versailles.

The second point which impressed me very strongly at the time and which I felt very deeply and really considered to be a basic condition, was the fact that he explained to me at length that it was not possible under the conditions then prevailing in co-operation with the only elements which at that time considered themselves national - whether it be the political so-called Nationalist Parties or those which still called themselves National, or the then existing clubs, fighter organisations, the Free Corps, etc. - with these people alone it was not possible to bring about a reorganisation in the direction of a strong national win on the part of the German people, as long as the masses of German labour opposed this idea. One could only raise Germany up again if one could enlist the masses of German labour; this could be achieved only if the will to become free from the unbearable shackles of the Treaty of Versailles were really felt by the broad masses of the people, and that would be possible only through the union of the national idea and a social goal.

He gave me on that occasion for the first time a very wonderful and profound explanation of the concept of National Socialism; the uniting of the concept of Nationalism on the one hand and Socialism on the other, which should prove itself the absolute bearer of Socialism as well as Nationalism, the Nationalism, if I may say so, of the bourgeois world and the Socialism of the

[Page 65]

Marxist world; we had to clarify these concepts and, along with this union of the two ideas, also had to create a new vehicle for these new thoughts.

Then we proceeded to the practical side, in regard to which he asked me above all to support him in one point. Within the Party, as small as it was, he had made a special selection of those people who were convinced followers, and who were ready at any moment to devote themselves completely and unreservedly to the dissemination of our idea. He said that I knew myself how strong Marxism and Communism were everywhere at the time, and that actually he had been able to make his points at the meeting only after he had opposed one physical force disturbing the meeting with another physical force protecting the meeting; for this purpose he had created the S.S. The leaders at that time were too young and he had long been on the lookout for a leader who had distinguished himself in some way in the last war, which lay just a few years back, so that he would have the necessary authority. He had always tried to find a Pour le Merite aviator or a Pour le Merite submarine man for this purpose, and now it seemed to him a stroke of luck that I in particular, the last commander of the "Richthofen Squadron," should place myself at his disposal.

I told him that it would not be so very pleasant for me to have a leading office from the very beginning, since it might appear that I had come merely because of this position. We finally reached an agreement that for one to two months I was to remain officially in the background, and take over the leadership only after that, but actually I was to make my influence felt immediately. I agreed to this, and in that way I joined forces with Adolf Hitler.

Q. And when was that?

A. The end of October or the beginning of November, 1922.

Q. The end of October?

A. Either the end of October or the beginning of November, 1922.

Q. And then you officially entered the Party?

A. Yes, that was the same date. Just a few days after that I signed up.

Q. What duties did Hitler then give you, that is, up to November, 1923?

A. The duties appropriate to my position, which at that time had the title "Commander of the S.A." At first it was important to weld the S.A. into a stable organisation, to discipline it, and to make of it a completely reliable unit which had to carry out the orders which I or Adolf Hitler should give it. Up to that point it had been just a club which had been very active but which still lacked the necessary construction and discipline.

I strove from the beginning to bring into the S.A. those members of the Party who were young and idealistic enough to devote their free time and their entire energies to it. At that time it was very difficult for these brave men, for we were very few and our opponents very many. Even in those days these men were exposed to very considerable annoyances and had to suffer all sorts of things.

In the second place I tried to find recruits among labourers, for I knew that it was from labour, in particular, I wanted to admit many members into the S.A.

At the same time we had, naturally, to see to it that the meetings of the Party, which were limited at that time to Munich, Upper Bavaria and Franconia on the whole, could actually be carried through in a satisfactory manner and that every disturbance was prevented. In most cases we succeeded, but sometimes we had a strong concentration of our opponents present. This or that side still had weapons from the war and sometimes critical situations arose, and there were occasions when we had to send the S.A. as reinforcements to other localities.

In the course of the year 1923 the contrast between Bavaria and the Reich became even stronger. One saw that the Bavarian Government at that time wanted to travel a different road from that of the Reich Government. The Reich Government was influenced strongly by Marxism, but the Bavarian Government was free from that, was bourgeois.

[Page 66]

Then suddenly the Bavarian Government was completely transformed when a Governor-General - I believe he was called that - or something of the sort was appointed in Bavaria - it was von Kahr - to whom the Bavarian Government was subordinate and to whom the Bavarian Government delegated all authority. Shortly thereafter the Reichswehr conflict developed. The 7th Reichswehr Division, which was stationed in Bavaria, was released from its oath to the Reich, which it had sworn to the Reich Constitution, and took the oath to the new Bavarian Government - I do not remember the name now - that is, to von Kahr. This led to the conflict of General von Seeckt and Lossow. The same thing happened to the Bavarian police.

The Bavarian Government at the same time curried favour with the so-called national associations which were in part organised along military or pseudo-military lines and also possessed weapons. The whole thing was directed against Berlin and, as we expressed it, against the "November Republic." We could agree up to that point.

On the Sunday before 9th November there was a large parade in Munich. The whole Bavarian Government was there. The Reichswehr, the police and the Fatherland associations, and we, too, marched past. Suddenly, on that occasion, we saw that the figure in the foreground was no longer Herr von Kahr but the Bavarian Crown Prince Rupprecht. We were very much taken aback by that. The suspicion arose among us that Bavaria wished to follow a course which would, if possible, lead to a considerable disintegration, whereby Bavaria could secede from the Reich structure. But nothing was further from our intentions than to permit that. We wanted a strong Reich, a unified Reich; to be sure, we wanted to have it cleansed of the Parties and authorities which were now ruling it.

We had become distrustful of the so-called "March on Berlin." When this became a certainty and Herr von Kahr had called the well-known meeting in the Buerger-braeukeller, it was high time to frustrate such plans and to guide the whole undertaking in the direction of the "Greater Germany" concept. Thus the events of 9th November, 1923, materialised in very short time. But as far as I personally, am concerned, I was - and I never made a secret of this - from the beginning ready to take part in every revolution against the so-called "November Republic," no matter where and with whom it originated, unless it originated with the Left, and for these tasks I had always offered my services.

Then I was severely wounded at the Feldherrnhalle - the events are well known - and with this incident I close the first chapter.

Q. When, after that time, did you join forces with Hitler again?

A. At first I was in a hospital in Austria. There was a trial before the Bavarian People's Court regarding the 9th of November.

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