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 9 of 10)

[DR. STAHMER continues his direct examination of HERMANN WILHELM GORING]

[Page 72]

Q. Had the Party come to power in a legal way, in your opinion?

A. Of course the Party had come to power entirely legally because the Party had been called upon by the Reich President according to the Constitution and, according to the principles in force, the Party should have been called upon much earlier than that. The Party gained strength and came to power only by way of normal elections and the election law then valid.

Q. What measures were now taken to strengthen this power after Hitler's appointment?

A. It was understood by all of us that as soon as we had once come into power we must keep that power under all circumstances. We did not want power and governmental authority for power's sake, but we needed power and governmental authority in order to make Germany free and great. We did not want to leave this any longer to chance, elections and Parliamentary majorities, but we wanted to carry out the task to which we considered ourselves called.

In order to consolidate this power now, it was necessary to reorganise the political relationships of power. That was carried out in such a manner that, shortly after the seizure of governmental authority in the Reich and in Prussia, the other States followed automatically and more or less strong National Socialist Governments were formed everywhere.

Secondly, the so-called political officials, who according to the Reich Constitution could be recalled at any time - that is, could be dismissed - would naturally have to be replaced now according to custom by people from the strongest Party - as is everywhere customary.

As far as our coming into power legally is concerned, I should like to emphasise two points in particular.

(1) In the years 1925 to 1932 not less than thirty Reichstag, Landtag and presidential elections took place in Germany. The very fact that 37 Parties had candidates in one Reichstag election alone, gives a clear picture of how it happened that one strong coalition formed the so-called Government majority and another strong grouping the Opposition, each with an entirely different point of view. Just think of an Opposition formed in common by Communists

[Page 73]

and National Socialists, for example, and the fact that one small Party which had eight representatives altogether was now the index of the balance of power and in two readings of a law, especially of a decisive law - every law had to have three readings - voted against the Government, and then, on the assurance of sufficient political and material advantages, forced the law through for the Government at its third, decisive reading. This may give a picture of the conditions.

The second point which I want to underline, especially in regard to the legality of our coming to power, is the following.

Had the democratic election system of England or the United States of America existed in Germany, then the National Socialist German Workers' Party would, at the end of 1939, have legally possessed all seats in the Reichstag without exception, for in every electoral district in Germany at that time, or at the beginning of 1932 at the latest, in every one - I emphasise this once more - the N.S.D.A.P. was the strongest Party. With an electoral system like that of Great Britain or the United States, all these weaker Parties would have failed to gain any seats, and from this time on we would have had only National Socialists in the Reich, in a perfectly legal way, according to the democratic principles of these two greatest democracies.

For the further seizure of power, main political offices were now likewise filled with new appointments, as is the case in other countries when there has been a shift of power among the political Parties. Besides the Ministers there were mainly - I take Prussia as an example - the heads of provinces, the official heads of administrative districts, the police commissioners, county heads. In addition there was a certain further grade - I believe ministerial directors were considered political officials, and so also were district attorneys. This on the whole describes the group of offices which were filled anew when a shift in political power took place and had previously been bargained out among the Parties having the majority. It did not go so far as in other countries - there was a change of office holders, but only of the most important posts.

In spite of that we did very little in this direction at first. First of all, I requested Herr von Papen to turn over to me the position of Prussian "Minister President," since he, as he had no Party behind him, could not very well undertake this reshuffling, whereas I - that is, one of us - could do so. We agreed at once. Thereupon I filled some, a relatively small part, of the offices of the highest administrative officials of Prussian provinces with National Socialists. At the same time I generously allowed Social Democrats to remain in these posts for many weeks. I filled a few important provincial offices with leading Catholic persons who were much closer to the Centre Party than to us. But slowly, in the course of time, these offices, in so far as they were key presidential positions, were, of course, filled with National Socialists - it could hardly be otherwise in the further course of the changeover, since these offices at the same time corresponded to those of the political Gau. Even until the very end district heads remained in part National Socialists, in part, however, simply officials. The same was true of the county heads (Landrate). In the case of police commissioners, I should like to emphasise for the information of the Tribunal that the police commissioners at first had nothing to do with the Gestapo. A police commissioner in the bigger cities had the same function as a county head in the country, in part at least. These police commissioners had always been selected by the largest Parties until the seizure of power. Thus I found Social Democrats in these positions who could not, with the best of intentions, remain, as they had always been our opponents up to that date. That would have been absurd. I filled these offices of police commissioners partly with National Socialists but partly with people who had nothing to do with the Party.

I remember that to the most important police office in the whole German Reich, the one in Berlin, I appointed Admiral von Levetzow (retired), who was

[Page 74]

not a member of the Party. In some of these offices I put former S.A. leaders.

For the purpose of consolidation of power, which seemed very important not only to me but to all of us, because that was to form the basic condition for our further work, there followed a still stronger influence in the Reich Cabinet. New National Socialists received positions as Ministers. New Ministries were created. In addition came a number of new basic laws.

It was indeed clear to everyone - there could be no doubt in the mind of anybody who had concerned himself with German conditions, either abroad or, especially, in Germany-that we would finish off the Communist Party as quickly as possible. It was an absolutely necessary consequence that it should be prohibited. We were convinced that if the Communist Party, which was the strongest next to us, had succeeded in coming to power it would certainly not have taken any National Socialists into its Cabinet or tolerated them elsewhere. We were aware that we would have been eliminated in an entirely different manner.

A further point in the consolidation of power was to eliminate to a certain extent the Reichstag as a Parliament, at least for a period of time during the reorganisation, because of its increased influence until then. This took place through the fact that we had an absolute majority in the Reichstag after the new election. In some cases we suggested to the former Parties that they dissolve themselves, because they no longer had any purpose, and those which would not dissolve themselves were dissolved by us. I was speaking of the Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party. Beyond that, we wanted finally to fulfil an old, old longing of the German people and now not only appear to have the structure of a Reich, but, finally, really become a unified German Reich. This outer purpose was served by firmly establishing the Reich idea and the Reich's power throughout the countless provinces. If it had been difficult for a fervent German patriot to get along with a heap of petty princes before the First World War, it was even worse with those who took their places, for in the place of one small will there now appeared the various Party- bound offices.

In the Reich there was a majority based on one thing; in Prussia, on another, in Bavaria, on yet another; and in Hesse, on something quite different. It was impossible in this manner to establish Reich sovereignty and a Reich which could be great again.

Therefore I suggested to the Fuehrer to dissolve and get rid of the State Parliaments as a matter of principle. In Prussia I therewith began the elimination of State Parliaments, which I considered entirely superfluous, for the simple reason that the principle "Reich sovereignty overrules State" was already in force. I saw no reason why so many different authorities should exist which, with their unnecessary frictions and discussions, merely hindered constructive work. Yet, however much I wanted to see and make the Reich structurally unified, I and the Fuehrer always supported, above all, the idea that within the German States and provinces (Gaue) cultural life should remain many- sided and bound to local traditions; that is to say, all the old centres of culture, which, as is well known, had formed around Munich, Dresden, Weimar and so on, should continue to exist in this direction and to be supported.

For the further consolidation of power those laws were created which would first of all eliminate any further obstacle to progress; that is to say, on the basis of paragraph 48, the law did away with the so-called freedoms. The conception of these freedoms is a matter of controversy. The "Law for the Protection of People and State" was created, a law which was most urgently needed. In the past years much had been prohibited which could have constituted or simulated patriotic activity, yet it had been permissible to defame senselessly the German people, Germany's history, the German State and those symbols and

[Page 75]

objects which are, after all, very holy things to a patriot; these had not been protected in any way.

It is a matter of course that in connection with the concept of "Co-ordination" which arose at this time, very many unnecessary and excessive things were done, for after the seizure of power the whole movement developed along revolutionary lines. Even if this was not in the sense of revolutions as they had been known in history until then, such as the French Revolution, or the great Bolshevist Revolution - that is to say, not in the sense of great fights and bloody changes, revolutionary tribunals that executed people by the hundreds of thousands - still it was carried through with a strong revolutionary aim in the direction of unity of State, Party and National Socialism as the basis of leadership and of ideology.

This "Co-ordination" which I have just mentioned, then, took place by degrees; but, as I have said, when there are such strong political transformations some people will always go beyond the goal. Personally, I did not consider it necessary that every organisation should now become National Socialist or that - if I am to express myself quite drastically - every club or similar organisation should be compelled to have a National Socialist chairman. But in decisive political matters, and in matters of principle, our ideas and our ideology had to be recognised more and more, for that was the basic condition for a reorganisation, an establishment, and a strengthening of the Reich.

An additional strengthening, which occurred only after the death of Reich President von Hindenburg in 1934, was the consolidation of the Head of the State and the Reich Chancellor in one person. To this I should like to add that, on this occasion, I had a long conversation with the Milner. Right from the beginning we discussed whether Hitler would and should take over the position of the Head of the State, and whether I should take over the Chancellorship. In view of the Fuehrer's temperament and attitude it was unthinkable that he, sitting on a throne above the political clouds so to speak, should appear only as the Head of the State. He was definitely a political leader and hence a leader of the Government. Also, the thought of putting in some other person as a puppet Head of the State was one which we considered unworthy of the situation.

The Fuehrer told me then, that the simplest thing to do would be to take as example the United States of America, where the Head of the State is at the same time also the Head of the Government. Thus, following the example of the United States, we united the position of the Head of the State and the head of the Government, under the name of "Fuehrer of the German people and Reich Chancellor of the German Reich."

That he, thereby, automatically became also the Commander-in- Chief of the German Armed Forces followed as a matter of course, according to the Constitution, and also according to the previous Constitution, just as is also the case in other nations.

Those are in broad lines - if I may disregard a number of other developments which probably will have to be mentioned later in my testimony, as, for instance, the establishment of police power - the basic elements of the consolidation of power.

In conclusion, I wish to say: (1) It is correct that I - and I can speak only for myself - did everything which was at all within my personal power to strengthen the National Socialist movement, and to increase it, and have worked unceasingly to bring it to power under all circumstances and as the one and only power. (2) I did everything in order to secure the Fuehrer the place as Reich Chancellor which rightfully belonged to him. (3) When I look back, I believe I did not fail to do anything in order to consolidate our power to such an extent that it would not have to yield to the coincidences of the political game or to violent undertakings, but would rather, in the further course of reorganisation,

[Page 76]

become the only factor of power which would lead the Reich and lead it, as we hoped, to a great development.

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