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

Eighty-First Day: Thursday, 14th March, 1946
(Part 6 of 8)

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

[Page 104]

Q. I have had passed to you a record of that conversation. It has been handed in by the prosecution - you have already presented the contents. Would you please look at it?

A. Yes; I attach importance to having only those passages in this document read - I cannot find them so quickly - in which I refer to the fact that I

[Page 105]

considered it important that the English Government send to Austria as soon as possible people in whom it had confidence, in order that they might see for themselves the actual state of affairs; and secondly those passages in which I refer to the fact that we are going to hold a plebiscite according to the Charter of the Saar Plebiscite and that, whatever the result may be, we shall acknowledge it. I could promise that all the more, as it was personally known to me and clear that an overwhelming majority would vote in favour of the Anschluss.

Now I come to the decisive part concerning the marching in of the troops. That was the second point on which the Fuehrer and I were not of the same opinion. The Fuehrer wanted the march into Austria to be on the basis of a request by the new Government of Seyss-Inquart, that is, the Government desired by us - that they should ask for the troops in order to maintain order in the country. I was against this, not against the march into Austria - I was for the march under all circumstances - only against the reasons to be given. Here there was a difference of opinion. Certainly there might be disturbances at Vienna and Wiener- Neustadt because some of the Austrian Marxists, who once before had started an armed uprising, were actually armed. That, however, was not of such decisive importance. It was, rather, of the greatest importance that German troops immediately march into Austria in sufficient numbers in order to stave off any desire on the part of a neighbouring country to claim even a single Austrian village on this occasion.

I should like to emphasise that at that time Mussolini's attitude to the Austrian question had not yet crystallised, although I had made every effort the year before to that end. The Italians were still looking with longing eyes at Eastern Tyrol. I had not forgotten the five divisions along the Brenner Pass. The Hungarians talked too much about the Burgenland. The Yugoslavs once mentioned something about Carinthia, but I believe that I made it clear to them that that was a crazy idea. To prevent the fulfilment of these hopes once and for all, I very definitely wanted the German troops to march into Austria with the slogan: "The Anschluss has taken place; Austria is a part of Germany and therefore in its entirety automatically and completely under the protection of the German Reich and its Armed Forces."

The Fuehrer did not want to stress this foreign and political demonstration so strongly and finally told me to instruct Seyss-Inquart to send such a telegram. The fact that we were in agreement about the decisive point, the march into Austria, helps to explain the telephone conversation in which I told Seyss-Inquart that he need not send a telegram, that he could do it by telephone. That was the reason. Mussolini's consent did not come until 11.30 at night. It is well known what a relief that was for the Fuehrer.

In the evening of the same day, after everything had become clear, and the outcome could be seen in advance, I went to the Flieger Club, where I had been invited several weeks before to a ball. I mention this invitation because that, too, has been described here as a deception manoeuvre. But the invitation for that had been sent out, I believe, even before the Berchtesgaden conference took place. There I met almost all the diplomats. I immediately took Sir Neville Henderson, the British Ambassador, aside. I spoke to him for two hours and gave him all the reasons and explained everything and also asked him to tell me - the same question which I later asked Ribbentrop - what nation in the whole world was damaged in any way by our union with Austria? From whom had we taken anything and whom had we harmed? I said that this was an absolute restitution, that both parts had belonged together in the German Empire for centuries and that they had been separated only because of political developments.

When the Fuehrer flew to Austria the next morning, I took over all the business of the Reich in his absence, as is known. At that time I also prohibited for the time being the return of the so-called Austrian Legion - that was a

[Page 106]

group of people who had left Austria during the early time of the fighting period - because I did not want to have any disturbances. Secondly, however, I also made sure that North of the Danube - that is, between the Czechoslovak border and the Danube - only one battalion should march through the villages, so that Czechoslovakia would see from that, that this was merely an Austro-German affair. That battalion had to march through there so that the towns North of the Danube could also take part in the jubilation.

In this connection I want to stress two points in conclusion:

(1) If Mr. Messersmith says in his long affidavit that before the Anschluss I had made various visits to Yugoslavia and Hungary in order to win over both these nations for the Anschluss, and that I had promised to Yugoslavia a part of Carinthia, in answer to these statements, I can say only that I do not understand these statements at all. My visits to Yugoslavia and the other Balkan countries were designed to improve relations, particularly trade relations, which were very important to me in respect to the Four-Year Plan, and if at any time Yugoslavia had demanded one single village in Carinthia, I would have said that on such a point I would not even answer, because, if any country is German to the core, then it is Carinthia.

(2) Here in the Indictment mention is made of an "aggressive war against Austria." Aggressive war is carried out by shooting, throwing bombs and so on; but there only one thing was thrown - and that was flowers. Perhaps, however, the prosecution meant something else, and there I could agree. I personally have always stated that I would do everything to make sure that the Anschluss should not disturb the peace, but that in the long run, if this should be denied us forever, I personally might resort to war in order to reach this goal, that these Germans return to their Fatherland - a war for Austria, not against Austria.

I think I have given in brief an exposition of the Austrian events, and I conclude with the statement that here not so much the Fuehrer as I personally bear the full and entire responsibility for everything that has happened.

Q. On the evening before the march of the troops into Austria you also had a conversation with Dr. Massny, the Czechoslovak Ambassador. On this occasion you are supposed to have given a declaration on your word of honour. What about that conversation?

A. I am grateful that I finally can give a clear explanation of this "word of honour," which has been mentioned so often during the last months and which has been so incriminating for me.

I mentioned that on that evening almost all the diplomats were present at this ball. After I had spoken to Sir Neville Henderson and returned to the ballroom, the Czechoslovak Ambassador, Dr. Massny, came to me, very excited and shaking, and asked me what was happening this night and whether we intended also to march into Czechoslovakia. I gave him a short explanation and said, "No, it is only a question of the annexation of Austria; it has absolutely nothing to do with your country, especially so if you keep away from it altogether."

He thanked me and went, apparently, to the telephone. But after a short time he came back even more excited, and I had the impression that in his excitement he could hardly understand me clearly any more. I told him then in the presence of others, "Your Excellency, listen carefully now. I give you my personal word of honour that this is a question of the annexation of Austria only, and that not a single German soldier will come anywhere near the Czechoslovak border. You see to it that there is no mobilisation on the part of Czechoslovakia which might lead to difficulties at this very moment." He then agreed.

At no time did I tell him, "I give you my word of honour that for all time we do not want to have anything to do with Czechoslovakia." All he wanted was

[Page 107]

an explanation for this particular event, for this particular time. I gave him this particular explanation, because I had already clearly stated, before that, that the solution of the Sudeten German problem would be necessary at some time and in some way. I would never have given him a declaration on my word of honour in regard to a final solution, and it would not have been possible for me, because before that I had already made a statement to another effect. An explanation was desired for the moment and in connection with the Austrian events: I could conscientiously assure him on my word of honour that Czechoslovakia would not be touched at this time, because no decisions had yet been made by us, as far as a definite time was concerned, in regard to Czechoslovakia or the solution of the Sudeten problem.

Q. On 15th March, 1939, a conversation took place between Hitler and President Hacha. Were you present during that conversation, and what was your part in it?

A. That was the beginning of the establishment of the Protectorate in Czechoslovakia. After Munich - that is, after the Munich Agreement and the solution of the Sudeten German problem - a military decision had been reached by the Fuehrer and some of his collaborators to the effect that, if there should be fresh difficulties after the Munich Agreement or arising from the occupation of these zones, certain measures of precaution would have to be taken by the military authorities, for after the occupation of the zones the troops which had been in readiness for the "Case Green" had been demobilised. But a development could take place which at any moment might become extremely dangerous for Germany.

One needs only to remember what an interpretation was given at that time by the Russian Press and the Russian radio to the Munich Agreement and to the occupation of the Sudetenland. The language could have been hardly stronger. There had been a connection between Prague and Moscow for a long time. Prague, disappointed by the Munich Agreement, could now strengthen its ties with Moscow. We saw signs of that, particularly in the Czech Officers' Corps, and were informed of them. Therefore, in case this might prove dangerous to Germany, instructions had been issued to the various military offices to take preventive measures, as was their duty. But that order has nothing to do with any intention of occupying the rest of Czechoslovakia forthwith.

I myself went to the Riviera at the end of January for my first long vacation and during that time I took leave of all business affairs. At the beginning of March, much to my surprise, a courier came from the Fuehrer with a letter in which the Fuehrer informed me that developments in Czechoslovakia were such that he could not with impunity let things go on as they were. They were becoming an increasing menace to Germany, and he was determined to solve the question now by eliminating Czechoslovakia as a source of danger right in the centre of Germany and he was, therefore, considering the occupation of that country.

During my vacation I had met many Englishmen in San Remo and realised that they had put up with Munich and found it quite satisfactory, but that any other incidents or demands on Czechoslovakia would cause considerable excitement.

I sent a letter back by courier. Maybe it is among the many tons of documents in the possession of the prosecution. I can quite understand why they do not submit it; for it would be a document of extenuating character as far as I am concerned. In this letter I communicated my views to the Fuehrer and wrote to him somewhat as follows: that if this were to take place now, it would be a very serious loss of prestige for the British Prime Minister Chamberlain, and I hardly believed that he would survive it. Then probably Mr. Churchill would come in, and the Fuehrer knew Churchill's attitude toward Germany. Secondly,

[Page 108]

it would not be understood, since just a short time before that we had laid the basis for a general appeasement. Thirdly, I thought I could calm him by telling him the following: that I believed that what he wanted to eliminate in the way of danger by occupation of Czechoslovakia could be achieved by less hasty methods, which would avoid anything which might excite Czechoslovakia as, well as other countries. I was convinced, namely, that since the Sudetenland had been separated and Austria was a part of Germany, an economic penetration of Czechoslovakia would be only a matter of time. That is to say, I hoped by strong economic ties to come to a communications, customs and currency union, which would serve the economic interests of both countries. If this took place, then a sovereign Czechoslovakia would politically be so, closely bound to Germany and German interests that I did not believe that any danger could arise again.

However, if Slovakia expressed her desire for independence very sharply, we should not have to counteract that in any way, but, on the contrary, we could support it, for then, of course, economic co-operation would become even much closer than otherwise, since, if Slovakia were to secede, then both countries would have to look to Germany in economic matters, and in such matters both countries could be made interested in Germany and could be most closely bound to Germany.

That letter - I just gave the gist of it - the courier took back.

THE PRESIDENT: Would that be a convenient time for us to break off?

(A recess was taken.)

DR. STAHMER: Will you continue, please?

THE WITNESS: I was then called to Berlin on very short notice. I arrived in Berlin in the morning and President Hacha arrived in the evening of the same day. I presented orally to the Fuehrer the views which I had already emphasised in my letter. The Fuehrer pointed out to me certain evidence in his possession to the effect that the situation in Czechoslovakia had developed more seriously.

This State had, for one thing, disintegrated because of the detachment of Slovakia, but that was not the decisive question. He showed me documents from the Intelligence Service which pointed out that Russian aviation commissions were present at the aerodromes, or at certain of them, and that these things were not in keeping with the Munich Agreement. He said that he feared that Czechoslovakia, all the more now if Slovakia were detached, would be used as a Russian air base against Germany.

He said he was determined to eliminate this danger. President Hacha had requested an interview, so he told me at the time, and would arrive in the evening, and he wished that I, too, should be present at the Reich Chancellery.

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