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 8 of 8)

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

[Page 113]

Q. What was your attitude toward the Memel, Danzig and Polish Corridor question?

A. My attitude was always clean and unequivocal. It was that Danzig and the Free State, as purely German territory, should at some date in the near future return to Germany. On the other hand, we certainly recognised that Poland should have access to the sea and also a port. Consequently, our first thought was always that the Free State and Danzig should be returned to us and that through the Polish Corridor there should be a German traffic lane. That was the very small and most modest demand which for a long time was considered absolutely necessary and seemed to us quite possible.

Q. Another conference with the Fuehrer took place on 23rd November, 1939. The record of that conference is Document 789-PS, which was presented to the Tribunal. I ask you to look at this document and then to tell me briefly what your attitude toward the subject of this conference is.

A. About that I can be comparatively brief. This is an address before the Commanders-in-Chief of those formations and armies which were made ready for the attack in the West after Poland's defeat. After the end of the Polish campaign, the Fuehrer wanted under all circumstances - and that was perfectly correct - to transfer the troops in the late autumn and carry out the blow against France, so that in the autumn and winter of 1939 the end of this operation could still be achieved. What prevented him was the weather, since without using the Air Force he could not carry out this operation, particularly the penetration of the Maginot Line at Sedan. He needed good flying weather for at least four or five days before the beginning of the attack. Merely because such weather was denied him week after week, the matter dragged on into the winter and was eventually postponed until the beginning of the following spring.

But this was at a time when he still believed that he could carry it through. Therefore he called the Commanders-in- Chief together and informed them as to the orders for attack. It was one of those speeches that he customarily made in such cases. Naturally, since the Fuehrer was not only a military man but above all a politician, it always happened that these military speeches, which a soldier would have confined exclusively to the military-strategical field, were always to a large extent filled with references to his political views and his political tendencies or intentions. It must never be forgotten that he gave such speeches not only as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, but also as the head of the German State; and that is why so frequently there was such a strong political cast even to his military speeches.

But no General was asked what his opinions were or whether he approved of the principal tendencies of the policy or not. At such meetings he was not even asked whether he approved of the military plan or not; that happened at another time. If a matter was concluded and he had discussed purely strategical-tactical matters with the single commanders, there came a summary, also strongly political in cast, in which the concluding thoughts of the Fuehrer were presented to the Generals. And if - this I emphasise since it has often played a role here - if a General had been able to say, "My Fuehrer, I consider your statements wrong and I am not in accord with the agreements we have made," or "This is not a policy of which we can approve," it would have defied understanding. Not because that particular General would have been shot; but I would have doubted the sanity of that man, because how does one imagine that a State can be led if, during a war or before a war which the political leaders have decided upon, whether wrongly or rightly, the individual General could vote whether he was going to fight or not, whether his army corps was going to stay at home or not, or could say, "I must first ask my division";

[Page 114]

perhaps one of them would go along and the other stay at home. That privilege in this case would have to be afforded the ordinary soldier, too. Perhaps this would be the way to avoid wars in the future, if one asks every soldier whether he wants to go home or not. Possibly, but not in a "Fuehrer" State. This I should like to emphasise, that in every State of the world the military formula is clearly defined. When there is a war or when the State leadership decides upon war, then the military leaders receive their military tasks. In respect to these, they can take a stand, can make proposals as to whether they want to press the attack on the left or the right or in the centre. But whether they thereby march through a neutral State or not is not the business of the military leadership. That is entirely the responsibility of the political leadership of the State. Therefore, there could be no possibility that a general discussion as to right or wrong would ensue; rather the Generals had already received their orders. The Commander-in-Chief had decided and, therefore, there was nothing left for a soldier to discuss; and that refers to a Field-Marshal as well as to the ordinary soldier.

Q. A Fuehrer decree of 7th October, 1939, bears your signature. In this decree Himmler is given the task of Germanising. This decree is presented as Document 686-PS. Please look at this and say what the significance of this decree is?

A. This decree of 7th October, 1939, was issued after the Polish campaign had ended. Poland at that time had been conquered and the Polish State as such had ceased to exist. I draw your attention to the note of the then People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs in Russia, Molotov, who defines his attitude as follows: The injustice which Germany had felt, when in the Treaty of Versailles German provinces were detached and given over to Poland, had been compensated for by the victory of weapons. It was therefore a matter of course for us that that part of Poland which, until 1918, had been German was again given back, that is, returned to Germany. But in that territory, in the course of years, more than one million Germans who had formerly lived there, had property there, particularly farms, agricultural property, etc., had been thrown out, expelled and dispossessed. That is quite clear from numerous complaints which in the course of the years after 1919 had been made to the League of Nations about this matter; and a study of all these complaints and of all the events which had been reported there, which must still be in the archives at Geneva, will prove to what an enormous extent the Polonising of these German territories was carried out. This Fuehrer decree of 7th October, 1939, aimed to put an end to that and to make these territories German once more, that is, that those farms and possessions from which Germans had been driven should once more come into the hands of Germans. The fact that this task was given to Himmler did not meet with my full agreement; but at the moment that is not of decisive importance. He was given this task not in his capacity as Chief of the Police, but, as is known, he was always particularly and keenly interested in the question of the new development of the German individual, and therefore this office "German Folkdom," or whatever it was called - just a moment, it is immaterial anyway - therefore Himmler was given this task. The Fuehrer issued the law. I naturally also signed, since I was the Chairman of the Ministerial Council at the time, and then it was also signed by the Chief of the Chancellery, Lammers. These signatures are a matter of course. I take a positive stand to this; it was quite in accord with my views, that where the Germans had been driven out, they should return to these German territories, but I want to draw your attention to the fact that this, properly said, is a question of former German provinces.

Q. You mean the occupied Western Polish Provinces?

A. Yes. The Government, for instance, was not established for purposes of Germanisation. If Germans later were settled there - and I am not certain of

[Page 115]

that - then that was not done on the basis of this decree. You asked about my attitude to the Memel question. I believe I have emphasised my views about Danzig and the Polish Corridor. Memel was a comparatively small matter. In Memel, according to the Treaty of Versailles of the League of Nations, there was to be a plebiscite. Shortly before that the Lithuanians occupied Memel and the Memel territory. In order to prevent the plebiscite Lithuania incorporated Memel and thereby produced a fait accompli. Complaints of the German Government at that time naturally were as futile as all previous complaints to the League of Nations. What the Lithuanians had done was regretted, it was considered false and wrong, but nothing could be said or done about going through with the plebiscite. After the Lithuanians, in violation of all agreement, had occupied Memel, it was naturally our absolute national right to rectify this encroachment and to occupy Memel ourselves.

Q. On 19th October, 1939, you published a decree which ordered the removal of economic goods from Poland. This decree has been presented in Document EC-410. I should like you to explain this decree.

A. This is a decree which represents general instructions as to what economic procedure should be adopted in all the Polish territory occupied by us. It regulates the seizure and administration of property of the Polish State within the territories occupied by German troops, money and credit matters, the taking of economic measures, the preparation for a settlement with foreign creditors which would become necessary, etc. Confiscation could be carried out only by the Trustee Office East, etc. It is not so much the removal of economic goods. That was also not so. On the contrary, even in the Government General, the economy in existence there, naturally that economy which could be used for purposes of war at this time, was strengthened and extended. That economy which was not absolutely essential was cut down just as in the rest of Germany and in all other States in the event of war. As far as those raw materials are concerned which were available and were important for the conduct of the war, such as steel or copper or tin, it was my view, or, to put it better, my intention, that these raw materials should be converted into manufactured products there, where they could most quickly be used. If the locality and its transportation facilities permitted it, then they should remain there and be used for manufacture. If it was not possible to use them for manufacture there, then I would of course not let raw materials of importance for the war lie there, but would have them brought to wherever they could most quickly be used to serve the needs of the war. That is, in general, what this decree says. That was my basic attitude and my basic instruction. The object was the quickest possible and most purposeful use for manufacture wherever possible.

Q. On 19th November, 1945, a Dr. Cajetan Muhlmann made an affidavit, which has been presented by the prosecution under Document 3042-PS. In this it says - three short sentences:

"I was the Special Deputy of the Governor General of Poland, Hans Frank, for the safeguarding of art treasures in the Government General from October, 1939, to September, 1943. This task was given to me by Goering in his capacity as the Chairman of the Committee for Reich Defence. I confirm that it was the official policy of the Governor General Hans Frank to take into custody all important works of art which belonged to Polish public institutions, private collections and the Church. I confirm that the works of art mentioned were actually confiscated and I am aware that, in the event of a German victory, they would not have remained in Poland but would have been used to complete German art holdings."
A. In effect I had nothing directly to do with the safeguarding of art treasures in Poland, absolutely nothing in my capacity as Chairman of the Ministerial Council. However, Muhlmann, whom I knew, did come to see me and told

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me that he was too busy himself with the safeguarding of art treasures there. It was my view that these art treasures should be safeguarded during the war, regardless of what was to be done with them, so that no destruction would be possible, whether through fire, bombing or otherwise. I want to emphasise immediately - I shall refer to this matter again later in connection with France - that nothing was taken from these art treasures for my so-called collection. I mention that just incidentally. That these art treasures were actually safeguarded is correct, and was also intended, partly, for the reason that the owners were not there. Whenever the owners were there, however - I remember the Count Potosky, for instance - the art collections were left where they were. The Fuehrer had not yet finally decided what was to be done with these art treasures. He had given an order - and I communicated that by letter to Muhlmann and also, as far as I remember, to Frank - that these art treasures were for the time being to be brought to Konigsberg. Four pictures were to be taken to the safety "Bunker" or the safety room of the German Museum in Berlin or to the Kaiser Friederich Museum in Berlin. The Durer drawings in Lemberg also played a role here. In this connection I want to mention them in advance, since the Indictment has already concerned itself with them. The Durer drawings in Lemberg were not confiscated by us at that time, because Lemberg had become Russian. Not until the march against Russia were these drawings - as far as I can remember from Muhlmann's story - rescued from the burning city during the battle by a Polish professor, who had hidden them from the Russians until that time, and then given over to him. They were the drawings he brought when he visited me; and, although I am usually very interested in such things, I did not even have time to look at them at leisure, since I was on my way to the Fuehrer at the moment; I took them along with me and, as Muhlmann has, I believe, confirmed, delivered them there immediately. Where they went after that I do not know. I believe I have now answered the question about the Polish art treasures. Apart from that there is still the Veit Stoss altar, which was originally made here in Nuremberg, a purely German work; and the Fuehrer wished that this altar should come to the German Museum here in Nuremberg - with that I personally had nothing to do. I merely know of that. What was intended to be done with it finally had not yet been announced. But it is certain that it also - negotiations in regard to it - would have played a part when peace was concluded.

Q. What connection did you have with Quisling?

A. I met Quisling for the first time long after the occupation of Norway, for the first and only time. He was in Berlin, visited me, and we had a short, unimportant conversation. Before that - that is, before the outbreak of war - a man of his, whom I did not know personally, sent a letter to me, which has been shown to me, but which I myself cannot remember, since such letters according to our practice were hardly ever submitted to me - that is immaterial. In that letter he spoke in Quisling's name to the effect that we should give financial support to Quisling's movement and he gave an account to what an extent political money contributions, on the one side from Russia - the Communist Party there - and on the other from England, were flowing into the funds of the Opposition. Later on someone talked to me about whether, by way of coal deliveries, some sort of contribution could be given Quisling. I took the stand that, because of the foreign exchange situation and other factors, we naturally could not compete with the Russian or English money contributions. Those offices should be consulted who could judge whether it was expedient to give the Quisling movement financial support or not; if they answered in the affirmative, then it would be perfectly clear to me that Quisling should receive money. The amount concerned, which I also would have given, was very much higher than the amount which was, I believe, paid later on by the Fuehrer by way of the Foreign Office.

[Page 117]

I never thought it much of such small money contributions; if one was going to give, then one should give properly, so that an end could really be gained thereby. From the last World War I had experience enough in connection with the money which went to the Roumanian Parliament, but which was unfortunately too little. On the basis of these experiences it was my advice that we should give properly. Apart from this, as I said, I did not become acquainted with Quisling until much later and had a very unimportant conversation with him, which I forget.

Q. What was your attitude towards the Norway project?

A. The Norwegian project surprised me rather, since, strangely enough, I had not been informed of this for a rather long time. The Fuehrer went very far in his basic decree, which I already mentioned at the beginning, and did not call in the Air Force until very late. But since the most important part of this undertaking fell to the Air Force, I expressed my views in regard to this in unmistakable, unfriendly fashion. From a military point of view I took an entirely positive stand to this undertaking as such, since as Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force, quite independent of political considerations, I had first of all to think exclusively of strategic considerations. That it would considerably improve my position as far as the Air Force was concerned, if my squadron could operate against England from Norwegian bases, was self-evident and would be self-evident for any prudent military expert. From the strategic point of view I, as Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force, could take only an entirely positive stand to this undertaking. My objection was merely that I had been informed too late and, secondly, that the plans did not seem quite correct to me.

Q. Was Hitler afraid of complications with Sweden because of this occupation?

A. Yes, not because of occupation by German forces as such; but when we, that is, the Fuehrer, decided to occupy Norway, we already had considerable and detailed information regarding the intended occupation by the English and French, which was later also confirmed by the papers of the English and French General Staff which we captured. In this connection we likewise knew that there was the intention not merely of occupying Norway, but, above all, the cutting off of Swedish ore deliveries to Germany by way of Narvik, and over and above that of intervening on the side of Finland in the Russian-Finnish conflict which was still going at the time. The Fuehrer feared that Sweden would yield entirely to English pressure, that is, under the pretext of coming to Finland's aid, would march through, and that thereby an entire cutting off of the Swedish iron ore basin and the ore deliveries to us would follow. I took a very heavy responsibility upon myself at that time by assuring Hitler that I knew Sweden and its people and its King so well that I was certain that whoever might want to exert pressure on Sweden, whether we or another Power, Sweden under all circumstances would defend its neutrality with arms against anyone who tried to violate it, regardless of what reasons there might be for this violation. I said that I personally and consciously would guarantee there was no need for our anxiety in regard to this matter. Therewith the question was settled.

THE PRESIDENT: We will adjourn now.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 15th March, 1946, at 10.00 hours.)

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