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-Second Day: Friday, 15th March, 1946
(Part 3 of 7)

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

[Page 127]

Q. What reasons made you put Colonel Veltjens in charge of centralising the black market in France?

A. Colonel Veltjens was a retired colonel. He was an airman in the First World War. He then entered business. Therefore, he was not there in his capacity as Colonel, but as an economist. He was not only in charge of the black market in France, but also of Holland and Belgium. It came about in the following manner: After a certain period during the occupation it was reported to me that various items in which I was particularly interested for reasons of war economy could only be obtained in the black market. It was then, for the first time, that I became familiar with the black market - that is, that copper, tin and other vital materials were still available, but that, in part, they lay buried in the canals of Holland, and had also been carefully hidden in other countries. However, if the necessary money were paid, these articles would come out of hiding, while, on the basis of the confiscation order, we would receive only very little of the raw materials necessary for the conduct of the war. At that time, as during the entire war, I was guided only by those intentions and ideas leading toward the final war goal, the winning of victory. It was more important to me to procure copper and tin, just to cite one example, to get them in any case, no matter how high the price might be, than not to get them merely because I did not consider such high prices justified. I therefore told Veltjens in rather general terms, "You know in what things the German war economy is interested. Where and how you get these things is in the last analysis immaterial to me. If you get them by means of confiscation, that is all the better. If we have to pay a great deal of money to get them, then we will have to do this, too." The unpleasant thing was that other offices, first without my knowing it, as the French prosecution has shown here quite correctly, also tried in the same way to get the same things in which they also were interested. The thought of now having internal competition as well was too much for me. And now I gave Veltjens the sole authority to be the one and only office which would be in control as far as the civilian dealers were concerned, who insisted they could procure these things only in that other way, and would be the only purchasing office for these things and, with my authority, would eliminate the other offices.

The difficulty of combating the black market is the result of many factors. Afterwards, at the special request of Prime Minister Laval, I absolutely prohibited the black market for Veltjens and his organisation as well. But in spite of this it was not thereby eliminated, and the statement of the French prosecution confirms my opinion that the black market lasted even beyond the war. As far as I know it is again flourishing here in Germany to-day to the widest extent. These are symptoms which always arise during and after a war, when there is, on the one hand, a tremendous scarcity and holding back and hiding of merchandise and, on the other hand, the desire to procure these things.

DR. STAHMER: Shall I stop now?

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Stahmer, the Tribunal understood from you that the witness would probably - that the defendant would probably finish his examination in chief at midday to-day. Can you now tell me how much longer you think the defendant will be with his testimony?

DR. STAHMER: I had counted on being able to finish this morning, but there were several interruptions, and I hope to finish during the course of the day.

[Page 128]

THE PRESIDENT: There was no interruption with the exception of that one interruption with reference to Mr. Justice Jackson's objection as to reprisals. There was no other interruption that I remember.

DR. STAHMER: Yes, there was a technical disturbance earlier.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Then the Tribunal will sit to-morrow morning from ten till one.

(A recess was taken until 14.00 hours.)


Q. What were the reasons that led to the attack on Yugoslavia?

A. Germany, during all the years before the beginning of the war, had the very best relations with the Yugoslav people and the Yugoslav Government. It was part of my foreign political task to cultivate especially these relations. Since the Regent, Prince Paul, and Prime Minister Stojadinowic were personal friends of mine, I often visited this country and also spent a long vacation there.

It was our intention to have not only the best economic relations by means of being complementary to one another, but also, beyond that, to come to a close political understanding and friendship. This was successful to the fullest extent and found its climax in the return visit which the Regent, Prince Paul, made to Germany.

Since at the same time I also had similar friendly relations with King Boris of Bulgaria, here, too, I was able to exert a stabilising influence and at times also in regard to Italy. My intervention on behalf of Yugoslavia even caused there, for a time, a certain misapprehension as far as I was concerned. After the outbreak of the war everything was likewise avoided which could cause anything but the most friendly relations with Yugoslavia. Unfortunately, Prime Minister Stojadinowic resigned, but his successor followed the same policy.

The entering into the Three Power Pact had the purpose of maintaining Yugoslavia's neutrality under all circumstances and of not drawing her into the war. Even at the time when the pact was signed, one recognised the necessity for sending troops to Roumania as a precautionary measure and also to Greece, because of the English landing there or the impending English landing. In spite of that agreement it was expressly provided that no troop transports should go through Yugoslavia, so that the neutrality of that country after its entry into the Three Power Pact would be confirmed in every way.

When the Prime Minister Cvetovic came to power, General Simovic's Putsch against the Government of the Prince Regent and the accession to the throne of the King, who was still a minor, followed shortly after. We very quickly learned, through the close relations to Yugoslavia, the background of General Simovic's Putsch. Shortly afterwards it was confirmed that the information from Yugoslavia was correct, namely, that a strong influence of Russian policy existed, as well as extensive financial assistance of this undertaking on the part of England, of which we later found proof. It was clear that this venture was directed against the friendly policy of the previous Yugoslav Government toward Germany. It must be mentioned here that, in later Press statements, it was pointed out by the Russian side how strong the influence had been and for what purpose this under-taking had been executed.

The new Yugoslav Government, quite obviously and beyond a doubt, stood visibly in close relation with these enemies which we had at that time, that is to say, England and, in this connection, already with our enemy-to-be, Russia.

The Simovic affair was definitely the final and decisive factor which dispelled the very last scruples which the Fuehrer had in regard to Russia's position, and caused him to take preventive measures in that direction under all circumstances. Before the Simovic incident it, is probable that, although preparations

[Page 129]

had been undertaken, ultimate doubts as to the inevitable necessity of an attack against Soviet Russia might have been pushed into the background. These clear relations between Moscow and Belgrade, however, dispelled the Fuehrer's, very last doubts. At the same time it was evident that Yugoslavia, under the new Government, was merely trying to gain time for her massing of troops, for, in the very same night when the putsch was undertaken, secret and, shortly afterwards, official orders for mobilisation were issued to the Yugoslav Army.

In spite of the assurances which Simovic gave Berlin, that he would feel himself bound to the agreement, the manoeuvre could easily be seen through. The situation was now the following:

Italy, our ally, had at the time attacked Greece, advancing from Albania in October or September, 1940, if I remember correctly. Germany had not been informed of this venture. The Fuehrer was informed of this undertaking by me on the one hand, who had by chance learned of it, and also by the Foreign Office, and he immediately re-routed his train, which was on the way from France to Berlin, in order to speak to the Duce in Florence.

The Italian Government, or Mussolini himself, saw very clearly at this moment why the Fuehrer wanted to talk to him and, as I remember, the order to the Italian Army to march from Albania to Greece was therefore released from 24 to 48 hours earlier. The fact is that the Fuehrer, in his concern to prevent an expansion of the conflict in the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean, under all circumstances wanted to urge the Duce to forgo such plans, which were not necessary but only taken for reasons of prestige.

When the meeting took place at 10 o'clock in the morning and the Fuehrer had mentioned his misgivings, Mussolini actually declared that, since 6 o'clock of that morning, the Italian troops had already been advancing through Greece and, in his opinion, would shortly be in Athens. The Fuehrer pointed out again that this would mean that, under certain circumstances, the relations to Turkey would also be most seriously endangered and a new theatre of war would be created, since he well knew, although he did not mention it at that time, that an Italian theatre of war sooner or later would draw on the German ally for help. And that actually was the situation at the outbreak of the attack on Yugoslavia.

Italy, stopped and thrown back, was left in a most unfavourable situation strategically and tactically while still facing the Greek enemy. If only a part of the Yugoslav Army moved against the flank and the rear of the Italian Scutari position, then not only would Italy be eliminated there, but also an essential part of the Italian fighting forces would be destroyed. It was clear that the position of these Italian fighting forces would soon be hopeless, since because of the landing of British auxiliary troops in Greece it could be expected that, as soon as they came to the aid of the Greeks, the Italian Army would be thrown out, not only of Greece, where they were standing merely at the border, but also of Albania, and that British troops would then be in dangerous proximity to Italy and the Balkans, which were economically of decisive importance for us.

By means of the Simovic Putsch and the mobilisation of Yugoslavia the elimination of the Italian Balkan Army would have been decided. Only the quickest action could prevent a twofold danger: First, a catastrophe befalling our Italian ally; and, second, a British foothold in the Balkans, which would be detrimental to a future vantage point in the conflict with Russia.

The German troops were set marching according to the plan "Marita" in Greece and were, therefore, to proceed against Greece in order to throw back into the Mediterranean those British divisions which had landed, and in order to relieve the rear of the Italian ally; their spearheads were turned to the right and, with accelerated, short-notice preparations for attack, were thrown into

[Page 130]

the flank of the Yugoslav troops massed according to the mobilisation plan. The Air Force was called from its airfields in Germany within a very short time, and assembled at the airfields in the South-east area, which was easily possible, and was also used to support the attack. Only by such quick action, and due to the fact that the basic conditions had been provided by the plan "Marita," was Germany able to stave off an extraordinary danger to her entire position in the Balkans and in the South-east area at that moment. Politically and from a military point of view it would have been a crime against the State, as far as the vital German interests were concerned, if in that case the Fuehrer had not acted as he did.

Q. What targets did the Air Force first attack in Yugoslavia?

A. I have just explained the very particular situation of the German Armed Forces at the outbreak of this war, and the problems which they had to solve with extraordinary speed, and with a likewise extraordinary result which had to be attained, in order to carry out their original task, the piercing of - I do not remember the name now - the Metaxas line in Northern Greece in good time, before English troops, which had already landed near Athens, could come to the support of the Greek garrisons along the Metaxas line.

Therefore, on the one hand it was necessary that a considerably smaller part of the German forces penetrate that line, while the other part, as planned, had to throw itself upon the Yugoslav Army, and here, too, with insufficient forces, in the shortest possible time had to eliminate this army-that was a necessary condition for the success of the whole thing; otherwise not only would it happen that the Italian Army would surely be destroyed, but the German Army, thus divided, would carry out with part of its forces the penetration of the strong Metaxas line and prevent English deployment there - the Bulgarian support came much later - and, thus divided, might even get into a difficult and critical and, perhaps, disastrous military position. Therefore the Air Force was in this case to be employed with the greatest effect, in order to see to it that the Yugoslav action of deployment against Germany and her ally be stopped as quickly as possible.

Therefore, there was first of all an order for a concentrated attack upon the Yugoslav Ministry of War in Belgrade, secondly, upon the railway station which in Belgrade, in view of the small number of Yugoslav railway lines, was a particularly important deployment junction; and then there were several other rather important centres, the General Staff building, etc., included in the order because, at that time, the political and military headquarters were still located in Belgrade. Everything was still concentrated there, and the bombing of that nerve centre would from the very beginning result in the extraordinary paralysing of the resistance as far as further deployment was concerned.

A warning to Yugoslavia was not necessary for the following reasons. Formally, one may retort that we did not send a declaration of war or a warning. Actually, however, none of the leading men in Yugoslavia had the least doubt but that Germany would attack. That was recognised, for they had feverishly busied themselves with deployment, and not only with mobilisation. In addition, the attacks of the German Army were prepared at a time before the bombing of Belgrade. But even assuming that the Air Force had made the first attack and only then the Army, that is, without warning; Yugoslavia's actions would have provoked this. The extraordinary danger of the military situation - we were in the midst of the most severe battle - it was a matter of securing the Balkans on both sides and taking them firmly in hand - the targets -and I emphasise this once more - were, if I remember correctly, the Ministry of War, the railway station, the General Staff building, and one of the other Ministries. The city, of course, since these buildings were spread about within the city, was also affected by the bombardment.

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