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 5 of 7)

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

[Page 135]

Q. What was your attitude toward an attack on Russia at that time?

A. At first I was very much surprised at the time and asked the Fuehrer to give me a few hours to state my view. It came entirely as a surprise to me. Then in the evening, after this conversation had taken place in the afternoon, I told the Fuehrer the following:

I urged him not to start a war against Russia at that moment or even a short time thereafter; not that I was moved by considerations of International Law or similar reasons; my point of view was decided by political and military reasons only. First, at all times since the coming to power I, perhaps, of all the leading men in Germany was the only one who always considered the conflict with Russia as a threatening menace to Germany. I knew - and many others with me - that for over ten years an exceedingly strong rearmament and training programme had been in effect in Russia, that the standard of living had been lowered in all other fields in favour of one single tremendous rearmament. The output of German industry and examination of the output of American, British and other industries always showed clearly that it consisted

[Page 136]

only of such machines as were directly or immediately necessary for a gigantic industrial rearmament programme.

One could, thereby, estimate the speed and the size of the Russian rearmament. If Germany had now developed in the Communist direction, then, of course, the Russian rearmament, in my opinion, would have been directed against other dangers. But since we had come to power, of course, the inner political and ideological contrast played, in my opinion, a menacing part. I have come to understand that such contrasts do not necessarily have to lead to conflicts between States, because the national and State political interests will always be stronger and greater than all ideological contrasts or agreements. But here also I saw a menace, because what should this tremendous Russian rearmament signify at a time when Germany was impotent? I now told the Fuehrer that in spite of this basic attitude on Russia's part I always feared this danger and had always recognised it, but that I was asking him rather to leave this danger in abeyance and, if at all possible, to direct Russia's interests against England. And indeed I told him:

"We are at present fighting against one of the greatest world Powers, the British Empire. If you, my Fuehrer, are not of exactly the same opinion, then I have to contradict you, because I am definitely of the opinion that sooner or later the second great world Power, the United States, will march against us. This will not depend on the election of President Roosevelt, the other candidate will also not be able to prevent this. We will be in a struggle against two of the largest world Powers. It was your master-stroke at the beginning of the war to make possible a one-front war, you have always pointed that out; in the case of a clash with Russia at this time, the third great world Power would be thrown into the struggle against Germany. We would again stand alone, against practically the entire world; the other nations do not count. And again we would have two fronts."
And he replied:
"I fully appreciate your arguments, I appreciate the Russian menace more than anybody else, but if we should succeed in executing our plans as prepared in the fight against the British Empire, and if these were only half- way successful, Russia would not launch her attack. Only if we should get ourselves deeply involved in a serious conflict in the West would I be of your opinion, that the Russian menace would increase enormously."
I was even of the opinion that the quick assent of the Russians to the settlement of the Polish crisis was given in order that Germany, free from that side, would be all the more likely to get into this conflict, because thereby the German-French-British conflict would come about, and it would be entirely understandable as far as Russian interests were concerned to bring about this conflict and come out of it as well as before. I furthermore told the Fuehrer that - according to my reports and evidence the Russian rearmament would reach its climax in the year 1942-43 or perhaps even in 1944. Before then we should, however, succeed, if not in achieving a peace by victory on our part, at least in coming to an arrangement with England. This, however, would be possible only if decisive successes could be achieved against England. At this time the German Air Force with all its weight was being employed in the attack on England. If now a new front should be formed and the troops should be massed for the attack on Russia, a considerable part of these forces, more than half, two-thirds, would have to be poured into the East. For practical purposes an energetic air attack on England would thereby cease. All the sacrifices up to that time would be in vain, England would be given a chance to reorganise and build up its shattered aircraft industry in peace.

[Page 137]

Much more decisive than these considerations was the fact that with a deployment of that kind against Russia my plan, which I had submitted to the Fuehrer, to attack England through Gibraltar and Suez, would have to be dropped more or less finally. The attack on Gibraltar was so methodically prepared by the Air Force that, according to all human expectations, there could be no failure. The British Air Force stationed there on the small air field North of the Rock of Gibraltar was of no importance. The attack of my Paratroopers on the Rock would have been a success. The simultaneous occupation of the other side, the African side, and a subsequent push on Casablanca and Dakar, would at least be a safeguard against America's intervention, a campaign, such as later took place in North Africa. To what extent beyond this, by agreement, the islands of Cape Verde could still be used was an open question. It is obvious what it would have meant to be stationed with aeroplanes and submarines on North African bases and to attack all the convoys coming up from Cape Town and South America from such favourable positions. But if the Mediterranean was closed in the West it would not be difficult, by pushing across Tripoli, to bring the Suez project to a conclusion, the time and success of which could be calculated in advance.

The elimination of the Mediterranean as a theatre of war, the key point Gibraltar - North Africa down to Dakar - Suez, and possibly extended further South, would have required only a few forces, a number of divisions on the one side and a number of divisions on the other, to eliminate the entire insecurity of the long Italian coast-line against the possibility of attack.

I urged him to put these considerations in the foreground and only after the conclusion of such an undertaking to examine the further military and political situation in regard to Russia. For, if these conditions were brought about, we would be in a favourable position, in the case of an intervention by the United States, because of this flanking position. I explained to him all these reasons in great detail and pointed out to him again and again that here we would give up a relatively secure case for a more insecure one and that, after securing such a position, there would be much more prospect of coming, under certain circumstances, to an arrangement with England at a time when the two, both armed, would be standing opposite each other, the one on this, the other on that side of the Channel. These were my reasons for delaying the date, inasmuch as I also told him that increased successes in this direction might enable us to steer Russian preparations politically, where possible, into other channels, against our enemies of the moment. I emphasise, however, that the Fuehrer, restricted by considerations of caution, at first made only general preparations and was going to hold in reserve, as he told me at the time, the actual attack, and that the final decision was not taken until after the Simovic Putsch in Yugoslavia.

THE PRESIDENT: We will adjourn now.

(A recess was taken.)


Q. The prosecution has submitted Document 376-PS, notes of 29th October, 1940, paragraph 5 of which states the following:

"The Fuehrer concerns himself with the prospect of a later war with America and with an examination of the occupation of the Atlantic Islands."
What can you say about this study? A. I am very well acquainted with this document because it has been submitted to me here. It concerns a letter which the representative of the Luftwaffe in the O.K.W., the then Lieutenant-Colonel (Oberstleutnant) von Falkenstein, wrote to the Chief of the General Staff of my Air Force. It is a study of a

[Page 138]

reference to those points which I have just set forth, that is, occupation of Gibraltar, North Africa and perhaps also the Atlantic Islands - first as a combat basis against England, our enemy at that time, and, secondly, in the event of America entering the war, to have a better flanking position against her convoys. But this was just a General Staff note at this time - I had already of my own accord, without having spoken to the Fuehrer beforehand, ceased my military investigation of the possibility of carrying out such an undertaking. It is, therefore, of no consequence.

Q. In this connection I have a further question. An organisation plan for the year 1950 prepared by a Major Kammhuber has been submitted here.

A. This question also may be answered briefly. I am familiar with this document, for on two or three occasions it has been mentioned by the prosecution. Consultation with an expert General Staff officer of any one of the Powers represented would prove immediately that this document is of secondary value. It is simply a study by the General Staff - namely, by the subordinate Organisation Section - in order to work out the best scheme for a leadership organisation. It was a question of whether one should concentrate on air fleet or land fortifications. It was a question of whether mixed squadrons consisting of bombers and fighters or squadrons consisting only of bombers or of fighters should be used, and other such questions which are always being dealt with by the offices of the General Staff, independent of war and peace. That such studies must, of course, be based on certain assumptions which are in the realm of strategic possibility must be taken for granted. In this case the Major took as a basis the situation around or until 1950, a two-front war, which was not entirely beyond all probability, namely, a war on the one side with England and France in the West, and on the other side with Russia in the East. The basic assumption was that Austria and Poland were in our own hands, and the like. This study never reached me. I have just become acquainted with it here. But it is of no significance because it was made in my Ministry and by my General Staff and was therefore also made on my orders. For I placed such tasks within the general framework of having the organisation, leadership and composition constantly tested by manoeuvres and examples. This is completely irrelevant to the political evaluation and completely out of place in the framework of this trial.

Q. Several days ago reference was made to a speech which you are said to have made to Air Force officers, in which you said that you proposed to have such an Air Force as, once the hour had struck, would fall like an avenging host on the enemy. The opponent must have the feeling of having lost before he ever started fighting with you. I shall have this speech submitted to you and I would like you to tell us what significance this had and what its purpose was.

A. This quotation has been used by the prosecution twice: once in the beginning and the second time, the other day, in the cross-examination of Field-Marshal Milch. This concerns a speech which appeared in a book by me called "Speeches and Compositions," which has already been submitted to the Tribunal as evidence. The speech is called "Comradeship, Fulfilment of Duty and Willingness to Sacrifice," an address to one thousand flightlieutenants on the day they took their oath in Berlin on 20th May, 1936.

I explained at length to thousands of young flyers here, on the day they became commissioned officers, the concepts of comradeship, fulfilment of duty and willingness to sacrifice. This quotation had been completely removed from its context. I therefore take the liberty of asking the Tribunal's permission to read a short preceding paragraph, so that it will be seen in the right context, and I also request to be allowed to portray the atmosphere. Before me stand one thousand young Right lieutenants full of hope, to whom I now had to give the appropriate fighting spirit. That has nothing to do with an offensive

[Page 139]

war, but the important thing was that my boys, should it come to war, this way or that, be brave fellows and men with a will to act. The short quotation before this one is as follows:
"I demand of you nothing impossible. I do not demand of you that you be model boys. I like to be generous. I understand that youth must have its follies, otherwise it would not be youth. You may have your pranks, and you will get your ears boxed for it. But that is not the decisive factor. The decisive factor is rather that you be honourable, decent fellows, that you be men. You can have your fun as much as you wish, but once you get into the plane you must be men, determined to smash down all resistance. That is what I demand of you, brave, daring fellows."
Then comes the paragraph which has just been read. I have visions of possessing a weapon which shall come like an avenging host against the foe. That has nothing to do with vengeance, for "an avenging host" is a terminus technicus, a usual term, in Germany. I might just as well have said that the opponent would use another word to express the same thing. I shall not read any further here, for these words, if I were to read them, would be readily understandable; one has to realise to whom I was speaking.

Q. To what extent did you assist in the economic and military preparation of the Case "Barbarossa"?

A. As Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force I naturally took all the measures which are necessary in the purely military field for the preparation of such a campaign. I made the obvious military preparations which are always necessary in connection with a new strategic deployment, and which every officer was in duty bound to carry out, and for which the officers of the air corps received their command from me. I do not believe that the High Tribunal would be interested in the details as to how I carried out the deployment of my air fleet. The decisive thing at the time of the first attacks was, as before, to smash the enemy air arm with full force as the main objective. Independent of the purely military preparations, which were a matter of duty, economic preparations seemed necessary according to our experiences in the previous war with Poland and in the war in the West; doubly necessary in the case of Russia, for here we encountered a completely different form of economic life from that in the other countries on the Continent. For here it was a matter of State economy and State ownership; there was no private economy or private ownership worth mentioning. That I was charged with this was again a matter of course resulting from the fact that I, as Plenipotentiary for the Four-Year Plan, directed the whole economy and provided the necessary instructions. I had, therefore, instructed the War Economy Staff to formulate a general economic plan for the invasion, in consultation with economic experts on Russia, especially since we had to expect that an advance into Russia, according to long- established procedure, would destroy large parts of its economy. The result of these prepared economic mobilisation studies was the so-called Green Portfolio. I am of the opinion that in every future war, as in past wars on other sides, there must always be an economic mobilisation besides a military and political mobilisation; otherwise we would get into very unpleasant situations.

The Green Portfolio has been cited repeatedly, and also quotations have been taken out of their context. In order to save time I do not wish to read further passages from this Green Portfolio. That can perhaps be done when documentary evidence is given. But if I were to read the whole Green Portfolio from beginning to end, from A to Z, the Tribunal would see that this is a very useful and suitable work project, which can be worked out only in this way for armed forces which have advanced into a territory with a completely different economic structure. This Green Portfolio contains much positive

[Page 140]

material and contains here and there a sentence which, cited alone, as has been done, gives a false picture. It provides for everything, among other things for compensation. If an economy is in the possession of a State at the moment when one enters into a state of war with it, and if one then gains possession of this economy, one is interested in carrying out this economy only in so far, of course, as the interests of one's own war needs are concerned - this goes without saying. But in order to save time I shall dispense with the reading of those pages which would exonerate me considerably for, on the whole, I am stating, as it is, that our laying of claims to the Russian State economy after the conquest of these territories, for German purposes, was just as natural and just as much a matter of duty for us as it was for Russia at the moment when she occupied German territories, but with this difference, that we did not dismantle and transport the entire Russian economy down to the last bolt and screw, as is being done here. These are measures which result from the conduct of war. I naturally take complete responsibility for this.

Q. A notice for the files has been submitted as Document 2718-PS, and this reads as follows:

"Notices for the files concerning the result of to-day's conference with the State Secretaries in regard to 'Barbarossa.'

1. The war is to be continued further only if the entire Armed Forces can be supplied food by Russia in the third year of war.

2. Five million people will hereby doubtless starve if we take from this country that which is needed by us."

Were you informed of the subject of this conference with the State Secretaries and of this notice?

A. I became familiar with this document only when it was submitted to me here. This is a rather unreliable document. We cannot tell clearly just who was present, where this was discussed and who was responsible for the nonsense that is expressed therein. It is a matter of course that, within the framework of all the conferences of official experts, many things were discussed which proved to be absolute nonsense.

First of all the German Armed Forces would have been fed, even if there had been no war with Russia. Therefore it was not the case, as one might conclude from this, that, in order to feed the German Armed Forces, we had to attack Russia. Before the attack on Russia the German Army was fed and it would have been fed thereafter. But if we had to march and advance into Russia it was a matter of course that the Army would always and everywhere be fed from that territory.

The feeding of several millions of people, that is, two or three, if I figure the entire troop deployment in Russia with all its appendages, cannot possibly result in the starvation of many, many millions on the other side. It is impossible for the soldier on one side to eat so much that on the other side there is not enough left for three times that number. The fact is that the population also does not starve. However, famine had become a possibility, not because the German Army was to be fed from Russia, but because of the destruction or the sending back by the Russians of all agricultural implements, and of the entire seed stocks. It was first of all impossible to bring the harvest, which had been partly destroyed by the retreating Russian troops, in from the fields to any extent even approximating that necessary, because of inadequate implements; and the fields could not be tended for the spring and autumn crops due to the lack of implements and seeds.

If this crisis was met, it was not because the Russian troops had destroyed or removed everything, but because Germany had to draw heavily on her own stocks. Tractors, agricultural machines, scythes and other things had to be procured, even seeds, so that for the time being the troops were not fed by the

[Page 141]

country, but food had to be sent from Germany - and in addition to this even straw and hay. Only through the greatest efforts of organisation and administration and in co-operation with the local population could a balance gradually be achieved in the agricultural sector, and also a surplus for the German territories.

As far as I know a famine occurred only in Leningrad, as has also been mentioned here.

Leningrad was a fortress which was being besieged. In the history of war I have likewise, up till now, found no evidence that the besieger generously supplies the besieged with food in order that they can resist longer; rather, I know only of evidence in the history of wars that the besiegers do everything to force the surrender of the fortress by cutting off the food supply. Neither from the point of view of International Law nor from the point of view of the military conduct of war were we under any obligation to provide besieged fortresses and cities with food.

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