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-Third Day: Saturday, 16th March, 1946
(Part 5 of 5)

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

[Page 166]

Q. Is it known to you that at that time Jodl was even to be relieved?

A. The conflict arose from the Caucasus crisis. The Fuehrer blamed General Jodl for the fact that no concentrated forces had been used to press forward in the direction of Tuaxe; but that battalions of mountain troops had been marched from the valleys over the mountain chain of the Elbrus, which the Fuehrer thought was senseless. At that time, as far as I remember, Jodl pointed out to him that this matter had been discussed with, and approved by, him. The Fuehrer strongly attacked the commander who was in charge of this sector. Jodl defended him with these facts, and this led to extremely strained relations, The Fuehrer mentioned to me that he wanted to relieve Jodl. The tension was so strong that from this moment on, as far as I remember, the Fuehrer withdrew from the Officers Club jointly used by both his Operations Staff and High Command, and even took his meals alone. For quite some time, for several months, he refused to shake hands with this gentleman. This illustration is just to show you how great the tension was at that time.

As successor to Jodl, Paulus was already selected; the Fuehrer had special confidence in him. Just why this change did not materialise I do not know exactly. I assume that here again, despite all tension, the decisive factor for the Fuehrer was that it was extremely hard for him to get used to new faces, and that he did not like to make any changes in his entourage. He preferred to continue working with men of his entourage whom he did not like, than to change them.

In the course of the years, however, his confidence in Jodl's tactical ability increased again considerably; he had complete confidence in his tactical capacity. The personal relations of both gentlemen were never very close.

Q. Is it known to you, that, particularly in 1945, denunciation of the Geneva Convention was under consideration. Do you know what attitude Jodl took at that time?

A. It may have been February, 1945, when Minister Goebbels made this proposal to the Fuehrer. This proposal met with the utmost opposition by all of us. In spite of that the Fuehrer reverted to it again and again and for days was inclined to denounce this Convention. The reason given was, oddly enough, that there were too many deserters in the West and that the troops surrendered too easily. The Fuehrer was of the opinion that if the troops knew that in captivity they were no longer protected by the Geneva Convention they would fight harder and would not react to the extensive enemy propaganda as to how well they would be treated if they quit fighting. The united efforts in which, of course, Jodl participated succeeded in dissuading the Fuehrer with the argument that this action would cause great disturbance among the German people and anxiety for their relatives in captivity.

Q. One more question: Before the Norwegian campaign, Jodl entered in his diary - it has been mentioned here before: "The Fuehrer is looking for a pretence." But that is incorrect. The original reads: "for a basis (Begrundung)." Now, in how far did the Fuehrer look for a basis at that time?

A. I remember this point also very well and therefore I can state under oath that the use of the word "basis (Begrundung)" for "pretence (Ausrede)" is entirely out of place here. The case was as follows:

The Fuehrer knew exactly, and we knew with him, and had both rather extensive intelligence and reliable reports to the effect that Norway was to be occupied by the Allies, England and France. I mentioned this the other day. In order to prevent this, the Fuehrer wanted to act first. He spoke about the fact that for us the basis (Begrundung) of an Anglo-French attack was clear, but that we had not sufficient proof for the outside world. Hitler explained that he was still trying to get evidence. Jodl should have written not that the Fuehrer was still looking for a basis but - according to what the Fuehrer meant that the Fuehrer was still looking for conclusive evidence for the outside world.

[Page 167]

Evidence as such we had. This was one thing. The second was that generally the Foreign Office had to execute the necessary preparatory work including the drafting of notes for such steps. In the case of Norway, however, the Fuehrer advised the Foreign Office only, I believe, 24 or 48 hours in advance. He did not want to inform it at all at that time, because he kept the entire plan extremely secret. I remember that I, as Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, was informed of this plan at a very late date. This secrecy was the second reason why he himself was concerned with finding a basis (Begrundung) for the attack. These were the two reasons. I would like to state again that it would have been expressed much more clearly if he had said, "The Fuehrer is looking for evidence," rather than for "the basis."

Q. If I understand correctly, you mean evidence showing that the British had the intention of occupying Norway?

A. We had the report, but the final written evidence we received only later.

Q. The Fuehrer had no doubt about this?

A. Not for a moment, none of us had any doubt about it. We received the, evidence later.

DR. KUBUSCHOK (counsel for defendant von Papen):

Q. Is it correct that Hitler authorised you to conduct all negotiations for the purpose of forming a Government under Hitler as it emerged on 30th January, 1933, that is, that you alone were commissioned to do this?

A. That is correct. I stated this the other day.

Q. Is it correct that you talked about the formation of a Government with von Papen for the first time in January, 1933?

A. I talked with Papen for the first time on Sunday, eight days prior to the formation of the Government, in Ribbentrop's home.

Q. If, then, Papen had carried on negotiations concerning the formation of a Government between 4th January, the day of the meeting with Hitler in the home of Baron Schroder, and 22nd January, he would have had to do this through you, and you would have known it.

A. That is correct, because the Fuehrer was in Munich at that time and I was, the sole authority in Berlin for the formation of this Government. Besides, it was not at all obvious at the beginning of January that within a reasonable length of time we should have to form such a Government. Other negotiations were taking place which had nothing to do with Herr von Papen.

Q. Did the formation of a new Government in the middle of January become inevitable for Hindenburg, because Schleicher had no Parliamentary backing, and his efforts to receive such backing by negotiations with Gregor Strasser to, split the N.S.D.A.P., were frustrated?

A. I believe I have said already, in a general way, that Schleicher did not receive a Parliamentary majority and his attempt at splitting the Parties failed for the reason that the Fuehrer immediately eliminated Strasser, who actually had no following among the deputies. Since Schleicher's attempts to get a majority failed, he had to govern without Parliament, and that he could only do with extraordinary powers from Hindenburg. Since he had told him previously that he would be able to get a majority, the Reich President refused his demand, for such extraordinary powers as had been held by the previous Cabinet of Papen, and then decided to do what I stated here the other day.

Q. Is it correct that von Papen gave up to you the Minister- Presidency of Prussia on 20th April, 1933, because in the elections for the Prussian Landtag of March, 1933, the N.S.D.A.P. had obtained a clear majority in Prussia, and the Landtag therefore intended to elect you Minister-President?

A. It is not entirely correct, for the Prussian Landtag did not have to elect a Minister-President at that time. But the fact that the N.S.D.A.P. had the absolute majority induced von Papen, in connection with my conferences in

[Page 168]

Munich, to approach the Fuehrer on his own initiative, stating that he would agree to turn over to me the Prussian Minister-Presidency.

Q. One last question - You mentioned yesterday that you, as the Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, granted many reprieves to people in Belgium and France who were sentenced for their resistance. Is it correct that von Papen on various occasions conveyed to you wishes of relatives of those who had been sentenced, and that he did this for the reason that, in the interest of a later solidarity of the peoples, he did not wish that in such sentences, even if they were militarily justified, an impersonal attitude should develop, and that you complied with the wishes of von Papen?

A. I merely remember that occasionally - I remember one case especially, for a prominent name was involved - I received a request from Herr von Papen that the person concerned should be granted a reprieve. It concerned people sentenced because they had assisted enemy airmen to escape. In this case I honoured in large degree the request of Herr von Papen. I am no longer quite conversant with the reasons.

DR. BALLAS (counsel for defendant Seyss-Inquart):

Q. I ask the Tribunal to permit me to put a few questions to the witness Goering. They concern the well-known telephone conversations of 11th March, 1938, between Berlin and Vienna. Is it correct that Dr. Seyss-Inquart, when he was appointed Austrian State Councillor, in June, 1937, visited you in Berlin accompanied by State Secretary Keppler?

A. The date I do not remember; the visit, yes.

Q. Did Dr. Seyss-Inquart, at that time, express the idea that the Austrian National Socialists should be made entirely independent of the Reich Party?

A. Wishes of that nature were discussed by him because he wanted as little friction as possible in his work in the Cabinet.

Q. At that time he further mentioned, and I would like you to answer whether it is correct, that the National Socialists were to be given permission to be active in Austria, in order to establish as close a relationship between Austria and Germany as possible within the framework of an independent Austria.

A. As far as Party matters are concerned, I do not remember exactly what was discussed. The thesis of keeping Austria independent in its collaboration with Germany was repeatedly advocated by Seyss-Inquart, and I have recently outlined it. It seemed to me personally not extensive enough. Just because I knew this attitude of Seyss-Inquart, I must say frankly that I was a little distrustful of his attitude on 11th and 12th March, and therefore, on the late afternoon that these telephone conversations took place, I sent Keppler to Vienna, so that as regards the annexation matters they would take their proper course. I would rather have sent someone else, because Herr Keppler also was too soft for me. But the Fuehrer's desire in this case was that, if anyone was to be sent, it should be Keppler.

Q. Is it correct that Dr. Seyss-Inquart explained his attitude by pointing out the advantage of having German interests represented by two States.

A. It is absolutely correct that he said that. I answered that I was of a completely different opinion: That I would prefer to have German interests represented by one State, which could act more energetically than two inasmuch as the second might not synchronise.

Q. Did you have on 11th March, 1939, or on the previous day, another telephonic or other communication with Seyss- Inquart?

A. As far as I recall, but I cannot say with certainty, I did, I believe, on the previous Sunday. That is, these telephone conversations were on the 11th, a Friday; on the Monday or Tuesday before I questioned him or one of his men on the impression they had had in Graz and Steiermark. I vaguely remember this, but I cannot say so under oath.

[Page 169]

Q. The Document 2949-PS submitted by the prosecution regarding the conversations between Berlin and Vienna in the critical time of March, 1938, shows that only at the time of the conversation between Dr. Dietrich and State Secretary Keppler, who was in Vienna at the time on your behalf, which took place at 21.54 hours - that only on that day was Dr. Seyss-Inquart's agreement to the telegram, which you had dictated in advance, conveyed by Keppler. Had the order to march into Austria already been given at that time?

A. I explained this recently. The order to march in had been given and had nothing to do with the telegram as such. It was immaterial whether or not he was in agreement. The responsibility for the marching in rested with the Fuehrer and me.

Q. Then it is correct that the marching in would have occurred even without the telegram?

A. Yes. Of course.

Q. What was the purpose, then, of this telegram? Perhaps a foreign political one ?

A. I have explained that here in greatest detail.

Q. Do you remember, witness, that in the night from 11th to 12th March, State Secretary Keppler, in the name of Dr. Seyss-Inquart, telephoned Berlin with the request not to carry out the entry into Austria?

A. I remember this telegram very distinctly for I was extremely enraged that such a senseless telegram - after everything was clear - had disturbed the Fuehrer's rest when he was worn out and was to go to Austria the next day. I therefore severely reprimanded the Fuehrer's adjutant and told him that such a telegram should have been given to me. Because of this I remember the telegram distinctly and its pointlessness.

Q. With the result, then, that the Fuehrer, if I have understood you correctly, gave a flat refusal to this telegram?

A. He no longer was able to give a refusal because the entire troop movement was already underway. Such a movement cannot be halted in an hour. Once a troop movement is underway it takes days to halt it. At best we could have halted the movement at a certain point on the march. That was not at all in our interest, as I stated. From this moment on, not Seyss-Inquart, but the Fuehrer and I held the fate of Austria in our hands.

Q. I have only two more questions regarding the Netherlands. Is it correct that, in addition to the order of the Fuehrer which was promulgated on 18th May, naming Dr. Seyss-Inquart Reich Commissar of the Netherlands, there was an order, not promulgated, which made Seyss-Inquart directly subordinate to you?

A. Of this secret order I know nothing.

THE PRESIDENT: Put your questions more slowly. You can see that the light is flashing.

Q. Had the Four-Year Plan its own independent office in the Netherlands?

A. I have not yet answered your first question; I understood that you were to put this question once more, because it did not come through.

DR. BALLAS: I understood the Court to mean ...

A. I shall answer you now on this. Of this secret order I know nothing. It would have been senseless, for a Reich Commissar in the occupied territories could not have been subordinate to me separately. But if it is a question of subordination in economic matters, then it is clear that the Reich Commissar, as were all other major Reich positions, was, of course, under my orders and directions in this field.

To your second question I can say that I do not know to-day in detail whether there was in the occupied territories, that is, also in the Netherlands, here and there a direct representative of the Four-Year Plan or whether I

[Page 170]

availed myself of the military commander or the economic agency of the Reich Commissar of the territory concerned. As far as I remember now, without referring to documents, in the Netherlands the situation was that the economic counsellor, or the representative of the Reich Commissar, Fischbock, at the same time, which was logical, executed the economic directions of the Four-Year Plan. The Reich Commissar would never have been in a position not to have carried out orders given by me. He could have protested concerning them only to me or, in extreme cases, to the Fuehrer, but in itself this did not lead to any suspension.

DR. BALLAS: I have no further questions.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 18th March, 1946, at 10.00 hours.)

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