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-Fourth Day: Monday, 18th March, 1946
(Part 4 of 9)

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

[Page 184]

Q. Do you know that there was an order from the Reich Main Security Office, that was issued after your resignation, which forbade any official or employee of the State police, under threat of the most severe punishment, to beat prisoners or ill-treat them?

A. It is possible, I no longer know what orders were issued after my resignation.

Q. Putting this question in the negative, is it known to you that there never was an order to manhandle prisoners or torture them, either at the time when you were Chief of the Secret State Police or later?

A. I can only say with absolute certainty that I did not issue or permit any such order. I no longer know what was or was not issued in this connection at a later date or in provinces other than Prussia.

Q. Do you know anything to the effect that, contrary to these orders, such acts regularly took place in the Gestapo, or rather, if such an act did take place, did it have to do only with individual cases or individual excesses?

A. At the time when I was still directly connected with the Gestapo such excesses did, as I have openly stated, take place. In order to punish them, one naturally had to find out about them. Punishments were administered. The officials knew that if they did such things they ran the risk of being punished. A large number of them were punished. I cannot say what the practice was later.

DR. MERKEL: I have no more questions.

DR. BABEL (counsel for the S.S. and S.D.):

Q. Witness, did the same conditions apply for the appointment of honorary leaders in the S.S. as in the S.A.?

A. Yes, I believe so.

Q. Are you familiar with the directives or other regulations regarding the appointment of honorary leaders?

A. No.

Q. Was it possible to refuse the appointment?

A. Yes, I believe so.

Q. Do you know what the reasons were for the expansion of the Waffen S.S. after the year 1939 into a large permanent organisation?

A. The first divisions of the Waffen S.S., which consisted of the best specially selected human material, fought with outstanding bravery in combat. Consequently the Fuehrer gladly agreed to Himmler's suggestion that still more divisions be set up. The Army and also the Air Force did make some protest, and quite rightly, because this creaming off of the best voluntary material meant that men of this type, who would have made equally good officers, were partly lost to the Army and the Air Force, and therefore they opposed this expansion. Also, in the beginning, the Fuehrer was not very keen to have armed formations of any appreciable size outside the ranks of the Wehrmacht, but he gave way more and more. When replacement difficulties became even more acute as the war went on, Himmler more or less deceived the Fuehrer with the statement that he was in a position to provide a large number of S.S. divisions, that this would create a greater attraction for recruiting, and so on. This, of course, was welcome news to the Fuehrer since he needed troops badly. But, in point of fact, already at that time Himmler was using altogether different methods which had not much in common with purely voluntary recruiting, and he created first of all on paper a number of new S.S. divisions and cadres. At that time he had not the men for this. He then told the Fuehrer, "I have transferred my best Unterfuehrer from the other S.S. divisions to these new ones." For this and other reasons replacements in men did not flow in and the Army and the Air

[Page 185]

Force, especially the Air Force, were those who bore the brunt of this. I now had to help to fill these S.S. divisions with men from the ground staffs and from the anti- aircraft batteries. This aroused much dissatisfaction among the men in the Air Force because none of them wanted to volunteer for these formations. But in the end the Fuehrer ordered that men be taken from the reserve units of the Army and, as far as I remember, from naval reserves also. I can speak only for that contingent which was taken from the Air Force by coercion and by command; I should estimate, without reference to official records, that there were at least about 50,000 men and officers. Then, because this aroused such strong feeling, I arranged that all men from the Air Force, who were to be used for land fighting, should no longer go in the future to the S.S. but to the new Parachute divisions which were to be formed. The Fuehrer agreed, because in the last phase of the war the Parachute divisions proved to be the most valued and the most distinguished in the whole Wehrmacht, and superior to the S.S. in fighting spirit and power of resistance. From then on no further contingents of the Air Force were incorporated into the S.S. and, as far as I know, no more S.S. divisions were created.

DR. BABEL: I have no further questions.

DR. LATERNSER (Counsel for the General Staff and the O.K.W.):

Q. Witness, what was the attitude of the General Staff of the Army towards the possibility of being involved in a war with other Powers?

A. Their attitude was, if I may say so, purely professional - that is to say, the General Staff had to study theoretically and practically all the possibilities and contingencies in a state of war. Its attitude toward its own tasks and conceptions was - I must say this openly - a very reticent and timid one for a General Staff. This is probably to be attributed to the fact that most of the General Staff officers had come from the Reichswehr. The tenor of thought in this small Reichswehr during the last decade and a half was such that they could hardly imagine that a military clash might come, and consequently a much more pacific attitude than is normally the case with soldiers was to be found among the General Staff of the Army.

Q. Do you know Generals or Admirals who urged and incited war?

A. No.

DR. LATERNSER: I have no further questions.

THE PRESIDENT: Do the Chief Prosecutors wish to cross- examine?



Q. You are perhaps aware that you are the only living man who can expound to us the true purposes of the Nazi Party and the inner workings of its leadership?

A. I am perfectly aware of that.

Q. You, from the very beginning, together with those who were associated with you, intended to overthrow, and later did overthrow, the Weimer Republic?

A. That was, as far as I am concerned, my firm intention.

Q. And, upon coming to power, you immediately abolished parliamentary government in Germany?

A. We found it to be no longer necessary. Also I should like to emphasise the fact that we were, moreover, the strongest Parliamentary Party, and had the majority. But you are correct when you say that parliamentary procedure was done away with, because the various Parties were disbanded and forbidden.

Q. You established the leadership principle, which you have described as a system under which authority existed only at the top, and is passed downwards and is imposed on the people below; is that correct?

[Page 186]

A. In order to avoid any misunderstanding, I should like once more to explain the idea briefly, as I understand it. In German parliamentary procedure in the past the responsibility rested with the highest officials, who were responsible for carrying out the anonymous wishes of the majorities, and it was they who exercised the authority. In the leadership principle we sought to reverse the direction, that is, the authority existed at the top and passed downwards, while the responsibility began at the bottom and passed upwards.

Q. In other words, you did not believe in and did not permit government, as we call it, by consent of the governed, in which the people, through their representatives, were the source of power and authority?

A. That is not entirely correct. We repeatedly called on the people to express unequivocally and clearly what they thought of our system, only it was in a different way from that previously adopted and from the system in practice in other countries. We chose the way of a so-called plebiscite. We also took the point of view that, of course, even a Government founded on the leadership principle could maintain itself only if it was based in some way on the confidence of the people. If it no longer had such confidence, then it would have to rule with bayonets, and the Fuehrer was always of the opinion that that was impossible in the long run - to rule against the will of the people.

Q. But you did not permit the election of those who should act with authority by the people, but they were designated from the top downward continuously, were they not?

A. Right. The people were merely to acknowledge the authority of the Fuehrer, or, let us say, to declare themselves in agreement with the Fuehrer. If they gave the Fuehrer their confidence, then it was up to them to exercise the other functions. Thus, not the individual persons were to be selected according to the will of the people, but solely the leadership itself.

Q. Now, was this leadership principle supported and adopted by you in Germany because you believed that no people are capable of self-government, or because you believed that some may be, but not the German people, or that no matter whether some of us are capable of using our own system, it should not be allowed in Germany?

A. I beg your pardon, I did not quite understand the question, but I could perhaps answer it as follows:

I consider the leadership principle necessary because the system which previously existed, and which we called parliamentary or democratic, had brought Germany to the verge of ruin. I might perhaps in this connection remind you that your own President Roosevelt, as far as I can recall - I do not want to quote it word for word - declared, "Certain people in Europe have forsaken democracy not because they did not wish for democracy as such but because democracy had brought forth men who were too weak to give their people work and bread and to satisfy them. For this reason the peoples have abandoned this system and the men belonging to it." There is much truth in that statement. This system had brought ruin by mismanagement, and according to my own opinion only an organisation made up of a strong, clearly defined leadership hierarchy could restore order again. But, let it be understood, not against the will of the people, but only when the people, having in the course of time and by means of a series of elections grown stronger and stronger, had expressed their wish to entrust their destiny to the National Socialist leadership.

Q. The principles of the authoritarian Government which you set up required, as I understand you, that there be tolerated no opposition by political Parties which might defeat or obstruct the policy of the Nazi Party?

A. You have understood this quite correctly. By that time we had lived long enough with opposition and we had had enough of it. Through opposition we had been completely ruined. It was now time to have done with it and to start building up.

[Page 187]

Q. After you came to power, you regarded it necessary, in order to maintain power, to suppress all opposition Parties?

A. We found it necessary not to permit any more opposition, yes.

Q. And you also held it necessary that you should suppress all individual opposition lest it should develop into a Party of opposition?

A. In so far as opposition seriously hampered our work of building up, this opposition of individual persons was, of course, not tolerated. In so far as it was simply a matter of harmless talk, it was considered to be of no consequence.

Q. Now, in order to make sure that you suppressed the Parties, and individuals also, you found it necessary to have a secret political police to detect opposition?

A. I have already stated that I considered that necessary, similar to the former political police, but on a firmer basis and larger scale.

Q. And upon coming to power you also considered it immediately necessary to establish concentration camps to take care of your incorrigible opponents?

A. I have already stated that the reason for the concentration camps was not because it could be said, "Here are a number of people who are opposed to us and they must be taken into protective custody." Rather they were set up as an emergency measure against the functionaries of the Communist Party who were attacking us in their thousands and who, since they were taken into protective custody, were not put in prison. But it was necessary, as I said, to erect camps for them - two or three camps.

Q. But you are explaining, as the high authority of this system, to men who do not understand it very well; and I want to know what was necessary to run the kind of system that you set up in Germany. The concentration camp was one of the things you found immediately necessary upon coming into power, was it not? And you set them up as a matter of necessity, as you saw it?

A. That was faultily translated - it went too fast. But I believe I have understood the sense of your remarks. You asked me if I considered it necessary to establish concentration camps immediately in order to eliminate opposition. Is that correct?

Q. Your answer is "yes," I take it?

A. Yes.

Q. Was it also necessary, in operating this system, to deprive persons of the right to public trials in independent courts? And you immediately issued an order that your political police would not be subject to court review or to court orders, did you not?

A. You must differentiate between the two categories; those who had committed some act of treason against the new State were naturally turned over to the courts. The others, however, of whom one might expect such acts, but who had not yet committed them, were taken into protective custody and these were the people who were taken to concentration camps. I am now speaking of what happened at the beginning. Later, things changed a great deal. Likewise, if for political reasons - to answer your question - someone was taken into protective custody, that is, purely for reasons of State, this could not be reviewed or stopped by any court. Later, when some people were also taken into protective custody for non-political reasons, people who had opposed the system in some other way - I once as Prussian Minister President and Reich Minister of the Interior - I remember -

Q. Let us omit that. I have not asked for that. If you will just answer my question we shall save a great deal of time. Your counsel will be permitted to bring out any explanations you want to make.

You did prohibit all court review, and considered it necessary to prohibit court review of the causes for taking people into what you called "protective custody"?

A. That I answered very clearly, but I should like to make an explanation in connection with my answer.

[Page 188]

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: Your counsel will see to that. Now, the concentration camps and the protective custody . . .

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Justice Jackson, the Tribunal thinks the witness ought to be allowed to make what explanation he thinks right in answer to this question.

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: The Tribunal thinks that you should be permitted to explain your answers now, and it will listen to your answers.

THE PRESIDENT: I did not mean that to apply generally to his answers. I meant it to apply to this particular answer.

THE WITNESS: In connection with your question that these cases could not be reviewed by the court, I want to say that a decree was issued, through me and Frick jointly, to the effect that those who were turned over to concentration camps were to be informed after twenty-four hours of the reason for their being turned over, and that after forty- eight hours, or some short period of time, they should have the right to an attorney. But this by no means rescinded my order that a review was not permitted by the courts of a politically necessary measure of protective custody. These people were simply to be given an opportunity of making a protest.

[ Previous | Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.