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-Fifth Day: Tuesday, 19th March, 1946
(Part 7 of 8)

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

[Page 235]

Q. Is it correct that it was first intended to undertake aggressive action against Poland on 26th August, and that this date was later postponed?

A. It was provided that if by this time - official negotiations were being carried on before this, it must not be forgotten - if by then these negotiations had not led to a solution of the problem, as a consequence of the general mobilisation of Poland and the deployment of troops which had likewise taken place, and as a consequence of very serious frontier incidents that had actually occurred - I remind you of the bloody Sunday of Bromberg, of the more than 70,000 Germans who had fled, and of the Germans slain - in other words, the atmosphere at this time was such that the Fuehrer would have wanted a solution by warlike means. Then this delay came about precisely because one believed that a diplomatic solution could still be found, and thus I took it as a matter of course that I should intensify to the utmost the unofficial course, which I had already pursued in my previous efforts, and see it through. This explains Dahlerus' frequent conferences in London and in Berlin, the frequent changes in those conferences, and the frequent flying back and forth.

When the last attempt was suggested by me on 3rd September, the situation was as follows, and it also has not been described quite correctly. The British Government at first did not send any ultimatum after the 1st September, but it sent a note in which it demanded the withdrawal ...

THE PRESIDENT: Will the interpreter please tell the Tribunal what the last question asked by counsel was? Perhaps the interpreter would not know it. Does the shorthand writer know what the last question was? It does not seem to me any answer has been given; it related to 26th August.

(Interpreter repeated the question.)


THE PRESIDENT: Yes, that was the question, and as far as I have heard there has been no answer to it yet.

DR. STAHMER: I did not understand that, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: The question that you asked was whether the date of 26th August was arranged for the action to take place against Poland, and the defendant Goering has been speaking for some considerable time, and has not answered that question yet as far as I have heard.

THE DEFENDANT: The question - my answer to the question was that actually 26th August was at first planned by the Fuehrer as the date for the invasion, since he considered this date necessary, in view of the situation that I have described. It was then possible, however, to persuade him to postpone this date, in order to carry on further negotiations.


Q. How is it to be explained that Hitler's proposal failed?

A. Which proposal?

Q. The last proposal of 27th August, that Dahlerus delivered to London.

A. This proposal was, of course, an unofficial one and was followed by an official proposal that was read to the British Ambassador in the form of a note; that is, the British Government was informed what demands Germany would make on Poland. This proposal was not entirely understood and was then unofficially - but de facto - made known not only to the British Government but also, in the unofficial way that Dahlerus has described, to the Polish

[Page 236]

Ambassador, again exactly and precisely. It came to naught because the Polish Government did not consent to discuss this proposal. First there was a delay so that there might be a plenipotentiary appointed - I believe until the 30th or the 31st; still one waited even longer for a plenipotentiary. Because of the belief that the Polish Ambassador might be this plenipotentiary, circumstances permitting, one waited for a conference with him; when he declared that he was not authorised to accept any terms the Fuehrer decided on invasion the next day. This telegram I also sent to the British Ambassador via Dahlerus - the telegram of the Polish Government to its Ambassador, in which it forbade him, in a postscript, to conduct any negotiations regarding proposals or to accept any proposal or any note on the subject.

I immediately gave Dahlerus the decoded telegram, which I received from the investigation office mentioned the day before yesterday, so that he could turn it over to Henderson. I told him in addition, despite any scruples I might have had, that, since it was a matter of extraordinary importance, the British, Government should find out as quickly as possible how intransigent the Polish attitude was, so that it might, circumstances permitting, influence the Polish Government in the direction of a conference. I thus sacrificed the key, that is, I demonstrated that we had the Polish diplomatic code key and thus spoiled for Germany a real and important source of secret information. This was a unique step, that I could justify only by my absolute wish and determination to avert the conflict at the last moment. I should, therefore, like to read the appendix to the official dispatch; it is brief and runs: "From the Polish Government to the Polish Ambassador Lipski in Berlin" - I omit the first part and read only the following:

"As a particular secret instruction for the Ambassador, he is in addition informed to kindly refrain from conducting official negotiations under any circumstances. In the event that oral or written proposals are made by the Reich Government, to state that he has no plenipotentiary powers to respond to or discuss them and that his power extends only to turning over the above message to his Government and that he must have further instructions first."
It is clearly seen from this that the Ambassador was not, as we had been told, authorised to do anything at all in the other direction, and this telegram, which the Fuehrer also read, probably indicated to him very clearly the hopelessness of arriving at an understanding with Poland.

Q. Were these negotiations begun and carried out by you with the earnest intention of maintaining peace?

A. If one reads these writings in their context it can be seen from this document; but I should not like to rely on the evidence of this book but on what I have to say here under oath. It was my firm determination to do everything to settle this problem, that had come up, in a peaceful way - I did not want the war; consequently I did everything I possibly could to avoid it. That has nothing to do with the preparations which I, as a matter of duty in my capacity as a high-ranking soldier, carried out.

Q. A matter was brought up here concerning an aeroplane accident which could possibly have befallen Mr. Dahlerus. What about this remark?

A. The witness Dahlerus said at the conclusion of his testimony that he would have to correct himself, that he had not received this absurd information from me, but that this was a conclusion of his because I had mentioned Ribbentrop's name shortly before in an entirely different connection. I had only one concern and that I indicated: Dahlerus flew in my own plane to London at that time; the tension was already very acute, and in all States the mobilisation and the threatening had been proclaimed. Official air transport had been cut off long before. So it was not possible for a German plane to fly to London

[Page 237]

with a courier or, vice versa, a British plane to fly to Berlin at that time without risking danger from our anti- aircraft batteries or the like, and I wanted to obviate this danger, as far as possible, by telephoning Dutch and English offices, as far as I remember. This was the only reason for my telling Dahlerus that I hoped he would arrive and return safely, because in those times an accident could easily have taken place.

Herr von Ribbentrop knew nothing whatsoever about the fact that Dahlerus was being sent. During the whole time I never discussed the matter of Dahlerus with Herr von Ribbentrop. Thus he did not know at all that he was flying, that he went back and forth between me and the British Government. That is an absolute concoction.

Q. On 26th September, 1939, were you present at the conference between Dahlerus and Hitler?

A. Yes.

Q. What did Hitler say then about Poland?

A. It is correct that he made statements to the effect that a restoration of Poland as she existed before the outbreak of war could no longer be considered after arms had decided, but that he would now, of course, keep the old German provinces that had been taken in 1918. But even at that time he indicated that a Government General in Warsaw would not interest him, and pointed out very emphatically to Dahlerus that this was a question which was to be settled chiefly and decisively by Germany and Russia, and that there, could thus be no question of a unilateral settlement with England because the greater part of Poland was already occupied by Russia. And therefore these were agreements that he could no longer make unilaterally with England. That was the gist of the Fuehrer's statements.

DR. STAHMER: I have no further questions.


Q. I call your attention to the testimony which you gave yesterday and ask you if it is correct.

"I think I was Deputy Chairman" - referring to the Reich Defence Council - "I do not even know, I heard about that, but I assure you on my oath that at no time and at no date did I participate in a single meeting when the Council for the Defence of the Reich was called together as such."
Is that a correct transcription of your testimony?

A. Yes, I said that in no single ...

Q. That is all. That is all I asked you.

A. Yes.

Q. I ask to have your attention called to Document 3575-PS (Exhibit USA 781), which is the minutes of the Reich Defence Council of 18th November, 1938, with you presiding.

I call your attention to the statement that the "meeting consisted solely of a three-hour lecture by the Field- Marshal. No discussion took place."

Is that correct?

(Witness handed document.)

A. I have to read it first, this is the first time I have seen the document.

Q. You did not know when you testified yesterday that we had this document, did you? Would you kindly answer that question?

A. I have not seen this document before. I have to look at it first. It says here:

"Notes on the session of the Reich Defence Council on 18th November, 1938."
The Reich Defence Council, as it was described here, comprised few people. Here there were present, however, all Reich Ministers and State Secretaries,

[Page 238]

also the Commanders-in-Chief of the Army and the Navy, the chiefs of staff of the three divisions of the Armed Forces, Reichsleiter Bormann for the Deputy of the Fuehrer, General Daluege, S.S. Gruppenfuehrer Heydrich, the Reich Labour Fuehrer, the Price Commissioner, the President of the Reich Labour Office and others.

When I gave my testimony I was thinking only of the Reich Defence Council as such. This is dealing with the Reich Defence Council within the framework of a large assembly. Nevertheless, I was not thinking of that; this concerns, over and beyond the Reich Defence Council, an assembly that was much larger than that provided for in the Reich Defence Council.

Q. I call your attention to the fact that the "Field-Marshal stated it to be the task of the Reich Defence Council to correlate all the forces of the nation for accelerated building up of German armament."

Do you find that?

A. Yes, I have it now.

Q. The second paragraph?

A. Yes.

Q. Under 11, "The Physical Task: the assignment is to raise the level of armament from a current index of 100 to one of 300."

A. Yes.

DR. SIEMERS (counsel for the defendant Raeder): I cannot quite see the reason why the defence repeatedly does not receive documents that are discussed in the Court and that are submitted to the Tribunal. The document now discussed is also not known to us, at least not to me.

During the past few days I have noticed that several times documents were suddenly presented by the prosecution without their having made any effort to inform us of their existence.

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: That is perfectly true, and I think every lawyer knows that one of the great questions in this case is credibility, and that if we have to, in cross- examination, submit every document before we can refer to it in cross-examination after we hear their testimony, the possibilities of useful cross-examination are destroyed.

Now, of course he did not know, and we have had the experience of caning document after document to their attention, always to be met with some explanation, carefully arranged and read here from notes. No defendant has ever had better opportunity to prepare his case than these defendants, and I submit that cross-examination of them should not be destroyed by any requirement that we submit documents in advance.

THE PRESIDENT: Did you wish to say something?

DR. SIEMERS: Yes. I should like to make two points. First, I am entirely agreed if Mr. Justice Jackson wants to make use of the element of surprise. I should merely be thankful if the defence then were also permitted to use the element of surprise. Yet we have been told heretofore that we must show every document we want to submit weeks ahead of time, so that the prosecution has several weeks to form an opinion on it.

Secondly, if the element of surprise is being used, I believe that at least we, as defence counsel, should not be given this surprise at the moment when the document is submitted to the Tribunal and to the witness. However, I have at this moment neither to-day's documents nor the documents of the previous days.

THE PRESIDENT: What you have just said is entirely inaccurate. You have never been compelled to disclose any documents which you wished to put to a witness in, cross- examination. This is cross-examination, and therefore it is perfectly open to counsel for the prosecution to put any document without disclosing it beforehand, just as defence counsel could have put any document to witnesses called on behalf of the prosecution, if they had wished to do so in cross-examination.

[Page 239]

I am sure that if counsel for the defendants wish to re- examine upon any such document as this, a copy of it will be supplied to them for that purpose.

The Tribunal now rules that this document may be put to the witness now.

DR. SIEMERS: Does the defence also have the opportunity, now that it is known to the entire Court, of receiving the document?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, certainly.

DR. SIEMERS: I should be thankful if I could have a copy now.

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: Frankly, I do not know whether we have adequate copies to furnish them to all the defence counsel now.

THE PRESIDENT: Maybe you have not, but you can let them have one or more copies.

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: But I do not think we should furnish copies until the examination with reference to that document is completed, that is to say ...

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