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-Sixth Day: Wednesday, 20th March, 1946
(Part 10 of 10)

[SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE continues his cross examination of HERMANN WILHELM GORING]

[Page 284]

Q. So you were within easy reach of the telephone from the Air Ministry or, indeed, from Breslau, if you were wanted?

A. I would have been easily accessible by phone if someone wanted to communicate with me.

Q. I want you to help me with regard to one or two other dates of which you have spoken. You say: "I heard one or two days later about this escape." Do you understand, witness, that it is about the escape I am asking you, not about the shooting, for the moment; I want to make it quite clear.

A. It is clear to me.

Q. Did you mean, by that, that you heard about the actual escape one or two days after it happened?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you hear about it from the office of your adjutant or from your director of operations?

A. I always heard these things through my adjutant. Several other escapes had preceded this one.

Q. Yes, that is right. There had been a number of escapes from this camp.

A. I cannot tell you exactly whether they were from this camp. Several big escapes had taken place shortly before, which I always heard of through the office of my adjutant.

Q. I want you to tell the Tribunal another date: You say that on your return from leave your Chief of Staff made a communication to you. Who was your Chief of Staff?

A. General Korten was Chief of Staff at that time.

Q. Can you tell us the date at which he made this communication to you?

A. No, I cannot tell you that exactly. I believe I discussed this incident with him later, telling him what I had already heard about it from other sources.

Q. Who was the first to tell you about it? Was it your Chief of Staff who told you about the shootings or do you mean that someone else had told you about them?

A. I cannot say exactly whether I heard about them from the Chief of Staff or from other sources. But in any event I discussed this with him.

Q. What was the date that you talked about it with him?

A. I cannot tell you exactly from memory the day and the date, but it must have been around Easter.

Q. That would be just about the end of March, would it not?

A. No. It might have been at the beginning of April, the first half of April.

Q. And then you had an interview with Himmler, you have told us?

A. Yes, I talked with Himmler about this.

Q. Can you tell us the exact date?

A. Of course I cannot establish this date with certainty. I saw Himmler, and at the first opportunity after I had heard about this incident spoke to him about it.

Q. So that you cannot fix the date in relation to your coming back from leave, or the interview with your Chief of Staff, or any other date, or Easter?

A. Without any documents it is, as I said, impossible for me to-day to fix the date. I can only mention the approximate period of time; and that I have done.

[Page 285]

Q. You said the other day that you could prove when you were on leave. Am I to take it that you have not taken the trouble to look up what your leave dates were?

A. I have already said that I was on leave during March. Whether I returned on 26th or 28th or 29th March I cannot tell you. For proof of that you would have to ask the people who accompanied me, who perhaps can fix this date more definitely. I only know that I was there in March.

Q. Witness, will it be perfectly fair to you if I take the latest of your dates, 29th March, to work on?

A. It would be more expedient if you would tell me when Easter was that year, because I do not recall it. Then it will be easier for me to specify the dates, because I know that a few days before Easter I returned to Berchtesgaden in order to pass these holidays with my family.

Q. A few days before Easter you went back to Berchtesgaden?

A. Yes.

Q. So you had comeback on leave someday before that. Before you went to Berchtesgaden you had come back from your March leave?

A. Berchtesgaden was then at the same time the headquarters of the Fuehrer. I returned from my leave to Berchtesgaden, and with my return my leave ended, because I returned to duty. The return to Berchtesgaden was identical with the termination of my leave.

Q. Well, I cannot give you the date of Easter offhand, but I happen to remember Whitsuntide was 28th May, so that Easter would be early, somewhere about 5th of April. Your leave therefore would finish somewhere about the end of March, maybe the 26th or 29th; that is right, is it not?

Now, the shooting of these officers went on from 25th March to 13th April; do you know that?

A. I do not know that exactly.

Q. You may take that from me, because there is an official report of the shooting, and I want to be quite fair with you. Only forty-nine of these officers were shot, as far as we can be sure, on 6th April, and one was shot either on 13th April or later. But the critical period is the end of March, and we may take it that you were back from leave by about 29th March.

I just want you to tell the Tribunal this was a matter of great importance, was it not? It was considered a matter of great importance?

A. It was a very important matter.

Q. General Milch - I beg pardon - Field-Marshal Milch has said that it was a matter which would require the highest authority, and I think you have said that you know it was Hitler's decision that these officers should be shot; is that so?

A. The question did not come through clearly.

Q. It was Hitler's decision that these officers should be shot?

A. That is correct; and I was later notified that it was Hitler's decree.

Q. I want you just to remember one other thing, that immediately it was published, the British Foreign Secretary, Mr. Eden, at once said that Great Britain would demand justice of the perpetrators of these murders; do you remember that?

A. I cannot remember the speech to the Lower House given by Mr. Eden. I myself do not know the substance of this speech even to-day. I just heard that he spoke in Parliament about this incident.

Q. I want you to tell the Tribunal just who were the persons in your Ministry involved. No: I will tell you; I think it would be shorter in the end. If you disagree you can correct me.

The commandant of Stalag Luft III was Oberst von Lindeiner of your Service, was he not?

[Page 286]

A. That is quite possible. I did not know the names of all these commandants. There was a court martial against him because of the escape. He was not connected with the shootings.

Q. No, but he was commandant of the camp, and I suppose you had to review and confirm the proceedings of the Zentral Luftwaffen Gericht which convicted him and sentenced him to a year's imprisonment for neglect of duty. That would come to you, would it not? Would not that come to you for review?

A. No, only if larger penalties were involved. One year's imprisonment would not come to my attention. But I know, and I would like to certify, that the court proceedings were taken against him because of neglect of duty at the time of the escape.

Q. In May, 1943, Inspectorate No. 17 had been interposed between the Luftwaffe and the Prisoners of War Department of the O.K.W., the Kriegsgefangenenwesen; do you remember that?

A. I do not know the details about inspection nor how closely it concerned the Prisoners of War Department of the O.K.W.

Q. I want to remind you who your own officers were. You understand, witness, that your own officers are involved in this matter. I want to remind you who they were. Was the head of Inspectorate 17, Major-General Grosch of the Luftwaffe?

A. Major-General Grosch does belong to the Luftwaffe.

Q. You told the Tribunal the other day - I am quoting your own words - that you knew from information, you knew this incident very completely and very minutely. You are now telling the Tribunal you do not know whether Major-General Grosch was head of Inspectorate No. 17 of the Luftwaffe.

A. That is irrelevant. I told the High Tribunal that I heard an accurate account of the incident of the shooting of these airmen, but that has no connection with General Grosch and his Inspectorate, for he did not participate in the shooting.

Q. I will show you that connection in one minute if you will just answer my questions. Was Grosch's second-in-command Oberst Welder; do you remember that?

A. I do not know the particulars of the organisation for inspection of prisoner-of-war camps, nor the leaders, nor what positions they held. At least not by heart. I would like to emphasise again, so that there will be no confusion, that when I said I knew about this matter I meant that I knew how the order was issued, and that the people were shot: that I came to know all about this; but not as far as this was related to inspections, possibilities of flight, etc.

Q. Did General Grosch, as head of Inspectorate 17, have to report to General Forster, your director of operations at the Luftwaffe Ministerium?

A. That I cannot tell you without having the diagram of the subordinate posts before me. General Forster was, I believe, at that time head of the Luftwehr (Air Defence), or held a similar post in the Ministry. I concerned myself less with these matters because they were not directly of a tactical, strategic, or of an armament nature. But it is quite possible, indeed certain, that he belonged to this department.

Q. I put it to you quite shortly, and if you do not know I will leave it for the moment. Did you know that Major- General von Gravenitz was head of the defendant Keitel's department, the Kriegsgefangenenwesen, that dealt with prisoners of war?

A. I first heard about General Gravenitz here, for this department did not directly concern me. I could not know all these military subleaders in their hundreds and thousands of departments.

Q. So I take it that you did not know Colonel, now General, Westhoff, of the department under von Gravenitz?

[Page 287]

A. Westhoff I never saw at all, and he did not belong to the Luftwaffe.

Q. I am not suggesting that von Gravenitz and Westhoff belonged to the Luftwaffe. I wanted to make it clear that I was suggesting they belonged to General Keitel's organisation.

A. I did not know that either; and I did not know what posts they occupied.

Q. Up to that time you still had a considerable influence in the Reich, had you not?

A. Not at this time-1944.

Q. But you were still head of the Luftwaffe and head of the Air Ministry, were you not?

A. Yes, I was.

Q. And you had, as head of the Luftwaffe and head of the Air Ministry, been responsible for six prisoner-of-war camps for the whole of the war up to that time, had you not?

A. How many prisoner-of-war camps I do not know. But of course I bear the responsibility for those which belonged to my Ministry.

Q. To the Air Force?

A. Yes, those which were subordinate to the Luftwaffe.

Q. You knew about the general plan for treatment of prisoners of war, which we have had in evidence as the "Aktionkugel" plan, did you not?

A. No. I knew nothing of this action. I was not advised of it.

Q. You were never advised of "Aktionkugel"?

A. It was here that I first heard of "Aktionkugel," saw the document and heard the expression. Also no officer of the Luftwaffe ever advised me of such, and I do not believe that a single officer was ever taken away from the Luftwaffe camps. In any case, a report to this effect was never presented to me.

Q. You know what "Aktionkugel" was: That escaped officers and non-commissioned officers, other than British and American, were to be handed over to the police and taken to Mauthausen, where they were shot by the device of having a gun concealed in the measuring equipment when they thought they were getting their prison clothes. You know what "Aktionkugel" was, do you not?

A. I heard of it here.

Q. Are you telling the Tribunal that you did not know that escaped prisoners of war who were picked up by the police were retained by the police and taken to Mauthausen?

A. No, I did not know that. On the contrary, different prisoners who escaped from my camps were caught again by the police; they were all brought back to the camps and this was the first case where this did not happen.

Q. But did you not know that Colonel Welder, as second-in- command of your Ministry's inspectorate, issued a written order a month before this, in February, 1944, that prisoners of war picked up by the Luftwaffe should be delivered back to their camp, and prisoners of war picked up by the police should be held by them and no longer counted as being under the protection of the Luftwaffe; did you not know that?

A. No. Please summon this Colonel to testify if he ever made a report of that nature to me or addressed such a letter to me.

Q. Well, of course I cannot tell whether your Ministry was well run or not. But he certainly issued the order, because he says so himself.

A. Then he must say from whom he received this order.

Q. I see. Well, he says that he issued this order, and you know as well as I do that the treatment of prisoners of war is a thing that you have got to be careful about, because you have got a Protecting Power that investigates any complaint; and you never denounced the Convention, and you had the Protecting Power in these matters all through the war, had you not. That is right, is it not?

[Page 288]

A. That is correct, but I take the liberty to ask who gave him this order, whether he received this order from me.

Q. Well, he would not get it direct from you. I do not think you had ever met him, had you? He would get it from Lieutenant-General Grosch, would he not?

A. Then Grosch should say whether he received such an order from me. I never gave such an order.

Q. I see. So you say that you had never heard - this was three and a half years after the beginning of the war - that you had never heard that any escaped prisoners of war were to be handed over to the police. Is that what you ask the Tribunal to believe?

A. In so far as escaped prisoners of war committed any offences or crimes, they were of course turned over to the police, I believe. But I wish to testify before the Tribunal that I never gave any order that they should be handed over to the police or sent to concentration camps merely because they had attempted to break out or to escape, nor did I ever know that such measures were taken.

Q. This is my last question: I want to make it quite clear, witness, that I am referring to those who had escaped, who had got away from the confines of the camp and were recaptured by the police. Did you not know that they were handed over to the police?

A. No. Only if they had committed crimes while fleeing, murder or such. Such things occurred.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 21st March, 1946, at 10.00 hours.)

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