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-Seventh Day: Thursday, 21st March, 1946
(Part 3 of 10)

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

[Page297 ]

Q. According to your evidence in chief, what you did was to turn to Himmler, asking him if he had received the order, and then you said, "I told him what excitement would result in my branch because we could not understand such measures and if he again received such orders, he would please inform me before carrying them through so that I could prevent such orders from being executed, if possible"; and then you said that you "talked to the Fuehrer and that he confirmed that he had given the order and told me why." You, according to that evidence, still had enough influence in Germany, in your own opinion, to stop even Himmler issuing such orders or carrying - I am sorry, I said "issuing" - carrying out such orders.

A. You are giving my statement a completely wrong meaning. I told Himmler plainly that it was his duty to telephone me before the execution of this matter, to give me the possibility, even at this time, to use my much diminished influence to prevent the Fuehrer from carrying out this decree. I did not mean to say that I would have been completely successful, but it was a matter of course that I, as Chief of the Luftwaffe, should make it clear to Himmler that it was his duty to ring me up first of all, because it was I who was most concerned with this matter. I told the Fuehrer in very plain terms just how I felt, and I saw

[Page 298]

from his answers that even if I had known of it before, I could not have prevented this decree. We must keep in mind that two different methods of procedure are in question. Orders were not given to the Luftwaffe that these people were to be shot by the Luftwaffe personnel, but to the police. If the Fuehrer had told me, "I will persist in this decree which I gave the police," I would not have been able to order the police not to carry through the Fuehrer's decree; only if this decree had had to be carried out by my men would it have been possible for me perhaps to circumvent it, and I would like to emphasise this point strongly.

Q. Well, that may be your view that you could not have got anywhere with the Fuehrer, but I suggest to you that, when all these officers that I mentioned knew about it, you knew about it too, and that you did nothing to prevent these men from being shot, but co-operated in this foul series of murders.

THE PRESIDENT: Sir David, are you passing from that now?


THE PRESIDENT: You are putting in evidence these two documents?

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: I am putting them in. I put them to the witness. D-731 will be GB 278 and D-730 will be GB 279.

THE PRESIDENT: Should you not refer perhaps to the second paragraph in 731?


THE PRESIDENT: It shows that apparently - in the early hours of 25th March - the matter was communicated to the office of the adjutant of the Reichsmarshal - the second paragraph beginning with "the escape."

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: Yes. The escape of about 20 to 30 prisoners, the exact number having to be ascertained by roll- call, was reported by telephone from the Sagan Camp to the Inspection in the early hours of 25th March, Saturday morning, and duly passed on in the same way by this office to the higher authorities who were to be informed in case of mass escapes. These were: (1) the Office of the Adjutant of the Reichsmarshal; (2) the O.K.W., for Directors of these prisoners of war; (3) the Inspector General of Prisoners of War; and (4) Director of Operations, Air Ministry. I am much obliged. You must remember that the witness did not admit yesterday afternoon that the news of the escape had been given to the office of his adjutant.


SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: I am much obliged to you.

THE WITNESS: The escape was communicated to us relatively quickly. I should now like to give my view of the statement made by you - it contains assertions made by you - but I still maintain that I did not hear about this incident until after it had occurred.


Q. I have put my questions on the incident. I pass to another point. I want to ask you just two or three questions about the evidence that you gave two days ago, dealing with the evidence of your own witness Herr Dahlerus, who made his first visit to London on 25th August, 1939, after an interview and a telephone conversation with you on the 24th. I just want you to fix the date because it is sometimes difficult to remember what these dates are. At that time, you were anxious that he should persuade the British Government to arrange a meeting of plenipotentiaries who would deal with the questions of Danzig and the Corridor. Is that right?

A. That is correct.

Q. You knew perfectly well, did you not, that as far as the Fuehrer was concerned, Danzig and the Corridor was not the real matter that was occupying his mind at all. Will you let me remind you what he said on 23rd May. "Danzig is not the subject of the dispute at all; it is a question of expanding our living space in the East and of securing our food supplies and of the settlement of the Baltic problem." You knew that, did you not?

[Page 299]

A. I knew that he had said these things at that time, but I have already pointed out repeatedly that such discussions can only be properly assessed if considered in conjunction with the whole political situation. At the moment of these negotiations with England, we were solely concerned with Danzig and the Corridor.

Q. Well, you say that, despite what Hitler said on 23rd May, at that moment Hitler was only concerned with Danzig and the Corridor? Do you say that seriously?

A. I maintain in all seriousness that in the situation as it was at that time this was really the case. Otherwise it would be impossible to understand any of Hitler's acts. You might just as well take his book "Mein Kampf" as a basis and explain all his acts by it.

Q. I am interested in the last week of August at the moment. I want you now just to remember two points on what you said with regard to Dahlerus, during the morning of the 25th. Do you remember, you had a telephone conversation with him at 11.30 on the 24th? On the 25th, were you sufficiently in Hitler's confidence to know that he was going to proffer the note verbale to Sir Neville Henderson, the British Ambassador, on the 25th? Did you know that?

A. Yes, of course.

Q. At that time, when you were sending Dahlerus and the note verbale was being given to the British Ambassador, the arrangement and order was that you were going to attack Poland on the morning of the 26th, was it not?

A. There seems to be a disturbance on one or two questions.

THE PRESIDENT: I think there is some mechanical difficulty. Perhaps it would be a good thing to adjourn for a few minutes.

(A recess was taken.)

Q. You told me, witness, that the arrangements to attack Poland on the morning of the 26th were changed on the evening of the 25th. Before I come to that, I will ask you one or two questions about that.

A. No, I did not say that.

Q. Wait a minute. I am sorry, but that is what I understood you to say.

A. No. I said explicitly that already, on the evening of the 25th, the attack had been cancelled. That is, the attack for the morning of the 26th. It is a technical and military impossibility to cancel a large-scale attack of the whole Wehrmacht on the evening before the attack. The shortest time required would be from twenty-four hours to forty-eight hours.

Q. At the time you had asked Dahlerus to go to England on the 24th. It was still the plan that the attack would take place on the 26th. Was it not your object, in sending Dahlerus, that the British Government should be discussing their next move when the attack took place, so that it would be more difficult for them?

A. No, I want to emphasise that - and perhaps I should have the documents because of the date - that when I sent Dahlerus at that time and when, at that time, Sir Neville had been handed a note on behalf of the Fuehrer, the attack on the 26th had been cancelled and postponed.

Q. Let me remind you of what you said yourself on 29th August. "On the day when England gave her official guarantee to Poland - it was 5.30 on 25th August - the Fuehrer called me on the telephone and told me he had stopped the planned invasion of Poland. I asked him then whether it was just for the time being or for good. He said, 'No, I will have to see whether we can eliminate British intervention.' I asked him, 'Do you think that it will be definite within four or five days?'" Is not that right?

[Page 300]

A. That was what I said, but I did not say that this occurred on the 25th. I said that when the Fuehrer was sure that a guarantee would be, given. I emphasised that once more.

Q. That was what I was quoting to you. When the official guarantee was given, the treaty was signed at 5.30 on the evening of 25th August. I am putting your own words to you. It was after that that the Fuehrer rang you up and told you the invasion was off. Do you wish to withdraw your statement that it was after the official guarantee was given to Poland?

A. I emphasise once more. After we knew that the guarantee would be given it must be clear to you too that if the signing took place at 5.30 p.m. on the 25th, the Fuehrer would know about it shortly afterwards. Not till then would the Fuehrer have called a conference. Therefore an attack for the 26th could only have been called off during the night of the 25th. Every military expert must know that that is an absolute impossibility.

I emphasise once more that I have not seen the record or given my oath.

Q. I admit that I do not know anything about that. I do not know whether you were still in Hitler's confidence at the time or not. But, was it not a fact that Signor Atolico came on the 25th and told Hitler that the Italian Army and Air Force were not ready for a campaign? Were you told that?

A. Yes, of course I was told that.

Q. That was why the orders for the attack were cancelled on the 26th, was it not?

A. No, that is absolutely wrong, because when the question of Italian assistance came up, it is a fact that its value was doubted in many quarters. During the tension of the preceding days it became evident that the demands made by the Italians, which could not be fulfilled by us, were formulated in order to keep Italy out of the war. The Fuehrer was convinced that England had only given such a clear-cut guarantee to Poland because in the meantime the British Government had learned that it was not the intention of Italy to come into the war as a partner of the Axis.

Q. I will put to you your own account of what the Fuehrer said. "I will have to see whether we can eliminate British intervention." Is it not correct that you tried, through Mr. Dahlerus, in every way, to try to eliminate British intervention?

A. I have never denied that. It was my whole endeavour to avoid war with England. If it had been possible to avoid this war by coming to an agreement with Poland, then that would have been accepted. If the war with England could have been avoided in spite of a war with Poland, then that was my task also. This is clear from the fact that, even after the Polish campaign had started on 1st September, 1939, I still made every attempt to avoid a war with England and to keep the war from spreading.

Q. In other words, what you were trying to do from the 25th onwards was to get England to try to agree and help the Reich in the return of Danzig and the Polish Corridor, is not that correct?

A. That, of course, is quite clearly expressed.

Q. Now, you remember the interview with Mr. Dahlerus. It was the interview in which you coloured the portions on the map. I only want you to have it in your mind. If I say 11.30 on 29th August, it will not mean anything to you. I want you to see it so that I can ask you one or two questions about it.

You remember, at that time, that you were upset at the interview which had taken place when Hitler handed Henderson the German reply and there had been the remark about the ultimatum. Do you remember that?

A. Yes, of course, I was upset, since that completely disturbed my whole position.

Q. And is this correct? Mr. Dahlerus says on Page 72 of his book that you came out with a tirade, strong words against the Poles. Do you remember

[Page 301]

that he quotes you as saying, "Wir kennen die Polen"? Do you remember that?

A. Yes, of course. You must consider the situation at the time. I had heard about the excesses and I would not go and tell a neutral man, Dahlerus, "I consider Germany wholly guilty and the Poles completely innocent." It is correct that I did say that, but it arose out of the situation.

Q. Are you still an admirer of Bismarck?

A. I admire Bismarck absolutely, but I have never said that I am a Bismarck.

Q. No, I am not suggesting that. I thought you might have in mind his remark about the Poles. Do you remember, "Haut doch die Polen, dass Sie am Leben verzagen," Let us strike the Poles until they lose the courage to live"? Is that what was in your mind at the time?

A. No, I had no such thoughts, still less, because for years I had genuinely sought friendship with Poland.

Q. You have been quite frank about your general intention and I am not going to spend time on it, but I just want to put one or two subsidiary points.

You remember the passage that I read from Mr. Dahlerus' book about the aeroplane and the sabotage, where he said that you had said to him, mentioning the defendant Ribbentrop - you remember that passage? You have given your explanation and I just want to -

A. Yes, yes, I gave that explanation and I made it quite clear.

Q. Now, your explanation was that Herr Dahlerus was confusing your concern about his aeroplane being shot down in making his journey. That is putting your explanation fairly, is it not? You are saying that Herr Dahlerus was confused. What you were expressing was your concern about his aeroplane being shot down. Is not that right? That is as I understood it.

A. No, I think I have expressed it very clearly. Would you like me to give it again? I will repeat it.

Dahlerus, who stood in the witness-box here, used the words, "I must correct myself," when he was asked about Ribbentrop. I am quoting Dahlerus. He said, "I connected it with Ribbentrop since shortly before his name was mentioned in some other connection."

Thereupon I explained I was really anxious lest something might happen. I have explained that very clearly and I need not repeat it.

Q. The question I put to you, witness - I think we are agreed on it - was that your anxiety was about his plane, and the point that I want to make clear to you now is that that incident did not occur on this day when Dahlerus was preparing for his third visit, but occurred when he was in England and rang you up during his second visit. He rang you up on the evening of 27th August, and on Page 59 of his book he says:

"Before leaving the Foreign Office I telephoned to Goering to confirm that I was leaving for Berlin by plane at 7 p.m. He seemed to think this was rather late. It would be dark and he was worried lest my plane be shot at by the British or over German territory. He asked me to hold the line, and a minute later came back and gave me a concise description of the route the plane must follow over Germany to avoid being shot at. He also assured me that the anti-aircraft stations along our course would be informed that we were coming."
What I am suggesting to you is that your explanation is wrong, that you have confused it with this earlier incident of which Mr. Dahlerus speaks, and that Mr. Dahlerus is perfectly accurate when he speaks about the second incident which occurred two days later.

A. That is not at all contradictory. In regard to the first flight the position was that it was already dark, which means that the danger was considerably greater, and I emphasise that in connection with the second journey,

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preparedness for war in all countries had reached such a degree that flying was hazardous.

I emphasise once more that I had to correct Dahlerus when he was questioned by my defence counsel, that I did not tell him that Ribbentrop had planned an attack against him. I emphasise for the last time that von Ribbentrop knew nothing about my negotiations with Dahlerus.

Q. Do you really say that? Do you remember 29th August - first of all, 28th August, at 10.30 p.m., when Henderson and Hitler had an interview - that was before the difficulties arose. It was the interview when Hitler was considering direct negotiations with the Poles. He said, "We must summon Field-Marshal Goering to discuss it with him." That is in our Blue Book and as far as I know it has never been denied. You were summoned to the interview that Hitler and Ribbentrop were having with Sir Neville Henderson.

A. No, I must interrupt you. The Fuehrer said, "We will have to fetch him," but I was not brought in - and that is not in the Blue Book either.

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