The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
2nd July to 15th July 1946

One Hundred and Seventy-Second Day: Friday, 5th July, 1946
(Part 1 of 9)

[Page 116]


DR. STAHMER: I continue.

2. If there had been a conspiracy to commit war crimes, then the war would have been waged, from the beginning, with utter ruthlessness and disregard of rules of war. Just the contrary happened. In fact, in the first years of the war -

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Stahmer, the Tribunal thinks you got a little bit farther with your speech.

DR. STAHMER: I had gone somewhat farther, that is true, but in order to get this into the context again, I had to start at No. 2, but if the Tribunal wishes, I can continue where I stopped.

Especially in the beginning, one endeavoured to wage war with decorum and chivalry. If any evidence is needed, a look into the orders of the German High Command regulating the behaviour of the soldiers in Norway, Belgium, Holland is sufficient proof. Moreover, a leaflet with "ten commandments for the conduct of the German soldier in wartime" was issued to the soldiers when they went into the field. Field-Marshal Milch has read them out from his pay-book, during this trial. They all obliged the soldier to act loyally and according to International Law.

A gang of conspirators at the head of a State which plans to wage a war without any consideration of right and morals would really not send their soldiers into the field with a detailed written order directing just the opposite.

I think, if the prosecution believes that these twenty-two men are conspirators and conspired against peace, the laws of war and humanity, it is completely mistaken.

It remains for the defence counsel of the individual defendants to show what relationship their client could have had with the alleged conspiracy.

I just mentioned that Reichsmarschall Goering was the second man in the State. During the trial the prosecution also referred repeatedly to this elevated position of Goering and tried to make it the basis of a special charge against the defendant, pointing out that Goering by virtue of this special position, knew about everything, even the most secret matters, and had the possibility of intervening independently in a practical way in the course of Government business.

This opinion is wrong and is based on ignorance of the meaning of his position. It meant: According to rank, Goering was the second man in the State.

This rank was due to the fact that Hitler, in the autumn of 1934, made a will and by a secret Fuehrer order had designated Goering as his successor in the Government. In 1935 or 1936, this succession was confirmed in an unpublished Reich law which was signed by all the ministers.

On 1st September, 1939, Hitler announced this law in the Reichstag. In this way the nomination of Goering as successor became known to the German people.

Goering's task of deputising for the Fuehrer in the Government now followed, but only in the event of Hitler being incapacitated by illness, or in the event of his absence from Germany - thus this occurred when in March, 1938, Hitler spent a few days in Austria.

During Hitler's presence, that is as long as Hitler exercised his office himself, Goering derived no special powers from his position as deputy.

[Page 117]

During this time, his authority was limited to the offices directly under him, and he was not entitled to issue any official directives to other offices.

The consequence was:

As second man in the State, Goering could neither rescind, nor change, nor supplement Hitler's orders. He could give no orders whatsoever to offices of which he was not directly in charge. He had no possibility of giving any binding orders to any other office, whether it was an office of the Party, the police, the army or navy, nor could he interfere in the authority of these offices which were not his own.

This position as second man in the State cannot, therefore, be used as especially incriminating Goering; it is, furthermore, not competent to serve as a basis for the assumption of a conspiracy.

The defendant Goering never participated in the drafting or execution of a Common Plan or Conspiracy which was concerned with the crimes stated in the Indictment.

As already emphasized, the participation in such a conspiracy presupposes in the first place that a common plan existed and that accordingly, the participants agreed, and had the intention, to carry out the crimes of which they are accused. These presuppositions are not in evidence in the case of Goering. One has to assume the contrary. It is true that Goering wanted to do away with the Treaty of Versailles and to secure again a position of power for Germany. But he believed he could obtain this goal, if not with the legal means of the League of Nations, at least with political means alone. The purpose of the rearmament was only to give more weight to the voice of Germany. The Weimar Government, which could not even express the self-determination of the Germans after 1918 in the surely very modest form of a German-Austrian customs union, though they advocated this determination themselves, owed the lack of success of their foreign policy in Goering's opinion, as also in Hitler's opinion, mainly to the lack of respect for the German means of "backing" its demands. Goering hoped, strengthened in his belief by Hitler's surprising initial successes, that a strong German Army, by its mere existence, would make it possible to secure German aims peacefully, as long as these aims kept within reasonable limits. In politics, a State can only have its say and make its voice heard if it has a strong army to back it up, one which commands the respect of other States. Only recently, the American Chief of Staff, Marshall, said in his second annual report: "The world does not seriously consider the wishes of the weak. Weakness is too big a temptation for the strong ...."

There was no arming for an aggressive war; even the Four- Year Plan, the purpose and aim of which have been clearly explained by the defendant himself and the witness Korner was not a planning for an aggressive war.

Both General Field-Marshals Milch and Kesselring agreed in their testimony, that the air force created by the armament programme was only a defensive air force, which was not fit for an aggressive war and which was therefore called by them a "risky" air force ("Risiko Luftwaffe"). Such a modest rearmament does not allow for any conclusions of aggressive intentions.

From all this it is clear that Goering did not want a war.

According to his character, he was an opponent of war. Outwardly also, in his conferences with foreign diplomats and in his public speeches, at every opportunity, he has expressed with all possible clearness his opposition to war.

The testimony of General Bodenschatz explains most positively the attitude of Goering toward war. He knew him especially from the First World War, and he has exact knowledge of the attitude of Goering to war, from frequent conversations he has had with him. Bodenschatz states that Goering repeatedly told him that he knew the horrors of war very well from the First World War. His aim was a peaceful solution of all conflicts, to spare the German people as far as possible the horrors of a war; a war was always an uncertain and hazardous thing, and it

[Page 118]

would not be possible to burden with a second war a generation which had already experienced the horrors of one great world war and its bitter consequences.

General Field-Marshal Milch also knows from conversations with the defendant Goering that the latter opposed a war, and that he advised Hitler in vain against a war with Russia.

In public, the defendant Goering, in his many speeches since 1933, frequently emphasized how much he had his heart set on maintaining the peace, and that the rearmament had only been undertaken to make Germany strong outwardly and to enable her to play a political role again.

His serious and honest will for peace can be seen best from the speech which he made at the beginning of July, 1938, in Karinhall, before all the Gauleiter of the German Reich. In this speech he emphasized energetically that the foreign policy of Germany had to be directed in such a way that it would under no circumstances lead to war. The present generation had still to get over the last world war; another war would shock the German people. Goering had not the slightest reason to hide his true opinion before this gathering, which consisted exclusively of the highest Party leaders. For that reason, this speech is a valuable and reliable proof of the fact that Goering really and truly wanted peace.

THE PRESIDENT: I'm afraid the two voices are coming together in such a way that it is impossible to understand it. You had better stop for a minute, Dr. Stahmer.


How deeply the defendant Goering was interested in maintaining good relations with England is shown by his conduct at the conference with Lord Halifax in November, 1937, at Karinhall, when Goering with full candour, put before Lord Halifax the aims of German foreign policy:

(a) Incorporation of Austria and the Sudetenland into Germany.

(b) Return of Danzig to Germany with a reasonable solution of the corridor problem.

He pointed out at the same time that he did not want war for these aims, and that England could contribute to a peaceful solution.

The meeting in Munich in the autumn of 1938 was arranged at his suggestion. The conclusion of the Munich Pact is essentially due to his influence.

When, due to the occupation of the remainder of Czechoslovakia in March, 1939 the relations with England had deteriorated considerably, as England was very angry about this step of Hitler which was a violation of the Munich Pact, Goering made serious efforts for the restoration of normal relations.

In order to achieve this goal, he arranged the meeting, described by the witness Dahlerus, with English industrialists at the beginning of August, 1939, in the Sonke-Nissen-Kog. In an address he pointed out that under no circumstances must it come to a war with England, and he asked those present to contribute to the best of their ability to the restoration of the good relations with England.

When, after the often quoted speech of Hitler to the commanders-in-chief of the armed forces on the Obersalzberg on 22nd August, 1939, the danger of a war became imminent, Goering summoned immediately - that is on the following day - the witness Dahlerus from Sweden and attempted, on his own responsibility, by-passing the Foreign Office, to reach an agreement with England for the prevention of war.

The objection has been raised here that Goering left Dahlerus in the dark as to his true intentions; that his efforts were not aimed at the maintaining of peace, but only at persuading England to deny to the Poles the support guaranteed to them and thus to separate England from Poland, which would have enabled Germany after this separation to exert pressure on Poland to submit to the German demands; or to attack Poland and to realize her plans towards Poland without any risk. The doubts about the honest will for peace are unjustified; the imputed intention was far from Goering's thoughts.

[Page 119]

If this objection is based on the fact that Goering did not inform the witness Dahlerus of the content either of the Fuehrer's speech of 23rd May, 1939, or of that of the 22nd August, 1939, this objection is not relevant and nothing is gained by it.

Under no circumstances could Goering inform a third person - and especially a foreigner - of those strictly confidential speeches without exposing himself to the accusation of high treason. These speeches were all without significance as far as the task given to the witness was concerned, especially as the peculiar situation arose here that Goering - after the efforts of the diplomats had reached a deadlock - as a last resort, knew of no other way out than to use his personal influence and his personal prestige.

The only thing that mattered for the activity of Dahlerus was that the foreign political situation, which had become dangerously critical through the quarrel between Germany and Poland, and of which the witness was fully aware, had to be straightened out if possible by an appropriate action on the part of England.

That Goering's aim was not to separate England from Poland has been clearly proven by the fact that Goering, to begin with, had transmitted to the British Ambassador in Berlin, Henderson, the text of the note which contained the propositions made by Germany to Poland - propositions which were called moderate by Henderson - and that, thereby, he tried to effect direct negotiations with Poland. Poland, however, obviously did not want an agreement with Germany. Several circumstances point to that.

The conflict with Poland existed for almost one year. Why did Poland not ask for a decision by a court of arbitration on the basis of the concluded arbitration agreement? Why did Poland not appeal to the League of Nations? Obviously Poland did not want any arbitration regarding Danzig and the Corridor.

The statement of the Polish Ambassador Lipski to Counsellor to the Legation Forbes, which was testified to by the witness Dahlerus, is even more proof of the unwillingness of Poland to come to an understanding. Lipski said he was not interested in any note or proposition by Germany; he was convinced that, in the event of a war, there would soon be a revolt in Germany and the Polish Army would march in triumph to Berlin.

This intransigent and incomprehensible attitude of Poland obviously finds its explanation in the fact that she felt too strong and secure as a result of England's assurance.

The reference to the imminent revolt makes one believe that Poland was informed of the plans of the Canaris group. There can, therefore, be no question of an ambiguous attitude or false play on the part of Goering.

The serious desire of the defendant Goering, to maintain peace and to restore good relations with England is expressly recognized by Ambassador Henderson, who, due to his thorough knowledge of the German conditions and his connections with the leading men of Germany, had the right opinion also of Goering, I refer here to his book, Failure of a Mission, in which on Page 83 he says:

"I would like to express here my belief that the Field- Marshal, if it had depended on him, would not have gambled on war as Hitler did in 1939. As will be related in due course, he came down decisively on the side of peace in September, 1938."
Lord Halifax also, according to the information he gave, had no doubts that Goering's efforts to prevent war were sincere.

That after the outbreak of the war, which he had wanted to prevent with all the means at his disposal, but had been unable to prevent, Goering as Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force, exerted all his strength to win the victory for Germany, is not contrary to the sincerity of his efforts to avoid the war. From the outbreak of the war on, he knew only his duty as a soldier to his Fatherland.

At different times, Hitler made addresses to the commanders- in-chief of the armed forces, as for instance, in November, 1939, on 3rd May, 1939, and on 22nd August, 1939. The defendant Goering at his personal interrogation, gave

[Page 120]

exhaustive explanations as to the importance and the purpose of these addresses. It is important for the question at issue, whether the fact that he was present at these addresses might constitute perhaps a complicity in a conspiracy in the sense of the Indictment. On these occasions, Hitler solely expressed his own, opinion about military and political questions. The participants were only informed as to what possible political developments Hitler expected. The participants were never asked for their opinion, nor was it possible for them to express their criticism of Hitler's opinion. Hitler did not ask his generals to understand his orders. All he asked of them was to carry them out.

His autocratic leadership of the State was exclusively directed by the principle Sic voleo, sic jubeo, which he carried through to the last consequence.

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