Excerpts from Nuremburg…
Posted by jeremiasx on January 28, 2007
Excerpts from Examination of Hermann Goering (1)
[From “Eighty-Fourth Day, Monday, 3/18/1946, Part 16”, in Trial of the Major War Criminals Before the
International Military Tribunal. Volume IX. Proceedings: 3/8/1946-3/23/1946. Nuremberg: IMT, 1947.]
[Testimony on 3/18/46]
THE PRESIDENT: Do the Chief prosecutors wish to cross examine?
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: 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?
GOERING: I am perfectly aware of that.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: You, from the very beginning, together with those who were associated with you, intended to overthrow and later did overthrow, the Weimar Republic?
GOERING: That was, as far as I am concerned, my firm intention.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: And, upon coming to power, you immediately abolished parliamentary government in Germany?
GOERING: We found it to be no longer necessary. Also I should like to emphasize 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.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: 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?
GOERING: 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 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.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: 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?
GOERING: 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 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 t 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.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: 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?
GOERING: Quite 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 their concern 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.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: 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, 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?
GOERING: 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 peoples 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 organization 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.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: 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?
GOERING: 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.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: After you came to power, you regarded it necessary, in order to maintain power, to suppress all opposition parties?
GOERING: We found it necessary not to permit any more opposition, yes.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: And you also had to have certain organizations to carry out orders-executive organizations, organizations to fight for you if necessary, did you not?
GOERING: Yes, administrative organizations were, of course, necessary. I do not quite understand-organizations to fight what?
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: Well, if you wanted certain people killed you had to have some organization that would kill them didn’t you? Rohm and the rest of them were not killed by Hitler’s own hands nor by yours, were they?
GOERING: Rohm-the Rohm affair I explained here clearly- that was a matter of State necessity…
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: I did not ask you . . .
GOERING: … and was carried out by the police.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: But when it was the State’s necessity to ill somebody, you had to have somebody to do it, didn’t you?
GOERING: Yes, just as in other countries, whether it is called secret service or something else, I do not know.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: Now, this system was not a secret system. This entire system was openly avowed, its merits were publicly advocated by yourself and others, and every person entering into the Nazi Party was enabled to know the kind of system of government you were going to set up, wasn’t he?
GOERING: Every person who entered the Party knew that we embraced the Leadership Principle and knew the fundamental measures we wanted to carry out, so far as they were stated in the program. But not everyone who joined the Party knew down to the last detail what was going to happen later.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: But this system was set up openly and was well known, was it not, in every one of its details? As to organization, everybody knew what the Gestapo was, did they not?
GOERING: Yes, everyone knew what the Gestapo was.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: And what its program was in general, not in detail?
GOERING: I explained that program clearly. At the very beginning I described that publicly, and I also spoke publicly of the tasks of the Gestapo, and I even wrote about it for foreign countries.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: And there was nothing secret about the establishment of a Gestapo as a political police, about the fact that people were taken into protective custody, about the fact that these were concentration camps? Nothing secret about those things, was there?
GOERING: There was at first nothing secret about it at all.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: Now, in tracing the rise of power of the Party you have omitted some such things as, for example the Reichstag fire of 2/27/1933. There was a great purge following that fire, was there not, in which many people were arrested ad many people were killed?
GOERING: I do not know of a single case where a man was killed because of the Reichstag fire, except that of the incendiary, Van der Lubbe, who was sentenced by the court. The other two defendants in this trial were acquitted. Herr Thalmann was not, as you recently erroneously believed, accused; it was the communist representative Torgler. He was acquitted, as was also the Bulgarian, Dimitroff. Relatively few arrests were made in connection with the Reichstag fire. The arrests which you attribute to the Reichstag fire are the arrests of communist functionaries. These arrests, as I have repeatedly stated and wish to emphasize once more, had nothing to do with this fire. The fire merely precipitated their arrest and upset our carefully planned action, thus allowing several of the functionaries to escape.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: In other words, you had lists of Communists already prepared at the time of the Reichstag fire, of persons who should be arrested, did you not?
GOERING: We had always drawn up, beforehand, fairly complete lists of communist functionaries who were to be arrested. That had nothing to do with the fire in the German Reichstag.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: They were immediately put into execution-the arrests, I mean- after the Reichstag fire?
GOERING: Contrary to my intention of postponing this action for a few days and letting it take place according to plan, thereby perfecting the arrangements, the Fuehrer ordered that same night that the arrests should follow immediately. This had the disadvantage, as I said, of precipitating matters.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: You and the Fuehrer met at the fire, did you not?
GOERING: That is right.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: And then and there you decided to arrest all the Communists that you had listed?
GOERING: I repeat again that the decision for their arrests had been reached some days before this; it simply meant that on that night they were immediately arrested. I would rather have waited a few days according to plan; then some of the important men would not have escaped.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: And the next morning the decree was presented to President Von Hindenburg, suspending the provisions of the constitution which we have discussed here, was it not?
GOERING: I believe so, yes.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: Who was Karl Ernst?
GOERING: Karl Ernst-whether his first name was Karl I do not now-was the SA leader of Berlin.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: And who was Helldorf?
GOERING: Count Helldorf was the subsequent SA leader of Berlin.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: And Heines?
GOERING: Heines was the SA leader of Silesia at that time.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: Now, it is known to you, is it not that Ernst made a statement confessing that these three burned the Reichstag and that you and Goebbels planned and furnished the incendiary materials of liquid phosphorus and petroleum which were deposited by you in a subterranean passage for them to get, which passage led from your house to the Reichstag building? You knew of such a statement, did you not?
GOERING: I do not know of any statement by the SA leader Ernst. But I do know of some fairytale published shortly after in the foreign press by Rohm’s chauffeur. This was after 1934.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: But there was such a passage from the Reichstag building to your house, was there not?
GOERING: On one side of the street is the Reichstag building, and opposite is the palace of the Reichstag president. The two are connected by a passage along which the wagons run which carry the coke for the central heating.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: And, in any event, shortly after this, Ernst was killed without a trial and without a chance to tell his story, was he not? ”
GOERING: That is not correct. The Reichstag fire was in 2/1933. Ernst was shot on 6/30/1934, because together with Rohm he had planned to overthrow the Government and had plotted against the Fuehrer. He, therefore, had a year and a quarter in which he could have made statements regarding the Reichstag fire, if he had wished to do so.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: Well, he had begun to make statements, had he not, and you were generally being accused of burning the Reichstag building? You knew that, did you not? That was the . . .
GOERING: That accusation that I had set fire to the Reichstag came from a certain foreign press. That could not bother me because it was not consistent with the facts. I had no reason or motive for setting fire to the Reichstag. From the artistic point of view I did not at all regret that the assembly chamber was burned- I hoped to build a better one. But I did regret very much that I was forced to find a new meeting place for the Reichstag and, not being able to find one, I had to give up my Kroll Opera House, that is, the second State Opera House, for that purpose. The opera seemed to me much more important than the Reichstag.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: Have you ever boasted of burning the Reichstag building, even by way of joking?
GOERING: No. I made a joke, if that is the one you are referring to, when I said that, after this, I should be competing with Nero and that probably people would soon be saying that, dressed in a red toga and holding a lyre in my hand, I looked on at the fire and played while the Reichstag was burning. That was the joke. But the fact was that I almost perished in the flames, which would have been very unfortunate for the German people, but very fortunate for their enemies.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: You never stated then that you burned the Reichstag?
GOERING: No. I know that Herr Rauschning said in the book which he wrote, and which has often been referred to here, that I had discussed this with him. I saw Herr Rauschning only twice in my life and only for a short time on each occasion. If I had set fire to the Reichstag, I would presumably have let that be known only to my closest circle of confidants, if at all. I would not have told it to a man whom I did not know and whose appearance I could not describe at all today. That is an absolute
distortion of the truth.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: Do you remember the luncheon on Hitler’s birthday in 1942 at the Kasino, the officers’ mess, at the headquarters of the Fuehrer in East Prussia?
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: You do not remember that? I will ask that you be shown the affidavit of General Franz Halder, and I call your attention to his statements which may refresh your recollection. I read it.
“On the occasion of a luncheon on the Fuehrer’s birthday in 1942, the people around the Fuehrer turned the conversation to the Reichstag building and its artistic value. I heard with my own ears how Goring broke into the conversation and shouted: ‘The only one who really knows the Reichstag is I, for I set fire to it.’ And saying this he slapped his thigh.”
GOERING: This conversation did not take place and I request that I be confronted with Herr Halder. First of all I want to emphasize that what is written here is utter nonsense. It says, “The only one who really knows the Reichstag is I.” The Reichstag was known to every representative in the Reichstag. (authors note: NewSpeak LOL) The fire took place only in the general assembly room, and many hundreds or thousands of people knew this room as well as I did. A statement of this type is utter nonsense. How Herr Halder came to make that statement I do not know. Apparently that bad memory, which also let him down in military matters, is the only explanation.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: You know who Halder is?
GOERING: Only too well.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: Can you tell us what position he held in the German Army?
GOERING: He was Chief of the General Staff of the Army, and I repeatedly pointed out to the Fuehrer, after the war started, that he would at least have to find a chief who knew something about such matters.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: Now, the Rohm purge you have left a little indefinite. What was it that Rohm did that he was shot? What acts did he commit?
GOERING: Rohm planned to overthrow the Government, and it was intended to kill the Fuehrer also. He wanted to follow it up by a revolution, directed in the first place against the Army, the officers’ corps-those groups which he considered to be reactionary.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: And you had evidence of that fact?
GOERING: We had sufficient evidence of that fact.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: But he was never tried in any court where he would have a chance to tell his story as you are telling yours, was he?
GOERING: That is correct. He wanted to bring about a Putsch and therefore the Fuehrer considered it right that this thing should be nipped in the bud-not by a court procedure, but by smashing the revolt immediately.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: Were the names of the people who were killed in that purge, following the arrest of Rohm, ever published?
GOERING: Some of the names, yes; but not all of them, I believe.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: Who actually killed Rohm? Do you know?
GOERING: I do not know who personally carried out this action.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: To what organization was the order given?
GOERING: That I do not know either, because the shooting of Rohm was decreed by the Fuehrer and not by me, for I was competent in north Germany.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: And who took into custody those who were destined for concentration camps, and how many were there?
GOERING: The police carried out the arrest of those who were, first of all, to be interrogated, those who were not so seriously incriminated and of whom it was not known whether they were incriminated or not. A number of these people were released very soon, others not until somewhat later. Just how many were arrested in this connection I cannot tell you. The arrests were made by the police.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: The Gestapo, you mean?
GOERING: I assume so.
MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: And if Milch testified that he saw 700 or 800 in Dachau in 1935, there must have been a very much larger number arrested, since you say many were released. Do you know the number of those that were arrested?
GOERING: I state again, I do not know exactly how many were arrested because the necessary arrests, or the arrest of those who were considered as having a part in this, did not go through me. My action ended, so to speak, on the date when the revolt was smashed. I understood Milch a little differently and I sent a note to my counsel in order that it be made clear, through a question whether Milch meant by these 700 people those concerned with the Rohm Putsch or whether he meant to say that he saw altogether 700 arrested persons there. That is the way I understood it. But to clarify this statement we should have to question Milch again, for I believe this number of 500, 600, or 700, to be far too high for the total number of people arrested in
connection with the Rohm Putsch.
END OF TRANSCRIPT EXCERPTS
My commentary below:
Goering’s testimony, as a man faced with imminent justice, which he knew most likely to be a death sentence, is full of inconsistencies and lies, but we are able to see him attempt to shift blame from himself to other leaders within the Nazi party, and even to the civilians whom he consistently referred to as the base of the power pyramid…in a way, he is correct. Had the People decided to do what was moral and just, en masse, Hitler would never have accomplished the savagery and tyranny which nearly enslaved the world. We can all “hope” that such tragic events in politics never “return” to revisit us within our own lifetimes. Still yet, I post this transcript of historical record to remind us of the distinct possibility of an all-pervasive, conspiratorial, treachorous government rising to power and perpetrating injustice upon the entire human existence. In other words, it would be quite FOOLISH to believe that what has happened before is incapable of happening AGAIN.