Goering: The SA, The Hitler Putsch

1946 Nuremberg Tribunal: On day 82 of the proceedings, defendant Hermann Goering is given vast latitude by the Tribunal to tell his life story. He will be at it for the next few days. No other defendant will be given so much virtually uninterrupted time.

Dr. Stahmer: What tasks did Hitler then give you, that is, say, until November 1923?

Goering: The tasks arose from my position, which at that time had the title "Commander of the SA." At first it was important to weld the SA into a stable organization, to discipline it, and to make of it a completely reliable unit which had to carry out the orders which Adolf Hitler or I should give it. Up to that point it had been just a club which had been very active, but which still lacked the necessary construction and discipline. I strove from the beginning to bring into the SA those members of the Party who were young and idealistic enough to devote their free the and their entire energies to it.

For at that time things were very difficult for these good men. We were very small in number and our opponents were far more numerous. Even in those days these men were exposed to very considerable annoyances and had to suffer all sorts of things. In the second place I tried to find recruits among workmen, for I knew that among workmen particularly I should enroll many members for the SA.

At the same time we had naturally to see to it that the meetings of the Party, which generally were limited at that time to Munich, Upper Bavaria and Franconia, could actually be carried through in a satisfactory manner, and disturbances prevented. In most cases we succeeded. But sometimes we had a strong party of our opponents present. One side or the other still had weapons from the war and sometimes-critical situations arose, and in some cases we had to send the SA as reinforcements to other localities. In the course of the year 1923 the contrast between Bavaria and the Reich became even stronger. One could see that the Bavarian Government of that time wanted to go a different way to that of the Reich Government. The Reich Government was influenced strongly by Marxism, but the Bavarian Government was free from that, it was bourgeois.

Then suddenly the Bavarian Government was completely transformed when a governor general--I believe he was called that--or something of the sort, was appointed for Bavaria. It was von Kahr, to whom the Bavarian Government was subordinate and to whom the Bavarian Government delegated all authority. Shortly after that the Reichswehr conflict developed. The 7th Reichswehr Division, which was stationed in Bavaria, was released from its oath to the Reich, which it had sworn to the Reich Constitution--I do not know its name any longer--that is to von Kahr. This led to the conflict of the Generals von Seeckt and Lossow. The same thing happened with the Bavarian police. The Bavarian Government at the same time curried favor with the so-called national associations which were in part organized along military or semi-military lines and also possessed weapons. The whole thing was directed against Berlin and, as we expressed it, against the "November Republic." We could agree up to that point.

On the Sunday, before the 9th of November, there was a large parade in Munich. The whole Bavarian Government was there. The Reichswehr, the police and the fatherland associations, and we too, marched past. Suddenly, on that occasion, we saw that the figure in the foreground was no longer Herr von Kahr but the Bavarian Crown Prince Rupprecht. We were very much taken aback by that.

The suspicion arose among us that Bavaria wished to follow a course which would possibly lead to a considerable disintegration, and Bavaria might secede from the body of the Reich. But nothing was farther from our intentions than to permit that. We wanted a strong Reich, a unified Reich; and we wanted to have it cleansed of certain parties and authorities which were now ruling it.

We had become distrustful of the so-called "March on Berlin." When this became a certainty and Herr von Kahr had called the well-known meeting in the Burgerbraukeller, it was high time to frustrate such plans and to guide the whole undertaking in the direction of the "Greater Germany" idea. Thus the events of 9 November 1923 materialized in very short time.

But as far as I personally am concerned, I was--and I never made a secret of this--ready from the beginning to take part in every revolution against the so-called November Republic, no matter where and with whom it originated, unless it originated with the Left, and for these tasks I had always offered my services. Then I was severely wounded at the Feldherrnhalle--the events are well known--and with this incident I close this first chapter.

Dr. Stahmer: When, after that time, did you come together with Hitler again?

Goering: At first I was in a hospital in Austria. There was a trial before the Bavarian People's Court regarding the 9th of November.

Dr. Stahmer: Who was indicted?

Goering: Hitler was indicted first of all, and naturally all those who had been present and were apprehended. I had been in Upper Bavaria for several days in a seriously wounded state and was then brought to the border, was arrested there, and then the Bavarian police brought me back to a different place. I asked Hitler at that time, whether I should appear at the trial. He begged me urgently not to do that, and that was a good thing. In this way the proceedings could not be held behind closed doors, because I had made the statement that if that was done I, for my part, would make an appropriate public statement with regard to the trial. Then, after my recuperation, I spent about a year in Italy; then elsewhere abroad.

In the year 1926 or 1927 there was a general amnesty for all the people involved in the different illegal--if I should call them that--incidents which had occurred up to then, not only for us but also for the Leftists and the peasants, and I could return to Germany. I met Hitler again for the first time in 1927 at a rather brief conference in Berlin, where he was present. I was not active in the Party then, rather I wanted first to provide myself with an independent position once more. Then for months I was not in touch with Hitler again. Shortly before the May elections of the Reichstag in 1928 Hitler called me and told me he wanted to put me up as one of the first of the Reichstag candidates for the National Socialist Party and asked me whether I were willing and I said "yes," and also whether my activity in the Party to a still greater extent ...

Dr. Stahmer: One question. Had you meanwhile joined the SA?

Goering: No; at that time I had nothing more to do with the SA. In the meantime there were new appointments in the SA and the new leader of the SA, von Pfeffer, naturally wanted to keep his position and would not have liked to see me in close touch with the SA.

Dr. Stahmer: Then after 1923 you had no office or position in the SA?

Goering: After 1923 my active position in the SA ceased. Not until after the seizure of power, at a later date, when the so-called honorary offices were created, did I receive, as an honorary post, the highest rank in the SA. But to come back, in 1928 I was elected to the Reichstag and from that time on I toured the country as a speaker for the Party. The SA, I do not recall in what year, had been reestablished and was now no longer limited to Bavaria, but had been extended to the whole Reich.

Dr. Stahmer: Was it prohibited after 1923?

Goering: After 1928, it was prohibited for the time being.

Dr. Stahmer: When was this prohibition rescinded?

Goering: I cannot say exactly, at any rate at a time when I had not yet returned to Germany. But in any case it had spread over all Germany and was now urgently necessary. The parties at that time, the larger ones, all had their so-called fighting units. Especially active, I remember, was the Red Front, a collection of the fighting units of the Communists, our greatest opponents, with whom we had repeated clashes and who very often tried to break up our meetings. In addition, there was the Reichsbanner, the organization of the Social Democrats, the Democratic Party.

Then there was the Stahlhelm; that was a nationalist organization of the Right. And then there was our SA, which is to be mentioned in the same connection. I should like to emphasize that at that time the SA often had to suffer heavily. Most of the SA men came from the broad masses; they were minor employees, workmen, men who took part only for idealistic reasons and who had to give their services nights and evenings without receiving anything in payment, and who did so only out of their real faith in the fatherland. They were often most severely wounded and many puff them were shot in the clashes. They were persecuted by the government. They could not be officials; an official could not join the SA. They had to endure terrific pressure. I should like to emphasize that I had the highest respect and affection for these men, these SA men, who were not determined as has been pictured here, simply to do something cruel, but who were rather men who really exposed themselves voluntarily to the most difficult trials and vexations because of their idealism and their aims, and renounced many things in order to realize their ideals."

1946 Nuremberg Tribunal: On day 84 of the proceedings, Hermann Goering is examined by defense counsel.

Herr Boehm: Witness, is it true, as the Prosecution maintains that you were Reichsfuehrer of the SA?

Goering: I was not Reichsfuehrer of the SA, there never was such a title. In 1923, on 9 November, I was a commander of the SA, which at that time existed only in Bavaria and to a small extent in Wurttemberg.

Herr Boehm: According to that, how long were you commander of the SA?

Goering: I have just told you, until November 1923.

Herr Boehm: From 1921 on?

Goering: From the beginning of 1923.

Herr Boehm: What was your influence before and after 1923 respectively in regard to the leadership of the SA, the indoctrination of the people, and the giving of orders?

Goering: Please repeat the question.

Herr Boehm: What was your influence before and after 1923 as far as the leadership of the SA, the indoctrination of the SA men, and the issuing of orders were concerned?

Goering: From the beginning of 1923 until 9 November 1923 my influence was complete and absolute, that is, I commanded the SA directly. After 1923 I was no longer entitled to have anything to do with the SA itself, nor did I.

Herr Boehm: How was it before 1923, the relationship before 1923 as well as after 1923?

Goering: I beg your pardon?

Herr Boehm: Was your relationship to the SA the same before 1923 as afterwards?

Goering: I have explained this very precisely. Until November 1923 I was commander of the SA with full power and authority to give orders. After 1923 I had nothing more to do with the SA as far as giving orders was concerned, but I was only--I do not know what year it was, perhaps 1936 or so--connected with the SA in an honorary capacity, but without exercising any authority. Besides, I had no occasion to do so.

Herr Boehm: In the course of your testimony during the last week in connection with the SA people, you said that they were always ready to make great sacrifices. Now I would like you to tell me what kind of sacrifices these were.

Goering: The sacrifices of the SA men were these: they gave nearly all their leisure time to the movement without being reimbursed; they did without family life or recreation, so that in difficult times of our struggle for power they were always at the disposal of the Party, for election campaigns, continuous parades, protection of meetings, et cetera. In my eyes this is a considerable sacrifice, if one considers that most members of the SA were workers and minor employees who needed the few hours of their leisure more for rest, but who were always ready to be fully at the disposal of the Party and to work for their political ideals according to their political beliefs.

Herr Boehm: Were these people promised material advantages?

Goering: None at all.

Herr Boehm: Is it correct that particularly after the seizure of power a great number of communist agitators crept into the SA?

Goering: Please repeat the question.

Herr Boehm: Is it correct that especially after the seizure of power, a great number of communist agitators were able to creep into the SA?

Goering: That was a very noticeable and vital matter. As after the seizure of power action was taken against the Communist Party, which was something they had logically expected, a number of members of the Red Front battle organization joined the SA, especially in large cities where this was easier. This was all the easier because the then head of the SA, Rohm, indiscriminately admitted SA men, or rather men into the SA, who did not need to be members of the Party, as was formerly required. Anyone could therefore become an SA man without belonging to the Party.

At the same time Hugenberg's German National Party also started a political battle organization that he called the "Green Shirts." These were also to be taken into the SA now, just as the Stahlhelm, as by themselves they seemed purposeless. I personally remember one day when 400 to 500 of these people assembled at the Wilhelmstrasse to be enrolled in the SA. I saw these people from my window and definitely noticed that elements were involved which did not belong there. I immediately summoned the police and had a check made. Ninety-eight percent of these men had their communist Red Front membership cards in their pockets.

The President: Dr. Boehm, the Tribunal considers that this is all cumulative to what the defendant has already said in his examination in chief. He has given us a long account of the SA in his examination in chief. He has added nothing in the course of what he is now saying.

Herr Boehm: According to the Prosecution, it is asserted that the SA was composed of terror-gangsters. I feel in duty bound to correct or clarify this statement in this respect by asking ...

The President: That has nothing to do with what I said. It may be that the Prosecution have said that. Probably they have. What I was pointing out to you was that the Defendant Goering has been all over this ground in the evidence he has already given. The Tribunal does not wish to hear the same evidence twice.

Herr Boehm: Yes, that may apply to my first three questions in a way. [Turning to the witness] I should like to ask further, in what way [did you influence] the SA in connection with the Versailles Treaty? Did you tell the people that the Versailles Treaty should be annulled by diplomatic means or by war?

Goering: This question is extremely difficult to answer. If I made a speech to my SA men in 1923 I could not very well say much about diplomacy. They would not have understood that. Rather the question was quite simply to be rid of Versailles. The ordinary SA man was not at all concerned with the "how" or the "what." That is the task of the leadership. I did not say, "I promise that you will never have war"; or that we were only a purely pacific organization and that we should try by protests only to rid the world of Versailles. But neither did I say to them, "In the next few years we will march out and make war." In reality I did not tell them anything. I said that they would have to be obedient and have confidence in the leadership, and leave what was to be done to the leadership--that that was proper, and a basic attitude--every SA man knew that from our speeches and from the Party program. Among all the people the wish was--of every decent German, I hope--to be rid of Versailles.

Herr Boehm: According to your knowledge, and apart from the period of 1923, from 1921 to 1945, was the SA and also the organ of the SA, that is, the leadership of the SA as well as the individual member, informed that the NSDAP intended after the seizure of power to dominate other states and to make war with that purpose in mind, even in disregard of the rules of war and the laws of humanity if need be?

Goering: I do not quite know just what one imagines the SA leadership and the entire SA to be. It is quite impossible that anyone should stand up and say, Listen, we wish: (1) to overthrow and subjugate and dominate all other states; (2) to wage war continuously; (3) to destroy everything and act as inhumanly as possible; and (4) to pay thereby no attention to any law of war. I cannot imagine that anyone but an insane person would have made such statements before the SA or anyone else. The SA was never instructed politically in any way. It was told: "You will march tomorrow, and the day after leaflets will be distributed and then..." as I have already explained.

Herr Boehm: During the time of the seizure of power there were various excesses on the part of the SA. Was this a matter of measures undertaken by individual members, or were these measures in accordance with instructions of the SA leadership?

Goering: In no case, I believe, in accordance with instructions from the middle or even the higher SA leadership offices. In an organization of a million young people there will always be a certain percentage of rowdies, especially in the large cities. As I have already mentioned, there was a considerable number of agitators in the organization; that thereby individual excesses on the part of individuals or groups of like-minded persons will occur, is entirely inevitable.

Herr Boehm: Did the SA leadership in principle ever sanction individual actions on the part of its members?

Goering: I have already stated that I had very little to do with the leadership of the SA, but I do not think so.

Herr Boehm: Is it correct that the police were forbidden to take steps against excesses on the part of individual members of' the SA?

Goering: In the beginning that was not the case at all. By that I mean that, on the contrary, the police had orders to take most decisive action in such cases, and particularly the Police Commissioner of Berlin, who was not of the Party, Admiral Von Levetzow, retired, acted very vigorously here. That may even have been the reason for his being removed by the Fuehrer, 2 years later, I believe, owing to continued complaints by the Berlin Gauleiter Goebbels.

Herr Boehm: How was it later on? If I understood you correctly, you said that in the beginning that was not the case; later the police must have been forbidden to intervene in the case of excesses by members of the SA?

Goering: No, it is not to be understood that way. At all times the police intervened against excesses by individual SA men, as far as I remember. A number of SA men were even convicted.

Herr Boehm: In the Prussian police system, and in the police system of the other states, were only SA members used, or was it rather that all Germans who at that time volunteered to enter the police service were examined and according to the results of this examination were then used or not used?

Goering: There was a purging of the police according to our ideas, that is, an investigation was made to see which elements were so strongly bound to the party of the opponents, that is, to hostile parties, that their use no longer seemed possible. These people were eliminated. But that was a very small percentage in comparison with the actual total number of police. They were replaced, and municipal police in particular, who wore uniforms, were increased. Voluntary applications for this came from all sides. Of course, members of our own organizations were in part favored; but a number of people were also taken who were not in these organizations, and those who came from the organizations had to take tests of aptitude for the police services. Many of them did not pass the test and were not taken. That is how things were as long as I was concerned with the police. What happened later I cannot tell you exactly.

Herr Boehm: Is it correct that the SA after 1934, besides training for sports, was used mainly for emergencies, to line the route on the occasion of marches, to shovel snow, to clean UD bomb damage, and so forth?

Goering: After 1934 the importance of the SA declined tremendously. This is understandable, for their chief task no longer existed after the seizure of power. They were used to the fullest extent for the purposes just mentioned by you. Then during the war they had pre-military duties; and after the war they were to have formed a pool for the former military clubs, so that they could be joined to the SA as veterans associations. That was the intention, in order to give the SA a further sphere of activities.

Herr Boehm: Do you know that the Stahlhelm, by virtue of an agreement between the Fuehrer and Seldte, were taken into the SA reserves in a body?

Goering: Yes.

Herr Boehm: Is it correct that after 1933, like the Stahlhelm, the riding clubs of that time were also taken into the SA through the so-called conformity measures?

Goering: I believe that is correct.

Herr Boehm: Was the SA leadership and its members before or after 1933 at any time informed of the results of cabinet consultations, or of the decisions taken by the Cabinet?

Goering: I have already said in my general remarks just how the leadership of the SA should be regarded. No, of course not.

Herr Boehm: The Indictment states in connection with the presentation of the charge of aggressive war and the participation of the SA in such a war, that the SA took part in its preparation in that before the war it annually trained about 25,000 officers in special schools. You must surely have known something about that?

Goering: The training of officers of the Armed Forces was carried out solely in the Armed Forces' own military schools, and I could never understand how the SA could be in a position from the purely technical point of view, and as regards organization, to train officers for the Armed Forces. In addition, it seems to me that the training of 25,000 officers a year is far in excess of the number of officers needed for the Armed Forces. It would have been very nice if we had had so many, but this number, at all events for several years, is just as incorrect as the statement that the SA had to train officers. The training of officers was done by the Armed Forces entirely and exclusively.

Herr Boehm: But men do seem to have been trained. Do you know where these men were trained and for what purpose? Do you know anything about Fuehrer Schools?

Goering: Yes, there were Fuehrer Schools for every organization. Every organization had its schools where it taught and trained those who in its own cadres were to have some sort of leading position. I can only imagine that the Prosecution confused things perhaps, or perhaps wanted to say that some of the SA leaders had received a certain preliminary pre-military training, in the reading of maps or something similar. That, however, is beyond the scope of my knowledge.

Herr Boehm: May I ask you to explain the relation of the Feldherrnhalle to the SA or the Armed Forces? Was there a formation, or a regiment by the name of Feldherrnhalle? What was particular about this?

Goering: After the SS had been allowed several companies by the Fuehrer as armed units--and these actually represented military formations, as, for instance, the Leibstandarte, Grossdeutschland and others--the SA leadership requested that it be granted at least one unit which it might arm with rifles and small arms, as a parade unit, I might say, and this unit was called Feldherrnhalle. Lutze, the then SA leader, suggested to the Fuehrer that I should be made the head of this unit.

It is a position of honor to be the head of a regiment or a unit. When I saw this unit for the first time--I believe in a body at a Party rally at Nuremberg--it pleased me immensely because it was composed of only outstanding, especially selected young men. Really, I thanked the SA rather badly for this special honor, for after seeing this excellent unit I dissolved it a few weeks later and took it over in a body into the Air Force and made of it my first paratroop regiment. So, after a brief existence, this unit became simply an Armed Forces formation, a regiment of the Air Force. Because of this procedure, which was unpleasant for the SA, it was quite some time, I believe, before the SA leader Lutze decided to form a similar unit with the name of Feldherrnhalle and he kept this unit very much smaller; it did sentry duty for the supreme SA leadership, and he did not make me the head of this unit a second time.

Herr Boehm: According to my information, as well as information I personally received from SA Gruppenfuehrer and Obergruppenfuehrer, and other information which I obtained myself through reading, the Feldherrnhalle was not armed until it passed into the Air Force. Is that correct?

Goering: No, that is not correct. I think, but I cannot say under oath with certainty, that they received rifles shortly before but only rifles. But as I said before, I do not know exactly. In this connection, as the Prosecution has referred to this point I should like to emphasize that this regiment was already provided for as a paratroop regiment in Case Green. After Case Green had been peacefully settled, that is, after the Sudetenland question had been solved peacefully, and long after the occupation of the Sudetenland, I made this regiment bail out and land there, as originally intended, but purely for purposes of practice and maneuvers. This was the landing at Freudenthal that the Prosecution has mentioned. By this time they were already in blue uniforms when they land and were therefore already a regiment of the Air Force. Merely as a matter of courtesy I had invited the SA leader Lutze to watch this demonstration.

Herr Boehm: In this war did the SA ever play a strategic or tactical role in connection with the deployment of forces?

Goering: No, the SA as such was never used in combat with the Armed Forces as the SA or as an SA unit, either tactically otherwise. It may be that toward the end there were certain units in the Volkssturm.

Herr Boehm: Is it correct that the SA as a body co-operate with the Armed Forces in the occupation of Austria, the Sudetenland, and the Czech State?

Goering: In the case of Austria, the Austrian SA, which was there on the spot, did not take part in the occupation for it had been called up there in a few places as auxiliary police. Actually the so-called Austrian Legion, which was in the Reich, was at my express command and at the express wish of Seyss-Inquart, held back for long time and was not allowed to go home until after the absolute consolidation of the Austrian situation. It did come from Austria originally. How far units of the SA marched into the Sudetenland after the zone was given over to Germany, I do not know. I hear that there were also Sudeten Germans involved here who had had to flee prior to that time and who were now returning. In connection with the occupation of the rest of Czechoslovakia, I cannot possibly imagine that SA formations played any part in the entry of our troops.

Herr Boehm: Could the members of the SA have known that possibly, according to the intention of the SA leadership, they would or could be used for the carrying out of punishable acts?

Goering: I did not quite get the substance of that question.

Herr Boehm: Could the members of the SA have known that according to the intention of the SA leadership they might possibly be used to commit crimes?

Goering: Crimes, never.

Herr Boehm: Now, I have a last question, but I believe that in a certain sense you have already answered it. Did the members of the SA know, or could they know, or ought they to have known, the aims and purposes of the SA at any time, so that they could recognize the intention of the SA leadership, or of the staff leadership, to commit crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity as stated in the Indictment?

Goering: I have already answered this.

The President: The Tribunal will adjourn for 10 minutes. [A recess was taken.]

Herr Boehm: Mr. President, I should like to ask you to permit me to put one more basic question, namely, the question of honorary leadership. [Turning to the witness.] There were honorary leaders in the SA, for instance, the Obergruppenfuehrer, Gruppenfuehrer, Brigadefuehrer, Standartenfuehrer, and Sturmfuehrer. Witness, I should like you to explain to me what the significance of the honorary leader in the organization of the SA was as far as the training of the SA and the issuing of orders to the SA was concerned--what kind of influence he might have had.

Goering: The honorary leaders of the SA were appointed for all sorts of reasons and motives. They had an exclusively representative function, that is to say, they took part in party ceremonies wearing the SA uniform. They were by no means active members of the SA, and were not informed of any internal activities of the SA, or of operations and other tasks. Their function was purely decorative.

The Nuremberg Tribunal Biographies
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