Goering: The Gestapo
1946 Nuremberg Tribunal: On day 80 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.
Goering: Important at that time, however, were the two offices of Prime Minister of Prussia on the one hand and Minister of Aviation on the other. The office of Prussian Minister of the Interior I handed over to the Reich Minister of the Interior at the beginning of 1934. It was part of the consolidation of power and above all, of the clarification necessary for proper governing authority in the Reich, that the Prussian ministries should be combined with those of the Reich. Only in this way was it possible for the Reich ministries to receive practical information about the political work of the day and about the work of the departments. Only through this combination was that possible.
Dr. Stahmer: Did you in your capacity as Prussian Minister of the Interior create the Gestapo and the concentration camps which have so often been mentioned here? When and for what purpose were they established?
Goering: I mentioned before that for the consolidation of power the first prerequisite was to create along new lines that instrument which at all times and in all nations is always the inner political instrument of power, namely, the police. There was no Reich police, only provincial police. The most important was the Prussian police. Our predecessors, the former parties had already filled this, with their own people, according to their political attitude.
I have mentioned the filling of the posts of police commissioners and those of the chiefs of the main police offices within the Prussian Ministry of the Interior. Thus it was that our opponents, our most bitter opponents, who up to then had always opposed us most vigorously with this police power, were still in the regional offices. A slight loosening up had taken place before I took charge, during the time when the Social Democratic Braun-Severing government was replaced by the government of Herr Von Papen. At that time the bitterest opponents were also removed from the police.
Nevertheless the most important positions were still in the hands of definite political opponents. I could not very well expect that those who until yesterday were ready to employ the police with particular severity against us, would today show the same loyalty to the new state.
Before our time there was also a political police in Prussia. That was Police Department Ia, and its task was first of all the supervision of and the fight against the National Socialists, and also, in part, against the Communists. Now, I could have simply put new people into this political police and let it continue along the old lines. But the situation had changed because of our seizure of power, for at this time, as I have mentioned before, the Communist Party was extraordinarily strong. It had over 6 million voters, and in its Red Front Organization it had a thoroughly revolutionary instrument of power. It was quite obvious to the Communist Party that if we were to stay in power for any length of time, it would ultimately lose its power.
Looking back, the danger positively existed at that time of political tension, and with atmosphere of conflict, that revolutionary acts might have taken place on the part of the Communists. Particularly, even after we came to power political murders and political shootings of National Socialists and policemen by that party did not stop, but at times even increased. Also the information which I received was such that I was made extremely fearful of a sudden swing in that direction. Therefore with this department as it was, I could not ward off that danger. I needed reliable political police not only in the main office, but also in the branch offices. I therefore had to enlarge this instrument.
In order to make clear from the outset that the task of this police was to make the State secure I called it the Secret State Police, and at the same time I established branch offices of this police. I took in a great number of political officials who were experienced, and at the beginning took fewer people from the Party circles because for the time being I had to attach importance to professional ability. I also wanted this police to be concerned exclusively with protecting the State, first of all against its enemies. And the leader whom I selected for this police force was not from the Party but came from the former police. He, Diels, was already there at that time as Oberregierungsrat and later as Ministerialrat, and likewise the main chiefs of the Gestapo were officials who were not from the Party. Later the Party element appeared in the police more and more.
Their mission was first of all to create as quickly as possible all assurance of security against any action from the left. I know--as was afterwards proved--that the headquarters of the Communists in Berlin, the Liebknecht House, was strongly fortified and contained very many arms; we had also at that time brought to light very strong connections between the Russian Trade Delegation and the German Communist Party. Even if I arrested, as I did, thousands of communist functionaries at one blow, so that an immediate danger was averted at the outset, the danger as such was by no means eliminated. It was now necessary to disclose the secret connections, the network of these secret connections, and to keep them constantly under observation. For that purpose a police leadership would have to crystallize.
The Social Democratic Party on the whole seemed to me not nearly so dangerous, especially as far as its members were concerned. But of course they were also absolute opponents of our new State. A part of their functionaries were radical, another part less radical. The more radical I likewise placed under observation, while a whole number of former Social Democratic ministers, heads of Prussian provinces and higher officials, as I said before, were quietly discharged and received their pensions, and nothing further was undertaken against them.
Of course there were also other functionaries of the Social Democratic Party whom we definitely had to watch carefully. Thus the Secret State Police was created by me for these tasks, first of all in Prussia, because I had nothing to do with the other states at that time. The organization of the rest of the police is not of such importance here..."
Dr. Stahmer: How long were you in charge of the Gestapo and the concentration camps and until what date?
Goering: Actually I was in charge until the beginning of 1934, that is, at the beginning of 1934 Diels was the head and he gave me frequent reports about the Gestapo and about the concentration camps. Meanwhile, outside Prussia a re-grouping of police had taken place with the result that Himmler was in charge of the police in all the provinces of Germany with the exception of Prussia only. Probably following the example of my measures, he had installed the Secret State Police there, because the police at that time was still a matter of the states. There were the police of Bavaria, Wurttemberg, Baden, Hesse, Saxony, et cetera. He had become the leader of all these police forces, and of course he now sought to get the leadership of the police in Prussia as well. I was very satisfied with Diels at that time, and from my point of view I saw no reason for letting any change take place.
These efforts, I believe, started as early as in the late summer of 1933. Shortly after I had transferred the Prussian Ministry of the Interior to the Reich Ministry of the Interior, in the spring of 1934, and so was no longer a departmental minister, [Heinrich] Himmler (above, left), I assume, probably urged the Fuehrer more strongly to put him in charge of the Prussian police as well. At that time I did not expressly oppose it. It was not agreeable to me; I wanted to handle my police myself. When, however, the Fuehrer asked me to do this and said that it would be the correct thing and the expedient thing, and that it was proved necessary for the enemy of the State to be fought throughout the Reich in a uniform way, I actually handed the police over to Himmler, who put Heydrich in charge.
But legally I still retained it, because there was still no Reich police in existence. The rest of the police, the state police--that is the uniformed police--I did not turn over to him, because, as I shall explain later, I had to a large extent organized this police in Prussia along military lines, in order to be able to fit it into the future rearmament program. For this reason I could not and did not want to give him the uniformed police, because it had been trained for purely military purposes--by me, at my instigation, and on my responsibility--and had nothing to do with the actual police. It was turned over to the Armed Forces by me in 1935.
In 1936 the Reich Police Law was issued, and thereby the office of the Chief of the German Police was created. By virtue of this law the police was then legally and formally turned over to the Reichsfuehrer SS, or, as he was called, the Chief of the German Police.
Dr. Stahmer: You mentioned before the Röhm Putsch. Who was Röhm, and with what event was this Putsch connected?
Goering: Röhm had become leader of the SA, Chief of Staff of the SA.
1946 Nuremberg Tribunal: On day 84 of the proceedings, Hermann Goering is cross-examined by defense counsel.
Dr. Rudolf Merkel (Counsel for Gestapo): Witness, can one say that the Gestapo in the year 1933, when it was created by you, was a National Socialist combat unit, or was it rather a state organization such as, for example, the criminal police or other state and Reich authorities?
Goering: I have already emphasized that this was a purely state organization built around the already existing political police force, which was merely being reorganized and brought into line with the new state principles. At this time it had not even the slightest connection with the Party. The Party had no influence, or authority to give orders or directives of any sort; it was exclusively a state institution. The members who were in it already, or who came into it, were at this time officials with all the rights and duties of such.
Dr. Rudolf Merkel: To your knowledge, did the position change in any way between the time the State Police was taken over by Himmler in 1945?
Goering: Until 1934 it was exactly as I described it. Then with the further expansion, the SS element did certainly become stronger and perhaps more people from this sector were brought in, but even these--at that time they all had to pass an examination--became and remained officials. I heard later that nothing changed as far as this official character was concerned, but gradually in the course of years all officials, whether they wanted to or not, had, I believe, to take on some rank in the SS, so that a Gestapo official, who perhaps until the year 1939 or 1940 had had nothing to do with the SS, and whose employment dated from the old days--that is, he had been a police official of the Weimar Republic--was automatically given some rank or other in the SS. But he remained an official, that is, the Gestapo was an apparatus for officials in the German police force.
Dr. Rudolf Merkel: Do you know whether it is true that after the seizure of power Himmler, in his capacity as Police Commissioner of Munich, was at the same time the head of the political police and the criminal police in Bavaria?
Goering: As far as I know, and as I have already explained, Himmler was first of all Police Commissioner of Munich. Very shortly afterwards, it may perhaps have been one or two weeks, he called himself Police Commander of Bavaria. Then in the course of one and one half months--it all took place very quickly, he became, what he called himself I do not know exactly--in fact the supreme police chief of all German provinces and free cities, with the exception of Prussia.
Dr. Rudolf Merkel: You said before that the officials of the Gestapo were taken into the SS. Did this happen voluntarily, or was there some coercion on the part of the administrative authorities to make these officials part of the SS?
Goering: I believe--I heard this only from individual officials whom I had known before--that they had to do this. They were not taken into the SS, but they received an official rank in the SS. It was probably Himmler's idea that the SS and the police, both of which were under his leadership, should be amalgamated. How he contemplated that and how it worked out in detail I cannot say. Therefore, I may perhaps have stated some things incorrectly here, but I did it to the best of my knowledge.
Dr. Rudolf Merkel: You said before that the 1933 officials of the political police existing at that time were taken into the state police. Was this done on the basis of a voluntary application by these officials, or were they commanded or transferred in individual cases without their concurrence?
Goering: You are not correct when you say that the officials of the former political police were simply incorporated into the Gestapo; on the contrary, in this sector the weeding out was very drastic, because it was a political police force, and up to then had contained representatives of those parties which were hostile and opposed to us. They had to be removed. Consequently new people came in, especially as its strength was considerably increased.
These new officials were taken from the other police departments, from the criminal police and elsewhere, and, as I have already stated, were in some cases brought in from outside as new recruits, and our people were naturally given special consideration. To what extent normal transfers took place--whether Herr Muller was transferred from the criminal police to the Secret State Police, and whether he was asked about this, I really do not know. I believe not. I left that to the head of the Secret State Police. After I had set up the general directives, I could not be bothered with every single official in the criminal police.
Dr. Rudolf Merkel: Do you know Obergruppenfuehrer Muller (above), the Chief of Division IV in the Reich Main Security Office?
Goering: I knew him.
Dr. Rudolf Merkel: Did you know that he and his immediate associates came from the Bavarian Political Police, as it existed before 1933?
Goering: I did not know that; I knew only that he came from Bavaria.
Dr. Rudolf Merkel: Do you know that the Secret State Police did not take part in the disturbances on 9 November 1938?
Goering: It has always been my conviction that they did not take part in them. I saw a document here which instructed them not to intervene. I do not believe that they took part.
Dr. Rudolf Merkel: If I understood you correctly, you said recently that on this 9th of November, after your return to Berlin, you at once called up the chief of the Gestapo. Did you make this call only because you wanted more precise information, or did you make it because you thought the Gestapo had taken an active part in these disturbances, had organized them and carried them out?
Goering: If I had been convinced that the Gestapo had instigated the disturbances I would certainly not have asked them for information. I gave the order to my collaborators through the police, and in this case through the Gestapo, because they had the necessary connections, or to the criminal police--it was all the same to me. I could address myself only to the Chief of Police, who was Heydrich, and say that I wanted a report quickly on what had happened; a report that merely stated the facts.
Dr. Rudolf Merkel: It is correct that when you gave up your position as Chief of the Police to Himmler you made the statement that it was unworthy of a German official to ill-treat prisoners, and that you would not fail to deal most severely with any officials who were guilty of such acts?
Goering: The speech I made on this occasion is known and it contains such passages.
Dr. Rudolf Merkel: Do you know that there was an order from the Reich Security Main Office--that is, issued after your resignation--which forbade any official or employee of the state police, under threat of the most severe punishment, to beat prisoners or ill-treat them?
Goering: It is possible. I no longer know what orders were issued after my resignation.
Dr. Rudolf Merkel: Putting this question in the negative, is it known to you that there never was an order to manhandle prisoners or torture them, either at the time when you were chief of the Secret State Police or later?
Goering: I can only say with absolute certainty that I did not issue or permit any such order. I no longer know what was or was not issued in this connection at a later date or in provinces other than Prussia.
Dr. Rudolf Merkel: Do you know anything to the effect that, contrary to these orders, such acts regularly took place in the Gestapo; or rather, if such an act did take place, did it have to do only with individual cases or individual excesses?
Goering: At the time when I was still directly connected with the Gestapo such excesses did, as I have openly stated, take place. In order to punish them, one naturally had to find out about them. Punishments were administered. The officials knew that if they did such things they ran the risk of being punished. A large number of them were punished. I cannot say what the practice was later.
Dr. Rudolf Merkel: I have no more questions.
The Nuremberg Tribunal Biographies
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