Goering: Concentration Camps
1946 Nuremberg Tribunal: On day 80, 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: When the need became evident for creating order first of all, and removing the most dangerous element of disorder directed against us, I decided to have the communist functionaries and leaders arrested all at once. I therefore had a list made for that purpose, and it was clear to me that even if I arrested only the most important and most dangerous of these functionaries it still would involve several thousands, for it was necessary to arrest not only the party functionaries but also those from the Red Front Organization, as the Communists also had affiliated organizations. These arrests were in accordance with reasons of State security and State necessity. It was a question of removing a danger.
Only one possibility was available here, that of protective custody--that is, whether or not one could prove that these people were involved in a traitorous act or an act hostile to the State, whether or not one could expect such an act from them, such an act must be prevented and the possibility eliminated by means of protective custody. That was nothing new and it was not a National Socialist invention. Already before this such protective custody measures had been carried out, partly against the Communists, and chiefly against us, the National Socialists. The prisons were not available for this purpose, and also I want to stress from the very beginning that this was a political act for the defense of the State. Therefore, I said that these men should first of all be gathered into camps--one to two camps were proposed at that time--because I could not tell them how long the internment of these people would be necessary nor how the number would be increased by the further exposure of the entire communist movement.
When we occupied the Karl Liebknecht House we found so many arms, material, and preparations for a civil war, that, as I said, one could not gain a general view of its extent. I have already indicated, as is obvious, that in view of such great political tension as existed between the extreme wings of these political opponents and in view of the bitterness of the opposition caused by the continuous fighting in the streets, the mutual tension, et cetera, resulting from the political struggle, the situation would conceivably not be a very pleasant one for the inmates. For this reason I gave instructions that the guard, if possible to a large extent, should consist of police forces; only where those were not adequate should auxiliary forces be called.
I have stated my opinion with regard to the question of concentration camps and I should like to point out that we did not create this name, but that it appeared in the foreign press and was then adopted. Where the name originated, is rather an historical matter. At the end of 1933 in a book, which at first appeared in, English, at the request of an English publisher, and which has already been presented by the Prosecution as evidence, I stated my views on this matter quite openly--that was at the end of 1933. I point out again that it was for foreign countries, for English-speaking countries. At that time I openly stated the following: Of course, in the beginning there were excesses; of course, the innocent were also hurt here or there; of course, there were beatings here and there and acts of brutality were committed; but compared to all that has happened in the past and to the greatness of the events, this German revolution of freedom is the least bloody and the most disciplined of all revolutions known to history.
Dr. Stahmer: Did you supervise the treatment of the prisoners?
Witness Korner has already mentioned the case of Thalmann. I would like to speak about it briefly, because it was the most striking case, as Thalmann was the leader of the Communist Party. I could not say today who it was who hinted to me that Thalmann had been beaten. I had him called to me in my room directly, without informing the higher authorities and questioned him very closely. He told me that he had been beaten during, and especially at the beginning, of the interrogations.
At that time I also--this I can prove by evidence--helped the families of the inmates financially so far as that was necessary. At this opportunity I should also like to speak about the unauthorized cencentration camps which have been mentioned, the purpose of which came under the heading of abolition of abuses. At first I did not know anything about them, but then I found out about one such camp near Stettin. It had been established by Karpfenstein, at that time Gauleiter of Pomerania.
As far as I can remember--I cannot name the place exactly anymore--close to Berlin another unauthorized concentration camp had been secretly established by Ernst, the SA leader in Berlin, whom I had always suspected of acts of brutality. That also, was closed. Ernst belonged to those evil figures who were eliminated in the Rohm Putsch. It is possible to question persons who were inmates of these camps at that time, 1933 and the beginning of 1934, as to whether during that time anything happened which even approached that which happened later.
Goering: At Christmas of 1933 I gave orders for the release of the lighter cases, that is the less dangerous cases, and those cases of which one had the impression the people had resigned themselves to the situation; that was about 5,000 people. I repeated that once more in November 1934 for 2,000 inmates. I stress again that that refers only to Prussia. At that time, as far as I remember--I cannot say exactly--one camp was dissolved or at least closed temporarily. That was at a time when nobody thought that it would ever be the subject of an investigation before such an international tribunal."
Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe (UK Deputy Chief Prosecutor): Two months later there was a Fuehrer Decree, and one of your officers was to be Chief of Staff of this Coordination Staff. Are you telling the Tribunal that you did not know about the Fuehrer Decree and that your officer was so appointed?
Dear Herr Himmler: I thank you very much for your letter of 25 August. I have read with great interest the reports of Dr. Rascher and Dr. Romberg. I am informed about the current experiments. I shall ask the two gentlemen to give a lecture combined with the showing of motion pictures to my men in the near future.
Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Excuse me for interrupting you. I am only quoting Milch's evidence. I was asking you to assume for the moment that Milch's evidence is true. It was suggested to Milch that his evidence wasn't true, and the truth was that you said it was his own letter. I am asking you to assume that Milch is telling the truth; this is the letter put before him by the sanitary department. That is why I put it that way. Now, continue your answer.
Goering: I already said quite clearly and plainly that I myself knew nothing about them. I did not say that Meld Marshal Milch had made an untruthful statement. After all he must know whether the letter was submitted to him by the inspectorate or not; as far as I recall his testimony here on the witness stand, he cleared up this matter completely and emphasized that he made no report whatever to me about the details of these experiments. But, Sir David, may I once more direct your attention to this decree. I have meanwhile glanced through the whole of it. It has nothing at all to do with these experiments but, as I said earlier, Part I deals with the medical departments of the three Wehrmacht branches, and Part 2 deals with the relation of the army and civil medical health services from a purely organizational and administrative point of view.
Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: It is not for me to comment. Plenty of people have standards with regard to animals which they do not apply to fellow men. But this is a matter of comment and I do not wish to pursue it. Now, in November 1942-you referred to it in giving your evidence-Dr. Rascher was transferred soon after that from the Air Force to the SS. Before he was transferred, Himmler wrote to Milch on that subject after describing the experiments on the behavior of the human organism at great heights, in prolonged cooling, and similar problems. I quote Himmler's words, which are of vital importance to the Air Force in particular:
Then he says:
Goering: No, and they did not protest publicly. But I am very grateful to you for having brought up this letter which I no longer remembered among the many documents which have been submitted to me. It underlines clearly and unmistakably what I said before and I am happy that by the Christian medical officers who are mentioned here, the inspectorate of my Luftwaffe is apparently meant, because only the inspectorate could raise protests. And that is also the reason why this Rascher had apparently to leave the Air Force as his co-operation with the inspectorate no longer satisfied Herr Himmler; and therefore he transferred him to the SS. That emphasizes exactly what I said.
Goering: Until the end, Himmler always adopted a very polite attitude towards me, as befitted him.
Goering: The experiments and knowledge of them have nothing to do with the crocodile attaché-case and the notebook. These were Christmas presents in return for a present which Himmler always gave me for Christmas on behalf of the SS, and I always wanted to respond to this gesture. Secondly, no attempts were made to hide anything from me intentionally, but the various spheres of activity were divided; there were important matters, very important matters, and routine matters that were treated by certain departments. The Medical Inspectorate was one of them. It was impossible to bring everything to my knowledge. Apart from that, I wish to emphasize again that I never heard of a public protest by Christian circles or doctors in Germany against such experiments during the war; such a protest would not, in fact, have been possible.
Caution: As always, these excerpts from trial testimony should not necessarily be mistaken for fact. It should be kept in mind that they are the sometimes-desperate statements of hard-pressed defendants seeking to avoid culpability and shift responsibility from charges that, should they be found guilty, can possibly be punishable by death.
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