Goering: The Luftwaffe

1946 Nuremberg Tribunal: On day 81 of the trial, Hermann Goering testifies on his own behalf, answering a series of leading questions posed by his defense counsel:

Dr Stahmer: Another matter. What were the reasons for the refusal to take part in the Disarmament Conference and for the withdrawal from the League of Nations?

Goering: The chief reasons for that were, first of all, that the other states who, after the complete disarming of Germany, were also bound to disarm, did not do so. The second point was that we also found a lack of willingness to meet in any way Germany's justified proposals for revisions; thirdly, there were repeated violations of the Treaty of Versailles and of the Covenant of the League of Nations by other states, Poland, Lithuania, et cetera, which were at first censured by the League of Nations, but which were then not brought to an end, but were rather accepted as accomplished facts; fourthly, all complaints by Germany regarding questions of minorities were, indeed, discussed, and well-meaning advice was given to the states against which the complaints had been brought, but nothing was actually done to relieve the situation. Those are the reasons for leaving the League of Nations and the Disarmament Conference.

Dr Stahmer: Why did Hitler decide to rearm and reintroduce compulsory service?

Goering: When Germany left the League of Nations and the Disarmament Conference, she simultaneously announced to the leading powers concerned her definite decision to aim at universal disarmament. The Fuehrer then made various proposals which, it can be assumed, are historically known: restriction of active armed forces to a certain number of men; restriction of weapons to be used; abolishing of certain weapons as, for example, bombers; and various other points. Each one of these proposals was rejected, however, and did not reach a general realization, nor were even discussed.

When we and the Fuehrer recognized clearly that the other parties did not think of disarming and that, on the contrary, that mighty power to the east of us in particular, Russia, was carrying out an armament program as never before, it became necessary for us, in order to safeguard the most vital interests of the German people, their life and their security, to free ourselves from all ties and to rearm to such an extent as was now necessary for the interests and security of the Reich. That was the first reason for the necessity of reintroducing compulsory service.

Dr Stahmer: To what extent did the Luftwaffe participate in this rearmament?

Goering: In 1933, when I founded the Air Ministry, we had not yet gone into the question of rearmament. In spite of that I did arrange for certain basic conditions. I immediately extended manufacture and increased air traffic beyond the extent of necessary traffic, so as to be able to train a larger number of pilots. At that time I took over a number of young people, lieutenants, cadets, who then had to leave the Wehrmacht in order to take up commercial flying and there to learn to fly.

I was aware from the beginning that protection in the air was necessary as one of the most essential conditions for the security of my nation. Originally it was my belief that a defensive air force, that is, a fighter force, might suffice; but upon reflection I realized--and I want to underline what witness Field Marshal Kesselring said on that subject--that one would be lost with merely a fighter force for defense purposes and that even a defensive force must contain bombers in order that it can be used offensively against the enemy air force on enemy territory. Therefore I had bomber aircraft developed from commercial airplanes.

In the beginning rearmament proceeded slowly. Everything had to be created anew since nothing existed in the way of air armament. In 1935 I told the Fuehrer that I now considered it proper, since we had repeatedly received refusals in answer to our proposals, to declare to the world openly that we were creating an air force, and that I had already established a certain basis for that. This took place in the form of an interview which I had with a British correspondent.

Now I could proceed to rearm on a larger scale; but in spite of that we confined ourselves at first to what we called a "Risk Air Force," that is a risk insofar as an enemy coming to attack Germany should know that he could expect to meet with an air force. But it was by no means strong enough to be of any real importance. In 1936 followed the famous report, which was presented to the witness Bodenschatz, in which I said that we must from this moment on work on the basis of mobilization, that money mattered nothing, and that, in short, I should take the responsibility for overdrawing the budget.

Since nothing had existed before, I should be able to catch up quickly only if aircraft production on one hand were made to work with as many shifts and as much speed as possible, that is with maximum effort and on a mobilization basis, and if, on the other hand, extension of the ground forces and similar matters was carried out at once with the greatest possible speed. The situation in 1936 is defined by me, in that report to my co-workers, as serious. Other states had, to be sure, not disarmed, but here and there they had perhaps neglected their air force and they were catching up on lost ground. Violent debates were taking place in England with regard to modernizing and building up the air force; feverish activities were taking place in Russia, concerning which we had reliable reports--I shall refer to the question of Russian rearmament later."

1946 Nuremberg Tribunal: On day 82 of the trial, Hermann Goering testifies on his own behalf, answering a series of leading questions posed by his defense counsel:

Dr Stahmer: Several days ago reference was made to a speech which you are said to have made to Air Force officers, in which you said that you proposed to have such an air force that, once the hour had struck, it would fall like an avenging host on the enemy. The opponent must have the feeling of having lost before he ever started fighting with you. I shall have this speech submitted to you and I would like you to tell us whether this speech was known to you and what its purpose was?

Goering: This quotation has been used by the Prosecution twice; once in the beginning and the second time, the other day, in the cross-examination of Field Marshal Milch. This concerns a speech that appeared in a book by me called Speeches and Compositions, which has already been submitted to the Tribunal as evidence. The speech is called "Comradeship, Fulfillment of Duty, and Willingness to Sacrifice," an address to 1,000 flight lieutenants on the day they took their oath in Berlin on 20 May 1936.

Here I was explaining at length to thousands of young flyers, the day they became commissioned officers, the concepts of comradeship, fulfillment of duty, and willingness to sacrifice. This quotation had been completely removed from its context. I therefore take the liberty of asking the Tribunal's permission, to read a short preceding paragraph, so that it will be seen in the right context, and I also request to be allowed to portray the atmosphere. Before me stand 1,000 young flight lieutenants full of hope, whom I now had to imbue with the appropriate fighting spirit. That has nothing to do with an offensive war, but the important thing was that my boys, should it come to war, this way or that, should be brave fellows and men with a will to act. The short quotation before this one is as follows:

I demand of you nothing impossible. I do not demand that you should be model boys. I like to be generous. I understand that youth must have its follies, otherwise it would not be youth. You may have your pranks, and you will get your ears boxed for it. But that is not the decisive factor. The decisive factor is rather that you should be honorable, decent fellows, that you should be men. You can have your fun as much as you wish, but once you get into the plane you must be men, determined to smash all resistance. That is what I demand of you, brave, daring fellows.

Then comes the paragraph, which has just been read. "I have visions" ... "of possessing a weapon" ... "which shall come like an avenging host against the foe." That has nothing to do with vengeance, for "an avenging host" is a terminus technicus, a usual term, in Germany. I might just as well have said that the opponent would use another word to express the same thing. I shall not read any further here, for these words, if I were to read them, would be readily understandable; one has to realize to whom I was speaking.
"Can't we be friends?" The Nuremberg Tribunal Biographies
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