Goering: The Anschluss with Austria

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

Dr Stahmer: Before that, the Anschluss of Austria with Germany had taken place. What reasons did Hitler have for that decision, and to what extent did you play a part in those measures?

Goering: I told the Tribunal yesterday, when I gave a brief outline of my life, that I personally felt a great affinity for Austria; that I had spent the greater part of my youth in an Austrian castle; that my father, even at the time of the old empire, often spoke of a close bond between the future of the German motherland of Austria and the Reich, for he was convinced that the Austrian Empire would not hold together much longer. In 1918 while in Austria for 2 days, having come by plane, I saw the revolution and the collapse of the Hapsburg Empire take place. Those countries, with a predominantly German population, including Sudeten Germany, convened at that time in Vienna in the Parliament. They declared themselves free of the dissolved Hapsburg State and declared, including the representatives of Sudeten Germany, Austria to be a part of the German Reich. This happened, as far as I know, under the Social Democratic Chancellor, Renner.

This statement by the representatives of the Austrian-German people that they wanted to be a part of Germany in the future was changed by the peace treaty of St. Germain and prohibited by the dictate of the victorious nations. Neither for myself nor for any other German was that of importance. The moment and the basic conditions had of course to be created for a union of the two brother nations of purely German blood and origin to take place. When we came to power, as I have said before, this was naturally an integral part of German policy. The assurances that Hitler gave at that time regarding the sovereignty of Austria were no deception; they were meant seriously.

At first he probably did not see any possibility. I myself was much more radical in this direction and I asked him repeatedly not to make any definite commitments regarding the Austrian question. He believed, however, that he had first of all to take Italy into consideration. It was evident, especially after the National Socialist Party in Germany had come to power, that the National Socialist Party in Austria was also growing more and more. This party, however, had existed in Austria even before the seizure of power in Germany, just as the origin of the National Socialist Workers Party goes back to Sudeten Germany. The Party in Austria was therefore not a Fifth Column for the Anschluss, because the Austrian people themselves originally wanted and always wanted the Anschluss. If the idea of the Anschluss did not figure so clearly and strongly in the Austrian Government of that time, it was not because it did not want to be joined to Germany, but because the National Socialist form of government was not compatible in any way with the form of government in Austria at that time.

Thus there resulted that tension, first in Austria itself, which has repeatedly been mentioned by the Prosecution in its charges. This tension was bound to come because the National Socialists took the idea of the Anschluss with Germany more seriously than the Government did. This resulted in political strife between the two. That we were on the side of the National Socialists as far as our sympathies were concerned is obvious, particularly as the Party in Austria was severely persecuted. Many were put into camps, which were just like concentration camps but had different names.

At a certain time the leader of the Austrian Party was a man by the name of Habicht from Wiesbaden. I did not know him before; I saw him only once there. He falsely led the Fuehrer to believe, before the so-called Dollfuss case, that the Austrian armed forces were prepared to undertake something independently in order to force the government to accept the Anschluss, or else they would overthrow it. If this were the case, that the Party in Austria was to support whatever the armed forces undertook along those lines, then, so the Fuehrer thought, it should have the political support of the Party in Germany in this matter. But the whole thing was actually a deception, as it was not the Austrian Army which intended to proceed against the Austrian Government but rather a so-called "Wehrmacht Standarte," a unit which consisted of former members, and released or discharged members, of the Austrian Army who had gone over to the Party or joined it. With this deceptive maneuver Habicht then undertook this action in Vienna. I was in Bayreuth with the Fuehrer at the time. The Fuehrer called Habicht at once and reproached him most severely and said that he had falsely informed him, tricked him and deceived him.

He regretted the death of Dollfuss very much because politically that meant a very serious situation as far as the National Socialists were concerned, and particularly with regard to Italy. Italy mobilized five divisions at that time and sent them to the Brenner Pass. The Fuehrer desired an appeasement which would be quick and as sweeping in its effect as possible. That was the reason why he asked Herr von Papen to go as an extraordinary ambassador to Vienna and to work for an easing of the atmosphere as quickly as possible. One must not forget the somewhat absurd situation which had developed in the course of years, namely, that a purely German country such as Austria was not most strongly influenced in governmental matters by the German Reich but by the Italian Government. I remember that statement of Mr. Churchill's, that Austria was practically an affiliate of Italy.

After the action against Dollfuss, Italy assumed a very standoffish attitude toward Germany and made it clear that Italy would be the country which would do everything to prevent the Anschluss. Therefore, besides the internal clearing up of Germany's relations with Austria by Herr Franz von Papen, the Fuehrer also tried to bring about a change in Mussolini's attitude to this question. For this reason he went to Venice shortly afterwards--maybe it was before--at any rate he tried to bring about a different attitude. But I was of the opinion that in spite of everything we may have had in common, let us say in a philosophic sense--fascism and National Socialism--the Anschluss of our brother people was much more important to me than this coming to an agreement. And if it were not possible to do it with Mussolini, we should have to do it against him.

Then came the Italian-Abyssinian war. With regard to the sanctions against Italy, Germany was given to understand, not openly but quite clearly, that it would be to her advantage, as far as the Austrian question was concerned, to take part in these sanctions. That was a difficult decision for the Fuehrer to make, to declare himself out and out against Italy and to achieve the Anschluss by these means or to bind himself by obligation to Italy by means of a pro-Italian or correct attitude and thus to exclude Italy's opposition to the Anschluss.

I suggested to him at that time, in view of the somewhat vague offer regarding Austria made by English-French circles, to try and find out who was behind this offer and whether both governments were willing to come to an agreement in regard to this point and to give assurances to the effect that this would be considered an internal German affair, and not some vague assurances of general co-operation, et cetera. My suspicions proved right; we could not get any definite assurances. Under those circumstances, it was more expedient for us to prevent Italy being the main opponent to the Anschluss by not joining in any sanctions against her.

I was still of the opinion that the great national interest of the union of these German peoples stood above all considerations regarding the differences between the two present governments. For this to happen it could not be expected that the government of the great German Reich should resign and that Germany should perhaps be annexed to Austria; rather the Anschluss would have to be carried through sooner or later.

Then came the Berchtesgaden agreement. I was not present at this. I did not even consent to this agreement, because I opposed any definite statement that lengthened this period of indecision; for me the complete union of all Germans was the only conceivable solution.

Shortly after Berchtesgaden there was the plebiscite which the then Chancellor Schuschnigg had called. This plebiscite was of itself an impossibility, a breach of the Berchtesgaden agreement. This I shall pass over, but the way in which this plebiscite was supposed to take place was unique in history. One could vote only by "yes," every person could vote as often as he wanted, five times, six times, seven times. If he tore up the slip of paper, that was counted as "yes," and so on. It has no further interest. In this way it could be seen from the very beginning that if only a few followers of the Schuschnigg system utilized these opportunities sufficiently the result could be only a positive majority for Herr Schuschnigg. That whole thing was a farce.

We opposed that. First of all a member of the Austrian Government who was at that moment in Germany, General von Glaise-Horstenau, was flown to Vienna in order to make clear to Schuschnigg or Seyss-Inquart--who, since Berchtesgaden, was in Schuschnigg's Cabinet--that Germany would never tolerate this provocation. At the same time troops which were stationed near the Austrian border were on the alert. That was on Friday, I believe, the 11th.

On that day I was in the Reich Chancellery, alone with the Fuehrer in his room. I heard by telephone the news that Glaise-Horstenau had arrived and made our demands known clearly and unmistakably, and that these things were now being discussed. Then, as far as I remember, the answer came that the plebiscite had been called off and that Schuschnigg had agreed to it. At this moment I had the instinctive feeling that the situation was now mobile and that now, finally, that possibility which we had long and ardently awaited was there--the possibility of bringing about a complete solution. And from this moment on I must take 100 percent responsibility for all further happenings, because it was not the Fuehrer so much as I myself who set the pace and, even overruling the Fuehrer's misgivings, brought everything to its final development. My telephone conversations have been read here. I demanded spontaneously, without actually having first spoken to the Fuehrer about it, the immediate retirement of Chancellor Schuschnigg. When this was granted, I put my next demand, that now everything was ripe for the Anschluss. And that took place, as is known.

The only thing--and I do not say this because it is important as far as my responsibility is concerned--which I did not bring about personally, since I did not know the persons involved, but which has been brought forward by the Prosecution in the last few days, was the following: I sent through a list of ministers, that is to say, I named those persons who would be considered by us desirable as members of an Austrian Government for the time being. I knew Seyss-Inquart, and it was clear to me from the very beginning that he should get the Chancellorship. Then I named Ernst Kaltenbrunner for Security. I did not know Kaltenbrunner, and that is one of the two instances where the Fuehrer took a hand by giving me a few names.

Also, by the way, I gave the name of Fischbock for the Ministry of Economy without knowing him. The only one whom I personally brought into this Cabinet was my brother-in-law, Dr. Hueber, as Minister of Justice, but not because he was my brother-in-law, for he had already been Austrian Minister of Justice in the Cabinet of Prelate Seipel. He was not a member of the Party at that time, but he came from the ranks of the Heimwehr and it was important for me to have in the Cabinet also a representative of that group, with whom we had at first made common cause, but then opposed. I wanted to be sure of my influence on this person, so that everything would now actually develop towards a total Anschluss.

For already plans had again appeared in which the Fuehrer only, as the head of the German Reich, should be simultaneously the head of German Austria; there would otherwise be a separation. That I considered intolerable. The hour had come and we should make the best use of it. In the conversation which I had with Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop, who was in London at that time, I pointed out that the ultimatum had not been presented by us but by Seyss-Inquart. That was absolutely true de jure; de facto, of course it was my wish. But this telephone conversation was being listened to by the English, and I had to conduct a diplomatic conversation, and I have never heard yet that diplomats in such cases say how matters are de facto; rather they always stress how they are de jure. And why should I make a possible exception here?

In this telephone conversation I demanded of Herr von Ribbentrop that he ask the British Government to name British persons in whom they had the fullest confidence. I would make all arrangements so that these persons could travel around Austria everywhere in order to see for themselves that the Austrian people in an overwhelming majority wanted this Anschluss and greeted it with enthusiasm. Here, during the discussion of the Austrian question no mention was made of the fact that already--this conversation took place on a Friday--the Sunday before in Styria, one of the most important parts of the hereditary countries, an internal partial Anschluss had practically taken place, and that the population there had already declared itself in favor of the Anschluss and had more or less severed its ties with the Viennese Government.

Dr Stahmer: I have had handed to you a record of that conversation. It has been put in by the Prosecution. One part of it has not been read into the record yet, but you have given its contents. Would you please look at it?

Goering: Yes; I attach importance to having only those passages in this document read in which I refer to the fact that I considered it important that the English Government should send to Austria as soon as possible people in whom they had confidence, in order that they might see for themselves the actual state of affairs; and secondly, those passages in which I refer to the fact that we were going to hold a plebiscite according to the Charter of the Saar Plebiscite and that, whatever the result might be, we should acknowledge it. I could promise that all the more, as it was personally known to me and quite clear that an overwhelming majority would vote in favor of the Anschluss.

Now I come to the decisive part concerning the entry of the troops. That was the second point where the Fuehrer interfered and we were not of the same opinion. The Fuehrer wanted the reasons for the march into Austria to be a request by the new Government of Seyss-Inquart, that is the government desired by us--that they should ask for the troops in order to maintain order in the country. I was against this, not against the march into Austria--I was for the march under all circumstances--against only the reasons to be given. Here there was a difference of opinion.

Certainly there might be disturbances at one place, namely Vienna and Wiener-Neustadt, because some of the Austrian Marxists, who once before had started an armed uprising, were actually armed. That, however, was not of such decisive importance. It was rather of the greatest importance that German troops should march into Austria immediately in sufficient numbers to stave off any desire on the part of a neighboring country to inherit even a single Austrian village on this occasion.

I should like to emphasize that at that time Mussolini's attitude to the Austrian question had not yet crystallized, although I had worked on him the year before to that end. The Italians were still looking with longing eyes at eastern Tyrol. The five divisions along the Brenner Pass I had not forgotten. The Hungarians talked too much about the Burgenland. The Yugoslavs once mentioned something about Carinthia, but I believe that I made it clear to them at the time that that was absurd. So to prevent the fulfillment of these hopes once and for all, which might easily happen in such circumstances, I very definitely wanted the German troops to march into Austria proclaiming: "The Anschluss has taken place; Austria is a part of Germany and therefore in its entirety automatically and completely under the protection of the German Reich and its Armed Forces."

The Fuehrer did not want to have such a striking demonstration of foreign policy, and finally asked me to inform Seyss-Inquart to send a telegram to that effect. The fact that we were in agreement about the decisive point, the march into Austria, helps explain the telephone conversation in which I told Seyss-Inquart that he need not send a telegram, that he could do it by telephone; that would be sufficient. That was the reason.

Mussolini's consent did not come until 11:30 at night. It is well known what a relief that was for the Fuehrer. In the evening of the same day, after everything had become clear, and the outcome could be seen in advance, I went to the Flieger Club, where I had been invited several weeks before, to a ball. I mention this because here that too has been described as a deceptive maneuver. But that invitation had been sent out, I believe, even before the Berchtesgaden conference took place. There I met almost all the diplomats. I immediately took Sir Neville Henderson, the British Ambassador, aside. I spoke to him for 2 hours and gave him all the reasons and explained everything, and also asked him to tell me--the same question which I later asked Ribbentrop--what nation in the whole world was damaged in any way by our union with Austria? From whom had we taken anything, and whom had we harmed? I said that this was an absolute restitution, that both parts had belonged together in the German Empire for centuries and that they had been separated only because of political developments, the later monarchy and Austria's secession.

When the Fuehrer flew to Austria the next morning, I took over all the business of the Reich in his absence, as is known. At that time I also prohibited for the time being the return of the so-called Austrian Legion--that was a group of people who had left Austria during the early time of the fighting period--because I did not want to have any disturbances. Secondly, however, I also made sure that north of the Danube, that is between the Czechoslovak border and the Danube, only one battalion should, march through the villages, so that Czechoslovakia would see very clearly that this was merely an Austro-German affair. That battalion had to march through so that the towns north of the Danube could also take part in the jubilation.

In this connection I want to stress two points in concluding: If Mr. Messersmith says in his long affidavit that before the Anschluss I had made various visits to Yugoslavia and Hungary in order to win over both these nations for the Anschluss, and that I had promised to Yugoslavia a part of Carinthia, I can only say in answer to these statements that I do not understand them at all. My visits in Yugoslavia and the other Balkan countries were designed to improve relations, particularly trade relations, which were very important to me with respect to the Four-Year Plan. If at any time Yugoslavia had demanded one single village in Carinthia, I would have said that I would not even answer such a point, because, if any country is. German to the core, it was and is Carinthia.

The second point: Here in the Indictment mention is made of an aggressive war against Austria. Aggressive war is carried out by shooting, throwing bombs, and so on; but there only one thing was thrown--and that was flowers. But maybe the Prosecution meant something else, and there I could agree. I personally have always stated that I would do everything to make sure that the Anschluss should not disturb the peace, but that in the long run, if this should be denied us forever, I personally might resort to war in order to reach this goal; that these Germans return to their fatherland--a war for Austria, not against Austria. I believe, I have given in brief a picture of the Austrian events. And I close with the statement that in this matter not so much the Fuehrer as I, personally, bear the full and entire responsibility for everything that has happened.

Dr Stahmer: On the evening before the march of the troops into Austria you also had a conversation with Dr. Mastny, the Czechoslovak Ambassador. On this occasion you are supposed to, have given a declaration on your word of honor. What about that conversation?

Goering: I am especially grateful that I can at last make a clear statement about this "word of honor," which has been mentioned so often during the last months and which has been so incriminating for me. I mentioned that on that evening almost all the diplomats were present at that ball. After I had spoken to Sir Neville Henderson and returned to the ballroom, the Czechoslovak Ambassador, Dr. Mastny, came to me, very excited and trembling, and asked me what was happening that night and whether we intended to march into Czechoslovakia also. I gave him a short explanation and said, "No, it is only a question of the Anschluss of Austria; it has absolutely nothing to do with your country, especially if you keep out of things altogether." He thanked me and went, apparently, to the telephone.

But after a short time he came back even more excited, and I had the impression that in his excitement he could hardly understand me. I said to him then in the presence of others: "Your Excellency, listen carefully. I give you my personal word of honor that this is a question of the Anschluss of Austria only, and that not a single German soldier will come anywhere near the Czechoslovak border. See to it that there is no mobilization on the part of Czechoslovakia which might lead to difficulties." He then agreed. At no time did I say to him, "I give you my word of honor that we never want to have anything to do with Czechoslovakia for all time."

All he wanted was an explanation for this particular event, for this particular time. I gave him this particular explanation, because I had already clearly stated before that that the solution of the Sudeten German problem would be necessary at some time and in some way. I would never have given him a declaration on my word of honor in regard to a final solution, and it would not have been possible for me, because before that, I had already made a statement to a different effect. An explanation was desired for the moment and in connection with the Austrian events. I could conscientiously assure him on my word of honor that Czechoslovakia would not be touched then, because at that time no decisions had been made by us, as far as a definite time was concerned with respect to Czechoslovakia or the solution of the Sudeten problem.
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