Goering: Czechoslovakia

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: On the 15 March 1939 a conversation took place between Hitler and President Hacha. Were you present during that conversation? And what was your part in it?

Goering: That was the beginning of the establishment of the Protectorate in Czechoslovakia. After Munich--that is, after the Munich Agreement and the solution of the Sudeten German problem--a military decision had been reached by the Fuehrer and some of his collaborators to the effect that, if there should be new difficulties after the Munich agreement, or arising from the occupation of the zones, certain measures of precaution would have to be taken by the military authorities, for, after the occupation of the zones, the troops which had been in readiness for "Case Green" [Schmundt File] had been demobilized. But a development might easily take place which at any moment could become extremely dangerous for Germany. One needs only to remember what an interpretation was given at that time by the Russian press and the Russian radio to the Munich agreement and to the occupation of the Sudetenland. One could hardly use stronger language.

There had been a liaison between Prague and Moscow for a long time. Prague, disappointed by the Munich agreement, could now strengthen its ties with Moscow. Signs of that were seen particularly in the Czech officers' corps and we were informed. And in the event of this proving dangerous to Germany, instructions had been issued to the various military offices to take preventive measures, as was their duty. But that order has nothing to do with any intention of occupying the rest of Czechoslovakia after a short time. I myself went to the Riviera at the end of January for my first long vacation and during that time I dropped all business affairs.

At the beginning of March, much to my surprise, a courier came from the Fuehrer with a letter in which the Fuehrer informed me that developments in Czechoslovakia were such that he could not let things go on as they were with impunity. They were becoming an increasing menace to Germany, and he was determined to solve the question now by eliminating Czechoslovakia as a source of danger right in the center of Germany, and he therefore was thinking of an occupation. During that time I had met many Englishmen in San Remo. I had realized that they had made the best of Munich and even found it satisfactory, but that any other incidents, or demands on Czechoslovakia would cause considerable excitement.

I sent a letter back by courier. Maybe it is among the many tons of documents in the possession of the Prosecution. I could also understand if they do not submit it, for it would be a document of an extenuating character as far as I am concerned. In this letter I communicated these views to the Fuehrer and wrote to him somewhat as follows: That if this were to take place now, it would be a very serious loss of prestige for the British Prime Minister, Chamberlain, and I hardly believed that he would survive it. Then probably Mr. Churchill would come in, and the Fuehrer knew Churchill's attitude toward Germany. Secondly, it would not be understood, since just a short time previously we had settled these things to general satisfaction. Thirdly, I thought I could calm him by telling him the following: I believed that what he wanted to eliminate at the moment in the way of danger, by the occupation of Czechoslovakia, could be achieved in a somewhat lengthier manner, at the same time avoiding anything which might excite Czechoslovakia as well as other countries.

I was convinced that since the Sudetenland had been separated and Austria was a part of Germany an economic penetration of Czechoslovakia would be only a matter of time. That is to say, I hoped by strong economic ties to reach a communications, customs, and currency union, which would serve the economic interests of both countries. If this took place, then a sovereign Czechoslovakia would be politically so closely bound to Germany and German interests that I did not believe that any danger could arise again.

However, if Slovakia expressed her desire for independence very definitely we should not have to counteract that in any way. On the contrary, we could support it, as then economic co-operation would naturally become even much closer than otherwise; for, if Slovakia were to secede, both countries would have to look to Germany in economic matters, and in such matters both countries could be made interested in Germany and could be most closely bound to Germany. This letter--I have just given the gist of it--the courier took back. Then I heard nothing for some days... [A recess is taken.]

Dr Stahmer: Will you continue, please?

Goering: I was then called to Berlin on very short notice. I arrived in Berlin in the morning and President Hacha arrived in the evening of the same day. I presented orally to the Fuehrer the views that I had already expressed in my letter. The Fuehrer pointed out to me certain evidence in his possession to the effect that the situation in Czechoslovakia had developed more seriously. This state had, for one thing, disintegrated because of the detachment of Slovakia, but that was not the decisive question. He showed me documents from the Intelligence Service which indicated that Russian aviation commissions were present at the airfields of Czechoslovakia, or certain of them, undertaking training, and that such things were not in keeping with the Munich agreement. He said that he feared that Czechoslovakia, especially if Slovakia were detached, would be used as a Russian air base against Germany. He said he was determined to eliminate this danger. President Hacha had requested an interview, so he told me at the time, and would arrive in the evening; and he wished that I too should be present at the Reich Chancellery.

President Hacha arrived and talked first with the Reich Foreign Minister. At night he came to see the Fuehrer; we greeted him coldly. First he conversed with the Fuehrer alone; then we were called in. Then I talked to him in the presence of his ambassador and urged him to meet as quickly as possible the Fuehrer's demand that troops be kept back when the Germans marched in, in order that there might be no bloodshed. I told him that nothing could be done about it; the Fuehrer had made his decision and considered it necessary, and there would be only unnecessary bloodshed as resistance for any length of time was quite impossible. And in that connection I made the statement that I should be sorry if I had to bomb beautiful Prague. The intention of bombing Prague did not exist, nor had any order been given to that effect, for even in the case of resistance that would not have been necessary -- resistance could always be broken more easily without such bombing. But a point like that might, I thought, serve as an argument and accelerate the whole matter. I succeeded then in getting a telephone connection between him and his Government in Prague, he gave the order, and the occupation and the march into Prague took place the next day.

Dr Stahmer: Did you accompany the Fuehrer to Prague?

Goering: No, I did not accompany him to Prague. I was rather annoyed. I did not enter Czechoslovakia or Sudeten Germany at any time after that incident, with the exception of 21 April 1945 when I passed through a part of Czechoslovakia.

Dr Stahmer: Why were you annoyed?

Goering: Because the whole matter had been carried out more or less over my head.

Dr Stahmer: Did other powers take a part in the occupation of Czechoslovakia?

Goering: Yes. Poland took the Olsa territory at that time.

Dr Stahmer: The Prosecution have presented a document from which the conclusion is drawn that the murder of the German Ambassador was to take place in connection with anti-German demonstrations in Prague. It has been interpreted as if this assassination of the German Ambassador were to be carried out in order to provide a motive for the annexation.

Goering: That comes before the solution of the Sudeten German problem, and I listened very carefully when that point came up. I also remember what the facts really were. It was not discussed in that way and should not be interpreted, that we wanted to murder our own Ambassadors, or had even considered this possibility, in order to find a motive for settling this problem. But we considered the possibilities which might lead to an immediate clash. In view of the tension which existed between Czechoslovakia and Germany in regard to Sudeten Germany, the possibility was also considered that the German Ambassador in Prague might actually be assassinated by the Czechs, and that this would necessitate immediate action on Germany's part under all circumstances, quite apart from any other political actions. This possibility arose from the fact that outside the German Embassy in Prague there had been a number of demonstrations, which cannot be denied, for which reason Germany had sent arms to the Embassy for its defense, so threatening was the situation. For these reasons we talked of that possibility. That has been wrongly understood here. We did not want to have the Ambassador assassinated as a provocation, or a possible provocation, but we saw the possibility of such an assassination being committed by the other side; and then the Fuehrer would have acted immediately.

Dr Stahmer: To what extent were confiscationís carried out in Czechoslovakia?

Goering: Before the war no confiscation took place in Czechoslovakia, that is, no economic goods were taken away. On the contrary, Czechoslovakia's large and vigorous economic capacity was aligned in its full extent with the economic capacity of Germany. That is to say, we attached importance above all to the fact that, now that we had declared the Protectorate and thus concluded an action, the Skoda Works and the Brunn Armament Works, that is important armament works, would naturally be included in the armament potential of Germany. That means that orders were sent there for the time being to a considerable extent. Over and above that we even created new industries there and gave our support in respect to this.

The accusation had been raised that among other things we dismantled new rails there and replaced them with old rails from Germany. I believe that to be a complete error, for the transportation system in Czechoslovakia, the Protectorate, was one of the most important for Germany. The entire southeastern transportation from the Balkans went through the Protectorate, first, in the direction of Vienna, Prague, Dresden, and Berlin; and secondly, the main line of Vienna-Lundenburg-Oderberg-Breslau. And, since the canal had not been completed, the entire transportation of all economic goods no longer made a detour around the border, but took the shortest way. We would have been mad if we had weakened this transportation system. I can think of only one explanation, and that is that during the extension of the existing transportation system perhaps, many rails from German stock were also used which later appeared in the government report as "old." But that we dismantled new for old is absolute nonsense.

Furthermore, it is obvious that as Sudetenland was included in the Reich, the accusation that state property and forests were taken over into German State possession has no bearing; for naturally if a country is taken over, then its state property must also become the property of the new state. Likewise the accusation, as far as Sudetenland is concerned, that the banks there were affiliated with German banks is obviously not justified, as German currency was introduced for the country, and therefore the branch banks also had to be converted to that.

As far as the later Protectorate is concerned, I have already emphasized that even before the creation of that Protectorate a strong economic penetration of Czechoslovakia had been prepared by me, on the one hand by our acquiring shares from other owners which gave us a voice in Czech and Slovak enterprises, and further I believe, by our replacing certain loans originally made by Western powers. In this connection the Hermann Goering Werke came to the fore, as they had acquired large number of shares in the Skoda Works, in order to use the latter as a finishing industry for the products of their own rolling mills and steel works, just as they used other industries in Germany. Moreover, after the creation of the Protectorate, the total economic capacity of the Protectorate was of course amalgamated with Germany's total economic capacity.
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