Goering: Poland

1946 Nuremberg Tribunal: On day 81, 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.

Dr. Stahmer: During the period from 1935 to 1938 you made many state visits to Poland. What was the purpose of these visits?

Goering: After German-Polish relations had been clarified in 1934, the Fuehrer wished a strengthening of that pact and the creation of a better atmosphere. He requested me to take over this task because he believed that I would find it easy to talk to these Polish gentlemen, which was indeed the case.

The President of the Polish State had invited me. That was in 1935, and from then on--in 1935, 1936 and 1937--I spent about 1 or 2 weeks in Poland each year. I had a long discussion with the then Marshal [Jozef] Pilsudski (above), and afterwards always with the Foreign Minister, and Marshal [Edward] Rydz-Smygly. At that time the Fuehrer had given me the serious task--not a task of deception--while improving relations, to tell Poland that he was interested in a strong Poland, because a strong Poland would be an excellent barrier between Germany and Russia. The Fuehrer had laid stress on the solution of the Danzig question and the Corridor question in speaking to me at that time, and had said that the opportunity for this would come, but that, until then, there might be some sort of opportunity to come to an agreement with Poland about that problem. The Lithuanian problem played a part in this.

But the decisive factor is that he did not say, "Lull Poland to sleep. I am going to attack Poland afterwards." It was never the case, that from the very beginning, as has often been represented here, we got together and, conspiring, laid down every point of our plans for decades to come. Rather, everything arose out of the play of political forces and interests, as has always been everywhere the case, the whole world over, in matters of state policy. I had this task, and I consciously considered it a serious task and carried it out with an honest belief in it. Consequently, when the clash with Poland came about it was not a very pleasant situation for me.

Dr. Stahmer: What was your attitude toward the Memel, Danzig, and Polish Corridor question?

Goering: My attitude was always unequivocal. It was that Danzig and the Free State, as purely German territory, should at some date in the near future return to Germany. On the other hand, we certainly recognized that Poland should have access to the sea, and also a port. Consequently, our first thought was that the Free State and Danzig should be returned to us and that through the Polish Corridor there should be a German traffic lane. That was a very small and most modest demand that for a long time was considered absolutely necessary and seemed to us quite possible.

Dr. Stahmer: Another conference with the Fuehrer took place on 23 November 1939. The record of that conference is Document Number 789-PS, which was submitted to the Tribunal. I ask you to look at this document and then to tell me briefly what your attitude is toward the subject of this conference.

Goering: About that I can be comparatively brief. This is an address before the commanders-in-chief and commanders of the formations and armies that were to be made ready for the attack in the West after Poland's defeat. This is quite understandable to me and indeed requires no explanation if the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, who is actually leading these forces, decides to undertake a strategic and extensive tactical operation, as in this case, after the end of the Polish Campaign.

The Fuehrer wanted under all circumstances, and was perfectly correct, to transfer the troops in the late autumn and carry out the blow against France, so that in the autumn and winter of 1939 the end of that operation could be achieved. What prevented him was the weather, since without using the Air Force he could not carry out this operation, particularly the penetration of the Maginot Line at Sedan. He needed good flying weather for at least 4 or 5 days at the beginning of the attack. Merely because we could not assure him of such weather conditions for weeks and weeks, the matter dragged on into the winter and was eventually postponed, after Christmas and New Year, until the beginning of the spring.

But this was at a time when he still believed that he could carry it through. Therefore he called the commanders-in-chief together and informed them about the orders for attack. It was one of the speeches customarily made in such cases. Naturally, since the Fuehrer was not only a military man but above all a politician, it always happened that these military speeches, which a soldier would have confined exclusively to the military-strategic field, were always to a large extent filled with references to his political views and his political tendencies or intentions. It must never be forgotten that he gave such speeches not only as the Commander-in-Chief or the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, but also as the head of the German State; and that is why so frequently there was such a strong political tendency even to the military speeches.

But no general was asked on such occasions what his opinions were or whether he approved of the principal tendencies of the policy or not. At such speeches he was not even asked whether he approved of the military plan or not; that happened at another time. If a matter was concluded and purely strategic-tactical matters had been discussed with the single commanders, then came a summary, also definitely political, in which the last final concluding thoughts of the Fuehrer were presented to the generals.

And if--this I emphasize since it has often played a role here--if a general had been able to say, "My Fuehrer, I consider your statements wrong and not in keeping with the agreements we have made," or "This is not a policy of which we can approve," it would have defied understanding. Not because that particular general would have been shot; but I would have doubted the sanity of that man, because how does one imagine that a state can be led if, during a war, or before a war, which the political leaders have decided upon, whether wrongly or rightly, the individual general could vote whether he was going to fight or not, whether his army corps was going to stay at home or not, or could say, "I must first ask my division." Perhaps one of them would go along, and the other stay at home! That privilege in this case would have to be afforded the ordinary soldier too. Perhaps this would be the way to avoid wars in the future, if one were to ask every soldier whether he wanted to go home! Possibly, but not in a Fuehrer State.

This I should like to emphasize, that in every state of the world the military formula is clearly defined. "When there is a war, or when the state leadership decides upon war, the military leaders receive their military tasks. With respect to these they can voice an opinion, can make proposals as to whether they want to press the attack on the left or the right or in the center. But whether they thereby march through a neutral state or not, is not the business of military leadership. That is entirely the responsibility of the political leadership of the state.

Therefore there could be no possibility that a general discussion as to right or wrong would ensue; rather the generals had already received their orders. The Supreme Commander had decided and therefore there was nothing left for a soldier to discuss; and that applies to a field marshal as well as to the ordinary soldier.

Dr. Stahmer: A Fuehrer Decree of 7 October 1939 bears your signature. In this decree Himmler is given the task of Germanizing. This decree is presented as Document Number 686-PS. Please look at this and say what the significance of this decree is?

Goering: This decree of 7 October 1939 was issued after the Polish campaign had ended. Poland at that time had been conquered and the Polish State as such had ceased to exist. I draw your attention to the note of the then People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs in Russia, Molotov, who states his opinion about this, according to which that injustice which Germany had felt, when in the Treaty of Versailles German provinces were detached and given over to Poland, had been compensated by the victory of arms. It was therefore a matter of course for us that that part of Poland, which until 1918 had been German, should again be given back, that is, returned to Germany.

But in that territory, in the course of years, more than one million Germans who had formerly lived there, who had had property there, particularly farms, estates, et cetera, had been thrown out, expelled and dispossessed. That is quite clear from numerous complaints which during the years after 1919 had been made to the League of Nations about this matter; and a study of all these complaints and of all the events which had been reported there, which must still be in the archives at Geneva, will prove to what an enormous extent the Polonization of these German territories was carried out. This decree aimed to put an end to that and to make these territories German once more, that is, that those farms and estates from which Germans had been driven, should once more come into the hands of Germans.

The fact that this task was given to Himmler did not meet with my full agreement; but at the moment that was not of decisive importance. He was given this task, not in his capacity as Chief of the Police, but because, as is known, he was always particularly and keenly interested in the question of the new development of the German people, and therefore this office of "Folkdom" or whatever it was called--just a moment, it does not make any difference--anyhow Himmler was given this task. The Fuehrer issued the law.

I naturally was also a signatory, since I was the Chairman of the Ministerial Council at the time, and then it was also signed by the Chief of the Chancellery, Lammers. These signatures are a matter of course. I take a very positive attitude to this; it was quite in accordance with my views, that where the Germans had been driven out from what were German territories, they should return. But I want to draw your attention to the fact that this, to be exact, is a question of former German provinces.

Dr. Stahmer: You mean the occupied western Polish provinces?

Goering: Yes. The Government, for instance, was not appointed for purposes of Germanization. If Germans later were settled there--and I am not certain of that--that was not done on the basis of this decree. You asked about my attitude to the Memel question, I believe. Danzig and the Polish Corridor, I have emphasized. Memel was a comparatively small matter. In Memel, according to the Treaty of Versailles or the League of Nations, there was to be a plebiscite. Shortly before, the Lithuanians occupied Memel and the Memel territory. In order to prevent the plebiscite Lithuania incorporated Memel and thereby produced a fait accompli.

Complaints of the German Government at that time naturally were as futile as all previous complaints to the League of Nations. What the Lithuanians had done was regretted, it was considered false and urong, but there could be no talk about returning it, or going through with the prescribed plebiscite. After the Lithuanians, in violation of all agreements, had occupied Memel, it was naturally our absolute national right to rectify this encroachment and now to occupy Memel ourselves.

Dr. Stahmer: On 19 October 1939 you published a decree which ordered the removal of economic goods from Poland. This decree has been submitted in Document Number EC-410. I should like to have your opinion on this decree.

Goering: This is a decree which represents general instructions as to what economic procedure should be adopted in the whole of the Polish territory occupied by us. It regulates the seizure and administration of property of the Polish State within the territories occupied by German troops, money and credit matters, the taking of economic measures, the preparation for a settlement with foreign creditors which would become necessary, et cetera. Confiscation was to be carried out only by the Main Trustee Office East, et cetera. It is not so much a question of the removal of economic goods. That was not the case. On the contrary, even in the Government General, the economy in existence there, that economy of course which could be used for purposes of war at that time, was strengthened and extended. Such economy as was not absolutely essential was cut down, just as in the rest of Germany and in all other states in the event of war.

As far as those raw materials are concerned which were available and were important for the conduct of the war, such as steel or copper or tin, it was my view, or better said my intention, that these raw materials should be converted into manufactured products there where they could most quickly be used for manufacture. If the locality and its transportation facilities permitted it, they should remain and be used for manufacture there. If it was not possible to use them for manufacture on the spot, I would of course not let raw materials of importance for the war lie there, but would have them brought to wherever they could most quickly be used to serve the needs of the war. That is in general, what this decree says. That was my basic attitude and my basic instruction. The object was the quickest and most purposeful use for manufacture wherever it was possible.

Dr. Stahmer: On 19 November 1945 a Dr. Kajetan Muhlmann made an affidavit, which has been presented by the Prosecution under Document Number 3042-PS. In this it says the following in three short sentences:

I was the Special Deputy of the Governor General of Poland, Hans Frank, for the safeguarding of art treasures in the Government General from October 1939 to September 1943. Goering gave this task to me in his capacity as the Chairman of the Committee for Reich Defense. I confirm that it was the official policy of the Governor General, Hans Frank, to take in custody all-important works of art which belonged to Polish public institutions, private collections and the church. I confirm that the mentioned works of art were actually confiscated and I am aware that, in the event of a German victory, they would not have remained in Poland but would have been used to complete German art collections."

Goering: Actually I had nothing directly to do with the safeguarding of art treasures in Poland, absolutely nothing, in my capacity as Chairman of the Ministerial Council for the Reich Defense. However, Muhlmann, whom I knew, did come to see me and told me that he was to take steps for the safeguarding of art treasures there. It was my view too that these art treasures should be safeguarded during the war, regardless of what was to be done with them later, so that no destruction would be possible through fire, bombing, et cetera. I want to emphasize now--I shall refer to this matter again later in connection with France--that nothing was taken from these art treasures for my so-called collection. I mention that just incidentally.

That these art treasures were actually safeguarded is correct, and was also intended, partly for the reason that the owners were not there. Wherever the owners were present, however--I remember Count Potocki of Lincut, for instance--the art collections were left where they were. The Fuehrer had not yet finally decided what was to be done with these art treasures. He had given an order--and I communicated that by letter to Muhlmann and also, as far as I remember, to Frank--that these art treasures were for the time being to be brought to Koenigsberg. Four pictures were to be taken to the safety "bunker" or the safety room of the German Museum in Berlin or to the Kaiser Friederich Museum in Berlin.

The Durer drawings in Lemberg also figured here. In this connection I want to mention them now, since the Prosecution has already concerned itself with them. The Durer drawings in Lemberg were not confiscated by us at that time, because Lemberg had become Russian. Not until the march against Russia were these Lemberg drawings--as far as I can remember from Muhlmann's story--rescued from the burning city in the battle by a Polish professor, who had hidden from the Russians until that time, and he gave them over to him. They were drawings and he came with them to visit me. Although I am usually very interested in such things I unfortunately did not have time to look at them properly, as I was on my way to the Fuehrer at the moment. I took them along with me and, as Muhlmann has confirmed, delivered them there immediately. Where they went after that I do not know. I believe I have now answered the question about the Polish art treasures.

Apart from that there is still the Veit Stoss altar, which was originally made here in Nuremberg, a purely German work. The Fuehrer wished that this altar should come to the Germanisches Museum here in Nuremberg--with that I personally had nothing to do. I merely know about it. What was intended to be done with it finally had not yet been stated. But it is certain that it also would have been mentioned in negotiations for peace.
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