Goering: Neutrals

1946 Nuremberg Tribunal: On day 81, defendant Hermann Goering is cross-examined by counsels for the defense.

Dr. Stahmer: What connection did you have with Quisling?

Goering: I met Quisling for the first time long after the occupation of Norway, for the first and only time. He was in Berlin, visited me, and we had a short, unimportant conversation. Before that, that is before the outbreak of war, one of his men whom I did not know personally sent a letter to me, which has been shown to me here but which I myself cannot remember, as such letters, according to our practice, were hardly ever submitted to me--that is immaterial. In that letter he expressed himself in Quisling's name to the effect that we should give financial support to Quisling's movement, and he described to what extent political money contributions, on the one side from Russia--the Communist Party there and on the other from England, would flow into the political office concerned.

Then I--later on someone discussed with me whether some sort of contribution could be given to Quisling by way of coal deliveries. My point of view was that, because of the foreign exchange situation and other factors--we were not so rich, we naturally could not compete with the Russian or English money contributions--those authorities should be consulted who could judge whether it was expedient to give the Quisling movement financial support or not. If they answered in the affirmative, then it would be perfectly clear to me that Quisling should receive money.

The amount concerned, which I also would have given, was very much higher than the amount which was, I believe, paid later on by the Fuehrer by way of the Foreign Office. I never thought much of such small money contributions; if one was going to give, then one should give properly, so that an end could really be gained thereby. From the last World War I had experience enough in connection with the money which went to the Romanian Parliament, but which was unfortunately too little. On the basis of these experiences it was my advice that if we were to contribute, then we should give the proper amount. Apart from this, as I said, I did not become acquainted with Quisling until much later, and had a very unimportant conversation with him, which I do not remember.

Dr. Stahmer: What was your attitude towards the Norway project?

Goering: The Norwegian project surprised me rather, since strangely enough for a rather long time I was not informed about. it. The Fuehrer went very far in his basic decree, which I already mentioned at the beginning, and did not call in the Air Force until very late. But since the most important part of this undertaking fell to the Air Force, I expressed my views in regard to this in an unmistakable and unfriendly fashion.

From a military point of view I was definitely against this undertaking as such, since as Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force, quite independent of political considerations, I had first of all to think exclusively of strategic considerations. That it would considerably improve my position as far as the Air Force was concerned if my squadrons could operate against England from Norwegian bases was obvious, and would be obvious to any prudent military expert.

From the strategic point of view I, as Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, could take only a very definite stand against this undertaking. My objection was, firstly, that I had been informed too late and, secondly, that the plans did not seem quite correct to me.

Dr. Stahmer: Was Hitler afraid of complications with Sweden because of this occupation?

Goering: Yes, not because of occupation by German forces as such; but when we, that is, the Fuehrer, decided to occupy Norway, we already had considerable and detailed information regarding the intended occupation by the English and French, which was later also confirmed by the papers of the English and French General Staff which we captured. In this connection we also knew that the intention was not merely of occupying Norway, but, above all, of cutting off the Swedish ore deliveries to Germany by way of Narvik, and, over and above that, of intervening on the side of Finland in the Russian-Finnish conflict, which was still taking place at the time.

The Fuehrer feared that Sweden would yield entirely to English pressure, that is, under the pretext of coming to Finland's aid, a march through would be allowed, thereby effecting the complete cutting off of the Swedish iron ore basin and, the ore deliveries to us. I took a very heavy responsibility upon myself at that time by assuring Hitler that I knew Sweden and her people and her King so well that I knew that, whoever might want to exert pressure on Sweden, regardless of which power--whether our power or another--Sweden under all circumstances would defend her neutrality, with arms against any power that tried to violate it, no matter what reasons there might be for this violation. And I said that I personally and consciously would take the responsibility for this, and that we could rest assured in this respect. Therewith the question was settled.

1946 Nuremberg Tribunal: On day 82, 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: What reasons were decisive for the invasion of Holland and Belgium?

Goering: This question had first been investigated from the purely military and strategic point of view. To begin with it had been examined whether the neutrality of the two States would be guaranteed absolutely. I repeat: At first, we had to determine whether the neutrality of Holland and Belgium would, under all circumstances, be assured in case of a conflict and a war in the West. In the beginning it seemed as if it would. Then information came that negotiations had taken place not only between Belgium and France but also between Holland and England. There was an incident at Venlo, where a Dutch officer of the general staff had been caught on German territory, and I believe another one was shot by the frontier post during this occurrence, which made it clear that this neutrality could not be maintained under certain conditions and under increased pressure from the enemy side.

Now if neutrality was not assured under all circumstances, a tremendous danger would exist in battle, in that the right flank was menaced and exposed. The purely military authorities, who were concerned only with the strategic point of view, when being asked for their opinion had to give it from a purely military angle; that is, to point out that by occupying both countries, the purely military and strategic situation would of course be different from what it would be if this were not done, and such an occupation were undertaken by the enemy.

An additional element which gave rise to doubt as to the absolute neutrality of these countries was the fact that nearly all flights from Great Britain into Germany, which took place at that time, went over Dutch or Belgian territory. Reliable information reached us that the Belgian Army, which at the beginning of the war had been reinforced on its southwestern frontier, was being regrouped and drawn up along the German border with all its full fighting force. Further information indicated that an interchange of view between the French and Belgian General Staffs had taken place, and that, under pressure from the French General Staff, Belgium had promised to intensify the work on the fortification line of the Maas against Germany. Other information indicated that the chief of the French General Staff, Gamelin, as well as Admiral Darlan and the chief of the Air Force, Vuillemin, insisted on the occupation of Belgium under all circumstances, for the security of France, and that considerable negotiations were taking place on this subject between the French and the British governments.

The information at the time was highly reliable. How correct and absolutely clear it was became evident later when, after marching into France, we found the secret documents of the French General Staff, and also minutes of conferences which had taken place between the French and British Governments in the so-called Supreme Military Council. It was the opinion of the Fuehrer that the incapability of these countries to maintain their neutrality in the face of increased French and British pressure would in consequence expose to extreme danger the Ruhr area, which was particularly vital to us. How justified this opinion was can also be seen from reports in which the British chief of government suggested, and had also fully explained by the experts in the Military Council, how best the Ruhr Valley could be attacked by low-flying British aircraft, which would approach over Belgium and then, at the last moment, in a short flight from Belgium could attack the Ruhr Valley and destroy the most important industries there. If that was not carried out at first, it was due to the concern of the French Premier, for he, on his part, was worried about French industry and wanted to leave it to the other side to make the first attacks against industrial areas.

England insisted, however, that she would be able to carry out this attack on the Ruhr Valley via Belgium at any time. If one takes into consideration how short the flying distance is from the Belgian border to the most important industries of the Ruhr Valley, only a few minutes, one can then fully realize the danger which would arise if the neutrality of Belgium was not respected by our enemies. On the other hand, if it were respected, an attack by the British Air Force on the Ruhr Valley would have necessitated a relatively long flight over the Helgoldnder Bucht from the north, and at that time it would easily have been possible for us to avoid and to repel such an attack. If, however, they came via Belgium, it would have been almost impossible.

In this hard struggle it was necessary in the first place, to think of our own war interests and our own existence, and not to leave the advantage to the enemy. At the very moment one was sincerely convinced of the reality of the danger threatening our people, and above all our Armed Forces; that danger had to be eliminated, in advance, and we had to secure for ourselves those advantages which the adversary had expected.

1946 Nuremberg Tribunal: On day 87, Hermann Goering's cross-examination by the prosecution continues.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Well now, I want you just to help me on one or two other matters. You remember that in January of 1937, and in October of 1937, the German Government gave the strongest assurances as to the inviolability and neutrality of Belgium and Holland. Do you remember that?

Goering: I do not remember it in detail, but it has been mentioned here in Court.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: And do you remember that on the 25th of August 1938 the Air Staff put in a memorandum on the assumption that France and Great Britain--oh no, that France would declare war during the case of Fall Grun, and that Great Britain would come in? Do you remember that? It is Document Number 375-PS, Exhibit Number USA-84. I want you to have it generally in mind because I am going to put a passage to you.

Goering: May I ask whether the signature is Wolter? W-o-l-t-e-r?

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: I shall let you know. Yes, that is right.

Goering: In that case I remember the document exactly. It has been given to me here.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: That is right. I only want to recall your recollection to one sentence:

Belgium and the Netherlands in German hands represent an extraordinary advantage in the prosecution of the air war against Great Britain as well as against France. Therefore, it is held to be essential to obtain the opinion of the Army as to the conditions under which an occupation of this area could be carried out, and how long it would take.

Do you remember that? It is pretty obvious air strategy, but you remember it?

Goering: That is absolutely correct. That was the principal work of a captain of the General Staff, 5th Department, who, naturally, when making his report, must propound the best arguments.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Then, after that, on the 28th of April 1939, you remember that Hitler said that he had given binding declarations to a number of states, and this applied to Holland and Belgium? I think that was the time when he made a speech in the Reichstag and mentioned a number of small states as well as that; but he said it included Holland and Belgium.

Goering: Yes. It has of course been mentioned repeatedly here.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Yes. Now, do you remember that on the 23rd of May, in the document that I have already put to you, at the meeting at the Reich Chancellery, Hitler said this:

The Dutch and Belgian air bases must be occupied by armed force. Declarations of neutrality must be ignored.

Do you remember his saying that?

Goering: It says so in the document, yes.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: And, on the 22d of August 1939, in the speech to the commanders-in-chief, which is Document Number 798-PS, Exhibit Number USA-29, he said:

Another possibility is the violation of Dutch, Belgian, and Swiss neutrality. I have no doubt that all these states, as well as Scandinavia, will defend their neutrality by all available means. England and France will not violate the neutrality of these countries.

Do you remember his saying that?

Goering: You can see for yourself from those words how often the Fuehrer changed his ideas, so that even the plan he had in May was not at all final.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: They are perfectly consistent in my estimation. He is saying that they must be occupied; that declarations of neutrality must be ignored, and he is emphasizing that by saying that England and France will not violate the neutrality, so it is perfectly easy for Germany to do it.

Goering: No, what he means to say is that we on our part would not find it necessary to do so either. I merely want to point out that political situations always turn out to be different, and that at these interrogations and this Trial we must regard the political background of the world as a whole.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: That was on the 22d. You have agreed as to what was said. Immediately after that, on the 26th, 4 days later, Hitler gave another assurance. Do you remember that, just before the war he gave another assurance?

Goering: Yes.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: And on the 6th of October, 1939, he gave a further assurance, and on the 7th of October, the day after that last assurance, the order, which is Document Number 2329-PS, Exhibit GB-105, was issued.

Army Group B has to make all preparations according to special orders for immediate invasion of Dutch and Belgian territory, if the political situation so demands."

And on the 9th of October, there is a directive from Hitler:

Preparations should be made for offensive action on the northern flank of the Western Front crossing the area of Luxembourg, Belgium, and Holland. This attack must be carried out as soon and as forcibly as possible.

Isn't it quite clear from that, that all along you knew, as Hitler stated on the 22d of August, that England, and France would not violate the neutrality of the low countries, and you were prepared to violate them whenever it suited your strategic and tactical interests? Isn't that quite clear?

Goering: Not entirely. Only if the political situation made it necessary. And in the meantime the British air penetration of the neutrality of Holland and Belgium had taken place, up to October.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: You say not entirely. That is as near agreement with me as you are probably prepared to go.
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