1946 Nuremberg Tribunal: On day 87, Hermann Goering's cross-examination by the prosecution continues.
Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Let me remind you of the evidence that has been given before this Court, that as far as Auschwitz alone is concerned, 4,000,000 people were exterminated. Do you remember that?
Goering: This I have heard as a statement here, but I consider it in no way proved--that figure, I mean.
Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: If you do not consider it proved, let me remind you of the affidavit of Hoettl, who was Deputy Group Leader of the Foreign Section, of the Security Section of Amt IV of the RSHA. He says that approximately 4,000,000 Jews have been killed in the concentration camps, while an additional 2,000,000 met death in other ways. Assume that these figures--one is a Russian figure, the other a German--assume they are even 50 percent correct, assume it was 2,000,000 and 1,000,000, are you telling this Tribunal that a Minister with your power in the Reich could remain ignorant that that was going on?
Goering: This I maintain, and the reason for this is that these things were kept secret from me. I might add that in my opinion not even the Fuehrer knew the extent of what was going on. This is also explained by the fact that Himmler kept all these matters very secret. We were never given figures or any other details.
Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: But, Witness, haven't you access to the foreign press, the press department in your ministry, to foreign broadcasts? You see, there is evidence that altogether, when you take the Jews and other people, something like 10,000,000 people have been done to death in cold blood, apart from those killed in battle. Something like 10,000,000 people. Do you say that you never saw or heard from the foreign press, in broadcasts, that this was going on?
Goering: First of all, the figure 10,000,000 is not established in any way. Secondly, throughout the war I did not read the foreign press, because I considered it nothing but propaganda. Thirdly, though I had the right to listen to foreign broadcasts, I never did so, simply because I did not want to listen to propaganda. Neither did I listen to home propaganda. Only during the last 4 days of the war did I--and this I could prove--listen to a foreign broadcasting station for the first time.
Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: You told Mr. Justice Jackson yesterday that there were various representatives in Eastern territories, and you have seen the films of the concentration ramps, haven't you, since this Trial started? You knew that there were millions of garments, millions of shoes, 20,952 kilograms of gold wedding rings, 35 wagons of furs--all that stuff which these people who were exterminated at Majdanek or Auschwitz left behind them. Did nobody ever tell you, under the development of the Four-Year Plan, or anyone else, that they were getting all these amounts of human material?
Do you remember we heard from the Polish Jewish gentleman, who gave evidence, that all he got back from his family, of his wife and mother and daughter, I think, were their identity cards? His work was to gather up clothes. He told us that so thorough were the henchmen of your friend Himmler that it took 5 minutes extra to kill the women because they had to have their hair cut off as it was to be used for making mattresses. Was nothing ever told you about this accretion to German material, which came from the effects of these people who were murdered?
Goering: No, and how can you imagine this? I was laying down the broad outlines for the German economy, and that certainly did not include the manufacture of mattresses from women's hair or the utilization of old shoes and clothes. I leave the figure open. But, also I do want to object to your reference to my "friend Himmler."
Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Well, I will say, "your enemy Himmler," or simply "Himmler" whichever you like. You know whom I mean, don't you?
Goering: Yes, indeed . . . .
Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Do you remember what you said about the relations between you and the Fuehrer? May I repeat your words:
The chief influence on the Fuehrer, if I may mention influence on the Fuehrer at all, was up to the end of 1941 or the beginning of 1942, and that influence was I. Then my influence gradually decreased until 1943, and from 1943 on it decreased speedily. All in all, apart from myself I do not believe anyone else had anywhere near the influence on the Fuehrer that I had.
That is your view on that matter?
Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: I think you told the Tribunal that right up to the end your loyalty to the Fuehrer was unshaken, is that right?
Goering: That is correct.
Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Do you still seek to justify and glorify Hitler after he had ordered the murder of these 50 young flying officers at Stalag Luft Number III?
Goering: I am here neither to justify the Fuehrer Adolf Hitler nor to glorify him. I am here only to emphasize that I remained faithful to him, for I believe in keeping one's oath not in good times only, but also in bad times when it is much more difficult. As to your reference to the 50 airmen, I never opposed the Fuehrer so clearly and strongly as in this matter, and I gave him my views about it. After that no conversation between the Fuehrer and myself took place for months.
Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: The Fuehrer, at any rate, must have had full knowledge of what was happening with regard to concentration camps, the treatment of the Jews, and the treatment of the workers, must he not?
Goering: I already mentioned it as my opinion that the Fuehrer did not know about details in concentration camps, about atrocities as described here. As far as I know him, I do not believe he was informed. But insofar as he ...
Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: I am not asking about details; I am asking about the murder of four or five million people. Are you suggesting that nobody in power in Germany, except Himmler and perhaps Kaltenbrunner, knew about that?
Goering: I am still of the opinion that the Fuehrer did not know about these figures.
Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Now, you remember how Mr. Dahlerus described the relations between you and Hitler on Page 53 of his book:
From the very beginning of our conversation, I resented his manner towards Goering, his most intimate friend and comrade from the years of struggle. His desire to dominate was explicable, but to require such obsequious humility as Goering now exhibited, from his closest collaborator, seemed to me abhorrent and unprepossessing.
Is that how you had to behave with Hitler?
Goering: I did not have to behave in that way, and I did not behave in that way. Those are journalistic statements by Dahlerus, made after the war. If Germany had won the war, this description would certainly have been very different.
Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Mr. Dahlerus was your witness, though.
Goering: Mr. Dahlerus was not asked to give a journalistic account. He was solely questioned about the matters with which he, as courier between myself and the British Government, had to deal . . . .
Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Now, Witness, you said ... that Hitler, in your opinion, did not know about--broadly--or was ignorant about, the question of concentration camps and the Jews. I would like you to look at Document Number D-736. That is an account of a discussion between the Fuehrer and the Hungarian Regent Horthy on the l7th of April 1943, and if you would look at Page 4, you will see the passage just after "Nuremberg and Furth."
Goering: Just a moment. I should like to read through it very quickly to determine its authenticity.
Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Certainly.
Goering: Page 4.
Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Page 4 -- Exhibit Number GB-283. You see, after the mention of Nuremberg and Furth, Hitler goes on:
The Jews did not even possess organizational value. In spite of the fears which he, the Fuehrer, had heard repeatedly in Germany, everything continued to go its normal way without the Jews. Where the Jews were left to themselves, as for instance in Poland, the most terrible misery and decay prevailed. They are just pure parasites. In Poland, this state of affairs had been fundamentally cleared up. If the Jews there did not want to work they were shot. If they could not work, they had to perish. They had to be treated like tuberculosis bacilli, with which a healthy body may become infected. This was not cruel--if one remembers that even innocent creatures of nature, such as hares and deer, have to be killed so that no harm is caused by them. Why should the beasts who wanted to bring us Bolshevism be more preserved? Nations which do not rid themselves of Jews perish. One of the most famous examples is the downfall of that people who were once so proud, the Persians, who now lead a pitiful existence as Armenians.
And would you look at Exhibit USSR-170, Document Number USSR-170, which is a conference which you had on the 6th of August 1942.
The President: Before you pass from this document, is there not a passage higher up that is important? It is about 10 lines down, I think, in the middle of the line ...
Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Your Honor is correct.
To Admiral Horthy's counter-question as to what he should do with the Jews, now that they had been deprived of almost all possibility of earning their livelihood--he could not kill them off--the Reich Minister of Foreign Affairs declared that the Jews should be exterminated or taken to concentration camps. There was no other possibility.
Goering: I do not know this document.
Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Now, this is a conference which you had with a number of people, and on Page 143, if you will turn to it, you get on to the question of butter. If you will look where it says: "Reich Marshal Goering: How much butter do you deliver? 30,000 tons?" Do you see that?
Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: And then Lohse, who is in the conference, says, "Yes," and you say, "Do you also deliver to Wehrmacht units?" and then Lohse says, "I can answer that too. There are only a few Jews left alive. Tens of thousands have been disposed of, but I can tell you that the civilian population gets, on your orders, 15 percent less than the Germans." I call your attention to the statement that "there are only a few Jews left alive, tens of thousands have been disposed of." Do you still say, in the face of these two documents, that neither Hitler nor yourself knew that the Jews were being exterminated?
Goering: I beg that the remarks be rightly read. They are quite incorrectly reproduced. May I read the original text? "Lohse:"-- thus not my remark, but the remark of Lohse--"I can also answer that. The Jews are left only in small numbers. Thousands have gone." It does not say here that they were destroyed. From this remark you cannot conclude that they were killed. It could also mean that they had gone away--they were removed. There is nothing here ...
Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: About the preceding remark, I suggest that you make quite clear what you meant by "there, are only a few Jews left alive, whereas tens of thousands have been disposed of."
Goering: They were "still living there." That is how you should understand that.
Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: You heard what I read to you about Hitler, what he said to Horthy and what Ribbentrop said, that the Jews must be exterminated or taken to concentration camps. Hitler said the Jews must either work or be shot. That was in April 1943. Do you still say that neither Hitler nor you knew of this policy to exterminate the Jews?
Goering: For the correctness of the document.
Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Will you please answer my question. Do you still say neither Hitler nor you knew of the policy to exterminate the Jews?
Goering: As far as Hitler is concerned, I have said I do not think so. As far as I am concerned, I have said that I did not know, even approximately, to what extent these things were taking place.
Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: You did not know to what degree, but you knew there was a policy that aimed at the extermination of the Jews?
Goering: No, a policy of emigration, not liquidation of the Jews. I knew only that there had been isolated cases of such perpetrationís."
1946 Nuremberg Tribunal: On day 88, Hermann Goering's testimony concludes:
General Rudenko: On 8 March, here in the Tribunal, your witness Bodenschatz stated that you told him in March 1945 that many Jews were killed and that for that you will have to pay dearly. Do you remember this testimony of your witness?
Goering: This testimony, in the form in which it was translated now, I do not recollect at all. The witness Bodenschatz never said it that way. I ask that the record of the session be brought in.
General Rudenko: How did Bodenschatz say that? Do you remember?
Goering: That if we lost the war we would have to pay dearly.
General Rudenko: Why? For the murders which you had perpetrated?
Goering: No, quite generally, and after all, we have experienced just that . . . .
General Rudenko: The next question: You have stated here to the Tribunal that you did not agree with Hitler regarding the question of the annexation of Czechoslovakia, the Jewish question, the question of war with the Soviet Union, the value of the theory of the master race, and the question of the shooting of the British airmen who were prisoners of war. How would you explain that, having such serious differences, you still thought it possible to collaborate with Hitler and to carry out his policy?
Goering: That was not the way I worded my answers. Here, too, we must consider separately various periods of time. As to the attack against Russia, there were no basic differences but differences as to the date.
General Rudenko: You have told that already. Excuse me; I do not want you to be lengthy on this theme. Will you reply directly?
Goering: All right. I may have a different opinion from that of my Supreme Commander, and I may also express my opinion clearly. If the Supreme Commander insists on his opinion and I have sworn allegiance to him, then the discussion comes to an end, just as it is the case elsewhere. I do not think I need to elaborate on that.
General Rudenko: You are not just a simple soldier, as you stated here; but you have presented yourself also as a statesman?
Goering: There you are right. I am not only a simple soldier, and just because I am not a simple soldier but occupied such a prominent position, I had to set an example for the ordinary soldier by my own attitude as to how the oath of allegiance should be adhered to strictly.
General Rudenko: In other words, you thought it possible, even with the presence of these differences, to collaborate with Hitler?
Goering: I have emphasized it and I maintain that it is true. My oath does not hold good only in good times but also in bad times, although the Fuehrer never threatened me and never told me that he was afraid for my health.
General Rudenko: If you thought it possible to co-operate with Hitler, do you recognize that, as the second man in Germany, you are responsible for the organizing on a national scale of murders of millions of innocent people, independently of whether you knew about those facts or not? Tell me briefly, "yes" or "no."
Goering: No, because I did not know anything about them and did not cause them.
General Rudenko: I should like to underline again, "whether you were informed of these facts or not."
Goering: If I actually do not know them, then I cannot be held responsible for them.
General Rudenko: It was your duty to know about these facts.
Goering: I shall go into that.
General Rudenko: I am questioning you. Reply to this question: Was it your duty to know about these facts?
Goering: In what way my duty? Either I know the fact or I do not know it. You can ask me only whether I was negligent in failing to obtain knowledge.
General Rudenko: You ought to know yourself better. Millions of Germans knew about the crimes which were being perpetrated, and you did not know about them?
Goering: Neither did millions of Germans know about them. That is a statement that has in no way been proved.
General Rudenko: The last two questions: You stated to the Tribunal that Hitler's Government brought great prosperity to Germany. Are you still sure that that is so?
Goering: Definitely until the beginning of the war. The collapse was due only to the war's being lost.
General Rudenko: As a consequence of which, you brought Germany, as a result of your politics, to military and political destruction. I have no more questions . . . .
Dr Stahmer: During your examination, you stated, regarding certain accusations, that you want to assume responsibility for them. How is that to be understood?
Goering: As to responsibility, one must discern between formal and actual responsibility. Formally, I bear responsibility for that which was done by those departments and offices that were under my command. Although I could not possibly have seen or known beforehand everything that was issued or discussed by them, I must nevertheless assume formal responsibility, particularly where we are concerned with the carrying out of general directives given by me.
Actual responsibility I see in those cases in which I personally issued orders or directives, including in particular all acts and facts which I signed personally or issued authentically, but I mean these facts only and not so much general words and statements which were made during those 25 years here and there in small circles.
In particular, I want to say the following very clearly about responsibility: The Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler, is dead. I was regarded as his successor in leading the German Reich. Consequently I must declare, with reference to my responsibility, that it was my aim ...
The President: The Tribunal would wish that you should not make speeches. The Tribunal is perfectly well able to understand the difference between formal responsibility and actual responsibility for orders given by you.
Goering: I acknowledge my responsibility for having done everything to carry out the preparations for the seizure of power, and to have made the power firm in order to make Germany free and great. I did everything to avoid this war. But after it had started, it was my duty to do everything to win it.
The President: We have already heard you say that more than once and we do not wish to hear it again.
Goering: On the question of labor: During the war, the inhabitants of the occupied territories were brought in to work in Germany and their countries were exploited economically.
The President: Dr. Stahmer, you are supposed to be asking questions of the witness. Now, what question is that in answer to?
Dr Stahmer: I had asked him about his responsibility ...
The President: You can ask him questions, but you cannot ask him general questions that invite speeches. If you have any particular questions to ask him which arise out of the cross-examination, now is the time to ask them.
Dr Stahmer: I put this question: To what extent does he consider himself responsible for the points mentioned here in the cross-examination regarding the deportation of workers, ...
Mr. Justice Jackson: I object to this question being put.
The President: He has already told us about that. He answered that question more than once.
Dr Stahmer: In that case, I have no further questions to ask.
The President: Very well. Then the defendant can retire.
Caution: As always, these excerpts from trial testimony should not necessarily be mistaken for fact. It should be kept in mind that they are the sometimes-desperate statements of hard-pressed defendants seeking to avoid culpability and shift responsibility from charges that, should they be found guilty, can possibly be punishable by death.
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