Goering: The Hague Convention

1946 Nuremberg Tribunal: On day 82, defendant Hermann Goering is given vast latitude by the Tribunal to defend Nazism.

Dr Stahmer: In your military and economic measures in the occupied territories did you take into consideration whether these measures were in keeping with the Hague Convention on land warfare?

Goering: I scanned through the regulations for land warfare of the Hague Convention for the first time just before the outbreak of the Polish conflict. As I read them at that time I regretted that I had not studied them much more thoroughly at an earlier date. If so I would have told the Fuehrer that, in view of these Hague Convention regulations for land warfare, set down paragraph for paragraph, a modern war could not be waged under any circumstances. One would perforce come into conflict with conditions laid down in 1906 or 1907, because of the technological expansion of modern war. Either they would have to be cancelled, or else modern new viewpoints corresponding to technical developments would have to be introduced.

My reasoning is as follows: The regulations on land warfare of the Hague Convention, as they now existed, I had in my opinion studied quite correctly and logically as regulations for land warfare in 1907. But from 1939 to 1945 there was no longer merely land warfare but also air warfare, which had not been taken into consideration here and which in part created an entirely new situation, and changed the regulations on land warfare of the Hague Convention in many respects. But that is not so much the decisive point; rather, modern and total war develops, as I see it, along three lines: the war of weapons on land, at sea, and in the air; economic war, which has become an integral part of every modern war; and, third, propaganda war, which is also an essential part of this warfare.

If one recognizes these principles on the basis of logic, certain deviations will then result which, according to the letter, may be a violation of logic, but not according to the spirit. If the regulations on land warfare of the Hague Convention provide that weapons of the opponent are to be regarded as booty, as a matter of course, then I must say that today in a modern war the weapons of the opponent under certain circumstances have value only as scrap, but that economic goods however, raw materials, high grade steel, aluminum, copper, lead, and tin, seem and are much more essential as war booty than obsolete weapons, which I might take from an opponent.

But beyond that it is not only a matter of raw materials, no matter whose property they are. The regulations on land warfare of the Hague Convention provided at one point--I do not remember it now--that those things which are necessary can be confiscated, but against compensation, of course. That is also not the decisive factor, as one can readily believe. Decisive is, however, the fact that in this modern war, and in an economic war, which forms the basis for any further conduct of war, supplies, first of all food, must be regarded as absolutely necessary for war and must be made available for use in war, and beyond that raw materials for industry.

Moreover production plants and machinery are also part of economic warfare. If they have until now served the opponent--be they industries directly or indirectly contributing to armaments and the conduct of war--they must now also serve whoever has come into the possession of these means of production through military decision, even if only temporarily, during an armistice in occupied territories. In this connection the labor question naturally also plays a far greater role in economic war than it did in those former wars which served as examples in the regulations on land warfare of the Hague Convention.

In 1907 the most recent wars, the Russo-Japanese War, and perhaps the English Boer War, which were, however, conducted under entirely different circumstances--wars which practically lay only one decade behind at that time--could serve as an example of warfare. A war at that time between one army and another, in which the population was more or less not involved, cannot be compared with today's total war, in which everyone, even the child, is drawn into the experience of war through the introduction of air warfare.

According to my opinion, manpower and thereby the workers and their use at the moment, are also an integral part of economic war. By that it is not meant that a worker should be so exploited that he suffers physical injury, but only that his labor should be fully used.

One of the witnesses mentioned recently what it means to be in an occupied territory where fighting is still going on, and where one remains for years, while one, two, three, four, or five new military age groups are growing up, and if they have no work in their home country . . . .

The question of the deportation of workers had therefore also to be regarded from this point of view of security. We were obliged to feed, as far as possible, the entire occupied territory. We also had to dispose of manpower and, at the same time had to consider the removal especially of those who had no work in their own country and represented a danger in the growth of the underground resistance arising against us.

If these age groups were drafted into Germany for work, it was because of basic considerations of security, in order that they should not be left idle in their own country--and thus be made available for the work and the struggle against us--but should be used to our advantage in economic war.

Thirdly--I want to mention these things just very briefly--in conclusion, the war of propaganda. At one point in the Indictment it is also mentioned that we requisitioned radios, which is, to be sure, a matter of course. For the great importance in propaganda warfare enemy propaganda had, which extended by way of radio far into the hinterland, no one has felt more strongly than Germany. All the great dangers of underground movements, partisan war, the resistance movements and sabotage, and everything connected with it, and finally also in this war, this bitter feeling and this atmosphere, have been called forth to the extreme by this mutual fight over the radio.

Also whatever happened in the way of atrocities and similar acts, which should not be tolerated, are in the last analysis, if one thinks about it calmly, to be attributed primarily to the war of propaganda.

Therefore the regulations on land warfare of the Hague Convention are in my opinion not an instrument which can be used as a basis for a modern war, because they do not take into consideration the essential principles of this war; the war in the air, the economic war, and the war of propaganda.

And at this point I should like to say the same words which one of our greatest, most important, and toughest opponents, the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, used: "In the struggle for life and death there is in the end no legality."
The Nuremberg Tribunal Biographies
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