Goering: Enemy Airmen

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 uninterrupted time.

Dr Stahmer: Witness Von Brauchitsch testified the other day that in May of 1944 the Fuehrer decreed the strictest measures against the so-called terror-fliers. Did you, in compliance with this Fuehrer decree, issue instructions to shoot enemy terror-fliers or to have them handed over to the SD?

Goering: The definition of "terror-fliers" was very confused. A part of the population, and also of the press, called everything that attacked cities "terror-fliers," more or less. Tremendous excitement had arisen among the German population because of the very heavy and continued attacks on German cities, in the course of which the population saw to a certain extent that the really important industrial targets were less frequently hit than houses and nonmilitary targets. Some German cities had thus suffered most severely in their residential districts, while the industries in these same cities remained on the whole untouched. Then with the further flights of enemy forces to Germany there came so-called low-flying aircraft that attacked both military and nonmilitary targets. Reports came repeatedly to the Fuehrer, and I too heard of these reports, that the civilian population was being attacked with machine guns and cannons; that single vehicles, which could be recognized as civilian vehicles, and also ambulances which were marked with a red cross, had been attacked.

One report came in--I remember it distinctly because the Fuehrer became especially excited about it--which said that a group of children had been shot at. Men and women standing in front of stores had also been shot at. And these activities were now called those of terror-fliers. The Fuehrer was extremely excited.

The populace in its fury resorted at first to lynching, and we tried at first to take measures to prevent this. I heard then that instructions had been given through the police and Bormann not to take measures against this. These reports multiplied, and the Fuehrer then decreed, or made a statement to the effect that these terror-fliers should be shot on the spot. The belief that these fliers had been forbidden by their superiors to make such attacks, and that really they were to attack with their weapons only targets which could be recognized as military, I had confirmed beforehand through an interrogation of the airmen.

Now, as is often the case in matters of this kind, all offices which had anything to do with this were called in and we were aware, as Brauchitsch has already declared--not only those of us in the Air Force, but also those in the OKW and other military offices--that it would be very hard to formulate and to support an order in regard to this matter. First of all the term "terror-flier" would have to be defined once and for all. In this connection four points were set down, and these points have already been read here. Debate on this matter went to and fro. In general I expressed the opinion that these fliers, since they were prohibited by their own superiors to do these things, could be legally prosecuted by a military court every time. At any rate we arrived at no definite order after long bickering; and no office of the Air Force was ever instructed to undertake any steps in this direction.

The document in which it is said on 6 June 1944 that a conference between Himmler, Joachim von Ribbentrop, and me took place in Klessheim and which is signed by Warlimont, states that Warlimont said that Ernst Kaltenbrunner had told him he had learned that such a conference had taken place. It does not say it actually took place. Now this day, 6 June 1944, is a very significant day, as Brauchitsch has already explained, for it is the day of the invasion in France. I no longer know exactly who came to Klessheim. Klessheim is a castle near Berchtesgaden and was used when allied or foreign missions came to visit. For a long time already it had been customary that when such allied visits took place I, as Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force, was not present for each of these visitors naturally wanted above all, on the occasion of these conversations, to obtain help from the German Air Force and always asked for German fighters and machines no matter whether it was Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Finland, or Italy or someone else. I made a point of not being there on such occasions, so that the Fuehrer might have an opportunity to be evasive and to say, "I must first consult with the Commander-in-Chief of the Air Forces."

Therefore I had already left Berchtesgaden on the 4th or the 3rd, as far as I remember, and was on my estate near Nuremberg. The General Staff officer who accompanied me, the physician and various others will be able to testify to this if necessary. In the morning hours I learned here of the invasion. Brauchitsch is wrong in one point, that this had already been reported as an invasion. On the contrary, in response to my further inquiry it was said that one could not yet tell whether it was a diversion maneuver or the actual invasion.

Thereupon I returned to Berchtesgaden in the late evening or, in the afternoon--I remember exactly. I left after lunch and it takes about 4 1/2 hours from here. I therefore did not take part in the conference on this matter with Ribbentrop or Himmler in Klessheim or anywhere else, and I want to emphasize this especially. This conference was held by my adjutant, von Brauchitsch, that is, my General Staff officer, and he was the one who told the OKW, without consulting me once more, that it was my opinion that it was right to have court proceedings in such cases. The decisive thing, however, is that no such order, as a Fuehrer order, or as an order of mine, was issued to any office of the Luftwaffe or to the transit camp or interrogation camp in Oberursel, or to any part of the troops.

A document which has been read here concerns a report from Luftgau XI, which mentions the shooting of American fliers. I believe they were Americans, and this is mentioned in this connection because it says Luftgau XI. I looked through the document--there are two very detailed appendices. It is stated very definitely and clearly here that Luftgau XI reported that a crew which had bailed out and been rescued from the lake by some troops which did not belong to the Air Force, were shot by the police while on the way to the airfield--the exact name of the police office is given---that they therefore did not reach the airfield, but had been shot beforehand by the police. Luftgau XI duly reports these events as required.

In the attached report each of the men is mentioned by name and also what happened to him. Some were taken to hospitals, others, as said before, were shot. And all these reports and each individual report sheet can be explained by the fact that the Luftgau offices, as the competent offices at home, were instructed automatically to make reports on a printed form as to whether it was a crash or a forced landing of our own or of enemy aircraft; at what time; whether the crew bailed out; whether the crew was killed, or half of it killed; whether they were brought to the camp or to the hospital. And in this case it is correctly reported, "Shot by the police while trying to escape; buried at such and such a place."

Records of this type ran into hundreds; I mean records of our own and of hostile craft, which had been shot down with their crews, in the heavy air fighting. The records were channeled from the Luftgau to the competent offices. The Air Force itself had nothing to do with this; it is very clear from the German original document that this was merely a report. In this connection there were heated discussions. All of the gentlemen who had to take part in the Fuehrer's daily briefing sessions will recall exactly that the Fuehrer repeatedly told me in a very unfriendly manner that he definitely wished to know the names and the punishment of those officers who again and again had protected fliers from the population. I did not have these people searched for or arrested, nor did I have them punished. I always pointed out to the Fuehrer that it had already happened that even our own fliers who had bailed out had been most severely mishandled by our own people, who at first were completely confused, and I therefore repeatedly emphasized on behalf of the Air Force that such things must be stopped.

There was one last sharp controversy, again in the presence of many gentlemen, at a briefing session in which, when again I referred to these things, the Fuehrer cut me short with the words, "I well know that both air forces have come to a mutual agreement of cowardice." Whereupon I told him, "We have not come to an agreement of cowardice, but somehow we airmen have always remained comrades, no matter how much we fight each other." All the gentlemen present will remember this.

Dr Stahmer: What was your attitude as the highest judicial authority of the Luftwaffe with regard to punishable acts committed by the soldiers under you in occupied territory?

Goering: As highest judicial authority I had all the bad cases referred to me and spent many hours examining them. That is why I attach particular importance to the highest legal counsel of the Air Force by being heard here on this point. In many cases I rescinded sentences because they were too mild, especially if it was a matter of rape. In these cases I always confirmed the death sentence which had been handed down by the court, unless an appeal for mercy was made by the injured party in exceptional cases. I thus confirmed the death sentence of a number of members of the Air Force who took part in the murder of inhabitants of the occupied territories in the East as well as in the West. I do not wish to take up the time of the Tribunal by citing a number of detailed cases which would prove this.

Beyond this I was the judicial authority with regard to such inhabitants of occupied territories as were brought before an Air Force court. For instance, when in France, Holland, or Russia or another country, the native civilian population had helped enemy fliers to escape, or had been guilty of acts of sabotage on airplanes, or had engaged in espionage in connection with the Air Force, that is to say, all punishable acts which had taken place in connection with the Air Force. The war situation demanded, of course, that in general we should enforce strict measures here. I should like to say in this connection that death sentences were, of course, also duly pronounced by the courts on women. In all these cases involving women, during the entire war years, I did not once confirm with my signature a single death sentence on a woman, not even in the case of fatal attacks, or participation in such on members of my Luftwaffe; even in the most severe cases I did not fail to give a reprieve.

1946 Nuremberg Tribunal: On day 86, Hermann Goering is cross-examined by Justice Jackson, the chief US prosecutor.

Mr. Justice Jackson: Well, I will ask that you be shown Document 1742-PS. [Document 1742-PS was submitted to the witness.] Now, this is a decree of 26 October 1942, by Goering. I ask you to follow me:

Simultaneously with the intensified combating of guerrilla activity ordered by the Fuehrer, and the cleaning up of the land behind the lines, in particular that behind the Army Group Center, I request that the following points be taken into consideration, and the conclusions drawn therefrom be put into practice: Simultaneously with the combating of the underground forces and the combing out of the areas contaminated by them, all available livestock must be driven off to safe areas. Similarly, food supplies are to be removed and brought into safety, so that they will no longer be available to the guerrillas. 2. All male and female labor suitable for any kind of employment must be forcibly recruited and allocated to the Plenipotentiary General for Labor, who will then employ them in safe areas behind the lines or in the Reich. Separate camps must be organized behind the lines for the children.

Is that right?

Goering: Absolutely. It concerns areas overrun by guerrillas, and no one could expect me to leave cattle and foodstuffs at their disposal. Furthermore, people who were repeatedly being incited to guerrilla activities and revolts against us had to be brought back to safe areas and put to work. I would like to emphasize that this was absolutely vital for the security of the troops. But I may emphasize again that you said I gave the same orders which you read from Terboven's letter. I did not order villages to be burned, and did not order the shooting of hostages. This was something basically different.

Mr. Justice Jackson: You simply seized all the men, women and children and moved them out. That is what I referred to. By May of 1944 your problem in the loss of fighter aircraft and fighter personnel was becoming serious?

Goering: Yes.

Mr. Justice Jackson: On the 19th of May, 1944, you had a conference in your office, on the subject of fighter aircraft and the losses of fighter personnel, did you not?

Goering: Yes.

Mr. Justice Jackson: And you have been shown the minutes of that meeting and authenticated them in your interrogations?

Goering: It is not the minutes of that conference. It is a short and brief summary by an officer of a meeting which, as far as I know, lasted 2 days.

Mr. Justice Jackson: I will ask to have you shown Document L-166. It is entitled, "Most Secret Document," isn't it?

Goering: That is correct.

Mr. Justice Jackson: And it is also entitled, "Minutes of conference on fighter aircraft with the Reich Marshal on 15 and 16 May 1944." That is correct, too, is it not?

Goering: No, it says, "Notices of a conference on fighter aircraft at the Reich Marshal's on 15 and 16 May 1944."

Mr. Justice Jackson: "Notices," you translate it "notices"?

Goering: It says "memorandum" here and that is the original.

Mr. Justice Jackson: "Notes of Conference on Fighter Aircraft."

Goering: Lasting 2 days.

Mr. Justice Jackson: Yes. And at first General Galland described in detail the situation regarding fighter personnel. That took place, didn’t it, and he reviewed the losses?

Goering: Yes.

Mr. Justice Jackson: And reviewed the losses?

Goering: That is right.

Mr. Justice Jackson: And then he reviewed at some length under Item 2, "Remedial Measures," is that right?

Goering: According to the memorandum, yes, but whether that actually took place I cannot say.

Mr. Justice Jackson: This conference took place, didn't it?

Goering: Absolutely, 2 days.

Mr. Justice Jackson: And under Item 3 General Galland made certain proposals, did he not?

Goering: Yes.

Mr. Justice Jackson: And then after considerable discussion General Schmidt made certain proposals, Items 12 and 13, is that right?

Goering: It must have been so. At any rate it says so according to the memorandum.

Mr. Justice Jackson: You recommended a conference between the chief of the General Staff and the chief of artillery, as soon as possible, did you not? Item 13?

Goering: Yes.

Mr. Justice Jackson: And General Schmidt's recommendations and requests appear in Items 14 and 15 and 16 and 17 and 18?

Goering: Yes.

Mr. Justice Jackson: Then you decided: "The Reich Marshal has decided that only the III-groups of fighter squadrons are to remain in the Reich, and that all the fighters fit for operations are to be pressed into service." That occurred, did it not?

Goering: Yes.

Mr. Justice Jackson: Then: "The Reich Marshal desires that when low-level attack on airfields are made, causing considerable loss in personnel and material, the measures taken for defense and dispersal are to be re-examined by the Luftwaffenfuhrungsstab." Number 19. That occurred, did it not?

Goering: Yes.

Mr. Justice Jackson: Item 20 reads: "The Reich Marshal wishes to propose to the Fuehrer that American and English crews who shoot indiscriminately over towns, at moving civilian trains, or at soldiers hanging to parachutes should be shot immediately on the spot." Have I correctly read that?

Goering: It says so here. And I objected at once at that time that this was not correct. This passage has no connection at all with the context of these notes, 19-21. Besides the expression "soldiers hanging to parachutes" is entirely misleading and not commonly used. I thought for a long time about how this could have got into the notes, which I never saw and which were drawn up over a period of 2 days, and can only find the explanation that I pointed out--as can be gathered from the other evidence--that around that time the Fuehrer gave a directive in that connection, and that in any event there must be a mistake; that is, it should not be that the Reich Marshal wants to propose, et cetera, to the Fuehrer, but that I might have suggested that the Fuehrer had some such intention. But about this the author of these notes would have to be consulted. No other item in all these notes refers to this. Even the next item is entirely different. Whereas everything else stands in relationship, this one point is extraneous.

Mr. Justice Jackson: In all the notes of the 2 days, this is the one thing that you say is mistaken. Now I ask to have you shown Document 731-PS. [Document 731-PS was submitted to the witness.] Now, the conference, the notes of which I have just read you, was followed within a week by the order, 731-PS, was it not, the memorandum, 731-PS, which reads: "The Fuehrer has reached the following decision in regard to measures to be taken against Anglo-American air crews in special instances: Enemy airmen who have been brought down are to be shot without court martial proceedings in the following instances ..."

The President: Mr. Justice Jackson, shouldn't you refer to a passage four lines above that, after "Report of the Reich Marshal"?

Mr. Justice Jackson: I did not, but perhaps for the record it ought to be in full. "Chief of the Command Staff of the Armed Forces, Chief WFSt. Please direct drafting of order. W (Warlimont). K (Keitel), Deputy Chief of Command Staff of the Armed Forces. Must go to Reichsführer SS. According to the report of the Reich Marshal, General Korten made the following statement: Memorandum'"--I think the next line is not in the original--

The Fuehrer has given the following ruling in regard to measures to be taken against Anglo-American air crews in special instances: Enemy airmen whose machines have been shot down are to be shot without trial by court martial in the following cases:

(1) In the event of the shooting of our own German air crews while they are parachuting to earth.

(2) In the event of aerial attacks upon German planes which have made emergency landings and whose crews are in the immediate vicinity.

(3) In the event of attacks upon railway trains engaged in public transport.

(4) In the event of low-level aerial attacks upon individual civilians, farmers, workers, single vehicles, and so forth.

Now, there is a note: "In the event of low-level aerial attacks on individual civilians, single civilian vehicles, and so forth," is there not?

Goering: On my copy, "In the event of low-level aerial attacks on single"--"single" is crossed out here and there are two words written above which I cannot read. Before the expression, "single vehicles," is the word "civilian" and referring to Point 2, it says: "I consider it doubtful, because the destruction of a plane which has made an emergency landing cannot be designated as gangster methods but rather as a measure in keeping with the strictest standards of civilized warfare." We are concerned with the entire series of questions discussed in these days and weeks and to which von Brauchitsch also testified recently.

Mr. Justice Jackson: That note about that emergency landing is signed by "J," isn't it, which, stands for "Jodl"?

Goering: Certainly.

Mr. Justice Jackson: I think that is all I care to ask.
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