Goering: Great Escape

1946 Nuremberg Tribunal: On day 86, Hermann Goering is cross-examined by the prosecution.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: I want to ask you first some questions about the matter of the British Air Force officers who escaped from Stalag Luft III. Do you remember that you said in giving your evidence that you knew this incident very completely and very minutely? Do you remember saying that?

Goering: No--that I had received accurate knowledge; not that I had accurate knowledge--but that I received it.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Let me quote your own words, as they were taken down, "I know this incident very completely, very minutely, but it came to my attention, unfortunately, at a later period of time." That is what you said the other day, is that right?

Goering: Yes, that is what I meant; that I know about the incident exactly, but only heard of it 2 days later.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: You told the Tribunal that you were on leave at this time, in the last period of March 1944, is that right?

Goering: Yes, as far as I remember I was on leave in March until a few days before Easter.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: And you said, "As I can prove." I want you to tell the Tribunal the dates of your leave.

Goering: I say again, that this refers to the whole of March--I remember it well--and for proof I would like to mention the people who were with me on this leave.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: What I want to know is, where you were on leave.

Goering: Here, in the vicinity of Nuremberg.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: So you were within easy reach of the telephone from the Air Ministry or, indeed, from Breslau, if you were wanted?

Goering: I would have been easily accessible by phone if someone wanted to communicate with me.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe [above]: I want you to help me with regard to one or two other dates of which you have spoken. You say: "I heard 1 or 2 days later about this escape." Do you, understand, Witness, that it is about the escape I am asking you, not about the shooting, for the moment; I want to make it quite clear.

Goering: It is clear to me.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Did you mean by that, that you heard about the actual escape 1 or 2 days after it happened?

Goering: Yes.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Did you hear about it from the office of your adjutant or from your director of operations?

Goering: I always heard these things through my adjutant. Several other escapes had preceded this one.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Yes, that's right. There had been a number of escapes from this camp.

Goering: I cannot tell you exactly whether they were from this camp. Shortly before several big escapes had taken place, which I always heard of through the office of my adjutant.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: I want you to tell the Tribunal another date: You say that on your return from leave your chief of staff made a communication to you. Who was your chief of staff?

Goering: General Korten was chief of staff at that time.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Can you tell us the date at which he made this communication to you?

Goering: No, I cannot tell you that exactly. I believe I discussed this incident with my chief of staff later, telling him what I had already heard about it from other sources.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Who was the first to tell you about it? Was it your chief of staff who told you about the shootings? Do you mean that some one else had told you about the shooting?

Goering: I cannot say exactly now whether I heard about the shooting from the chief of staff, or from other sources. But in any event I discussed this with the chief of staff.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: What was the date that you talked about it with your chief of staff?

Goering: I cannot tell you the date exactly from memory, but it must have been around Easter.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: That would be just about the end of March, wouldn't it?

Goering: No. It might have been at the beginning of April, the first half of April.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: And then you had an interview with Himmler, you have told us?

Goering: Yes, I talked with Himmler about this.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Can you fix that?

Goering: Of course I cannot establish this date with certainty. I saw Himmler, and, at the first opportunity after I had heard about this incident, spoke to him about it.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: So that you can't fix the date in relation to your coming back from leave, or the interview with your chief of staff, or any other date, or Easter?

Goering: Without any documents it is, as I said, impossible for me today to fix the date. I can only mention the approximate period of time; and that I have done.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: You said the other day that you could prove when you were on leave. Am I to take it that you haven't taken the trouble to look up what your leave dates were?

Goering: I have already said that I was on leave during March. Whether I returned on the 26th or the 28th or the 29th of March I cannot tell you. For proof of that you would have to ask the people who accompanied me, who perhaps can fix this date more definitely. I know only that I was there in March.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Witness, will it be perfectly fair to you if I take the latest of your dates, the 29th of March, to work on?

Goering: It would be more expedient if you would tell me when Easter was that year, because I do not recall it. Then it will be easier for me to specify the dates, because I know that a few days before Easter I returned to Berchtesgaden in order to pass these holidays with my family.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: A few days before Easter you went back to Berchtesgaden?

Goering: Yes.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: So you had come back on leave some day before that. Before you went to Berchtesgaden you had come back from your March leave?

Goering: Berchtesgaden was then at the same time the headquarters of the Fuehrer. I returned from, my leave to Berchtesgaden, and with my return my leave ended, because I returned to duty. The return to Berchtesgaden was identical with the termination of my leave.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Well, I can't give you Easter offhand, but I happen to remember Whitsuntide was the 28th of May, so that Easter would be early, somewhere about the 5th of April. So that your leave would finish somewhere about the end of March, maybe the 26th or the 29th; that is right, isn't it? Now, these shootings of these officers went on from the 25th of March to the 13th of April; do you know that?

Goering: I do not know that exactly.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: You may take that from me, because there is an official report of the shooting, and I want to be quite fair with you. Only 49 of these officers were shot on the 6th of April, as far as we can be sure, and one was shot either on the 13th of April or later. But the critical period is the end of March, and we may take it that you were back from leave by about the 29th of March. I just want you to tell the, Tribunal this was a matter of great importance, wasn't it? Considered a matter of great importance?

Goering: It was a very important matter.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: General Milch--I beg pardon--Field Marshal Milch has said that it was a matter which would require the highest authority, and I think you have said that you know it was Hitler's decision that these officers should be shot; is that so?

Goering: The question did not come through clearly.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: It was Hitler's decision that these officers should be shot?

Goering: That is correct; and I was later notified that it was Hitler's decree.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: I want you just to remember one other thing, that immediately it was published, the British Foreign Secretary, Mr. Eden, at once said that Great Britain would demand justice of the perpetrators of these murders; do you remember that?

Goering: I cannot remember the speech to the House of Commons given by Eden. I myself do not know the substance of this speech even today. I just heard that he spoke in Parliament about this incident.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: I want you to tell the Tribunal just who the persons in your ministry involved were. I will tell you; I think it would be shorter in the end. If you disagree you can correct me. The commandant of Stalag Luft III was Oberst Von Lindeiner of your service, was he not?

Goering: That is quite possible. I did not know the names of all these commandants. There was a court martial against him and that was because the escape was possible. He was not connected with the shootings.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: No, but he was commandant of the camp, and I suppose you had to review and confirm the proceedings of the Zentralluftwaffengericht which convicted him and sentenced him to a year's imprisonment for neglect of duty. That would come to you, wouldn't it? Wouldn't that come to you for review?

Goering: No, only if larger penalties were involved. One year imprisonment would not come to my attention. But I know, and would like to certify, that court proceedings were taken against him for neglect of duty at the time of the escape.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: In May of 1943, Inspectorate Number 17 had been interposed between the Luftwaffe and the Prisoners of War Organization of the OKW, the Kriegsgefangenenwesen; do you remember that?

Goering: I do not know the details about inspection nor how closely it concerned the Prisoners of War Organization of the OKW or how it was otherwise.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: I want to remind you of who your own officers were. You understand, Witness, that your own officers are involved in this matter. I want to remind you who they were. Was the head of Inspectorate 17 Major General Grosch of the Luftwaffe?

Goering: Major General Grosch is of the Luftwaffe.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: You told the Tribunal the other day--I am quoting your own words--that you knew from information, you knew this incident very completely and very minutely. You are now telling the Tribunal you don't know whether Major General Grosch was head of Inspectorate Number 17 of the Luftwaffe.

Goering: That is irrelevant. I told the High Tribunal that I heard an accurate account of the incident of the shooting of these airmen, but that has no connection with General Grosch and his Inspectorate, for he did not participate in the shooting.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: I will show you that connection in one minute if you will just answer my questions. Was Grosch's second in command Oberst Welder; do you remember that?

Goering: I do not know the particulars of the organization for inspection of prisoner-of-war camps, nor the leaders, nor what positions they held. At least not by heart. I would like to emphasize again, so that there will be no confusion, that when I said I knew about this matter, I mean that I knew how the order was issued and that the people were shot, that I came to know all about this; but not as far as this was related to inspections, possibilities of flight, et cetera.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: And did General Grosch, as head of Inspectorate 17, have to report to General Forster, your director of operations at the Luftwaffe Ministerium?

Goering: That I cannot tell you without having the diagram of the subordinate posts before me. General Forster was, I believe at that time, head of the Luftwehr, or a similar designation, in the ministry. I concerned myself less with these matters, because they were not directly of a tactical, strategic, or of an armament nature. But it is quite possible and certain that he belonged to this department.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: I put it to you quite shortly, and if you don't know I will leave it for the moment. Did you know Major General von Graevenitz was head of the Defendant Keitel's department, the Kriegsgefangenenwesen, that dealt with prisoners of war?

Goering: I first heard about General Graevenitz here, for this department did not directly concern me. I could not know all of these military subordinate commanders in their hundreds and thousands of departments.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: So I take it that you did not know Colonel, now General Westhoff, of the department under von Graevenitz?

Goering: Westhoff I never saw at all, and he did not belong to the Luftwaffe.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: I am not suggesting that von Graevenitz and Westhoff belonged to the Luftwaffe. I wanted to make it clear that I was suggesting they belonged to General Keitel's organization.

Goering: I did not know either; and I did not know what posts they occupied.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Up to that time you still had a considerable influence in the Reich, didn't you?

Goering: At this time no longer. This no longer concerns 1944.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: But you were still head of the Luftwaffe and head of the Air Ministry, weren't you?

Goering: Yes, I was.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: And you had, as head of the Luftwaffe and head of the Air Ministry, been responsible for six prisoner-of-war camps for the whole of the war up to that time, hadn't you?

Goering: How many prisoner-of-war camps I do not know. But of course I bear the responsibility for those that belonged to my ministry.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: To the Air Force?

Goering: Yes, those which were subordinate to the Air Force.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: You knew about the general plan for treatment of prisoners of war, which we have had in evidence as the "Aktion Kugel" plan, didn't you?

Goering: No. I knew nothing of this action. I was not advised of it.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: You were never advised of Aktion Kugel?

Goering: I first heard of Aktion Kugel here; saw the document and heard the expression for the first time. Moreover no officer of the Luftwaffe ever informed me of such a thing; and I do not believe that a single officer was ever taken away from the Luftwaffe camps. A report to this effect was never presented to me, in any case.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: You know what Aktion Kugel was: That escaped officers and noncommissioned officers, other than British and American, were to be handed over to the police and taken to Mauthausen, where they were shot by the device of having a gun concealed in the measuring equipment when they thought they were getting their prison clothes. You know what Aktion Kugel is, don't you?

Goering: I heard of it here.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Are you telling the Tribunal that you did not know that escaped prisoners of war who were picked up by the police were retained by the police and taken to Mauthausen?

Goering: No, I did not know that. On the contrary, various prisoners who escaped from my camps were caught again by the police; and they were all brought back to the camps; this was the first case where this to some extent did not take place.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: But didn't you know that Colonel Welder, as second in command of your ministry's Inspectorate, issued a written order a month before this, in February 1944, that prisoners of war picked up by the Luftwaffe should be delivered back to their camp, and prisoners of war picked up by the police should be held by them and no longer counted as being under the protection of the Luftwaffe; didnt you know that?

Goering: No. Please summon this colonel to testify if he ever made a report of that nature to me, or addressed such a letter to me.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Well, of course I cannot tell whether your ministry was well run or not. But he certainly issued the order, because he says so himself.

Goering: Then he must say from whom he received this order.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: I see. Well, he says that he issued this order, and you know as well as I do that prisoners of war is a thing that you have got to be careful about, because you have got a protecting power that investigates any complaint; and you never denounced the Convention and you had the protecting power in these matters all through the war, had you not? That is right, isn't it?

Goering: That is correct, but I take the liberty to ask who gave him this order, whether he received this order from me.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Well, he would not get it direct from you. I do not think you had ever met him, had you? He would get it from Lieutenant General Grosch, wouldn't he?

Goering: Then Grosch should say whether he received such an order from me. I never gave such an order.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: I see. So you say that you had never heard--this was 31/2 years after the beginning of the war--and you had never heard that any escaped prisoners of war were to be handed over to the police. Is that what you ask the Tribunal to believe?

Goering: To the extent that escaped prisoners of war committed any offenses or crimes, they were of course turned over to the police, I believe. But I wish to testify before the Court that I never gave any order that they should be handed over to the police or sent to concentration camps merely because they had attempted to break out or escape, nor did I ever know that such measures were taken.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: This is my last question: I want to make it quite clear, Witness, that I am referring to those who had escaped, who had got away from the confines of the camp and were recaptured by the police. Didn't you know that they were handed over to the police?

Goering: No. Only if they had committed crimes while fleeing, such as murder and so on. Such things occurred."

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

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Witness, do you remember telling me last night that the only prisoners of war handed over to the police were those guilty of crimes or misdemeanors?

Goering: I did not express myself that way. I said if the police apprehended prisoners of war, those who had committed a crime during the escape, as far as I know, were detained by the police and were not returned to the camp. To what extent the police kept prisoners of war, without returning them to a camp, I was able to gather from interrogations and explanations here.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Would you look at Document D-569? Would you look first at the top left-hand comer, which shows that it is a document published by the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht?

Goering: The document which I have before me has the following heading at the top left-hand corner: "The ReichsFührer SS," and the subheading: "Inspector of Concentration Camps."

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: It is a document dated the 22d of November 1941. Have you got it?

Goering: Yes, I have it now.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Now, look at the left-hand bottom comer, as to distribution. The second person to whom it is distributed is the Air Ministry and Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force on 22 November 1941. That would be you.

Goering: That's correct. I would like to make the following statement in connection with this ...

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Just for a moment. I would like you to appreciate the document and then make your statement upon it. I shall not stop you. I want you to look at the third sentence in Paragraph 1. This deals with Soviet prisoners of war, you understand. The third sentence says: "If escaped Soviet prisoners of war are returned to the camp in accordance with this order, they have to be handed over to the nearest post of the Secret State Police, in any case." And then Paragraph 2 deals with the special position--if they commit crimes, owing to the fact that:

... at present these misdemeanors on the part of Soviet prisoners of war are particularly frequent, due most likely to living conditions still being somewhat unsettled, the following temporary regulations come into force. They may be amended later. If a Soviet prisoner of war commits any other punishable offense then the commandant of the camp must hand the guilty man over to the head of the Security Police."

Do I understand this document to say that a man who escapes will be handed over to the Security Police? You understand this document says a man who escapes will be handed over to the Secret Police, a man who commits a crime, as you mentioned, will be handed over to the Security Police. Wasn't that the condition that obtained from 1941 up to the date we are dealing with in March 1944?

Goering: I would like to read the few preceding paragraphs so that no sentences are separated from their context.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: My Lord, while the witness is reading the document, might I go over the technical matter of the arrangement of exhibits? When I cross-examined Field Marshal Kesselring I put in three documents, UK-66, which becomes Exhibit GB-274; D-39, which becomes GB-275; TC-91, which becomes GB-276; so this document will become GB-277. [Turning to the witness.] Have you had an opportunity of reading it, Witness?

Goering: Yes, I have.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Then I am right, am I not, that the Soviet prisoners of war who escaped were to be, after their return to the camp, handed over to the Secret State Police. If they committed a crime, they were to be handed over to the Security Police, isn't that right?

Goering: Not exactly correct. I would like to point to the third sentence in the first paragraph. There it says, "If a prisoner-of-war camp is in the vicinity, then the man who is recaptured is to be transported there."

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: But read the next sentence, "If a Soviet prisoner of war is returned to the camp"--that is in accordance with this order which you have just read--"he has to be handed to the nearest service station of the Secret State Police." Your own sentence.

Goering: Yes, but the second paragraph which follows gives an explanation of frequent criminal acts of Soviet prisoners of war, et cetera, committed at that time. You read that yourself; that is also connected with this Paragraph Number 1. But this order was given by itself and it was distributed to the Army, the Air Force and the Navy. And I would like to give the explanation of distribution. In this war there were not only hundreds, but thousands of current orders which were issued by superiors to subordinate officers and were transmitted to various departments. That does not mean that each of these thousands of orders was submitted to the Commander-in-Chief; only the most decisive and most important were shown to him. The others went from department to department. Thus it is, that this order from the Chief the High Command was signed by a subordinate department, and not by the Chief of the High Command himself.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: This order would be dealt by your prisoner-of-war department in your ministry, wouldn't it?

Goering: This department, according to the procedure adopted for these orders, received the order, but no other department received it.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: I think the answer to my question must be "yes." It would be dealt with by the prisoner-of-war department--your ministry. Isn't that so?

Goering: I would say yes.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: It is quicker, you see, if you say "yes" in the beginning; do you understand?

Goering: No; it depends upon whether I personally have read the order or not, and I will then determine as to my responsibility.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Well now, the escape ...

The President: You were not asked about responsibility you were asked whether it would be dealt with by your prisoner-of-war department.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Now, the escape about which am asking you took place on the night of the 24th to the 25th March. I want you to have that date in mind. The decision to murder these young officers must have been taken very quickly because the first murder which actually took place was on the 26th of March. Do you agree with that? It must have been taken quickly?

Goering: I assume that this order, as I was informed later, was given immediately, but it had no connection with this document.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: No, no; we are finished with that document; we are going into the murder of these young men. The Grossfahndung--a general hue and cry, I think, would be the British translation--was also issued at once in order that these me should be arrested; isn't that so?

Goering: That is correct. Whenever there was an escape, and such a large number of prisoners escaped, automatically in the whole Reich, a hue and cry was raised, that is, all authorities had to be on the lookout to recapture the prisoners.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: So that in order to give this order to murder these men, and for the Grossfahndung, there must have been a meeting of Hitler, at any rate with Himmler or Kaltenbrunner, in order that that order would be put into effect; isn't that so?

Goering: That is correct. According to what I heard, Himmler was the first to report this escape to the Fuehrer.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Now, General Westhoff, who was in Defendant Keitel's Kriegsgefangenenwesen, in his prisoner-of-war set-up, says this, that "On a date, which I think was the 26th, Keitel said to him, 'This morning Goering reproached me in the presence of Himmler for having let some more prisoners of war escape. It was unheard of.'" Do you say that General Westhoff is wrong?

Goering: Yes. This is not in accordance with the facts. General Westhoff is referring to a statement of Field Marshal Keitel. This utterance in itself is illogical, for I could not accuse Keitel because he would not draw my attention to it, as the guarding was his responsibility and not mine.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: One of the Defendant Keitel's officers dealing with this matter was a general inspector, General Rottich. I do not know if you know him.

Goering: No.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Well, General Westhoff, as one could understand, is very anxious to assure everyone that his senior officer had nothing to do with it, and he goes on to say this about General Rottich:

He was completely excluded from it by the fact that these matters were taken out of his hands. Apparently at that conference with the Fuehrer in the morning, that is to say, the conference between Himmler, Field Marshal Keitel, and Goering, which took place in the Fuehrer's presence, the Fuehrer himself always took a hand in these affairs when officers escaped.

You say that is wrong? You were at no such conference?

Goering: I was not present at this conference, neither was General Westhoff; he is giving a purely subjective view, not the facts of the case.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: So that we find that--you think that--Westhoff is wrong? You see, Westhoff, he was a colonel at this time, I think, and now he finishes as a major general, and he asks that the senior officers be asked about it; he says this: "It should be possible to find out that Himmler made the suggestion to the Fuehrer--to find that out from Goering who was present at the conference." Again and again Westhoff, who after all is a comparatively junior officer, is saying that the truth about this matter can be discovered from his seniors. You say that it cannot.

Goering: I would not say that. I would like just to say that General Westhoff was never present for even a moment, therefore he cannot say, I know or I saw that Reich Marshal Goering was present. He is assuming it is so, or he may have heard it.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: What he says is, you know, that Keitel blamed him, as I have read to you; that Keitel went on to say to him at General von Graevenitz', "Gentlemen, the escapes must stop. We must set an example. We shall take very severe measures. I am only telling you that, that the men who have escaped will be shot; probably the majority of them are dead already." You never heard anything of that?

Goering: I was neither present at the Keitel-Westhoff-Graevenitz conversation nor at the Fuehrer-Himmler conversation. As far as I know General Westhoff will be testifying here. Moreover, Field Marshal Keitel will be able to say whether I was there or not.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Well then, I am bound to put this to you. I come on to your own ministry. I suppose in general you take responsibility for the actions of the officers of your ministry from the rank of field officer and above--colonels and major generals and lieutenant generals?

Goering: If they acted according to my directives and my instructions, yes; if they acted against my directives and instructions, no.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Well now, just let us see what happened in your own ministry. You know that--do you know, that Colonel Walde made a personal investigation of this matter at the camp? Did you know that?

Goering: The particulars about this investigation, as I explained yesterday, are unknown to me; I know only that investigations did take place.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Now, on the 27th of March, that was a Monday, did you know that there was a meeting in Berlin about this matter? Just let me tell you who were there before you apply your mind to it, so you will know. Your ministry was represented by Colonel Walde, because Lieutenant General Grosch had another meeting, so he ordered his deputy to attend; the Defendant Keitel's organization was represented by Colonel von Reurmont; the Gestapo was represented by GruppenFührer Muller; the Kripo was represented by GruppenFührer Nebe. Now, all these officers were of course not on the policy level, but they were high executive officers who had to deal with the actual facts that were carried out, were they not?

Goering: They were not executive officers, insofar as it has not been definitely established that executive powers are within an officer's province. To the first question, whether I knew about this meeting, I would say no. Colonel Walde I do not even know personally.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: You mean to say, you are telling the Tribunal, that you were never told about this meeting at any time?

Goering: Yes, I am saying that.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: I just want you to look at--let him have Walde's statement--I want you to look at the statement of one of the officers of your own ministry on this point. This is a statement made by Colonel Ernst Walde, and--I am sorry I have not another German copy, but I will get one in due course - and in my copy, Witness, it is at the foot of Page 2, the beginning of the paragraph which I want you to look at, is: "As recaptured prisoners were not to be taken back to their camp, according to an order issued several weeks previously.. ."--can you find it?

Goering: Where is it?

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Well, in the English version it is at the middle of the second page, and I want to ask you about the -- the middle of that paragraph; I do not know if you see a name--it stands out in my copy--Major Dr. Huhnemorder; do you see that?

Goering: Yes, I have found it.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Well, it is the sentence after the name Major Dr. Huhnemorder appears: "On this Monday"--have you got this?

Goering: Yes.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Thank you.

On this Monday a conference took place at the Reich Security Main Office at Berlin, Albrechtstrasse. As far as I remember this conference had been called by the Chief of the Prisoner-of-War Organization OKW, and I attended as representative of Luftwaffe Inspektion 17, since General Grosch was unable to attend in person, for reasons which I cannot remember; the Chief of the Prisoner-of-War Organization, as far as I know, was represented by Colonel von Reurmont, while the Security Office was represented by GruppenFührer Muller and GruppenFührer Nebe, the Chief of the Criminal Police at that time. I find it impossible to give a verbatim account of the conversation or to state what was said by every single person. But I remember this much: That we were informed about a conference which had taken place on the previous day, that is Sunday, at the Fuehrer's headquarters in connection with the mass escape from Sagan, in the course of which heated discussions had taken place between the participants. In this connection the names of Himmler, Goering, and Keitel were mentioned. Whether Ribbentrop's name was also mentioned I do not remember. The Fuehrer was not mentioned.

At this conference appropriate measures were said to have been discussed, or taken, to check any such mass escapes in the future. The nature of these measures was not disclosed. Later, and more or less in conclusion, GruppenFührer Muller declared that requisite orders had already been given and put into effect the previous morning. Regarding the search for escaped prisoners, he could or would not make any statement; he merely declared that according to reports so far received, shootings had taken place at some points for attempted escapes. I think he said that the number was 10 or 15. After these remarks by GruppenFührer Muller, which unmistakably caused a shattering effect, it became clear to me that a decision had been made by the highest authority, and that therefore any intervention by subordinate departments was impossible and pointless.

Now, this was announced at a meeting of persons that I would call executives, that the shooting had already begun. Are you telling this Tribunal that this matter was made clear to these executives, including one of your own officers, and was never told to you? Are you still saying that?

Goering: I am still saying that. Firstly, that I have never heard anything about this conference. Secondly, that the officer in question is only surmising when he mentions the names, he makes no assertion. And thirdly, I would like to ask you also to mention the beginning of this statement, which begins as follows:

In this matter of the mass escape of British Air Force officers from Prisoner-of-War Camp Number III, at Sagan on 24 or 25 March 1944, I make the following statement: I have to point out that in view of the absence of any documents, I am forced to reconstruct completely from memory events which happened almost a year and 9 months ago; I therefore ask that this fact and the possibility thus arising of my making a mistake be taken into consideration, and that due allowances be made."

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: That is a perfectly fair point, and the answer to it is that I will show you what this officer reported at the time to his general. Give the witness General Grosch's statement. [The document was submitted to the witness.] We are getting reasonably high up. This officer, General Grosch, signs it as a Lieutenant General. Now, would you like, if you can, to help me again--you were most helpful last time--to try to find the place? This is a statement by Lieutenant General Grosch.

Goering: I request to have permission to read this document first, to see whether similar modifications apply here also.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Will you read the first sentence? I do not want to take up time to read an account of the general matter. It says: "During my interrogation on 7 December 1945 1 was told to write down all I knew about the Sagan case." And then he wrote it down. But I would like you to look at Number 1, the first page. Do you see at the foot of the page an account of the pyramid in your ministry of administration? Do you see that at the foot of Page 1? [There was no response.]

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Witness, do you see at the foot of Page 1 the pyramid?

Goering: I see it but--I am now at the place.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: It comes in about the fourth paragraph.

Goering: I can see it, but I should like to read the other first.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Then, if you will look about four small paragraphs on, it begins: "A few days after the day of the escape--I cannot remember the date any more--Colonel Walde informed me that OKW had called a conference in Berlin." Do you see that? I do not mind you running through it quickly, but you may take it that the first two pages are what I said were there, the pyramid of your ministry.

Goering: Yes, I have found it. Which paragraph, please?

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: It is Part C, the fourth paragraph, the Sagan case. "A few days after the escape...." Do you find that?

Goering: Yes, I have the place.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Thank you.

A few days after the day of the escape--I cannot remember the date any more--Colonel Walde informed me that the OKW had called a conference in Berlin--I believe on the premises of a high SS and police authority, and that the Inspectorate Number 17 was to send representatives. I should have liked to have gone myself, but had to attend another conference in Berlin, and asked Colonel Walde to attend as representative. After his return Colonel Walde informed me that the spokesman of the OKW had informed them that there was a decision by the Fuehrer to the effect that, on recapture, the escaped British airmen were not to be handed back to the Luftwaffe but were to be shot.

Then missing a paragraph and taking the last line of the next paragraph:

It is, however, certain that the danger of their being shot was even then clearly recognizable. I asked Colonel Walde whether such a far-reaching decision would be notified in writing to the High Command of the Luftwaffe or the Reich Air Ministry or whether he had been given anything in writing. Colonel Walde gave me to understand that the assembly were told by the spokesman of the OKW, that they would receive nothing in writing, nor was there to be any correspondence on this subject. The circle of those in the know was to be kept as small as possible. I asked Colonel Walde whether the spokesman of the OKW had said anything to the effect that the Reich Marshal or the High Command of the Luftwaffe had been informed about the matter. Colonel Walde assured me that the OKW spokesman had told them that the Reich Marshal was informed.

I will not ask you about that for the moment. I want you to look at what your general did. It says:

Up to the time of Colonel Walde's report I had not received even so much as a hint anywhere that escaped prisoners of war should be treated in any other way than according to the provisions of the Geneva Convention. The same afternoon I rang up my superior officer, the Chief of Air Defense, to ask time for an interview with General der Flieger Forster. This was fixed for the next morning. When I came there to report I found General Forster together with his chief of staff. I asked General Forster for permission to speak to him alone and put the facts before him.

In conclusion, I expressed the opinion that if the British airmen were to be shot, (a) there would be a breach of the Geneva Convention, (b) reprisal measures endangering the lives of German airmen held by the British as prisoners of war would have to be expected. I asked General Forster to bring the matter to the notice of the Reich Marshal even at this very late stage, and to stress those two points. General Forster was immediately prepared to do this. When it came to the choice of the way in which the matter could be brought to the attention of the Reich Marshal, it was decided to report to State Secretary Field Marshal Milch. In my presence General Forster rang up the office of the state secretary and obtained the interview at once. General Forster left the room, and while doing so he instructed me to wait for his return in his study. After some time General Forster came back and told me that he had reported the matter to the state secretary and that Field Marshal Milch had made the necessary notes.

Look at the last paragraph:

"I gave Colonel Walde the order, despite the ban by the OKW, to incorporate a detailed written statement about the conference in our records. So far as I know, this was done."

Dr. Stahmer: Counsel Stahmer on behalf of the Defendant Goering. We have had submitted here a series of affidavits given by witnesses who are in Nuremberg and who, in my opinion, could be brought as witnesses in person. Because of the importance of this matter, not only for Goering but for other defendants, I object to this procedure, on the assumption that the same rules apply for cross-examination as examination in chief. By that I mean that we should not be satisfied with an affidavit and depend on an affidavit, if the Prosecution can, without difficulty, summon the witness in order to have him testify before the Tribunal, so that the Defense may be in position to cross-examine these witnesses.

The President: Dr. Stahmer, what you have said is entirely inaccurate. The rules with reference to cross-examination are not the same as rules with reference to examination in chief, and what is being done at the present moment is that the Defendant Goering is being cross-examined as to his credit. He has said that he knew nothing about this matter, and he has been cross-examined to prove that he has lied when he said that.

Dr. Stahmer: Mr. President, according to my opinion the procedure should be that the witness be brought here in person. The fact remains that, in our estimation, a reference to an affidavit is a less desirable means than the personal testimony of a witness, which affords the Defense the possibility of adducing evidence.

The President: Dr. Stahmer, as I have already pointed out to you, you are quite in error in thinking that the rules for cross-examination are the same as for examination in chief. The witness at the present moment is being cross-examined and is being cross-examined as to credit; that is to say, to prove whether or not he is telling the truth. As to the calling of this witness--I think his name is Grosch--you can apply to call him if you want to do so. That is an entirely different matter.

Dr. Stahmer: Yes. I quite understand, Mr. President; but I had to have the possibility of calling the people who are mentioned in this affidavit, in case I consider it necessary.

The President: Well, you can apply to do that.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: [Turning to the witness.] You understand, what I am suggesting to you is that here was a matter which was not only known in the OKW, not only known in the Gestapo and the Kripo, but was known to your own director of operations, General Forster, who told General Grosch that he had informed Field Marshal Milch. I am suggesting to you, that it is absolutely impossible and untrue that in these circumstances you knew nothing about it.

Goering: I would like first to establish an entirely different point. In the German interpretation regarding the first objection by Dr. Stahmer, the following came through ...

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: The Tribunal does not want you to discuss legal objections.

The President: Will you please answer the question that is put to you? You have already been told that you must answer a question directly and make any explanation afterwards, and shorten it.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Do you still say, in view of that evidence, in view of these statements from the officers of your own ministry, that you knew nothing about this?

Goering: Precisely these statements confirm this, and I would like to make a short explanation. You determined a date. You said it was the 27th. But in this statement by Grosch this date is not determined. It says: "A few days after the escape, I do not recall the date, Colonel Walde informed me." Secondly, it says here that General Forster, who was not chief of my operational branch but chief of another branch of the ministry, mentioned this matter to State Secretary Field Marshal Milch, without referring to the date. General Field Marshal Milch was here as a witness, but unfortunately, he was never questioned as to whether he gave me this report, and at what time, and whether to me direct.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Oh yes, he was, and General Field Marshal Milch took the same line as you, that he knew nothing about it, that Forster had never spoken to him. It was asked by my friend, Mr. Roberts, "Didn't General Forster speak to you about it?" What I am suggesting is that both you and Field Marshal Milch are saying you knew nothing about it, when you did, and are leaving the responsibility on the shoulders of your junior officers. That is what I am suggesting and I want you to understand it.

Goering: No, I do not wish to push responsibility on to the shoulders of my subordinates, and I want to make it clear--that is the only thing that is important to me--that Field Marshal Milch did not say that he reported this matter to me. And, secondly, that the date when Forster told Milch about this is not established. It could have been quite possible that on the date when this actually happened, the Chief of the General Staff of the Luftwaffe might already have conferred with me about it.

The important factor is--and I want to maintain it--that I was not present at the time when the command was given by the Fuehrer. When I heard about it, I vehemently opposed it. But at the time I heard of it, it was already too late. That a few were shot later, was not yet known at the time, neither was the exact time of the event. Most of them had been shot already. Thirdly, those who escaped, and were captured in the direct vicinity of the camp by our guards were returned to the camp and were not handed over. Those prisoners who were captured by the police and the Grossfahndung, and returned to the camp before the Fuehrer had issued the decree, were likewise not handed over and shot.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: You know that, according to Wielen, who is going to give evidence, the selection of the officers to be shot--a list as regards the selection of officers to be shot--a list had been prepared by the camp authorities at the request of Department 5, that is of the RSHA Kripo Department, in which those officers were regarded as disturbing elements--plotters and escape leaders, having been specifically mentioned. The names were selected either by the commandant or by one of these officers. Thereupon, the shooting of the officers mentioned by name was accordingly ordered by Department 4 of the RSHA and corresponding instructions sent to the Staatspolizei. Are you telling the Tribunal you did not know that your own officers were selecting the men to be shot on the ground that they were plotters and escape leaders? In any other service in the world, attempt to escape is regarded as a duty of an officer, isn't it, when he is a prisoner of war? Isn't that so?

Goering: That is correct, and I have emphasized that. To your first question, I would like to put on record very definitely that we are dealing with the utterances of a man who will be testifying as a witness. As to whether he actually asked for a list and saw a list, his utterance is illogical. There was no selection made for shooting. Those who were captured by the police were shot without exception, and those who had not been returned to the camp. No officers were selected as representing disturbing elements, but those who had returned to the camp were not shot. Those who were recaptured by the police outside the camp were shot without exception, on the orders, of the Fuehrer. Therefore, the utterance is entirely illogical and not in accordance with the facts. I know nothing about such a list being asked for, nor about the carrying out of such a wish. I personally pointed out to the Fuehrer repeatedly that it is the duty of these officers to escape, and that on their return after the war, they would have to give an account of such attempts, which as far as I can remember should be repeated three times, according to English rules.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: You remember that the Government of Germany sent an official note about this matter, saying that they had been shot while resisting arrest while trying to escape? Do you remember that?

Goering: I heard for the first time that there had been a note to this effect when the reply to it was sent. I had no part in the drawing up of the note. I know of its contents only through the reply, for I happened to be there when the reply came in.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: I am not at the moment on the point that everyone now admits that the note was a complete and utter lie. I am on the point of the seriousness of this matter. Do you know that General Westhoff says in his statement: "Then, when we read this note to England in the newspaper, we were all absolutely taken aback. We all clutched our heads, mad." According to Mr. Wielen, who will be here, it was a contributory cause for General Nebe of the Kripo, for nights on end, not going to bed but passing the night on his office settee. You will agree, won't you, Witness, that this was a serious and difficult matter? All these officers that had to deal with it found it a serious and difficult matter, isn’t that so?

Goering: Not only these officers found this matter serious and difficult, but I myself considered it the most serious incident of the whole war and expressed myself unequivocally and clearly on this point, and later, when I learned the contents of the note, I knew that this note was not in accordance with the truth. I gave expression to my indignation, inasmuch as I immediately told my Quartermaster General to direct a letter to the OKW to the effect that we wished to give up the camps for prisoners of war, because under these circumstances, we no longer wished to have anything to do with them.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: And according to your evidence in chief, what you did was to turn to Himmler, asking him if he had received the order, and then you said, "I told him what excitement would result in my branch, because we could not understand such measures; and if he had received such orders, he would please inform me before carrying them through so that I would have the possibility to prevent such orders from being carried out, if possible"--and then you said that you--"talked to the Fuehrer and that he confirmed that he had given the order and told me why." You, according to that evidence, still had enough influence in Germany, in your opinion, to stop even Himmler issuing such orders or carrying--I am sorry, I said "issuing"--carrying out such orders.

Goering: You are giving my statement a completely wrong meaning. I told Himmler plainly that it was his duty to telephone me before the execution of this matter, to give me the possibility, even at this period of my much diminished influence, to prevent the Fuehrer from carrying out this decree. I did not mean to say that I would have been completely successful, but it was a matter of course that I, as Chief of the Luftwaffe, should make it clear to Himmler that it was his duty to telephone me first of all, because it was I who was most concerned with this matter.

I told the Fuehrer in very clear terms just how I felt, and I saw from his answers that, even if I had known of it before, I could not have prevented this decree, and we must keep in mind that two different methods of procedure are in question. The order was not given to the Luftwaffe, that these people were to be shot by the Luftwaffe personnel, but to the police. If the Fuehrer had said to me, "I will persist in this decree which I gave the police," I would not have been able to order the police not to carry through the Fuehrer's decree. Only if this decree had had to be carried out by my men, would it have been possible for me perhaps to circumvent the decree, and I would like to emphasize this point strongly.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Well, that may be your view that you could not have got anywhere with the Fuehrer; but I suggested to you that when all these officers that I mentioned knew about it, you knew about it, and that you did nothing to prevent these men from being shot, but co-operated in this foul series of murders.

The President: Sir David, are you passing from that now?

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Yes.

The President: You are putting in evidence these two documents?

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: I am putting them in. I put them to the witness. D-731 will be GB-278, and D-730 will be GB-279.

The President: And should you not refer perhaps to the second paragraph in 731?

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Yes.

The President: It shows that apparently, in the early hours of the 25th of March the matter was communicated to the office of the adjutant of the Reich Marshal--the second paragraph beginning with "the escape."

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: Yes.

The escape of about 30 to 40 prisoners, the exact number having to be ascertained by roll call, was reported by telephone from the Sagan Camp to the Inspectorate in the early hours of the 25th of March, Saturday morning, and duly passed on in the same way by this office to the higher authorities which were to be informed in case of mass escapes. These were: 1.) the Office of the Adjutant of the Reich Marshal; 2.) the OKW, for directors of these prisoners of war; 3.) the Inspector General of Prisoners of War; and 4.) Director of Operations, Air Ministry.

I am much obliged. You must remember that the witness did not admit yesterday afternoon that the news of the escape had been given to the office of his adjutant.

The President: Yes.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: I am much obliged to you.

Goering: The escape was communicated to us every time relatively quickly. I should now like to give my view of the statement made by you before that--it concerns assertions made by you--but I still maintain that I did not hear about this incident until after it had occurred.

Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe: I have put my questions on the incident.
The Nuremberg Tribunal Biographies
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