The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
12th March to 22nd March, 1946

Eighty-Second Day: Friday, 15th March, 1946
(Part 7 of 7)

[DR. STAHMER continues his direct examination of HERMANN WILHELM GORING]

[Page 145]

Q. Witness von Brauchitsch testified the other day that in May, 1944, the Fuehrer decreed the strictest measures against the so-called terror flyers. Did you, in compliance with this Fuehrer decree, issue instructions to shoot enemy terror flyers or to have them handed over to the S.D.?

A. The concept "terror flyers" was very confused. A part of the population, and also of the Press, called everything which attacked cities "terror flyers," 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 in part that the really important industrial targets were less frequently hit than houses and non-military targets. Some German cities had thus already been hit most severely in their residential districts, even though the industry 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 which attacked both military and non-military 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 recognised 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 - said that a group of children had been shot at. Men and women who stood in line in front of stores had also been shot at. And these activities were now called those of terror flyers.

The Fuehrer was extremely excited. The populace, in its excitement, resorted, at first, to lynching, and we tried at first to take measures against 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 that these terror flyers should be shot - or rather he made such a statement on the spot.

The belief that these flyers 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 recognised as military, I had confirmed beforehand through an interrogation of the flyers.

[Page 146]

Now, as is often the case in matters of this kind, all officers which had something 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 O.K.W. 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 concept "terror flyer" 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 back and forth. In general I expressed the opinion that these flyers, 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 6th June, 1944, that a conference between Himmler, Ribbentrop and me took place in Klessheim and which is signed by Warlimont, states that Warlimont said that 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, 6th 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, the help of the German Air Force, and always asked for fighting material from the German Air Force; that is, machines, regardless of whether it was Bulgaria, Roumania, Hungary, Finland, or Italy, or someone else. I made a point of not being there in such cases, so that the Fuehrer would have an opportunity to be evasive and to say, "I must first consult with the Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force."

Therefore, I had already left Berchtesgaden on the 3rd or the 4th, 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 on 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 manoeuvre or the actual invasion. Thereupon, I returned in the late evening or in the afternoon - I remember exactly, I left after lunch and it takes about four and a half hours from hereto Berchtesgaden. 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 emphasise 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 O.K.W., 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 Air Force, to the transit camp or the interrogation camp in Oberursel or to any part of the troops.

A document which has been read here concerns a report from Air District No. 11, which mentions the shooting of American flyers. I believe they were Americans, and this is mentioned in this connection because it says Air District 11. I looked through the document - there are two very thorough appendices. It is stated very definitely and clearly here that Air District No. 11 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 precinct is given - that they therefore did not arrive there, but had been shot beforehand by the

[Page 147]

police. Then Air District 11 duly reports these events. In the attached report each of the men is mentioned by name and also what happened to him. Some were taken to hospitals, others were, as said, shot before. And all these reports and each individual report sheet can be explained by the fact that the offices of the Air Districts, as the competent offices at home, were instructed automatically to make reports on a printed form, 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 were killed or half of them 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 of our own and of hostile craft which had been shot down with their - crews came in currently by the hundreds in my dispatches in this great war of the air, and were channelled from the Air District 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 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 finally wished to know the names and the punishment of those officers who again and again had protected flyers 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 flyers who had bailed out had been most severely mistreated by our own people, who at first were completely confused, and that I therefore repeatedly emphasised on behalf of the Air Force that these things had to be stopped.

There was one last sharp controversy, again In the presence of many gentlemen, at the 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 aviators have always remained comrades, no matter how much we fight each other." All the gentlemen present will remember this.

Q. What was your attitude, as highest judicial authority of the Air Force, in regard to punishable acts committed by the soldiers under you in occupied territory ?

A. 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 fact that the highest legal counsel of the Air Force be 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 offended 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 for those inhabitants of occupied territories who were brought before an Air Force Court, as, for instance, when in France, Holland or Russia or another country, the native civilian population had helped enemy flyers to escape or had been guilty of acts of sabotage on aeroplanes, or had engaged in espionage in connection with the Air Force; that is, all punishable acts which had taken place in connection with the Air Force. The war situation demanded, of course, that in general we enforce strict measures here.

But I should like to emphasise in this connection that, of course, the prescribed death sentences were also never applied by the courts to women. In

[Page 148]

all these cases involving women I have not, during the entire war years, not once confirmed 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 Air Force, not even in the worst cases have I not given reprieve.

Q. In your military and economic measure in the occupied territories did you take into consideration whether these measures were in accord with The Hague Convention on Land Warfare?

A. I scanned through the Regulations on 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 time. In this case I would have told the Fuehrer that, in view of these Regulations on Land Warfare of The Hague Convention, as they had been set down paragraph for paragraph, under no circumstances could a modern war be waged, but that one would perforce come into conflict with the conditions set down then in 1906, because of the technological expansion of modern war. Either one would have to cancel these, or else one would have to introduce modern new viewpoints corresponding to technical developments. My reasoning is as follows:

The Regulations for 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, 1907. But from 1939 to 1945 there was no longer merely land warfare but also air warfare, which has not been taken into consideration here and which, in part, created an entirely new situation, and which transformed 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, on the sea, and in the air, the economic war which has become an integral part of every modern war, and, third, the propaganda war, which is also an essential part of this warfare.

If one recognises these principles on the basis of logic, certain deviations will then result which, according to the letter, can 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 a matter of course as booty, then I must say that to-day in a modern war the weapons of the opponent under certain circumstances have value only as scrap, that economic goods however, raw materials, steel, high grade aluminium, copper, lead and tin, seem and are much more essential as war booty than are obsolete weapons which I might take from the 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 place - I do not remember it right now - that those things which are necessary can be confiscated, but only when compensated for. That is also not the decisive factor, as one can readily believe. Decisive is, however, the fact that, in this modern war and in this economic war, which is the basis for any further conduct of war, the supplies must be regarded as absolutely necessary for the war and must be made available for use in war, first of all in the food sector, as the basis of every conduct of war, and beyond that raw materials in the industrial area. But, likewise, the places of production and the machines are part of economic warfare. If they have, up till now, served the opponent whether in the immediately or in the indirectly contributing, or in the supporting industry - as to armament and conduct of war they must now also serve whoever has come into the possession of these means of production through military decision, if only temporarily during the armistice or in the occupied territories. In this connection, the labour question naturally also plays a far greater role in the economic war than it did in those former wars which served as examples in the Regulations on Land Warfare of The Hague Convention. In

[Page 149]

1907 the most recent wars, the Russian-Japanese war and perhaps the English-Boer war, which were, however, conducted under entirely different circumstances - wars which for practical purposes lie decades behind us - 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 to-day's total war, in which everyone, even the child, is drawn into the experience of war through the introduction of air war.

According to my opinion, manpower and, thereby, the workers and their use at the moment are also an integral part of the economic war. Thereby, it is not meant that such a worker should be so exploited that he suffers physical injury but only that his manpower 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 and five new military age groups are growing up and staying at home without any work.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Stahmer, is there any chance that the defendant will finish by to-night?

DR. STAHMER: This is the last question.

THE PRESIDENT: Please continue.


A. The question of the deportation of workers has, therefore, also to be regarded from this point of view, namely, that we were obliged to introduce it as a measure for our security. We also had to dispose of manpower and, at the same time, especially those who had no work in their own country and represented a danger on the side of the underground resistance arising against us, would have to be removed.

If these age groups were drafted into Germany for work, this happened 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 on the other hand should be used to our advantage in the economic war.

Thirdly, I want to mention these things just very briefly and, in conclusion, the war of propaganda. At one point in the Indictment is also mentioned that we requisitioned radios, which is, to be sure, a matter of course. For what great importance the war of propaganda had, enemy propaganda which extended by way of radio far into the hinterland, no one has experienced more strongly than Germany. All the great dangers of the underground movements, the Partisan war, the Resistance movements and the sabotage and everything connected with it, and finally also this war, this embitterment 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 of the air, the economic war and the propaganda war.

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 PRESIDENT: The Court will adjourn.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 16th March, 1946, at 10.00 hours.)

[ Previous | Index | Next ]