[Testimony on 3/20/46]
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE (Bristish prosecutor): 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 3/1944, 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, when 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: 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?
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 his 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 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 the 28th or the 29th of March. I cannot tell you. For proof OfhthaperYhaps 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?
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 Se 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 I 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 5/1943, 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 which 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 if 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 2/1944, 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; didn't 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 any offenses or police, I believe gave any order the extent that escaped prisoners of war committed crimes, they were of course turned over to the But I wish to testify before the Court that I never 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.
[Tesimony on 3/21/46]
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 corner, 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 Reichsfuehrer SS," and the subheading: "Inspector of Concentration Camps."
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: It is a document dated the 11/22/1941. Have you got it?
GOERING: Yes, I have it now.
SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Now, look at the left-hand bottom corner, as to distribution. The second person to whom it is distributed is the Air Ministry and Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force on 11/22/1941. 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 ice, a man who commits a crime, as you mentioned, will be headed over to the Security Police. Wasn't that the condition obtained from 1941 up to the date we are dealing with in 3/1944?
GOERING: I would like to read the few preceding paragraphs 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 Slecking I put in three documents, UK-66, which becomes Exhibit 274, D-39, which becomes GB-275; TC-91, which becomes GB-276; 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 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 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, ft cetera committed at that time. You read that yourself; that is o 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 its 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 of 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 with 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 I am asking you took place on the night of the 24th to the 25th of 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 men 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 vas 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.
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.