Cross-examination of Hermann Goering on anti-Jewish policy (1946)

On March 20th 1946, the US prosecutor at Nuremberg, Robert Jackson, cross-examined Nazi leader Hermann Goering on his role in implementing anti-Jewish policy in the Nazi regime:

Jackson: “You have stated that on the Jewish question, some of the members of the government were more radical than you. Would you state who these were?”

Goering: “Broadly speaking, when we took over the government, we only demanded their removal from political and other leading positions in the State.”

Jackson: “That is not what I asked you.”

Tribunal president: “That is not a direct answer to the question. The question was that you said some members of the government were more radical toward Jews than you were. Would you tell us which of the members of the government were more radical than you were?”

Goering: “Excuse me, I did not understand the question to mean who were more radical, but in what way they were more radical. If you ask who, then I would say that those were primarily Minister Goebbels and Himmler.”

Jackson: “Do you also include your co-defendant, Streicher, as more radical than you?”

Goering: “Yes, but he was not a member of the government.”

Jackson: “He was the Gauleiter, was he not, or this very territory in which we are sitting.”

Goering: “That is correct; but he had very little or no influence in government measures.”

Jackson: “What about Heydrich?”

Goering: “Heydrich was subordinate to Himmler. If I said Himmler, I, of course, include Heydrich.”

Jackson: “Heydrich is then included in the list the more radical ones to whom you refer?”

Goering: “That is right; yes.”

Jackson: “What about Bormann?”

Goering: “It was only during the later years that I observed at Bormann was becoming more radical. I do not know anything about his attitude in the beginning.”

Jackson: “I want to review with you briefly… public acts taken by you in reference to the Jewish question. From the very beginning you regarded the elimination of the Jews from the economic life of Germany as one phase of the Four-Year Plan under your jurisdiction, did you not?”

Goering: “The elimination, yes. That is partly correct. Elimination as far as the large industries were concerned, because there were continual disturbances due to the fact that there were large industries, also armament industries, still partly under [the control of] Jewish directors, or with Jewish shareholders, and that gave rise to a certain anxiety among the lower ranks…”

Jackson: “Now, let us go through the public acts which you performed on the Jewish question. First, did you proclaim the Nuremberg Laws?”

Goering: “As President of the Reichstag, yes. I have already stated that…”

Jackson: “Then on the first day of December 1936, you promulgated an act making it a death penalty for Germans to transfer property abroad or leave it abroad; the property of a culprit to be forfeited to the State, and the People’s Court given jurisdiction to prosecute, did you not?”

Goering: “That is correct; the “Decree Governing Restriction on Foreign Currency.” That is to say, whoever had an account in a foreign country without permission of the government.”

Jackson: “Then, your third public act was on April 22nd 1938 when you published penalties for veiling the character of a Jewish enterprise within the Reich, was it not?”

Goering: “Yes…”

Jackson: “Now, on April 26th 1938 you, under the Four Year Plan, published a decree providing for the registration of Jewish property and provided that Jews inside and outside Germany must register their property, did you not?”

Goering: “I assume so. I no longer remember it, but if you have the decree there, and if it is signed by me, there cannot be any doubt…”

Jackson: “Then, it was you, was it not, who signed, on July 31st 1941, a decree asking Himmler, and the Chief of Security Police and the SS Gruppenfuehrer Heydrich to make the plans for the complete solution of the Jewish question?”

Goering: “No, that is not correct. I know that decree very well.”

Jackson: “I ask to have you shown Document 710, Exhibit Number USA-509… That document is signed by you, is it not?”

Goering: “That is correct.”

Jackson: “And it is addressed to the Chief of the Security Police and the Security Service, and to SS Gruppenfuehrer Heydrich, isn’t it?”

Goering: “That is also correct.”

Jackson: “I am not certain whether the entire thing has been read into the record, but I think it should be; and, that we may have no difficulty about the translation of this, you correct me if I am wrong: “Completing the task that was assigned to you on January 24th 1939…”

Goering: “Here is a mistake already. It says: “Complementing” not “completing” the task which has been assigned to you.”

Jackson: “Very well, I will accept that. “Which dealt with arriving at a thorough furtherance of emigration and evacuation, a solution of the Jewish problem, as advantageously as possible, I hereby charge you with making all necessary preparations in regard to organisational and financial matters for bringing about a complete solution of the Jewish question in the German sphere of influence in Europe.” Am I correct so far?”

Goering: “No, that is in no way correctly translated.”

Jackson: “Give us your translation of it.”

Goering: “May I read it as it is written here? “Complementing the task which was conferred upon you already on January 24th 1939, to solve the Jewish problem by means of emigration and evacuation in the best possible way according to present conditions, I charge you herewith to make all necessary preparations as regards organisational, factual, and material matters…” Now comes the decisive word which has been mistranslated: “For a total solution”, not “for a final solution.”