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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
27th February to 11th March, 1946

Seventy-Seventh Day: Friday, 8th March, 1946
(Part 8 of 9)

[DR. STAHMER continues his direct examination of General Field-Marshal Milch]

[Page 252]

Q. What were the relations of the German Air Force to the air forces of foreign countries during the period beginning with the year 1935?

A. During the first years after 1935, Germany had no air force worth mentioning. There were only the first units, the first larger schools that were established; likewise, during these years, industry was enlarged. Before the rearmament

[Page 253]

started, our industry had been on a very small scale. I happen to know that the number of workers in the entire German air force industry, at the time of the, seizure of power by the National Socialists, was about 3,000 to 3,300 men, constructors, businessmen, technicians and workers.

The first contacts with foreign countries in the field of aviation started in 1937This was when, in January 1937, an English Commission led by Air-Vice-Marshal Courtney and three other high-ranking officers - Courtney was the Chief of the Intelligence Service of the British Air Force - came to Germany. I myself accompanied this Commission, and acted as guide during the entire time. We complied with every request of these gentlemen as to what they wanted to see. Those were the first contacts which were established. We especially showed our training unit, in which all new forms and models were tried out, the industries, the schools, and anything else about which the gentlemen wanted to know. At the end of our conference the English Vice-Marshal suggested that we should start a mutual German-English exchange of plans. I asked for the approval of my Commander-in-Chief and it was granted. At the time we forwarded to the British the plans of the German Air Force for '37, '38 and I believe, '39, and on the other hand we also received from the British the corresponding figures. We agreed that in the future also, should changes in plans occur or new units be established, an exchange of data should again take place. The visit was animated by a spirit of comradeship and was the beginning of further contacts.

In May of the same year, 1937, I was invited to Belgium with several other gentlemen, as representative of my Commander- in-Chief, to see their Air Force; then in July . . .

Q. What happened on this visit to Belgium? Can you give me more details about that?

A. It was a very cordial reception. I made the acquaintance of the Minister of war, the Minister of Foreign affairs, the Prime Minister, and also of his Majesty the King, besides the officers of the Air Force who, of course, were primarily of interest to me. The discussion was friendly on both sides, and the Belgians assured us of their personal feelings of friendship for Germany.

Q. Was there also an exchange of data?

A. No, not in the same way, but later in Germany we also showed the Belgians everything, when the Chief of the Air Force, General Duvier, returned our visit. Then there was a big international meeting in the summer, in July 1937, on the occasion of the aviation meeting in Zurich which was held every five years. At this meeting we intentionally showed our latest models of fighters, bombers and Stukas, also our new engines which had just been produced and anything else that would be of international interest. There was a large French, Italian, Czech and Belgian Delegation present, besides the German one, and a Commission of British officers also attended to see the material displayed by us, but did not take part in the contests as representative of Great Britain. We showed our material to the French, the British, and to the other nations, in a spirit of comradeship. There was, for instance, the Messerschmidt fighter 109 with the improvements of the time, more or less as it was flown until the end of the war; the newest Dornier bomber type, the newest Stuka by Junkers, also the Daimler- Benz 600 and 601 engines, and also of Junkers . . .

THE PRESIDENT: I do not think that this amount of detail is of any interest to the Tribunal.


Q. Witness, please, no details; make it short.

A. Yes. Then in October 1937, there was an invitation to France from the French Government to inspect their Air Force also. The inspection is said to have been made in a very friendly spirit. Shortly after that, about one week later, there was a visit on the invitation of England in return for Air-Vice-Marshal Courtney's

[Page 254]

visit. Here, also, factories, organizations, schools and the War Academy were shown; also, as regards industry, the "Shadow Factories" were shown, that is, industries which produce peace-time goods in time of peace, and switch over to building aircraft and aircraft engines in time of war. There were also reciprocal visits with Sweden. I think I can conclude with that.

Q. Did you take part in a discussion with the Fuehrer on 23rd May, 1939?

A. Yes.

Q. In what function?

A. I was suddenly ordered to come on the morning of that day, because the Reich-Marshal was not there.

Q. Do you remember the course of this conversation?

A. The Fuehrer made a long speech to the three Commanders-in- Chief of the Army, Navy and Air Force, and their Chiefs of Staff. Several other persons were also present. The gist of it was, that Hitler declared he had decided to solve the question of a corridor across the Corridor to East Prussia in one way or another, and in connection with that he discussed the possibility of complications which, in consequence, might arise in the West. It was only a speech, not a discussion or a conversation.

Q. Was anything else discussed or presented by him, any further details?

A. Yes, it was just the question whether the West - probably he was thinking primarily of France - would keep quiet or whether it would interfere.

Q. Was anything said of the possibility of an attack on Poland, or, as I remember, was only the solution of this "Corridor" problem mentioned?

A. Actually, I understood him to say that he would solve this problem in any case, so his first thought was probably of negotiations, but if these negotiations did not produce results, then a military solution would probably have to be considered.

Q. Were there any further discussions about that?

A. No, it was expressly ordered that any discussion by the participants, even among themselves, was forbidden; I, for instance, was forbidden to inform the Reichsmarshal, who was not there. Hitler declared that he himself would inform Goering. I remember that at that time the famous order was also issued, which has been mentioned previously and which is known as "Fuehrer Order No. 1," and which had to be displayed in every one of our offices, that nobody should say anything to anybody, which he need not know, that nothing should ever be said sooner than necessary, and that only as much should be said as the other person ought to know.

Q. Then you did not inform the Reichsmarshal about this conference?

A. No, I was forbidden to do so.

Q. When did he find out about it?

A. I do not know.

Q. What was the attitude of the then Field-Marshal Goering towards war?

A. I have always been under the impression - this already became apparent at the time of the occupation of the Rhineland-that he was worried that Hitler's policy might lead to war. In my opinion, he was against war.

Q. When did you find out for the first time that Hitler had planned something against Russia?

A. As far as I remember, that was in the spring of 1941. May I correct myself once more? I want to look in my notebook. On 13th January, the Reichsmarshal told me that Hitler expected an attack against Germany on the part of Russia; then, for some time, I did not hear anything further about it and the Reichsmarshal did not mention either, what his opinion was. At any rate, during the weeks and months following, I did not hear any more about it. It is true, however, that at that time I was very seldom in Berlin, and not at all at Headquarters as I was on inspection tours, etc. When I returned - and I do not remember whether it was in March or April - one of my subordinates made me a report on a question of clothing and he put the question to me whether winter clothing had to

[Page 255]

be provided in case of war against Russia. I was very surprised about this question, I had not been previously informed. I could only tell him that, if we came to war with Russia, we should then need clothing for several winters, and I told him what kind of winter clothing I would suggest.

Did you speak a second time to Field-Marshal Goering about this war?

A. Yes.

Q. When was that?

A. On 22nd May, on one of my trips, I again came into contact with the Commander-in-Chief for the first time after a long interval. It was in Veldenstein, where Goering was at the time. There I discussed the question with him, and I told him that, in my opinion, it was a great historical task for him to prevent this war, since it could only end with the annihilation of Germany. I reminded him that we should not voluntarily burden ourselves with a two-front war, etc. The Reich-Marshal told me that he also had pleaded all these arguments but that it was absolutely impossible to dissuade Hitler from this war. My offer, that I would try to speak to Hitler once more, was declared by the Reichsmarshal to be absolutely hopeless. We had to resign ourselves, nothing could be done about it. From these words it was quite clear that he was against this war, and that under no circumstances did he want this war, but that also for him in his position, there was no possibility of dissuading Hitler from this project.

Q. Did it also appear from what he said, that he had presented his objections to Hitler?

A. Yes, that was quite clear to me, that he had also spoken about the question of a two-front war, etc., and he told me that he had also presented to Hitler the arguments presented by me; but he told me it was hopeless. I would like to say some more about 23rd May. After this conference - and based on the fact that the German Air Force had hardly any reserves of bombs available - I applied for the manufacture of bombs. Previously, Hitler had considered this unnecessary and superfluous for the time being. The problem involved the shortage of iron. After this conference, being under the impression that complications might arise, I pointed out that the Air Force with its bomber fleet was not ready for action. My application was again rejected by Hitler after the 23rd of May. He would let me know in time if and when we needed bombs. When we pointed out that the manufacture of bombs would take several weeks, even months, he declared that there would be plenty of time for that later. From that I drew the conclusion - and you know I could not discuss it with anybody - that Hitler's words on the 23rd of May were not meant as seriously as they had sounded to me.

Q. When was this last conversation concerning the refusal to manufacture bombs?

A. That was about - I spoke once in that connection - after May when the situation was known. But later, during the latter part of summer, I again brought it to his attention. Again it was rejected. The order to manufacture bombs was not given by Hitler until 12th October, 1939, although we had pointed out that deficiency before; Hitler said, if I remember correctly, "My attempts to make peace with the West after the campaign against Poland have failed. The war continues. Now we can and must manufacture the bombs."

Q. Did Hitler ever tell you that it was his serious desire to live in peace with the West?

A. Yes. I did not go into the details of my visits. When I came back from France, I was with Hitler for two hours on the Obersalzberg, to report to him about the visit to France. Likewise, after the visit in England, about two weeks later, I had to make a report of several hours to Hitler. He was very interested and after the second report, that is to say, after the English visit, he declared, "I wish to carry on my policy in such and such a way, but you can rest assured that I will always rely on England. I shall try to co-operate with England at all times." This conversation took place on the 2nd of November.

[Page 256]

Q. What year?

A. The year 1937, the 2nd of November.

Q. You mentioned two conversations?

A. Yes, the first was the report about the visit to France and the second about the visit to England. Hitler, who did not know foreign countries, was extremely interested to hear something from a soldier about the reception, the country, armaments and so forth.

Q. What were the relations between Reichsmarshal Goering and Himmler?

A. It was not always very clear to me. I had the impression that there was always a rivalry on the part of Himmler. The mutual relationship, however, must always have been very correct and very obliging on the surface; how they really stood, I could not say.

Q. In May of 1942, there was an exchange of correspondence between you and the SS Obergruppenfuehrer Wolff?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. In particular, about medical experiments on inmates of the Dachau Camp. Could you tell us anything about that?

A. I have been interrogated about that question here in Nuremberg and two letters, a letter from Wolff (he was adjutant to Himmler at the time) and another letter from Himmler to me and the answer which I had given, were submitted to me. They concerned the experiments with air pressure chambers and sub-temperatures. These letters were addressed to me only because Himmler did not know the official channels of the Luftwaffe. The letters were delivered to the Medical Inspection which was not subordinate to me. The Medical Inspection also wrote the answer and submitted it to me. I modified the answer a little and had it mailed. I have not read a report sent by Himmler in this connection. He also offered a film. I did not see the film. The Medical Inspector, whom I asked what it was all about, told me that the Air Force was fully informed about both problems and that the experiments with air pressure chambers had been carried out by our young doctors who had volunteered for that purpose. Likewise, the question of sub-temperatures was without interest to the Air Force. We both agreed on his suggestion that we did not want to have anything to do with the matter. I asked him what these experiments were made for. He told me that criminals were subjected to these experiments. I asked him in what way. He said, in the same way as our young doctors had subjected themselves to these experiments. Then we wrote him a letter which was quite polite - one could not write differently to these people - but completely repudiating the experiments. We would have nothing to do with them. In Himmler's letter I had been asked to make a report to the Reichsmarshal, also, about that question.

I had the impression that, by these experiments, the SS wanted to impress Hitler. These were the words used by the Chief of the Medical Department to me. During a long report on quite different questions, I mentioned this matter briefly, to the Reichsmarshal, because I had to expect that one day he would be approached by Himmler, and perhaps would not know anything about the whole question. The Reichsmarshal asked me, when I told him about such and such experiments, "What does this mean?" I gave him the reply which I had been given by the Medical Inspector. I told him that we did not want to have anything to do with them, and that we repudiated them. He said he was exactly of the same opinion, but I should be very careful not to provoke the SD or treat them badly. What the experiments were about I do not know, neither do I know what was done to the people; I do not know it even now.

Q. Did the Reichsmarshal know?

A. No, certainly not.

Q. Did Dr. Rascher leave you soon after that to join the SS?

[Page 257]

A. I could not say. I do not know Dr. Rascher, and had nothing to do with the question of transfer. Rascher was not subordinate to me any more than was the Chief of the Medical Department or the Personnel office.

Q. Do you know whether Reichsmarshal Goering gave orders to the troops under his command, saying that sabotage troops should be annihilated, or that captured enemy terror-flyers should be turned over to the SD without judicial procedure?

A. No, I did not know anything about that.

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