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-Eighth Day: Monday, 11th March, 1946
(Part 4 of 12)

[MR. JUSTICE JACKSON continues his cross examination of General Field-Marshal Milch]

[Page 273]

Q. Eighteen days. How long did it take to drive England off the Continent, including the disaster of Dunkirk?

A. I believe six weeks.

Q. How long did it take to overrun Holland and Belgium?

A. A few days.

Q. How long did it take to overrun France and take Paris?

A. Two months in all.

Q. And how long did it take to overrun Denmark and take possession of Norway?

A. Also a short time. Denmark took a very short time, because Denmark gave in immediately and Norway gave in in a few weeks.

Q. And you testify, and you want this Tribunal to understand you, as an officer, as saying that there was no preparation known to the officers in advance of those movements? Is that your testimony as an officer?

A. Pardon me, I did not understand you just now.

Q. You testified that those were all surprise movements to the officers of the Luftwaffe. You were surprised at every one of them, you said.

A. I said, surprised by the outbreak of war, because at first it was a question of Poland only. The other actions came very much later and there was more time to prepare for this war.

Q. Well now, relative to Poland, you do not deny that Germany was well prepared for a war with Poland, or do you?

A. The might of Germany, as compared with Poland, was powerful enough. What I meant to imply when speaking of preparedness for war in my testimony, was a degree of preparedness for entering a world war. For that Germany was not prepared in 1939.

Q. But she was prepared for the campaign that she initiated, was she not?

A. I would not say that; I would say that of course she had armaments, in the same way as every other nation with Armed Forces. Our Armed Forces were alerted against Poland and, to our surprise, proved sufficiently powerful to crush Poland in a very short time.

Q. Would you question or deny that relative to the other powers on the Continent of Europe, Germany was the best prepared for war on the first day of September, 1939?

A. I believe that, taking it all round, the British Air Force at that time was stronger than the German.

Q. I asked you in reference to the Continental powers. Do you question that Germany was far better prepared for war than any of her immediate neighbours?

A. I am convinced that France and Poland, according to their respective strength, were just as well prepared for war as Germany. They had the advantage of a longer time in which to arm, whereas Germany could only begin to arm five years before the outbreak of the war.

Q. When did you first meet Hermann Goering?

A. I believe in the year 1928.

Q. What was he then, what position did he hold?

A. He was then a member of the Reichstag.

Q. And what were you doing? What was your business?

A. I was then Director of the German "Lufthansa" - a civil aviation concern.

Q. Did you have some discussions with Hermann Goering at about that time, as to the use of an Air Force if the Nazi Party came to power?

A. At that time no. It was much later.

Q. When did you first discuss that with Goering?

A. I believe Goering spoke to me on this subject in 1932, when a plan was formed to take over the Government in 1932. It was believed already at that time that the other parties would form a Government together with the National Socialists. On that occasion, I think, Goering did speak of the possibility, given

[Page 274]

a Government in power which included the National Socialists, of Germany being freed from armament restrictions.

Q. Following that, you became a member of the Nazi Party, did you not?

A. I only joined the Party after 1933. When I again became an officer my membership lapsed.

Q. You waited until after they had seized the power?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you recall a conversation that you had with Hermann Goering on 28th January, 1933?

A. Yes.

Q. And where did that take place?

A. In my own apartment.

Q. Did he call upon you?

A. I had guests in my house on that evening, and he arrived suddenly because he wanted to talk to me very urgently.

Q. And will you relate to the Tribunal the conversation that you had with Goering at that time.

A. He told me that an agreement had now been reached with all the other parties in question for the formation of a coalition government with the National Socialists; Reich- President von Hindenburg had agreed to the appointment of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor in this government.

He asked me whether I would be ready to offer my collaboration in an Air Ministry to be set up. I proposed two other persons instead of myself, explaining that I did not wish to leave my Lufthansa. Goering rejected them and insisted that I place myself at his disposal.

Q. Did you agree to do so?

A. I asked for his permission to think the matter over, and I made my consent dependent on whether Hitler would insist.

Q. Well, what did Hitler do?

A. I accepted on the 30th, after Hitler had told me once again that he considered my technical knowledge and ability in the field of aviation to be indispensable.

Q. So, on the day that the Nazi Party came to power, you took over the task of building a Nazi Air Force, did you not?

A. No, not an Air Force. The immediate problem was the linking up of all the various branches of aviation which existed at that time. For instance, there was one civil aviation transport company, or there might have been two. There were the aviation industries: the training schools for civilian pilots, the meteorological service, and I believe there were several research institutes. That, I think, covers the entire field of aviation - but it had nothing to do with an Air Force.

Q. Perhaps, I will say, you took over the task of making Germany predominant in the air.

A. No, I cannot agree with that.

Q. Put it in your own way. Tell us what you did, what your object was in taking over this new task.

A. My first task was to develop the various branches in order to build up a large air transport system.

Q. You then made visits to France and England, and on your return reported to Hitler personally, did you not?

A. Yes.

Q. When you returned from England, did you warn Hitler against the activities of Ribbentrop?

A. Yes.

Q. What did you tell Hitler about the activities of Ribbentrop in England?

A. That I had gained the impression in England that von Ribbentrop was not persona grata.

[Page 275]

Q. Now, when you were interrogated before, did you not state after your capture that you told Hitler that if he did not get rid of Ribbentrop soon he was going to have trouble with England? Is not that what you told Hitler in substance?

A. I cannot now remember the exact words.

Q. But is that not the sense of it?

A. I was of opinion that another man should be sent to England to bring about mutual understanding as to policy, in accordance with the wish so often expressed by Hitler.

Q. Before you talked with Hitler about that, you had discussed it with Goering, had you not?

A. With whom?

Q. Goering.

A. About the journey? Or about what?

Q. About Ribbentrop.

A. No, I did not discuss him with the Reichsmarshal.

Q. There came a time when some engineers were sent to Russia, were they not, to inspect the air construction there, factories, facilities and that sort of thing?

A. Yes, that is correct.

Q. This was a group of engineers, and you had something to do with sending them there, did you not?

A. No, I had nothing to do with that group. At that time technical research was not under my control.

Q. Under whose orders were they?

A. Under General Udet, who, in his turn, was under the Reichsmarshal.

Q. And when they came back, you learned that they had reported that Russia had greater capacity for building aeroplane engines than all six of the German factories, did you not?

A. Yes, that is correct.

Q. What order did Goering give about that information being made available even to the Fuehrer?

A. Goering did not believe the information at that time. I know that from the words of General Udet.

Q. Is it not a fact that you stated to the interrogators before, that Goering called these experts defeatists, forbade them to repeat that information to anybody, and threatened them with the concentration camp if they repeated that information? Did you say that or did you not?

A. I never said it in that form.

Q. Well, use your own words and tell us just what Goering said on that subject.

A. At a considerably later date, when the question of American armament figures came up, the Reichsmarshal said to me: "Now, you too are going to turn defeatist and believe these large figures." I told him then that I did indeed believe these figures, but that had nothing to do with the Russian matter.

Q. Were those Russian figures ever reported to Hitler, to the Reichstag or in any way made public to the German people?

A. The Russian figures? That I cannot say. I had nothing to do with the matter. The American figures were undoubtedly submitted to Hitler, but Hitler did not believe them.

Q. You testified on Friday, I believe, that you knew that the commencement of the war with Russia would mean the annihilation of Germany. I remind you of that, and that is correct, is it not?

A. Not the destruction [NB. Jackson's "annihilation" was translated by the interpreter as "Zerstoerung" = destruction] - the defeat. I think I said annihilation or defeat.

Q. You went to Reichsmarshal Goering to protest against the entrance into, the Russian war, is that right?

A. Yes.

[Page 276]

Q. And did Goering agree with you that it would end in the defeat of Germany?

A. No, he did not agree. He had to be extremely cautious in his statements in deference to his relations with Hitler. I told him the reason for Germany's difficulties and he nodded. His words gave me the impression that he had already put the same arguments to Hitler, and that he had been unsuccessful.

Q. In other words, he agreed with you that it would end with the defeat of Germany, but did not want it said to Hitler, is that right?

A. No, I would not go as far as that. When I said that this meant the defeat of Germany, I was voicing the conclusion reached by me. He merely agreed that this war should be avoided at all costs and that it would prove a misfortune for Germany. That was the way he put it; he did not use the word "defeat" in this connection.

Q. Was it mentioned by you?

A. I mentioned that to open a second front against so strong an enemy would mean the defeat of Germany.

Q. And did he disagree with you about that? Did he take issue with you about that?

A. No, he did not argue about it, he only declared himself opposed to taking on anything else, as he considered it impossible to do so; what we thought would not make the slightest difference, and it would only give Hitler the impression that we in the Luftwaffe were defeatists.

Q. And you did not make any further attempt to convey the information, from which you thought Germany would be defeated if she entered into war with Russia, to Hitler or to any other officer of the High Command?

A. It was impossible for me to do so. I could not act against the order of my superior officer.

Q. The Reichsmarshal?

A. Yes, the Reichsmarshal.

Q. And, so far as you know, after his talk with you he never conveyed the information to Hitler that - it was your opinion that the war would end in disaster?

A. I had the impression that he had previously discussed the subject with Hitler, but without any degree of success; because with Hitler that was impossible.

Q. Well, but you had been abroad for Hitler and reported to him and he apparently had confidence in you, and I am asking you if Hermann Goering ever reported to Hitler that you, from your information, felt that it was a disaster to go into that war?

A. My trips were not made at Hitler's order. They were made in response to invitations from foreign governments to the Luftwaffe and at the order of the Reichsmarshal. It was only because I was aware of the importance of these trips and because I incidentally heard political statements - it is true, with some reluctance, since they did not concern me as a soldier - that I thought it my duty to report personally to Hitler.

Q. Did Goering direct you to do that?

A. To go to Hitler? Yes, Goering told Hitler about it and Hitler ordered me to report to him. I myself did not say: "I am now going to see Hitler," but I received an order to that effect from Hitler himself.

Q. And did he not send you to Hitler until he knew what you were going to report?

A. No, he himself had ...

[ Previous | Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.