Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Goering's execution was a foregone conclusion

Chief British Prosecutor at the Nuremberg trial Sir Harley Shawcross and Herman Goering 

November 20, 1945 was the opening day of the Trial of the Major war Criminals at Nuremberg, but a letter written by Shawcross on November 4, 1945 reveals that he knew Goering was going to be executed at the end of it. The letter also states that Goering had wanted to attack the British Fleet in a Pearl Harbour-like manner on September 1, 1939, but Hitler had refused the idea, as he held out strong hopes of securing peace with Britain and France.

Nuremberg, Sunday, 4th November, 1945.
My dear Pat,
Yesterday I attended an interrogation of Goering which left me with what is no doubt a salutary impression of the formidableness of the task in which we are faced.
Goering has nothing of the cowed, defeated enemy. On the contrary, he was obviously enjoying this opportunity to air his views and it must be confessed that he sometimes appeared to be making his interrogators enjoy themselves too and sometimes to be enjoying himself at their expense. When he gets up to address the Court, the latter will have been listening for several weeks to the marshalling of facts and documents by the Prosecution, end with a week or so's recital of atrocity stories by the Soviet prosecutors, which is hardly likely to have been very stimulating. The circumstances will therefore have conspired to lend the maximum dramatic effect, outside as well as inside the Court, to Goering's histrionics. Moreover, he will be playing on his home ground in that he will be dealing with a subject with which he perforce is more familiar then [sic] his prosecutors. As a politician, he has been used to public speaking on political subjects, and in pre-1933 days he must have had a good deal of practice at trying to win over a hostile audience. As an unashamedly unrepentant gangster, I do not think that it can be denied that he has a degree of faux bonhomme charm and humour which will help him materially to put his case over in the Court. On the other hand, it is fair to assume that not all the other 22 defendants are likely to prove as formidable as Goering, and even in the latter's case, we can reasonably hope that the yellow-streak in his character will help us when it comes to cross-examination.
This interrogation of Goering was an informal affair and no shorthand note was taken. The interrogators merely made occasional notes of their points in which they were particularly interested from their angle. It seems to me that Goering was in addition saying quite a number of things which might have interest from an historical point of view. For instance, he stated that on September 1st when it was clear that war with England was inevitable, he begged Hitler to allow him to send over all the planes in the German Air Force to bombard the Fleet at Scapa Flow but Hitler had refused because he was convinced that once he had defeated Poland it would be easy to come to an understanding with England and France. This sort of thing is not really our concern, but it does seem to me that it would be useful to extract all the information we could out of these people before they are executed, or at any rate to make sure that all the information which is extracted from them, even if it is not of direct use to the Prosecutors, is made public as soon as possible.

UK National Archives (Kew): WO 311/705, pp.32-33

1 comment:

  1. That really is a gem ! Not only do you have an original source which reinforces the show trial nature of Nuremburg but you have another quote on how Hitler saw events after the defeat of the Poles. Very historically relevant but not likely to make it into the MSM


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