Hermann Göring: Explaining the Nature of War at the Nuremberg Trials
Hermann Göring was one of the founders of the Gestapo in 1930′s Germany, and was a leading military commander of the Nazi’s air forces leading up to and during the beginning of World War II. In addition, Göring was essentially Hitler’s successor and second-in-command for the majority of Hitler’s reign as Chancellor. This telling quote from Göring came during a discussion from Gustave Gilbert in the midst of the Nuremberg Trials; Gilbert maintained a journal of his observations and discussions at the Trials. As reported by Snopes:
The quote offered above was part of a conversation Gilbert held with a dejected Hermann Goering in his cell on the evening of 18 April1946, as the trials were halted for a three-day Easter recess:Sweating in his cell in the evening, Goering was defensive and deflated and not very happy over the turn the trial was taking. He said that he had no control over the actions or the defense of the others, and that he had never been anti-Semitic himself, had not believed these atrocities, and that several Jews had offered to testify in his behalf. If [Hans] Frank [Governor-General of occupied Poland] had known about atrocities in 1943, he should have come to him and he would have tried to do something about it. He might not have had enough power to change things in 1943, but if somebody had come to him in 1941 or 1942 he could have forced a showdown. (I still did not have the desire at this point to tell him what [SS General Otto] Ohlendorf had said to this: that Goering had been written off as an effective “moderating” influence, because of his drug addiction and corruption.) I pointed out that with his “temperamental utterances,” such as preferring the killing of200 Jewsto the destruction of property, he had hardly set himself up as champion of minority rights. Goering protested that too much weight was being put on these temperamental utterances. Furthermore, he made it clear that he was not defending or glorifying Hitler.
Later in the conversation, Gilbert recorded Goering’s observations that the common people can always be manipulated into supporting and fighting wars by their political leaders:
We got around to the subject of war again and I said that, contrary to his attitude, I did not think that the common people are very thankful for leaders who bring them war and destruction.
“Why, of course, the people don’t want war,” Goering shrugged. “Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.”
“There is one difference,” I pointed out. “In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.”
“Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”