Hermann Göring

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I don't have to worry about Justice; my mission is only to destroy and to exterminate; nothing more.
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.

Reichsmarschall Hermann Wilhelm Göring [also rendered as Goering] (12 January 189315 October 1946) was a German politician, military leader, and leading member of the Nazi party. He was founder of the Gestapo, and Head of the Luftwaffe.

Quotes[edit]

We will go down in history either as the world's greatest statesmen or its worst villains.
  • My measures will not be crippled by any bureaucracy. Here I don't have to worry about Justice; my mission is only to destroy and to exterminate; nothing more.
    • Speech in Frankfurt (3 March 1933), as quoted in Gestapo : Instrument of Tyranny (1956) by Edward Crankshaw, p. 48
  • Shoot first and inquire afterwards, and if you make mistakes, I will protect you.
    • Instruction to the Prussian police (1933); as quoted in The House that Hitler Built (1937) by Stephen Henry Roberts. p. 63
  • Guns will make us powerful; butter will only make us fat.
    • Radio broadcast (1936), as quoted in The New Language of Politics: An Anecdotal Dictionary of Catchwords, Slogans, and Political Usage (1968) by William L. Safire, p. 178
    • Variants: Guns will make us strong, butter will only make us fat.
      We have no butter... but I ask you, would you rather have butter or guns? Preparedness makes us powerful. Butter merely makes us fat.
  • We will go down in history either as the world's greatest statesmen or its worst villains.
    • Statement (1937); quoted in Great Powers and Outlaw States : Unequal Sovereigns in the International Legal Order (2004) by Gerry J. Simpson, p. 291
  • The Jew must clearly understand one thing at once, he must get out!
    • Speech in Vienna after the Austrian Anschluss (1938); when asked at the Nuremberg trials whether he meant what he said in this speech he replied "Yes, approximately." As reported from testimony in the Imperial War Museum, Folio 645, Box 156, , (20 October 1945), pp. 5-6
  • No enemy bomber can reach the Ruhr. If one reaches the Ruhr, my name is not Göring. You may call me Meyer.
    • Addressing the Luftwaffe (September 1939) as quoted in August 1939: The Last Days of Peace (1979) by Nicholas Fleming, p. 171; "Meyer" (or "Meier") is a common name in Germany. This statement would come back to haunt him as Allied bombers devastated Germany; many ordinary Germans, especially in Berlin, took to calling him "Meier". It is said that he once himself introduced himself as "Meier" when taking refuge in an air-raid shelter in Berlin.
  • Supplementing the task assigned to you by the decree of January 24, 1939, to solve the Jewish problem by means of emigration and evacuation in the best possible way according to present conditions, I hereby charge you to carry out preparations as regards organizational, financial, and material matters for a total solution (Gesamtlösung) of the Jewish question in all the territories of Europe under German occupation.
    Where the competency of other central organizations touches on this matter, these organizations are to collaborate.
    I charge you further to submit to me as soon as possible a general plan of the administrative material and financial measures necessary for carrying out the desired final solution (Endlösung) of the Jewish question.
  • The only one who really knows about the Reichstag is I, because I set it on fire!
    • Statement at a luncheon on 20 April 1942, as recounted by General Franz Halder, about the Reichstag Fire, which the Nazis had blamed on "Communist instigators" in securing many of their dictatorial powers. In a way that might indicate Göring was simply joking, Halder testified: "At a luncheon on the birthday of Hitler in 1942 the conversation turned to the topic of the Reichstag building and its artistic value. I heard with my own ears when Göring interrupted the conversation and shouted: 'The only one who really knows about the Reichstag is I, because I set it on fire!' With that he slapped his thigh with the flat of his hand."
      Göring later testified: "I had nothing to do with it. I deny this absolutely. I can tell you in all honesty, that the Reichstag fire proved very inconvenient to us. After the fire I had to use the Kroll Opera House as the new Reichstag and the opera seemed to me much more important than the Reichstag. I must repeat that no pretext was needed for taking measures against the Communists. I already had a number of perfectly good reasons in the forms of murders, etc."
...and suddenly there appears this misbegotten monster of welded-together engines one cannot get at!
  • Why has this silly engine suddenly turned up, which is so idiotically welded together? They told me then, there would be two engines connected behind each other, and suddenly there appears this misbegotten monster of welded-together engines one cannot get at!
    • Comment by Göring to a report submitted to him by Oberst Edgar Petersen, the Kommandeur der Erprobungsstellen (commander of German military aircraft test facilties in the Third Reich) on August 13 1942, regarding the usage and deficient installation design for the trouble-prone, complex Daimler-Benz DB 606 "power system" powerplants for the He 177A, Nazi Germany's only operational heavy bomber, which was suffering from an unending series of engine fires. As quoted in Heinkel He 177-277-274 (1998) by Manfred Griehl and Joachim Dressel, p. 52
  • The people were merely to acknowledge the authority of the Führer, or, let us say, to declare themselves in agreement with the Führer. If they gave the Führer their confidence then it was their concern to exercise the other functions. Thus, not the individual persons were to be selected according to the will of the people, but solely the leadership itself.
  • I especially denounce the terrible mass murders, which I cannot understand … I never ordered any killing or tortures where I had the power to prevent such actions!
    • Göring's closing statement to the Nuremberg tribunal (31 August 1946); as quoted in Witness to Nuremberg (2006) by Richard Sonnenfeldt, p. 70
  • The German people trusted the Führer. Given his authoritarian direction of the state, they had no influence on events. Ignorant of the crimes of which we know today, the people have fought with loyalty, self-sacrifice, and courage, and they have suffered too in this life-and-death struggle into which they were arbitrarily thrust. The German people are free from blame.
    • Göring's closing statement to the Nuremberg tribunal (31 August 1946)

Nuremberg Diary (1947)[edit]

These statements were recorded in Gustave Gilbert's transcriptions of conversations with many of the Nazi leaders during the War Crimes Trials at Nuremberg, and later published in Gilbert's Nuremberg Diary(1947).
After the United States gobbled up California and half of Mexico, and we were stripped down to nothing, territorial expansion suddenly becomes a crime. It's been going on for centuries, and it will still go on.
Do you think I give that much of a damn about my lousy life?
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...
  • Der Sieger wird immer der Richter und der Besiegte stets der Angeklagte sein.
  • The victor will always be the judge, and the vanquished the accused.
    • Pg. 4 (1995 edition); also quoted in Nuremberg: A Personal Record of the Trial of the Major Nazi War Criminals in 1945—46(1978) by A. Neave, p. 74; original German, as quoted in Der Nürnberger Prozess (1958) by Joe J. Heydecker and Johannes Leeb, p. 103
  • After the United States gobbled up California and half of Mexico, and we were stripped down to nothing, territorial expansion suddenly becomes a crime. It's been going on for centuries, and it will still go on.
    • At lunch during the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal (11 December 1945); Nuremberg Diary p. 66, 1947 edition.
  • Do you think I give that much of a damn about my lousy life? — For myself, I don't give a damn if I get executed, or drown, or crash in a plane, or drink myself to death! — But there is still a matter of honor in this life! — Assassination attempt on Hitler! — Ugh! — Gott im Himmel!! I could have sunk through the floor! And do you think I would have handed Himmler over to the enemy, guilty as he was? Dammit, I would have liquidated the bastard myself!
    • Interview in Göring's cell (3 January 1946)
  • Göring: Why, of course, the people don't want war. 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.
    Gilbert: There is one difference. 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.
    Göring: 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.

The Nuremberg Interviews (2004)[edit]

  • What do I care about danger? I've sent soldiers and airmen to death against the enemy — why should I be afraid?
    • To Leon Goldensohn (15 March 1946)
  • Hitler decided that. I thought it was stupid because I believed that first we had to defeat England.
    • To Leon Goldensohn, about attacking Russia (15 March 1946)
  • No. It was the last hours and he (Hitler) was under pressure. If I could have seen him personally it would have been different.
    • To Leon Goldensohn, after being asked if he felt any resentment toward Hitler (15 March 1946)
  • I know you want to study me psychologically. That's reasonable and I appreciate it. At least you don't lecture to me and pry into my affairs. You have a good technique as a psychiatrist. Let the other fellow talk and stick his neck into the noose. I don't mean that the way it sounds. But you hardly say anything. Someday I'm going to ask you questions.
    • To Leon Goldensohn (21 May 1946)
  • I have always been interested in family history. Chromosomes are funny things, aren't they? They may skip a generation and you can find children who resemble the grandfather, rather than either parent. Heredity is more important than environment. Blood will tell. For example, a man is either musical by heredity or he is not. You can't make a man musical by the environment. You can find a person who is very musically inclined and be puzzled because neither parents nor grandparents had any ear for music. But if you trace it back, you will find that the great-grandfather was a musician. But the environment plays a great part in the development of a man. It is significant whether a man is brought up in the city or in the country, near a lake or on the shores of the ocean.
    • To Leon Goldensohn (21 May 1946)
  • In Berlin Jews controlled almost one hundred percent of the theaters and cinemas before the rise to power.
    • To Leon Goldensohn (21 May 1946)
  • Hitler had the willpower of a demon and he needed it. If he didn't have such a strong willpower he couldn't have achieved anything. Don't forget, if Hitler had not lost the war, if he did not have to fight against the combination of big powers like England, America, and Russia — each one he could have conquered individually — these defendants and these generals would now be saying, 'Heil Hitler,' and would not be so damn critical.
    • To Leon Goldensohn (24 May 1946)
  • To me there are two Hitlers: one who existed until the end of the French war; the other begins with the Russian campaign. In the beginning he was genial and pleasant. He would have extraordinary willpower and unheard-of influence on people. The important thing to remember is that the first Hitler, the man who I knew until the end of the French war, had much charm and goodwill. He was always frank. The second Hitler, who existed from the beginning of the Russian campaign until his suicide, was always suspicious, easily upset, and tense. He was distrustful to an extreme degree.
    • To Leon Goldensohn (24 May 1946)
  • I am a man who is basically opposed to atrocities or ungentlemanly actions. In 1934, I promulgated a law against vivisection. You can see, therefore, that if I disapprove of the experimentation on animals, how could I possibly be in favor of torturing humans? The prosecution says that I had something to do with the freezing experiments which were performed in the concentration camps under the auspices of the air force. That is pure Quatsch! I was much too busy to know about these medical experiments, and if anybody had asked me, I would have disapproved violently. It must have been Himmler who thought up these stupid experiments, although I think he shirked his responsibility by committing suicide. I am not too unhappy about it because I would not particularly enjoy sitting on the same bench with him. The same is true of that drunken Robert Ley, who did us a favor by hanging himself before the trial started. He was not going to be any advantage for us defendants when he took the stand.
    • To Leon Goldensohn (24 May 1946)
  • The atrocities are, for me, the most horrible part of the accusation in this trial. They thought that I took it lightly or laughed about it or some such nonsense, in court. That is definitely a mistake. I am the type of person who is naturally against such things and my own psychological reaction is to laugh or smile in the face of adversity. Perhaps that explains my attitude in court. Besides, I was not to blame for these horrors. It's not just that I am a hard man because of my long experience in the army and in politics. It's true that I saw plenty in the First World War and during the air raids and at the front in this war. But I was always a person who felt the suffering of others. To paint me as an unfeeling ogre who laughs in court at the atrocities is stupid.
    • To Leon Goldensohn (24 May 1946)
  • All Quatsch. Nobody knows the real Göring. I am a man of many parts, but the autobiography, what does that tell you? Nothing. And those books put out by the party press, they are less than useless.
    • To Leon Goldensohn (27 May 1946)
  • I think that women are wonderful but I've never met one yet who didn't show more feeling than logic.
    • To Leon Goldensohn (27 May 1946)
  • If I didn't have a sense of humor, how could I stand this trial now?
    • To Leon Goldensohn (27 May 1946)
  • In the first place I'm sure Hitler did not write that damned testament himself. Probably some swine like Bormann wrote it for him. But I don't see what is so terrible in the testament when you examine it, anyway. There was Berlin, bombed every minute. The noise of artillery from the lousy Russians, the American and British bombers overhead. Maybe Hitler was a trifle unbalanced by all that. If he wrote the testament at such a time, it was hysteria. But essentially, what difference does it make?
    • To Leon Goldensohn (27 May 1946)
  • I have to laugh when the English claim they are such a wonderful nation. Everyone knows that Englishmen are really Germans, that the English kings were German, and that in Russia the emperors were either of German origin or received their education in Germany.
    • To Leon Goldensohn (28 May 1946)
  • The Russians are primitive folk. Besides, Bolshevism is something that stifles individualism and which is against my inner nature. Bolshevism is worse than National Socialism — in fact, it can't be compared to it. Bolshevism is against private property, and I am all in favor of private property. Bolshevism is barbaric and crude, and I am fully convinced that that atrocities committed by the Nazis, which incidentally I knew nothing about, were not nearly as great or as cruel as those committed by the Communists. I hate the Communists bitterly because I hate the system. The delusion that all men are equal is ridiculous. I feel that I am superior to most Russians, not only because I am a German but because my cultural and family background are superior. How ironic it is that crude Russian peasants who wear the uniforms of generals now sit in judgment on me. No matter how educated a Russian might be, he is still a barbaric Asiatic. Secondly, the Russian generals and the Russian government planned a war against Germany because we represented a threat to them ideologically. In the German state, I was the chief opponent of Communism. I admit freely and proudly that it was I who created the first concentration camps in order to put Communists in them. Did I ever tell you that funny story about how I sent to Spain a ship containing mainly bricks and stones, under which I put a single layer of ammunition which had been ordered by the Red government in Spain? The purpose of that ship was to supply the waning Red government with munitions. That was a good practical joke and I am proud of it because I wanted with all my heart to see Russian Communism in Spain defeated finally.
    • To Leon Goldensohn (28 May 1946)


Misattributed[edit]

  • When I hear the word culture, I reach for my Browning!
    • Variant: "When I hear the word culture, I reach for my revolver." Often attributed to Göring, who might have used such lines, these statements are derived from those in the play Schlageter by Hanns Johst: "Wenn ich Kultur höre … entsichere ich meinen Browning!" [Whenever I hear of culture... I release the safety-catch of my Browning!] (Act 1, Scene 1) The play was first performed in April 1933 for Hitler's birthday. Reported as a misattribution in Paul F. Boller, Jr., and John George, They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, & Misleading Attributions (1989), p. 36.
    • "When I hear the word culture, I reach for my revolver" was also is used in the 1981 Cannes Film Festival Award winner Mephisto spoken by a character known as "The General" in the English dubbed version.
  • I will decide who is a Jew!
    • Göring is stated to have said this in Non-Germans Under the Third Reich: The Nazi Judicial and Administrative System in Germany (2003) by Diemut Majer, p. 60, and in other works, but he might have merely been repeating or paraphrasing the statement, Wer a Jud is, bestimm i (Only I will decide who is a Jew) which in Strangers at Home and Abroad: Recollections of Austrian Jews Who Escaped Hitler (2000) by Adi Wimmer, p. 6, is said to have originated with Vienna mayor Karl Lueger in response to the observation that despite his anti-semitic speeches he still dined with Jews.

Quotes about Göring[edit]

When we put all their stories together, the impression which emerges of the Third Reich, which was to last a thousand years, is ludicrous. … It is a temptation to ponder the wondrous workings of a fate which has left only the guilty dead and only the innocent alive. It is almost too remarkable. … It was these dead men whom these living chose to be their partners … and the crimes that they did together they must pay for one by one.
  • Among the higher leadership [in the Nazi Party], while there is still a certain unity, personalities are beginning to play a constantly greater part. Hitler is perhaps more powerful than before, but he becomes more and more a figure separated from actualities. He depends a great deal on Hess, who is really his confidential man now and whom it is likely he may make Foreign Minister. Goering and Goebbels still remain good comrades of Hitler and are undoubtedly attached to him, but the difference* between Goering and Goebbels are becoming more evident. Goering is more moderate, while Goebbels, sensing the feeling of the masses and being above all an opportunist is becoming more radical. If It would come to a show-down between the radical and moderate elements, Goering would, however, undoubtedly be likely to be on the radical side as the one having the more chances.If this Government remains in power for another year and carries on in the same measure in this direction, it will go far towards making Germany a danger to world peace for years to come.
    This is a very disjointed and incoherent letter. I am dictating it under pressure as I wish to catch the courier pouch. What I do want to say really is that for the present this country is headed in directions which can only carry ruin to it and will create a situation here dangerous to world peace. With few exceptions, the men who are running this Government are of a mentality that you and I cannot understand. Some of them are psychopathic cases and would ordinarily be receiving treatment somewhere. Others are exalted and in a frame of mind that knows no reason. The majority are woefully ignorant and unprepared for the tasks which they have to carry through every day. Those men in the party and in responsible positions who are really worth-while, and there are quite a number of these, are powerless because they have to follow the orders of superiors who are suffering from the abnormal psychology prevailing in the country.
  • I can't see a thing wrong with Göring's behavior as far as this trial is concerned. They have proven none of the charges. I have mentioned to Göring that the trouble with National Socialism is that it is a house divided, that we Germans tried to live in a community without considering our neighbors, and Göring agreed with me. So even Göring isn't as bad a fellow as the prosecution would have the world believe.
  • And another question was unfortunately not asked of Göring: 'The German people put faith in you even if they doubted Hitler because you were gentlemanly and more likable. What did you, Göring, do to justify this confidence? You have led a luxurious life and collected stolen art.'
  • Now, for example, Göring made an excellent impression. I must say I rather liked him. The fashion was for 'strong men.' Göring had his weaknesses — he was like a child in many respects — but he was a human being.
  • In Goering's tones there is just such a shadow. He is a complex villain if ever there was one. He also kept his bravery to the end and made a showing at Nuremberg which shamed his colleagues. He also kept his stubborn cunning, defeating the hangman.
    • Edward Crankshaw
  • Goering, wreathed in smiles and orders and decorations received us gaily, his wife at his side. There is something un-Christian about Goering, a strong pagan streak, a touch of the arena, though perhaps, like many who are libidinous-minded like myself, he actually does very little. People say that he can be very hard and ruthless, as are all Nazis when occasion demands, but outwardly he seems all vanity and childish love of display.
  • The large and varied role of Göring was half militarist and half gangster. He stuck his pudgy finger in every pie. He used his SA musclemen to help bring the gang into power. In order to entrench that power, he contrived to have the Reichstag burned, established the Gestapo, and created the concentration camps. He was equally adept at massacring opponents and at framing scandals to get rid of stubborn generals. He built up the Luftwaffe [air force] and hurled it at his defenseless neighbors. He was among the foremost in harrying Jews out of the land. By mobilizing the total economic resources of Germany, he made possible the waging of the war which he had taken a large part in planning. He was, next to Hitler, the man who tied the activities of all the defendants together in a common effort.
  • These men saw no evil, spoke none, and none was uttered in their presence. This claim might sound very plausible if made by one defendant. But when we put all their stories together, the impression which emerges of the Third Reich, which was to last a thousand years, is ludicrous. If we combine only the stories of the front bench, this is the ridiculous composite picture of Hitler's Government that emerges. It was composed of:
    A No. 2 man who knew nothing of the excesses of the Gestapo which he created, and never suspected the Jewish extermination programme although he was the signer of over a score of decrees which instituted the persecution of that race;
    A No. 3 man who was merely an innocent middleman transmitting Hitler's orders without even reading them, like a postman or delivery boy;
    A Foreign Minister who knew little of foreign affairs and nothing of foreign policy;
    A Field-Marshal who issued orders to the armed forces but had no idea of the results they would have in practice …
    … This may seem like a fantastic exaggeration, but this is what you would actually be obliged to conclude if you were to acquit these defendants.
    They do protest too much. They deny knowing what was common knowledge. They deny knowing plans and programmes that were as public as Mein Kampf and the Party programme. They deny even knowing the contents of documents which they received and acted upon. … The defendants have been unanimous, when pressed, in shifting the blame on other men, sometimes on one and sometimes on another. But the names they have repeatedly picked are Hitler, Himmler, Heydrich, Goebbels, and Bormann. All of these are dead or missing. No matter how hard we have pressed the defendants on the stand, they have never pointed the finger at a living man as guilty. It is a temptation to ponder the wondrous workings of a fate which has left only the guilty dead and only the innocent alive. It is almost too remarkable.
    The chief villain on whom blame is placed — some of the defendants vie with each other in producing appropriate epithets — is Hitler.
    He is the man at whom nearly every defendant has pointed an accusing finger.
    I shall not dissent from this consensus, nor do I deny that all these dead and missing men shared the guilt. In crimes so reprehensible that degrees of guilt have lost their significance they may have played the most evil parts. But their guilt cannot exculpate the defendants. Hitler did not carry all responsibility to the grave with him. All the guilt is not wrapped in Himmler's shroud. It was these dead men whom these living chose to be their partners in this great conspiratorial brotherhood, and the crimes that they did together they must pay for one by one.
    • Robert H. Jackson in his summation for the prosecution at the Nuremberg Trials (26 July 1946)

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