Timely quote about political leaders who can all too easily send the citizenry marching eagerly off to war by manufacturing crises that purportedly threaten national security by making popular appeals to patriotism.
What makes this sentiment even more disturbing is that it comes not from a venerated figure of antiquity – apocryphally attributed to Julius Caesar – but from a reviled twentieth century figure associated with the most chilling example of genocide in human history – Hermann Goering, Nazi Reichsmarshall (highest Nazi rank) and Luftwaffe-Chief.
Hermann Goering was perhaps the most influential person in the Nazi organisation, next to Hitler, and was considered Hitler’s chosen successor. He was one of only 12 Nazis elected to the Reichstag (Parliament) in 1928. He orchestrated the Reichstag fire on February 27, 1933 and, with Goebbels assistance, used the fire as a propaganda tool against the communists. In the mid-1930’s Goering was in charge of the Aryanization of Jewish property, a policy which extended to Jews throughout Europe.
Goering was the first Nuremberg trial which set precedence for the following trials. He was found guilty on charges of “war crimes,” “crimes against peace,” and “crimes against humanity” by the Nuremberg tribunal and sentenced to death by hanging. However, he managed to evade the sentence by committing suicide in his cell with smuggled cyanide capsules, hours before his execution was due.
The quote cited above does not appear in transcripts of the Nuremberg trials because although Goering spoke these words during the course of the proceedings, he did not offer them at his trial. His comments were made privately to Gustave Gilbert, a German-speaking American intelligence officer and psychologist who was granted free access by the Allies to all the prisoners held in the Nuremberg jail. Gilbert kept a journal of his observations of the proceedings and his conversations with the prisoners, which he later published in the book ‘Nuremberg Diary‘ (Parts of the diary were published in 1947, and the whole diary in 1961, just before the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem).
The text is the verbatim notes Gilbert took immediately after having conversations with the prisoners, information backed up by essays he asked them to write about themselves.
FOR THE CURIOUS:
Hermann Göring quotes at Wikiquote
Official records of the Nuremberg trials (The Blue series) in 42 volumes from the US Library of congress
Nuremberg: Nazis On Trial by Professor Richard Overy at ‘BBC History’
Hermann Goering’s Hearing at Nuremberg by Steffi Gascon and edited by Karen Phinney at UCSB
Nuremberg: Nazis on Trial – Herman Goering documentary episode focusing on Hermann Goering