Göring on the stand [70 Years After Nuremberg]

Nuremberg Palace

March 20th, 1946 marked a more than hectic day in the courtroom, as defendant Hermann Göring was excruciatingly difficult, even going so far as to correcting those who questioned him. The first to question Göring was Jackson, and Dodd reported his cross examination as,”…[It] continued all day with the Justice looking very good and Göring looking very poorly”[p. 267, 3/20/1946]. Justice Jackson along with the President asked Göring, “You have stated that on the Jewish question, some of the members of the government were more radical than you. Would you state who these were?” He replied, “Excuse me, I did not understand the question to mean who were more radical, but in what way they were more radical. If you ask who, then I would say that those were primarily Minister Goebbels and Himmler” [http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/03-20-46.asp#Goering7, accessed 3/21/2016].

Justice Jackson and Thomas Dodd in the courtroom

Göring nitpicked everything he was asked, demonstrating his keen intelligence and understanding, but in the end he was simply doing his best to antagonize those trying to prove him accountable. This was especially evident when General Roman Rudenko stepped up to question him. The obvious hatred between the representatives of the Germans and the Russians (or citizens of the Soviet Union), and Göring was primed to take it out on Rudenko. Rudenko asked,  “Was it your duty to know about these facts?” Göring countered with, ”In what way my duty? Either I know the fact or I do not know it. You can ask me only whether I was negligent in failing to obtain knowledge” [http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/03-22-46.asp#Goering9, 3/21/2016]. Göring’s sharp wit enabled him to easily exploit the fault in Rudenko’s question, allowing him to subtly mock the Soviet Union, even while on trial for his life. Before completing his testimony, Göring left the courtroom with a few memorable words,”I acknowledge my responsibility for having done everything to carry out the preparations for the seizure of power, and to have made the power firm in order to make Germany free and great. I did everything to avoid this war. But after it had started, it was my duty to do everything to win it” [http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/03-22-46.asp#Goering9, 3/21/2016].

General Roman Rudenko

General Roman Rudenko

As the week concluded so did the questioning of Göring; a week that focused on a man the world had heard of but had now heard him describe his actions in his own words. Next up was the problematic defendant Hess.  Further complicating the defendant’s mental state, Dodd was dealing with internal issues.  His colleague Amen who he described as “…stupid and knows almost nothing about this case, beat a dead horse to death for two hours” [p.271, 3/26/1946].  Dodd lamented that Amen dragged out his case trying to gain fame and notice, and Biddle continued the practice, consuming the rest of the day with his own babbling. Dodd refers to Biddle and his actions by writing, ”Biddle was again the difficulty–he has done more to impede this trial than anyone here” [p. 272, 3/26/1946]. Dodd was fed up with continuous delays and courtroom posturing, and he wasn’t the only one. One could only hope change would come before the tension amongst the staff affected their ability to be effective before the court.

–Owen Doremus and Betsy Pittman

[Owen Doremus, a junior at Edwin O. Smith High School, is supporting this blog series with research and writing as part of an independent study.]

The majority of the letters from Tom Dodd to his wife Grace have been published and can be found in Letters from Nuremberg, My father’s narrative of a quest for justice. Senator Christopher J. Dodd with Lary Bloom. New York: Crown Publishing, 2007.

Images available in Thomas J. Dodd Papers.

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