Albert Goering and News of the Holocaust
I have just completed Thirty Four: The Key to Goering’s Last Secret by William Hastings Burke, possibly the most narcissistic and self-indulgent historical study ever published. It is about Albert, the brother of Hermann Goering, and his lobbying his brother to assist a few dozens of society prominents. Often these are cases who had multiple people lobbying for their relief or assisting people to emigrant when it was still official policy to encourage emigration. Some tales of resistance acts by Skoda officials are downright absurd and would find no collaboration in the archives of the victorious allies. Archduke Joseph Ferdinand was released from Dachau in April 1938, before Albert claimed to have lobbied for his release in May 1938; in any case mostly only communists were permanently detained in the wave of arrests in the aftermath of the Anschluss. However, in general Albert Goering comes across as a genuinely humane person, regime hostile and I am sure his efforts were gratefully appreciated by the recipients perhaps to the point of puffing up accounts of his activities after the war. As such, it is interesting to see the accounts Albert Goering gave concerning the Holocaust during his time in American captivity after the war.
Such was the brutal efficiency and veil of secrecy of these [death] squads that Albert Goering, a man privy to most of the activities of the Third Reich, was unaware of their actions until some years after their first murderous campaign in 1939. It was from a somewhat unlikely source that Albert first learnt of these atrocities. It came in the summer of 1942 from Dr Max Winkler, the secretary of Albert’s arch-opponent within Skoda’s German management, Dr Wilhelm Voss. Winkler had just come back from Poland and requested an audience with Albert in Vienna, knowing that he would be very interested to hear such news and most likely act upon it. He proceeded to tell Albert how he had heard of “whole trainloads of Jews, men, women and children, old and young” being led up into the mountains and massacred by machine-gun fire. [Testimony of ALBERT GOERING, taken at Nuremberg, Germany, 25 September 1945, 1045-1240, by Ensign Jackson, M1270, roll 5; RG 238; NACP]
The summer of 1942 is when the ghettos of Poland were being emptied into resettlement trains heading East. What is interesting is not that there was an atrocity rumor in relation to this event in regime hostile circles, but that it was so inaccurate.
The second account concerns conversations Albert had with Hermann [page 163-164]
Jackson: “What did your brother say when you told him about the terrible things that were being done to the Jews?”
Albert: Well, his reaction was always that these things were exaggerated, because he had exact reports on them. He said for me not to mix into affairs of state, and affairs of history, because I had no political knowledge whatever. His very words were: “You are a political idiot!” I made many difficulties for him, because I always did mix into these things, well, you know he is over there in Cell #5 and he can tell you about it. I also know, with another interrogation report, he called me the “Black-sheep of the family.” He called me an “Outside”.
Pressing for the answer he wanted, Jackson continued: “But he never denied knowing that those things were going on, did he?”
“No, he never denied them. He only made them seem less strong, so to speak. He always said that those things were exaggerated. I suppose that the underlying motive of all this was that he did not wish to exhibit his weakness towards Himmler.”
As Sonnenfeldt had observed, Albert went on to provide unsolicited information: “Just to give you an idea of how little actual power my brother really had in these matters, I want to give you another example: One day we were talking about the general subject of Jews, Gestapo and so on, at dinner.”
“That is, you and your brother?” clarified Jackson.
“Yes, and I asked him what his plans were, or what he knew about the Jewish question, and he said that personally he had a plan whereby a large area of Poland, with Warsaw as the capital, should be given to the Jews, who were to be collected there from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia; and that they would be autonomous in that area, in other words, they could handle their affairs as ever they saw fit. This was really a huge ghetto, but nevertheless it was a much more humanitarian idea. Of course, this thing never came into reality, because the ‘Lustmerder’ Himmler prevented any such plan. This word means somebody who likes to murder for fun.” [Testimony of ALBERT GOERING, taken at Nuremberg, Germany, 25 September 1945, 1045-1240, by Ensign Jackson, M1270, roll 5; RG 238; NACP]
The conversation is not dated in my source, but was either before the invasion of the Soviet Union or Hermann was referring to the time before the invasion. Famously, after the invasion Goering signed a memorandum delegating responsibility for the Jewish question to Heydrich. I would be surprised if Warsaw was ever envisaged as being the capital of such a reservation, but in the absence of reliable documentation detailing this planning, who knows? However, it does conform with the view that most historians nowadays hold: namely that until some point in the 2nd half of 1941 the plans to resettle Jews were genuine and not some euphemism for whole-scaled slaughter. Although the exact point that “resettlement” became euphemistic and how this policy change was communicated to the periphery is a matter of interminable debate.