Los Angeles—In the last days of WWII Adolf Hitler wanted to “exterminate” hundreds of thousands of Allied prisoners of war, according to newly discovered evidence from his air force chief.
Even thought almost all top Nazi officials opposed Hitler’s plan, he might have done it had the war lasted three more months, according to a previously classified Allied interrogation of Hitler’s henchman, Hermann Goering, that was recently discovered in the U. S. National Archives.
In the final months of the war the Nazi had more than 200,000 U.S., British, Canadian, French and other Allied POWS on the western front and more than a million Russian prisoners in the east.
The document, found by World Jewish Congress researchers, is part of the series of Allied interviews with the portly marshal, who was sentenced to death by the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal but committed suicide on the day he was to hang.
In comments not supported by other accounts, Goering claimed Hitler’s mistress, Eva Braun, and his secretary were drunk all the time during “Der Fuehrer’s” final days. Goering also said that only fear of retaliation stopped Hitler from using poison gas against the Allies.
Historians say it was known that Hitler considered renouncing the Geneva Convention on the treatment of Allied prisoners of war to warn German soldiers not to surrender.
But they said it was not know that he wanted to exterminate the Allied POWS in the west. Hitler’s treatment of Soviet soldiers on the eastern front was murderous. Of five million Russians captured, only 2 million survived.
The May 1945 document said that while Goering was “by no means the comical figure he has been depicted so many times,” his comments were to be taken as self-serving.
Although historians said Goering had a major role in Hitler’s anti-Jewish policy, he feigned shock at seeing photographs of Dachau and said all the Nazis wanted to do was remove prominent Jews from high levels of German society.
He said he thought, “concentration camps were places where people were employed for some useful work.” He said the mass murders of Jews must have happened in the last weeks of the war and added he could not understand “that there are some people in Germany who could commit such atrocities.”
A key part of his interrogations was when he discussed Hitler’s plan for prisoners of war.
“PW [Goering] claims it was Hitler’s intention to denounce the Geneva Convention if the war would have lasted another three months. All Allied [prisoners of war] except those valuable to the German war economy would be exterminated,” the document said, summing up Goering’s views.
It added that the German leadership except for propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels opposed the plan.
“It was pointed out to Hitler that German (prisoners) in Allied hands would have to expect the same fate. To this the Fuehrer replied that those millions were of no use to the war effort anyway but that after his proposed action there would be no deserters from the German army. The German people, he said, would fight to the last man,” Goering said.
Historian Gerhard Weinberg, a professor at the University of North Carolina, said that while accounts and documents from Goering’s interviews after his capture were known to scholars, his description of Hitler’s plan to exterminate allied soldiers was not.
“We do know there was discussion of renouncing the Geneva Convention but…this is different from issuing an order to kill,” said Weinberg, the author of the comprehensive war history A World At Arms.
“I have not seen any reference to a shift from a proposal of the general renunciation of the Geneva Convention with the possibilities this would leave open the planned systematic slaughter of POWs,” he added.
Richard Brietman, professor of history at The American University in Washington, D.C., said Goering was out of favor with Hitler at the end of the war and like many other Nazis wanted to paint himself as a restraining influence.*