Although this quote was indeed spoken by Reichsmarschall Hermann
Goering during the course of the Nuremburg Trials, it was not part of
the trial records, since these remarks were made privately by Goering
in a conversation with prison psychologist and U.S. Army Captain
Gustave M. Gilbert that took place in Goering's jail cell.
"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 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. The
quote offered above was part of a conversation Gilbert held with a
dejected Hermann Goering in his cell on the evening of 18 April 1946,
as the trials were halted for a three-day Easter recess."
Here is the complete quote, with a comment by Gilbert that occurred
midway through it:
"Nazi leader Hermann Goering, interviewed by Gustave Gilbert during
the Easter recess of the Nuremberg trials, 1946 April 18, quoted in
Gilbert's book 'Nuremberg Diary.'
Goering: 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.
Goering: 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 in
"Goering's last days were spent with Gustave Gilbert, a
German-speaking 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. The following quote was a part of a
conversation Gilbert held with a dejected Hermann Goering in his cell
on the evening of 18 April 1946, as the trials were halted for a
three-day Easter recess:
Sweating in his cell in the evening, Goering was defensive and
deflated and not very happy over the turn the trial was taking. He
said that he had no control over the actions or the defense of the
others, and that he had never been anti-Semitic himself, had not
believed these atrocities, and that several Jews had offered to
testify in his behalf... Later in the conversation, Gilbert recorded
Goering's observations that the common people can always be
manipulated into supporting and fighting wars by their political
Gustave Gilbert's "Nuremberg Diary" is still in print:
If you'd like to read Goering's words in the original German, the
German text of the interviews was published under the title
"Nürnberger Tagebuch." It, too, is still in print, and can be obtained
from Amazon's German site:
It is interesting to note that this quote, which has undergone a
recent revival because of its applicability to the war in Iraq, was
also commonly used by anti-war protesters during the Vietnam War. I
know this because, in 1965, I hand-lettered a portion of the quote
onto a poster which I carried at a large anti-LBJ, pro-peace rally on
the campus of the University of Oklahoma. The more things change, the
more they stay the same.
Search terms used:
"voice or no voice, the people can always be brought"
"hermann goering" + "nuremberg"
"hermann göring" + "nürnberg"
"gustave gilbert" + "nuremberg diary"
"gustave gilbert" + "nürnberger tagebuch"
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