A friend sent this quote to me today. Surprised I hadn’t seen it before, at first I assumed it had to be an urban legend, but a quick search confirms that it is, indeed, the real thing (and I was apparently under a virtual rock when this was making the rounds of the internet over the past few months).
Hermann Goering, in a series of prison interviews conducted by and collected in Gustave M. Gilbert’s Nuremberg Diary, spoke in 1946 about how the people of any nation can be led into a war they don’t want. The excerpt below is narrated by Gilbert:
We got around to the subject of war again and I said that, contrary to his attitude, I did not think that the common people are very thankful for leaders who bring them war and destruction.
“Why, of course, the people don’t want war,” Goering shrugged. “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.”
“There is one difference,” I pointed out. “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.”
“Oh, that is all well and good, but, 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 way in any country.”