Flagged in Facebook’s efforts to combat the online spread of disinformation, posts claim to offer an authentic quote from Hermann Goering, a principal architect of Germany’s Nazi police state under the Third Reich, that includes the phrase: “The only thing that needs to be done to enslave people is to scare them.”
While the posts implicitly liken the brutal repression of the Nazi regime to mask mandates, social distancing guidelines and other efforts made by governments around the world to contain the novel coronavirus, there is no evidence that Goering made this statement.
The alleged quote, shared here by U.S. musician and conservative activist Ted Nugent, says that while testifying before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1946, Goering was asked how he got the German people to accept Nazism.
He allegedly responded: “It was very easy, it has nothing to do with Nazism, it has something to do with human nature. You can do it in a Nazi, socialist, communist regime, in a monarchy and even in a democracy. The only thing that needs to be done to enslave people is to scare them. If you manage to find a way to scare people, you can make them do what you want.”
Comments indicating an understood comparison between Nazism and COVID-19 restrictions include “And then comes the “Vaccine “????? What predictable BS,” “Masks are a perfect example,” and “Does our government’s reaction and response to the Wuhan Flu make sense now?”
Simone Paulmichl, a spokesperson for the Leibniz Institute for Contemporary History in Munich and Berlin (here), told Reuters via email that the none of the institute’s experts had seen the alleged Goering quote in historical sources.
Paulmichl also said that the institute had seen the same alleged Goering quote circulating last year among followers of the sprawling QAnon conspiracy theory (here).
Paulmichl said the quote was likely a manipulated excerpt from the 1947 book "Nuremberg Diary" by Gustave M. Gilbert (here), a psychologist who had access to the prisoners during the trials.
In the book, Gilbert describes a discussion with Goering on how a government may force people to go to war, to which Goering responded: “…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.”
Reminded by Gilbert that “in a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives,” Goering told him that “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.”
Though this is somewhat similar in parts to the alleged quote circulating on social media, it isn’t a direct transcription.
“The intended link between COVID-19 measures and any ‘Nazi ways’ of ‘scaring’ and ‘enslaving’ people is complete nonsense,” Paulmichl said. “The quote is fake and - in my opinion - it is very likely that whoever invented it did this on purpose.”
Peter Fritzsche, a professor of history and Germanic languages and literatures at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (here), also told Reuters via email that Goering did not say this at Nuremberg, and described the posts’ implicit links to the novel coronavirus as “tendentious and silly.”
Transcripts of Goering’s testimony at Nuremberg are provided here by Cornell Law School’s Donovan Nuremberg Trials Collection, here by Harvard Law School’s Nuremberg Trials Project and here by Yale Law School’s Avalon Project.
Found guilty as a war criminal by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1946, Goering was sentenced to death by hanging but poisoned himself the night his execution was ordered (here).
False. This quote from Nazi leader Hermann Goering is likely an edited version from a quote in the 1947 book “Nuremberg Diaries.”
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .
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