The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. I shall read Paragraph 2, printed on Page 48 of my
Document Book:

  "The Nordic States: Their neutrality in the future,
  provided no completely unforeseen circumstances arise,
  can be taken for granted. The continuation of German
  trade with these countries appears possible, even if the
  war is of long duration."

A. It is quite out of the question that the Fuehrer, in this
extremely secret memorandum, could have mentioned anything
but his true purpose at that particular time. That, however,
is all the more comprehensible, since only one
day later, namely, 10th October, Grand Admiral Raeder first
mentioned these fears to the Fuehrer.

Q. Was the occupation of Norway a very weighty decision for
the Leadership?

A. It was an appallingly weighty decision. Briefly, it meant
gambling with the entire German Fleet. The result was that
we had to defend a coastline of over 3,000 kilometres and
that meant utilization of nearly 300,000 men for that task.
The decision, therefore, depended on really reliable
information that Norway was threatened by actual danger.
That is the reason why no definite date was fixed for
Operation "Weserubung" and the reason why I, at a later
date, suggested that the forces for the Norway operation, in
case it became necessary, and for an attack in the West,
should be completely separate from each other.

Q. What were the reasons why the occupation had to be
prepared in. every detail?

A. The reasons are quite openly and unequivocally expressed
in the order of 1st March, 1940, which is in Document C-174

Q. That is Exhibit GB 89 -

A. Yes, we had to be prepared in any case.

THE PRESIDENT: Is that 174-PS or what?

DR. EXNER: It is not printed in my Document Book. It refers
to a document which the British prosecution has submitted as
Exhibit GB 89.

THE PRESIDENT: But 174 must mean something, must it not? The
defendant said Document 174.

DR. EXNER: C-174.

MR. ROBERTS: My Lord, it is C-I74 -

THE PRESIDENT: C-174. Very well.

                                                  [Page 338]

MR. ROBERTS: And it was put in by Major Elwyn Jones, in
Document Book 3.


Q. Now you say in your diary that the Fuehrer was searching
for a justification. The meaning has already been explained
here, but you yourself should know best what the meaning is,
since you wrote it yourself. What does it mean?

A. The Fuehrer said in those days - I wrote this down, not
in a diary but in my notebook, my memorandum book - "To
carry out a decision of this kind I need absolutely reliable
information, with which I can justify this decision before
the world and prove that it was necessary". I cannot confirm
this. I only heard it from Herr Quisling. For this reason he
kept the intelligence service in particular very busy at
this time, in order to get even more precise information
about these many reports which we received -

Q. Now Grand Admiral Raeder has explained the facts from
which England's plans could be deduced. Have you anything to
add to that or is the question settled?

A. On the whole, Grand Admiral Raeder has already submitted
all the reports. There is one thing which remains in my
memory and which is also written down in my notebook, the
special insistence quite openly advocated in the French
Press that under all circumstances Germany must be cut off
from the Swedish ore supplies. Then came the mine-laying in
Norwegian territorial waters, and then came the Altmark case
which - according to my study of International Law - was a
flagrant breach of the agreement ruling the rights and
duties of neutral States in naval warfare (vide Articles I
and II).

DR. EXNER: Regarding the first two points which the witness
has mentioned, I should like to draw your attention to
Document 1809-PS, that is Exhibit GB 99, Page 53 of Volume I
of my collection. There is an entry on 10th March:

  "The news about the Finnish-Russian negotiations is very
  gratifying from a political point of view. The French
  Press rages about it, because it considers it necessary
  to cut Germany off from the Swedish ore."

And then the entry of 25th March:

  "The English have begun to molest or to fire on our
  merchantmen in Danish and Norwegian territorial waters."


Q. Now, please tell us, what gave rise to the decision to

A. The Fuehrer's final decision was made on and April, and
made on the basis of two items of information, the first
being reports from the Navy regarding repeated firing on
merchant ships both in Norwegian and Danish territorial
waters, and the second a report from Canaris, saying that
British troops and transports were in a state of readiness
in the northern part of the English east coast.

Q. What would have been the consequences for us, if England
had got there first?

A. Concerning this I refer to Admiral Raeder's testimony,
where he says: "Once Norway was in British hands-the war
would have been half lost for us." We would have been
strategically enveloped on the northern flank and we would
have been incapable, because of the weakness of our fleet,
ever to rectify this again.

Q. Was indisputable proof found later that the British plan
really existed?

A. We captured the entire records of the British brigade
which landed in Namsos and in other places. We captured the
British war correspondent, Rommilly, by surprise in Narvik,
where he expected anything on earth except the appearance of
German ships, otherwise he could have escaped capture. To
the question, what he was trying to report about the war in
peaceful Narvik, he could not give us any information at

Later on we captured all the records of the French General
Staff, a part of which have already been presented by
Admiral Raeder's defence counsel. Particularly instructive
and of great interest to me were the diaries carried by the
English officers and some of the non-commissioned officers
whom we captured in

                                                  [Page 339]

Norway. At least they proved one thing, namely, that all
these troops had already been embarked and, at the moment
when our German fleet was advancing towards Norway, had been
put ashore again.

DR. EXNER: I should like to refer again to two entries in
the diary, Page 54, Volume I, of my Document Book, the entry
of 24th and 26th June - I beg your pardon - 26th April.
There it says:

  "Major Soltman reports about the interrogation of the
  Englishmen and submits additional important documents,
  among them the secret Army Register. At noon the first
  prisoners arrived in Berlin. They are being interrogated
  in the Alexander Barracks and confirm the authenticity of
  the orders. All material is handed over to the Foreign

In conclusion I also draw your attention again to Soltman's
questionnaire. It is Document AJ, No. 4, which I now
present, Page 173 of Volume II; but I need not read it
aloud. I merely draw your attention to Soltman's answers to
questions 4 and 5.


Q. Now, one last question about this Norwegian business. The
British representative of the, prosecution has said that
this shows how honourable the soldiers were, who attacked
Norway and then used lies and excuses.

A. The prosecution has thereby raised a purely operational
problem to the level of soldierly or human honour. So far
that has never been the custom in this world. I can only say
that I neither attacked Norwegians nor did I resort to lies
or excuses. But I did use all my strength to contribute to
the success of an operation which I considered absolutely
necessary in order to forestall a similar action on the part
of the English. If the seals of the archives are ever
broken, the truth of my contention will then be clearly
proven. But even had my contention proved incorrect, the
honesty of my own subjective opinion at that time cannot,
for that reason, be affected in any way.

Q. We are now talking about the war in the West. After the
end of the Polish campaign was there already an operational
plan for attacks in the West in existence?

A. No. To begin with, there was no plan of attack in the
West, but on the contrary, there was, particularly in the
army, a widespread opinion that the war would die a natural
death if only we kept quiet in the West. That opinion was so
strong that the Commander-in-Chief of the Army transformed
even mobile infantry divisions into fortress divisions, and
so took away all their mobile equipment from them.

Q. Did you already know the Fuehrer's intentions towards the
West during the Polish campaign?

A. The Fuehrer himself had his doubts during the Polish
campaign. He too could not find a plausible explanation for
the complete inactivity of the French and English forces in
France, who only staged a kind of a sham war with the help
of their war communiques. In reality not a single shot was
fired at the front.

But by the end of September, if I remember rightly, the
Fuehrer realised perfectly well that if England should once
enter a war, she would fight it out to the bitter end.

Q. As a General Staff officer, you must be able to answer
the following questions better than anybody else. Could we,
from a purely strategical viewpoint, have remained purely on
the defensive in the West as well?

A. I shall be very brief, since such problems are not
directly connected with the trial. I shall only say that it
would have been the greatest possible strategic error
because the superiority we possessed at that time must
necessarily have diminished in proportion to our delay in
making aggressive use of it, for England was continually
bringing further divisions over to France, just as the
French were bringing them from their colonial empire.

I believe I need say no more about that.

                                                  [Page 340]

Q. I draw your attention to Document C-62, Exhibit GB 106,
Volume I of my Document Book, Page 56. I need not, however,
read it aloud. It is a directive for the conduct of the war
and contains the leading ideas which we have already heard

A. One thing more is, perhaps, important. The Fuehrer took
this danger so seriously, the danger that we might just not
maintain our superiority in the long run, that he actually
wanted to attack in the winter, although absolutely all the
soldiers advised him against it.

Q. Here attention might be drawn to our document, Volume I,
Pages 48-49, a memorandum of the Fuehrer on the conduct of
the war. It is Document L-52, Exhibit USA 540, and it gives
the Fuehrer's reasons in detail.

Why was France not attacked then without violating the
neutrality of Holland, Luxembourg and Belgium?

A. It was no trifle for the Fuehrer to create new enemies
with a strength of 500,000 men, as represented by the Dutch
and Belgian forces. It resulted in our having to make the
attack in the West with actually inferior forces, namely,
with 110 divisions against, approximately, 135 of the enemy.
No military commander would do that except in an emergency.

Q. Now, what were the reasons?

A. We were not in a position to break through the Maginot
Line at its strongest points, namely, between the Rhine and
the Luxembourg border, or the Upper Rhine where the Vosges
mountains were an additional obstacle in breaking through
the West Wall at these points. For this purpose heavy
artillery was lacking.

The great danger lay in the fact that so protracted an
attack on the fortifications exposed us to an attack in the
rear by the combined English and French mobile forces,
thrusting through Belgium and Holland, and the latter were
already stationed north of Lille, one might say that their
engines were already running for precisely such a task. And
the decisive factor was that both the Fuehrer and we
ourselves, the soldiers, were definitely under the
impression, as a result of the many reports which reached
us, that the neutrality of Belgium and Holland in the last
analysis was only specious and deceptive.

Q. How did you arrive at that conclusion?

A. Individually, the reports are not of great interest.
There was, however, an endless number of reports from
Canaris. They were supplemented and confirmed by letters
from the Duce, Mussolini. But the fact which was absolutely
capable of proof, which was completely certain, which I
could see for myself on the maps every day, was the nightly
flights back and forth of the Royal Air Force, completely
unconcerned by the neutrality of Dutch and Belgian
territory. This necessarily strengthened the conviction in
us that even if the two countries wished to-and perhaps in
the beginning they did so wish-they could not remain neutral
in the long run.

A. Those dangers were quite clearly indicated by the
Fuehrer. Firstly, in his memorandum L-52, which has been
repeatedly quoted. There, on Page 48 of the Document Book,
in the last paragraph of the page, is a reference to the
enormous importance of the Ruhr, of which, incidentally,
there seems to be quite sufficient evidence even today.

In his address of 23rd November, 1939, to the
commanders-in-chief, Document 789-PS, Exhibit USA 23, he
described once more, on Page 59, Volume I of the Document
Book, precisely how tremendous that danger would be for the
Ruhr District if one day British and French forces should
appear by surprise in that region. He referred to it there
as the "Achilles heel," and that is what it was for
Germany's military operations, too.

Q. And he said there, on Page 59 of our Document Book:

  "We have an Achilles heel: the Ruhr District. The conduct
  of the war depends on the possession of the Ruhr
  District. If England and France

                                                  [Page 341]

  thrust through Belgium and Holland into the Ruhr, we
  shall be in the very greatest danger."

A. I cannot, of course, or could not at the time swear to
the absolute accuracy of the numerous reports from Canaris,
but the material we eventually captured - and in this
connection I would draw your attention to the conference of
the War Council in London of 17th November, 1939 -
confirmed, on the whole, the accuracy of the intelligence

Q. Presumably you had no reason, at that time, to doubt
Canaris' honesty, had you?

A. No. At that time there was not the slightest reason for

Q. Yes. Whereas now, indeed, some doubt has arisen.

Now, the German attack was originally planned for November
1939. Why did the Fuehrer postpone it over and over again?
We have before us no less than seventeen orders, postponing
the attack time and again.

A. It is not quite correct to say that the Fuehrer had
ordered the attack for mid-November, but rather he wanted to
order the attack for a time when the meteorologists could
predict about six or seven days of clear, frosty weather.
But the meteorologists failed completely in this.
Occasionally they thought they could predict such a state of
the weather and then all preparations would be made for the
attack. Then they would again disavow their weather
forecasts and all the final preparations for attack would be
discontinued once more. That is why we so often prepared for
the attack and then refrained from carrying it out.

On this occasion I received a report from Canaris to the
effect that one unit of the French Army had already crossed
one part of the Belgian frontier. I did not know if that was

Q. You have been accused by the prosecution of first
deceiving these countries and then invading them. Please
explain what you have to say on that subject.

A. The same holds good as I have previously stated. I was
neither a politician nor was I the military
Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. I was under the
impression - and indeed an impression which could be proved
correct - that in actual fact the neutrality of these two
countries was no longer being respected. As for the ethical
code of my actions, I must say that it was obedience, since
obedience is really the ethical basis of the military
profession. That I was far from extending this code of
obedience to the blind obedience imposed on the slave has, I
consider, been proved beyond all manner of doubt by my
previous testimony. Nevertheless, you cannot avoid the fact
that in operational matters of this particular kind there
can be no other course for the soldier but obedience.

And if the prosecution today is in a position to indict
German officers here at all, they owe this only to the
ethical concept of obedience of their own brave soldiers.

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