The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
November 20 to December 1, 1945

Fifth Day: Monday, 26th November, 1945
(Part 1 of 7)

[Page 151]

DR. SAUTER: May it please the Court, I should like to make an application. I am Dr. Sauter and defend the defendant von Ribbentrop. On the 30th October the defendant von Ribbentrop requested that his former secretary, Margarete Blank, at that time in the Remand Prison in Nuremberg, be made available to him in order that he might make his reply to the Indictment, as well as a survey of the manner in which he performed his official duties in the last seven or eight years. He wished to dictate the facts.

On the 11th November, 1945, the Tribunal allowed this plea. The defendant von Ribbentrop thereupon was able to dictate for a few hours, but this was stopped for reasons unknown to him. The defendant von Ribbentrop has not yet had returned to him either the shorthand notes or the type script dictated to Fraulein Blank. He therefore makes application to the Court that the President be good enough to decree that his former secretary, Margarete Blank, be made available to him for the transcription of the requisite data. Such permission would appear to be essential for the proper preparation of his testimony and for the preparation of the testimony of the defence witnesses.

Particularly in the case of the defendant von Ribbentrop, the material to be treated is so voluminous, that no other way of treating it appears feasible to us. Von Ribbentrop has a further request to put forward. He has repeatedly asked that some of his former colleagues, in particular Ambassador Gauss, Ambassador von Rintelen, Minister von Sonnleitner, Professor Fritz Berber and Under-Secretary of State Henke, be brought to Nuremberg as witnesses, and that he be permitted to speak to these witnesses in the presence of his counsel. This request has, in part, been refused by the Court on the 10th November. The remaining part has not yet been decided.

It is quite impossible for the defendant von Ribbentrop, considering the question of the entire foreign policy for the last seven or eight years, to give a clear and exhaustive account, if nothing is placed at his disposal except a pencil and a block of writing paper. The White Book of the Foreign Office for which he has asked could not be placed at his disposal. In view of the voluminous nature of the material entailed by Germany's foreign policy during the last seven or eight years, the defendant von Ribbentrop cannot possibly remember every single detail of events, documents et alia, unless he be afforded some outside help. He will be unable to remember particulars unless his memory be stimulated by discussions with his former colleagues.

Moreover, the defendant von Ribbentrop has been taking a great many soporifics during the last four years, especially bromides, and his memory has suffered in consequence. For a comprehensive realisation of the historical truth in a field which interests not only the Court, but universal public opinion in particular, little would be achieved if, in the course of his examination, he were to declare, over and over again, that he could no longer remember these details.

Defendant von Ribbentrop therefore applies to the Court and begs that his above-mentioned colleagues be brought here, and that he receive permission to discuss with them matters pertaining to the trial, in order that he may prepare for further proceedings.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal has already intimated to defendant's counsel that all applications should, as far as possible, be made in writing and they consider

[Page 152]

that the applications which have now been made orally should have been made in writing. They will consider the facts with reference to the application in respect of defendant von Ribbentrop's secretary. The other applications, as to witnesses and documents, which have been made in writing, have been considered, or will be considered by the Tribunal.

DR. SAUTER: Mr. President, I would, in addition, like to observe that the applications which I have today submitted have been repeatedly lodged with the Court in writing, but my client is anxious lest he experience difficulties in preparing his own testimony and the examination of the defence witnesses.

THE PRESIDENT: As was announced at the sitting on Friday, counsel for the prosecution were to try and arrange with defendants' counsel some satisfactory arrangement with reference to the production of documents in the German language. In accordance with that announcement, counsel for the prosecution saw counsel for the defence, and representatives of the prosecution and the defence appeared before the Tribunal, and the Tribunal has provisionally made the following arrangement: One, that in future, only such parts of documents as are read in Court by the prosecution, shall in the first instance be part of the record. In that way, those parts of the documents will be conveyed to defendants' counsel through the earphones in German. Two, in order that defendants and their counsel may have an opportunity of inspecting such documents in their entirety in German, a photostatic copy of the original and one copy thereof shall be deposited in the defendants' counsel room at the same time that they are produced in Court. Three, the defendants' counsel may at any time refer to any other part of such documents. Four, prosecuting counsel will furnish defendants' counsel with ten copies of their trial briefs in English and five copies of their books of documents in English, at the time such briefs and books are furnished to the Tribunal. Five, defendants' counsel will be furnished with one copy each of the transcript of the proceedings. That is all.

I call upon the prosecuting counsel for the United States.

MR. ALDERMAN: May it please the Tribunal, may I make, Mr. President, one inquiry with regard to your reference to trial briefs.

On my section of the case I shall not expect to hand up to the Court trial briefs. Whatever I have in the nature of trial briefs will be put over the microphone. I wonder if that is satisfactory.

THE PRESIDENT: I think what I said meets that case.

MR. ALDERMAN: I thought so, yes.

THE PRESIDENT: Because what I said was that the defendants' counsel would be furnished with ten copies of the trial briefs in English at the same time that they are furnished to the Tribunal. Therefore, if you don't furnish the trial briefs to the Tribunal, none will be furnished to the defendants' counsel.


When the Tribunal rose on Friday last, I had just completed an introductory statement preliminary to the presentation of evidence on the aggressive war aspect of the case. In that introductory statement I had invited attention to the parts of the Charter and to the parts of the Indictment which are pertinent to this aspect of the case. I had also discussed the relationship between recorded history and the evidence to be presented, indicating what sort of additions to recorded history would be made by the evidence contained in the captured documents.

I then indicated to the Court that I would first proceed by presenting singly a handful of captured documents, which, in our opinion, prove the corpus of the crime of Aggressive War, leaving no reasonable doubt concerning the aggressive character of the Nazi war, or concerning the conspiratory premeditation of that war. I indicated to the Tribunal that, after proving the corpus of the crime in this way, I would follow the presentation of this evidence with a more or less

[Page 153]

chronological presentation of the case on Aggressive War, producing evidence in greater detail of the relevant activities of the conspirators from 1933 to 1941.

As the members of the Tribunal may understand, it is easier to make plans about presentation than to keep them. There have been, by necessity, some changes in our plans. I indicated on Friday that to a certain extent the American case under Count 1 and the British case under Count 2 would interlock. The British Chief Prosecutor, Sir Hartley Shawcross, is by force of circumstances required to be in London this week. He expects to be back next week. The intention now is that he will make his opening statement covering Count 2 of the Indictment, and such interrelated parts of Count 1 of the Indictment as have not by then been presented, when he returns on Monday.

So that what is at the moment planned, if it meets with the Court's views, is that I shall continue as far as I may within two days of this week on the detailed story as to Aggressive War; that thereupon we shall alter the presentation and present some other matters coming under Count 1. Then, following the British Chief Prosecutor's opening on Monday of next week, we shall continue jointly with the Chapters on Poland, Russia, and Japan, as parts of both Count 1 and Count 2. While that may not be strictly logical it seems to us the best method to proceed with under the circumstances.

I turn now to the period of 1933 to 1936, a period characterised by an orderly, planned sequence of preparations for war. This is the period covered by Paragraphs 1 and 2 of IV (F) of the Indictment. This may be found at Page 7 of the printed English text of the Indictment.

The essential character of this period was the formulation and execution of the plan to rearm and to re-occupy and fortify the Rhineland in violation of the Treaty of Versailles and other treaties, in order to acquire military strength and political bargaining power to be used against other nations.

Hitler's own eloquence in a secret speech delivered to all supreme commanders on 23rd November, 1939, at 12.00 hours, is sufficient to characterise this phase of the Nazi conspiracy. This document comes to hand as a captured document found in the OKW files - OKW is Ober Kommando der Wehrmacht, the High Command of the Army, Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces - and was captured at Flensburg. The document is numbered 789-PS in our numbered series of documents.

I have in my hand, if the Court please, the German original of this document in the condition in which it was captured, and I wish to offer the document in evidence and have it given the proper serial number as the United States Prosecutor's exhibit. The serial number, I understand, is exhibit USA 23. I would ask that the German text of the original be handed to the interpreters, the German interpreters.

If the Court please, understanding the ruling just made by the presiding Justice, although I have offered the entire document, it is a very long speech, and I shall not read it into the record in its entirety. Of course, as the Presiding Judge said, defence counsel may insert any other parts of it as they wish.

I shall begin reading at the beginning, and read a little more than half of the first page in the English text. I am advised that the German original is marked with a blue pencil at the point where I shall stop reading. I will read the English translation:

"November 23rd, 1939, 12.00 hours. Conference with the Fuehrer, to which all supreme Commanders are ordered. The Fuehrer gives the following speech:

The purpose of this conference is to give you an idea of the world of my thoughts, which takes charge of me, in the face of future events, and to tell you my decisions. The building up of our armed forces was only possible in connection with the ideological - the German word is " weltanschaulich" - "education of the German people by the Party."

[Page 154]

If I may interpolate just to comment on that interesting German word "weltanschaulich." I take it that ideological is about as close a translation as we can get, but the word means more than that. It means a whole attitude towards the world, the way of looking on the world.
"When I started my political task" - I am quoting again - "in 1919, my strong belief in final success was based on a thorough observation of the events of the day and the study of the reasons for their occurrence. Therefore, I never lost my belief in the midst of setbacks which were not spared me during my period of struggle. Providence has had the last word and brought me success. On top of that, I had a clear recognition of the probable course of historical events, and the firm will to make brutal decisions. The first decision was in 1919 when I, after long internal conflict, became a politician and took up the struggle against my enemies. That was the hardest of all decisions. I had, however, the firm belief that I would arrive at my goal. First of all, I desired a new system of selection. I wanted to educate a minority which would take over the leadership. After 15 years I arrived at my goal, after strenuous struggles and many setbacks. When I came to power in 1933, the period of the most difficult struggle lay behind me. Everything existing before that had collapsed. I had to reorganise everything, beginning with the mass of the people, and extending it to the armed forces. First, reorganisation of the interior, abolishment of appearances of decay and defeatist ideas, education to heroism. While reorganising the interior, I undertook the second task: to release Germany from its international ties. Two particular characteristics are to be pointed out: secession from the League of Nations and denunciation of the Disarmament Conference. It was a hard decision. The number of prophets who predicted that it would lead to the occupation of the Rhineland, was large, the number of believers was very small. I was supported by the nation, which stood firmly behind me, when I carried out my intentions. After that the order for rearmament. Here again there were numerous prophets who predicted misfortunes, and only a few believers. In 1935 the introduction of compulsory armed service. After that the militarisation of the Rhineland, again a process believed to be impossible at that time. The number of people who put trust in me was very small. Then - beginning of the fortification of the whole country, especially in the West.
One year later, Austria came" - I suppose he meant Austria went - "this step also was considered doubtful. It brought about a considerable reinforcement of the Reich. The next step was Bohemia, Moravia and Poland. This step also was not possible to accomplish in one campaign. First of all, the Western fortification had to be finished. It was not possible to reach the goal in one effort. It was clear to me from the first moment that I could not be satisfied with the Sudeten-German territory. That was only a partial solution. The decision to march into Bohemia was made. Then followed the erection of the Protectorate, and with that the basis for the action against Poland was laid, but I wasn't quite clear at that time whether I should start first against the East and then in the West, or vice versa."
There are some curious antitheses of thought in that speech, as in most of Adolf Hitler's speeches. In one sentence he combines guidance by Providence with the making of brutal decisions. He constantly speaks of how very few people were with him, and yet of how the mass of the German people were with him. But he does give a brief summary of the gist of what is contained in the allegations of our Indictment, to which I have invited your attention: the organisation of the mass of the people, then extending to the armed forces, and the various brutal decisions that he did make, about which history knows.

That long document contains other material of great interest. It may be that we shall advert to other portions of it later. At this point, however, I have simply

[Page 155]

asked the Court to focus attention on the matter I have just read and its hearing on the development of the conspiracy during the period 1933 to 1936.

Another captured document is sufficient to demonstrate the preparations for war in which the Nazi conspirators were engaged during this period. I refer to a top secret letter dated 24th June, 1935, from General von Brauchitsch to the Supreme Commanders of the Army, Navy and Air Forces. Attached to that letter is a copy of a secret Reich Defence law of 21st May, 1935, and a copy of a decision of the Reich Cabinet of 21st May, 1935, on the Council for the defence of the Reich.

These documents were captured in the OKW files at Fechenheim. This group of documents is numbered 2261-PS in our numbered series of documents. It seems to us one of the most significant evidences of secret and direct preparations for aggressive war.

I gave expression to a typographical error. That was General von Blomberg instead of Brauchitsch.

I have the original of these documents. I ask that they be admitted into evidence as exhibit USA 24.

The top page of that document I shall read in full, which is the letter signed "von Blomberg, Berlin, 24th June, 1935, 'Top Secret' " headed "The Reich Minister of War and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, No. 1820/35 Top Secret L IIa."

To: The Supreme Commander of the Army
The Supreme Commander of the Navy
The Supreme Commander of the Air Forces

In the appendix I transmit one copy each of the law for the defence of the Reich of the 21st May, 1935, and of a decision of the Reich Cabinet of 21st May, 1935, concerning the Reich Defence Council. The publication of the Reich's Defence Law is temporarily suspended by order of the Fuehrer and Reich Chancellor.

The Fuehrer and Reich Chancellor has nominated the President of the Directorate of the Reichsbank, Dr. Schacht, to be Plenipotentiary-General for war economy.

I request that the copies of the Reich's Defence Law needed within the units of the Armed Forces, be ordered before 1st July, 1935, at Armed Forces Office (L) where it is to be established with the request that the law should only be distributed down to Corps Headquarters outside of the Reich Ministry of War.

I point out the necessity of strictest secrecy once more."

Signed by "von Blomberg." Underneath that is an endorsement "Berlin. 3rd September, 1935; No. 1820/35 L Top Secret II a. To Defence-Economic Group C-3, copy transmitted (signed) Jodl."

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