The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
7th January to 19th January, 1946

Twenty-Ninth Day: Tuesday, January 8th, 1946
(Part 10 of 10)


[Page 86]

The important exhibits showing that aspect of the case are GB 30, which is Document 2357-PS, Hitler's Reichstag speech on the 20th February, 1938, and then GB 31, Document TC-76, which is the secret Foreign Office memorandum of the 26th August, 1938, and GB 27, Document 73, No. 40...

THE PRESIDENT: What was the number?

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: I beg your Lordship's pardon. The last one was TC-76.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, but after that.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: The next one was TC-73, No. 40. 73 is the Polish White Book and 40 is the number of the document in the book. It is an extract from the conversation between M. Lipski, the Polish Ambassador, and this defendant.

Finally in this group is Document TC-73, No. 42, Hitler's speech at the Sportpalast on the 26th September, 1938, in which he said that this was the end of his territorial problems in Europe and expressed an almost violent affection for the Poles.

Now the next stage was between Munich and the rape of Prague, and in the following stage-part of the German aggressions in Czechoslovakia having been accomplished and parts still remaining to be done - there is a slight change but still a friendly atmosphere. That begins with a conversation between this defendant and M. Lipski, which is contained in Exhibit GB 27, Document TC-73, No. 44.

There this defendant put forward very peaceful suggestions for the settlement of the Danzig issue. The Polish reply is in Exhibit GB 28, TC-75.

THE PRESIDENT: You did not give the date of those, did you?

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: The first one is 24th October, 1938; the Polish reply which says that it is unacceptable that Danzig should return to the Reich, but makes suggestions for a bilateral agreement, is the 31st October, 1938. Between these dates, the Tribunal will remember, according to Document C-137, Exhibit GB 33, dated the 21st October, the German Government had made its preparations to occupy Danzig by surprise. But, although these preparations were made, still, some two months later, on the 5th January, 1939, while the rape of Prague had not yet taken place, Hitler was suggesting to M. Beck, the Polish Foreign Minister, a new solution. That is contained in Document TC-73, No. 48, Exhibit GB 34, the interview of Hitler and Beck on the 5th January, 1939.

Then this defendant saw M. Beck on the next day and said there was no violent solution of Danzig, but a further building up of friendly relations. That is contained in Exhibit GB 35, Document TC-73, No. 49. Not content with that, this defendant went to Warsaw on the 25th January, and, according to the report of his speech contained in Document 2530-PS, Exhibit GB 36, talked of the continued progress and consolidation of friendly relations; and that was capped by Hitler's Reichstag speech on the 30th January, 1939, in the same sort of tone, contained in Exhibit GB 37, Document TC-73 No. 57. That was the second stage-the mention of Danzig in honoured words - because, of course, the rape of Prague had not been attained.

Then one has to remember, as one comes to the summer, the meeting at the Reich Chancellery on the 23rd May, 1939, which is reported in Document L-79, Exhibit USA 27. It has been read many times to the Tribunal, and I only remind them of this point; that this is the document where Hitler makes quite clear, and states in his own words, that Danzig has nothing to do with the real Polish question. "I have to deal with Poland because I want Lebensraum. in the East." That is the effect of that portion of the document which has been read so often to the Tribunal-that Danzig was merely an excuse.

[Page 87]

It is important to have in mind, if I may respectfully suggest it, that that meeting was on the 23rd May, 1939, because there is an interesting corroboration of the attitude of mind-in showing how clearly this defendant Ribbentrop had adopted the attitude of mind of Hitler - in the introduction to Count Ciano's diary, which was put in as Exhibit USA 166, Document 2987-PS; but I do not think this part of the diary, the introduction, has been read before. It is Document 2987-PS, and it comes after L-79, which is the Little Schmundt File, just after the Obersalzberg Document. It is set forth in the trial brief, if the Tribunal will care to follow it there. Count Ciano says:
"In the summer of 1939 Germany advanced her claim against Poland, naturally without our knowledge; indeed, Ribbentrop had several times denied to our Ambassador that Germany had any intentions of carrying the controversy to extremes. Despite these denials I remained in doubt; I wanted to make sure for myself, and on 11th August I went to Salzburg. It was in his residence at Fuschl that Ribbentrop informed me, while we were waiting to sit down at the table, of the decision to start the fireworks, just as he might have told me about the most unimportant and common-place administrative matter. 'Well, Ribbentrop,' I asked him, while we were walking in the garden, 'what do you want? The Corridor or Danzig?' 'Not any more,' and he stared at me through those cold Musee Grevin eyes. 'We want war.'"
I remind the Tribunal how closely that corroborates the statement that Hitler had made at his Chancellery conference on the 23rd May - that it was no longer a question of Danzig or the Corridor, it was a question of war to achieve Lebensraum in the East.

Then I remind the Tribunal, without citing, that the "Fall Weiss" for operation against Poland is dated the 3rd and 11th April, 1939, which certainly shows that preparations were already in hand.

And then there is another reference in Count Ciano's diary which also has not been read and which makes this point quite clear. Again, if the Tribunal will take it as set out in the trial brief, I will read it, as it has not been read before:

"I have collected the conference records of my conversations with Ribbentrop and Hitler. I shall only note some impressions of a general nature. Ribbentrop is evasive every time I ask him for particulars of the forthcoming German action. He has a guilty conscience. He has lied too many times about German intentions towards Poland not to feel embarrassment now over what he must tell me and what he is preparing to do.

The will to fight is unalterable. He rejects any solution which might satisfy Germany and prevent the struggle. I am certain that, even if the Germans were given everything they demanded, they would attack just the same, because they are possessed by the demon of destruction.

Our conversation sometimes takes a dramatic turn. I do not hesitate to speak my mind in the most brutal manner. But this does not shake him in the least. I realise how little weight this view carries in German opinion.

The atmosphere is icy. And the cold feeling between us is reflected in our followers. During dinner we do not exchange a word. We distrust each other. But I at least have a clear conscience. He has not."

Whatever other defects there may have been about Count Ciano, there cannot be an appreciation of the situation which is more heavily corroborated by supporting documents than his diagnosis of the situation in the summer of 1939.

Then we come to the next stage in the German plan, which was sharp pressure on the claim for Danzig shown immediately after Czechoslovakia had been formally dealt with on the 15th of March. It is shown how closely it followed

[Page 88]

the completion of the rape of Prague. The first sharp raising of the claim was on the 21st March, as shown in Exhibit GB 38, Document TC-73, No. 61. That developed, as the Tribunal has heard from Colonel Griffith-Jones.

Then we come to the last days before the war, and one interesting sidelight is that Herr von Dirksen, the German Ambassador to the Court of St. James, returned from London on the l8th August, 1939; and I put in the extract from the interrogation of the defendant Ribbentrop, which is Document D-490. I put that in as GB 138.

I do not intend to read it to the Tribunal because it can be summarised in this way; that the defendant Ribbentrop has certainly no recollection of ever having seen the German Ambassador to the Court of St. James after his return. He thinks he would have remembered him if he had seen him and he accepts the probability that he did not see him. And there is the point, when it was well known that war with Poland would involve England and France, that either he was not sufficiently interested in opinion in London to take the trouble to see his ambassador or else, as he rather suggests, that he had appointed so weak and ordinary a career diplomat to London that his opinion was not taken into account, either by Ribbentrop himself or by Hitler. In either case, he was completely uninterested in anything which his ambassador might have to tell him as to opinion in London or the possibility of war. And I conceive myself speaking with great moderation in putting it this way, that in the last days before the 1st September, 1939, this defendant did whatever he could to avoid peace with Poland and to avoid anything which might hinder the encouraging of the war which we know he wanted. He did that, well knowing that war with Poland would involve Great Britain and France. These details were given in full by Colonel Griffith-Jones.

I am not going through them again, but I have, for the convenience of the Tribunal, referred to the transcript (Pages 144 to 176, Part 2), and M. Lipski summarised all that took place in his report of the 10th October, 1939, which is Document TC-73, No. 147, Exhibit GB 27.

Now these are the actions of this defendant in the Polish matter. I am glad to inform the Tribunal that with regard to the other countries they are very much shorter than with regard to Poland.

I now come to Norway and Denmark. I remind the Tribunal of the fact, if it cares to take cognisance thereof, that on the 31st May, 1939, the defendant Ribbentrop, on behalf of Germany, signed a non-aggression pact with Denmark, which provided that "The German Reich and the Kingdom of Denmark will under no circumstances go to war or employ force of any other kind against one another." This is Exhibit GB 77, Document TC-24. And just to fix the date, the Tribunal will remember that on the 7th April, 1940, the German armed forces invaded Denmark and at the same time they invaded Norway.

With regard to Norway there are three documents which show that this defendant was fully informed of the earlier preparations for that act of aggression. The Tribunal will remember that my friend, Major Elwyn Jones, did indicate, with some particularity, the relations between Quisling and the defendant Rosenberg. But Rosenberg in this case also required the help of the defendant Ribbentrop and, if the Tribunal would be good enough to turn to Document 957-PS, which I am putting in as Exhibit GB 139, they will see the first of the documents which connect this defendant with the earlier Quisling activities.

The first one, 957-PS, is a letter from defendant Rosenberg to this defendant and it begins:

"Dear Party Comrade von Ribbentrop:

Party Comrade Scheidt has returned and has made a detailed report to Privy Councillor von Grundherr, who will address you on this subject. We agreed the other day that two to three hundred thousand Reichsmark

[Page 89]

would be made immediately available for the said purpose. Now it turns out that Grundherr states that the second instalment can be made available only after eight days. But as it is necessary for Scheidt to go back immediately, I request you to make it possible that this second instalment be given to him at once. With a longer absence of Party Comrade Reichsamtsleiter Scheidt the connection with your representatives would also be broken up, which just now, under certain circumstances, could be very unfavourable.

Therefore I trust that it is in everybody's interest, if P.M. Scheidt goes back immediately."

That was the 24th February.

Now the next document is a report from Rosenberg to Hitler, and if the Tribunal will be good enough to turn to Page 4 - this is on the Quisling activities - they will find that that passage is sufficient to show how this defendant was connected with it.

This is a report from Rosenberg to Hitler:

"Apart from financial support which was forthcoming from the Reich in currency, Quisling had also been promised a shipment of material for immediate use in Norway, such as coal and sugar. Additional help was promised. These shipments were to be conducted under cover of a new trade company, to be established in Germany, or through especially selected existing firms, while Hagelin was to act as consignee in Norway. Hagelin had already conferred with the respective Minister of the Nygaardsvold Government, as, for instance, the Minister of Supply and Commerce, and had been assured permission for the import of coal. At the same time the coal transports were to serve, possibly, to supply the technical means necessary to launch Quisling's political action in Oslo with German help. It was Quisling's plan to send a number of selected, particularly reliable men to Germany for a brief military training course in a completely isolated camp. They were then to be detailed as area and language specialists to German Special Troops, who were to be taken to Oslo on the coal barges to accomplish a political action. Thus Quisling planned to get hold of his leading opponents in Norway, including the King, and to prevent all military resistance from the very beginning. Immediately following this political action and upon official request of Quisling to the Government of the German Reich, the military occupation of Norway was to take place. All military preparations were to be completed previously. Though this plan contained the great advantage of surprise, it also contained a great number of dangers which could possibly cause its failure. For this reason it received quite dilatory treatment, while at the same time it was not disapproved as far as the Norwegians were concerned.

In February, after a conference with General Field Marshal Goering, Reichsleiter Rosenberg informed the Secretary in the Office of the Four Year Plan, Wohltat, only of the intention to prepare coal shipments to Norway to the named confidant Hagelin. Further details were discussed in a conference between Secretary Wohltat, Staff Director Schickedanz and Hagelin. Since Wohltat received no further instructions from the General Field Marshal, Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop - after a consultation with Reichsleiter Rosenberg - consented to expedite these shipments through his office. Based on a report of Reichsleiter Rosenberg to the Fuehrer it was also arranged to pay Quisling ten thousand English pounds per month for three months, commencing on the 15th March, to support his work."

This was paid through Scheidt, the man who was mentioned before.

[Page 90]

Now the other document, D-629, is a letter from defendant Keitel to Ribbentrop, dated the 3rd April, 1940. I need trouble the Tribunal only with the first paragraph. Keitel says:
"Dear Herr von Ribbentrop:

The military occupation of Denmark and Norway has been, by command of the Fuehrer, long in preparation by the High Command of the Wehrmacht. The High Command of the Wehrmacht has therefore had ample time to occupy itself with all the questions connected with the carrying out of this operation. The time at your disposal for the political preparation of this operation is, on the contrary, very much shorter. I believe myself, therefore, to be acting in accordance with your ideas in transmitting to you herewith, not only these wishes of the Wehrmacht which would have to be fulfilled by the Governments in Oslo, Copenhagen and Stockholm for purely military reasons, but also a series of requests which certainly concern the Wehrmacht only indirectly but which are, however, of the greatest importance for the fulfilment of its task."

Then he proceeds to ask the Foreign Office to get in touch with certain commanders. The important point for which I read it to the Tribunal, as far as I know for the first time, is that there we have the defendant Keitel saying quite clearly that the military occupation of Denmark and Norway has been long in preparation. And it is interesting when one looks back to the official life of Ribbentrop, which is contained in the archives and is Document D-472. I am quoting a sentence only because of the interesting contrast.
"With the occupation of Denmark and Norway on the 9th April, 1940, only a few hours before the landing of British troops in these territories, the battle began against the Western Powers."
Then it goes on to Holland and Belgium.

It is quite clear that, whoever else had knowledge or whoever else was ignorant, this defendant Ribbentrop had been up to his neck in the Quisling plottings, and it is made clear to him, a good week before the invasion started, that the Wehrmacht and the defendant Keitel had long been preparing this particular act of aggression.

I think, my Lord, that is really all the evidence on the aggression against Norway because, again, the story was put forward fully by my friend, Major Elwyn Jones.

THE PRESIDENT: We will adjourn now.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 10.00 hours on the 9th January, 1946.)

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