The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
12th March to 22nd March, 1946

Eighty-Fifth Day: Tuesday, 19th March, 1946
(Part 2 of 8)

[DR. STAHMER continues his direct examination of Birger Dahlerus]

[Page 214]

Q. Will you describe this conversation somewhat more exactly in detail.

A. Hitler began, in his usual way, to describe German policy to me at length. That lasted about twenty minutes, and I thought that my visit would not prove useful. When he inveighed against the English and England, I interrupted him and stated that I had worked in Great Britain, as a labourer, as an engineer, and as a manager of industrial enterprises, that I knew the English people well, and that I could not agree with his statements. A long discussion resulted. He asked many questions about England and the English people. Thereafter, he began to explain to me how well equipped the German fighting forces were. Then he seemed very excited, walked up and down the room, and in the end got himself into a very agitated condition and told me that, if it came to a war, he would build U-boats, U-boats, and more U-boats. He seemed really to speak as though he was not aware that there was still somebody in the room. After a while he shouted that he would build aeroplanes, aeroplanes and still more aeroplanes, and that he would win the war. After a while he calmed down again and talked again about England and said, "Herr Dahlerus, tell me please, why I have not been able to arrive at an agreement with the British Government. You seem really to know England so well. Perhaps you can solve the riddle for me?" I hesitated at first, but then I told him that, with my intimate knowledge of the English people, I was personally of the opinion that their lack of confidence in him and his Government was the reason.

The conversation continued. He gave me a long report on his discussions on Friday with Henderson, and finally he asked me to go to London at once and explain his viewpoint. I refused, naturally, and told him that I could not go there as an emissary of Germany. If, however, the British Government expressed the wish that I should come, I would, of course, be prepared to do this. The condition was such, however, that I must know definitely what conditions and proposals he had to make. We spent an hour and a half, during which he explained the various points in greater detail than he had been able to do with Henderson.

Q. What proposals were you specifically to make?

A. In condensed form, they were as follows:

(1) Germany wanted an agreement or an alliance with England.

(2) England was to help Germany in the annexation of Danzig and the Corridor.

[Page 215]

(3) Germany gave the assurance that it would guarantee Poland's boundaries.

(4) An agreement should be reached on Germany's colonies.

(5) Adequate guarantees should be given for the treatment of the German minorities.

(6) Germany gave its word to defend the British Empire with the German Wehrmacht wherever it should be attacked.

Q. Mr. Dahlerus, regarding point two, was not Poland there assured of a free harbour in Danzig? You may want to add something as to what assurance Poland was to receive. That was point two.

A. Yes. This was, of course, only an outline. These proposals were naturally far more extensive.

Q. Is it correct that Poland was to receive a free harbour in Danzig, that it was to receive a corridor to Gdynia, according to the proposals?

A. That was what Hitler said.

Q. Yes, thank you. What was the further course of the conversation?

A. I left on a special plane the next morning, after I had got in touch with London. I met Mr. Chamberlain, Lord Halifax, Sir Horace Wilson, and Sir Alexander Cadogan.

Q. This was on 27th August, was it not?

A. On 27th August, yes.

Q. Where?

A. In No. 10, Downing Street.

Q. What transpired in this conference with Lord Halifax and Mr. Chamberlain?

A. We discussed in full detail the proposals I had brought. On certain points, as is seen from the British Blue Book, these proposals were not the same as those made to Henderson. I therefore suggested to the British Government that, if they had full confidence in me as an intermediary, they should tell me how far they could accept the proposals and how far not. I should go back to Berlin the same day and discuss the English views with Hitler and Goering. They should keep Henderson in London until Monday so that the answer could be given after they had been informed how Hitler regarded the English standpoint.

Q. Did you also have a conference that day with Sir Alexander Cadogan?

A. After the meeting with the members of the Government that I have mentioned, I had a long conversation with Cadogan.

Q. Did you receive certain proposals from him?

A. Yes.

Q. What were they?

A. I must say that the English made the greatest effort to deal in a fair and peaceful way with the various points. Naturally, point six, the offer to defend the British Empire, was rejected. Similarly, they did not want to have any discussion on the colonies while Germany was not demobilised. With regard to the Polish boundaries, they wanted these boundaries to be guaranteed by five Great Powers: Russia, Germany, England, France and Italy.

In reference to the Corridor, they proposed that negotiations with Poland be undertaken immediately.

In reference to the first point, England was willing in principle to come to an agreement with Germany.

Q. Did you then return to Germany with these proposals?

A. Yes; after I had telephoned Berlin. As the English Government had promised to send Henderson back the same day, I obtained confirmation from Berlin that they were agreeable to Henderson's returning only on Monday. I left that same evening and shortly before midnight was back in Berlin.

Q. Did you have a conversation there with Goering?

A. I met Goering about 11.30 on Sunday evening and told him the results.

[Page 216]

Q. Can you describe that conversation somewhat more in detail?

A. He did not consider the reply very favourable. I told him, however, that in view of the events of the past year he could hardly expect the English to be satisfied with the guarantees of Poland's boundaries by Germany only. In reference to the colonial question, I made it clear to him that any British Government that tried to force this point in Parliament as long as Germany's forces were mobilised would be overthrown at once.

In reference to the sixth point, I tried to make it clear to him that England, or the British Empire, preferred to worry themselves about their own affairs. Finally, he said that it would probably be better if he talked with Hitler alone. He went immediately to the Reich Chancellery and I went to my hotel. At about I o'clock Monday morning I received a telephone call and heard that Hitler would accept the English standpoint provided that the reply expected from Henderson on the next day was, in general, what I had said.

Q. Did you then, that same night, go to the British Embassy?

A. Yes. I went straight to the British Embassy and gave Sir Ogilvy Forbes a report of the results of my conversation with Goering and he cabled to London at once.

Q. Did you inform Goering of the content of this conversation that you had with Forbes?

A. Of course I acted quite openly, and therefore I told Goering what I planned to do. The German Government knew indeed that I would have this conversation with Forbes.

Q. When did you see Goering again then?

A. I saw him again on Monday, the 28th, in the morning at his headquarters.

Q. It must have been Tuesday morning, was it not?

A. No, Monday morning. It was Monday morning, the 28th.

Q. What was said during this conversation with Goering?

A. In general, we discussed the situation. He seemed to be satisfied that Forbes had cabled London.

Q. Did you visit Forbes again then?

A. Yes, I saw Forbes later. But that was of no significance any more.

Q. And you met Goering again on Tuesday, did you not, on Tuesday morning?

A. Well, the most important development was that on Tuesday morning, at 1.15 - that is, shortly after midnight on the 29th - I received a telephone call from the Reich Chancellery, made at Goering's request by Lieutenant-Colonel Konrad. He told me that Henderson had submitted his reply in writing, that it was highly satisfactory, and there was every hope that the threat of a war was past.

I met Goering again then and he told me that he was highly pleased that the matter had developed so well.

Q. Did he not make a statement of this kind: "We shall have peace, peace is assured" ?

A. Yes. He said something similar to that.

Q. Then sometime on 29th August you were called up again by Goering, were you not? What occasioned this?

A. I was in my hotel late in the evening, about 10.30. Forbes called me up and said he had to see me at once. He came to my hotel and said that Henderson and Hitler had had a meeting on Tuesday evening which had taken a very unsatisfactory course. They had parted after a big quarrel. He asked me what I could suggest under these circumstances.

During our conversation I was contacted by phone by Goering and he asked me to come to his house immediately. He told me the same story and seemed very upset about the development. He showed me the German reply to the British note and went through it point by point. He tried to explain to me the reasons for the content of this note. Finally he told me I should go back to

[Page 217]

London again immediately, and make every effort to explain this unfortunate incident to the British Government. He concluded then by saying that Hitler was busy, and that he was working out a proposal for Poland which would probably be ready the next day.

After a telephonic talk with Sir Kingsley Wood, the Air Minister, about another visit to England, I left again by plane on Wednesday morning at 5 o'clock. Immediately after my arrival in London I met the same members of the British Government.

Q. Who were they?

A. The same officials, Mr. Chamberlain, Lord Halifax, Sir Horace Wilson, Sir Alexander Cadogan.

Q. What was said in this discussion?

A. It was obvious that by that time the British Government had become highly mistrustful, and rather inclined to assume that whatever efforts they might make, nothing would now prevent Hitler from declaring war on Poland. The British Government had made the greatest effort. They had expressed the wish through their Ambassador in Warsaw that the Polish Government should exert the greatest effort to avoid any frontier incidents. They explained to me at the same time that it was hardly fair to expect the Polish Government to send delegates to Berlin to negotiate, after it was known what experience other countries had had in the past years when they had been in Berlin on similar missions.

I telephoned Berlin, and was put through to Goering, in order to persuade him to arrange a meeting of the delegates outside of Germany. He merely said, however, that this was impossible, that Hitler was in Berlin and the meeting would have to take place in Berlin.

It was said, too, that proposals had been made to Poland and that the members of the British Government viewed these proposals with the greatest suspicion. The entire Polish Government would meet in the afternoon, and would cable the result of this session to Berlin. In the meantime I returned to Berlin.

Q. When did you meet Goering there?

A. I met Goering -

THE PRESIDENT: Can you not make this a little bit shorter, Dr. Stahmer.

DR. STAHMER: I believe this testimony is quite short, considering that it deals with the essential circumstances leading to war. However, I think that we will not take much more of the Tribunal's time.

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Dahlerus, the Tribunal wish you to come to the crucial matter as soon as possible.

THE WITNESS: I met Goering shortly after midnight on Wednesday, and he told me the nature of the proposals made to Poland. He showed me the note. I called up Forbes to give him this information. He then told me that Ribbentrop had refused to give him the note after he had read it through quickly. I went to Goering immediately and told him it was impossible to treat the Ambassador of an Empire like Great Britain in this way. I suggested to him that he should allow me to telephone Forbes and give Forbes the content of the note on the telephone. I did this at about 1 o'clock on Thursday morning.


Q. Did Goering not emphasise that he was taking a great responsibility on himself in giving you this permission?

A. Yes, Goering emphasised that he was doing this on his own responsibility.

Q. Did you then on the next morning go to the British Embassy in order to convince yourself as to whether your telephonic communication had been understood correctly?

A. Yes, I saw Henderson on Thursday morning the 31st, at 10 o'clock, discussed the note with him, and he requested me then to go at once to the Polish Ambassador, Herr Lipski, and give him a copy.

[Page 218]

Q. Was that done?

A. He sent Forbes with me to Lipski, and I read the note to Lipski, but he did not seem to grasp its content. I, therefore, left the room, dictated a note to the secretary, and handed it to him. In the meantime, Lipski stated to Forbes that he would not be interested in discussing this note with the German Government.

Q. Would you reconstruct this conversation as far as you are able? It seems to me particularly important.

A. He said that he had no reason to negotiate with the German Government. If it came to war between Poland and Germany, he knew - since he had lived five and a half years in Germany - that a revolution would break out in Germany and that they would march on Berlin.

Q. Did you then inform London of your conversation by telephone?

A. I telephoned at once from the British Embassy and informed Sir Horace Wilson of the conference that we had had.

Q. Was there then another discussion in the afternoon with Goering?

A. I saw Goering at 1 o'clock in the afternoon. He received then a copy of the cablegram from the Polish Government to Lipski, to the effect that Lipski should not, without special instruction from Warsaw, negotiate with the German Government. It was obvious that the Poles under those circumstances were afraid to take any action. The German Government was, however, much disturbed at this telegram.

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