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 3 of 8)

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

[Page 218]

Q. On that afternoon did you again meet Goering, together with the British Ambassador?

A. The situation seemed to have become impossible. Hitler had quarrelled with Henderson. Ribbentrop, too, had quarrelled with him. Therefore, I was of the opinion that the only possibility lay in Goering coming to an understanding with Henderson. I suggested a meeting between them. This took place at 4.50 in the afternoon, at Goering's house. Forbes was present and I, too.

Q. What was said during this meeting?

A. Even before the meeting, Henderson expressed his suspicion that the German Government would try to arrange a settlement with Britain and cause a break between England and Poland. Henderson was therefore very cautious during the two-hour session, and the result of the conversation was only that both parties agreed that a meeting of delegates from both countries would be necessary if war was possibly to be avoided.

Q. Did you on this occasion likewise suggest that Goering should meet the British delegates immediately?

A. I suggested that a meeting in Holland should be arranged at once, at which, Goering should represent Germany.

Q. How did Henderson react to this proposal?

A. Henderson promised to submit this proposal to his Government. However, I had the impression that he already knew that German military forces were on the march and it did not seem to me that he had great confidence of any fortunate outcome.

Q. Are you acquainted with a statement of Goering to the effect that if the Poles did not give in, Germany would kill them like lice, and if Britain should decide to declare war, he would regret it, but it would be very unwise of Britain?

A. I cannot recollect those words, but it is possible that during the two-hour conversation they were uttered.

Q. How did this conference end then?

A. At 7 o'clock in the evening they broke up and both parties were agreed that they would endeavour to arrange a meeting in Holland.

Q. Did you then on 1st September meet Goering again?

A. On 1st September I met Goering at 8 o'clock at his headquarters. After some hesitation he told me that the war had broken out because the

[Page 219]

Poles had attacked the radio station of Gleiwitz and blown up a bridge near Dirschau. Later he gave me more details from which I concluded that the full force of the Germany Army was employed in the attack on Poland.

Q. Did you then on 3rd September meet Goering again, and did you on this occasion make the suggestion that Goering should fly to London immediately for a personal conference?

A. Well, before I mention what happened then, I should like to mention that I met Hitler on 1st September, immediately after his Reichstag speech in the Kroll Opera House. He was at that time exceedingly nervous and very agitated. He told me he had all along suspected that England wanted the war. He told me, further, that he would crush Poland and annex the whole country. Goering interrupted, and pointed out that they would advance as far as certain points. But Hitler was in an uncontrollable frame of mind. He began to shout he would fight one year, two years, and ended up in great agitation that he would in fact fight for ten years.

Then, on Sunday, 3rd September, I was informed early in the morning by Forbes that at 9 o'clock that morning an ultimatum would be given. The conditions were that the hostilities must cease immediately and the German Forces must be withdrawn to the German border. I went immediately to Goering's headquarters near Potsdam. He was there and not with Hitler. I appealed to him to try at least to arrange for a reasonable reply to the ultimatum. I had the impression that certain members of the German Government were in favour of war, and I was afraid if a written reply was given it would not be so worded as to avoid war with England. I therefore suggested that Goering should declare himself prepared to go to England, at once, before 11 o'clock, to negotiate there.

Q. How did Goering react to this suggestion?

A. He accepted this suggestion and telephoned Hitler, who likewise concurred with it.

Q. Did you then telephone London?

A. Yes, I telephoned London and got in touch with the Foreign Office. They gave the reply that they could not consider this proposal before they received a written reply to the ultimatum.

Q. Did you forward this communication to Goering?

A. Yes, I told Goering this.

Q. What impression did your communication make on Goering?

A. Goring seemed to be sorry that the proposal was not accepted.

Q. Then on 4th September did you speak once more with Goering?

A. Yes, I had a short conversation with Goering on 4th September, but it was not of great importance.

Q. On this occasion did Goering say to you that, come what may, he would endeavour to carry on the war as humanely as possible. That Germany would under no circumstances begin hostilities against England first, but if England should attack Germany then the answer would be forthcoming?

A. Yes, that is correct.

Q. Did you publish a book entitled "Last Attempt"?

A. Yes.

Q. Is the account given in this book in accordance with the truth?

A. Yes, it was written with the greatest care. The contents are absolutely accurate and correct.

Q. Is this account based on notes that you took on these events?

A. Yes.

Q. When did you write these notes?

A. I wrote them immediately after my return to Sweden on 5th September, 1939.

DR. STAHMER: Mr. President, I have three more brief questions - should I stop now ? - They pertain to the subsequent period.

[Page 220]

THE PRESIDENT: I think you could ask them now.


Q. On 24th September, 1939, did you speak with Forbes in Stockholm?

A. No, I met Forbes on 24th September in Oslo. This was after the occupation of Poland. This was an endeavour to ascertain if there still was a possibility of averting a world war. He gave me in writing the viewpoint of the British Government. It was briefly as follows: "The British and French Governments ...

THE PRESIDENT: Wait a moment. What has this got to do with the defendant Goering?

DR. STAHMER: This is evidence that he made efforts even later to bring about peace. I have, then, only one more question which concerns Goering directly.

THE PRESIDENT: The fact that he met Sir George Ogilvy Forbes in Oslo on 24th September does not at present appear to have anything to do with Goering.

DR. STAHMER: It appears significant in that it was the occasion for Mr. Dahlerus to get in touch with Berlin and Goering again, in order to try once more at this stage of events to bring about peace.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, go on with your next question then.

THE WITNESS: The conditions were: "To save Europe from continued German aggressions and to enable the peoples of Europe - "

THE PRESIDENT: Wait a minute. What has the letter that Sir George Ogilvy Forbes wrote got to do with Goering?

DR. STAHMER: Dahlerus discussed this letter, the content of this letter, on 26th September with Goering, and tried on this basis to reach an agreement.

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: Your Honour, may I enter a further objection?

It has nothing to do with the Indictment. We have not charged that the war against England was an aggressive war. The charge is that the war against Poland was an aggressive war. All of this negotiation to keep England out of the war while they took Poland is utterly irrelevant to the Indictment. I respectfully submit that because it has nothing to do with the Indictment, with the charge, it should be rejected.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Stahmer, if the witness had an interview with Goering afterwards you can come to that, but not to preliminary conferences with Sir George Ogilvy Forbes.

DR. STAHMER: But that will not be comprehensible, he really must state what Forbes told him. He saw Forbes, Forbes made certain suggestions to him and with these suggestions Mr. Dahlerus went to Berlin and, of course, informed Goering what Forbes said to him. Thus, it will not otherwise be at all possible ...

THE PRESIDENT: Let the witness give the account of his meeting with Goering.

DR. STAHMER: Very well.


Q. Mr. Dahlerus, you then on 26th September visited Goering in Berlin, did you not?

A. Yes, I met both Goering and Hitler on 26th September.

Q. Did you inform Goering of the proposals Forbes had made to you?

A. I discussed with Hitler on what conditions he would be prepared to make good the harm he had done to Poland and make peace. To my great disappointment he then definitely declared that he was not prepared at an to discuss the question of Poland. Poland was occupied and that was no business any longer of Great Britain. I then realised that his aim had been to split Poland and Britain and thus, with the consent of Great Britain, to have the opportunity of occupying Poland without running the risk of being involved in a war with Great Britain and France.

Q. In July, 1940, did you again meet Goering?

[Page 221]

A. Yes; Goering suggested in July, 1940, that His Majesty the King of Sweden should endeavour to bring the various Powers together for peace negotiations.

DR. STAHMER: I have no further questions.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn until 2.10 p.m.

(A recess was taken until 14.10 hours.)


THE PRESIDENT: Do the defendants' counsel wish to ask any questions?


DR. HORN (counsel for the defendant Ribbentrop):

Q. Witness, can you tell us the reason why the conference between Hitler and Henderson on 29th August took an unfavourable course?

A. No, I only had the report that they disagreed and got involved in a quarrel.

Q. Do you know on which of the six points the quarrel started?

A. As far as I recollect, it was on the wording of the German reply saying that they expected representatives from Poland during the next twenty-four hours.

Q. Did Hitler not explain to you then, in the presence of Goering, why he made this demand, that is, because the two armies, the Polish and the German, were already facing each other in readiness and at any moment a serious conflict was to be expected, and therefore Hitler did not want to present an ultimatum regarding the sending of a negotiator from Poland and by not doing so wanted solely to avoid the outbreak of a conflict?

A. Yes, explanations to that effect were given.

Q. Is it correct, witness, as you state in your book, that at the Polish Embassy the Polish Ambassador Lipski told you that in case of war the Polish Army would march to Berlin in triumph?

A. No, he did not say that to me, but he made remarks to that effect to Forbes.

Q. And Forbes transmitted these remarks then to you.

A. Yes.

Q. How did your meeting with Mr. Forbes in Oslo on 24th September, 1939, come about?

A. I took the initiative and went to Oslo to see him.

Q. Can you please tell us briefly the contents of the letter from Forbes?

A. I read that before.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal has already said that it does not want to hear that. And I do not see what it has to do with von Ribbentrop.

DR. HORN: The former Foreign Minister, von Ribbentrop, is under indictment for the leadership of the entire German foreign policy. I therefore consider it important that this letter, which will give decisive information about the further course of foreign policy, as Ribbentrop saw it - about this later attempt in the direction of peace, for instance - be read to the Tribunal.

THE WITNESS: To redeem Europe from perpetually recurring fear of German aggression...


Q. Was this letter ever shown to von Ribbentrop?

A. No.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal have already ruled that they will not have the letter read.


Q. You had, then, on 26th September, 1939, a discussion with Hitler. Is it correct that Hitler told you at that time he could not negotiate with England

[Page 222]

concerning Poland because the major part of Poland was occupied by Russia and Russia, to his knowledge, would certainly not give it up.

A. He declared that he was not prepared to discuss the question of Poland, and added afterwards that, apart from his decision, he did not think Russia was prepared to discuss the territory occupied by Russia.

Q. Were you politically independent at the time you were conducting your negotiation?

A. Absolutely.

DR. HORN: Thank you, I have no further question.

DR. LATERNSER (counsel for General Staff and O.K.W.):

Q. I have only one question for the witness: Witness, did high military leaders at any time participate actively in the numerous negotiations which you had with German authorities at that time?

A. Never.

DR. LATERNSER: Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: Do other defendants' counsel wish to ask any questions?

(No reply.)

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