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 6 of 8)

[SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE continues his cross examination of Birger Dahlerus]

[Page 230]

Q. Just let us proceed, quite shortly, with what happened after that.

On the week-end of 26th and 27th August you went to England. You have told me that you did not know about the calling off of the attack on the morning of the 26th, and you did not

THE PRESIDENT: Does any other member of the prosecution wish to cross-examine?

Dr. Stahmer, do you not wish to re-examine?

(Dr. Stahmer indicates that he does not.)

DR. HORN: Mr. President, I should like to put a question. May I ask, without being misunderstood, why these names could not be read this morning, when Dr. Stahmer asked for them?

THE PRESIDENT: Why do you ask that question? What has it to do with the case of von Ribbentrop?

DR. HORN: The witness Dahlerus was also approved for the defendant von Ribbentrop, and I had reached an agreement with Dr. Stahmer as to certain questions. I was interested in these questions this morning and also in the question about the people who had been there.

THE PRESIDENT: The reason why the names were not given this morning was because we wished to get on with this trial, and we thought that the names of these gentlemen were irrelevant. But as Sir David Maxwell Fyfe asked that they might be introduced in order that there could be no suggestion of concealment, the Tribunal has allowed them to be given.

[Page 231]

DR. HORN: Thank you.


Q. Mr. Dahlerus, you said this morning that on 23rd August you were called up by Goering in Stockholm and that he told you that the situation had become serious and that, therefore, he would have to talk to you by all means. Did he tell you for what reasons he considered the situation at that moment serious?

A. No.

Q. And you did not ask him about it?

A. No.

Q. You came, then, to Berlin on the 24th and conferred at once with Goering. Did Goering tell you on this occasion what had made the situation more serious in the meantime?

A . Not clearly.

Q. What did he tell you about the danger? What did the gravity of the situation consist in?

A. He indicated that the fact that the Polish question was not solved and that there was no indication that it would be solved made the situation serious. He also said that it depended entirely on the British attitude and initiative whether a solution could be found.

Q. From this answer, then, you learned that Poland was the point of danger?

A. Yes.

Q. You did transmit proposals then, on 27th August, which had as their main object the solution of the Polish question?

A. Yes.

Q. In reply to my question with reference to the events of 26th September, you said this morning, according to my notes, that you were of the opinion at that time that Hitler's plans were not quite clear. Then this afternoon you spoke of Goering. How do you account for that difference in your answer?

A. At the time I had to assume that the leading members of the German Government worked in close collaboration.

Q. Then you concluded that from this fact? You also said before, if you had known what you know to-day you would not have intervened. What has brought about your change of opinion?

A. Through facts, disclosed, chiefly, during the proceedings in this Court, and as published.

Q. Which facts are these?

A. The incidents I quoted, the declaration of 11th April, 23rd May and 22nd August.

Q. You have no further facts, have you?

A. Yes, but those are the main points.

Q. What are the minor points? What are your other misgivings?

A. One is the experience on 26th September, 1939, the speech by Hitler on 6th October, 1939, and a number of declarations made since.

Q. You mentioned before a plane crash, if I understood you correctly, which was to have been brought about by Ribbentrop. Were you really serious about that?

A. Well, I corrected my statement to say that I assumed that it was Ribbentrop, because his name had just been mentioned about a minute before.

Q. I have one more question for the witness. What about the map of Poland which had just been shown, and which allegedly was drawn by Goering?

A. I have the original of that map in my possession.

Q. And what was the explanation given to you?

[Page 232]

A. Because it was a territory that held a majority of Germans and not Poles.

Q. How do you explain, then, the difference between the later offer and that map?

A. I can only assume that the question had not been thoroughly discussed and various proposals had been made before the final definite proposal was submitted.

THE PRESIDENT: The witness can retire; and the Tribunal will adjourn.

(A recess was taken.)

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Justice Jackson, you will continue your cross-examination, will you not?

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: I have assumed, your Honour, that, since Goering's testimony was suspended in order to hear Dahlerus, on the ground that it might change some of his examination, Dr. Stahmer would complete any direct examination he may have on this subject concerning the witness Dahlerus, before I finish my cross-examination.

THE PRESIDENT: I beg your pardon, yes. Dr. Stahmer, will you ask any questions of the defendant Goering that you wish to ask, arising out of the evidence of the witness Dahlerus?

DR. STAHMER: I can ask him these questions only after I have spoken with him, and I therefore consider it advisable that Justice Jackson continue his cross-examination, and that after the cross-examination I deal with these questions as well.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Stahmer, the Tribunal considers that you ought to be prepared to go on now. It was you who asked for the evidence of Dahlerus to be interposed, and Dahlerus was your witness, not the prosecution's witness, and therefore presumably you knew what Dahlerus was going to say.

DR. STAHMER: Then I ask for the opportunity to discuss the matter with the defendant.

THE PRESIDENT: The Court has just been adjourned for ten minutes.

DR. STAHMER: I was not able to finish the question in that short period of time.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal is of the opinion that you must, as these questions now and go on with the examination. If you wish to examine the defendant Goering on these matters you must do it now.

DR. STAHMER: Very well.



Q. A map was mentioned previously which is supposed to have been drawn up by you and which is contained in Mr. Dahlerus' book, the authenticity of which he confirmed this morning in answer to my question. I am having this map, which is to be found on Page 53 of his book, shown to you and I ask for your explanation of it.

A. In the discussion that took place in the night of 29th to 30th August between Dahlerus and me, I believe at the Fuehrer's, I tore a map from an atlas on the spur of the moment and outlined with a red pencil and, I believe, a blue or green pencil, those regions, not the regions which we would demand, as declared here before by the prosecution, but those regions of Poland in which Germans live. That the witness Dahlerus was also of this opinion can be seen most clearly from the fact that he repeated the same markings on another map and then wrote as follows: next to the marked section: "German population according to Goering"; and next to the dotted section: "Polish inhabitants according to Goering."

[Page 233]

He then goes on writing and draws boundaries: "Goering's first proposal for the boundary" which agrees with the markings of the regions of German and Polish populations. That was not a boundary proposal but a separation of the two populations. And then he writes: "Hitler's proposal"; that is the final, the correct and the only proposal transmitted to the Polish as well as the British Governments. If one compares my map one sees that here quite spontaneously and in a great hurry, with a two-colour pencil, a quite superficial, determination of approximate population regions is made, that is, one in which the majority are Germans and one in which there are exclusively Poles. Along with this Mr. Dahlerus was given from the beginning, but only in broad outlines, the boundary proposal which was later revised to be more exact. That is the only one in question, the same one which was published, which was read to Ambassador Henderson, and which, since Henderson did not understand it, I had Dahlerus report by telephone to the Embassy during the night to be checked the next day.

Q. Will you please repeat the last sentence? I believe it did not come through.

A. I said, the fate of the Corridor, as outlined here at Hitler's suggestion, was the official proposal which the Fuehrer, as the only person entitled to make final proposals, had worked out. It is the same proposal that was read to Ambassador Henderson, and, since he did not understand it, I turned the note, which was read to Henderson, over to Dahlerus in order to have him dictate it to him, so that I could be sure the English Ambassador understood it in its entirety.

To do this was, as I have already said, actually an enormous risk, since the Fuehrer had forbidden that this information be made public at present, and, as I have stated already, only I could take the risk. But for the rest, as far as my markings are concerned, they show clearly on the, map: "German population according to Goering; Polish population according to Goering." But that was only approximate and done in a great hurry during the night, merely for his information and on a map torn from an atlas.

Q. Mr. Dahlerus said that you called him up on 23rd August and asked him to come to Berlin immediately because in the meantime the situation had become serious. What made you consider the situation serious?

A. Through the statements of the Fuehrer at the Obersalzberg on that 22nd of August, it was clear to me that the tension had reached its peak. The Fuehrer had stated that he would have to bring about a solution of the problem, if it were not possible to do so diplomatically. At that time, since it was simply an address, without discussion, in the presence of the higher officers of troop formations which would be used in case of war, I, as senior officer present, confined myself to saying to the Fuehrer at the end: "The Wehrmacht will do its duty. Of course, the Wehrmacht has to do its duty, if it is called upon." At the same time, however, I wanted to make the greatest efforts in order as soon as possible - it was now a matter of days-a fixed date, the 25th or 26th, as decided at first, had not yet been named on this day - to make one more try at negotiations. I wanted to be able to say to the Fuehrer, if such negotiations were successfully under way, that there were still prospects of, and chances for, a diplomatic-political solution.

Hence, the concurrence of events on the afternoon of the 22nd, the Fuehrer's speech and my immediate reaction of sending for Dahlerus from Stockholm. I, of course, did not tell him, and I could not, of course, as a German, tell him, a foreigner - and especially not as an officer - that my reason lay in these factors which I have explained. Things are now being so represented as though there could not have existed in Germany a concept like "secret military matter" or secret" or "top secret" in German politics and in military life at all; as though we were obliged to make known every military and political step to the foreign

[Page 234]

Press in advance. I therefore point out that we, of course, followed the same procedures as those accepted in every other country of the world.

Q. How was it that you handled the negotiations personally, and that the negotiations were not handled through the Foreign Office?

A. I was interested in seeing to it that, in so far as at all possible, this question too was settled peacefully. The work of the Foreign Office is official. Here work was going on anyhow, and according to the policies set down by the Fuehrer. I could make my influence felt only in a way which was as direct as possible and which was not expressly official, because for official action I did not have the official position of a Foreign Minister, as far as foreign countries were concerned. At this time it was clear to me that it was not a question of formalities, but rather a question of the most practical and the quickest way of accomplishing something. If I wanted to influence the Fuehrer, that was possible only if I had something in my hand, that is, could say to him: On my own responsibility, but with your knowledge and without committing you and your Reich policies, I am conducting negotiations, in order, circumstances permitting, to create an atmosphere which will be able to facilitate the official negotiations in the direction of a peaceful solution.

In addition it would be quicker.

Q. This clear fact, that it was a personal step on your part that was taking place along with the official diplomatic negotiations - was it clear also to the British Government?

A. It must have been clear to it because of the entire action, that this was a non-official negotiation, that only at one or two points touched the official negotiations, that is, overlapped them. For instance, the phase where Ambassador Henderson, instead of returning immediately to Berlin, remained one or two days in London in order first of all, through the unofficial negotiator Dahlerus, to explain to the British Government the. basis for these intentions or for the negotiations or to explain the note, as I shall call it; and when that had been done, the preparation for entering into these conferences was thereby improved. And that not I alone was of the honest conviction on that day that a considerable step had been taken in the direction of a peaceful solution at this time - I believe it was the 28th - is demonstrated by the fact that the same view was held by the British Embassy at that moment, as the Embassy Counsellor Sir Ogilvy Forbes has very clearly stated. The situation did not become worse until the 29th.

During all these negotiations it was not a question, as far as I was concerned, of isolating Poland and keeping England out of the matter, but rather it was a question, since the problem of the Corridor and Danzig had come up, of solving it peacefully, as far as possible along the lines of the Munich solution. That was my endeavour until the last moment. If it had only been a question of eliminating England from the matter, then, firstly, English diplomacy would surely have recognised that immediately - it certainly has enough training for that. However, it did enter into these negotiations. And, secondly, I probably would have used entirely different tactics.

It is not that I am reconstructing things in retrospect; I am speaking of what actually happened in those days, of what I thought and wanted. The descriptions given by the witness Dahlerus to-day and in his book regarding his talks with the Fuehrer by no means represent the way these talks took place. His descriptions are rather subjective, for the Fuehrer probably would not long have been party to such talks.

There are also other subjective interpretations in the book, which perhaps are purely unessential, but which have been brought forward by the prosecutor Sir David Maxwell Fyfe - that I, in a theatrical fashion, had handed to two collaborators two swords so that they might accomplish bold actions with them. One of those who allegedly received a sword from me was my civilian

[Page 235]

State Secretary Korner, not a soldier. The most I could have given him was a pen, since he had to draft decrees for the Four-Year Plan. The second person was my chief of office staff, a Ministerialdirektor, who also was no soldier and was not to earn any war laurels, but whose main task during the war was exclusively that of keeping my civilian, not my military staff, in order, and of ensuring the functioning and progress of this work. For both these matters these gentlemen needed neither a sword nor any incitement to behave in a military way.

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