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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
23rd March to 3rd April, 1946

Ninety-Second Day: Wednesday, 27th March, 1946
(Part 1 of 10)

[Page 87]



BY DR. HORN (Counsel for defendant Ribbentrop):

Q. Witness, you know Count Ciano. Where and when did you meet him?

A. I know Count Ciano, but not in a political sense, only personally. I cannot remember exactly when I met him, probably it was on the occasion of a State visit. I was working at the time in the Records Department in the Foreign Office.

Q. What experiences did you have with Count Ciano?

A. Since I did not work with him politically, I had no political experience with him.

Q. Now, another sphere. Is it correct that von Ribbentrop gave orders that under all circumstances the French franc should be sustained against inflation?

A. Such measures apply only to a time when I was not yet State Secretary. But I know that the basic attitude towards France and all occupied territories was that under all circumstances their currency was to be preserved as far as possible, or rather should be preserved by all means. That is why we often sent gold to Greece in order to attempt to maintain the value of the currency there to some extent.

Q. What was accomplished in Greece by sending this gold there?

A. By sending gold to Greece we lowered the rate of exchange of foreign currencies. Thus the Greek merchants who had hoarded food to a large extent, became frightened and placed the food on the market, and in this way it was made available to the Greek population again.

Q. Is it correct that von Ribbentrop gave very strict orders there should be no confiscation in occupied territories, but only direct dealing with their governments?

A. If you put the question like that, it is basically correct, but I say, as I said yesterday, that in principle we had no functions at all in the occupied territories, therefore also no power to confiscate, nor was there such power under the jurisdiction of other agencies; but it is correct that we negotiated only with the foreign governments, and that von Ribbentrop had most strictly forbidden us to support any direct measures, concerning an occupied country which were carried out by other departments.

DR. HORN: For the time being I have no further questions to put to this witness.

BY DR. KUBUSCHOK (Counsel for defendant von Papen):

Q. Witness, did you become well acquainted with von Papen through being in the Foreign Office and particularly while you were State Secretary in that Department?

A. I knew von Papen several years before 1933, but only privately. Then I lost track of him for some time and re- established contact with him when I became State Secretary in the German Foreign Office, when I was continually associated with him in an official and unofficial capacity.

Q. Did you, particularly in the last period of your activities as State Secretary, continually receive the reports which von Papen, as Ambassador in Ankara, sent to Berlin?

[Page 88]

A. Whenever von Papen did not send these reports directly to von Ribbentrop, I received them weekly through official channels.

Q. Do you remember that after two previous refusals von Papen took over the post of Ambassador in Ankara, in April 1939, on the day that Italy occupied Albania, whereby an acute danger of war arose in the Southeast?

A. At that time I was not State Secretary and had no political position and so I am not acquainted with the events of that period. But today I have the impression that he took that position after the Italians had occupied Albania. He, himself, told me later that, at that time, there was danger that the Italians would advance further into the Balkans and so, possibly, cause a conflict with Turkey, as a result of which world peace would have been endangered. For that reason he had decided at the time to accept the post. Exactly on which day that was, I cannot say.

Q. What can you say in general about von Papen's efforts toward peace?

A. I am under the impression that von Papen always strove to preserve peace by every means. He certainly considered that it would be a great disaster for Germany and the world if war were to break out.

Q. Were the efforts which von Papen made during the war towards establishing peace aimed at foregoing any annexations, regardless of the military outcome, and at completely re-establishing the sovereignty of occupied territories, in short, to achieve, by means of reasonable renunciation, a bearable status for all European States?

A. In principle it was quite clear that von Papen always worked for the reestablishment of peace under conditions which would have re-established full sovereignty for all countries, so that no infringements or damages, material or otherwise, would be inflicted on any of them.

Q. Was that von Papen's attitude even at the time of the greatest German military successes?

A. I believe that his basic attitude in this respect never changed.

Q. Were his continuous personal efforts to establish peace held against von Papen by Hitler, and was he considered the disagreeable "outsider" in that connection?

A. I did not have an opportunity to discuss it with Hitler, I only know that he was quite generally criticised by Hitler and other persons as a man who always followed a weak line.

Q. Did von Papen frankly acknowledge that peace would be impossible as long as Hitler and the Party existed in Germany, and the necessary credit for negotiating abroad was lacking?

A. Yes, I think it must have been about April 1943 or May 1943 that I spoke to von Papen about the whole subject in detail, since, at that time, I had just become State Secretary. At that time he quite clearly voiced the opinion to me which you have just sketched. It was quite plain to him that, because of Hitler and the methods which were being employed, no peace with foreign countries could be achieved.

Q. Just one last question, witness: The Indictment accuses the defendant von Papen of being an unscrupulous opportunist. You, witness, know the accused from the reports and from all the official contact the defendant had with his department for a number of years. Do you, on the strength of that knowledge, get the impression that this characterisation of von Papen is correct, or can you say, on the strength of these reports and this official contact, that von Papen appears to you to be a man who always tells the truth, even when that truth is disagreeable to his superiors, and even when the voicing of that truth is connected with personal danger for him?

A. I can say that is absolutely so. I find the best evidence of it is that von Papen was finally completely eliminated from the position of Vice Chancellor and resigned from the government. He then became a private citizen and only in the greatest emergency was he called upon. In my opinion, von Papen made himself available

[Page 89]

only because he said to himself: "I have still got a certain amount of credit, I am a good Catholic, and accordingly I represent an attitude which is opposed to all inhumanity. Perhaps I can, as a person, exercise some influence." I myself never attended a meeting or a conference which took place between Hitler and von Papen but, particularly from my liaison officer with Hitler, I often heard that von Papen, in his smooth way, frequently told Hitler many things which no one else could have told him, and I believe that through his persuasiveness he prevented a number of things, at least for a time.

DR. KUBUSCHOK: Thank you.

BY DR. NELTE (Counsel for the defendant Keitel):

Witness, you have stated that Hitler, because of the terrible bombing attack on Dresden, intended to issue an order according to which thousands of prisoners of war were to be killed in reprisal.

A. Yes.

Q. Do I remember your testimony of yesterday correctly, that all you have said about this matter is information from, or based on information from, Herr von Ribbentrop?

A. No.

Q. What do you know from your own personal knowledge?

A. From my own personal knowledge I only know that our liaison officer with Hitler called me on the telephone and told me that Goebbels had proposed to Hitler that 10,000 or more British and American prisoners of war should be shot in reprisal, and that Hitler wanted to agree or had agreed. I immediately reported this to von Ribbentrop, and he went there at once and told me after half an hour that the order had been withdrawn.

About Field Marshal Keitel I know nothing at all in that connection.

Q. You do not know, therefore, who was the originator of that order?

A. No.

Q. Who suggested it, I mean.

A. The suggestion for that order evidently came from Goebbels, according to the information which I received.

Q. Through von Ribbentrop, do you mean?

A. Who?

Q. Through Herr von Ribbentrop?

A . No, von Ribbentrop had nothing to do with it.

Q. Then from Herr Hewel?

A. Herr Hewel told me that. He called me up and told me that.

Q. And you know nothing about the participation of military men?

A. I know nothing at all about the participation of military men.

DR. NELTE: Thank you very much.

BY DR. LATERNSER (Counsel for the General Staff and the O.K.W.):

Q. Witness, I have only one question. Did you, as State Secretary, or did the Foreign Office regularly keep military offices, i.e. the Army High Command, or the Supreme Command of the Navy, informed about pertinent matters of German politics?

A. No, they were not informed.

DR. LATERNSER: I have no further questions.

THE PRESIDENT: Does the British Prosecutor wish to cross- examine?

Cross-examination by COLONEL PHILLIMORE:

Q. Witness, you told us yesterday that the defendant Ribbentrop was against the persecution of the Churches, was against the persecution of Jews, and did not know what was going on in the concentration camps. You have told us that he was not a typical Nazi. What are the qualities of a typical Nazi?

A. By a typical National Socialist, I mean a man who fanatically acknowledges and represents all the doctrines of National Socialism.

Von Ribbentrop, as I said, followed Hitler, personally, but he really knew

[Page 90]

uncommonly little of any of the Party's ideology, and never bothered about it. He never spoke at meetings, and never participated in large rallies, that is, he really knew extremely little about the people and the mood of the people.

Q. By a typical Nazi, do you mean someone who was persecuting the Churches?

A. I did not understand that question.

Q. I will repeat it. By a typical Nazi, do you mean a man who was engaged in persecution of the Churches?

A. At any rate, he was a man who, if Adolf Hitler considered it right, did not state his personal opinion on the matter.

Q. And a man who would take his full share in persecution and extermination of Jews?

A. That I would not like to say either. That was limited to a certain circle of people. A large number of fanatics knew nothing about these atrocities and repudiated them and would have repudiated them, had they been properly informed of them.

Q. I understand you to say that you knew nothing of them yourself. Is that so?

A. That I knew nothing?

Q. Yes.

A. In my position, as State Secretary, and because I read foreign papers and particularly since I had contact with the opposition, I knew of many things connected with concentration camps. In all these cases, as far as it was in my power, I intervened. But regarding the things which I have heard here, I knew nothing at all.

Q. Now, I want to ask you about another matter. You have told us that Ribbentrop had no responsibility in the occupied territories. You said that the Foreign Office lost responsibility at that moment at which the German bayonets crossed the frontier. Is that right?

A. I said, that in that moment in which the German bayonets crossed the frontier the Foreign Office lost the sole right to negotiate with foreign governments everywhere. Beyond that, in most countries, the Foreign Office did not even have the right to have a diplomatic observer without authority, particularly in Norway, and the Eastern territories.

Q. You have said the Foreign Office had no right to have an observer there, and that direct relations with occupied territories were withdrawn, is that right?

A. No, I said that in all occupied territories the Foreign Office no longer had the sole right to negotiate with the government, since there was then either a civil administration in those countries, or a military government with auxiliary command offices and a military administrative head, and that these offices themselves then approached the foreign governments and their executive organs in the countries occupied at that time. Consequently you could no longer say that the Foreign Office had the sole right to negotiate with the governments. But in countries in the North and the East we no longer had any of our people at all, and Hitler had issued the order that we withdraw our observers from the other countries, such as Holland, Belgium and so on. However, we did not do so.

Q. You say that in France you had an ambassador reporting direct to Ribbentrop, did you not?

A. Yes.

Q. And his duties included advising the Secret Field Police and the Secret State Police by the impounding of politically important documents, and by securing and seizing public as well as private property, and above all, Jewish artistic property, on the basis of instructions especially given for the matter. Is that not correct?

A. I already emphasised yesterday that only since 1943 had I anything at all to do with political affairs. If I understood your question correctly, Mr. Prosecutor, you are of the opinion that the Secret State Police and the German executive organs in France were under our jurisdiction. That is incorrect.

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