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-Third Day: Thursday, 28th March, 1946
(Part 7 of 7)

[Page 152]

DR. KUBUSCHOK: Mr. President, in this case would it not be of purpose to put the one question to the witness as to whether he really meant Papen?

THE PRESIDENT: Very well; put the question to the witness.


Q. Witness, do you really think that you said that Papen made a speech on the 18th of February, 1938? Where was this speech supposed to have been made?

A. That, in my opinion, was a mistake which may have crept in when I made the affidavit; because if the speech was not made - at any rate, at the moment I no longer remember such a speech as I described in that affidavit. It is, therefore, perfectly possible that a mistake crept in. And perhaps that mistake is excusable if you consider that this affidavit was submitted to me at a time when I was rather seriously ill in bed in hospital. It can very well have happened that upon reading through the affidavit I did not notice the mistake - and I really consider it to be a mistake.

Q. That makes the actual fact established and the conclusions drawn therefore, unnecessary -

A. After what I have said, yes. I cannot remember the speech, and I think it can be traced to a mistake on my part and I attribute it to the circumstances under which I signed the document after I had been seriously ill.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, Dr. Horn. The witness can now retire.

DR. HORN: May I once more ask the Tribunal whether it can be ascertained if the translations of the documents will be available by tomorrow morning. I would like to base the further presentation of evidence on them. If I can get the translations in the morning, then I would begin now to examine the defendant von Ribbentrop as a witness. If translations cannot be completed by tomorrow, then I would ask the Tribunal to allow me to continue to submit my documents now.

[Page 153]

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Horn, this trial has been going on for many months, and it is taking a very much longer time than anybody anticipated, at any rate longer than any member of the Tribunal anticipated, and they cannot have it put off any longer. You must go on. Have you got any further witnesses to call?

DR. HORN: No, I have no further witnesses, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Are you not going to call the defendant von Ribbentrop?

DR. HORN: Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: Why cannot you put him in the box now?

DR. HORN: I can examine him, but I have just asked the President whether I could have the assistance of the Tribunal, to find out whether I can obtain the documents by the morning, and have said that if so I would start to examine the defendant as a witness now, and then submit the documents when the prosecution has its documents too, and it can raise its objections here at the same time.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, as soon as the documents are translated, you shall have them, of course. We have sent out to find out whether they will be available by tomorrow morning, but we have got 35 minutes now before 5 o'clock. We want to occupy the time.

DR. HORN: Very well, Mr. President. In that case I shall examine the defendant as witness now.

THE PRESIDENT: Will you go on please, Dr. Horn?

DR. HORN: Yes. In that case I shall continue to present the documents.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Horn, you said you were going to call the defendant von Ribbentrop. We have not got the documents here, and you must do as you said.

DR. HORN: Then I request to be given permission to examine the defendant as a witness.

(JOACHIM VON RIBBENTROP, a witness, took the stand and testified as follows):


Q. Will you say your full name?

A. Joachim von Ribbentrop.

Q. Will you repeat this oath after me:

I swear by God, the Almighty and Omniscient, that I will speak the pure truth and will withhold and add nothing.

(The witness repeated the oath.)

THE PRESIDENT: You may sit down.


Q. Please give the Tribunal a brief explanatory report about the important points of your life.

A. I was born on the 30th of April, 1893, at Wesel. I came from an old family of soldiers. My mother came from the country. I went to school at Kassel and Metz. There, in Alsace-Lorraine, I had my first contact with French cultural circles, and at that time we learned to love that country.

In 1908 my father resigned from active military service. The reason was differences that were at that time connected with the Kaiser. My father already had a strong interest in foreign politics and also social interests, and I had A great admiration for him. At that time we moved to Switzerland, and after living there for about one year I went to London as a young man, and there, for about one year, I studied mainly languages. It was then that I had my first impression of London and of the size of the British Empire.

After about one year, in 1910, I went to Canada. Originally I wanted to go to the German colonies but then I went to America instead. I wanted to see the world. I remained in Canada for some time, approximately two years, I worked on the railroad, and later on in a bank and in the building trade.

In 1914, the first World War found me still in Canada. Like all Germans at the time I had only one thought-"Everyman is needed at home. How can I

[Page 154]

help my fatherland?" Then I travelled to New York and finally in September, 194, after some difficulties, I arrived in Germany. After serving at the front, for approximately four years, and after I had been wounded, I was sent to Constantinople, where I witnessed the collapse of Germany in the first World War. At that time, my first impression was the dreadful consequences of a lost war. The Ambassador, at that time Count Bernsdorf, and later Dr. Dieckhoff, were the representatives of the Reich in Turkey. They were summoned to Berlin in order to take advantage of Graf Bernsdorf's connections with President Wilson and to see - it was the hope of all of us - that on the strength of his points perhaps a peace could be achieved and with it reconciliation.

After some difficulties, in March, 1919, I came to Berlin and was appointed Adjutant to General von Seeckt for the Peace Delegation at Versailles. Subsequently, when the Treaty of Versailles was settled, I read that document in one night and it was my impression that no government in the world could possibly sign such a document. That was my first impression of foreign policy at home.

In 1919, I resigned from the armed forces as a first lieutenant and I turned to work as a businessman. Through these business contacts, I came to know England and France quite intimately during the following years, and I established several contacts with politicians during that time. I tried to help my own country by voicing my views against Versailles. At first it was very difficult, but as early as 1919, 1920 and 1921, I managed to obtain in a modest way a certain amount of understanding in those countries. Then, sometime after 1929 or 1930, I saw that Germany, after seeming to prosper during the years 1926, 1927 and 1928 was exposed to a sudden economic earthquake, and that matters were deteriorating rapidly.

During the year 1931 and 1932, one noticed as a business man, which I was at the time, that in practice the consequences of Versailles were such that German economic life was being more and more strangled. Then I looked around. At that time, I was closely attached to the German Peoples Party, and I saw how parties became more numerous in Germany. I remember that in the end we had something like thirty parties or more in Germany; that unemployment was growing steadily; and that the government was more and more losing the confidence of the people. I recollect clearly those years of efforts made by the Chancellor Bruning, efforts which were doubtlessly sincere and honest but which nevertheless met with no success.

Other governments came, as is well known. They, too, had no success. The export trade in Germany no longer paid for itself. The gold reserves of the Reichsbank dwindled, there was tax evasion, and no more confidence in the measures introduced by the government. That, roughly, was the picture which I saw in Germany in the years 1930, and 1931. I saw then how strikes increased, how discontented the people were, and how more and more demonstrations took place on the streets, and how conditions became more and more chaotic.

I do not think that I am exaggerating if I say that the picture which presented itself in Germany in the years 1930, 1931 and 1932, particularly 1932, was not unlike the symptoms of civil war. For me as a German - and I think I have always been a patriot like many other Germans - it made a frightful impression. Actually, I was not very close to the political world, but during those years I told myself that something had to be done and that everyone, wherever he might be, would have to help to create a national front on a broad basis which would once more have the trust of men and particularly of the large working masses of the people. At the same time, I was aware that most of the men who were responsible for Versailles did not want this. That, I am sure, is a factor which, I believe, no one can dispute even today. I have already mentioned the disappointment I experienced as a young officer through my personal contacts, particularly with the German Ambassador at that time, Dieckhoff, who is a distant relative of mine or relative by marriage. It was a disappointment which in fact we all experienced -

[Page 155]

the German Armed Forces, the German people, and even more, of course, government circles - that these points of Wilson had been so quickly abandoned. I do not propose to make a propaganda speech. I merely want to represent, soberly and frankly, the circumstances as I found them at the time. There is no doubt that the defencelessness of the German people at that time led to the unfortunate result that the tendency was maintained among our enemies, not toward conciliation but toward hatred or revenge. I am convinced that this was certainly not the intention of Wilson, at that time President of the United States, and I myself believe that in later years, he suffered because of what happened. At any rate that was my first contact with German politics.

But it is known that even the severe stipulations of Versailles, as we experienced them from the closest personal observation, were not adhered to. That, too, is perhaps a consequence, an after-effect of war, in which men drift into a certain direction and just cannot or will not take heed of certain things. It is known that the stipulations of Versailles were not observed, either territorially or in other very important points. May I mention that one of the most important questions, territorial questions, at that time was Upper Silesia, and particularly the small territory of Memel. The events which took place made a deep impression on me, especially as regards Upper Silesia, because I had many personal ties there and because none of us could understand that even those severe stipulations of Versailles were not observed. It was a question of minorities, which also played a very important part. Later I shall have to refer to this point more in detail, particularly in connection with the Polish crisis. But right from the beginning, German minorities, as it is well known, were exposed to serious difficulties. At that time this question affected Upper Silesia particularly, and other territories were involved and suffering in the same way. Further, the question of disarmament was, naturally, one of the most important points of Versailles, and that; too, has been referred to in this courtroom. Therefore at the moment, I do not want to go into detail.

At any rate, it was the denial of equality in all these spheres, and the denial of equal rights, which made me decide that year to take a greater part in politics. I would like to say here quite openly that at that time I often talked to French and British friends, and of course it was already a well known fact, even then, - after 1930 the N.S.D.A.P. obtained over 100 seats in the Reichstag - that here the natural will of the German people broke through to resist this treatment, which after all meant nothing more than that they wanted to live.

At this time friends of mine spoke to me about Adolf Hitler, whom I did not then know. They asked me, "What sort of a man is Adolf Hitler? What will come of it?" and so on. I answered them frankly, "Give Germany a chance and you will not have Adolf Hitler. Refuse Germany a chance and Adolf Hitler will come into power."

That was approximately in 1930 or 1931. Germany was not given the chance, so on the 30th of January, 1933, Hitler came, and the National Socialists seized power.

Q. How and when did you come to know Adolf Hitler?

A. I saw Adolf Hitler for the first time on the 13th of August, 1932, at the Berghof. Since about 1930 or 1931 I had known Count Helldorf in Berlin, whose name as a National Socialist is known. He was a comrade of mine in my squadron, and we went through four years of war together. Through him I became acquainted with National Socialism in Berlin for the first time. I had asked him to arrange a meeting with Hitler for me. He did so, as far as I remember, through Roehm. I visited Adolf Hitler and had a long discussion with him, that is to say, Adolf Hitler explained his ideas on the existing situation to me. I then saw him again in 1933 - that has already been described here by Party Member Goering at my house at Dahlem, which I placed at the disposal of the National Socialists so that I, on my part, should do everything possible to create a national front.

[Page 156]

Adolf Hitler made a considerable impression on me even then. I noticed particularly his eyes and his general appearance, and then, perhaps as outstanding, his clear, I should say inaccessible - not hidden, but inaccessible - nature, and the manner in which he expressed his thoughts. These thoughts and statements had something final and definite about them and they appeared to come from his innermost self. I had the impression that I was facing a man who knew what he wanted and who had an unshakeable will and a very strong personality. I can summarise by saying that I left that meeting with Hitler convinced that this man, if anyone, could rescue Germany from her great difficulties and supply that need which existed at the time. I need not go further into detail about the events of that January. But I would like to tell you about one episode which happened in my house in Dahlem, when the question arose whether Hitler was to become Reich Chancellor or not. I know that at that time he was offered the Vice-Chancellorship, and I had been told with what enormous strength and conviction, if you like, also brutality and hardness, he could state his opinion when he believed that there were any obstacles to the rehabilitation and rescue of the German people.

Q. Did you believe in the possibility of a revision of the Versailles Treaty by means of mutual understanding?

A. I must say that the numerous business trips which in the years of 1920 to 1932 took me abroad, proved to me how endlessly difficult it was and would be; under the existing system, to bring about a revision of the Versailles Treaty by means of negotiations. In spite of that, I felt, that from year to year the circles grew in England and France which were convinced that somehow Germany would have to be helped. During those years, I established many contacts with men of the business world, of public life, of art and science, particularly in universities in England and France, I learned thereby to understand the attitude of the English and the French. I want to say now that even shortly after Versailles, it was my conviction that a change of that treaty could only be carried out through mutual understanding with France and England. I also believed that only in this way could the international situation be improved, and the very considerable causes of conflict existing everywhere as consequences of the first World War, be removed. It was clear, therefore, that only by means of an understanding with the Western Powers, with England and France, would a revision of Versailles be possible. Even then, I had the distinct feeling that only through such an understanding could a permanent peace in Europe really be preserved.

We young officers had experienced too much at that time. I am thinking of the Free Corps battles in Silesia and all those things in the Baltic, etc. I should like to add, and say it quite openly, that right from the beginning, from the first day in which I saw and read the Versailles Treaty, I, as a German, felt it to be my duty to oppose it and to try and do everything so that a better treaty could take its place. It was precisely Hitler's opposition to Versailles that first brought me together with him and the National Socialist Party.

Q. Did you attempt to tell Hitler your views regarding this?

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Horn, it is 5 o'clock and the Tribunal think they had better adjourn now.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 29th March, 1946, at 10.00 hours.)

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