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-Fourth Day: Friday, 29th March, 1946
(Part 1 of 7)

[Page 157]

THE PRESIDENT: Before the examination of the defendant von Ribbentrop goes on, the Tribunal desires me to draw the attention of Dr. Horn and of the defendant von Ribbentrop to what the Tribunal has said during the last few days.

In the first place, the Tribunal said this: The Tribunal has allowed the defendant Goering, who has given evidence first of the defendants and who has proclaimed himself to be responsible as the second leader of Nazi Germany, to give his evidence without any interruption whatever, and he has covered the whole history of the Nazi regime from its inception to the defeat of Germany. The Tribunal does not propose to allow any of the other defendants to go over the same ground in their evidence except in so far as is necessary for their own defence.

Secondly, the Tribunal ruled that evidence as to the injustice of the Versailles Treaty, or whether it was made under duress is inadmissible.

Thirdly, though this is not an order of the Tribunal, I must point out that the Tribunal has been informed on many occasions of the view of the defendants and some of their witnesses that the Treaty of Versailles was unjust, and therefore any evidence upon that point, apart from its being inadmissible, is cumulative, and the Tribunal will not hear it for that reason.

Lastly, the Tribunal wishes me to point out to Dr. Horn that it is the duty of counsel to examine their witnesses and not to leave them simply to make speeches, and, if they are giving evidence which counsel knows is inadmissible according to the rulings of the Tribunal, it is the duty of Counsel to stop the witness. That is all.

Dr. Seidl, if you are going to refer to Gauss' affidavit the Tribunal will not deal with that matter now; it will be dealt with after the defendant von Ribbentrop has given evidence.

DR. SEIDL (Counsel for the defendant Hess): Mr. President, I agreed with Dr. Horn, counsel for the defendant Ribbentrop ...

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Seidl, I do not care whether you spoke to Dr. Horn or not, or what arrangement you may have made with him, it is not convenient for the Tribunal to hear Dr. Gauss' evidence at the present moment; they want to go on with Ribbentrop's evidence.



BY DR. HORN (Counsel for defendant Ribbentrop):

Q. At the end of yesterday's proceedings you were speaking about your political impressions in England and France. In connection with that I should like to put the following question. Did you make efforts to tell Hitler of your views on French and British politics at that time?

A, Yes, after the 30th of January, 1933, I saw Hitler repeatedly and, of course, told him about the impressions which I gathered on my frequent travels, particularly as regards England and France.

Q. What was Hitler's attitude toward France and England at that time?

A. Hitler's attitude was as follows: He saw in France an enemy of Germany because of France's whole policy with regard to Germany since the end of the

[Page 158]

first World War, and especially because of the position which she took on questions of equality of rights. This attitude of Hitler's found expression at the time in his book "Mein Kampf."

I knew France well, since for a number of years I had had connections there. At that time I told the Fuehrer a great deal about France. It interested him, and I noticed that he showed an increasing interest in French matters in the year 1933. Then I arranged for him to meet a number of Frenchmen, and I believe some of these meetings, and perhaps also some of my descriptions of the attitude taken by many Frenchmen and, generally speaking, of French culture ...

Q. What Frenchmen were they?

A. There were a number of French economists, there were journalists and also some politicians. My descriptions, too, interested the Fuehrer, and gradually he got the impression that there were, after all, men in France who were not averse to the idea of an understanding with Germany.

Above all, I acquainted the Fuehrer with an argument which sprang from my deepest convictions and my years of experience. It was the great wish of the Fuehrer, as is well- known, to come to a definitive friendship and agreement with England. At first the Fuehrer treated this idea as something apart from German-French politics. I believe that at that time I succeeded in convincing him that an understanding with England would be possible only by way of an understanding with France as well. That made, as I still remember very clearly from some of our conversations, a strong impression on him. He told me then that I should continue this purely personal course of mine for bringing about an understanding between Germany and France and that I should continue to report to him about these things.

Q. Then you were Hitler's foreign political adviser, not the Party adviser? How was that?

A. I have already said that I reported to Hitler about my travel experiences. These impressions which I brought from England and France were of interest to him, and, without any special conferences or discussions being arranged, I was often received by Hitler. I spoke with him repeatedly and the result was that, apart from the official channels, he acknowledged my co-operation and my advice as to what I had seen and heard in foreign countries.

Above all, of course, he had a vital interest in all questions concerning England. I told him about public opinion and personalities and introduced to him, besides Frenchmen, a number of Englishmen with whom he could exchange thoughts outside the official channels, a thing which he loved to do.

Q. In what did your personal co-operation in the efforts made by Hitler to come to an agreement with France in the years 1933 and 1935 consist?

A. At that time the solution of the Saar question was one of the first problems up for discussion. I tried through my own private channels to make it clear to the French in Paris that a reasonable and quiet solution of the Saar question in the spirit of the plebiscite as laid down in the Versailles Treaty would be a good omen for the relations between the two countries. I spoke with a number of people during those years in Paris and also made the first contact with members of the French cabinet. I might mention that I had conversations with the then French President Doumergue, with the Foreign Minister Barthou, who was later assassinated, with M. Laval, and above all with M. Daladier.

I remember that, in connection with the Saar question in particular, I met with considerable understanding on the part of the latter. Then, somewhat later I noticed, during the visits of Frenchmen to Hitler that it was always mentioned, "Yes, but there is 'Mein Kampf,' and your policy toward France is contained in that book." I tried to get the Fuehrer to bring out an official revision of this passage of "Mein Kampf." He said, however - and I remember the exact words - that he was determined through his policy, as put into practice, to prove to the world that he had changed his view in this respect. Things once written

[Page 159]

down could not be changed, they were a historical fact, and his former attitude towards France had been caused by France's attitude towards Germany at that time, but one could now turn over a new leaf in the history of the two countries.

Then I asked Hitler to receive a French journalist, in order that, through a public statement, this revision of that view expressed in his book "Mein Kampf" could be made known to the world.

He agreed to this, and then received a French journalist and gave him an interview. I do not exactly recall just when - in the year 1933, I believe - aa report of this interview appeared in "Le Matin" and created a great deal of excitement. I was very glad, for thereby a large step towards an understanding with France had been taken. Then I contemplated what could further be done and how, from this simple public article one could work up to a close contact between French and German statesmen.

Q. At that time were you not contemplating the means for bringing Hitler and Daladier together? What practical efforts did you make?

A. I was just coming to that.

At that time Daladier was the French Premier. I had several conversations with him and suggested to him that he meet Adolf Hitler, so that quite frankly, man to man, they could carry on a discussion and see whether Franco-German relations could not be put on an entirely new basis. M. Daladier was quite taken by this idea. I reported this to Hitler and Hitler was ready to meet M. Daladier. The meeting place was to be in the German Odenwald and was already agreed upon. I went to Paris to make the last arrangements with Daladier.

MR. DODD: If your Honour pleases, I am reluctant to interfere in any respect with this examination of this defendant, but my colleagues and I feel that this particular part of the examination is quite immaterial and in any event much too detailed, and that we will never make any progress on these lines here. If counsel would abide by the instruction of the Tribunal given this morning, we could proceed much more directly and much more quickly.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Horn, the Tribunal thinks that the objection is really well founded. The defendant is dealing with a period between 1933 and 1935 and the efforts which he made for good relations with France. Well now, that is very remote from any question which we have to decide in this case, and therefore to deal with it in this detail seems to the Tribunal a waste of time.

DR. HORN: Then I will put other questions, which concern his direct co-operation.

Q. What caused Hitler to appoint you Plenipotentiary for Disarmament?

A. I believe I was appointed to that position in March or April. The reason was as follows:

Hitler was of the opinion that there should be equality of armament. He believed that this would be possible only through negotiations with France and England. That was also my point of view. Because of my efforts to establish good relations between Germany and England, since this was the dearest wish of the Fuehrer, I was at that time in London, and there was able to make contacts with men influential in English politics.

Above all, there was the contact with Lord Baldwin. I spoke with Lord Baldwin and the Prime Minister of that time, MacDonald, concerning the German desire for equality and found that these ministers had an open ear. As a result of a long conversation which I had with the Lord Chancellor of that time, Lord Baldwin, I believe on the 1st December, 1933, made a speech in the House of Commons, in which he pointed out that one should meet Germany half-way. Armament equality had been promised and therefore it would have to be reached somehow. In this connection he said that there were three possibilities: One was that Germany should arm up to the level of the other powers - and that was not desired; the second possibility was that the others should disarm to the level of Germany - and that could not be carried out; and therefore one would have to compromise

[Page 160]

and permit Germany a limited rearmament, and the other countries for their part would have to disarm.

Adolf Hitler was very happy then about this attitude, for he considered it a practicable way for carrying through equality for Germany.

Unfortunately it was not at all possible in the ensuing course of events to put into practice these good and reasonable thoughts and statements made by Baldwin. Adolf Hitler therefore took the view that within the system now prevailing in the world it was apparently impossible to attain, by means of negotiations, armament equality for Germany.

THE PRESIDENT: Wait. The interpreter cannot hear you clearly. Could you put the microphone a little bit more in front of you? And would you repeat the last few sentences you said?

A. VON RIBBENTROP (resuming): Adolf Hitler saw that unfortunately, within the international system prevailing at that time, the good intentions of Lord Baldwin could not be carried out by means of negotiations.

Q. What practicable steps in limitation of armament did you aim at in London?

A. It is well known that Germany left the League of Nations and the Disarmament Conference because it was impossible to carry through the German desires by way of negotiations. Hitler therefore saw no other possibility of achieving this aim except through the power of the German people themselves. He of course realised that a risk was involved, but after the experiences of the preceding few years no other means remained. Accordingly Germany then started to rearm independently. As a result of this the following happened. In the course of the year 1934 there came about a closer contact between the German Government and the British Government. There followed visits by British statesmen to Berlin, by Sir John Simon and Mr. Eden, and during these visits the suggestion was brought up as to whether it would not be possible to come to an agreement or an understanding at least as far as naval matters were concerned.

Hitler was very much interested in this idea and in the course of the negotiations between the British and the German Governments it was agreed that I should be sent to London to attempt to come to a naval agreement with the British Government.

It is not necessary for me to go into the details of the pact which actually materialised. Hitler himself had said from the beginning that, in order to come to a final understanding with England, one would have to acknowledge the absolute naval supremacy of Great Britain once and for all. It was he who suggested the naval ratio of 100 to 35, which was an entirely different ratio from that which was negotiated between Germany and England before 1914.

After relatively short negotiations this naval agreement was then concluded in London. It was very important for future Anglo-German relations, and at that time it represented the first practical result of an actual armament limitation.

Q. At that time did France agree to this rearmament and what were your personal efforts in this step?

A. I might say in advance that Hitler and I were extremely happy about this pact, I know that it was then described on occasions by certain circles - to use an English expression - as "eye-wash." I can say here from my own personal experience that I have never seen Adolf Hitler so happy as at the moment when I was able to tell him personally in Hamburg of the conclusion of this agreement.

Q. And what was France's attitude to this pact?

A. With France the situation was, of course, a little difficult. I had already noticed this while the negotiations were taking place, for one had deviated from the armament limitation of the Versailles Treaty. Then I proposed to certain gentlemen of the Foreign Office - I can mention their names; they were Sir Robert

[Page 161]

Craigie in particular and also Admiral Little - that I would go to France so that I could make use of my ties with French statesmen and make clear to them the usefulness of this agreement for a future German-Anglo-French understanding.

I should like to point out something here. In this courtroom, some time ago, a film was shown wherein a speech which I made for the newsreels of that time, at the conclusion of this naval agreement, was presented as proof of the duplicity of German diplomacy. At that time I purposely made this speech in London in order to record and to declare before the whole world that this did not concern merely British-German matters, but that it was the wish of Hitler - and also the spirit of the naval agreement - to bring about a general limitation of armament, and that this naval pact was also designed to improve relations between France and Germany. This wish was real and sincere.

I then went to France, spoke with French statesmen and, I believe, did to some extent contribute to this first step in the limitation of armaments being considered a reasonable measure by many Frenchmen, in view of the fact that, in the long run, equality of rights could not be withheld from the German people.

Q. Then you were appointed Ambassador to London. What led to this appointment?

A. That came about as follows: In the period after the naval agreement, which was hailed with joy by the widest circles in England, I made great efforts to bring Lord Baldwin and the Fuehrer together, and I should like to mention here that the preliminary arrangements for this meeting had already been made by a friend of Lord Baldwin, a Mr. Jones. The Fuehrer had agreed to fly to Chequers to meet Lord Baldwin, but unfortunately Lord Baldwin declined at the last minute. What led to his declining, I do not know, but there is no doubt that certain forces in England at the time did not wish this German-British understanding.

Then in 1936, when the German Ambassador von Hoesch died, I told myself that, on behalf of Germany, one should make one last supreme effort to come to a good understanding with England.

I might mention in this connection that at that time I had already been appointed State Secretary of the Foreign Office by Hitler, and had asked him personally that that appointment be cancelled and that I be sent to London as Ambassador.

What follows may have led to this decision of Hitler. Hitler had a very definite conception of England's balance-of-power theory, but my view perhaps deviated somewhat from his. My conviction was that England would always continue to support her own balance-of-power theory, whereas Hitler was of the opinion that this theory of balance-of-power was obsolete and that from now on England should tolerate, that is, should welcome a much stronger Germany in view of the changed picture in Europe, and in view of Russia's development of strength. In order to obtain a definite and clear picture of how matters actually stood in England - that must likewise have been one of the reasons why the Fuehrer sent me to England. Another reason was that at that time we hoped, through contact with the still very extensive circles in England which were well disposed to Germany and supported a German-English friendship, to make the relations between the two countries friendly and perhaps even to reach a permanent agreement.

Hitler's goal in the final analysis always had been the German-English pact.

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