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 4 of 7)

[DR. HORN continues his direct examination of JOACHIM VON RIBBENTROP]

[Page 170]

Q. What brought about the critical situation in the summer?

A. It is natural and has always been the case that nationality has its own dynamics. This problem of the separation of German groups bordering on Ger-

[Page 171]

many was often referred to by us in the Foreign Office as "the gruesome problem," i.e., a problem which could not be mastered to the extent necessary for the interests of foreign policy. We had to deal here not with letters and articles but with living people who had laws and dynamics of their own. The situation was this, that the Sudeten Germany Party naturally strove for greater and greater independence; it cannot be denied that a number of influential leaders, at least at the time, demanded at least absolute autonomy, if not the possibility of joining the Reich. This is perfectly clear, and that was also the goal of the Sudeten German Party. For the Foreign Office and German foreign policy, as well as for Hitler, of course, manifold difficulties arose because of this. As I said before, I tried to get the foreign policy affairs under control. At the time I received Conrad Henlein - I believe once or twice, I do not remember exactly - and asked him not to do anything, in the pursuit of his political goals, as far as Prague was concerned, that might put German foreign policy into a state of emergency. This was perhaps not always so easy for Henlein either, and I know that the leaders of the Sudeten German Party naturally could approach and be received by other offices of the Reich, and that Adolf Hitler himself, who was interested in this problem, occasionally received these leaders. The crisis, or rather the whole situation, developed more and more critically, because on the one hand the Sudeten Germans insisted on their demands in Prague more and more openly and stubbornly and because, on the other hand, the Czechs, the Government in Prague, opposed these demands. This resulted in excesses, arrests, and so on, and in an even more critical situation. At that time I often spoke with the Czech Ambassador. I asked him to meet the demands of the Sudeten Germans for autonomy, and all their demands, to the furthest extent possible. However, matters developed in such a way that the attitudes displayed by Prague became more stubborn, and so did the attitude of the Sudeten Germans.

Q. What brought about Chamberlain's visit? What were the reasons for this visit and for the role played by you on that occasion?

A. I should like to interpolate here that in the summer of 1938, the situation was moving more and more toward a crisis. Ambassador Sir Nevile Henderson in Berlin, with whom I had often discussed this problem, and who was making efforts ,on his part to find a solution, undoubtedly made continuous reports to his government. I no longer know precisely, but I believe that it was through his initiative that Lord Runciman went to Prague. Runciman undoubtedly went to Prague in good faith and tried to get a clear picture of the situation. He also rendered an opinion which, as far as I recall, was to the effect - I do not remember the wording - that the right to exercise self-determination, immediate self-determination, should not be denied the Sudetenland. Thus, apparently, this opinion supported the Sudeten Germans. Nevertheless, the crisis was there. I do not remember exactly what the date was, but I believe it happened that, through Ambassador Henderson, Chamberlain got in touch with the Reich Government, and so followed Chamberlain's visit to the Fuehrer at the Obersalzberg during the first half of September. Regarding this visit, there is not very much to be said. The Fuehrer spoke alone with Chamberlain on that occasion. I do know, however, and we all felt this way, that the visit took place in an altogether good and pleasant atmosphere. As far as I remember the Fuehrer told me that he had told Chamberlain frankly that the demand of the Sudeten Germans for self- determination and freedom in some form or other would have to be met now. Chamberlain, I believe - and this was the substance of that conference - replied that he would inform the British Cabinet of these wishes of the German Government and that he would make further statements.

Q. How did the second visit of Chamberlain to Godesberg come about?

A. As far as I recall, matters did not progress satisfactorily. The situation in the Sudetenland became more difficult and threatened to develop into a very very serious crisis, not only within Czechoslovakia but also between Germany and

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Czechoslovakia, and thereby into a European crisis. The result was that Chamberlain once more took the initiative and thus his visit to Godesberg came about; I believe this was in the middle of September or during the second half of September.

Q. How, then, was the Sudeten German question solved, and what was your part in this solution?

[JOACHIM VON RIBBENTROP] A. May I first report about Godesberg? In view of the crisis which had developed, Hitler informed Mr. Chamberlain in Godesberg that now he had to have a solution of this question under all circumstances. I might emphasize that I knew nothing regarding details of a military nature at that time, but I do know that the Fuehrer concerned himself with the possibility that this problem might have to be solved by military power. He told Mr. Chamberlain in Godesberg that a solution of the Sudeten German problem would have to be found as rapidly as possible. Mr. Chamberlain was of the opinion that it would be difficult to win Prague over so quickly to a solution, and finally things bogged down altogether at the conference. Adolf Hitler then personally dictated a memorandum which he or I was to give to Mr. Chamberlain. Then Sir Horace Wilson, a friend of Mr. Chamberlain, visited me, a man who deserves very much credit in bridging over disagreements. I succeeded in arranging for another meeting in the evening. During this meeting, which started in a rather cool atmosphere, the Fuehrer I received a report of Czechoslovakia's mobilization. This was a most deplorable circumstance, since Hitler just at this moment resented that very strongly, and both he and Mr. Chamberlain wanted to break off the conference. This happened, I believe, exactly at the moment when the interpreter was about to read the Fuehrer's memorandum containing a proposal for the solution of the Sudeten German problem. Through a short conversation with Hitler and then with Chamberlain I succeeded in straightening matters out. Negotiations were resumed, and after a few hours of negotiations the result was that Mr. Chamberlain told the Fuehrer he could see now that something had to be done and that he was ready, on his part, to submit this memorandum to the British cabinet. I believe he also said that he would suggest to the British Cabinet, that is to say, to his ministerial colleagues, that compliance with this memorandum be recommended to Prague. The memorandum contained as a solution, in general outlines, the annexation of the Sudetenland by the Reich. I believe the Fuehrer expressed his desire in the memorandum that, in view of the critical situation there, it would be advisable that this be carried out, if possible, within a definite period of time - I think, by the first of October, i.e. within ten or fourteen days. Mr. Chamberlain then departed, and a few days passed. The crisis did not improve but rather became worse. I remember that very well. Then, during the latter part of September, I have not got the date here, the French Ambassador came and said that he had good news about the Sudeten German question. Later on the British Ambassador also called. At the same time, as Reichsmarschall Goering has already testified, Italy wanted to take part in the solution of the crisis, acting on a wish made known to Goering by Mussolini, and offered to mediate. Then came Mussolini's proposal that a conference be held, which proposal was accepted by England, France and Germany. The French Ambassador, and later on the British Ambassador, saw the Fuehrer and outlined on a map the approximate solution which apparently was being proposed by France, England and Italy as a solution of the Sudeten problem. I still remember that the Fuehrer in the first place stated to the French Ambassador that this proposal was not satisfactory, whereupon the French Ambassador declared that of course further discussions should be held regarding this question and the question of where Germans really were living and how far the Sudetenland extended; all these questions could still be discussed in detail.

Anyway, as far as the French Government was concerned - and I believe, Sir Nevile Henderson used similar words when received later by the Fuehrer - the

[Page 173]

Fuehrer could be assured that the British as well as the French intended to contribute to the solution of this problem in conformity with the German view.

Then came the Munich conference. I take it I need not go into the details of this conference; I should like only to describe briefly the results of it. The Fuehrer explained to the statesmen, with the aid of a map, the necessity, as he saw it, of annexing a particular part of the Sudetenland to the German Reich to the definite satisfaction of the latter. A discussion arose. Mussolini, the Italian Chief of Government, agreed in general with Hitler's ideas. The English Prime Minister made at first certain reservations and also mentioned that perhaps the details might be discussed with the Czechs, with Prague. Daladier, the French Minister, said, as far as I recall, that he thought that, once this problem had been broached, the Four Great Powers should make a decision there and then. In the end this opinion was shared by all the four statesmen and, as a result, the Munich Agreement was drawn up, providing that the Sudetenland should be annexed to Germany as outlined on the maps that were on hand. The Fuehrer was very pleased and happy about this solution, and, with regard to other versions of this matter which I have heard during the Trial here, I should like to emphasise here once more particularly that I also was happy. We all were extremely happy that in this way the matter had been solved.

THE PRESIDENT: We will adjourn until ten minutes past two.

(A recess was taken)

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will sit to-morrow morning from ten o'clock until one o'clock in open session. And now, before going on, Dr. Horn, the Tribunal wishes me to say that they think that too much time is being taken up by the defendant in detailed accounts of negotiations which led up to an agreement which is a matter of history and which is perfectly well known to everybody. That is not the case which the defendant has to meet; what the defendant has to meet is not the making of agreements which are perfectly well known, but the breach of those agreements by Germany and any part which he may have played in the breach of those agreements. It is very important that the time of this Tribunal should not be taken up by unnecessary detail of that sort.



Q. What was the foreign political reaction to the Munich Agreement?

A. The Munich Agreement is well known. Its contents were the following: Germany and England should never again wage war; the naval agreement on the ratio of 100 to 35 was to be permanent and, in important matters, consultations were to be resorted to. Through this agreement the atmosphere between Germany and England was undoubtedly cleared up to a certain degree. It was to be expected that the success of this pact would bring about a final understanding. The disappointment was very great when, a few days after Munich, rearmament at any cost was announced in England. Then England started on a policy of alliance and close relationship with France. In November, 1938, trade policy measures were taken against Germany, and in December, 1938, the British Colonial Secretary made a speech, which negatived any revision of the colonial question. Contact with the United States of America was also established. Our reports of that period, as I remember them, showed an increased, I should like to say, "stiffening" of the English attitude towards Germany, and the impression was created in Germany of a policy which practically aimed at her encirclement.

Q. You are accused by the prosecution of having contributed to the separation of Slovakia from Czechoslovakia in violation of International Law. What part did you take in the Slovakian Declaration of Independence?

A. There is no doubt that there were relations between Slovakians and quite a number of members of the National Socialist German Workers Party. These tenden-

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cies naturally were known to the Foreign Office, and it would be wrong to say that we did not welcome them at all. But it is not correct to say that the autonomy was demanded or forced by us in any way. I remember that Dr. Tiso proclaimed this autonomy, and the Prague Government, under the influence of Munich, also recognised it. What the situation was like at the time after Munich can be seen from the fact that all minorities of Czechoslovakia wanted autonomy and independence. Shortly thereafter the Carpatho- Ukrainians declared their independence and others as well had similar aspirations. In the Munich Agreement, I should like to add, there was a clause, according to which Germany and Italy were to give Czechoslovakia a guarantee, but a declaration to this effect was not made. The reason for that was that Poland, after the Munich Agreement, sent an ultimatum to Czechoslovakia, and on its own initiative separated the Polish minorities and occupied these areas, The Hungarians also wanted autonomy, or rather a union of Hungarian areas, and certain areas of Czechoslovakia were thereupon given to Hungary by the Vienna arbitration. The situation in Czechoslovakia, however, was not yet clear and remained difficult during the period following. Then the Slovak, Tuka, approached us. He wanted to win Germany's approval of Slovakia's independence. The Fuehrer received Tuka at that time and, after a few interludes, the final result was the declaration of independence of Slovakia made by Tiso on the 13th of March. The prosecution has submitted a document in which I am alleged to have said, during the conversation which took place between the Fuehrer and Tiso, that it was only a matter of hours, not of days, before Slovakia would have to come to a decision. This remark was to be understood to mean that at the time preparations for an invasion had been made in order to occupy Carpatho- Ukrainia as well as some other regions of Slovakia. We wanted to prevent a war between Slovakia and Hungary or between Czechoslovakia and Hungary - Hitler was greatly concerned about it, and therefore he gladly complied with Tiso's desire. Later, after the declaration of Slovakia's independence by the Slovak parliament, he complied with Tiso's request and took over the protection of Slovakia.

Q. What brought about Hacha's visit to Berlin on the 14th of March, 1939?

A. Events in Slovakia had their repercussions, of course, and chiefly very strong excesses against racial Germans in the area of Prague, Brunn, Iglau, etc., as reported to Hitler. Many fugitives came into the old Reich. In the winter Of 1938-39 I repeatedly attempted to discuss these matters with the Prague Government. Hitler was convinced that a development was being initiated which could not be tolerated by the German Reich. It was the attitude of the Press and the influential government circles in Prague. The Fuehrer furthermore wished that the Czech nation should reduce her military power, but this was refused by Prague.

During these months I tried repeatedly to maintain good German relations with Prague. In particular I spoke frequently with Chvalkovski, the Slovak Foreign Minister. In the middle of March, Chvalkovski approached our German representative in Prague to find out whether Hitler would give Hacha the opportunity of a personal interview. I reported this to the Fuehrer and he agreed to receive Hacha. However, he told me that he wished to deal with this matter personally. To that effect I had an exchange of telegrams with Prague: a reserved attitude should be taken in Prague but Hacha should be told that the Fuehrer would receive him.

At this point I should like to mention briefly that the Foreign Office and I, myself, did not know anything at this date of impending military events. We learned about these things only shortly before they happened. Before the arrival of Hacha I asked the Fuehrer whether a treaty was to be prepared. The Fuehrer answered, as I recall distinctly that he had the intention of going far beyond that. After the arrival of Hacha in Berlin I visited him at once and he told me he wanted to place the fate of the Czech nation in the Fuehrer's hands. I reported this to the Fuehrer and he instructed me to draft an agreement. The draft was submitted to him and corrected later on, as I remember. Hacha was then received

[Page 175]

by the Fuehrer and the results of this conference, as far as I know, are already known here and have been submitted in documentary form, so that I do not need to go into them.

I know that Adolf Hitler at that time spoke pointedly to Hacha and told him that he intended to occupy Czechoslovakia. It was the old historic territory which he intended to take under his protection. The Czechs were to have complete autonomy and their own way of living and he believed that the decision which was being made on that day would result in great benefit for the Czech people. While Hacha talked to the Fuehrer or rather afterwards - I was present at the conference - I had a long discussion with the Foreign Minister Chvalkovski. He adopted our point of view fairly easily and I asked him to influence Hacha so that the Fuehrer's decision and the whole action might be carried out without bloodshed.

I believe it was the deep impression made on him by the Fuehrer and by what he said that caused Hacha to get in touch by telephone with his government in Prague and also, I believe, with the Chief of the General Staff. I do not know this exactly. He obtained the approval of his government to sign the agreement which I mentioned in the beginning. This agreement was then signed by Hitler, Hacha, and both the Foreign Ministers, i.e. by me, too. Then Hacha, as I recall, gave instructions that the German Army should be received cordially and, as far as I know, the march into and the occupation of Czechoslovakia, that is Bohemia and Moravia, was completed without serious incident of any kind.

After the occupation I went to Prague with the Fuehrer. After the occupation - or maybe it was in Prague - the Fuehrer gave me in the morning a proclamation in which the countries of Bohemia and Moravia were declared to be a Protectorate of the Reich. I read out this proclamation - which, I may say, was somewhat a surprise to me - in Prague. No protest of any sort was made as far as I recall, and I believe I might mention that the occupation of Bohemia and Moravia, which the Fuehrer considered necessary in the best interest of the Reich, took place for historical and economic reasons and above all for reasons of security for the German Reich. I believe that Goering has given the details.

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