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-Fifth Day: Saturday, 30th March, 1946
(Part 4 of 5)

[Page 200]


Q. What considerations caused Hitler and you to enter the war against the United States on the side of Japan?

[Page 201]

A. When the news of Pearl Harbour came, the Fuehrer had to make a decision. The text of the Tripartite Pact bound us to assist Japan only in case of an attack against Japan herself. I went to see the Fuehrer, explained the legal aspect of the situation, and told him that, although we welcomed a new ally against England, it meant we had a new opponent to deal with as well - or would have one to deal with if we declared war on the U.S.A. The Fuehrer decided that, as the United States had already fired upon our ships, to all intents and purposes a state of war existed. It was therefore, only a question of form, or, at least an official state of war might supervene at any moment. If this state of affairs in the Atlantic continued, it was bound to lead to a German-American war in the long run.

He then instructed me to draft a note - which he subsequently altered - and to hand the American Ambassador his papers.

Q. How did the Foreign Office co-operate with Germany's allies during the war?

A. We naturally had close co-operation with Italy. By that I mean that as the war went on, we were forced to all intents and purposes to take charge of all military operations there ourselves, or, at least, to take joint charge of them.

Co-operation with Japan was very difficult, for the simple reason that we could only communicate with the Japanese Government by air. We had contact with them from time to time through U-boats, but there was no co-ordinated military or political plan of campaign. I believe that on this point General Marshal's view is correct, namely, that there was no close strategic co-operation or planning of any kind.

Q. How was co-operation with Italy?

A. As I have just said, we naturally had very close co- operation with Italy, but difficulties arose through the heterogeneous influences at work; and Italy proved herself, right from the start, to be a very weak ally in every respect.

Q. Why, in the course of the Russian campaign, did you suggest to Hitler the conclusion of separate peace agreements?

A. A certain atmosphere of confidence between the Russian Government and ourselves had been created at Moscow - between Stalin, Molotov and myself, and, also to some extent, the Fuehrer. For instance, the Fuehrer told me that he had confidence in Stalin, whom he considered one of the really great men of history, and whose creation of the Red Army he thought a tremendous achievement; but that one could never tell what might happen. The power of the Soviets had grown and developed enormously. It was very difficult to know how to deal with Russia and make an agreement with her again. I myself always tried, through diplomatic and other channels, to maintain contact to a certain extent, because I still believed and hoped that some sort of peace could be made which would relieve Germany in the East and allow her to concentrate her forces in the West and that this might even lead to a general peace.

With this in view, I proposed to the Fuehrer, for the first time, in the winter of 1942 - it was before Stalingrad - that an agreement should be reached with Russia. I did that after the Anglo-American landing in Africa, which caused me great misgivings.

The Fuehrer, whom I met in the train at Bamberg, most emphatically rejected the idea of any such peace or attempts at peace, because he thought that, if it became known, it would be liable to create a spirit of defeatism, etc. I had suggested to him at the time that we should negotiate peace with Russia and modify our demands considerably.

Secondly, in 1943 I again advised the Fuehrer in a lengthy, written exposition to seek such a peace. I think it was after the collapse of Italy. The Fuehrer was at that time open to consider it, and he drafted a possible mutual line of demarcation which might be adopted, saying that he would let me know his decision definitely on the following day. I did not, however, receive any authorisation or directive from him; I think that the Fuehrer probably felt that it was impossible to heal the

[Page 202]

breach between National Socialism and Communism and that such a peace would be no more than an armistice.

I made one or two further attempts, but the Fuehrer held that a decisive military success must be achieved first, and only after that could we start negotiations - otherwise they would be useless.

If I were asked to express an opinion as to whether such negotiations would have been likely to succeed, I would say that I think it very doubtful. I believe that, considering the strong stand made by our opponents, especially England, ever since the beginning of the war, there was never any real chance of Germany's attaining peace; and that holds good for both the East and the West. I am convinced, too, that with the formulation at Casablanca of the demand for unconditional surrender, the possibility ceased to exist. I base my opinion not on purely abstract considerations, but on continuous feelers, made through indirect channels, and often unidentifiable as such by the other side, which drew expressions of opinion from important personalities with a guiding influence on policy in those countries. They were determined to fight it out to the bitter end. I think the Fuehrer was right when he said that such negotiations would serve no purpose.

Q. To come to a different subject, the witness Lahousen has testified here that in September, 1939, a conversation took place in Hitler's private train at which you were also present, and which dealt with the instigation of a rebellion in the Polish Ukraine. What led to this conversation and what part did you play in the discussion?

A. I remember that in the course of the Polish campaign Admiral Canaris, who was at the time Chief of the Counter- Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces, came to see me, as he sometimes did, when he was making a short personal visit. I was in my compartment on the Fuehrer's train at the time. I do not remember that the witness Lahousen was present; I had the impression when I saw Lahousen here that I had never seen him before.

Canaris came to me from time to time to report on his activities in the intelligence and other fields. He did so on this occasion; and I believe it was he who told me that he had put all his link men on to inciting the Ukrainian and other minorities in the rear of the Polish Army to revolt. He received no instructions or directives from me - as was alleged here - and that for two reasons:

1. The German Foreign Minister was never in a position to give any directives to a military authority.

2. At the beginning of the Polish campaign, the German Foreign Office was not at all concerned with the question of Ukrainia, etc. or, at least, I myself was not. I was not even sufficiently well acquainted with the details to be able to give directives.

Q. The prosecution has submitted a circular issued by the Foreign Minister.

A. May I say something more about this?

The witness Lahousen has alleged that I said that "houses were to be burned down or villages were to be burned down and the Jews were to be killed." I would like to state categorically that I said no such thing.

Canaris was with me in my compartment at that time, and it is possible, although I do not remember it exactly, that I may have talked with him later on. Apparently he had received instructions which originated with the Fuehrer as to the attitude he was to take in Poland as to the Ukrainian and other questions. There is no sense in the statement ascribed to me because, first of all, in the Ukraine these Ukrainian villagers were not our enemies but our friends. It would have been senseless for me to say that their villages should be burned down. Secondly, as regards killing the Jews, I can only say that this would have been entirely contrary to my inner convictions and that there was no thought of killing Jews at that time. I may say, in short, that all this is quite untrue. I have never given a directive of this kind, nor could I have done so, nor even a general indication on those lines.

[Page 203]

May I add that I do not believe that Lahousen himself was quite convinced that I had made this statement; at least, that was my impression.

Q. Have you anything to say about the Foreign Office circular submitted by the prosecution and bearing the title: "The Jewish question as a factor in foreign politics in the year 1938"?

A. I saw this circular here for the first time. Here are the facts. There was a section in the Foreign Office which was concerned with Party matters and questions of ideology. That department undoubtedly co-operated with the competent departments of the Party. That was not the Foreign Office itself. I saw the circular here. It seems to me that it is on the same lines as most of the circulars issued at the time for the information and guidance of officials. It might quite possibly have gone through my office, but I think that the fact that it was signed by a section chief and not by myself or the State Secretary should prove that I did not consider the circular very important even if I did see it. Even if it did go through my office or reach me in some other way, I certainly did not read it, because in principle, I did not read such long documents, but asked my assistants to give me a short summary of the contents. I received hundreds of letters in the course of the day's work, some of which were read to me, and also circulars and decrees which I signed, and many of which I did not read. I wish to state, however, that if one of my officials signed the circular it goes without saying that I assume full responsibility for it.

Q. The prosecution has several times spoken of the Geneva Convention. Your name was frequently mentioned in this connection also. What was your attitude towards the Geneva Convention?

A. I believe - and many people could confirm it - that from the beginning of the war the Foreign Office and I have always supported the Geneva Convention in every way. I should like to add that the military authorities too always showed their intention to support it.

If, later on, this no longer held good in every respect, it was due to the rigours of war, and possibly to the harshness of the Fuehrer.

As to the "terror flyers" I must state that in 1943 and 1944 the English and American air raids gradually became a grave threat to Germany. I saw this for the first time in Hamburg, and I remember this event because I was with the Fuehrer at the time and I described to him the terrifying impression I had received. I do not believe that any one who has not experienced such a raid and its results can imagine what it means. It is obvious that we Germans, and especially Hitler, were forced to try to find means to overcome this menace.

I must also mention the terrible attack on Dresden, and I would like to ask the Tribunal's permission to call a witness, the former Danish Ambassador Richard, who was there during the attack, and described it to me two days later.

It was, therefore, self-evident that the problem of terror flyers had to be solved by the Fuehrer somehow. The solution was rendered more difficult by the fact that we wanted to find a method which would not infringe the Geneva Convention, or at least one which could be publicly proclaimed to our enemies. My department was not directly concerned with the question, for we had nothing to do with defence problems, as they were taken care of by the military authorities, the police and those responsible for home policy. But we were indirectly concerned where the matter was affected by the Geneva Convention, and my point of view, one which I frequently expressed, was that, if any steps were taken, an official proclamation should be published, describing the nature of terrorist raids, and stating that terror airmen accused of an attack upon the civilian population would be tried by military tribunals. Geneva would then be officially notified of this preparatory measure, and then the enemy State would be informed through the protecting powers. Airmen found guilty of terrorist raids by a military court would be executed; if not, they would revert to the status of prisoners of war. But this was never carried out in practice. It was not a suggestion by me but an idea which I expressed

[Page 204]

to Hitler in the course of conversation on one or two occasions, and which was not put into practice because, in practice, it was impossible to find a definition for these raids.

I believe some mention was also made of a conference supposed to have taken place in Kressheim during which I was said to have proposed or supported other far-reaching measures. I remember quite clearly that this conference did not take place. I do not believe - or, at least, I do not remember - that I ever discussed this question with Himmler, with whom I was not on good terms, or Goering, whom I did not see very often. I believe that the subject was brought up on general lines, during an official visit to the Fuehrer at Kressheim, but I am not sure. I am sure that, if there is any allusion to a more thorough-going proposal emanating from me it can only refer to the following: At the time we were anxious to arrive at a clear definition of attacks by "terror flyers" and in the course of discussion various suggestions were made for the definition of certain "categories" of attack - such as machine-gunning from the air - as "terror attacks." It is possible, I believe, that this note or whatever it was, came into being in this way: that the person in question knew my views and was, therefore, trying to find a practical solution which could later have been made to agree officially with the Geneva Convention or could at least have been officially discussed with Geneva.

Another document has been submitted in this connection. I believe it was a suggestion for an expert opinion by a member of the Foreign Office. In this connection I do not remember exactly how this expert opinion came to be given: whether it was done on my orders or whether it was the result of a discussion between the Wehrmacht establishments concerned, who wanted to have the opinion of the Foreign Office. All I know is that the Wehrmacht always attached great importance to an exact knowledge of our opinion with regard to the Geneva Convention.

I remember that expert opinion, however, and I remember having seen it. I am now said to have approved it. It would take too long to go into details, but that is not correct. I remember that I submitted it to the Fuehrer as being a very important matter which I could not deal with alone. The fact that the Fuehrer dismissed it as nonsense at the time goes to show that he did not place much value on it. As to the further course of events, all we heard, because we were only indirectly concerned, was that no order of any sort was issued by the Fuehrer or any Wehrmacht authority, because the Wehrmacht shared our views on the subject. Admittedly, I do not remember that in detail; but I can say with absolute certainty that while this question of defence against terror flyers was under consideration, and afterwards, not a single case of lynching came to my ears. I did not hear that that had happened until I heard it here.

Q. The other day the witness Dahlerus was brought here. How long have you known Dahlerus?

A. I believe that I saw Dahlerus here for the first time. Of course, it is possible that I may have seen him once from a distance or possibly in the Reich Chancellery during one of his apparently frequent visits to the Fuehrer. But I do not remember him, and when I saw him here I had the impression that I had never seen him before.

Q. Were you in a position to exercise influence regarding planes for visitors to the Reich Government?

A. No, I had no such influence.

Q. One more question - on a different subject. What real estate was at your disposal in your official capacity as foreign minister?

A. The other day the British prosecutor declared that, to begin with, I had one house and later on I had six. I want to clear this matter up for the Tribunal. After losing my entire fortune in America, I became quite wealthy again through my own work. In other ways, too, I was able to get funds; through my wife, and through other relatives. I built a house in Berlin - Dahlem in I922-23 and bought

[Page 205]

several lots there. We lived there for many years. Furthermore, in 1934, I want to emphasise the fact that this had nothing to do with my political activities, because at the time I had only just started there - I bought a small house and estate called Sonnenburg, near Berlin with some money which my wife inherited, I think, and some of my own money. Since that time I have not acquired a square yard of property in Germany or anywhere else. As to the other houses mentioned by the British Prosecutor - for instance, Castle Fuschl - this became known because various foreign statesmen were received there during the war. It is not really a castle but a lodge - an old shooting lodge - belonging to the Archbishop of Salzburg. The Fuehrer had put it at my disposal so that I should have a roof over my head. He did not want me to stay in the hotel, which was always very crowded, and I had to bring my staff with me.

Schloss Fuschl was never my personal property, but was a so- called Foreign Office establishment, which belonged to the State and was kept up by the State. I only knew the former owners of this castle or lodge by name and, therefore, I cannot give any information about them. I only heard that this building was confiscated by the Reich Government, along with other property belonging to its political opponents in Austria.

The second house mentioned here was - I think - a house in Slovakia. There was also a question of a third house in Sudetenland, which was alleged to be the property of a Count Czernin. I believe I can explain this also. Here are the facts. The Fuehrer had given me permission to arrange shooting parties to which I could invite foreign statesmen for the purpose of informal discussions. I was also a hunting man. So the Foreign Office, that is to say, the Reich Government, had ]eased ground from some of the farmers in Sudetenland to shoot over, along with a suitably impressive house. I believe they were only rented for a couple of years; they were not purchased. The same thing was done in the case of a deer forest in Slovakia. I do not think that this was our property at all. The Slovak Government placed it at our disposal for a few days every year, to shoot deer. It was a hunting lodge in which I once or twice spent two or three days, but it has nothing to do with my own property.

Another place was mentioned, a house situated, I believe, in the Rhineland, and called Tanneck. I have never even seen it. According to the description which I have received it is a small house occupied by a man responsible for looking after several horses. I was formerly a cavalry man and was interested in the horses, which had been purchased in France by the State from the well-known racing stable owner the Aga Khan, as they would otherwise have been ruined. I should like to emphasise the fact that full compensation was paid for the horses, as I think the Aga Khan will confirm. They were brought to Germany with the Fuehrer's full consent, although he was not greatly interested in horses; but he understood my point of view. These horses were later to be put in the stud-farm Grabitz, which belonged to the Reich Government.

If the Tribunal permits, I would like to say again that, as far as my personal affairs are concerned, my defence counsel can present the necessary testimony. I have stated that I did not want to have a single Reichsmark more at the end of my term of office than I had at the beginning, with the exception of two sums which I received from the Fuehrer, most of which - or, at least, part of which - I believe, has since been spent by the State for my official expenses.

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