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-Sixth Day: Monday, 1st April, 1946
(Part 1 of 12)

[Page 210]

(The defendant Ribbentrop resumes the witness-stand.)

THE PRESIDENT: Have any of the Defendants' Counsel any questions they want to put to the defendant?

DR. SEIDL (Counsel for the defendants Hess and Frank): Yes, your Honour.


Q. Witness, the preamble to the secret pact concluded between Germany and the Soviet Union on 23rd August, 1939, is worded more or less as follows:

"In view of the present tension between Germany and Poland, the following is agreed upon in case of a conflict ..."
Do you recall whether the preamble had approximately that wording?

A. I do not recall the exact wording, but it is approximately correct.

Q. Is it correct that the Chief of the Legal Department of the Foreign Office, Ambassador Dr. Gauss, participated as legal adviser in the negotiations in Moscow on 23rd August, 1939?

A. Ambassador Gauss participated partly in the negotiations and drafted the agreements with me.

Q. I shall now read an extract from the statement by Ambassador Gauss and ask you a few questions in connection with it.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Seidl, what document are you going to read?

DR. SEIDL: I shall read from paragraph 3 of the statement made by Dr. Gauss and in connection with it ask a few questions of the witness, because some points concerning this pact do not seem to have been sufficiently clarified as yet.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, General Rudenko?

GENERAL RUDENKO: I do not know, Mr. President, what relation these questions have with the defendant Hess, who is defended by Dr. Seidl, or with the defendant Frank. I do not wish to discuss this affidavit, as I attach no importance whatsoever to it. I only wish to draw the attention of the Tribunal to the fact that we are not investigating the problems connected with the policy of the Allied nations, but are investigating the charges against the major German war criminals, and such questioning on the part of the defence counsel is an attempt to divert the attention of the Tribunal from the issues we are investigating.

I therefore think it proper that questions of this kind should be rejected as not relevant.

(Consultation between members of the Tribunal, en banc.)

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Seidl, you may ask the questions.

Q. Gauss stated, under paragraph 3 of his affidavit:

"The 'plane of the Reich Foreign Minister, whom I had to accompany as legal adviser in the planned negotiations, arrived in Moscow at noon on 23rd August, 1939. On the afternoon of the same day the first conversation between Ribbentrop and Stalin took place at which, on the German side, besides the Reich Foreign Minister, only Embassy Councillor Hilger, as interpreter, and perhaps also Ambassador Count Schulenburg, but not myself, were present. The Reich Foreign Minister returned very satisfied from this long conference and indicated that it was as good as certain that it would result in

[Page 211]

the conclusion of the, agreements desired on the part of Germany. The continuation of the conference, at which the documents to be signed were to be discussed and completed, was scheduled for later in the evening. I participated personally and so did Ambassador Count Schulenburg and Embassy Councillor Hilger. On the Russian side the negotiations were conducted by Stalin and Molotov, whose interpreter was Pavlov. An agreement on the text of the Soviet-German non-aggression pact was reached quickly and without difficulties.

Von Ribbentrop himself had inserted, in the preamble to the agreement which I had drafted, a rather far-reaching phrase concerning the formation of friendly German-Soviet relations to which Stalin objected, with the remark that the Soviet Government could not suddenly present to the public German-Soviet assurances of friendship after they had been covered with 'pails of manure' by the Nazi Government for six years. Thereupon this phrase in the preamble was deleted or changed.

Besides the Non-Aggression Pact there were negotiations for some time on a separate secret document, which, according to my recollection was called a 'secret agreement' or 'secret additional agreement,' and the terms of which were aimed at a limitation of the mutual spheres of interest in the European territories situated between the two countries. Whether the expression 'sphere of interest' or other such expressions were used therein, I do not recall. In the document Germany declared herself politically dis-interested in Latvia, Esthonia and Finland but did consider Lithuania to be part of her sphere of influence.

Regarding the political disinterest of Germany in the two Baltic countries mentioned, controversy arose when the Reich Foreign Minister, in accordance with his instructions, wanted to have a certain part of the Baltic territory exempted from this political disinterest; this, however, was rejected on the part of the Soviet, especially on account of the ice-free ports in this territory.

Because of this point, which apparently had already been discussed in Ribbentrop's first conversation, the Foreign Minister had put in a call to Hitler which only came through during the second discussion, and, during which, in direct conversation with Hitler, he was authorised to accept the Soviet standpoint. A demarcation line was laid down for the Polish territory. I cannot remember whether it was drawn in the document. Moreover, an agreement was reached in regard to Poland, stating approximately that the two powers would act in mutual agreement in the final settlement of questions concerning this country. It could, however, be possible that this last agreement regarding Poland was only reached when the change mentioned later in paragraph 5 of the secret agreement was made.

Regarding the Baltic countries, it was confirmed that Germany had only economic interests there. The Non- Aggression Pact and the secret agreement were signed rather late that same evening."

Witness, in the affidavit of Gauss a pact is mentioned whereby the two powers agree to act in mutual agreement with regard to the final settlement of the questions concerning Poland. Had such an agreement already been reached on 23rd August, 1939?

A. Yes, that is true. At that time the serious German-Polish crisis was acute, and it goes without saying that this question was thoroughly discussed. I should like to emphasise that there was not the slightest doubt in either Stalin's or Hitler's mind, that, if the negotiations with Poland came to naught, the territories that had been taken from the two great powers by force of arms could also be retaken by force of arms. In keeping with this understanding, the Eastern territories were occupied by Soviet troops and the Western territories by German troops after victory. Of one thing there is no doubt: Stalin can never accuse Germany of

[Page 212]

an aggression or an aggressive war for her action in Poland. If it is considered an aggression, then both sides are guilty of it.

Q. Was the demarcation line in this secret agreement described merely in writing or was it drawn on a map attached to the agreement?

A. The line of demarcation was roughly drawn on a map. It ran along the Rysia, Bug, Narew and San rivers. These rivers I remember. That was the line of demarcation that was to be adhered to in case of an armed conflict with Poland.

Q. Is it correct that on the basis of that agreement not Germany, but Soviet Russia received the greater part of Poland?

A. I do not know the exact proportions, but, at any rate, the agreement was that the territories East of these rivers were to go to Soviet Russia, and the territories West of them were to be occupied by German troops; while the organisation of this territory as intended by Germany was still an open question and had not yet been discussed by Hitler and myself. Then, later the Government General was formed, and the regions lost by Germany after the first World War were incorporated into Germany.

Q. Now, something else: You stated last Friday that you wanted Russia to join in the Tripartite Pact. Why did that fail?

A. That failed because of Russian demands. The Russian demands concerned ... I should perhaps say first that I had agreed with Molotov in Berlin to conduct further negotiations through diplomatic channels. I would try to influence the Fuehrer regarding the demands already made by Molotov in Berlin in order that some sort of an agreement or compromise might be arrived at.

Then Schulenburg sent us a report from Moscow with the Russian demands. In this report was, first of all, the renowned demand for Finland. To this the Fuehrer, as is well known, told Molotov that he did not wish that after the winter campaign of 1940 another war should breakout in the North. Now the demand for Finland was raised again, and we assumed that it would mean the occupation of Finland. It was difficult, since it was a demand which the Fuehrer had already turned down. Another demand of the Russians was that of the Balkans and Bulgaria. Russia, as is well known, wanted bases there and wished to enter into close relations with Bulgaria. The Bulgarian Government, with whom we got in touch, did not want this. Moreover, this Russian penetration of the Balkans was, for both the Fuehrer and Mussolini, a difficult question because of our economic interests there: grain, oil, and so on. But, above all, it was the will of the Bulgarian Government itself which was against this penetration.

Then, thirdly, there was the demand of the Russians for outlets to the sea and military bases on the Dardanelles: and then the request, which Molotov had already expressed to me in Berlin, to secure somehow at least an interest in the outlets of the Baltic sea. Molotov himself told me at that time that Russia was also very much interested in the Skaggerak and Kattegat.

At that time I discussed these demands and requests fully with the Fuehrer. He said we would have to get in touch with Mussolini, who was very interested in some of these demands. This was done, but neither the demands for the Balkans nor the demands for the Dardanelles met with support from Mussolini. As far as Bulgaria is concerned I have already stated that she did not want it either; and with regard to Finland, neither Finland nor the Fuehrer wanted to accede to the demands of the Soviet Union.

Negotiations were then carried on for many months. I recall that upon receipt of a telegram from Moscow in December, 1940, I had another long conversation with the Fuehrer. I had an idea that, if we could bring about a compromise between the Russian demands and the wishes of the various parties concerned, a coalition could be formed, which would be so strong that it would eventually induce England to stay at peace.

[Page 213]

THE PRESIDENT: What is this all an answer to? What was your question that this is supposed to be an answer to?

DR. SEIDL: In essence he has already answered the question.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Seidl, if he has answered the question you should stop him.

DR. SEIDL: Very well.


Q. I now come to another question. What was Adolf Hitler's opinion regarding the military strength of Russia?

A. Adolf Hitler once said to me, when he was becoming worried about events in Russia in the way of preparations against Germany: "We do not know, of course what we should find behind this gate, if some day we should really be forced to kick it open."

From this and other statements which the Fuehrer made at this time I concluded that, on the basis of reports about Russia he suffered great anxiety about the strength and the possible display of might by the Soviet Union.

Q. My next question: What circumstances induced Hitler to anticipate the threatening danger of an offensive by the Soviet Union?

A. The following circumstances ...

THE PRESIDENT: Has not this been dealt with extensively and exhaustively by the defendant Goering? You are here as Counsel for Hess.

DR. SEIDL: If the Tribunal is of the opinion that this has been dealt with exhaustively I shall withdraw the question.

THE PRESIDENT: Before you sit down, Dr. Seidl, you were putting Gauss' affidavit to the defendant, I suppose with the intention that he should say that the affidavit was true; is that right?


THE PRESIDENT: You did not put to him paragraph 4 of the affidavit at all, did you?

DR. SEIDL: I only read paragraph 3 of the affidavit. I omitted paragraphs 1, 2, 4 and 5 in order to save time.

THE PRESIDENT: The answer to my question was that you did not put it. Should you not put the end of paragraph 4 to him, which reads in this way:

"The Reich Foreign Minister regulated his words in such a manner that he let a warlike conflict of Germany with Poland appear not as a matter already finally decided upon, but only as an imminent possibility. No statements which could have included the approval or encouragement for such a conflict were made by the Soviet statesmen on this point. Rather the Soviet representatives limited themselves in this respect simply to taking cognizance of the explanations of the German representatives."
Is that correct?

DR. SEIDL: That is correct.

THE PRESIDENT: I am asking the witness. Is that correct?

THE WITNESS: I may say the following to this. When I went to Moscow no final decision had been reached by the Fuehrer -

THE PRESIDENT: Well, could you not answer the question directly? I asked you whether the statement in the affidavit was correct or not. You can explain afterwards.

THE WITNESS: Not quite correct, no.

THE PRESIDENT: Now you can explain.

THE WITNESS: It is not correct in so far as at that time the decision to attack Poland had not been made by the Fuehrer. There is, however, no doubt that it became perfectly clear during the discussions in Moscow that there was at any time the possibility of such a conflict, if the last effort at negotiations failed.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, what is the difference between that and what I have just read to you? What I read to you was this:

[Page 214]

"The Reich Foreign Minister regulated his words in such a manner that he let a warlike conflict of Germany with Poland appear not as a matter already finally decided upon, but only as an imminent possibility."
I should have thought your explanation was exactly the same as that. That is all.

DR. SEIDL: Mr. President; may I mention something briefly in this connection? This witness Gauss was only present at the second conference. He was not present at the long conference which took place previously between the witness Ribbentrop on the one hand and Molotov and Stalin on the other hand. At these conferences only embassy Councillor Hilger was present and I ask the Tribunal to call the witness Hilger, who has in view of the importance of this point, already been granted me.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Seidl, as you know, you can make any application in writing for calling any witness that you like; and also the Tribunal wishes me to say that if the prosecution wish to have the witness Gauss here for cross- examination they may do so.

DR. SEIDL: Then I should like to put in as Hess Exhibit 47 the sworn affidavit of Ambassador Gauss.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, certainly.

[ Previous | Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.