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 2 of 12)

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

[Page 214]

MR. DODD: May it please the Tribunal, as far as I understand, there is some slight danger of the witness Gauss being removed from Nuremberg. I would like to state at this time that we would like to have him retained here for long enough time for possible cross-examination.


Do any other members of the defendants' counsel want to ask questions?

BY DR. NELTE (Counsel for Keitel):

Q. The defendant Keitel states that in the autumn of 1940, when the idea of a war with Russia was mentioned by Hitler, he went to Fuschl in order to talk to you about this question. He believed that you too had misgivings about it. Do you recall that Keitel at the end of August or at the beginning of September was in Fuschl?

A. Yes, that is correct. He did visit me at that time.

Q. Do you recall that Keitel at that time stated to you his opinion about the possible threat of war?

A. Yes, that is correct. He spoke of that at the time. I believe he said that the Fuehrer had discussed it with him.

Q. What I am driving at is this: Keitel states that he spoke with you about a memorandum he intended to submit to Hitler which referred to the considerations which were to be taken into account in case of war with Soviet Russia.

A. That is correct. Keitel told me at that time that he intended to submit a memorandum to Hitler, and he expressed his misgivings concerning a possible conflict between the Soviet Union and Germany,

Q. Did you have the impression that Field Marshal Keitel was opposed to the war at that time?

A. Yes, that is correct. I definitely had that impression.

Q. Is it true that he, as a result of this discussion, asked you to support his point of view with Hitler?

A. Yes, that is correct, and I told him at that time that I would do so, that I would speak to Hitler, and that he ought to do the same.

Q. Another question regarding the escape of the French General Giraud. Is it true that Keitel, when the French General Giraud escaped from Koenigstein, asked you to take steps with the French Government to bring about the General's voluntary return?

A. Yes, that is right. At the time he asked me whether it would not be possible, by way of negotiations with the French Government, to induce Giraud to return to imprisonment in some way or other.

[Page 215]

Q. Did a meeting then take place with General Giraud in occupied France through the intervention of Ambassador Abetz?

A. Yes, such a meeting took place. I believe Ambassador Abetz met Giraud, who, as I recall, appeared in the company of Laval. The ambassador did everything he could in order to induce the General to return, but finally did not succeed. The General was promised safe conduct for this meeting and upon its conclusion the General and Laval left.

Q. The prosecution has submitted an order, the subject of which was the branding of Soviet prisoners of war. The defendant Keitel is held responsible for this order. He states that he spoke with you about this question at headquarters, located at that time in Vinnitza; that he had to do it because all questions pertaining to prisoners of war also concerned the Department for International Law of the Foreign Office.

Do you recall that in this connection Keitel asked you whether there were any objections from the point of view of International Law to this branding which Hitler wished.

A. The situation was this: I heard about the intention of marking prisoners of war and went to Headquarters to speak with Keitel about this matter, because it was my opinion that the marking of prisoners in such a way was out of the question. Keitel shared my opinion and, so far as I recall, I believe, he gave later orders that this intended form of marking was not to be used.

DR. NELTE: I have no further question.

BY DR. KRANZBUEHLER (Counsel for the defendant Donitz):

Q. Witness, when did you make the acquaintance of Admiral Donitz?

A. I made his acquaintance after he was appointed Commander- in-Chief of the Navy.

Q. That was in 1943?

A. I believe so.

Q. Did Donitz before or after this time exert or try to exert any influence on German foreign policy?

A. I have never heard that Donitz tried to exert any influence on German foreign policy.

Q. Do you recall Marshal Antonescu's visit to the Fuehrer's Headquarters on the 27th February, 1944?

A. I do recall the visit but not the date. Marshal Antonescu used to visit the Fuehrer frequently - I should say every six months or so; I believe you said at the beginning of 1944?

Q. Yes, on 27th February, 1944.

A. Yes, I think it is correct that he visited the Fuehrer at the beginning of 1944.

Q. Do you recall whether Antonescu, at that time, attended the discussion of the military situation as a guest?

A. I am quite certain, because this was usually the case when Antonescu came to see the Fuehrer. The Fuehrer always explained the military situation to him, that is, he invited him to the so-called noon discussion of the military situation. I do not recall exactly now, but there can be no doubt that Marshal Antonescu attended the discussion of the military situation in February.

Q. Besides the military discussions were there also political discussions with Antonescu?

A. Yes, every visit of Marshal Antonescu began by the Fuehrer's withdrawing either with the Marshal alone or sometimes also with me, but mostly with the Marshal alone, because he was the Supreme Head of a State; a long detailed political discussion would ensue, to which I was generally called in later.

Q. Did Admiral Donitz take part in these political discussions?

A. Certainly not, because the Fuehrer seldom invited military leaders to these political discussions with Marshal Antonescu. Later, however, he did occasion-

[Page 216]

ally, but I do not recall that Admiral Donitz ever took part in a discussion with Antonescu.

DR. KRANZBUEHLER: I have no further questions.

BY DR. SIEMERS (Counsel for the defendant Raeder):

Q. Witness, the prosecution have submitted a document concerning a discussion between you and the Japanese Foreign Minister Matsuoka on 29th March, 1942. The document carries the number 1877-PS, and is Exhibit USA 152. A part of this document was read into the record by the prosecution, and on Page 1007 of the German transcript can be found among other things the following passage, which concerns Raeder:

"The Reich Foreign Minister returned once more to the question of Singapore. In view of the Japanese fears of submarine attacks from the Philippines and the interference of the English Mediterranean and Home Fleets, he spoke once more with Admiral Raeder. Raeder said to him that the British fleets in this year would be so busy in British home waters and in the Mediterranean that they would not be able to spare one single ship for the Far East. The American submarines Admiral Raeder described as so bad that Japan would not have to worry about them."
Witness, as the defendant Raeder clearly remembers, you, as Foreign Minister, never spoke with him about strategic matters regarding Japan, or even about the worth or worthlessness of American submarines. I should be obliged to you if you could clarify this point, whether there might be some confusion as to the person involved in this discussion.

A. That is altogether possible. I do not recall that I ever spoke with Admiral Raeder about German-Japanese strategy. The fact was, that we had only very loose connections with Japan in these questions. If at that time I said to Matsuoka what you have written there, it is quite possible that I quoted the Fuehrer as having said it to me. Naturally I could not have said it on my own initiative, because I did not know about it. I know that the Fuehrer spoke to me frequently about such points, particularly with regard to Japan. It is possible therefore that this did not originate with Admiral Raeder but the Fuehrer. I do not know who made this note. Is it a ....

Q. The document is entitled "Notes on the conference between the Reich Foreign Minister and the Japanese Foreign Minister, Matsuoka ..."

A. I have seen that here. It is possible that the Fuehrer said that to me. In fact, I consider that probable. It is possible that some mistake was made in the note, that I do not know.

Q. Witness, did you inform the defendant Raeder of such political discussions as you had with Matsuoka or Oshima?

A. No, that was not the case.

Q. Did you ever speak with Raeder about other political questions or arrange for him to be present at political negotiations?

A. No, that was not our practice. Generally, the Fi1hrer kept military and political matters strictly separate so that I, as Foreign Minister, never had an opportunity to discuss military or strategic matters at my office; but when questions of foreign policy were to be discussed, this took place at the Fuehrer's Headquarters, though as I have seen from documents which I read for the first time here, matters were kept separate even there. In other words, if such discussions took place at all, a fact which I cannot recall at the moment, it could only have been at the Fuehrer's Headquarters.

DR. SIEMERS: Thank you.

BY DR. LATERNSER (Counsel for the General Staff and the OKW.):

Q. Witness, the State Secretary of the Foreign Office, Steengracht, who was heard here as a witness, answered my question as to whether the high military leaders were regularly informed by him about current political matters in the

[Page 217]

negative. Now I ask whether you, as Foreign Minister, informed high military leaders about political matters?

A. No. I must answer this question in the same way as I answered the previous question. That was not our practice. All political and military matters were exclusively dealt with by the Fuehrer. The Fuehrer told me what to do in the diplomatic and political field, and the military men what they had to do in their field. I was occasionally, but very seldom, informed about military matters by the Fuehrer, and whatever the military men had to know about political matters they never learned from me; but if they learned it at all, it was from the Fuehrer.

DR. LATERNSER: I have no further questions.

BY DR. BOEHM (Counsel for the SA):

Q. Witness, did you have an order or an instruction according to which you were to inform the SA leaders of the development and treatment of foreign political matters?

A. The SA? There was no such order.

Q. Did the SA leadership have any influence on foreign policy at all?

A. No.

Q. And now I should like to ask a question for my colleague Dr. Sauter, who is ill.

Were you in 1943 witness to a conversation between Hitler and Himmler, in which the question was discussed as to whether von Schirach, who was then Reichsleiter, should be summoned before the Volksgerich (People's Court)?

A. Yes, that is correct.

Q. What consequence would such a trial before the Volksgericht have had for Schirach?

A. I cannot say exactly, of course. I do not know the details of this matter. I only know that Himmler, in my presence, made the suggestion to the Fuehrer that Schirach should be brought and tried before the Volksgericht for some reason or other ... I do not know the details. I was not interested in them. I said to the Fuehrer that this, in my opinion, would make a very bad impression from the point of view of foreign policy, and I know that Himmler received no answer from the Fuehrer; at any rate, the order was not given. What consequences there would have been I cannot say, but when such suggestions came from Himmler, the consequences were very serious.

Q. How is it that you were witness to this conversation and how did you react to it?

A. It was purely accidental; I have just said that I told the Fuehrer as well as Himmler that it would make a very bad impression.

DR. BOEHM: I have no further questions.

THE PRESIDENT: Are there any other questions on behalf of the defendants' counsel?

(No reply.)



Q. Witness, when you began to advise Hitler on matters of foreign policy in 1933, were you familiar with the League of Nations' declaration of 1927?

A. I do not know which declaration you mean.

Q. Do you not remember the League of Nations' declaration of 1927?

A. The League of Nations has made many declarations. Please tell me which one you mean?

Q. It made a rather important one about aggressive war in 1927, did it not?

A. I do not know this declaration in detail, but it is clear that the League of Nations, like everyone else, was against an aggressive war, and at that time Germany was a member of the League.

Q. Germany was a member, and the preamble of the declaration was:

[Page 218]

"Being convinced that a war of aggression would never serve as a means of settling international disputes, and is in consequence an international crime ... "
Were you familiar with that when you ...

A. Not in detail, no.

Q. It was rather an important matter to be familiar with if you were going to advise Hitler, who was then Chancellor, on foreign policy, was it not?

A. This declaration was certainly important, and corresponded exactly with my attitude at that time. But subsequent events have proved that the League of Nations was not in a position to save Germany from chaos.

Q. Did you continue to hold that as your own view.

A. I did not understand the question.

Q. Did you continue to hold the expression of opinion I have quoted to you from the preamble as your own view?

A. That was as such my fundamental attitude, but, on the other hand, I was of the opinion that Germany should be given help in some way.

Q. So I gathered. Now, apart from that, if you were not familiar in detail with that resolution, were you familiar in detail with the Briand-Kellogg Pact?

A. Yes, I was familiar with it.

Q. Did you agree with the view expressed in the preamble and in the pact that there should be a renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy?

A. Yes.

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