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 3 of 12)

[SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE continues his cross examination of JOACHIM VON RIBBENTROP]

[Page 218]

Q. I just want you to tell us how you carried that out. Let us take the first example. Are you telling this Tribunal that, as far as you know, no pressure or threats were made to Herr von Schuschnigg?

A. Do you mean in the discussions with Hitler at the Obersalzberg?

Q. Yes, on the 12th of February.

A. At this discussion ...

Q. Witness, answer the question first, and then you can give your explanation. Are you saying that no pressure or threats were put to Herr von Schuschnigg on the 12th of February? Answer that yes or no, and we will go into the explanation later.

A. Not exactly, no. I believe that the great personality of the Fuehrer and the arguments that he presented made such an impression on Schuschnigg that he finally agreed to Hitler's proposals.

Q. Now, let us just look into that.

A. May I continue? I personally had a conversation at that time with Schuschnigg after his first talk with Adolf Hitler, in which his reaction to the first conference became very clear to me. This reaction was one of being deeply impressed by Hitler's personality and by the arguments which Hitler had submitted to him. Schuschnigg told me in this conversation, which was extremely cordial, that he, too - and I believe these were his words - regarded it as a historical mission to bring the two peoples closer together.

Q. Who were present at the Berghof - I do not say in the room, but in the building or at hand? Were there present Hitler, yourself, the defendant von Papen, the defendant Keitel, General Sperrle and General von Reichenau?

A. I think that is correct, yes.

Q. And on the morning of the 12th, I think that Hitler and von Schuschnigg were together for about two hours before lunch, is that not so?

A. I do not recall the time exactly. Anyway, they had a long conversation, that is correct.

Q. And then, after lunch, von Schuschnigg was allowed to have a short conversation with his own Foreign Minister, Guido Schmidt, is that not so?

A. I do not know exactly, but it is possible.

Q. Then, after that, von Schuschnigg and Guido Schmidt were called before you and the defendant von Papen?

[Page 219]

A. I do not remember that. I do not think so.

Q. Do you not remember that? Just think again.

A. Do you mean-perhaps I did not understand the question.

Q. Then I will put it again. After a conversation that Schuschnigg had with Guido Schmidt, he and Schmidt came before you and the defendant von Papen and they had a conversation with you, which I will put to you in a moment.

Now, is it not correct that you and von Papen saw von Schuschnigg and Guido Schmidt?

A. No, I do not think so. I do not believe that is true.

Q. Do you not remember exhibiting to von Schuschnigg a typewritten draft containing the demands made on von Schuschnigg? Now, just think.

A. That is quite possible. Hitler had dictated a memorandum, and it is possible that I gave it to Schuschnigg. I am not sure of the details now.

Q. What was the subject of that memorandum?

A. That I do not know; and in order to explain my ignorance about the entire conference I would like to state that at this time I was not informed about the Austrian problem at all, because Hitler had handled these matters personally and I had become Foreign Minister only a few days before.

Q. If you hand someone a memorandum at what you have described him as saying was a historic meeting, presumably you can give the Tribunal at any rate an outline of what the memorandum contained. What were the points in the memorandum?

A. Curiously enough, I really do not remember that in detail. This meeting was one between the Fuehrer and Schuschnigg, and everything that was done and agreed upon there was either dictated by the Fuehrer himself or was suggested to him by someone else. I did not know the details. I only knew that it was primarily a question of bringing about better relations between Germany and Austria. Since many National Socialists had been arrested in Austria the relations between the two countries had been greatly troubled.

Q. Well, if I remind you, perhaps it will bring it back. Were not the three points as follows: First, the reorganisation of the Austrian cabinet, including the appointment of the defendant Seyss-Inquart to the Ministry of Security in the Interior; second, a general political amnesty of Nazis convicted of crimes; and third, a declaration of equal rights for Austrian National Socialists and the taking of them into the Fatherland Front? Are these the points that you were putting to von Schuschnigg?

A. I do not remember exactly now, but that may be about correct. It corresponds with the vague notion and knowledge I had about Austrian affairs at that time.

Q. Did you tell von Schuschnigg that Hitler had informed you that these demands which you were offering were the final demands of the Fuehrer and that Hitler was not prepared to discuss them?

A. I do not recall that. It is possible that I told Schuschnigg something to that effect, but at the moment I do not remember.

Q. Did you say, "You must accept the whole of these demands"?

A. No, I do not think so, I did not say that. I exerted no pressure whatsoever on Schuschnigg, for I still remember that this conversation, which lasted about an hour to an hour and a half, was confined to generalities and to personal matters, and that I gained from this conversation a very favourable impression of Schuschnigg's personality, which fact I even mentioned to my staff later on. I put no pressure on Schuschnigg.

Q. You told us that before, and I am suggesting to you that at this conversation you were trying to get Schuschnigg to sign the document containing these terms which you agree that you may have had. I want you to remember the answer and remind you of that. Do you not remember Herr von Schuschnigg turning to the defendant von Papen

[Page 220]

and saying, "Now, you told me that I would not be confronted with any demands if I came to Berchtesgaden," and Herr von Papen apologising and saying, "That is so. I did not know you were going to be confronted with these demands."

Do you not remember that?

A. No, I do not remember that. That cannot be quite right.

Q. We will see.

Do you remember von Schuschnigg being called back to speak to Hitler again and Guido Schmidt remaining with you to make some alterations in the document which you were submitting?

A. It is quite possible that changes were made; it is conceivable. I do not remember the details, though.

Q. But did you hear that in this second conversation with Hitler, Hitler told Schuschnigg that he must comply with these demands within three days?

A. No, I hear that today for the first time. I did not know that. I was not present at the second conversation.

Q. Just be a little careful before you say you have heard that for the first time today, because in a moment I will show you some documents.

Are you sure you did not hear that Hitler told Schuschnigg that he must comply within three days or Hitler would order the march into Austria?

A. I consider that to be out of the question.

Q. If he had said that, you will agree that it would represent the heaviest military and political pressure? There could be no other heavier pressure than suggesting a march into Austria, could there?

A. In view of the tense situation that existed between the two countries at that time, that, of course, would have been a pressure. But one thing must be taken for granted, and that is, that under no circumstances would it have been possible in the long run to find any solution between the two countries if they were not together, and from the beginning - I should like to state this here - it was always my standpoint that the two countries should form some sort of close alliance, and I visualised a customs and currency union ...

Q. You have given that view about three times. Let us come back to this interview which I am putting to you that took place on the 12th of February. Do you not know that Schuschnigg said:

"I am only the Bundeskanzler. I have to refer to President Miklas, and I can only sign this protocol subject to reference to President Miklas"?
A. No, I do not remember that in detail.

Q. Do you not remember Hitler opening the door and calling Keitel?

A. No; I only learned here that this is supposed to have happened. I have no knowledge whatsoever about that. I heard about it here for the first time.

Q. You know it is true, do you not?

A. I do not know. I only heard about it here for the first time.

Q. Do you not remember Keitel going in to speak to Hitler?

A. I have already said that I did not hear about that. I do not know, I cannot say.

Q. Do you know that von Schuschnigg signed this document on the condition that within three days these demands would be fulfilled, otherwise Germany would march into Austria?

A. No, I did not know that.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: I think it would be convenient if the witness had the German Document Book in front of him. I tried to get most of the pages agreeing.

THE PRESIDENT: Sir David, perhaps this would be a good time to break off.

(A recess was taken.)


Q. Witness, will you look first at the defendant Jodl's diary, the entry for the

[Page 221]

13th of February, it is the Ribbentrop Document Book, Page 9, Exhibit USA 72, Document 1780-PS. The entry is as follows:
"In the afternoon General K." - that is Keitel - "asks Admiral C." - that is Admiral Canaris - "and myself to come to his apartment. He tells us that the Fuehrer's order is to the effect that military pressure by shamming military action should be kept up until the 15th. Proposals for these deceptive manoeuvres are drafted and submitted to the Fuehrer by telephone for approval."
You were suggesting on Friday that the defendant Jodl had got hold of some rumours or gossip that were going around the Berghof. That rumour or gossip was a definite order from his superior officer, General Keitel, was it not?

A. I know absolutely nothing about any military measures, therefore I cannot pass any judgement on the value of this entry. The Fuehrer did not inform me about any military measures regarding Austria.

Q. Are you telling the Tribunal you were there, that you were taking part, that you handled the document, and that Hitler never said a word to you about what he was arranging with the defendant Keitel, who was also there?

A. That is correct.

Q. Well, now, just look at the next entry, for the 14th of February:

"At 2.40 o'clock the agreement of the Fuehrer arrives. Canaris went to Munich to the Foreign Division of Intelligence, Office VII (Abwehr VII) and initiated the different measures.

The effect was quick and strong. In Austria the impression is created that Germany is undertaking serious military preparations."

Are you telling this Tribunal that you know nothing about either these military measures or the effect on Austria?

A. I did not know anything about the military measures, but I consider it quite possible that the Fuehrer, in order to put more stress on his wishes, had something done in this field ...

Q. But, witness, just a moment

A. ... and that may have contributed in the end to the solution of the problem.

Q. Yes, I quite agree. That is just why I am putting it to you that it did contribute. But surely you, as Foreign Minister of the Reich, with all the channels available to a foreign minister, knew something about the effect in Austria, about which General Jodl was saying that it "was quick and strong; the impression was created that Germany is undertaking serious military preparations." Are you telling the Tribunal, on your oath, that you knew nothing about the effect in Austria?

A. I would like to point out again that I did not know anything about military measures and, if I had known, I would not have the slightest reason not to say that it was not a fact. It is true, however, that in the days before and after the conversations between the Fuehrer and Schuschnigg, I was so busy taking over the Foreign Office that I treated the Austrian problem at that time merely as a secondary matter in foreign policy. I did not play a leading role in the handling of it ...

Q. We know you said before that you were engaged in the Foreign Office; and my question was perfectly clear; my question was: Are you telling this Tribunal that you did not know anything about the effect in Austria - you, as Foreign Minister of the Reich? Now, answer the question. Did you or did you not know of the effect in Austria?

A. I did not know anything about that effect, and I did not observe it in detail either.

Q. I see, that is your story and you want that to be taken as a criterion, a touch-stone of whether or not you are telling the truth; that you, as Foreign Minister of the Reich, say that you knew nothing about the effect in Austria of the measures taken by Keitel on the Fuehrer's orders? Is that your final answer?

[Page 222]

A. To that I can tell you again quite precisely, I learned from the Fuehrer when I went to London a little later-and that is absolutely the first thing I remember about the entire Austrian affair-that matters in Austria were working out more or less as agreed upon in the conversations in Berchtesgaden. I did not make any particular observations in detail at that time, so far as I remember. It is possible that this or that detail slipped my memory in the meantime, for many years have passed since then.

Q. Just look at the next two entries in Jodl's diary:

"15 February. In the evening, an official communique about the positive results of the conference at Obersalzberg was issued. 16 February. Changes in the Austrian Government and the general political amnesty."
Do you remember my putting to you what Herr von Schuschnigg signed, and how the condition was made that the matters would come into effect within three days; within three days there was a conference about the effects, and the changes were announced in Austria in accordance with the note that you had put to Schuschnigg. You can see that that is clear, is it not - three days - you still say -

A. Of these three days, as I have told you already, I know nothing, but it was a matter of course that this meeting would have some results in the way of appeasing.

Q. You call it "appeasing"? Is that your considered view to the Tribunal? Assuming that the defendant Jodl is telling the truth or assuming that the defendant Keitel said to him, as General Jodl was saying, that these military preparations should be put in hand, is not that the most severe political and military pressure that could be put on the chancellor of another State?

A. If one considers the problem from a higher angle, no; I have a different opinion. Here was a problem which might possibly have led to war, to a European war; and I believe - and I also said that later to Lord Halifax in London - that it was better to solve this problem than to allow it to become a permanent sore spot on the body of Europe.

[ 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.