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 6 of 12)

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

[Page 231]

Q. One point, This is my last question before I come to the interview with President Hacha. Do you not remember that, two days before, Herr Burckel - that is in my recollection - Herr Burckel and another Austrian National Socialist, the defendant Seyss Inquart, and a number of German officers, at about 10.00 hours in the evening of Saturday, the 11th of March, had had a cabinet meeting at Bratislava and had told the soi-disant Slovak Government that they should proclaim the independence of Slovakia? Do you not know that? It was reported by our Consul.

A. I do not recall it in detail. I believe that something of the kind took place but I do not know exactly what it was. I believe that it was directed by the Fuehrer. I had, I believe, less to do with that. I no longer recall that exactly.

Q. I will deal very shortly ...

THE PRESIDENT: Sir David, it is a quarter to one now. We had better adjourn until 2.0 o'clock.

(A recess was taken.)




Q. Witness, you were present at the interview between President Hacha and Hitler on the 15th March, 1939, were you not?

A. Yes, I was present.

Q. Do you remember Hitler saying at that interview that he had given the order for German troops to march into Czechoslovakia, and that at 6 o'clock in the morning the German Army would invade Czechoslovakia from all sides?

A. I do not recall the exact words, but I know that Hitler told Hacha that he would occupy the countries of Bohemia and Moravia.

Q. Do you remember him saying what I put to you, that he had given the order for German troops to march into Czechoslovakia?

A. Yes, that is what I just said.

Q. Do you remember the defendant Goering - as he told the Tribunal - telling President Hacha that he would order the German Air Force to bomb Prague?

A. I cannot say anything about that in detail, because at that discussion I was not -

Q. I am not asking you for a detailed statement; I am asking you if you remember what I should suppose was a rather remarkable statement, that the defendant Goering said to President Hacha that he would order the German Air Force to bomb Prague if Czech resistance was not called off. Do you remember that?

A. No, I do not; I was not present.

Q. You were there during the whole interview, were you not?

A. No, I was not. If the British prosecutor will give me a chance I will explain how it was.

[Page 232]

Q. I want you to answer my question at the moment. You say you do not remember that. At any rate, if the defendant Goering said that he said it, would you agree that it happened?

A. If Goering says so, then it will, of course, be true. I have merely stated that I was not present during that conference between President Hacha and the then Reich Marshal Goering.

Q. Do you remember Hitler saying that within two days the Czech Army would not exist any more?

A. I do not recall that in detail, no; it was a very long conference.

Q. Do you remember Hitler saying that at 6 o'clock the troops would march in? He was almost ashamed to say that there was one German division to each Czech battalion.

A. It is possible that something like that was said. However, I do not remember the details.

Q. If these things were said, will you agree with me that the most intolerable pressure was put on President Hacha?

A. Undoubtedly, Hitler used very strong language. However, to that I have to add that President Hacha, on his part, had come to Berlin in order to find a solution, together with Hitler. He was surprised that troops were to march into Czechoslovakia. That I know, and I remember it exactly. But he agreed to it eventually, and then contacted his government and his Chief of Staff so that there would be no hostile reception for the German troops.

He then concluded with Hitler, in the presence of the Czech Foreign Minister and myself, the agreement which I had drafted.

Q. Will you agree with me that that agreement was obtained through a threat of aggressive action by the German Army and Air Force?

A. It is certain, that as the Fuehrer told President Hacha that the German Army would march in, naturally, under that impression, the document was signed. That is correct.

Q. Do you not think you could answer one of my questions directly? I will ask it again. Will you agree with me that that document was obtained by the most intolerable pressure and threat of aggression? That is a simple question. Do you agree?

A. In that way, no.

Q. What further pressure could you put on the head of a country beyond threatening him that your Army would march in, in overwhelming strength, and your air force would bomb his capital.

A. War, for instance.

Q. What is that but war? Do you not consider it war that the Army would march in with a proportion of a division to a battalion, and that the air force would bomb Prague.

A. President Hacha had told the Fuehrer that he would place the fate of his country in the Fuehrer's hands, and the Fuehrer had -

Q. I want you to answer my question. My question is a perfectly simple one, and I want your answer to it.

You have told us that that agreement was obtained after these threats were made.

A. No, I did not say that.

Q. Yes, that is what you said a moment ago.

A. No.

Q. I put to you that that agreement was obtained by threat of war. Is that not so?

A. I believe that this threat is incomparably lighter than the threats under which Germany stood for years through the Versailles Treaty and its sanctions.

Q. Well, leaving whatever it is comparatively, will you now answer my question? Do you agree that that agreement was obtained by threat of war?

[Page 233]

A. It was obtained i1nder a pressure, that is under the pressure of the march into - to Prague; there is no doubt about that. However, the decisive point of the whole matter was that the Fuehrer explained to President Hacha the reasons why he had to do this, and eventually Hacha agreed fully, after he had consulted his government and his general staff and heard their opinion. However, it is absolutely correct that the Fuehrer was resolved to solve this question under all circumstances. The reason was that he was of the opinion that in the remainder of Czechoslovakia there was a conspiracy against the German Reich. Field Marshal Goering has already stated that Russian commissions were said to have been at Czech aerodromes. Consequently the Fuehrer acted as he did because he believed that it was essential in the interest and for the protection of the German Reich.

I may draw a comparison: for instance, President Roosevelt declared an interest in the Western Hemisphere; England has extended her interest over the entire globe. I think that the interest which the Fuehrer showed in the remainder of Czechoslovakia was, as such, not unreasonable for a great Power; about the methods one may think as one pleases. At any rate one thing is certain, and that is that these countries were occupied without a single drop of blood being shed.

Q. They were occupied without a single drop of blood being shed because you had threatened to march in overwhelming strength and to bomb Prague if they did not agree, is that not so?

A. No, not because we had threatened, but because we had agreed beforehand that the German armed forces should march in unimpeded.

Q. I put it to you again, that the agreement was obtained, however, by your threatening to march in and threatening to bomb Prague, was it not?

A. I have already told you once that it was not so, but the Fuehrer had talked to President Hacha about it and told him that he would march in. The conversation between President Hacha and Goering is not known to me. President Hacha signed the agreement, after he had consulted his Government and his General Staff in Prague by telephone. There is no doubt that the personality of the Fuehrer, his arguments and finally the announced entry of the German troops induced President Hacha to sign the agreement.

Q. Do you not remember - would you mind standing up, General, for a second (a Czechoslovak army officer stood up in the court room).

Do you not remember General Eger asking you some questions once, this General from Czechoslovakia?

A. Yes, certainly.

Q. Did you say to him that you thought that this action on the 15th of March was contrary to the declaration of Hitler given to Chamberlain but, in fact, that Hitler saw in the occupation a vital necessity for Germany?

A. Yes, that is correct. I was wrong in the first point; I will admit that openly; I remembered it afterward. In the Munich agreement between Hitler and Chamberlain nothing like that is contained. It was not directed against that agreement. In the second place, I think I stated, that Hitler believed he had to act that way in the interest of his country.

Q. Now, I just want you to tell us one or two general things about your views with regard to Great Britain. Is it correct that when you went to London as Ambassador of the Reich you thought there was very little chance of an agreement, in fact that it was a hundred-to-one chance of getting an understanding with Great Britain?

A. When I asked the Fuehrer to send me to London personally -

Q. Here is a simple question I am asking you: Is it right that when you went to London as Ambassador you thought there was very little chance of an understanding with England, in fact, that the chance was a hundred-to-one?

A. Yes, the chances were not good.

Q. These, as you know, are your own words -

A. I would like to add something.

[Page 234]

Q. First, answer my question. These are your own words, are they not, that the chance was a hundred-to-one? Do you remember saying that?

A. A hundred-to-one? I do not remember that, but I want to add something. I told Hitler that the chance was very small; and I also told him that I would try everything to bring about an Anglo-German understanding in spite of the odds.

Q. Now, when you left England did you believe that war was inevitable? When you left England - when you ceased being Ambassador - did you believe that war was unavoidable?

A. No, I was not of the opinion that it was unavoidable; but that, considering the developments which were taking place in England, a possibility of war existed, of that I was convinced.

Q. I want you to be careful about this; Did you say that you did not think war was unavoidable when you left England?

A. I neither said that it was unavoidable nor that it was avoidable; at any rate, it was clear to me that with the development of the policy towards Germany which was taking place in England, an armed conflict might lie in the realm of possibility.

Q. Now, look at Page 211-E of the document book, English book 170 -

A. Did you say 211?

Q. Have you got that?

A. Yes.

Q. Now will you look at the second paragraph? It reads like this:

"He, the Reich Foreign Minister, had been more than sceptical even on his arrival in London, and had considered the chances for an understanding as a hundred- to-one. The war mongers in England had won the upper hand, he said, when he, the Reich Foreign Minister, left England, and war was unavoidable."
Is that what you said to Ambassador Oshima?

A. I do not know whether I said exactly that; at any rate, that is diplomatic language, and it is quite possible that we at that time, as a result of the situation, considered it opportune to express it that way. At any rate, that is not the interesting point; the interesting thing is that so far as I remember, when I left England, a certainty and inevitability of war did not exist. Whether in later years I said this or that has no bearing on what I said when I left London. I do not think that there is the least bit of evidence for that. Perhaps I tried to draw him into the war against England and therefore used forceful language.

Q. You probably told him what was untrue?

A. I do not know, and I also do not know whether the details have been recorded accurately. It is a long record; I do not know where it comes from.

Q. It is your own record of the meeting, from captured German documents.

A. That is quite possible, but many things are said for diplomatic purposes. At any rate, the truth is, that when I left London, there was no certainty that the war was inevitable, but there is no doubt that I was sceptical and did not know in what direction things would be drifting, particularly on account of the very strong pro-war party in England.


Q. Defendant, will you speak a little bit more slowly?

A. Yes, sir.


Q. Now, when you left England, was it not your view that the German policy should be pretended friendliness toward England, but actual formation of a coalition against her?

A. That is not quite correct. It was clear to me, when I became Foreign Minister, that the realisation of the German wishes in Europe was difficult and

[Page 235]

that it was principally England who resisted them. I had tried for years, by order of the Fuehrer, to achieve these things by means of a friendly understanding.

Q. I want you now to answer my question: Did you advise the Fuehrer that the proper policy was pretended friendliness with England, but in actuality the formation of a coalition against her? Did you or did you not?

A. No; that is not the right way of putting it.

Q. As you said no, just look at the document, TC-75, Exhibit GB-28, and at your conclusions that are to be drawn. You will see it at the end under No. 5.

"Therefore, conclusions to be drawn by us."
It is about the end of the third page.
"Therefore, conclusions to be drawn by us, outwardly further understanding with England while protecting the interests of our friends; formation under great secrecy but with wholehearted tenacity of a coalition against England; that is, in practice a tightening of our friendship with Italy and Japan, also the winning over of all nations whose interests conform with ours, directly or indirectly; close and confidential co-operation of the diplomats of the three great Powers towards this purpose."
And the last sentence:
"Every day on which-no matter what tactical interludes of rapprochement towards us are carried out - our political decisions are not guided fundamentally by the thought of England as our most dangerous adversary, would be a gain for our enemies."
Why did you tell the Tribunal a minute ago that you had not advised the Fuehrer that there should be outward friendly relations but in actuality a coalition against her?

A. I do not know what kind of a document that is at all. May I see it?

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