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 12 of 12)

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

[Page 256]

Q. Do you not remember getting a special Death Head ring and dagger from Himmler for your services? Do you not?

A. No, I do not remember. I never belonged to a Death Head Division. You were just talking about a Death Head Division, were you not?

Q. A Death Head Division.

A. No, that is not so. If it says so here, it is not true. But I think that I at one time received a so-called dagger like all S.S. Fuehrer. That is correct.

Q. And the ring, too. Here is a letter dated the 5th of November, 1935, to the Personnel Office of the Reichsfuehrer S.S.: "In reply to your question, I have to inform you that Brigadefuehrer von Ribbentrop's ring size is 17. Heil Hitler, (signed) Adjutant Thorner." Do you remember getting that?

A. I believe that everyone received such a ring but I do not remember precisely. No doubt it is true.

Q. And you took, did you not, continuous interest in the S.S. from 1933 up to well into the war? I think your correspondence with Himmler goes on to well into 1941 or 1942.

A. Yes, that is quite possible, that is certainly correct. Of course, we had a great deal to do with the S.S. in all fields. That is quite clear.

Q. You had, and especially in the field of concentration camps, had you not? Are you saying that you did not know that concentration camps were being conducted on an enormous scale?

A. No, I knew nothing about that.

Q. I want you to look around for the moment. (A map behind the witness-box was unveiled). That is an enlargement of the exhibits put in by the French Prosecution, and these red spots are concentration camps. Now, I would just like you to look at it. We will see now one of the reasons for the location of your various residences. There, one North of Berlin, Sonneburg. Do you see roughly Where that is on that map?

A. Sonneburg is one hour's auto ride from Berlin.

Q. North of Berlin?

A. No, East of Berlin.

Q. Let us take another house. You are quite near it yourself - your Schloss or tower of Fuschl. That is quite near the border, just over the border, and very near it is the group of camps which existed around Mauthausen. Do you see them, just above your right hand? Do you see the group of camps, the Mauthausen group?

[Page 257]

A. I should like to state on my oath that I heard the word "Mauthausen" for the first time in Nuremberg.

Q. Let us take another of the places. You say you did not go there very often, but you used to -

A. I believe I can make this much more brief for you. I can say that I had heard of only two concentration camps before I came here - no, it was three: Dachau, Oranienburg, and Theresienstadt. All the others I heard of here for the first time. Theresienstadt was an old people's home for Jews, and I believe was visited a few times by the International Red Cross. I never heard before of all the other camps. I wish to make that quite clear.

Q. Do you know that near Mauthausen there were 33 camps at various places, within a comparatively short distance, and 45 camps as to which the commandant did not give the names because there were so many of them, and in the 33 camps there were over a hundred thousand internees? Are you telling the Tribunal that in all your journeys to Fuschl you never heard of the camps at Mauthausen, where a hundred thousand people were shut up?

A. That was entirely unknown to me, and I can produce dozens of witnesses who can testify to that.

Q. I do not care how many witnesses you produce. I ask you to look at that map again. You were a responsible Minister in the Government of that country from 4th of February, 1938, till the defeat of Germany in May, 1945, a period of seven and a quarter years. Are you telling the Tribunal that anyone could be a responsible Minister in that country where these hundreds of concentration camps existed and not know anything about them except two?

A. It may be amazing, but it is absolutely true.

Q. I suggest to you that it is not only amazing, but that it is so incredible that it must be false. How could you be ignorant of these camps? Did you never see Himmler?

A. No, I never saw him about these things. These things were kept absolutely secret and we heard here for the very first time what went on in them. Nobody knew anything about them. That may sound astounding, but I am positively convinced that most of the defendants in the dock also knew nothing about all that was going on.

Q. We will hear from them in their turn. Did you know that at Auschwitz alone -

A. I heard the name Auschwitz here for the first time.

Q. The German official of Auschwitz has sworn in an affidavit that four million people were put to death in the camp. Are you telling the Tribunal that that happened without your knowing anything about it?

A. That was entirely unknown to me. I can state that here on my oath.

Q. Well, now, there is one other subject, which I would like you to deal with, and here, fortunately, I am in the position of assisting your memory with some documents. It is a question of the Partisans. I want you to look at a few documents, three documents, with regard to that.

THE PRESIDENT: Will you be able to finish tonight?

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: Yes, I shall, if Your Lordship will allow me five minutes. That is what I have been trying to do.

Q. Do you agree that you were in favour of the harshest treatment of people in the occupied countries?

A. I did not understand. Could you repeat the question?

Q. My question is, would it be a fair way of expressing your point of view to say that you were in favour of the harshest treatment of - I will put it first of all - of Partisans?

A. I do not know whether I ever concerned myself with the treatment of Partisans. I do not recall having done so. In any case, I was against it.

Q. All right, look at Document D-735, which will be Exhibit GB 295. That

[Page 258]

is a discussion between you and Count Ciano in the presence of Field Marshal Keitel and Marshal Cavallero in the Fuehrer's Headquarters after breakfast on the 19th December, 1942. Now, if you will look at Page two, you will see that there is a passage where Field Marshal Keitel had told the Italian gentlemen that the "Croatian area was to be cleaned up by German and Italian troops working in co-operation, and this while it was still winter, in view of the strong British influence in this area. The Fuehrer had declared that the Serbian conspirators were to be burnt out, and that no gentle methods might be used in doing this. Field Marshal Keitel here interjected that every village in which Partisans were found had to be burnt down. Continuing, the Reich Foreign Minister declared that Roatta must not leave the third zone, but must on the contrary advance, and this in the closest collaboration with the German troops. In this connection Field Marshal Keitel requested the Italian gentlemen not to regard the utilisation of Croatian troops to help in this cleaning up operations as a favouring of the Croatians. The Reich Foreign Minister stated in this connection that the Croatian Fuehrer, to whom he had spoken very clearly, was quite ready to come to an agreement with Italy."

Did that represent your view - that the "Serbian conspirators should be burnt out"?

A. Please?

Q. Did that represent your view, that "the Serbian conspirators should be burnt out?"

A. I do not know that expression. At any rate - it is certain that they should have been locked up.

Q. What it means is that their villages should be razed to the ground by fire.

A. Where did I say that? I do not believe I said that.

Q. That was the Fuehrer's point of view. Was it your point of view?

A. The Fuehrer took a very harsh attitude on these questions and I know that occasionally harsh orders were issued, also from other sources, including the military. It was a struggle for life and death. One should not forget that it was war.

Q. Are you denying -

A. At any rate, I do not see where I said anything about the Partisans.

Q. You say that is not your point of view? Is that what you are saying? That it is not your point of view? Are you saying that it is not your point of view as to the way to treat them? Do not look at the next document. Tell me, is that your point of view?

A. Please repeat the question that you want me to answer.

Q. Do you say that you were not in favour of harsh treatment of Partisans?

A. Was it my opinion that the Partisans who attack the troops in the rear should be treated harshly? Yes, I was of that opinion, I believe everyone in the Army is of that opinion, and every politician.

Q. Including women and children?

A. No, by no means.

Q. Just look at that, if you deny this attitude to women and children. Look at the Document D- 741.

My Lord, that will be Document D-741. Exhibit GB 296.

Q. Will you look at the end of that. That is a conference between you and Ambassador Alfieri in Berlin on 21st February 1943. The last paragraph says:

"Continuing, the Reich Foreign Minister emphasised that the conditions which Roatta's policy had helped to produce in Croatia were causing the Fuehrer great concern. It was appreciated on the German side that Roatta wished to spare Italian blood, but it was believed that he was, as it were, by this policy, trying to drive out Satan with Beelzebub. The gangs had to be exterminated, and that included men, women and children, as their continued existence imperilled the lives of German and Italian men, women, and children."

[Page 259]

Do you still say that you did not want harsh treatment of women and children?

A. What page is that on?

Q. It is on Pages 10 to 13 - It is the last paragraph on my translation. " The gangs had to be exterminated, and that included men, women and children, as their continued existence imperilled the lives of German and Italian men, women and children."

A. If I did say that at any time, it must have been under great excitement. In any case, it does not correspond to my opinion, which I have proved by my other acts during the war. I cannot say anything else at the moment.

Q. I will just show you one of your other acts, which will be the final one, if the Tribunal will bear with me. It is Document D-740, which will be Exhibit GB 297. This is a memorandum of the conversation between the Reich Foreign Minister and Secretary of State Bastiani, in the presence of Ambassadors von Mackensen and Alfieri at Klessheim castle on the afternoon of the 8th of April, 1943. If you will look at the beginning, I think you were discussing some strike in Italy. You say:

"The Reich Foreign Minister's supposition that this strike had perhaps been contrived by British Agents was energetically contested by Bastiani. There had been Italian communists. The Reich Foreign Minister replied that, in such a case, only merciless action was any good."
And then, after a statement with regard to the information, you say:
"He did not want to discuss Italy, but rather the occupied territories, where it had been shown that one would not get anywhere with soft methods in the endeavour to reach an agreement. The Reich Foreign Minister then amplified his train of thought by a comparison between Denmark and Norway. In Norway brutal measures had been taken which had evoked lively protests, particularly in Sweden."
And then you go on, and after a certain criticism of Dr. Best -

A. I cannot find it; what page is it on, please?

Q. The paragraph begins: "The Reich Minister's supposition that this strike has perhaps been contrived by British agents -

A. Yes, here it is.

Q. Well, you see what I have put to you. You say, "Only merciless action would be any good. In Norway brutal measures had been taken." - And at the beginning of the next paragraph: "In Greece, too, brutal action would have to be taken if the Greeks got fresh. He was of the opinion that the demobilised Greek Army should be deported from Greece with lightning speed, and that the Greeks should be shown in an iron manner who was master in the country. Hard methods of this kind were necessary if one was waging a war against Stalin, which was not a gentleman's war but a brutal war of extermination." And then with regard to France, after some statement about the French you say,

"Coming back to Greece, the Reich Foreign Minister once again stressed the necessity of taking severe measures."
And in the third line of the next paragraph, "The Fuehrer would have to take radical measures in the occupied territories to mobilise the local labour potential in order that the American armament potential might be opposed by something of equal value." Do you agree? Does that fairly express your view, that you wanted the most severe measures taken in occupied territories in order to mobilise labour to increase the Reich war potential?

A. I can say the following in regard to this document. I know that at that time -

Q. Well, you can say that, but you can answer my question first. Do these views express your view that -

A. No.

[Page 260]

Q. - severe measures should be taken with foreign labour and with people in occupied territories. Does that document express your views?

A. No.

Q. Then why did you say it? Why did you say these things?

A. Because at that time, on the commission of the Fuehrer I had to keep the Italian nose to the grindstone, because there was complete chaos in some of the areas, the Italians always attempted to do things differently, causing complete confusion in the rear areas of the German Army. That is why I occasionally had to speak very harshly with the Italians. I recall distinctly that at that time the Italians were fighting with the Chetniks, partly against German troops; it was complete chaos there, and for this reason I often used rather harsh language with the diplomats and perhaps exaggerated language. But things actually seemed quite different afterwards.

Q. It was not at all exaggerated, was it, in both Norway and Greece? You were taking the most brutal measures against the occupied countries.

A. No, that is not so. We had nothing to say in Norway; we always tried to do things differently, and in Denmark we did everything to reduce these harsh measures, which were in part necessary, because of the paratroopers and so on, and tried not to have them carried out.

I think it can be proved from other documents, that I and the Foreign Office worked toward compromise in the various occupied countries. I do not believe that it is quite fair and correct to take one or two such statements from the innumerable documents where occasionally I did use harsh words. I may remind you that foreign statesmen also used harsh language regarding the treatment of Germany. But I am sure they did not mean it. It is certain that in the course of six years of war harsh language must be used.

Q. Tell me this: every time today when you have been confronted with a document which attributes to you some harsh language or the opposite of what you have said here, you say that on that occasion you were telling a diplomatic lie. Is that what it comes to? Thank you very much.

THE PRESIDENT: Sir David, have you all these documents in evidence?


(The Tribunal adjourned until 2nd April, 1946, at 1000 hours.)

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