The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
4th April to 15th April, 1946

Ninety-Ninth Day: Thursday, 4th April, 1946
(Part 1 of 7)

[Page 1]




Q. Yesterday we discussed last the meeting on 21st April between you, Hitler, and Adjutant Schmundt. I am again having Document 388-PS brought to you and ask you to answer the following question: Was this not a conference of the kind which you said yesterday in principle did not take place?

A. To a certain extent it is true that I was called in and, to my complete surprise, heard suggestions about preparations for war against Czechoslovakia. This happened in a very short interview, before one of Hitler's departures for Berchtesgaden. I do not recall saying anything beyond asking one question, and then, after being told of these surprising suggestions, I went home.

Q. What happened then, so far as you were concerned?

A. My reflections during the first hour after that conference were that this operation could not be carried out by the Army in view of the military strength which I knew to be ours at that time. I then comforted myself with the thought that nothing could be planned for the immediate future. The following day I discussed the matter with the Chief of the Operations Staff, General Jodl. I never received any minutes of this discussion, nor any record. The outcome of our deliberations was "to leave things alone because there was plenty of time, and because any such action was, for military reasons, out of the question at that moment.

I also explained to Jodl that the introductory words had been: "It is not my intention to undertake aggressive action against Czechoslovakia in the near future."

Then, in the following weeks, we started theoretical and careful deliberations; but without consulting the various branches of the Armed Forces, because we did not consider that we had the authority to do so.

In the following months, as can be seen from the Schmundt file, the army adjutants continuously asked innumerable detailed questions regarding the strength of divisions, and so on. These questions were answered by the Armed Forces Operations Staff to the best of their knowledge.

Q. I believe we can shorten this considerably, Marshal, however important your explanations are. The decisive point now is - please take the document in front of you and compare the draft which you finally made on orders from Obersalzberg, and tell me what happened after that.

A. Yes. About four weeks after I had been given this job, I sent to Obersalzberg a draft of a directive for the preparatory measures. In reply I was informed that Hitler himself would come to Berlin to speak with the Commander-in- Chief. He came to Berlin at the end of May, and I was present at the conference with General von Brauchitsch. In this conference the basic plan was changed altogether, for Hitler expressed the intention to take military action against Czechoslovakia in the very near future. The reason why he changed his mind was because Czecho-

[Page 2]

slovakia - I believe on 20th or 21st May - had ordered general mobilisation, and Hitler at that time declared this could only have been directed against us. Military preparations had not been made by Germany.

This was the reason for the complete change of his intentions, which he communicated orally to the Commander-in- Chief of the Army; and he ordered him to begin preparations at once. This explains the changes in the directive which was then issued, in which the basic idea is expressed in the words: "It is my irrevocable decision to take military action against Czechoslovakia in the near future."

Q. War against Czechoslovakia was avoided as a result of the Munich Agreement. What did you and the other generals think of this agreement?

A. We were extremely glad that it had not come to a military operation, because throughout the time of preparation we had always been of the opinion that our means of attack against the frontier fortifications of Czechoslovakia were inadequate. From a purely military point of view we were not strong enough to stage an attack which would involve the piercing of the frontier fortifications; we lacked material for such an attack. Consequently we were extremely glad that a peaceful political solution had been reached.

Q. What effect did this agreement have on the generals, regarding Hitler's prestige?

A. I believe I may say that it greatly increased Hitler's prestige with them. We recognised that, on the one hand, military means and military preparations had not been neglected and that on the other hand a solution had been found which we had not expected and for which we were extremely thankful.

Q. Is it not amazing that three weeks after the Munich Agreement which had been so welcomed by everyone, including the generals, Hitler should have given instructions for the occupation of the remainder of Czechoslovakia?

A. I believe that recently Marshal Goering enlarged on this question in the course of his examination. My impression, as I remember it, is that Hitler told me at that time that he did not believe that Czechoslovakia would be able to overcome the loss of the Sudeten-German territories with their strong fortifications; and, moreover, he was concerned about the close relations then existing between Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union, and thought that Czechoslovakia could and perhaps would become a military and strategic menace. These were the military reasons which were given to me.

Q. Did no one point out to Hitler the great danger of solving the problem of the remainder of Czechoslovakia by force of arms - the danger that other powers, that is England and France, would be antagonised?

A. I was not informed of the last conversation in Munich between the British Prime Minister Chamberlain and the Fuehrer. However, I regarded this question, as far as its further treatment was concerned, as a political one, and consequently I did not raise any objections, if I may so express myself, especially as the military preparations decided on before the Munich meeting were considerably cut down. Whenever the political question was raised, the Fuehrer refused to discuss it.

Q. In connection with this question of Czechoslovakia, I should like to mention Lt.-Colonel Koechling, who was described by the prosecution as the liaison man with Henlein. Was the Wehrmacht or the O.K.W. engaged in this matter?

A. Koechling's job remained unknown to me, though it was I who nominated him. Hitler asked me if an officer was available for a special mission, and if so he should report to me. After I dispatched Lt.-Colonel Koechling from Berlin I neither saw nor spoke to him again. I do know, however, that, as I heard later, he was with Henlein as military adviser.

Q. The prosecution has pointed out that you were present at the visit of Minister President Tiso in March, 1939, as well as at the visit of President Hacha, and from this it was deduced that you took part in the political discussions which then took place. What role did you play on these occasions?

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A. It is true that on the occasion of such visits of foreign statesmen I was nearly always present in the Reich Chancellery or at the reception, but I never took part in the actual discussions of political questions. I was present at the reception and considered that I should take part in the discussions, in my position as high ranking representative of the Wehrmacht. But in every case that I can recall I was dismissed with thanks and waited in the ante-chamber in case I should be needed. I can positively say that I did not speak a word to either Tiso or President Hacha on that night nor did I take part in Hitler's direct discussions with these men. May I add that on the night of President Hacha's visit I had to be present in the Reich Chancellery, because during that night the High Command of the Army had to be instructed as to how the entry into Czechoslovakia which had been prepared was to be carried out.

Q. In this connection I wish to confirm just one point, since I assume this has already been made clear by Reich Marshal Goering's testimony.

You never spoke to President Hacha of a possible bombing of Prague, should he not see fit to sign?

A. No.

Q. We come now to the case of Poland. The prosecution accuses you of having participated in the planning and preparation for military action against this country too, and of having assisted in carrying it out. Would you state in brief your basic attitude towards these Eastern problems?

A. The question concerning the problem of Danzig and the Corridor were known to me. I also knew that political discussions and negotiations with regard to these questions were pending. The case for the attack on Poland, which in the course of time had to be and was prepared, was, of course, closely connected with these problems. I was not concerned with political matters, but was of the opinion that military preparations, that is, military pressure, if I may call it such, would play the same kind of role as, in my opinion, it had played at Munich. I did not believe that the matter would be brought to an end without such preparations.

Q. Could not this question have been solved by direct negotiations?

A. That is hard for me to say, although I know that several discussions took place about the Danzig question as well as about a solution of the Corridor problem. I recall a remark of Hitler's that impressed me at the time, when he said that he deplored Marshal Pilsudski's death, because he believed he had reached or could have reached an agreement with this statesman. Hitler made this statement in my presence.

Q. The prosecution had stated that as early as the autumn of 1938, Hitler was busy with the question of a war against Poland. Did you take any part in this?

A. No. This I cannot recall. I am inclined to believe that there were, even then, signs that this was not the case. At that time I accompanied Hitler on an extensive tour of inspection of the Eastern fortifications. We covered the entire front from Pomerania through the Oder-Warthe Marshland as far as Breslau in order to inspect the individual frontier fortifications against Poland. The question of fortifications in East Prussia was thoroughly discussed at that time. When I consider these discussions today, I can only assume that they were possibly connected with the Danzig and Corridor problem, and that Hitler simply wanted to find out whether these Eastern fortifications had sufficient defensive strength should that problem eventually lead to war with Poland.

Q. When were the preparations made for the occupation of Danzig?

A. I believe that as early as the late autumn of 1938 orders were issued that Danzig be occupied at a favourable moment by a surprise attack from East Prussia. That is all I know about it.

Q. Was the possibility of war against Poland discussed in this connection?

A. Yes, and it was apparently in this connection that the possibilities of frontier defences were examined, but I do not recall any kind of preparation, of military

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preparation, at that time, indeed there was none, Apart from that against a surprise attack from East Prussia.

Q. If I remember rightly you once told me, when we discussed this question, that Danzig was to be occupied only if this would not lead to a war with Poland.

A. Yes, that is so. This statement was made time and again, that this occupation of, or the surprise attack on Danzig was only to be carried out if it was certain that it would not lead to war.

Q. When did this view change?

A. I believe Poland's refusal to discuss any kind of solution of the Danzig question was apparently the reason for further deliberations and steps.

Q. The prosecution -

A. I might perhaps add that, generally speaking, after Munich the situation in regard to the Eastern problem too was viewed differently, possibly or, as I think, probably, from this point of view. The problem of Czechoslovakia had been solved satisfactorily without a shot. This would perhaps also be possible with regard to the other German problems in the East. I also believe I remember Hitler saying that he did not think the Western Powers, particularly England, would be interested in Germany's Eastern problem, and would rather act as mediators than raise any objections.

Q. Now this is Document C-102, the "Case Weiss." According to this, a directive was issued on 3rd April, 1939.

A. As to this document: it begins by stating that this directive was intended to replace the regular annual instructions of the Armed Forces regarding possible preparations for mobilisation - that it was a further elaboration of details known to us from the instructions which had been issued in 1937-8 and which were issued every year. In fact, however, at or shortly before that time Hitler had, in my presence, directly instructed the Commander-in-Chief of the Army to make strategic and operative preparations for an attack and war on Poland. I then issued this directive, as can be seen from the document. It states that the Fuehrer had already ordered the following: that everything should be worked out by the O.K.H. of the Army by 1st September, 1939, and that, after this, a time table should be drawn up. This directive was signed by me at that time.

Q. What was your attitude and that of the other generals towards this war?

A. I must say that at this time, as in the case of the preparations against Czechoslovakia, both the High Command of the Army and the generals to whom I spoke, and I, too, were opposed to the idea of waging a war against Poland. We did not want this war, but, of course, we immediately began to carry out the orders given, at least as far as the elaboration by the General Staff was concerned. Our justification was that the military means which to our knowledge were at our disposal, that is to say, the divisions, their equipment, their armament, and their absolutely inadequate supply of munitions kept reminding us as soldiers that we were not ready to wage a war.

Q. Do you mean to say that, in your deliberations, it was only the military viewpoint that influenced your attitude?

A. Yes. I must admit that. I did not concern myself with the political problems but only with the question: Can we or can we not?

Q. Now, on 23rd May, 1939, there was a conference at which Hitler addressed the generals. You know this address? What was the reason for it and what did it contain?

A. I saw the notes on it for the first time in the course of my interrogations here. It reminded me of the situation at that time. The purpose of this address was to show the generals that what was being done was justified; to remove their misgivings; and finally to point out that the last word was not yet spoken, and that political negotiations about these matters still could and perhaps would change the situation. The address was, in fact, intended simply to give encouragement.

Q. Were you at that time of the opinion that war would actually break out?

[Page 5]

A. No, at that time I believed that war would not break out, that in view of the military preparations ordered, negotiations would take place again and a solution be found. Our considerations were always dominated by a military viewpoint. We generals believed that France - and, to a lesser extent, England, in view of her mutual assistance pact with Poland - would intervene and that in general we did not have the defensive means to cope with such an event. For this very reason I personally was always convinced that there would be no war because we could not wage a war against Poland if France attacked us in the West.

Q. Now, what was your opinion of the situation after the speech of 22nd August, 1939?

A. This speech, made at the end of August, was addressed to the generals assembled at Obersalzberg, the Commanders-in- Chief of the troops in the East. When Hitler, towards the end of this speech, declared that a pact had been concluded with the Soviet Union, I was firmly convinced that there would be no war, because I believed that these conditions constituted a basis for negotiation and that Poland would not be recalcitrant. I also believed that now a basis for negotiations had been found although Hitler said in this speech, a copy of which I read here for the first time from notes, that all preparations had been made, and that it was intended to put them into execution.

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