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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
2nd July to 15th July 1946

One Hundred and Seventy-Second Day: Friday, 5th July, 1946
(Part 7 of 9)

[Page 141]

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Horn, you are ready to go on, are you?

DR. HORN: Mr. President, I have just heard that the translations are being brought up. Perhaps I may wait until the translation gets here?

THE PRESIDENT: I think you might go on. We can hear what you say and; take it down.

DR. HORN: Mr. President, gentlemen of the Tribunal:

All great upheavals in the history of the world and especially of modern Europe have been associated with wars and revolutions.

We are standing in the midst of such an upheaval. It is by no means concluded as yet. To select various events in order to submit them to a judicial appraisal is not only almost impossible, but entails the danger of a premature judgement. Let us make no mistake about it; we are not judging here a local crisis, the causes of which are limited to a certain part of Europe. We have to form a judgement about a catastrophe which touches upon the deepest roots of our civilisation.

The prosecution has laid down strict rules for judging certain national and international events. Germany is greatly interested in the development of law and justice if its general application leads to an improvement of international morals. This Tribunal has the high task, not only to pass judgement on certain defendants, and to uncover the causes of the present catastrophe, but, at the same time, it will create norms which are expected to be adopted universally. No law should be created that is only applied to the weak. Otherwise we would foster the danger that again all national efforts would be directed to develop more effectively the power of total resistance, and thereby make war still more merciless than the one over which judgement is to be rendered here.

In taking these thoughts as a basis, I beg to submit to the Tribunal the case which I represent.

Herr von Ribbentrop is being considered among the conspirators as the man mainly responsible for the foreign, political, and diplomatic side of an alleged, conspiracy, which is supposed to have had as its goal the preparation and waging

[Page 142]

of aggressive wars. It is my task, at first, to determine on the basis of the results of the evidence when a case constitutes an attack in the meaning of International Law, and in which cases aggressive wars were conducted.

The concept "aggressive war" is not exhausted in the proposed formal judicial definition by the American and British Prosecutors, but has above all a material basis.

Only the knowledge of these premises permits the adoption of an attitude which can serve as a basis for the decision of the Tribunal. I am therefore deferring the discussion of the problematic aspects of aggression and aggressive wars till I, after having described the German foreign policy and Herr von Ribbentrop's role therein, have submitted to the Tribunal the evidence for consideration.

As the Tribunal intends to consider the matter in the light, of criminal law, I shall especially examine as to what extent Herr von Ribbentrop hindered or furthered the foreign political decisions during the time of his official activity.

Herr von Ribbentrop's first move on the international chess- board in the international game for power was successfully accomplished when he concluded the naval agreement between Germany and England in 1935. The circumstances under which this treaty came into existence are as significant for the political problems of those years as they are for judging the personality of von Ribbentrop and his further political development. As is known in informed quarters, in making this treaty, the official German diplomatic channels were avoided. The then German Ambassador in London, von Hosch and the Wilhelmstrasse were very sceptical toward this project. Both Hosch and the Wilhelmstrasse did not believe that England was inclined to conclude such a treaty, which was in contradiction to the terms of Section V of the Versailles Treaty, as well as her previous attitude displayed at the various disarmament conferences. Furthermore, they did not believe that such an agreement could materialise a few weeks after the Council of the League of Nations had declared the restoration of German military sovereignty as a breach of German obligations; and England, France and Italy had met at Stresa in order to counteract this German step. And much less did they believe that a successful conclusion of such a far-reaching treaty with its fundamental significance could be achieved by an outsider like Herr von Ribbentrop.

The consequences of concluding this treaty were significant and far-reaching. Herr von Ribbentrop, who came from the Party, rose greatly in Hitler's esteem. In turn, however, the relationship between Herr von Ribbentrop and the conservative diplomatic corps became more and more difficult. This acting ambassador (Titularbotschafter) who had managed to acquire Hitler's confidence was distrusted because his activity could not be controlled by the Foreign Office.

From the conclusion of the naval agreement on, Hitler began to see in Herr von Ribbentrop the man who could help him in the fulfilment of his favourite wish - and also, we may say, of that of the German people - to achieve a general political alliance with England. The inclination to realize these intentions had material as well as idealistic motives.

The reason for the material motive can be condensed into the short statement that it was the misfortune of our nation and of all of Europe that Germany and England were never able to understand each other, in spite of serious attempts to get closer allied on the part of both countries during the last fifty years.

The ideal motives were based on Hitler's indisputable liking for many internal institutions of the Empire.

Politically, the naval agreement represented the first important break with the Versailles policy which was sanctioned by England with the final approval of France. And thus the first actual and practical armament limitations were put in effect after many years of fruitless negotiations.

In addition to this, a generally favourable political atmosphere was created at the same time. The naval agreement and its effects may also have been the reason for Hitler appointing Herr von Ribbentrop Ambassador to the Court of St. James the following year, after the death of Hosch

[Page 143]

Surprisingly fast as Herr von Ribbentrop succeeded in concluding the naval agreement, he had as surprisingly little success in his efforts to bring about a closer alliance with England. Was it the fault of Herr von Ribbentrop's diplomacy, or the basic difference of interests?

He who knows the Anglo-Saxon psychology knows that it is not advisable to attack these people at once with proposals and requests. Germans, at first sight, may recognize many mutual characteristics in the British, but upon closer observation, profound differences will be noted. Each nation has her roots in a different soil. Their spiritual heritages have different sources. The deeper the Germans and the British penetrate, the greater will be the proof of the difference of their faith and their intellect. The deeper the British and the French penetrate into each other's nature, the more they will find in common with each other. These similarities between the British and the French have been still further strengthened in the past fifty years through the affiliation of their political interests.

In the course of modern history, England has always had the desire to ally herself with a continental military power and has sought and found the fulfilment of this interest, depending on the standpoint of the British aims, sometimes in Vienna, sometimes in Berlin, and from the beginning of the twentieth century in Paris. England's interests at the time of Herr von Ribbentrop's activity as an ambassador did not demand a departure from this line. To this was added the basic British attitude that Great Britain did not wish to commit herself on the continent. From London the complications which lay dormant beneath the surface on the continent were clearly seen. Added to this was the fact that authoritative men in the Foreign Office were still thinking too much in terms of a policy conducted at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century. This policy directed towards an alignment with France was still being followed.

The voices of those who supported a closer contact with Germany were negligible, their political weight succumbed to that of the opposition. To this were added the difficulties which resulted for Herr von Ribbentrop from Germany's participation in the non-intervention committee, which at that time met in London in order to prevent the Powers interceding in the Spanish civil war.

The prosecution raised the question of how Herr von Ribbentrop regarded the German-British relationship on his departure from London as an Ambassador. The answer to this will best be furnished by Document TC-75, which contains the views of Herr von Ribbentrop on the then prevailing foreign political situation of Germany and on the future possibilities of German-British relations.

Herr von Ribbentrop presupposes that Germany does not want to bind herself to the status quo in Central Europe. It is his conviction that the implementation of such foreign political aims will necessarily force Germany and England "into different camps".

For this reason he advises the formation of alliances, loose at first, with Powers having similar interests (Italy and Japan). Through this policy he hopes to bind England at the danger points of her Empire, and still to keep the door open to an understanding with Germany.

Herr von Ribbentrop then deals with the question of Austria and the Sudetenland. According to his conviction at that time, England will not, in both these questions, give her consent to a modification of the status quo, but might be forced through the power of circumstances to tolerate a solution of these questions.

A change through collision with vital French interests of the status quo in the East would, however, always cause England to become an opponent of Germany in a conflict of such a nature. Herr von Ribbentrop held this conviction not only in 1938 when this document was penned, but, contrary to the assertions of the prosecution, warned Hitler of this danger even before and at the outbreak of the Second World War.

From this document it follows also that Herr von Ribbentrop did not, as was asserted here, picture the British to Hitler as a degenerate nation, but he says in

[Page 144]

this document quite clearly that England would become a hard and keen opponent to the pursuance of German interests in the Mediterranean.

This conception of Germany's foreign political situation at that time, as expressed in TC-75, evidently agreed with Hitler's ideas, inasmuch as in the course of the Fritsche crisis, Herr von Ribbentrop took over the Foreign Ministry in place of the resigning Herr von Neurath.

According to Herr von Ribbentrop's testimony, Hitler asked him upon entering his office to assist him in solving four problems. These were the Austrian, the Sudeten German, the Memel as well as the Danzig and Corridor questions. As shown by the evidence, this was not a secret understanding which was arrived at by the two statesmen.

The Party programme contains, in point three, the demand for revision of the peace treaties of 1919. In a number of speeches, Hitler repeatedly pointed out the necessity of fulfilling these German demands. Reichsmarschall Goering testified here that in November, 1937, he explained to Lord Halifax the necessity of solving these questions and said that they were an integral part of German foreign politics. He also clearly expounded these goals to the French Minister Bonnet. Herr von Ribbentrop therefore put his energy into the attainment of goals which were known and which beyond that resulted, of necessity, from the dynamic situation at that time prevailing in Central Europe due to the strengthening of the Reich.

How much or how little freedom of action Herr von Ribbentrop had as a Minister in the solution of these questions I shall explain in connection with my statement on the participation in the conspiracy of which the defendant is accused. Only this much may be said here, that, as was proven by evidence, with the dismissal of Herr von Neurath the decisive authority also in the field of foreign policy was concentrated in Hitler's hands. Herr von Neurath was the last Foreign Minister who, under the regime of National Socialism, had retained a decisive influence on foreign politics as a Foreign Minister, which influence, however, due to the increasing power of the regime, he had to surrender more and more to Hitler's drive towards totality.

By selecting Herr von Ribbentrop, a man of Hitler's own liking became Foreign Minister.

In addition to the components of all forms of State law and jurisdiction, a government, without a doubt, has an important component consisting of the purely personal relations between the leading men of the government. Seen from this point of view, it is necessary for the understanding of certain actions and of recent history to look into the relations between Hitler and Herr von Ribbentrop.

Herr von Ribbentrop, as a well-to-do man from the nationalistic camp, saw that Hitler and his Party strove for goals which corresponded with his own ideas and feelings. Herr von Ribbentrop's ideas about the foreign countries visited by him aroused Hitler's interest. Hitler's personality and political convictions developed in Herr von Ribbentrop a form of loyalty, the final explanation of which one can perhaps find in the effects of the power of suggestion and hypnosis.

Do not let us be oblivious of the fact that not only Herr von Ribbentrop, but also an enormous number of people within and also beyond Germany's borders fell victim to this power.

What in this courtroom is supposed to be considered by the standards of law, finds all its final explanation of this phenomenon only from the point of view of mass suggestion and psychology, to say nothing of the pathological forms of these phenomena. This task may be left to the sciences concerned.

As an attorney - and only as such do I have to evaluate the results of the evidence - I shall, with the permission of the Tribunal, after clarifying this fact, present the role of Herr von Ribbentrop within the alleged conspiracy for the plotting of wars and acts of aggression in violation of treaties.

Herr von Ribbentrop had not yet been Foreign Minister for ten days when he was called upon by Hitler to participate in the conference with the Austrian

[Page 145]

Bundeskanzler and his Foreign Minister on 12th and 13th February, 1938, in Berchtesgaden. Evidence presented in Court has confirmed the fact that especially questions involving Austria were exclusively Hitler's own concern. The then Ambassador von Papen reported directly to the head of the State. Herr von Ribbentrop had no influence whatever upon the activities of the Party in Austria, in the south- eastern territory. My client alleges to have been informed only very rarely and not officially about its activities there.

The former Austrian Foreign Minister, Dr. Guido Schmidt, testified here that Herr von Ribbentrop did not participate in the decisive conference between Hitler and Schuschnigg. During the other conferences, he did not conduct himself in the Hitlerian style, and created the impression on the witness of not being informed, which to a certain degree was due to his late activity in London and his only recently effected appointment as Foreign Minister. From this unobjectionable conduct of Herr von Ribbentrop the prosecution have drawn the conclusion that it was a manoeuvre agreed upon by Hitler and himself. They insist upon seeing in Herr von Ribbentrop's conduct a typical sign of what they characterise as "double dealing". Must not the undisputable dates and facts as regards Herr von Ribbentrop, the resulting impression of the witness Schmidt, my portrayal of Ribbentrop's position as Minister, his lack of information on the long-planned preparations with respect to Norway and Denmark, and other undeniably proved facts, give rise to the question as to whether Herr von Ribbentrop did not participate in decisions of foreign policy to a far lesser degree than is contended by the prosecution?

In the question of the Anschluss, at any rate, he did not, as the evidence proves conclusively, play a decisive part. To him Austria was a country mutilated by the Treaty of St. Germain, which, according to healthy principles, could hardly subsist; and a country which once shared a common destiny in history with a greater Germany. The National Socialists were not the first to awaken Austria to the thought of a union with Germany. This thought had ripened in the German element of the Hapsburg Monarchy since the revolution of 1848, which was aimed at a democratic and greater Germany. After the downfall of this monarchy, the Social-Democrats continued to fight for it for ideological and realistic reasons. It was this very democracy that saw in the Weimar State their spiritual offspring. The economic distress resulting from the destruction of the Danube area as an economic entity nurtured the thought of a union with the Reich, which was in a better economic position.

In this fertile soil the National Socialists were able to cultivate the Anschluss idea. In any event, the prerequisites for an Anschluss with Germany existed, when Italy ceased from assisting Austria, due to the rapprochement of the former towards Germany on account of the Abyssinian conflict. The additional reasons that contributed to the Anschluss and its justification will be fully presented by my colleague Dr. Steinbauer.

Reichsmarschall Goering has testified here that the Anschluss in the limited form, as laid down in the law (Wiedervereinigungsgesetz) of 13th March, 1938, which was signed also by Herr von Ribbentrop, did not even correspond with Hitler's intentions, but was put through by him.

As further violation of treaties with regard to the Austrian question, the prosecution quotes the violation of Article 80 of the Treaty of Versailles and the corresponding article of the Treaty of St. Germain as well as the violation of the agreement between Austria and Germany of 11th July, 1936.

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