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 8 of 9)

[Page 145]

THE PRESIDENT: The translation came through to me, I think, as though you had said, " ... the union did not even correspond with the intentions of Hitler, but was arrived at" - it should have been "by Goering himself".

DR. HORN: Yes.


[Page 146]

DR. HORN: In justification of these violations, one could point out that these articles concerned constituted a violation of the right of self-determination, on which the peace treaties were based. The outcome of the vote after the annexation at any rate clearly confirms the Austrian attitude at that time.

The clausula rebus sic stantibus could be considered as a further justification for the violation. One could refer to the statement of Under Secretary Butler in the House of Commons who, upon being questioned after the Anschluss, stated that England had given no special guarantee for the independence of Austria as undertaken in the Treaty of St. Germain.

These legal evaluations would hardly do justice to the facts. Statute law always lags behind the ideal of justice. That does not only apply to domestic law, but also to International Law.

Events show that if treaties do not provide for revision, time and events pass them by, and bring about an adjustment upon a new basis.

The question whether the participation in such events can be legally evaluated must definitely be disputed. I shall refer later on to the general aspects of the adaptation of the law to meet the requirements of conditions and definite facts.

An Englishman asserted:

"We have to face the stubborn fact that Central Europe is populated by an almost solid block of eighty million people who are highly gifted, highly organized, and who are conscious of their achievements in the highest degree. The majority of these people have the strong and evidently unexterminable desire to be united in one State."
This artificially split-up block, created by the peace treaties of 1919, was stirred with enthusiasm by the Anschluss of Austria and the doctrines of National Socialism. No attentive observer could fail to notice the effect of the Anschluss upon the neighbouring States.

It is not my intention to take up the time of the Tribunal with the particulars of the subsequent efforts by the various groups of Germans in the neighbouring States for incorporation into the Reich. The facts which have now become history are only too well known. My task here is to examine whether these events were the results of a premeditated plan of one person or a group of persons, or whether they were not rather the result of a long and artificially suppressed force, which was instrumental in accomplishing the objectives which were assigned by Hitler to Herr von Ribbentrop at the time of his appointment.

The Anschluss of Austria was the signal for the Sudeten German Party to force the Anschluss now on their part too.

Herr von Ribbentrop has been accused by the prosecution that he, in his capacity as Foreign Minister, engaged in the creating of difficulties under the Sudeten German Henlein. It further accuses him of having induced the Sudeten German Party to increase their demands step by step instead of entering the Czechoslovak Government, and thus having prevented a solution of the whole problem without making it appear that the German Government was directing the action.

Document 3060-PS, submitted by the prosecution, shows just the contrary. It is true that Herr von Ribbentrop knew that the Anschluss efforts of the Sudeten Germans were encouraged by the Party. But he had no influence on this party policy, nor any thorough knowledge of it. Due to the difficulties which had arisen with the Czech Government on account of the separatist efforts of the Sudeten Germans and their partly uncontrollable policy, Herr von Ribbentrop considered it necessary to see to it that the realization of the Sudeten German aims was carried out within the limits of a responsible policy.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Horn, would that not be a convenient time to break off?

(A recess was taken.)

DR. HORN: The Munich Pact brought a temporary relief of the situation with reference to foreign policy. Complications first arose again through Hitler's invitation to Hacha to visit Berlin, which came as a complete surprise to Herr von

[Page 147]

Ribbentrop, as did also the events resulting therefrom. Reichsmarschall Goering has testified that Hitler, after the Slovak question had been settled, had, in spite of all warnings, decided upon setting up the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. On the basis of the available material, it will be difficult to ascertain the final reasons for Hitler's step. According to the testimony of the defendant Goering, they sprang from Hitler's lasting fear that through an alliance of the Czech officer corps with Russia, another complication of the situation in the South-eastern territory might be brought about. This and the resulting strategical and historical reasons might have induced Hitler to take this step of 13th March, 1939, which came as a surprise even to Herr von Ribbentrop.

This decision, which is only understandable by Hitler's inclination for making surprise decisions, completely changed the German situation as to foreign policy.

Herr von Ribbentrop had warned Hitler at that time of the reaction, which had to be expected as a result of this step, by the Western Powers, especially by England.

And the consequences became immediately apparent in regard to the Danzig and Corridor question which had been under discussion since October, 1938. Up to that time, the Poles, because of the German policy since 1934, and the return of the Olsa territory, had not refused discussions about this problem. The reaction to the setting up of the Protectorate could be seen immediately at the end of March. England regarded the establishing of the Protectorate as a violation of the Munich Pact and began consultations with a number of countries. At the same time, Minister Beck, instead of coming to Berlin again, went to London, and returned from there with the assurance that England would resist any change of the status quo in the East. This declaration was also made in the House of Commons after previous consultation with the French Government.

On 26th March, 1939, the Polish Ambassador Lipski called at the Wilhelmstrasse and stated to Herr von Ribbentrop that any continuation of the revisional policy towards Poland - especially as far as a return of Danzig to the Reich was concerned would mean war.

Thereby the Polish question hid become a European question. Herr von Ribbentrop told the Polish Ambassador at that time that Germany could not acquiesce in this decision. Only a complete return of Danzig and an ex-territorial connection with East Prussia could bring a final solution.

I submitted to the Tribunal in the form of documentary evidence a review of the Polish crisis which had now begun. I can therefore assume that the actual course of events is known, also in so far as they are connected with the annexation of the Memelland, which was returned to the Reich through an agreement with Lithuania.

In order not to take up the time of the Tribunal unnecessarily, I shall confine myself to stating those facts which serve to clarify the role of Herr von Ribbentrop.

The prosecution accuses Herr von Ribbentrop that he, during the Sudeten crisis and the setting up of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, had deceived Poland by pretending friendly feelings toward her. May I, in refutation of this assertion, point out that the relations between Germany and Poland since the agreement of 1934 were good and even friendly, and that this attitude became, of course, even more favourable through the fact that Poland was indebted to the German foreign policy for the acquisition of the Olsa territory.

She had, therefore, every reason to entertain friendly feelings towards Germany without it being necessary to be deceived by Herr von Ribbentrop's behaviour. As the evidence has show, Herr von Ribbentrop continued this friendly policy towards Poland, even after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, as there was no reason to deviate from this attitude.

The prosecution further accuses Herr von Ribbentrop of having known that Hitler as early as in the spring of 1939 was determined to wage war against Poland, and that Danzig served only as pretext for this conflict. They deduce this from Documents USA 27 and USA 30. These are Hitler's well- known speeches of 23rd May and 22nd August, 1939. First of all, I wish to point out that Herr

[Page 148]

von Ribbentrop was not present at these conferences intended only for the military leaders.

A number of key documents have been discussed in detail here. I only wish to name the best known, such as, for instance, the Hoszbach document, the two Schmundt files and the aforementioned speeches. Quite a number of statements about these documents have been submitted in evidence. People who knew Hitler well stated that they had become accustomed to his extravagant ideas expounded in sudden speeches in which he often repeated himself, and that they did not take them seriously in view of this peculiarity.

One can counter these documents with quite a number of speeches in which Hitler has asserted the contrary. It will be said that Hitler simply pursued definite purposes with his utterances. That might certainly be true. But it is just as true that even the few key documents, which were submitted as proof of aggressive war, contain so many contradictions with regard to the aggressive intentions deduced from them that at best only a critic, judging retrospectively, could recognize such intentions. Besides, the contents of these documents, in accordance with the strict regulations for secrecy, became known only to those who took part in the conferences. This might explain why Herr von Ribbentrop learned about them only here in the court-room.

The guiding principles as to foreign policy which Hitler laid down for him at that time covered merely the reincorporation of Danzig and the establishment of an extraterritorial road through the Corridor, in order to open a direct land-route to East Prussia.

As the Tribunal will remember, Hitler had told Herr von Ribbentrop already at the time of his appointment as Foreign Minister that it was desirable to achieve these aims. This demand was historically justified and the solution in this case too, as in preceding cases, became inevitable by incorporation of areas inhabited by Germans into the Reich.

The statute of the purely German city of Danzig, which was created by the Treaty of Versailles in the course of the erection of a Polish State, had always been the cause of friction between Germany and Poland. Poland had achieved this solution at Versailles through the argument that it needed an outlet to the sea. For the same reasons the Corridor was established against all ethnological principles. Already Clemenceau had referred in his memorandum to this artificial creation as a source of danger, especially due to the fact that the people living in this area had been separated through long years of bitter enmity. It was not difficult to foresee that, as a result of this fact, the League of Nations and the International Court at the Hague would constantly be occupied with complaints about Polish violations of the Agreement for Minorities. The same cause gave rise to the large-scale confiscation of up to one million hectares of German estates and the expulsion of far more than one million Germans in the course of twenty years. Not without reason did Lord d'Abernon speak of the Danzig Corridor problem as the "powder-magazine of Europe". If now a solution of this question was sought with due recognition of the Polish claim to the preservation of an outlet to the sea, then this endeavour was just as sensible and historically justified.

The evidence has produced nothing to support the claim that this question served merely as a pretext of which Herr von Ribbentrop must have known. It has produced no proof that Herr von Ribbentrop was acquainted with Hitler's aims, which far exceeded these demands. Nor has it been proved that Herr von Ribbentrop before 1st September, 1939, as has been asserted by the prosecution, did all he possibly could to prevent peace with Poland, although he knew that a war with Poland would draw Great Britain and France into the conflict. The prosecution bases this statement on Document TC-73. This is a report by the Polish Ambassador to Berlin, Lipski, to his Foreign Minister. The document contains nothing whatsoever to substantiate this assertion.

Moreover, I do not believe that, according to the nature of the evidence, Lipski can be valued as a particularly reliable witness. May I recall that it was Lipski

[Page 149]

who, during the decisive stage of the negotiations before the outbreak of the war, remarked that he had not the least cause to be interested in notes or propositions from the German side, that he knew the situation in Germany quite well after a period of five and a half years as ambassador, and that he was convinced that, in the event of war, riots would break out in Germany, and that the Polish Army would march victoriously into Berlin.

According to the testimony of the witness Dahlerus, it was none other than Lipski, who, during the decisive discussion at the Polish Embassy, created the impression among the Swedes that Poland was sabotaging every possibility for negotiations.

Further, results of the evidence also argue against the above allegations of the prosecution. As for instance, the fact that Herr von Ribbentrop, after he had learned that the Anglo-Polish Guarantee Pact had been signed, induced Hitler through his intervention to cancel the order to the Wehrmacht to march, because a conflict with Poland would, in his opinion, drag the Western Powers into the conflict. This opinion is identical with the conclusions to which Herr von Ribbentrop had come in his review of the European situation and laid down in Document TC-75 which has already been mentioned.

Ambassador Schmidt has testified here that it was Herr von Ribbentrop who on 25th August, 1939, after the Hitler- Henderson meeting, sent him to Sir Nevile Henderson with the verbal communique, presented as Document TC 72-69, in which the contents of Hitler's proposals were summarised. At the same time, Herr von Ribbentrop adjured Henderson to submit Hitler's proposals personally to the British Government for favourable consideration. According to the British Blue Book, Sir Nevile Henderson could not refrain from calling these and subsequent proposals exceptionally reasonable and sincere. They were not the customary Hitler proposals, but pure "League of Nations" proposals.

Anyone studying the negotiations of the subsequent fateful days cannot deny that everything was done on the German side to at least get negotiations on a workable basis under way. The opposite side would not have it thus, because they were determined to take action this time. The good services of England ended with the breaking off of all mediation without having been able to bring Poland to the conference table.

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