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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
16th July to 27th July 1946

One Hundred and Eighty-Sixth Day: Thursday, 25th July, 1946
(Part 5 of 9)

[DR. SEIDL continues.]

[Page 357]

If any doubts should still have existed can this point, then they are removed by Document PS-812, Exhibit USA 611, presented by the prosecution. It deals in this case with the letter of the Gauleiter of Salzburg, Dr. Friedrich Rainer, to Reich Commissioner Gauleiter Josef Burckel, and in which he states, among other things:

[Page 358]

" ... Soon after the seizure of power in the Eastern Province, Klaussner, Globocnik and I flew to Berlin in order to give a report to the deputy of the Fuehrer, Party member Rudolf Hess, about the incidents which led to the seizure of power."
A report naturally would not have been required if the deputy of the Fuehrer and the Party itself had been directly and decisively participating in the solution of the annexation question. I do not mention this in order to give reasons of justification or excuses on behalf of the defendant Rudolf Hess. The findings are rather made exclusively in the interests of historical truth.

I now come to the question of the Anschluss of the Sudetenland.

Three and a half million Sudeten Germans were incorporated into a State with eight and a half million Czechs and Slovaks, without being granted a decisive influence on the State. All attempts of this national group to receive autonomy within the Czechoslovakian State structure remained without success. When the question of annexation with regard to Austria was solved, it could not but happen that the future position of the Sudeten Germans, which after all consisted of three and one half million persons who undoubtedly belonged to the German nation, was also subject to a test.

Now, I do not intend to deal with all the questions of the annexation of the Sudetenland to the Reich as regards their factual and legal aspects. In view of the fact that the prosecution in the Trial Brief which it presented before the Tribunal against the defendant Hess treated the Sudeten German question and has also presented several documents as evidence, it appears necessary, in spite of all, to deal with them to a certain extent.

Document 3258-PS, Exhibit GB 262, refers to a speech of the deputy of the Fuehrer at the meeting of the Foreign Organization of the NSDAP on 28th August, 1938. The latter takes a stand on the Sudeten German question in only general statements, emphasizing the principle of nationalities and the right of self-determination of the nations. Also the remaining documents presented by the prosecution, Exhibits USA 126, USA 26, do not show on what a decisive participation of the defendant Rudolf Hess in the solution of the Sudeten German question could be based.

However, the extent of this participation can be completely ignored, as the annexation of the Sudetenland to the Reich cannot in itself be a charge of a criminal act according to International Law. After all, the annexation of the Sudeten province was not carried out on the basis of a one-sided act of Germany or on the basis of a perhaps disputable agreement between the German Reich and the Czechoslovak Republic. The annexation, rather, took place on the basis of an agreement which had been concluded in Munich on 29th September, 1938, between Germany, the United Kingdom of Great Britain, France and Italy. In this Treaty exact and very detailed agreements were reached about the evacuation of the territory to be ceded and the step-by-step occupation by German troops. The final determination of the frontier was carried out by an international committee.

Without wishing to go into further details, it can still be said with certainty that this is a treaty which had been concluded on the basis of a free agreement of will and that all those participating expected that it might provide the basis, or at least a considerable prerequisite, for an improvement of international relations in Europe.

I now come to another point of the Indictment. Within the limits of the Indictment as a whole, as well as in the personal accusation raised by the prosecution against the defendant Rudolf Hess, the latter is accused of having participated in the outbreak of war and of being responsible for it. The defendant Rudolf Hess actually did take a stand in several speeches on the question of the Polish Corridor and the problem of the Free State of Danzig. In regard to this, however, the following must be stated:

[Page 359]

Through the establishment of the Polish Corridor, not only the right of self-determination of the nations was violated - after all, more than one million Germans came under Polish domination in this manner - but in addition to this, through the partition of the State territory of the German Reich into two areas completely separated from each other, a condition was established which was not only contrary to all economic common sense, but which, moreover, was bound to become the cause of constant discord and incidents from the very first. Indeed, from the day of the signing of the Versailles Peace Treaty, the demand for a revision of the treaty, especially as regards the question of the Polish Corridor, was incessant. There was no party and no government in Germany which did not acknowledge and demand the necessity of a revision of the treaty, primarily on this point. It cannot be the subject of any doubt that, if Poland ought to have an independent access at all to the Baltic Sea under all circumstances, this problem could have been solved much more sensibly than by the establishment of the so- called Corridor and the thereby stipulated partition of the German Reich into two areas which were completely separated from each other.

Something similar applies with regard to the status of the Free State of Danzig on the basis of International Law and State sovereignty. It is not necessary to regard the facts more closely in this case, which in the course of time have led to constantly increasing difficulties and which in the end caused a situation which made a change of the position in regard to International Law and State sovereignty of this purely German city necessary.

It is just as unnecessary to go into closer details with regard to the minority problem which was raised by the Polish Corridor and the establishment of a Free State of Danzig. The fact is that, in the course of two decades, no less than approximately one million Germans were forced to leave their settlement area and under circumstances which could not avoid affecting the general political relations between the German Reich and the Polish Republic. It is also not as if the problems which have been raised here have been publicly discussed only since the coming into power of Adolf Hitler.

If I have understood the Tribunal correctly, the subsequent pages up to and including Page 29 are to be eliminated.

Under these circumstances, it could not surprise anyone if after the seizure of power through Adolf Hitler and his Party, the questions raised by the Polish Corridor and the separation of Danzig from the Reich were subject to an examination anew. This was all the less avoidable since, after the conclusion of the German-Polish Treaty in the year 1934, Poland's attempts to exclude the German element to an ever-increasing extent continued.

I do not intend to discuss in further detail the negotiations which were conducted by the German Reich with the Polish Republic, the aim of which was to find a modus vivendi with due consideration for the justified interests of Poland. Nevertheless, it appears important to me to keep the following facts in mind. This seems to be essential for the reason that the prosecution has stated again and again that the defendants, the German Government, should have done everything to clarify those questions and that especially the German Government should have solved them by negotiation; and that the one thing that they should not have done was to have started a war. The following statements are to show that it was indeed attempted to solve the problems through negotiations, the problems that could not be ignored and which had to be solved.

For the first time the Reich Minister for Foreign Affairs discussed, in the course of a conversation with the Polish Ambassador on 24th October, 1938, the question raised by the Corridor and the separation of the City of Danzig and suggested a solution which was to be based on the following foundation:

1. The Free State of Danzig returns to the German Reich.

[Page 360]

2. An extra-territorial Reichsautobahn belonging to Germany and likewise an extra-territorial railroad with several tracks would be constructed across the Corridor.

3. Poland likewise obtains an extra-territorial road or autobahn and railroad and a free port in the Danzig area.

4. Poland receives a guarantee of disposal for her goods in the Danzig area.

5. The two nations recognize their common frontiers (guarantee) or the territories of both sides.

6. The German-Polish Treaty is to be extended by 10 to 25 years.

7. Both countries include in their treaty a consultation clause.

The prosecution itself submitted to the Tribunal the reply of the Polish Government to this proposal. The document is TC-73, No. 45, which describes the attitude of the Polish Foreign Minister Beck on 31st October, 1938, and his instructions to the Polish Ambassador, Lipski, in Berlin. In this document the German proposal is flatly turned down on the ground that "any attempt to incorporate the Free City of Danzig into the Reich would invariably lead to a conflict, and the resulting difficulties would not merely be of a local nature, but would prevent any possibility of Polish- German understanding in all its aspects."

In fact, such also was the stand taken by the Polish Ambassador during another conversation which he had with the Reich Foreign Minister on 19th November, 1938. When asked about the Polish Government's attitude regarding the German proposition of an extra-territorial arterial motor road and an extra-territorial railway through the Corridor, the Polish Ambassador declared that he was not able to make an official statement on these questions.

It is impossible to deny that the proposal made by Germany was very restrained and contained nothing incompatible with Polish honour or the vital interests of that State. One should be all the more willing to admit this, as the creation of the Corridor and the separation of East Prussia from the Reich was really felt by the German people as the hardest of the territorial burdens of the Versailles Treaty. If, nevertheless, the Polish Government turned this proposal down, for reasons which left little prospect of finding a solution in subsequent negotiations, the only conclusion which could be drawn at that time was that Poland lacked completely any sincere wish for an agreement which would take into consideration Germany's legitimate interest. This impression was confirmed by the negotiations during the visit of the Polish Foreign Minister Beck to Berlin, on 5th January, 19399 and the return visit by the Reich Foreign Minister to Warsaw, on 21st January, 1939. In spite of this hostile attitude of Poland, the Reich Foreign Minister repeated the proposition made on 24th October, 1938, at another meeting with the Polish Ambassador on 21st March, 1939, which must lead to the conclusion that the German Government was sincerely desirous of solving, by means of negotiation, the questions relative to the Corridor and the separation of Danzig. Thus it cannot be seriously denied that the German Government tried to solve the Danzig question and that of the Polish Corridor by negotiation and that it made very moderate proposals in that respect.

The reply to the German proposals of 21st March, 1939, was a partial mobilization of the Polish armed forces. It need not be defined as to what was the connection between the partial mobilization ordered by the Polish Government and the British proposal for consultation, dated 21st March, 1939 and whether, incidental to the transmission of this consultation proposal in Warsaw, the declaration of guarantee of 31st March had already been promised or contemplated. There can be no doubt, however, that the partial mobilization of the Polish armed forces, as also admitted by the British Prime Minister Chamberlain, in a declaration before the House of Commons on 10th July, 1939, was bound to do anything but create favourable prerequisites for further negotiations. As a matter of fact, the subject of the memorandum of the Polish Government handed to the German

[Page 361]

Government by the Polish Ambassador Lipski on 26th March, 1939, was a complete rejection of the German proposal. It was declared that extra-territoriality for the highways could not enter into question, and that a reunion of Danzig with the Reich could not be considered. In the conversation between the Reich Foreign Minister and the Polish Ambassador, which followed the handing over of the memorandum, the latter declared openly that it was his unpleasant duty to point out that to pursue further the German plans, particularly in so far as they had a bearing on the return of Danzig to the German Reich, would be tantamount to a war with Poland.

If I have stated that the connection between the rapid Polish mobilization of 23rd March, 1939, and the Polish memorandum of 26th March, 1939, containing a complete rejection of the German proposal, on the one hand, and the proposed British guarantee-pledge of 31st March, 1939, on the other hand, remains undecided, this appears justified with regard to the proposed "formal declaration" made by the British Government as early as 21st March in Warsaw, as well as in Paris and in Moscow. This "formal declaration" was to announce the opening of immediate discussions on measures of mutual resistance against any threat against any, European State. Furthermore, the speech by Prime Minister Chamberlain on 17th March, in Birmingham, and the speech of the British Foreign Minister, Lord Halifax, of 20th March, in the House of Lords, reflected a point of view bound to encourage the Polish Government all the more in its stubbornness. As a matter of fact, the proposed step of "a mutual formal declaration", already proposed by the British Government to the governments in Warsaw, Paris and Moscow, proved to be the opening of lengthy discussions, the purpose of which was to place an iron ring around Germany.

It was thus clear from the outset that under such conditions, bilateral negotiations between the German and the Polish Governments promised but little success, in any case as long as those discussions lasted. In another memorandum handed to the Polish Foreign Minister on 28th April, 1939, already submitted by the prosecution, the German Government nevertheless once more explained its attitude completely and established once more its readiness for further negotiations. Contents of this memorandum, including proposals made in March, 1939, were announced publicly by Adolf Hitler in his speech delivered in the Reichstag on 28th April, 1939.

In reply to the memorandum of the German Government of 28th April, 1939 the Polish Government transmitted on 5th May, 1939, a memorandum which has also been submitted by the prosecution.

That memorandum contained even more emphatically a complete rejection of Germany's proposition for solving the problem of the Corridor and the Danzig question.

Negotiations which began on 21st March, 1939, between London, Paris, Warsaw and Moscow, for the purpose of establishing an alliance exclusively directed against Germany, did not proceed as desired. Nor was it possible for the French and British Military Commissions, sent to Moscow on 11th August, 1939, to eliminate completely the difficulties arising from evidently far-reaching differences of opinion. It need not be established how important was the fact that Poland, which was to obtain a guarantee by England, France, and the Soviet Union, publicly refused to accept military assistance from the Soviet Union. It also remains uncertain whether it is correct that the Soviet Foreign Commissar Molotov asserted during the emergency meeting of the Supreme Soviet on 31st August, 1939, that England had not only not dissipated Poland's apprehensions, but that, on the contrary, she had furthered them. It seems more important to examine the fundamental differences of opinion.

I was about to refer here to an extract from the well-known book written by the former British Ambassador in Berlin, Sir Nevile Henderson. In consideration of the fact that the Tribunal does not desire to have this quotation read, although

[Page 362]

during the taking of evidence this extract was admitted, I shall confine myself merely to referring to it, and I shall proceed on Page 35, beginning with the second paragraph.

Meanwhile, the following had actually occurred:

At the 18th Congress of the Communist Party on 10th March, 1939, the President of the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR, Stalin, made a speech in which he intimated that the Soviet Government considered it possible or desirable to reach a better understanding even with Germany. Hitler understood this hint perfectly well.

Foreign Commissar Molotov expressed himself similarly in his speech before the Supreme Soviet on 31st May, 1939. Thereupon the discussions between the German and the Soviet Governments were followed by the conclusion of a German- Soviet Trade and Credit Agreement. This agreement was signed in Berlin on 19th August, 1939. During these economic negotiations, questions of general political nature were discussed, which, according to the Soviet Russian News Agency "Tass" on 21st August, 1939, disclosed the desire of both parties to bring about the change of their policy and to ban war by the conclusion of a non-aggression pact. This resulted in the non-aggression agreement which was signed in Moscow in the night of 23rd to 24th August, 1939; therefore, as shown by the presentation of evidence in this trial, two days before the attack of the German army against Poland was ordered for the morning of 26th August, 1939.

Besides this non-aggression agreement, a "Secret Supplementary Protocol" was signed as an important part of the former. On the basis of the presentation of evidence, especially on the basis of the affidavit of Ambassador and Chief of the Legal Department of the Foreign Office Dr. Friederich Gaus, on the basis of the testimony of Baron von Weiszacker, State Secretary in the Foreign Office, and on the basis of the statements of the defendants von Ribbentrop and Jodl, the following contents of the secret supplementary protocol can be considered as established:

In the case of territorial-political reorganisation in the territories belonging to the Baltic States, Finland, Esthonia and Latvia were to fall into the sphere of interest of the Soviet Union, whereas the territory of Lithuania was to belong to the sphere of interest of Germany.

For the territory of Poland, the division of spheres of interest was made in the manner that the territories lying to the east of the rivers Narev, Vistula and San should fall to the sphere of interest of the Soviet Union, whereas the territories lying to the west of the demarcation line determined by these rivers should belong to the German sphere of interest. In addition, an agreement was reached concerning Poland that both powers would come to a mutual understanding about the final settlement of questions concerning this country. With regard to South-East Europe, the limits of spheres of interest of both sides were made on the basis that the Soviet side stressed its interest in Bessarabia, whereas the German side declared a complete political disinterest in this territory. According to the testimony of several witnesses, but especially on the basis of the statements by Ambassador Dr. Gaus and State Secretary von Weiszacker, it is established that this secret agreement included in it a complete new settlement concerning Poland and the future fate of the Polish State.

[ Previous | Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.