The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 1999/12/7

Q. I have had passed to you a record of that conversation.
It has been handed in by the prosecution - you have already
presented the contents. Would you please look at it?

A. Yes; I attach importance to having only those passages in
this document read - I cannot find them so quickly - in
which I refer to the fact that I

                                                  [Page 105]

considered it important that the English Government send to
Austria as soon as possible people in whom it had
confidence, in order that they might see for themselves the
actual state of affairs; and secondly those passages in
which I refer to the fact that we are going to hold a
plebiscite according to the Charter of the Saar Plebiscite
and that, whatever the result may be, we shall acknowledge
it. I could promise that all the more, as it was personally
known to me and clear that an overwhelming majority would
vote in favour of the Anschluss.

Now I come to the decisive part concerning the marching in
of the troops. That was the second point on which the
Fuehrer and I were not of the same opinion. The Fuehrer
wanted the march into Austria to be on the basis of a
request by the new Government of Seyss-Inquart, that is, the
Government desired by us - that they should ask for the
troops in order to maintain order in the country. I was
against this, not against the march into Austria - I was for
the march under all circumstances - only against the reasons
to be given. Here there was a difference of opinion.
Certainly there might be disturbances at Vienna and Wiener-
Neustadt because some of the Austrian Marxists, who once
before had started an armed uprising, were actually armed.
That, however, was not of such decisive importance. It was,
rather, of the greatest importance that German troops
immediately march into Austria in sufficient numbers in
order to stave off any desire on the part of a neighbouring
country to claim even a single Austrian village on this
occasion.

I should like to emphasise that at that time Mussolini's
attitude to the Austrian question had not yet crystallised,
although I had made every effort the year before to that
end. The Italians were still looking with longing eyes at
Eastern Tyrol. I had not forgotten the five divisions along
the Brenner Pass. The Hungarians talked too much about the
Burgenland. The Yugoslavs once mentioned something about
Carinthia, but I believe that I made it clear to them that
that was a crazy idea. To prevent the fulfilment of these
hopes once and for all, I very definitely wanted the German
troops to march into Austria with the slogan: "The Anschluss
has taken place; Austria is a part of Germany and therefore
in its entirety automatically and completely under the
protection of the German Reich and its Armed Forces."

The Fuehrer did not want to stress this foreign and
political demonstration so strongly and finally told me to
instruct Seyss-Inquart to send such a telegram. The fact
that we were in agreement about the decisive point, the
march into Austria, helps to explain the telephone
conversation in which I told Seyss-Inquart that he need not
send a telegram, that he could do it by telephone. That was
the reason. Mussolini's consent did not come until 11.30 at
night. It is well known what a relief that was for the
Fuehrer.

In the evening of the same day, after everything had become
clear, and the outcome could be seen in advance, I went to
the Flieger Club, where I had been invited several weeks
before to a ball. I mention this invitation because that,
too, has been described here as a deception manoeuvre. But
the invitation for that had been sent out, I believe, even
before the Berchtesgaden conference took place. There I met
almost all the diplomats. I immediately took Sir Neville
Henderson, the British Ambassador, aside. I spoke to him for
two hours and gave him all the reasons and explained
everything and also asked him to tell me - the same question
which I later asked Ribbentrop - what nation in the whole
world was damaged in any way by our union with Austria? From
whom had we taken anything and whom had we harmed? I said
that this was an absolute restitution, that both parts had
belonged together in the German Empire for centuries and
that they had been separated only because of political
developments.

When the Fuehrer flew to Austria the next morning, I took
over all the business of the Reich in his absence, as is
known. At that time I also prohibited for the time being the
return of the so-called Austrian Legion - that was a

                                                  [Page 106]

group of people who had left Austria during the early time
of the fighting period - because I did not want to have any
disturbances. Secondly, however, I also made sure that North
of the Danube - that is, between the Czechoslovak border and
the Danube - only one battalion should march through the
villages, so that Czechoslovakia would see from that, that
this was merely an Austro-German affair. That battalion had
to march through there so that the towns North of the Danube
could also take part in the jubilation.

In this connection I want to stress two points in
conclusion:

(1) If Mr. Messersmith says in his long affidavit that
before the Anschluss I had made various visits to Yugoslavia
and Hungary in order to win over both these nations for the
Anschluss, and that I had promised to Yugoslavia a part of
Carinthia, in answer to these statements, I can say only
that I do not understand these statements at all. My visits
to Yugoslavia and the other Balkan countries were designed
to improve relations, particularly trade relations, which
were very important to me in respect to the Four-Year Plan,
and if at any time Yugoslavia had demanded one single
village in Carinthia, I would have said that on such a point
I would not even answer, because, if any country is German
to the core, then it is Carinthia.

(2) Here in the Indictment mention is made of an "aggressive
war against Austria." Aggressive war is carried out by
shooting, throwing bombs and so on; but there only one thing
was thrown - and that was flowers. Perhaps, however, the
prosecution meant something else, and there I could agree. I
personally have always stated that I would do everything to
make sure that the Anschluss should not disturb the peace,
but that in the long run, if this should be denied us
forever, I personally might resort to war in order to reach
this goal, that these Germans return to their Fatherland - a
war for Austria, not against Austria.

I think I have given in brief an exposition of the Austrian
events, and I conclude with the statement that here not so
much the Fuehrer as I personally bear the full and entire
responsibility for everything that has happened.

Q. On the evening before the march of the troops into
Austria you also had a conversation with Dr. Massny, the
Czechoslovak Ambassador. On this occasion you are supposed
to have given a declaration on your word of honour. What
about that conversation?

A. I am grateful that I finally can give a clear explanation
of this "word of honour," which has been mentioned so often
during the last months and which has been so incriminating
for me.

I mentioned that on that evening almost all the diplomats
were present at this ball. After I had spoken to Sir Neville
Henderson and returned to the ballroom, the Czechoslovak
Ambassador, Dr. Massny, came to me, very excited and
shaking, and asked me what was happening this night and
whether we intended also to march into Czechoslovakia. I
gave him a short explanation and said, "No, it is only a
question of the annexation of Austria; it has absolutely
nothing to do with your country, especially so if you keep
away from it altogether."

He thanked me and went, apparently, to the telephone. But
after a short time he came back even more excited, and I had
the impression that in his excitement he could hardly
understand me clearly any more. I told him then in the
presence of others, "Your Excellency, listen carefully now.
I give you my personal word of honour that this is a
question of the annexation of Austria only, and that not a
single German soldier will come anywhere near the
Czechoslovak border. You see to it that there is no
mobilisation on the part of Czechoslovakia which might lead
to difficulties at this very moment." He then agreed.

At no time did I tell him, "I give you my word of honour
that for all time we do not want to have anything to do with
Czechoslovakia." All he wanted was

                                                  [Page 107]

an explanation for this particular event, for this
particular time. I gave him this particular explanation,
because I had already clearly stated, before that, that the
solution of the Sudeten German problem would be necessary at
some time and in some way. I would never have given him a
declaration on my word of honour in regard to a final
solution, and it would not have been possible for me,
because before that I had already made a statement to
another effect. An explanation was desired for the moment
and in connection with the Austrian events: I could
conscientiously assure him on my word of honour that
Czechoslovakia would not be touched at this time, because no
decisions had yet been made by us, as far as a definite time
was concerned, in regard to Czechoslovakia or the solution
of the Sudeten problem.

Q. On 15th March, 1939, a conversation took place between
Hitler and President Hacha. Were you present during that
conversation, and what was your part in it?

A. That was the beginning of the establishment of the
Protectorate in Czechoslovakia. After Munich - that is,
after the Munich Agreement and the solution of the Sudeten
German problem - a military decision had been reached by the
Fuehrer and some of his collaborators to the effect that, if
there should be fresh difficulties after the Munich
Agreement or arising from the occupation of these zones,
certain measures of precaution would have to be taken by the
military authorities, for after the occupation of the zones
the troops which had been in readiness for the "Case Green"
had been demobilised. But a development could take place
which at any moment might become extremely dangerous for
Germany.

One needs only to remember what an interpretation was given
at that time by the Russian Press and the Russian radio to
the Munich Agreement and to the occupation of the
Sudetenland. The language could have been hardly stronger.
There had been a connection between Prague and Moscow for a
long time. Prague, disappointed by the Munich Agreement,
could now strengthen its ties with Moscow. We saw signs of
that, particularly in the Czech Officers' Corps, and were
informed of them. Therefore, in case this might prove
dangerous to Germany, instructions had been issued to the
various military offices to take preventive measures, as was
their duty. But that order has nothing to do with any
intention of occupying the rest of Czechoslovakia forthwith.

I myself went to the Riviera at the end of January for my
first long vacation and during that time I took leave of all
business affairs. At the beginning of March, much to my
surprise, a courier came from the Fuehrer with a letter in
which the Fuehrer informed me that developments in
Czechoslovakia were such that he could not with impunity let
things go on as they were. They were becoming an increasing
menace to Germany, and he was determined to solve the
question now by eliminating Czechoslovakia as a source of
danger right in the centre of Germany and he was, therefore,
considering the occupation of that country.

During my vacation I had met many Englishmen in San Remo and
realised that they had put up with Munich and found it quite
satisfactory, but that any other incidents or demands on
Czechoslovakia would cause considerable excitement.

I sent a letter back by courier. Maybe it is among the many
tons of documents in the possession of the prosecution. I
can quite understand why they do not submit it; for it would
be a document of extenuating character as far as I am
concerned. In this letter I communicated my views to the
Fuehrer and wrote to him somewhat as follows: that if this
were to take place now, it would be a very serious loss of
prestige for the British Prime Minister Chamberlain, and I
hardly believed that he would survive it. Then probably Mr.
Churchill would come in, and the Fuehrer knew Churchill's
attitude toward Germany. Secondly,

                                                  [Page 108]

it would not be understood, since just a short time before
that we had laid the basis for a general appeasement.
Thirdly, I thought I could calm him by telling him the
following: that I believed that what he wanted to eliminate
in the way of danger by occupation of Czechoslovakia could
be achieved by less hasty methods, which would avoid
anything which might excite Czechoslovakia as, well as other
countries. I was convinced, namely, that since the
Sudetenland had been separated and Austria was a part of
Germany, an economic penetration of Czechoslovakia would be
only a matter of time. That is to say, I hoped by strong
economic ties to come to a communications, customs and
currency union, which would serve the economic interests of
both countries. If this took place, then a sovereign
Czechoslovakia would politically be so, closely bound to
Germany and German interests that I did not believe that any
danger could arise again.

However, if Slovakia expressed her desire for independence
very sharply, we should not have to counteract that in any
way, but, on the contrary, we could support it, for then, of
course, economic co-operation would become even much closer
than otherwise, since, if Slovakia were to secede, then both
countries would have to look to Germany in economic matters,
and in such matters both countries could be made interested
in Germany and could be most closely bound to Germany.

That letter - I just gave the gist of it - the courier took
back.

THE PRESIDENT: Would that be a convenient time for us to
break off?

(A recess was taken.)

DR. STAHMER: Will you continue, please?

THE WITNESS: I was then called to Berlin on very short
notice. I arrived in Berlin in the morning and President
Hacha arrived in the evening of the same day. I presented
orally to the Fuehrer the views which I had already
emphasised in my letter. The Fuehrer pointed out to me
certain evidence in his possession to the effect that the
situation in Czechoslovakia had developed more seriously.

This State had, for one thing, disintegrated because of the
detachment of Slovakia, but that was not the decisive
question. He showed me documents from the Intelligence
Service which pointed out that Russian aviation commissions
were present at the aerodromes, or at certain of them, and
that these things were not in keeping with the Munich
Agreement. He said that he feared that Czechoslovakia, all
the more now if Slovakia were detached, would be used as a
Russian air base against Germany.

He said he was determined to eliminate this danger.
President Hacha had requested an interview, so he told me at
the time, and would arrive in the evening, and he wished
that I,  too, should be present at the Reich Chancellery.

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