The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified:  1997/01/17

28.  The action for the incorporation of Bohemia and
Moravia, which took place on the 15 March 1939, while I was
head of the German Press Division, was not prepared for such
a long period as the Sudeten action. According to my memory
it was in February that I received the order from the Reich
press chief, Dr. Dietrich, which was repeated as a request
by the envoy Paul Schmidt of the foreign office, to bring
the attention of the press to the efforts for independence
of Slovakia and to the continued anti-German coalition
politics of the Prague government. I did this. The daily
paroles of the Reich press chief and the press conference
minutes at that time show the wording of the corresponding
instructions. These were the typical headlines of leading

                                                  [Page 187]

newspapers and the emphatic leading articles of the German
daily press at that time: (1) The terrorizing of Germans
within the Czech territories by arrest, shooting of Germans
by the state police, destruction and damaging of German
homes by Czech gangsters; (2) the concentration of Czech
forces on the Sudeten frontier; (3) the kidnapping,
deporting and persecuting of Slovakian minorities by the
Czechs; that the Czechs must get out of Slovakia; (4) secret
meetings of Red functionaries in Prague. Some few days
before the visit of Hacha, I received the instruction to
publish in the press very emphatically the incoming news on
the unrest in Czechoslovakia. Such information I received
only partly from the German News Agency (D.N.B.). Mostly it
came from the Press Division of the foreign office and some
of it came from big newspapers with their own news service.
Among the newspapers offering information was above all the
Voelkischer Beobachter which, as I learned later on,
received its information from the SS Standartenfuehrer
Gunter D'Alquen. He was at this time in Pressburg. I had
forbidden all news agencies and newspapers to issue news on
unrest in Czechoslovakia before I had seen it. I wanted to
avoid a repetition of the very annoying results of the
Sudeten action propaganda (Sudeten-Aktion-Propaganda) and I
did not want to suffer a loss of prestige caused by untrue
news. Thus, all news checked by me was admittedly full of
tendency (voller Tendenz), however not invented. After the
visit of Hacha in Berlin and after the beginning of the
invasion of the German army, which took place on 15 March
1939, the German press had enough material for describing
those events. Historically and politically the event was
justified with the indication that the declaration of
independence of Slovakia had required an interference and
that Hacha with his signature had avoided a war and had
reinstalled a thousand year union between Bohemia and the

29. The action against Memel, which took place on 22 March
1939, came somewhat later. It was such a surprise for me and
for the press that some of the representatives of the press
quickly dispatched by me were only able to see in
Swinemuende the departure of the ship with which Hitler went
to Memel.

30.  Very complicated and changing was the press and
propagandistic treatment in the case of Poland. Under the
influence of the German-Polish Agreement, it was generally
forbidden in the German press for many years to publish
anything on the situation of the German minority in Poland.
This remained also the case when in the spring of 1939 the
German press was asked

                                                  [Page 188]

to become somewhat more active as to the problem of Danzig.
Also, when the first Polish-English conversations took place
and when the German press was instructed to use a sharper
tone against Poland, the question of the German minority
still remained in the background. But during the summer this
problem was picked up again and created immediately a
noticeable sharpening of the situation, namely, each larger
German newspaper had for quite some time an abundance of
material on complaints of the Germans in Poland without the
editors having had a chance to use this material. The German
papers from the time of the minority discussion at Geneva,
still had correspondents or free collaborators in Kattowitz,
Bromberg, Posen, Thorn, etc. Their material now came forth
with a bound. Concerning this the leading German newspapers,
on the basis of directions given out in the so-called "daily
parole", brought out the following publicity with great
emphasis: (1) Cruelty and terror against Germans and the
extermination of Germans in Poland; (2) forced labor of
thousands of German men and women in Poland; (3) Poland,
land of servitude and disorder; the desertion of Polish
soldiers; the increased inflation in Poland; (4) provocation
of frontier clashes upon direction of the Polish government;
the Polish lust to conquer; (5) persecution of Czechs and
Ukrainians by Poland. The Polish press replied particularly
sharply. When the German press curing August wanted to write
with steadily increasing strongness against Poland, the
material for this was only too easy to get. The Polish
newspapers, especially the papers of the Polish Westmark
Association, had made simple slanders before the German
press. They wrote that Germany so far had not had a real
opponent; that Poland, however, would remain tough and would
show how the German armed forces could only win in "flower
wars"; how Germany was only a giant on very slippery ground,
and how there would be a victorious battle of annihilation
before the gates of Berlin. The German press quoted all
these Polish reactions and received the order to trace this
strong Polish language to the influence of the open British
promise of assistance, the so-called blank power of
authority [Blankovollmacht]. The German press, at this time
and also later, had the opinion that the Polish sharpness
was directed at the small demands of Hitler for Danzig and
for a road through the Corridor.

31.  On 1 September, the day of the beginning of the battle
against Poland, Hitler's speech in the Reichstag gave the
instructions for the press, especially as to the ticklish
problem of the attitude of the Western powers. On Saturday,
2 September 1939,

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late in the night, I went home with the assurance given to
me by Goebbels, by Dietrich, and by the representative of
the foreign office, that there would be no war. By the
intervention of Mussolini, the German armies were to stop
their advance. Germany, England, and France had accepted the
suggestion which should give time for conference. On Sunday
I was called from my bed by a telephone call from Goebbels,
hastened to the ministry, found there Dr. Goebbels before a
microphone which was already turned on. Dumbfounded, I took
the manuscript which he asked me to read. Only when reading
it I noticed what was going on the proclamations of the
Fuehrer on the entering of the war England and France. When
I left the microphone I found numerous representatives of
the press who were highly alarmed by the radio news just
read by me. I had to hold a press conference. Quickly I
tried to get some orientation from Dr. Goebbels or Dr.
Dietrich, from the Fuehrer's house or from the foreign
office. I received none. Thus, without information or
instructions, I was forced to hold the first press
conference in war time. Therefore, I restricted myself to
giving some words of consolation, of courage, and of
confidence in God to the press and highly perplexed
journalists, and also to give some words of confidence in
our cause which I at that time firmly believed to be just
and conducted with a will for peace.

32. During the period immediately preceding the invasion of
Yugoslavia, on 6 April 1941, the German press emphasized by
headlines and leading articles the following topics: (1) the
planned persecution of Germans in Yugoslavia, including the
burning down of German villages by Serbian soldiers, also
the confining of Germans in concentration camps, and also
physical mishandling of German-speaking persons; (2) the
arming of Serbian bandits by the Serbian government; (3) the
incitement of Yugoslavia by the "plutocrats" against
Germany; (4) the increasing anti-Serbian feelings in
Croatia; (5) the chaotic economic and social conditions in

33.  During the night from 21st to the 22 of June 1941,
Ribbentrop called me in for conference in the foreign office
building at about 5 o'clock in the morning, at which
representatives of the domestic and foreign press were
present. Ribbentrop informed us that the war against the
Soviet Union would start that same day and asked the German
press to present the war against the Soviet Union as a
preventative war for the defense of the fatherland, as a war
which was forced upon us through the immediate danger of an
attack of the Soviet Union against Ger-

                                                  [Page 190]

many. The claim that this was a preventative war was later
repeated by the newspapers which received their instructions
from me during the usual daily parole of the Reich press
chief. I, myself, have also given this presentation of the
cause of the war in my regular broadcasts.

34. In November 1942 a position, newly established by Dr.
Goebbels, was conferred on me--plenipotentiary for the
political organization of the greater German radio
[Boauftragter fuer die politische Gestaltung des
Grossdeutschen Rundfunks]. At the same time I was also given
the direction of the "radio division" [Rundfunk Abteilung]
in his ministry. I held both offices until the German
military collapse.

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