The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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The document goes on to set out the general preparations
necessary for a possible war in the mobilisation period of
1937-1938. It is evidence at least for this, that the
leaders of the German armed forces had it in mind to use the
military strength which they were building up for aggressive
purposes. "No reason," they say, "to anticipate attack from
any side .... there is a lack of desire for war." Yet they
prepare to "exploit militarily favourable opportunities."

Still more important as evidence of the transition to
planned aggression is the record of the important conference
which Hitler held at the Reich Chancellery on the 5th of
November, 1937, at which von Blomberg, Reich Minister for
War, von Fritsch, the Commander-in-Chief of the Army,
Goering, Commander-in- Chief of the Luftwaffe, Raeder, the
Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, and von Neurath, then the
Foreign Minister, were present. The minutes of that
conference have already been put in evidence. I refer to
them now only to emphasise those passages which make
apparent the ultimate intention to wage an aggressive war.
You will remember that

                                                   [Page 62]

the burden of Hitler's argument at that conference was that
Germany required more territory in Europe. Austria and
Czechoslovakia were specifically envisaged. But Hitler
realised that the process of conquering those two countries
might well bring into operation the treaty obligations of
Great Britain and of France. He was prepared to take the
risk. You remember the passage:

   "The history of all times: Roman Empire, British Empire,
   has proved that every space expansion can only be
   effected by breaking resistance and taking risks. Even
   setbacks are unavoidable: neither formerly nor today has
   space been found without an owner. The attacker always
   comes up against the proprietor. The question for
   Germany is where the greatest possible conquest can be
   made at the lowest possible cost."

In the course of that conference Hitler had foreseen and
discussed the likelihood that Poland would be involved if
the aggressive expansionist aims which he put forward
brought about a general European war in the course of their
realisation  by the Nazi State. And when, therefore, on that
very day on which that conference was taking place, Hitler
assured the Polish Ambassador of the great value of the 1934
pact with Poland, it can only be concluded that its real
value in Hitler's eyes was that of keeping Poland quiet
until Germany had acquired such a territorial and strategic
position that Poland was no longer a danger.

That view is confirmed by the events which followed. At the
beginning of February, 1938, the change from Nazi
preparation for aggression to active aggression itself took
place. It was marked by the substitution of Ribbentrop for
Neurath as Foreign Minister, and of Keitel for Blomberg as
head of the O.K.W. Its first fruits were the bullying of
Schuschnigg at Berchtesgaden on 12th February, 1938, and the
forcible absorption of Austria in March. Thereafter, the
Green Plan for the destruction of Czechoslovakia was
steadily developed in the way which you heard yesterday  -
the plan partially foiled, or of which the final
consummation was at least delayed, by the Munich Agreement.

With those aspects, those developments of Nazi aggression,
my American colleagues have already dealt. But it is obvious
that the acquisition of these two countries, their resources
in manpower, their resources in the production of munitions
of war, immensely strengthened the position of Germany as
against Poland. And it is, therefore, perhaps not surprising
that, just as the defendant Goering assured the Czechoslovak
Minister in Berlin, at the time of the Nazi invasion of
Austria, that Hitler recognised the validity of the German-
Czechoslovak Arbitration Treaty of 1925, and that Germany
had no designs against Czechoslovakia herself - you
remember, "I give you my word of honour," the defendant
Goering said - just as that is not surprising, so also it is
not perhaps surprising that continued assurances should have
been given during 1938 to Poland, in order to keep that
country from interfering with the Nazi aggression on
Poland's neighbours.

Thus, on the 20th February, 1938, on the eve of his invasion
of Austria, Hitler, referring to the fourth anniversary of
the Polish Pact, permitted himself to say this to the
Reichstag - and I quote: "... and so a way to a friendly
understanding has been successfully paved, an understanding
which, beginning with Danzig, has today succeeded in finally
taking, the poison out of the relations between Germany and
Poland and transforming them into a sincere friendly co-
operation. Relying on her friendships, Germany will

                                                   [Page 63]

not leave a stone unturned to save that ideal which provides
the foundation for the task ahead of us - Peace."

Still more striking, perhaps, are the cordial references to
Poland in Hitler's speech in the Sportpalast at Berlin on
the 26th September, 1938. He then said:

   "The most difficult problem with which I was confronted
   was that of our relations with Poland. There was a
   danger that Poles and Germans would regard each other as
   hereditary enemies. I wanted to prevent this. I know
   well enough that I should not have been successful if
   Poland had had a democratic constitution. For these
   democracies which indulge in phrases about peace are the
   most bloodthirsty war agitators. In Poland there ruled
   no democracy, but a man: and with him I succeeded, in
   precisely twelve months, in coming to an agreement
   which, for ten years in the first instance, entirely
   removed the danger of a conflict. We are all convinced
   that this agreement will bring lasting pacification. We
   realise that here are two peoples which must live
   together and neither of which can do away with the
   other. A people of 33 millions will always strive for an
   outlet to the sea. A way for understanding, then, had to
   be found, and it will be further extended. Certainly
   things were hard in this area. But the main fact is that
   the two Governments, and all reasonable and clear-
   sighted persons among the two peoples within the two
   countries, possess the firm will and determination to
   improve their relations. It was a real work of peace, of
   more worth than all the chattering in the League of
   Nations Palace at Geneva."

And so flattery of Poland preceded the annexation of Austria
and renewed flattery of Poland preceded  the projected
annexation of Czechoslovakia. The realities behind these
outward expressions of goodwill are clearly revealed in the
documents relating to the Fall Grun, which are already
before the Tribunal. They show Hitler as fully aware that
there was a risk of Poland, England, and France being
involved in war to prevent the German annexation of
Czechoslovakia, and that this risk, although it was
realised, was also accepted. On 25th August, 1938, top
secret orders to the German Air Force in regard to the
operations to be conducted against England and France, if
they intervened, pointed out that, as the French-
Czechoslovak Treaty provided for assistance only in the
event of an "unprovoked" attack, it would take a day or two
for France and England, and I suppose their legal advisers,
to decide whether, legally, the attack bad been unprovoked
or not, and, consequently, a blitzkrieg, accomplishing its
aims before there could be any effective intervention by
France or England, was the object to be aimed at.

On the same day an Air Force memorandum on future
organisation was issued, and to it there was attached a map
on which the Baltic States, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and
Poland were all shown as part of Germany, and preparations
for expanding the Air Force [and I quote] "as the Reich
grows in area", as well as dispositions for a two-front war
against France and Russia were discussed. And on the
following day, Von Ribbentrop was being advised about the
reaction of Poland towards the Czechoslovak problem. I
quote: "The fact that after the liquidation of the Czech
question, it will be generally assumed that Poland will be
next in turn" is recognised, but it stated, "The later this
assumption sinks in, the better."

                                                   [Page 64]

I will pause for a moment at the date of the Munich
Agreement and ask the Tribunal to remind itself of what the
evidence of documents and historical facts shows up to that
day. It has made undeniable both the fact of Nazi
aggressiveness and of active and actual aggression. Not only
does that conference Of 1937 show Hitler and his associates
deliberately considering the acquisition of Austria and
Czechoslovakia, if necessary by war, but the first of the
operations had been carried through in March, 1938, and a
large part of the second, under threat of war, a threat as
we now see which was much more than a bluff - a threat of
actual and real war, although without the actual need for
its initiation, secured, as I said, a large part of the
second objective in September, 1938. And, more ominous
still, Hitler had revealed his adherence to the old
doctrines of Mein Kampf, those essentially aggressive
doctrines to the exposition of which in Mein Kampf, long
regarded as the Bible of the Nazi Party, we shall draw
attention. Hitler is indicating quite clearly to not only
his associates, but indeed to the world at this time, that
he is in pursuit of "Lebensraum" and that he means to secure
it by threat of force, or if threat of force fails, by
actual force-by aggressive war.

So far actual warfare had been avoided because of the love
of peace, the lack of preparedness, the patience, the
cowardice - call it what you will - of the democratic
Powers, but after Munich the question which filled the minds
of all thinking people with acute anxiety was "where will
this thing end? Is Hitler now satisfied as he declared
himself to be, or is his pursuit of Lebensraum  going to
lead to future aggressions, even if he has to embark on
open, aggressive war to secure it?"

It was in relation to the remainder of Czechoslovakia and to
Poland that the answer to these questions was to be given.
So far, up to the time of the Munich Agreement, no direct
and immediate threat to Poland had been made. The two
documents from which I have just quoted show, of course,
that high officers of the defendant Goering's Air Staff
already regarded the expansion of the Reich and, it would
seem, the destruction and absorption of Poland, as a
foregone conclusion. They were already anticipating, indeed,
the last stage of Hitler's policy as expounded in Mein Kampf
- war to destroy France and to secure Lebensraum in Russia.
And the writer of the minute to Ribbentrop, already took it
for granted that, after Czech6slovakia, Poland would be
attacked. But more impressive than those two documents is
the fact that, as I have said, at the conference of 5th
November, 1937, war with Poland, if she should dare to
prevent German aggression against Czechoslovakia, had been
quite coolly and calmly contemplated, and the Nazi leaders
were ready to take the risk. So also had the risk of war
with England and France under the same circumstances been
considered and accepted. As I indicated, such a war would,
of course, have been aggressive war on Germany's part, and
they were contemplating aggressive warfare; for to force one
State to take up arms to defend another State against
aggression, in other words, to fulfil its treaty
obligations, is undoubtedly to initiate aggressive warfare
against the first State. But in spite of those plans, in
spite of these intentions behind the scenes, it remains true
that until Munich the decision for direct attack upon Poland
and her destruction by aggressive war had apparently not as
yet been taken by Hitler and his associates. It is to the
transition from the intention and preparation of initiating
an aggressive war, evident in regard to

                                                   [Page 65]

Czechoslovakia, to the actual initiation and waging of
aggressive war against Poland that I now pass. That
transition occupies the eleven months from 1st October,
1938, to the actual attack on Poland on 1st September, 1939

Within six months of the signature of the Munich Agreement,
the Nazi leaders had occupied the remainder of
Czechoslovakia which, by that agreement, they had indicated
their willingness to guarantee. On 14th March, 1939, the
aged and infirm president of the "Rump" of Czechoslovakia,
Hacha, and his foreign minister were summoned to Berlin. At
a meeting held between one o'clock and two-fifteen in the
small hours of the 15th March in the presence of Hitler, of
the defendants Ribbentrop, Goering and Keitel, they were
bullied and threatened and even bluntly told that Hitler
"had issued the orders for the German troops to move into
Czechoslovakia and for the incorporation of Czechoslovakia
into the German Reich."

It was made quite clear to them that resistance would be
useless and would be crushed "by force of arms with all
available means," and it was thus that the Protectorate of
Bohemia and Moravia was set up and that Slovakia was turned
into a German satellite, though nominally independent,
State. By their own unilateral action, on pretexts which had
no shadow of validity, without discussion with the
governments of any other country, without mediation, and in
direct contradiction of the sense and spirit of the Munich
Agreement, the Germans acquired for themselves that for
which they had been planning in September of the previous
year, and indeed much earlier, but which at that time they
had felt themselves unable completely to secure without too
patent an exhibition of their aggressive intentions.
Aggression achieved whetted the appetite for aggression to
come. There were protests. England and France sent
diplomatic notes. Of course, there were protests. The Nazis
had clearly shown their hand. Hitherto they had concealed
from the outside world that their claims went beyond
incorporating into the Reich persons of German race living
in bordering territory. Now for the first time, in defiance
of their solemn assurances to the contrary, non-German
territory and non-German people had been seized. This
acquisition of the whole of Czechoslovakia, together with
the equally illegal occupation of the Memelland on the 22nd
March, 1939, resulted in an immense strengthening of the
German position both politically and strategically, as
Hitler had anticipated it would when he discussed the matter
at that conference in November, 1937.

But long before the consummation by the Nazi leaders of
their aggression against Czechoslovakia, they had begun to
make demands upon Poland. The Munich settlement achieved, on
the 25th October, 1938, that is to say within less than a
month of Hitler's reassuring speech about Poland, to which I
have already referred, and within, of course, a month of the
Munich Agreement, M. Lipski, the Polish Ambassador in
Berlin, reported to M. Beck, the Polish foreign minister,
that at a luncheon at Berchtesgaden the day before, namely,
on 24th October, 1938, the defendant Ribbentrop had put
forward demands for the reunion of Danzig with the Reich and
for the building of an extra-territorial motor road and
railway line across Pomorze, the province which the Germans
called the Corridor. From that moment onwards until the
Polish Government had made it plain, as they did during a
visit of the defendant Ribbentrop to Warsaw in January,
1939, that they would not consent to hand over Danzig to
German sovereignty, negotiations

                                                   [Page 66]

on these German demands continued. And, even after
Ribbentrop's return from the visit to Warsaw, Hitler thought
it worth while in his Reichstag speech on the 30th January,
1939, to say:

   "We have just celebrated the fifth anniversary of the
   conclusion of our non-aggression pact with Poland. There
   can scarcely be any difference of opinion today among
   the true friends of peace as to the value of this
   agreement. One only needs to ask oneself what might have
   happened to Europe if this agreement, which brought such
   relief, had not been entered into five years ago. In
   signing it, the great Polish marshal and patriot
   rendered his people just as great a service as the
   leaders of the National Socialist State rendered the
   German people. During the troubled months of the past
   year the friendship between Germany and Poland has been
   one of the reassuring factors in the political life of
   Europe."

But that utterance was the last friendly word from Germany
to Poland, and the last occasion on which the Nazi leaders
mentioned the German-Polish Agreement with approbation.
During February, 1939, silence fell upon German demands in
relation to Poland. But as soon as the final absorption of
Czechoslovakia had taken place, and Germany had also
occupied Memel, Nazi pressure upon Poland was at once
renewed.

In two conversations between himself and the defendant
Ribbentrop, held on the 21st March and the 26th March
respectively, with the Polish Ambassador, German demands
upon Poland were renewed and were further pressed. And in
view of the fate which had overtaken Czechoslovakia, in view
of the grave deterioration in her strategical position
towards Germany, it is not surprising that the Polish
Government took alarm at the developments. Nor were they
alone. The events of March, 1939, had at last convinced both
the English and the French Governments that the Nazi designs
of aggression were not limited to men of German race, and
that the spectre of European war resulting from further
aggressions by Nazi Germany had not, after all, been
exorcised by the Munich Agreement.

As a result, therefore, of the concern of Poland, and of
England and of France, at the events in Czechoslovakia, and
at the newly applied pressure on Poland, conversations
between the English and Polish Governments had been taking
place, and, on the 31st March, 1939, Mr. Neville
Chamberlain, speaking in the House of Commons, stated that
His Majesty's Government had given an assurance to help
Poland in the event of any action which clearly threatened
Polish independence and which the Polish Government
accordingly considered it vital to resist. On the 6th April,
1939, an Anglo-Polish communique stated that the two
countries were prepared to enter into an Agreement of a
permanent and reciprocal character, to replace the present
temporary and unilateral assurance given by His Majesty's
Government.

The justification for that concern on the part of the
democratic powers is not difficult to find. With the
evidence which we now have of what was happening within the
Councils of the German Reich and its Armed Forces during
these months, it is manifest that the German Government were
intent on seizing Poland as a whole, that Danzig - as Hitler
himself was to say in time, a month later - "was not the
subject of the dispute at all." The Nazi Government was
intent upon aggression and the demands and negotiations in
respect of Danzig were merely a cover  and excuse for
further domination.

                                                   [Page 67]

Would that be a convenient point to stop?

THE PRESIDENT: We will adjourn now until 2 o'clock.

(A recess was taken until 1400 hours.)

THE PRESIDENT : Before the Attorney General continues his
opening statement, the Tribunal wishes me to state the
proposed new time of sitting for the immediate future. We
think it would be more convenient that the Tribunal should
sit from 10 o'clock in the morning until 1 o'clock, with a
break of ten minutes in the middle of the morning; and that
the Tribunal should sit in the afternoon from 2 o'clock
until 5 o'clock with a break for ten minutes in the middle
of the afternoon; and that there should be no open sitting
of the Tribunal on Saturday morning as the Tribunal has a
very large number of applications by the defendants' counsel
for witnesses and documents and other matters of that sort
which it has to consider.


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