The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 1999/12/13

Q. According to your evidence in chief, what you did was to
turn to Himmler, asking him if he had received the order,
and then you said, "I told him what excitement would result
in my branch because we could not understand such measures
and if he again received such orders, he would please inform
me before carrying them through so that I could prevent such
orders from being executed, if possible"; and then you said
that you "talked to the Fuehrer and that he confirmed that
he had given the order and told me why." You, according to
that evidence, still had enough influence in Germany, in
your own opinion, to stop even Himmler issuing such orders
or carrying - I am sorry, I said "issuing" - carrying out
such orders.

A. You are giving my statement a completely wrong meaning. I
told Himmler plainly that it was his duty to telephone me
before the execution of this matter, to give me the
possibility, even at this time, to use my much diminished
influence to prevent the Fuehrer from carrying out this
decree. I did not mean to say that I would have been
completely successful, but it was a matter of course that I,
as Chief of the Luftwaffe, should make it clear to Himmler
that it was his duty to ring me up first of all, because it
was I who was most concerned with this matter. I told the
Fuehrer in very plain terms just how I felt, and I saw

                                                  [Page 298]

from his answers that even if I had known of it before, I
could not have prevented this decree. We must keep in mind
that two different methods of procedure are in question.
Orders were not given to the Luftwaffe that these people
were to be shot by the Luftwaffe personnel, but to the
police. If the Fuehrer had told me, "I will persist in this
decree which I gave the police," I would not have been able
to order the police not to carry through the Fuehrer's
decree; only if this decree had had to be carried out by my
men would it have been possible for me perhaps to circumvent
it, and I would like to emphasise this point strongly.

Q. Well, that may be your view that you could not have got
anywhere with the Fuehrer, but I suggest to you that, when
all these officers that I mentioned knew about it, you knew
about it too, and that you did nothing to prevent these men
from being shot, but co-operated in this foul series of
murders.

THE PRESIDENT: Sir David, are you passing from that now?

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: You are putting in evidence these two
documents?

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: I am putting them in. I put them to
the witness. D-731 will be GB 278 and D-730 will be GB 279.

THE PRESIDENT: Should you not refer perhaps to the second
paragraph in 731?

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: It shows that apparently - in the early hours
of 25th March - the matter was communicated to the office of
the adjutant of the Reichsmarshal - the second paragraph
beginning with "the escape."

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: Yes. The escape of about 20 to 30
prisoners, the exact number having to be ascertained by roll-
call, was reported by telephone from the Sagan Camp to the
Inspection in the early hours of 25th March, Saturday
morning, and duly passed on in the same way by this office
to the higher authorities who were to be informed in case of
mass escapes. These were: (1) the Office of the Adjutant of
the Reichsmarshal; (2) the O.K.W., for Directors of these
prisoners of war; (3) the Inspector General of Prisoners of
War; and (4) Director of Operations, Air Ministry. I am much
obliged. You must remember that the witness did not admit
yesterday afternoon that the news of the escape had been
given to the office of his adjutant.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: I am much obliged to you.

THE WITNESS: The escape was communicated to us relatively
quickly. I should now like to give my view of the statement
made by you - it contains assertions made by you - but I
still maintain that I did not hear about this incident until
after it had occurred.

BY SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE:

Q. I have put my questions on the incident. I pass to
another point. I want to ask you just two or three questions
about the evidence that you gave two days ago, dealing with
the evidence of your own witness Herr Dahlerus, who made his
first visit to London on 25th August, 1939, after an
interview and a telephone conversation with you on the 24th.
I just want you to fix the date because it is sometimes
difficult to remember what these dates are. At that time,
you were anxious that he should persuade the British
Government to arrange a meeting of plenipotentiaries who
would deal with the questions of Danzig and the Corridor. Is
that right?

A. That is correct.

Q. You knew perfectly well, did you not, that as far as the
Fuehrer was concerned, Danzig and the Corridor was not the
real matter that was occupying his mind at all. Will you let
me remind you what he said on 23rd May. "Danzig is not the
subject of the dispute at all; it is a question of expanding
our living space in the East and of securing our food
supplies and of the settlement of the Baltic problem." You
knew that, did you not?

                                                  [Page 299]

A. I knew that he had said these things at that time, but I
have already pointed out repeatedly that such discussions
can only be properly assessed if considered in conjunction
with the whole political situation. At the moment of these
negotiations with England, we were solely concerned with
Danzig and the Corridor.

Q. Well, you say that, despite what Hitler said on 23rd May,
at that moment Hitler was only concerned with Danzig and the
Corridor? Do you say that seriously?

A. I maintain in all seriousness that in the situation as it
was at that time this was really the case. Otherwise it
would be impossible to understand any of Hitler's acts. You
might just as well take his book "Mein Kampf" as a basis and
explain all his acts by it.

Q. I am interested in the last week of August at the moment.
I want you now just to remember two points on what you said
with regard to Dahlerus, during the morning of the 25th. Do
you remember, you had a telephone conversation with him at
11.30 on the 24th? On the 25th, were you sufficiently in
Hitler's confidence to know that he was going to proffer the
note verbale to Sir Neville Henderson, the British
Ambassador, on the 25th? Did you know that?

A. Yes, of course.

Q. At that time, when you were sending Dahlerus and the note
verbale was being given to the British Ambassador, the
arrangement and order was that you were going to attack
Poland on the morning of the 26th, was it not?

A. There seems to be a disturbance on one or two questions.

THE PRESIDENT: I think there is some mechanical difficulty.
Perhaps it would be a good thing to adjourn for a few
minutes.

(A recess was taken.)

Q. You told me, witness, that the arrangements to attack
Poland on the morning of the 26th were changed on the
evening of the 25th. Before I come to that, I will ask you
one or two questions about that.

A. No, I did not say that.

Q. Wait a minute. I am sorry, but that is what I understood
you to say.

A. No. I said explicitly that already, on the evening of the
25th, the attack had been cancelled. That is, the attack for
the morning of the 26th. It is a technical and military
impossibility to cancel a large-scale attack of the whole
Wehrmacht on the evening before the attack. The shortest
time required would be from twenty-four hours to forty-eight
hours.

Q. At the time you had asked Dahlerus to go to England on
the 24th. It was still the plan that the attack would take
place on the 26th. Was it not your object, in sending
Dahlerus, that the British Government should be discussing
their next move when the attack took place, so that it would
be more difficult for them?

A. No, I want to emphasise that - and perhaps I should have
the documents because of the date - that when I sent
Dahlerus at that time and when, at that time, Sir Neville
had been handed a note on behalf of the Fuehrer, the attack
on the 26th had been cancelled and postponed.

Q. Let me remind you of what you said yourself on 29th
August. "On the day when England gave her official guarantee
to Poland - it was 5.30 on 25th August - the Fuehrer called
me on the telephone and told me he had stopped the planned
invasion of Poland. I asked him then whether it was just for
the time being or for good. He said, 'No, I will have to see
whether we can eliminate British intervention.' I asked him,
'Do you think that it will be definite within four or five
days?'" Is not that right?

                                                  [Page 300]

A. That was what I said, but I did not say that this
occurred on the 25th. I said that when the Fuehrer was sure
that a guarantee would be, given. I emphasised that once
more.

Q. That was what I was quoting to you. When the official
guarantee was given, the treaty was signed at 5.30 on the
evening of 25th August. I am putting your own words to you.
It was after that that the Fuehrer rang you up and told you
the invasion was off. Do you wish to withdraw your statement
that it was after the official guarantee was given to
Poland?

A. I emphasise once more. After we knew that the guarantee
would be given it must be clear to you too that if the
signing took place at 5.30 p.m. on the 25th, the Fuehrer
would know about it shortly afterwards. Not till then would
the Fuehrer have called a conference. Therefore an attack
for the 26th could only have been called off during the
night of the 25th. Every military expert must know that that
is an absolute impossibility.

I emphasise once more that I have not seen the record or
given my oath.

Q. I admit that I do not know anything about that. I do not
know whether you were still in Hitler's confidence at the
time or not. But, was it not a fact that Signor Atolico came
on the 25th and told Hitler that the Italian Army and Air
Force were not ready for a campaign? Were you told that?

A. Yes, of course I was told that.

Q. That was why the orders for the attack were cancelled on
the 26th, was it not?

A. No, that is absolutely wrong, because when the question
of Italian assistance came up, it is a fact that its value
was doubted in many quarters. During the tension of the
preceding days it became evident that the demands made by
the Italians, which could not be fulfilled by us, were
formulated in order to keep Italy out of the war. The
Fuehrer was convinced that England had only given such a
clear-cut guarantee to Poland because in the meantime the
British Government had learned that it was not the intention
of Italy to come into the war as a partner of the Axis.

Q. I will put to you your own account of what the Fuehrer
said. "I will have to see whether we can eliminate British
intervention." Is it not correct that you tried, through Mr.
Dahlerus, in every way, to try to eliminate British
intervention?

A. I have never denied that. It was my whole endeavour to
avoid war with England. If it had been possible to avoid
this war by coming to an agreement with Poland, then that
would have been accepted. If the war with England could have
been avoided in spite of a war with Poland, then that was my
task also. This is clear from the fact that, even after the
Polish campaign had started on 1st September, 1939, I still
made every attempt to avoid a war with England and to keep
the war from spreading.

Q. In other words, what you were trying to do from the 25th
onwards was to get England to try to agree and help the
Reich in the return of Danzig and the Polish Corridor, is
not that correct?

A. That, of course, is quite clearly expressed.

Q. Now, you remember the interview with Mr. Dahlerus. It was
the interview in which you coloured the portions on the map.
I only want you to have it in your mind. If I say 11.30 on
29th August, it will not mean anything to you. I want you to
see it so that I can ask you one or two questions about it.

You remember, at that time, that you were upset at the
interview which had taken place when Hitler handed Henderson
the German reply and there had been the remark about the
ultimatum. Do you remember that?

A. Yes, of course, I was upset, since that completely
disturbed my whole position.

Q. And is this correct? Mr. Dahlerus says on Page 72 of his
book that you came out with a tirade, strong words against
the Poles. Do you remember

                                                  [Page 301]

that he quotes you as saying, "Wir kennen die Polen"? Do you
remember that?

A. Yes, of course. You must consider the situation at the
time. I had heard about the excesses and I would not go and
tell a neutral man, Dahlerus, "I consider Germany wholly
guilty and the Poles completely innocent." It is correct
that I did say that, but it arose out of the situation.

Q. Are you still an admirer of Bismarck?

A. I admire Bismarck absolutely, but I have never said that
I am a Bismarck.

Q. No, I am not suggesting that. I thought you might have in
mind his remark about the Poles. Do you remember, "Haut doch
die Polen, dass Sie am Leben verzagen," Let us strike the
Poles until they lose the courage to live"? Is that what was
in your mind at the time?

A. No, I had no such thoughts, still less, because for years
I had genuinely sought friendship with Poland.

Q. You have been quite frank about your general intention
and I am not going to spend time on it, but I just want to
put one or two subsidiary points.

You remember the passage that I read from Mr. Dahlerus' book
about the aeroplane and the sabotage, where he said that you
had said to him, mentioning the defendant Ribbentrop - you
remember that passage? You have given your explanation and I
just want to -

A. Yes, yes, I gave that explanation and I made it quite
clear.

Q. Now, your explanation was that Herr Dahlerus was
confusing your concern about his aeroplane being shot down
in making his journey. That is putting your explanation
fairly, is it not? You are saying that Herr Dahlerus was
confused. What you were expressing was your concern about
his aeroplane being shot down. Is not that right? That is as
I understood it.

A. No, I think I have expressed it very clearly. Would you
like me to give it again? I will repeat it.

Dahlerus, who stood in the witness-box here, used the words,
"I must correct myself," when he was asked about Ribbentrop.
I am quoting Dahlerus. He said, "I connected it with
Ribbentrop since shortly before his name was mentioned in
some other connection."

Thereupon I explained I was really anxious lest something
might happen. I have explained that very clearly and I need
not repeat it.

Q. The question I put to you, witness - I think we are
agreed on it - was that your anxiety was about his plane,
and the point that I want to make clear to you now is that
that incident did not occur on this day when Dahlerus was
preparing for his third visit, but occurred when he was in
England and rang you up during his second visit. He rang you
up on the evening of 27th August, and on Page 59 of his book
he says:

  "Before leaving the Foreign Office I telephoned to
  Goering to confirm that I was leaving for Berlin by plane
  at 7 p.m. He seemed to think this was rather late. It
  would be dark and he was worried lest my plane be shot at
  by the British or over German territory. He asked me to
  hold the line, and a minute later came back and gave me a
  concise description of the route the plane must follow
  over Germany to avoid being shot at. He also assured me
  that the anti-aircraft stations along our course would be
  informed that we were coming."

What I am suggesting to you is that your explanation is
wrong, that you have confused it with this earlier incident
of which Mr. Dahlerus speaks, and that Mr. Dahlerus is
perfectly accurate when he speaks about the second incident
which occurred two days later.

A. That is not at all contradictory. In regard to the first
flight the position was that it was already dark, which
means that the danger was considerably greater, and I
emphasise that in connection with the second journey,

                                                  [Page 302]

preparedness for war in all countries had reached such a
degree that flying was hazardous.

I emphasise once more that I had to correct Dahlerus when he
was questioned by my defence counsel, that I did not tell
him that Ribbentrop had planned an attack against him. I
emphasise for the last time that von Ribbentrop knew nothing
about my negotiations with Dahlerus.

Q. Do you really say that? Do you remember 29th August -
first of all, 28th August, at 10.30 p.m., when Henderson and
Hitler had an interview - that was before the difficulties
arose. It was the interview when Hitler was considering
direct negotiations with the Poles. He said, "We must summon
Field-Marshal Goering to discuss it with him." That is in
our Blue Book and as far as I know it has never been denied.
You were summoned to the interview that Hitler and
Ribbentrop were having with Sir Neville Henderson.

A. No, I must interrupt you. The Fuehrer said, "We will have
to fetch him," but I was not brought in - and that is not in
the Blue Book either.


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