The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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SIR HARTLEY SHAWCROSS: May it please the Tribunal, when
broke off I had been saying that the Nazi Government was
intent upon aggression, and all that had been taking place
in regard to Danzig, the negotiations, the demands that were
being made, was really no more than a cover, a pretext and
excuse for further domination.

As far back as September, 1938, plans for aggressive war
against Poland, England and France were well in hand. While
Hitler, at Munich, was telling the world that the German
people wanted peace and that, having solved the
Czechoslovakian problem, Germany had no more territorial
problems in Europe, the staffs of his Armed Forces were
already preparing their plans. On the 26th September, 1938,
he had stated:

   "We have given guarantees to the States in the West. We
   have assured all our immediate neighbours of the
   integrity of their territory as far as Germany is
   concerned. That is no mere phrase. It is our sacred
   will. We have no interest whatever in a breach of the
   peace. We want nothing from these peoples."

And the world was entitled to rely on those assurances.
International co-operation is utterly impossible unless one
can assume good faith in the leaders of the various States
and honesty in the public utterances that they make. But, in
fact, within two months of that solemn and considered
undertaking, Hitler and his confederates were preparing for
the seizure of Danzig. To recognise those assurances, those
pledges, those diplomatic moves as the empty frauds that
they were, one must go back to inquire what was happening
within the inner councils of the Reich from the time of the
Munich Agreement.

Written some time in September, 1938, is an extract from a
file on the Reconstruction of the German Navy. Under the
heading "Opinion on the Draft Study of Naval Warfare against
England", this is stated:

   "1. If, according to the Fuehrer's decision Germany is
   to acquire a position as a world power, she needs not
   only sufficient colonial possessions but also secure
   naval communications and secure access to the ocean.
   2. Both requirements can only be fulfilled in opposition
   to Anglo-French interests and would limit their position
   as world powers. It is unlikely that they can be
   achieved by peaceful means. The decision to make Germany
   a world power, therefore, forces upon us the necessity
   of making the corresponding preparations for war.

                                                   [Page 68]
   3. War against England means at the same time war
   against the Empire, against France, probably against
   Russia as well, and a large number of countries
   overseas, in fact, against half to one-third of the
   It can only be justified and have a chance of success."

- and it was not moral justification which was being looked
for in this document -

   "It can only be justified and have a chance of success
   if it is prepared economically as well as politically
   and militarily, and waged with the aim of conquering for
   Germany an outlet to the ocean."

THE PRESIDENT: I think the Tribunal would like to know at
what stage you propose to put the documents, which you are
citing, in evidence.

SIR HARTLEY SHAWCROSS: Well, sir, my colleagues, my American
and my British colleagues, were proposing to follow up my
own address by putting these documents in. The first series
of documents, which will be put in by my noted colleague,
Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, will be the Treaties.

THE PRESIDENT: I suppose that what you quote will have to be
read again.

SIR HARTLEY SHAWCROSS: Well, I am limiting my quotations as
far as I possibly can. I apprehend that technically you may
wish it to be quoted again, so as to get it on the record
when the document is actually put into evidence. But I think
it will appear, when the documents themselves are produced,
that there will be a good deal more in most of them than I
am actually citing now.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Very well.

SIR HARTLEY SHAWCROSS: This document on naval warfare
against England is something which is both significant and
new. Until this date the documents in our possession
disclose preparations for war against Poland, England and
France, purporting on the face of them at least to be
defensive measures to ward off attacks which might result
from the intervention of those States in the preparatory
German aggressions in Central Europe. Hitherto aggressive
war against Poland, England and France has been contemplated
only as a distant objective. Now, in this document for the
first time we find a war of conquest by Germany against
France and England openly recognised as the future aim, at
least of the German Navy.

On 24th November, 1938, an appendix was issued by Keitel to
a previous order of the Fuehrer. In that appendix were set
out the future tasks for the Armed Forces and the
preparation for the conduct of the war which would result
from those tasks:

   "The Fuehrer has ordered" - I quote - "that besides the
   three eventualities mentioned in the previous directive
   preparations are also to be made for the surprise
   occupation by German troops of the Free State of Danzig.
   For the preparation the following principles are to be
   borne in mind: The primary assumption is the lightning
   seizure of Danzig by exploiting a favourable political
   situation, and not war with Poland. Troops which are
   going to be used for this purpose must not be held at
   the same time for the seizure of Memelland, so that both
   operations can take place simultaneously should such
   necessity arise."

Thereafter, as the evidence which is already before the
Tribunal has shown, final preparations for the invasion of
Poland were taking place. On 3rd April, 1939, three days
before the issue of the Anglo-Polish communique, the

                                                   [Page 69]

defendant Keitel issued to the High Command of the Armed
Forces a directive in which it was stated that the directive
for the uniform preparation of war by the Armed Forces in
1939-1940 was being re-issued and that part relating to
Danzig would be issued in April. The basic principles were
to remain the same as in the previous directive. Attached to
this document were the orders "Fall Weiss", the code name
for the proposed invasion of Poland. Preparations for that
invasion were to be made, it was stated, so that the
operation could be carried out at any time from 1st
September, 1939, onwards.

On 11th April Hitler issued his directive for the uniform
preparation of the war by the Armed Forces, 1939-1940, and
in it he said:

   "I shall lay down in a later directive future tasks of
   the Armed Forces and the preparations to be made in
   accordance with these for the conduct of war. Until that
   directive comes into force the Armed Forces must be
   prepared for the following eventualities
        1. Safeguarding the frontiers.
        2. 'Fall Weiss.'
        3. The annexation of Danzig."

Then, in an annex to that document, which bore the heading
"Political Hypotheses and Aims" it was stated that quarrels
with Poland should be avoided. But, should Poland change her
policy and adopt a threatening attitude towards Germany, a
final settlement would be necessary, notwithstanding the
Polish Pact. The Free City of Danzig was to be incorporated
in the Reich at the outbreak of the conflict at the latest.
The policy aimed at limiting the war to Poland, and this was
considered possible at that time with the internal crisis in
France and resulting British restraint.

The wording of that document - and the Tribunal will study
the wording of it - does not directly involve the intention
of immediate aggression. It is a plan of attack "if Poland
changes her policy and adopts a threatening attitude". But
the picture of Poland, with her wholly inadequate armaments
threatening Germany, now armed to the teeth, is ludicrous
enough, and the real aim of the document emerges in the
sentence - and I quote: "The aim is, then, to destroy Polish
military strength and to create, in the East, a situation
which satisfies the requirements of defence" - a
sufficiently vague phrase to cover designs of any magnitude.
But even at that stage the evidence does not suffice to
prove that the actual decision to attack Poland on any given
date had yet been taken. All the preparations were being set
in train. All the necessary action was being proceeded with
in case that decision should be reached.

It was within three weeks of the issue of that last document
that Hitler addressed the Reichstag on the 28th April, 1939.
In that speech he repeated the demands which had already
been made upon Poland, and proceeded to denounce the German-
Polish Agreement Of 1934. Leaving aside, for the moment, the
warlike preparations for aggression, which Hitler had set in
motion behind the scenes, I will ask the Tribunal to
consider the nature of this denunciation of an agreement to
which, in the past, Hitler had professed to attach such

In the first place, of course, Hitler's denunciation was per
se ineffectual. The text of the agreement made no provision
for its denunciation by either party until a period of ten
years had come to an end. No denunciation could be legally
effective until June or July of 1943, and Hitler was
speaking in April of 1939, rather more than four years too

                                                   [Page 70]

In the second place, Hitler's actual attack upon Poland,
when it came on 1st September was made before the expiration
of the 6 months' period after denunciation required by the
agreement before any denunciation could be operative. And in
the third place, the grounds for the denunciation stated by
Hitler in his speech to the Reichstag were entirely
specious. However one reads its terms, it is impossible to
take the view that the Anglo-Polish guarantee of mutual
assistance against aggression could render the German-Polish
Pact null and void, as Hitler sought to suggest. If that had
been the effect of the Anglo-Polish assurances, then
certainly the pacts which had already been entered into by
Hitler himself with Italy and with Japan had invalidated the
treaty with Poland. Hitler might have spared his breath. The
truth is, of course, that the text of the English-Polish
communique, the text of the assurances, contains nothing
whatever to support the contention that the German-Polish
Pact was in any way interfered with.

One asks: Why then did Hitler make this trebly invalid
attempt to denounce his own pet diplomatic child? Is there
any possible answer but this-that, the Agreement having
served its purpose, the grounds which he chose for its
denunciation were chosen merely in an effort to provide
Germany with some kind of justification, at least for the
German people, for the aggression on which the German
leaders were intent.

For Hitler sorely needed some kind of justification, some
apparently decent excuse, since nothing had happened, and
nothing seemed likely to happen, from the Polish side, to
provide him with any kind of pretext for invading Poland. So
far he had made demands upon his treaty-partner which
Poland, as a sovereign State, had every right to refuse. If
dissatisfied with that refusal, Hitler was bound, under the
terms of the agreement itself, "to seek a settlement" - I
will read the words in the pact, "To seek a settlement
through other peaceful means, without prejudice to the
possibility of applying those methods of procedure, in case
of necessity, which are provided for such a case in the
other agreements between them that are in force." And that
presumably was a reference to the German-Polish Arbitration
Treaty, signed at Locarno in 1925.

The very fact, therefore, that as soon as the Nazi leaders
could not get what they wanted, but were not entitled to,
from Poland by merely asking for it, and that, on their
side, they made no further attempt to settle the dispute "by
peaceful means" in accordance with the terms of the
Agreement and of the Kellogg Pact, to which the Agreement
pledged both parties, in itself created a strong presumption
of aggressive intentions on the part of Hitler and his
associates. That presumption becomes a certainty when the
documents to which I am about to call the attention of the
Tribunal are studied.

On the 10th May, Hitler issued an order for the capture of
economic installations in Poland. On the 16th May the
defendant Raeder, as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, issued
a memorandum setting out the Fuehrer's instructions to
prepare for the operation "Fall Weiss" at any time from the
1st September, 1939.

But the decisive document is the record of the Conference
held by Hitler on 23rd May, 1939, with many high-ranking
officers, including the defendants Goering, Raeder and
Keitel. The details of the whole document will have to be
read to the Tribunal later and I am merely summarising the
substantial effect of this part of it now. Hitler stated
that the solution

                                                   [Page 71]

of the economic problems with which Germany was beset at
first, could not be found without invasion of foreign states
and attacks on foreign property. "Danzig" - and I am

"Danzig is not the subject of the dispute at all. It is a
question of expanding our living space in the East. There
is, therefore, no question of sparing Poland, and we are
left with the decision: to attack Poland at the earliest
opportunity. We cannot expect a repetition of the Czech
affair. There will be war. Our task is to isolate Poland.
The success of this isolation will be decisive. The
isolation of Poland is a matter of skilful politics."

So he explained to his confederates. He anticipated the
possibility that war with England and France might result,
but a two-front war was to be avoided if possible. Yet
England was recognised - and I say it with pride - as the
most dangerous enemy which Germany had. "England", he said,
I quote, "England is the driving force against Germany ...
the aim will always be to force England to her knees." More
than once he repeated that the war with England and France
would be a life and death struggle. "But all the same," he
concluded, "Germany will not be forced into war but she
would not be able to avoid it."

On the 14th June, 1939, General Blaskowitz, then Commander-
in-Chief of the 3rd Army Group, issued a detailed battle
plan for the "Fall Weiss." The following day von Brauchitsch
issued a memorandum in which it was stated-that the object
of the impending operation was to destroy the Polish Armed
Forces. "High policy demands," he said, "High policy demands
that the war should be begun by heavy surprise blows in
order to achieve quick results." The preparations proceeded
apace. On the 22nd June, Keitel submitted a preliminary
timetable for the operation, which Hitler seems to have
approved, and suggested that the scheduled manoeuvre must be
camouflaged - must be camouflaged, "in order not to disquiet
the population." On the 3rd July, Brauchitsch wrote to
Raeder urging that certain preliminary naval moves should be
abandoned, in order not to prejudice the surprise of the
attack. On the 12th and 13th August, Hitler and Ribbentrop
had a conference with Ciano, the Italian Foreign Minister.

It was a conference to which the Tribunal will have to be
referred from several points of view. I summarise now the
Polish aspect of the matter. At the beginning of the
conversation, Hitler emphasised the strength of the German
position, of the German Western and Eastern fortifications,
and of the strategic and other advantages they held in
comparison with those of England, France and Poland. Now I
quote from the captured document itself. Hitler said this:

    "Since the Poles through their whole attitude had made
    it clear that, in any case, in the event of a conflict,
    they would stand on the side of the enemies of Germany
    and Italy, a quick liquidation at the present moment
    could only be of advantage for the unavoidable conflict
    with the Western democracies. If a hostile Poland
    remained on Germany's Eastern frontier, not only would
    the eleven East Prussian divisions be tied down, but
    also further contingents would be kept in Pomerania and
    Silesia. This would not be necessary in the event of a
    previous liquidation."

Ciano was for postponing the operation. Italy was not ready.
She believed that a conflict with Poland would develop into
a general European war.

                                                   [Page 72]

Mussolini was convinced that conflict with the Western
democracies was inevitable, but he was making plans for a
period two or three years ahead. But the Fuehrer said that
the Danzig question must be disposed of, one way or the
other, by the end of August. I quote, "He had, therefore,
decided to use the occasion of the next Polish provocation
in the form of an ultimatum."

On the 22nd August, Hitler called his Supreme Commanders
together at Obersalzburg, and gave the order for the attack:
In the course of what he said, he made it clear that the
decision to attack had, in fact, been made not later than
the previous spring. He would give a spurious cause for
starting the war. At that time the attack was timed to take
place in the early hours of the 26th August. On the day
before, on 25th August, the British Government, in the hope
that Hitler might still be reluctant to plunge the world
into war, and in the belief that a formal treaty would
impress him more than the informal assurances which had been
given previously, entered into, an agreement, an expressed
and written agreement, for mutual assistance with Poland,
embodying the previous assurances that had been given
earlier in the year. It was known to Hitler that France was
bound by the Franco-Polish Treaty Of 1921, and by the
Guarantee Pact signed at Locarno in 1925 to intervene in
Poland's favour in case of aggression, and for a moment
Hitler hesitated. The defendants Goering and Ribbentrop, in
the interrogations which you will see later, have agreed
that it was the Anglo-Polish Treaty which led them to call
off, or rather postpone, the attack which was. timed for the
26th. Perhaps he hoped that after all there was still some
chance of repeating what he had called the Czech affair. If
so, his hopes were short-lived. On the 27th August, Hitler
accepted Mussolini's decision not at once to come into the
war, but asked for propaganda support and for a display of
military activities on the part of Italy, so as to create
uncertainty in the minds of the Allies. Ribbentrop on the
same day said that the armies were marching.

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