The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 1999/12/16


                                                   [Page 87]

NINETY-SECOND DAY

WEDNESDAY, 27th, MARCH 1946

ADOLF VON STEENGRACHT - resumed.

DIRECT EXAMINATION - Continued.

BY DR. HORN (Counsel for defendant Ribbentrop):

Q. Witness, you know Count Ciano. Where and when did you
meet him?

A. I know Count Ciano, but not in a political sense, only
personally. I cannot remember exactly when I met him,
probably it was on the occasion of a State visit. I was
working at the time in the Records Department in the Foreign
Office.

Q. What experiences did you have with Count Ciano?

A. Since I did not work with him politically, I had no
political experience with him.

Q. Now, another sphere. Is it correct that von Ribbentrop
gave orders that under all circumstances the French franc
should be sustained against inflation?

A. Such measures apply only to a time when I was not yet
State Secretary. But I know that the basic attitude towards
France and all occupied territories was that under all
circumstances their currency was to be preserved as far as
possible, or rather should be preserved by all means. That
is why we often sent gold to Greece in order to attempt to
maintain the value of the currency there to some extent.

Q. What was accomplished in Greece by sending this gold
there?

A. By sending gold to Greece we lowered the rate of exchange
of foreign currencies. Thus the Greek merchants who had
hoarded food to a large extent, became frightened and placed
the food on the market, and in this way it was made
available to the Greek population again.

Q. Is it correct that von Ribbentrop gave very strict orders
there should be no confiscation in occupied territories, but
only direct dealing with their governments?

A. If you put the question like that, it is basically
correct, but I say, as I said yesterday, that in principle
we had no functions at all in the occupied territories,
therefore also no power to confiscate, nor was there such
power under the jurisdiction of other agencies; but it is
correct that we negotiated only with the foreign
governments, and that von Ribbentrop had most strictly
forbidden us to support any direct measures, concerning an
occupied country which were carried out by other
departments.

DR. HORN: For the time being I have no further questions to
put to this witness.

BY DR. KUBUSCHOK (Counsel for defendant von Papen):

Q. Witness, did you become well acquainted with von Papen
through being in the Foreign Office and particularly while
you were State Secretary in that Department?

A. I knew von Papen several years before 1933, but only
privately. Then I lost track of him for some time and re-
established contact with him when I became State Secretary
in the German Foreign Office, when I was continually
associated with him in an official and unofficial capacity.

Q. Did you, particularly in the last period of your
activities as State Secretary, continually receive the
reports which von Papen, as Ambassador in Ankara, sent to
Berlin?

                                                   [Page 88]

A. Whenever von Papen did not send these reports directly to
von Ribbentrop, I received them weekly through official
channels.

Q. Do you remember that after two previous refusals von
Papen took over the post of Ambassador in Ankara, in April
1939, on the day that Italy occupied Albania, whereby an
acute danger of war arose in the Southeast?

A. At that time I was not State Secretary and had no
political position and so I am not acquainted with the
events of that period. But today I have the impression that
he took that position after the Italians had occupied
Albania. He, himself, told me later that, at that time,
there was danger that the Italians would advance further
into the Balkans and so, possibly, cause a conflict with
Turkey, as a result of which world peace would have been
endangered. For that reason he had decided at the time to
accept the post. Exactly on which day that was, I cannot
say.

Q. What can you say in general about von Papen's efforts
toward peace?

A. I am under the impression that von Papen always strove to
preserve peace by every means. He certainly considered that
it would be a great disaster for Germany and the world if
war were to break out.

Q. Were the efforts which von Papen made during the war
towards establishing peace aimed at foregoing any
annexations, regardless of the military outcome, and at
completely re-establishing the sovereignty of occupied
territories, in short, to achieve, by means of reasonable
renunciation, a bearable status for all European States?

A. In principle it was quite clear that von Papen always
worked for the reestablishment of peace under conditions
which would have re-established full sovereignty for all
countries, so that no infringements or damages, material or
otherwise, would be inflicted on any of them.

Q. Was that von Papen's attitude even at the time of the
greatest German military successes?

A. I believe that his basic attitude in this respect never
changed.

Q. Were his continuous personal efforts to establish peace
held against von Papen by Hitler, and was he considered the
disagreeable "outsider" in that connection?

A. I did not have an opportunity to discuss it with Hitler,
I only know that he was quite generally criticised by Hitler
and other persons as a man who always followed a weak line.

Q. Did von Papen frankly acknowledge that peace would be
impossible as long as Hitler and the Party existed in
Germany, and the necessary credit for negotiating abroad was
lacking?

A. Yes, I think it must have been about April 1943 or May
1943 that I spoke to von Papen about the whole subject in
detail, since, at that time, I had just become State
Secretary. At that time he quite clearly voiced the opinion
to me which you have just sketched. It was quite plain to
him that, because of Hitler and the methods which were being
employed, no peace with foreign countries could be achieved.

Q. Just one last question, witness: The Indictment accuses
the defendant von Papen of being an unscrupulous
opportunist. You, witness, know the accused from the reports
and from all the official contact the defendant had with his
department for a number of years. Do you, on the strength of
that knowledge, get the impression that this
characterisation of von Papen is correct, or can you say, on
the strength of these reports and this official contact,
that von Papen appears to you to be a man who always tells
the truth, even when that truth is disagreeable to his
superiors, and even when the voicing of that truth is
connected with personal danger for him?

A. I can say that is absolutely so. I find the best evidence
of it is that von Papen was finally completely eliminated
from the position of Vice Chancellor and resigned from the
government. He then became a private citizen and only in the
greatest emergency was he called upon. In my opinion, von
Papen made himself available

                                                   [Page 89]

only because he said to himself: "I have still got a certain
amount of credit, I am a good Catholic, and accordingly I
represent an attitude which is opposed to all inhumanity.
Perhaps I can, as a person, exercise some influence." I
myself never attended a meeting or a conference which took
place between Hitler and von Papen but, particularly from my
liaison officer with Hitler, I often heard that von Papen,
in his smooth way, frequently told Hitler many things which
no one else could have told him, and I believe that through
his persuasiveness he prevented a number of things, at least
for a time.

DR. KUBUSCHOK: Thank you.

BY DR. NELTE (Counsel for the defendant Keitel):

Witness, you have stated that Hitler, because of the
terrible bombing attack on Dresden, intended to issue an
order according to which thousands of prisoners of war were
to be killed in reprisal.

A. Yes.

Q. Do I remember your testimony of yesterday correctly, that
all you have said about this matter is information from, or
based on information from, Herr von Ribbentrop?

A. No.

Q. What do you know from your own personal knowledge?

A. From my own personal knowledge I only know that our
liaison officer with Hitler called me on the telephone and
told me that Goebbels had proposed to Hitler that 10,000 or
more British and American prisoners of war should be shot in
reprisal, and that Hitler wanted to agree or had agreed. I
immediately reported this to von Ribbentrop, and he went
there at once and told me after half an hour that the order
had been withdrawn.

About Field Marshal Keitel I know nothing at all in that
connection.

Q. You do not know, therefore, who was the originator of
that order?

A. No.

Q. Who suggested it, I mean.

A. The suggestion for that order evidently came from
Goebbels, according to the information which I received.

Q. Through von Ribbentrop, do you mean?

A. Who?

Q. Through Herr von Ribbentrop?

A . No, von Ribbentrop had nothing to do with it.

Q. Then from Herr Hewel?

A. Herr Hewel told me that. He called me up and told me
that.

Q. And you know nothing about the participation of military
men?

A. I know nothing at all about the participation of military
men.

DR. NELTE: Thank you very much.

BY DR. LATERNSER (Counsel for the General Staff and the
O.K.W.):

Q. Witness, I have only one question. Did you, as State
Secretary, or did the Foreign Office regularly keep military
offices, i.e. the Army High Command, or the Supreme Command
of the Navy, informed about pertinent matters of German
politics?

A. No, they were not informed.

DR. LATERNSER: I have no further questions.

THE PRESIDENT: Does the British Prosecutor wish to cross-
examine?

Cross-examination by COLONEL PHILLIMORE:

Q. Witness, you told us yesterday that the defendant
Ribbentrop was against the persecution of the Churches, was
against the persecution of Jews, and did not know what was
going on in the concentration camps. You have told us that
he was not a typical Nazi. What are the qualities of a
typical Nazi?

A. By a typical National Socialist, I mean a man who
fanatically acknowledges and represents all the doctrines of
National Socialism.

Von Ribbentrop, as I said, followed Hitler, personally, but
he really knew

                                                   [Page 90]

uncommonly little of any of the Party's ideology, and never
bothered about it. He never spoke at meetings, and never
participated in large rallies, that is, he really knew
extremely little about the people and the mood of the
people.

Q. By a typical Nazi, do you mean someone who was
persecuting the Churches?

A. I did not understand that question.

Q. I will repeat it. By a typical Nazi, do you mean a man
who was engaged in persecution of the Churches?

A. At any rate, he was a man who, if Adolf Hitler considered
it right, did not state his personal opinion on the matter.

Q. And a man who would take his full share in persecution
and extermination of Jews?

A. That I would not like to say either. That was limited to
a certain circle of people. A large number of fanatics knew
nothing about these atrocities and repudiated them and would
have repudiated them, had they been properly informed of
them.

Q. I understand you to say that you knew nothing of them
yourself. Is that so?

A. That I knew nothing?

Q. Yes.

A. In my position, as State Secretary, and because I read
foreign papers and particularly since I had contact with the
opposition, I knew of many things connected with
concentration camps. In all these cases, as far as it was in
my power, I intervened. But regarding the things which I
have heard here, I knew nothing at all.

Q. Now, I want to ask you about another matter. You have
told us that Ribbentrop had no responsibility in the
occupied territories. You said that the Foreign Office lost
responsibility at that moment at which the German bayonets
crossed the frontier. Is that right?

A. I said, that in that moment in which the German bayonets
crossed the frontier the Foreign Office lost the sole right
to negotiate with foreign governments everywhere. Beyond
that, in most countries, the Foreign Office did not even
have the right to have a diplomatic observer without
authority, particularly in Norway, and the Eastern
territories.

Q. You have said the Foreign Office had no right to have an
observer there, and that direct relations with occupied
territories were withdrawn, is that right?

A. No, I said that in all occupied territories the Foreign
Office no longer had the sole right to negotiate with the
government, since there was then either a civil
administration in those countries, or a military government
with auxiliary command offices and a military administrative
head, and that these offices themselves then approached the
foreign governments and their executive organs in the
countries occupied at that time. Consequently you could no
longer say that the Foreign Office had the sole right to
negotiate with the governments. But in countries in the
North and the East we no longer had any of our people at
all, and Hitler had issued the order that we withdraw our
observers from the other countries, such as Holland, Belgium
and so on. However, we did not do so.

Q. You say that in France you had an ambassador reporting
direct to Ribbentrop, did you not?

A. Yes.

Q. And his duties included advising the Secret Field Police
and the Secret State Police by the impounding of politically
important documents, and by securing and seizing public as
well as private property, and above all, Jewish artistic
property, on the basis of instructions especially given for
the matter. Is that not correct?

A. I already emphasised yesterday that only since 1943 had I
anything at all to do with political affairs. If I
understood your question correctly, Mr. Prosecutor, you are
of the opinion that the Secret State Police and the German
executive organs in France were under our jurisdiction. That
is incorrect.

                                                   [Page 91]
                                                            

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