The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 1999/12/18

DR. KUBUSCHOK: Mr. President, in this case would it not be
of purpose to put the one question to the witness as to
whether he really meant Papen?

THE PRESIDENT: Very well; put the question to the witness.


Q. Witness, do you really think that you said that Papen
made a speech on the 18th of February,
1938? Where was this speech supposed to have been made?

A. That, in my opinion, was a mistake which may have crept
in when I made the affidavit; because if the speech was not
made - at any rate, at the moment I no longer remember such
a speech as I described in that affidavit. It is, therefore,
perfectly possible that a mistake crept in. And perhaps that
mistake is excusable if you consider that this affidavit was
submitted to me at a time when I was rather seriously ill in
bed in hospital. It can very well have happened that upon
reading through the affidavit I did not notice the mistake -
and I really consider it to be a mistake.

Q. That makes the actual fact established and the
conclusions drawn therefore, unnecessary -

A. After what I have said, yes. I cannot remember the
speech, and I think it can be traced to a mistake on my part
and I attribute it to the circumstances under which I signed
the document after I had been seriously ill.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, Dr. Horn. The witness can now retire.

DR. HORN: May I once more ask the Tribunal whether it can be
ascertained if the translations of the documents will be
available by tomorrow morning. I would like to base the
further presentation of evidence on them. If I can get the
translations in the morning, then I would begin now to
examine the defendant von Ribbentrop as a witness. If
translations cannot be completed by tomorrow, then I would
ask the Tribunal to allow me to continue to submit my
documents now.

                                                  [Page 153]

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Horn, this trial has been going on for
many months, and it is taking a very much longer time than
anybody anticipated, at any rate longer than any member of
the Tribunal anticipated, and they cannot have it put off
any longer. You must go on. Have you got any further
witnesses to call?

DR. HORN: No, I have no further witnesses, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Are you not going to call the defendant von

DR. HORN: Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: Why cannot you put him in the box now?

DR. HORN: I can examine him, but I have just asked the
President whether I could have the assistance of the
Tribunal, to find out whether I can obtain the documents by
the morning, and have said that if so I would start to
examine the defendant as a witness now, and then submit the
documents when the prosecution has its documents too, and it
can raise its objections here at the same time.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, as soon as the documents are
translated, you shall have them, of course. We have sent out
to find out whether they will be available by tomorrow
morning, but we have got 35 minutes now before 5 o'clock. We
want to occupy the time.

DR. HORN: Very well, Mr. President. In that case I shall
examine the defendant as witness now.

THE PRESIDENT: Will you go on please, Dr. Horn?

DR. HORN: Yes. In that case I shall continue to present the

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Horn, you said you were going to call the
defendant von Ribbentrop. We have not got the documents
here, and you must do as you said.

DR. HORN: Then I request to be given permission to examine
the defendant as a witness.

(JOACHIM VON RIBBENTROP, a witness, took the stand and
testified as follows):


Q. Will you say your full name?

A. Joachim von Ribbentrop.

Q. Will you repeat this oath after me:

I swear by God, the Almighty and Omniscient, that I will
speak the pure truth and will withhold and add nothing.

(The witness repeated the oath.)

THE PRESIDENT: You may sit down.


Q. Please give the Tribunal a brief explanatory report about
the important points of your life.

A. I was born on the 30th of April, 1893, at Wesel. I came
from an old family of soldiers. My mother came from the
country. I went to school at Kassel and Metz. There, in
Alsace-Lorraine, I had my first contact with French cultural
circles, and at that time we learned to love that country.

In 1908 my father resigned from active military service. The
reason was differences that were at that time connected with
the Kaiser. My father already had a strong interest in
foreign politics and also social interests, and I had A
great admiration for him. At that time we moved to
Switzerland, and after living there for about one year I
went to London as a young man, and there, for about one
year, I studied mainly languages. It was then that I had my
first impression of London and of the size of the British

After about one year, in 1910, I went to Canada. Originally
I wanted to go to the German colonies but then I went to
America instead. I wanted to see the world. I remained in
Canada for some time, approximately two years, I worked on
the railroad, and later on in a bank and in the building

In 1914, the first World War found me still in Canada. Like
all Germans at the time I had only one thought-"Everyman is
needed at home. How can I

                                                  [Page 154]

help my fatherland?" Then I travelled to New York and
finally in September, 194, after some difficulties, I
arrived in Germany. After serving at the front, for
approximately four years, and after I had been wounded, I
was sent to Constantinople, where I witnessed the collapse
of Germany in the first World War. At that time, my first
impression was the dreadful consequences of a lost war. The
Ambassador, at that time Count Bernsdorf, and later Dr.
Dieckhoff, were the representatives of the Reich in Turkey.
They were summoned to Berlin in order to take advantage of
Graf Bernsdorf's connections with President Wilson and to
see - it was the hope of all of us - that on the strength of
his points perhaps a peace could be achieved and with it

After some difficulties, in March, 1919, I came to Berlin
and was appointed  Adjutant to General von Seeckt for the
Peace Delegation at Versailles. Subsequently, when the
Treaty of Versailles was settled, I read that document in
one night and it was my impression that no government in the
world could possibly sign such a document. That was my first
impression of foreign policy at home.

In 1919, I resigned from the armed forces as a first
lieutenant and I turned to work as a businessman. Through
these business contacts, I came to know England and France
quite intimately during the following years, and I
established several contacts with politicians during that
time. I tried to help my own country by voicing my views
against Versailles. At first it was very difficult, but as
early as 1919, 1920 and 1921, I managed to obtain in a
modest way a certain amount of understanding in those
countries. Then, sometime after 1929 or 1930, I saw that
Germany, after seeming to prosper during the years 1926,
1927 and 1928 was exposed to a sudden economic earthquake,
and that matters were deteriorating rapidly.

During the year 1931 and 1932, one noticed as a business
man, which I was at the time, that in practice the
consequences of Versailles were such that German economic
life was being more and more strangled. Then I looked
around. At that time, I was closely attached to the German
Peoples Party, and I saw how parties became more numerous in
Germany. I remember that in the end we had something like
thirty parties or more in Germany; that unemployment was
growing steadily; and that the government was more and more
losing the confidence of the people. I recollect clearly
those years of efforts made by the Chancellor Bruning,
efforts which were doubtlessly sincere and honest but which
nevertheless met with no success.

Other governments came, as is well known. They, too, had no
success. The export trade in Germany no longer paid for
itself. The gold reserves of the Reichsbank dwindled, there
was tax evasion, and no more confidence in the measures
introduced by the government. That, roughly, was the picture
which I saw in Germany in the years 1930, and 1931. I saw
then how strikes increased, how discontented the people
were, and how more and more demonstrations took place on the
streets, and how conditions became more and more chaotic.

I do not think that I am exaggerating if I say that the
picture which presented itself in Germany in the years 1930,
1931 and 1932, particularly 1932, was not unlike the
symptoms of civil war. For me as a German - and I think I
have always been a patriot like many other Germans - it made
a frightful impression. Actually, I was not very close to
the political world, but during those years I told myself
that something had to be done and that everyone, wherever he
might be, would have to help to create a national front on a
broad basis which would once more have the trust of men and
particularly of the large working masses of the people. At
the same time, I was aware that most of the men who were
responsible for Versailles did not want this. That, I am
sure, is a factor which, I believe, no one can dispute even
today. I have already mentioned the disappointment I
experienced as a young officer through my personal contacts,
particularly with the German Ambassador at that time,
Dieckhoff, who is a distant relative of mine or relative by
marriage. It was a disappointment which in fact we all
experienced -

                                                  [Page 155]

the German Armed Forces, the German people, and even more,
of course, government circles - that these points of Wilson
had been so quickly abandoned. I do not propose to make a
propaganda speech. I merely want to represent, soberly and
frankly, the circumstances as I found them at the time.
There is no doubt that the defencelessness of the German
people at that time led to the unfortunate result that the
tendency was maintained among our enemies, not toward
conciliation but toward hatred or revenge. I am convinced
that this was certainly not the intention of Wilson, at that
time President of the United States, and I myself believe
that in later years, he suffered because of what happened.
At any rate that was my first contact with German politics.

But it is known that even the severe stipulations of
Versailles, as we experienced them from the closest personal
observation, were not adhered to. That, too, is perhaps a
consequence, an after-effect of war, in which men drift into
a certain direction and just cannot or will not take heed of
certain things. It is known that the stipulations of
Versailles were not observed, either territorially or in
other very important points. May I mention that one of the
most important questions, territorial questions, at that
time was Upper Silesia, and particularly the small territory
of Memel. The events which took place made a deep impression
on me, especially as regards Upper Silesia, because I had
many personal ties there and because none of us could
understand that even those severe stipulations of Versailles
were not observed. It was a question of minorities, which
also played a very important part. Later I shall have to
refer to this point more in detail, particularly in
connection with the Polish crisis. But right from the
beginning, German minorities, as it is well known, were
exposed to serious difficulties. At that time this question
affected Upper Silesia particularly, and other territories
were involved and suffering in the same way. Further, the
question of disarmament was, naturally, one of the most
important points of Versailles, and that; too, has been
referred to in this courtroom. Therefore at the moment, I do
not want to go into detail.

At any rate, it was the denial of equality in all these
spheres, and the denial of equal rights, which made me
decide that year to take a greater part in politics. I would
like to say here quite openly that at that time I often
talked to French and British friends, and of course it was
already a well known fact, even then, - after 1930 the
N.S.D.A.P. obtained over 100 seats in the Reichstag - that
here the natural will of the German people broke through to
resist this treatment, which after all meant nothing more
than that they wanted to live.

At this time friends of mine spoke to me about Adolf Hitler,
whom I did not then know. They asked me, "What sort of a man
is Adolf Hitler? What will come of it?" and so on. I
answered them frankly, "Give Germany a chance and you will
not have Adolf Hitler. Refuse Germany a chance and Adolf
Hitler will come into power."

That was approximately in 1930 or 1931. Germany was not
given the chance, so on the 30th of January, 1933, Hitler
came, and the National Socialists seized power.

Q. How and when did you come to know Adolf Hitler?

A. I saw Adolf Hitler for the first time on the 13th of
August, 1932, at the Berghof. Since about 1930 or 1931 I had
known Count Helldorf in Berlin, whose name as a National
Socialist is known. He was a comrade of mine in my squadron,
and we went through four years of war together. Through him
I became acquainted with National Socialism in Berlin for
the first time. I had asked him to arrange a meeting with
Hitler for me. He did so, as far as I remember, through
Roehm. I visited Adolf Hitler and had a long discussion with
him, that is to say, Adolf Hitler explained his ideas on the
existing situation to me. I then saw him again in 1933 -
that has already been described here by Party Member Goering
at my house at Dahlem, which I placed at the disposal of the
National Socialists so that I, on my part, should do
everything possible to create a national front.

                                                  [Page 156]

Adolf Hitler made a considerable impression on me even then.
I noticed particularly his eyes and his general appearance,
and then, perhaps as outstanding, his clear, I should say
inaccessible - not hidden, but inaccessible - nature, and
the manner in which he expressed his thoughts. These
thoughts and statements had something final and definite
about them and they appeared to come from his innermost
self. I had the impression that I was facing a man who knew
what he wanted and who had an unshakeable will and a very
strong personality. I can summarise by saying that I left
that meeting with Hitler convinced that this man, if anyone,
could rescue Germany from her great difficulties and supply
that need which existed at the time. I need not go further
into detail about the events of that January. But I would
like to tell you about one episode which happened in my
house in Dahlem, when the question arose whether Hitler was
to become Reich Chancellor or not. I know that at that time
he was offered the Vice-Chancellorship, and I had been told
with what enormous strength and conviction, if you like,
also brutality and hardness, he could state his opinion when
he believed that there were any obstacles to the
rehabilitation and rescue of the German people.

Q. Did you believe in the possibility of a revision of the
Versailles Treaty by means of mutual understanding?

A. I must say that the numerous business trips which in the
years of 1920 to 1932 took me abroad, proved to me how
endlessly difficult it was and would be; under the existing
system, to bring about a revision of the Versailles Treaty
by means of negotiations. In spite of that, I felt, that
from year to year the circles grew in England and France
which were convinced that somehow Germany would have to be
helped. During those years, I established many contacts with
men of the business world, of public life, of art and
science, particularly in universities in England and France,
I learned thereby to understand the attitude of the English
and the French. I want to say now that even shortly after
Versailles, it was my conviction that a change of that
treaty could only be carried out through mutual
understanding with France and England. I also believed that
only in this way could the international situation be
improved, and the very considerable causes of conflict
existing everywhere as consequences of the first World War,
be removed. It was clear, therefore, that only by means of
an understanding with the Western Powers, with England and
France, would a revision of Versailles be possible. Even
then, I had the distinct feeling that only through such an
understanding could a permanent peace in Europe really be

We young officers had experienced too much at that time. I
am thinking of the Free Corps battles in Silesia and all
those things in the Baltic, etc. I should like to add, and
say it quite openly, that right from the beginning, from the
first day in which I saw and read the Versailles Treaty, I,
as a German, felt it to be my duty to oppose it and to try
and do everything so that a better treaty could take its
place. It was precisely Hitler's opposition to Versailles
that first brought me together with him and the National
Socialist Party.

Q. Did you attempt to tell Hitler your views regarding this?

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Horn, it is 5 o'clock and the Tribunal
think they had better adjourn now.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 29th March, 1946, at 10.00

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