The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 1999/12/18

Q. What did the European situation look like to you at the
time of the occupation of the remaining parts of

A. I might say that after the proclamation at Prague I had a
lengthy discussion with the Fuehrer. I pointed out to him
that this occupation, of course, would have considerable
repercussions in the British-French camp. In this connection
I should like to point out that in England those circles
which had turned against Germany had grown larger, and were
led by important persons. In this connection I should like
to come back to or mention briefly one incident which took
place while I was still Ambassador in London, when Mr.
Winston Churchill paid me a visit at the Embassy. Mr.
Winston Churchill was not in the government at that time,
and I believe he was not leader of the opposition - but he
was one of the most outstanding personalities in England. I
was especially interested in arranging a meeting between him
and Adolf Hitler, and therefore had asked him to come to see
me at the embassy. We had a conversation which lasted many
hours and the details of which I recall exactly. I believe
it would go too far to relate all the details of this
conversation. But whereas important men like Lord Vansittart
in 1936 ...

THE PRESIDENT: Documents with reference to Mr. Winston
Churchill at this time when he was not a member of the
government have already been ruled by the Tribunal to be
irrelevant and what he said and such a conversation as this,
appears to the Tribunal to be absolutely irrelevant and the
Tribunal will not hear it.

A. (continued). I have already said that I called the
Fuehrer's attention to the British reaction. Adolf Hitler
explained to me the necessity of the occupation of Bohemia
and Moravia, especially on historic and strategic grounds. I
remember that in this connection he quoted especially the
former French Minister of Aviation, Pierre Cot, who had
called Bohemia and Moravia, i.e. Czechoslovakia, the

                                                  [Page 176]

carrier against Germany. I believe it was Reich Marshal
Goering who mentioned that at that time we received
intelligence reports of Russian pilots or Russian missions
being on Czech aerodromes. Hitler said, and I remember these
words distinctly, that he could not tolerate an inimical
Czech thorn in the German flesh. One could get along well
enough with the Czechs, but it was necessary for Germany to
have in her hands the protection of these countries. He
mentioned Soviet Russia, allied with Czechoslovakia, as a
factor of inestimable power. When I mentioned England and
her reaction he said that England was in no position to take
over the protection of the Germans in Czechoslovakia.
Furthermore, the structure of the Czechoslovakian State had
disintegrated and Slovakia had become independent. Therefore
he thought it was necessary in the interest of future German-
English relations that the countries of Bohemia and Moravia
should come into a close contact with the Reich. A
protectorate seemed to him to be the right answer to this
problem. Adolf Hitler also said this question was utterly
unimportant to England, but absolutely vital for Germany.
This becomes evident if one glances at the map - and he used
these words. Besides, he said, he was unable to see how this
solution could disturb the co-operation between Germany and
England which was being striven for. Hitler pointed out that
England - by chance I still remember the figure - had about
600 dominions, protectorates and colonies and therefore
should understand that such problems have to be solved.

I told Adolf Hitler about the difficulties which might
confront Mr. Chamberlain personally because of this action
on the part of Germany, that England might consider this an
increase of Germany's power; but the Fuehrer explained the
whole question with the reasons I have mentioned before.

The English reaction at first, in the person of Mr.
Chamberlain in the House of Commons, was rather a positive
one. He said it was not a violation of the Munich Agreement
and the British Government was not bound by any obligation.
The Czechoslovakian State had disintegrated and the
guarantee which England had said she would give had not come
into effect, or rather the obligations of the guarantee did
not apply under the circumstances.

I might say that all of us were glad that this attitude was
taken in England. I believe it was two or three days later
when Mr. Chamberlain in Birmingham ...

THE PRESIDENT (interposing): Dr. Horn, what have we got to
do with the reactions in England unless they took the form
of a note? I do not see what it has to do with it. What we
want to know is the part that the defendant Ribbentrop
played in the breach of the Munich Agreement.

DR. HORN: The defendant von Ribbentrop is accused of having
participated in a conspiracy when he was Foreign Minister,
and it is charged that his foreign policy contributed to the
bringing about of aggressive war. If the defendant von
Ribbentrop wishes and is allowed to defend himself against
these charges then he must be permitted to describe the
circumstances as he saw them and the motives behind his
actions. I am putting only such questions to the defendant
in this case as have reference to his forming certain

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I did not think you asked him any
question about it. He was just ...

DR. HORN: It is not coming through quite audibly.

THE PRESIDENT: What I said was, I did not think you asked
him any questions as to the reactions in England.

THE INTERPRETER: The circuits seem to be disturbed in some
way. I think he is getting more than one language.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal had better adjourn, I think.

(A recess was taken.)

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Horn, what I was attempting to say to you
when the system broke down was that it seems to the Tribunal
that the defendant ought to be able to keep his evidence
within stricter limits and not to go into so much detail,

                                                  [Page 177]

and that, with regard to the reactions - the political
reactions - in England, they are not relevant in themselves,
and that the bearing which they may have upon the case is
really remote.


Q. What persuaded Hitler to commission you, in October of
1938, to enter into negotiations with Poland?

A. There had always been the minority problem in Poland,
which had caused great difficulties. Despite the agreement
of 1934, this situation had not changed. In the year 1938
the "de-Germanisation" measures against German minorities
were continued by Poland. Hitler wished to reach some clear
settlement with Poland, as well as with other countries.
Consequently he told me, I believe during October, 1938, to
discuss with the Polish ambassador, a final clarification of
the problems existing between Germany and Poland.

Q. Besides the minority problem, what other problems were

A. There were two questions: one, the minority problem, was
the most burning one; the second problem was the question of
Danzig and the Corridor, that is to say, of a connection
with East Prussia.

Q. What was Hitler's and your attitude toward the Danzig and
Corridor questions?

A. It is clear that these two questions were the problems
that had caused the greatest difficulties since Versailles.
Hitler had to solve these problems sooner or later one way
or another. I shared this point of view. Danzig was exposed
to continual pressure by the Poles; they wanted to Polonise
Danzig more and more, and by October of 1938 from 800,000 to
1,000,000 Germans, I believe, had been expelled from the
Corridor or had returned to Germany.

Q. How did the Polish Ambassador take your suggestions in
October, 1938?

A. The Polish ambassador was reticent at first. He did not
commit himself, nor could he do so. Also, I approached him
with the problem in such a way that he could discuss it at
ease with his government, and I did not request, so to
speak, a definitive answer from him. He said that naturally
he saw certain difficulties with reference to Danzig, and
also an alliance with East Prussia was a question which
required much consideration. He was very reticent, and the
discussion ended with his promise to communicate my
statements, made on behalf of the German Government, to his
government, and to give me an answer in the near future.

Q. How did your second discussion with Ambassador Lipski on
the 17th of November, 1938, end?

A. On the 17th of November, 1938, Lipski came to see me and
declared that the problem involved considerable difficulties
and that the Danzig question in particular was very
difficult in view of Poland's entire attitude.

Q. Did you then, on Hitler's order, transmit the request to
Lipski to take up direct negotiations with Foreign Minister

A. I invited Foreign Minister Beck to Berlin.

Q. When did Foreign Minister Beck come to Berlin?

A. Unfortunately, Beck did not come to Berlin; he went to

Q. You misunderstood my question. When did Foreign Minister
Beck come to Berchtesgaden?

A. Hitler had said that he wanted to speak with M. Beck
personally about this problem. Thereupon M. Beck came - I do
not know the date exactly ...

Q. (interrupting): It was the beginning of January, on 5th

A. (continuing) . . . to Berchtesgaden and had a long talk
with Adolf Hitler.

Q. What was the result of this talk?

A. I was present at that conversation. The result was that
Hitler informed Beck once more in detail of his desire for
good German-Polish relations. He said that a completely new
solution would have to be found in regard to Danzig, and
that an alliance with East Prussia should not give rise to
insurmountable difficulties. During this conversation M.
Beck was rather receptive. He told the Fuehrer

                                                  [Page 178]

that naturally the question of Danzig was difficult because
of the mouth of the Vistula, but he would think the problem
over in all its details. He did not at all refuse to discuss
this problem, but rather he pointed out the difficulties
which, due to the Polish attitude, obstructed a solution.

Q. Is it true that Beck was - as a matter of principle -
willing to negotiate and therefore invited you, at the end
of January, to make a visit to Warsaw?

A. One cannot put it quite that way. After the meeting at
Berchtesgaden with the Fuehrer, I had another lengthy
conversation with Beck in Munich. During this conversation
Beck explained to me again that the problem was very
difficult, but that he would do everything he could; he
would speak to his governmental colleagues, and one would
have to find a solution of some kind. On this occasion we
agreed that I would pay him a return visit in Warsaw. During
this visit we also spoke about the minority question, about
Danzig and the Corridor. But the matter did not progress; M.
Beck rather enlarged on the difficulties. I told him that it
was simply impossible to leave this problem the way it was
between Germany and Poland. I pointed out the great
difficulties encountered by the German minorities and the
undignified situation - as I should like to put it -
confronting Germans who wanted to travel to East Prussia.
Beck promised to help in the minority question, and also to
examine the other questions further. Then, on the following
day, I spoke briefly with Marshal Smigly-Rydz, but this
conversation did not lead to anything.

Q. At that time did you ask Beck to pay another visit to
Berlin, and did this visit take place? Or did Beck decide on
a different course?

A. What happened was that I invited Beck to Berlin, because
his first visit was not an official one. Unfortunately,
however, Beck did not come to Berlin, but, as I have already
said, he went to London.

Q. What was the effect of his visit to London on the
subsequent negotiations?

A. The effect of this London visit was a complete surprise
to us. Ambassador Lipski, I believe it was on the 21st of
March, yes, it was, suddenly handed us a memorandum.

Q. Let me interrupt you. On the 21st of March you had a
conversation with Lipski regarding the division of
Czechoslovakia and the problems arising from the
establishment of the Protectorate?

A. That may be true, in that case I meant the 26th.

Q. Yes.

A. That is right; on the 21st I had a talk with Lipski, that
is true, and in this talk Lipski expressed certain
misgivings concerning Slovakia and the protection afforded
by Germany. He expressed the wish that between Hungary and
Poland -two countries which had always had close relations
with each other - a direct, common boundary might be
established, and asked whether or not this would be
possible. He also inquired indirectly whether the protection
afforded to Slovakia was directed in any way against Poland.
I assured M. Beck that neither Hitler nor anybody else had
been motivated by the slightest intention of acting against
Poland when the protection was promised. It was merely a
measure to point out to Hungary that the territorial
questions were now settled. However, I believe I told M.
Lipski to look forward to such a link being established via
the Carpatho-Ukraine.

Q. Is it true that consultations were initiated between
Poland and the British Government, the French Government and
the Russian Government about the 20th of March?

A. Yes, that is right. These consultations, as far as I
recall, go back to a suggestion made by Lord Simon. A common
declaration was to be made with regard to Poland. But Poland
did not regard this as satisfactory, and made it clear in
London that this solution was out of the question for

Q. Is it true that Poland worked toward a concrete alliance
with England and France?

                                                  [Page 179]
A. There can be no doubt, and it is a historical fact, that
Poland strove for an alliance with England.Q. When did the
German Government find out that Poland had been promised
support by England and France?A. That became known - I
cannot tell you the date precisely, but it was, at any rate,
during the latter part of March. Anyway, I know, and we all
were convinced of what, I believe, is an established fact to-
day - that these relations taken up during the latter part
of March between Warsaw and London determined the answer
which was, to our surprise, communicated to us by
memorandum, on the 26th of March I believe.

Q. Is it correct that this memorandum stated that a further
pursuit of German aims regarding a change in the Danzig and
Corridor questions would mean war as far as Poland was

A. Yes, that is correct. That was a great surprise to us. I
know that I read the memorandum, and for a moment I simply
could not believe that such an answer had been given, when
one considers that for months we had tried to find a
solution, which - and I wish to emphasise this - only Adolf
Hitler, at that time, with his great authority over the
German people could bring about and be responsible for.

I do not want to get lost in details, but I do want to say
that the Danzig and Corridor problem, since 1919, had been
considered by statesmen of great authority the problem with
which somehow the revision of Versailles would have to
start. I should like to remind you of the statement by
Marshal Foch and other statements by Winston Churchill, who
also elaborated on this subject, as well as by Clemenceau
and others. All these statesmen were undoubtedly of the
opinion that a territorial revision of this Corridor would
really have to be undertaken. But Hitler, for his part,
wanted to make it an over all settlement and reach an
understanding with Poland on the basis of his putting up
with the Corridor and taking only Danzig back into the
Reich, whereby Poland was to be afforded a very generous
solution in the economic field. That, in other words, was
the basis of the proposals which I had been working on for
four to five months on Hitler's order. All the greater was
our surprise when, suddenly, the other side declared that a
further pursuit of these plans and solutions, which we
regarded as very generous, would mean war. I informed Hitler
of this, and I remember very well that Hitler received it
very calmly.

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