The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 1999/12/18

Q. Is it correct that on the following day you stated to the
Polish ambassador that the memorandum of the 26th of March,
1939 could not serve as the basis for a solution?

A. That is true. I just said that Hitler received this harsh
and serious message of the Polish ambassador very calmly. He
said, however, that I should tell the Polish ambassador that
of course no solution could be found on this basis. There
should be no talk of war.

Q. Is it true that thereupon, on the 6th of April, 1939, the
Polish Foreign Minister, Beck, travelled to London and
returned with a temporary agreement of mutual assistance
between Poland, England
and France?

A. Yes, that is correct.

Q. What was the German reaction to this pact of mutual
assistance?

A. The German reaction - here I might refer to Hitler's
Reichstag speech in which he stated his attitude towards
this whole problem. We felt this pact of mutual assistance
between Poland and England to be not in agreement with the
German-Polish pact of 1934, for in the 1934 Pact any
application of force was excluded between Germany and
Poland. By the new pact concluded between Poland and
England, without previous consultation with Germany, Poland
had bound herself, for example, to attack Germany in case of
any conflict between Germany and England. I know that Adolf
Hitler felt that it was also not in conformity with the
agreements between him and Mr. Chamberlain in Munich,

                                                  [Page 180]

namely, the elimination of any resort to force between
Germany and England, regardless of what might happen.

Q. Is it true that Germany then sent through you a
memorandum to Poland on 28th April, by which the German-
Polish Declaration of 1934 was rescinded?

A. That is true. It was, I believe, on the same day as the
Reichstag speech of the Fuehrer. This memorandum stated more
or less what I have just summarised here - that the pact was
not in agreement with the Treaty of 1934 and that,
consequently, Germany regarded this treaty as no longer
valid.

Q. Is it true that as a consequence of this memorandum
German-Polish relations became more tense and that new
difficulties arose in the minority question?

A. Yes, that is true. During the preceding period
negotiations had been pending in order to put the minority
problem on a new basis. I still remember that no progress
was made. That was the case even before the 28th of April,
and after the 28th of April the situation of the German
minority became even more difficult. In particular the
Polish association for the Western Territories (Westmarken-
Verband) was very active at that time and persecution of
Germans and their expulsion from hearth and home was the
order of the day. I know that just during the months
following the 28th of May - that is to say, in the summer of
1939 - the so-called refugee reception camps for German
refugees from Poland showed a tremendous influx.

Q. How did you and Hitler react to the British-French
Declarations of Guarantee to Roumania and Greece, and later
on, Turkey?

A. These declarations could be interpreted by the German
policy only as meaning that England was initiating a
systematic policy of alliances in Europe which was hostile
to Germany. That was Hitler's opinion and also mine.

Q. Is it true that these Declarations of Guarantee and
Roosevelt's message of 14th April, 1939, were then, on the
22nd of May, 1939, followed by the German-Italian Pact of
Alliance? And what were the reasons for this pact?

A. It is known that between Germany and Italy friendly
relations had naturally existed for a long time; and when
the European situation became more acute these relations
were, at Mussolini's suggestion, intensified and a pact of
alliance, which was discussed first by Count Ciano and me in
Milan, was prepared and provisionally signed on the order of
the Government heads. This was an answer to the efforts of
English-French policy.

Q. Is it correct that the crisis with Poland became acute
through the fact that on the 6th of August in Danzig a
strike of the customs inspectors took place, and thus
Germany was forced to take a stand.

A. Yes, that is so. A quarrel had arisen between the Polish
representative and the Senate of the City of Danzig. The
Polish representative had sent a note to the President of
the Senate informing him that certain customs officers of
the Senate wanted to disobey Polish regulations. This
information, proved later to be false, was answered by the
Senate, and led to a sharp exchange of notes between the
Senate and the Polish representative. On Hitler's order I
told the Secretary of the Foreign Office to remonstrate
accordingly with the Polish Government.

Q. Is it true that Weizsaecker, the then State Secretary, on
the 15th of August saw the English and French Ambassadors
and informed them in detail of the seriousness of the
situation?

A. Yes, that is true. He did that on my order.

Q. On the 18th of August was Ambassador Henderson again
asked to see your Secretary of State because the situation
was becoming more acute in Poland and Danzig?

A. Yes. A conversation took place a few days later between
the English Ambassador and the Secretary of State. The
Secretary of State explained to him in very clear words the
great seriousness of the situation and told him that things
were taking a very dangerous turn.

Q. Is it true that in this phase of the crisis you made up
your mind, on the

                                                  [Page 181]

basis of a suggestion made to you, to initiate negotiations
with Russia, and what were your reasons for doing that?

A. Negotiations with Russia had already started sometime
previously. Marshal Stalin, in March, 1939, delivered a
speech in which he made certain hints of his desire to have
better relations with Germany. I had submitted this speech
to Adolf Hitler and asked him whether we should not try to
find out whether this suggestion had something real behind
it. Hitler was at first reluctant, but later on he became
more receptive to the idea. Negotiations for a commercial
treaty were under way, and during these negotiations, with
the Fuehrer's permission, I took soundings in Moscow as to
the possibility of a definite bridge between National
Socialism and Bolshevism, and as to whether the interests of
the two countries could not at least be made to harmonise.

Q. How did the relations taken up by the Soviet Russian
commercial agency in Berlin with your Ambassador Schnurre
develop?

A. The negotiations of Ambassador Schnurre gave me, within a
relatively short period of time, a picture from which I
could gather that Stalin had meant this speech in earnest.
Then an exchange of telegrams took place with Moscow which,
in the middle of August, led to Hitler sending a telegram to
Stalin, whereupon Stalin, in answer to this telegram,
invited a plenipotentiary to Moscow. The aim in view, which
had been prepared diplomatically, was the conclusion of a
non-aggression pact between the two countries.

Q. Is it true that you were sent to Moscow as
plenipotentiary?

A. Yes, that is known.

Q. When did you fly to Moscow, and what negotiations did you
carry on there?

A. On the evening of the 22nd of August I arrived in Moscow.
The reception given me by Stalin and Molotov was very
friendly. We had at first a two hour conversation. During
this conversation the entire complex of Russo-German
relations was discussed.

The result was, first, the mutual will of both countries to
put their relations on a completely new basis. This was to
be expressed in a pact of non-aggression. Secondly, the
spheres of interests of the two countries were to be
defined, and this was effected through a secret
supplementary
protocol.

Q. Which cases were dealt with in this secret supplementary
protocol? What were its contents and what were the political
bases?

A. I should like to say, first of all, that this secret
protocol has been spoken about frequently here in this
Court. I talked very frankly during the negotiations with
Stalin and Molotov, and the Russians also used plain
language with me. I described Hitler's desire that the two
countries should reach a definitive agreement, and, of
course, I also spoke of the critical situation in Europe. I
told the Russians that Germany would do everything to settle
the situation in Poland, and to settle the difficulties
peacefully, and to reach a friendly agreement despite
everything.

However, I left no doubt that the situation was serious and
that it was possible that an armed conflict might break out.
That was clear anyway. For both statesmen, Stalin as well as
Hitler, it was a question of territories which both
countries had lost after an unfortunate war. It is,
therefore, wrong to look at these things from any other
point of view. Just as Adolf Hitler was of the opinion which
I expressed in Moscow, that in some form or other this
problem would have to be solved, so also the Russian side
saw clearly that this was the case.

We then discussed what should be done on the part of the
Germans and on the part of the Russians in the case of an
armed conflict. A line of demarcation was agreed upon, as is
known, in order that in the event of intolerable Polish
provocation, or in the event of war, there should be a
boundary, so that the German and Russian interests in the
Polish theatre could and would not clash. The well-known
line was agreed upon along the line of the rivers Vistula,
San, and Bug in Polish territory, and it was agreed that, in
the case of conflict, the territories lying

                                                  [Page 182]

to the West of these rivers would be the German, and those
to the East would be the Russian sphere of interest.

It is known that later, after the outbreak of the war, these
zones were occupied on the one side by Germany and on the
other side by Russian troops. I might repeat that at that
time I had the impression, both from Hitler and Stalin, that
the territories - that these Polish territories and also the
other territories which had been marked off in these spheres
of interest, about which I shall speak shortly - that these
were territories which both countries had lost after an
unfortunate war. And both statesmen undoubtedly held the
opinion that if these territories - if, I should like to
say, the last chance for a reasonable solution of this
problem was exhausted - there was certainly a justification
for Adolf Hitler to incorporate these territories into the
German Reich by some other procedure.

Over and above that, it is also known that other spheres of
interest were defined with reference to Finland, the Baltic
States and Bessarabia. This was a great settlement of the
interests of two great Powers providing for a peaceful
solution as well as for solution by war.

Q. Is it correct that these negotiations were drawn up
specifically only in the event that, on the basis of the non-
aggression pact and the political settlement between Russia
and Germany, it might not be possible to settle the Polish
question diplomatically?

A. Please repeat the question.

Q. Is it correct that it was clearly stated that this
solution was designed only to provide for the event that,
despite the pact of non-aggression with Russia, the Polish
conflict might not be solved by diplomatic means and that
the treaty was to become effective only in this case?

A. Yes, that is so. I stated at that time that on the German
side everything would be attempted to solve the problem in a
diplomatic and peaceful way.

Q. Did Russia promise you diplomatic assistance or
benevolent neutrality in connection with this solution?

A. It could be seen from the Pact of Non-aggression and from
all the conferences in Moscow that this was so. It was
perfectly clear, and we were convinced of it, that if, due
to the Polish attitude, a war broke out, Russia would assume
a friendly attitude towards us.

Q. When did you fly back from Moscow, and what sort of
situation did you find in Berlin?

A. The Pact of Non-aggression with the Soviet Union was
concluded on the 23rd. On the 24th I flew back to Germany. I
had thought at first that I would fly to the Fuehrer, to the
Berghof in Berchtesgaden, but during the flight or prior to
it I was asked to come to Berlin.

We flew to Berlin, and there I informed Hitler of the Moscow
agreements. The situation which I found there was
undoubtedly tense. On the next day I noticed this
particularly.

Q. To what circumstances was this aggravation of the German-
Polish situation to be attributed?

A. In the middle of August all sorts of things had happened
which, as I should like to put it, charged the atmosphere
with electricity; frontier incidents, difficulties between
Danzig and Poland. On the one hand, Germany was accused of
sending arms to Danzig, and, on the other hand, we accused
the Poles of taking military measures in Danzig, and so on.

Q. Is it true that on your return from Moscow to Berlin, you
were informed of the signing of the British-Polish Pact of
Guarantee and what was your and Hitler's reaction to this?

A. That was on the 25th of August. On the 25th of August I
was informed about the conversation which the Fuehrer had
had with Ambassador Henderson during my absence from
Germany, I believe in Berchtesgaden on 22nd August. This was
a very serious conversation. Henderson had brought over a
letter

                                                  [Page 183]

from the British Prime Minister which stated clearly that a
war between Germany and Poland would draw England into the
picture.

Then, early on the 25th I have ... the Fuehrer then answered
this letter - I believe on the same day - and the answer was
couched so as to mean that at the moment a solution by
diplomatic means could not be expected. I discussed with the
Fuehrer on the 25th this exchange of letters, and asked him
to consider this question once more, and suggested that one
more attempt with reference to England might be made.

This was the 25th of August, a very eventful day. In the
morning a communication came from the Italian Government,
according to which Italy, in the case of a conflict over
Poland, would not stand at Germany's side. The Fuehrer
decided then to receive Ambassador Henderson once more in
the course of that day. This meeting took place at about
noon of the 25th. I was present. The Fuehrer went into
details and asked Henderson once more to bear in mind his
urgent desire to reach an understanding with England. He
described to him the very difficult situation with Poland
and asked him, I believe, to take a plane and fly back to
England in order to discuss this whole situation once more
with the British Government. Ambassador Henderson agreed to
this and I sent him, I believe in the course of the
afternoon, a memo or a note verbal in which the Fuehrer put
in writing his ideas for such an understanding, or rather
what he had said during the meeting, so that the ambassador
would be able to inform his government correctly.

Q. Is it correct that after the British-Polish Pact of
Guarantee became known, you asked Hitler to stop the
military measures which had been started in Germany?

A. Yes, that is so. I was just about to relate that. During
the course of the afternoon - I heard in the course of the
day that certain military measures were being taken and then
in the course of the afternoon I received, I believe, a
Reuter dispatch - at any rate it was a Press dispatch -
saying that the Polish-British Pact of Alliance had been
ratified in London.

I believe there was even a note appended that the Polish
Ambassador Raczynski had been sick but had nevertheless
suddenly given his signature in the Foreign Office.

Q. Was this treaty signed before or after it was known that
Italy refused to sign the Italian mobilisation?

A. This treaty was undoubtedly concluded afterwards: Of
course, I do not know the hour and the day, but I believe it
must have been on the afternoon of the 25th of August, and
Italy's refusal had already reached us by noon; I believe in
other words, it had undoubtedly been definitively decided in
Rome in the morning or on the day before. At any rate, I can
deduce this from another fact. Perhaps I might, however,
answer your other question first, namely, what I did upon
receipt of this news?

Q. Yes.

A. When I received this Press dispatch, of which I was
informed once more when I came to the Chancellery, I went
immediately to Hitler and asked him to stop the military
measures, whatever they were - I was not familiar with
military matters in detail - at once, and I told him that it
was perfectly clear that this meant war with England and
that England could never disavow her signature. The Fuehrer
reflected only a short while and then he said that was true,
and immediately called his military adjutant - and I believe
it was Field Marshal Keitel who came - in order to call
together the generals and stop the military measures which
had been started. On this occasion he made the remark that
we had received two pieces of bad news on one day - the news
of Italy's attitude and this news, and he thought it was
possible that the report about Italy's attitude had become
known in London immediately; whereupon the final
ratification of this Pact had taken place. I still remember
this remark of the Fuehrer's very distinctly.


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