The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. Did you and Hitler, on this day, make efforts with
Henderson to settle the conflict, and what were your

                                                  [Page 184]

A. I have already stated that the Fuehrer - I believe it was
in the early afternoon - saw Henderson on the 25th and told
him that he still had the intention of reaching some final
understanding with England. The question of Danzig and the
Corridor would have to be solved in some way and he wanted
to approach England with a comprehensive offer which was not
contained in the note verbal, in order to settle these
things with England on a perfectly regular basis.

Q. Is it true that Hitler then put an aeroplane at
Henderson's disposal so that the latter could submit these
proposals to his government at once and request his
government to make its promised mediation effective in
regard to Poland?

A. Yes, that is true. I know that Henderson - I believe it
was on the next day, the 26th-flew to England in a German
plane. I do not know the details, but I know that the
Fuehrer said during the meeting, "Take a plane immediately
and fly to your government."

Q. What results did Ambassador Henderson bring back to
Berlin on the 28th of August?

A. I should like to say in this connection, that in view of
the critical situation between Poland and Germany, which, of
course, was also known to the British Ambassador, Hitler
expressed to me a certain disappointment that the British
Ambassador had not returned more quickly with his answer,
for the atmosphere was charged with electricity on that day.
On the 28th, Henderson then had another discussion with the
Fuehrer. I was also present. The answer brought back by Sir
Neville Henderson from London appeared at first not very
satisfactory to the Fuehrer. It contained various points
which seemed wanting in clarity to the Fuehrer. But the main
point was that England announced her readiness for a
solution of the existing problems between Germany and
England, on the condition that the German-Polish question
could be brought to a peaceful conclusion.

In the discussion Adolf Hitler told Sir Neville Henderson
that he would examine the note and would then ask him to
come back. Then he . . .

Q. Is it true that in this memorandum England suggested that
Germany take up direct negotiations with Poland?

A. That is true. One of the points in the note - I intended
to go into that - was that the English suggested that German-
Polish direct negotiations would be the most appropriate way
to reach a solution and, secondly, that such negotiations
should take place as soon as possible, because England had
to admit that the situation, because of the frontier
incidents and in every respect, was very tense. Furthermore
the note stated that no matter what solution might be found
- I believe this was in the note - it should be guaranteed
by the great Powers.

Q. Did England offer as mediator to forward to Poland German
proposals for direct negotiations?

A. Yes, that is right.

Q. What were these German proposals which, on the 29th of
August, 1939, were given by Hitler to Henderson in answer to
the latter's memorandum?

A. The situation was this: On the 29th Adolf Hitler again
received the British Ambassador, and on this occasion told
him that he was ready to take up the English suggestion of
the 28th, that is to say, that despite the great tension and
despite the Polish attitude, which he resented so
profoundly, he was prepared to offer his hand once more for
a peaceful solution of the German-Polish problems, as
suggested in the British note of the 28th.

Q. What were the reasons for including in this German
proposal a request that a Polish plenipotentiary be sent by
the 30th of August?

A. In Adolf Hitler's communication to Ambassador Henderson
for the British Government it was stated that the German
Government, in view of the tense situation, would
immediately set about working out proposals for a solution
of the Danzig and Corridor problems. The German Government
hoped to be in a position to have these proposals available
by the time a Polish negotiator arrived, and he was expected
by 30th August.

                                                  [Page 185]

Q. Is it correct that Hitler included this condition or this
request to send a plenipotentiary within 24 hours because he
was afraid that a conflict might arise due to the fact that
the mobilised armies of the two countries faced each other?

A. That is absolutely true. I might say that during the
meeting on the 29th, Ambassador Henderson, as I recall,
asked the Fuehrer whether this was an ultimatum. The Fuehrer
answered "No," that was not an ultimatum, but rather, I
believe he said, a practical proposal or a proposal arising
from the situation, or something of that sort. I should like
to repeat that it was a fact that the situation near the
frontiers of Danzig and the Corridor during the last days of
August looked - one might say - as if the guns would go off
on their own unless something was done pretty soon. That was
the reason for the relatively short space of time which was
made a condition by the Fuehrer. He feared that if more time
were allowed, matters would drag out and danger of war not
decrease but rather increase.

Q. Is it true that, despite this information given to
Ambassador Henderson, the British Government called this
proposal unreasonable?

A. I know of the British reaction from several documents
that I saw later. The first reaction came during my
discussion with Henderson on the 30th of August.

Q. Is it true that on the 30th of August you received a
confidential communication regarding Poland's total

A. That is true. On the 30th Hitler awaited word from the
Polish negotiator. This did not come, but, I believe, on the
evening of the 30th, the news arrived that Poland had
ordered, although not announced, general mobilisation. I
believe it was not announced until the next morning. This,
of course, further aggravated the situation enormously.

Q. Is it true that the British Government then practically
withdrew its offer to mediate by suggesting that Germany
take immediate and direct steps to prepare negotiations
between Germany and Poland?

A. You mean on the 30th?

Q. Yes, on the 30th.

A. That is so. As I said before, we had waited all day on
the 30th, but the Polish negotiator had not arrived. In the
meantime, Hitler had prepared the proposals which he wanted
to hand to a Polish negotiator who - as he had expressly
promised Sir Neville Henderson - would be able to negotiate
with Germany on the basis of complete equality. Not until
shortly before midnight, or at least in the late evening,
did a call come through saying that the British Ambassador
wanted to transmit a communication from his government. This
meeting, I believe, was then postponed once more; at any
rate at midnight on the 30th of August the well-known
conversation between Henderson and me took place.

Q. You heard yesterday Ambassador Schmidt's description of
this meeting. Do you have anything to add to his description
of it?

A. I should like to add the following about this
conversation. It is perfectly clear that at that moment all
of us were nervous. That is true. The British Ambassador was
nervous and so was I. I should like to and must mention here
the fact that the British Ambassador had had on the day
before a minor scene with the Fuehrer which might have ended
seriously. I succeeded in changing the subject.
Consequentially there was a certain tension between the
British Ambassador and me also. However, I intentionally
received the British Ambassador composedly and calmly, and
accepted his communication. I hoped that this communication
would at the last moment contain his announcement of a
Polish negotiator.

However, this did not happen. Rather, Sir Neville Henderson
told me (1) that his government could not recommend this
mode of procedure, despite the tense situation, which had
been aggravated still more by the Polish total mobilisation,
rather the British Government recommended the German
Government to use diplomatic channels; and (2) that, if the
German Government would put the

                                                  [Page 186]

same proposals at the disposal of the British Government,
the British Government would be ready to exert its influence
in Warsaw in order to find a solution as far as these
suggestions appeared to be reasonable. In view of what had
happened this was a very difficult answer, because, as I
said, the situation was extremely tense and the Fuehrer had
been waiting since the day before for a Polish emissary. I,
in turn, feared that the guns would go off by themselves
unless a solution came quickly, as I have said. I then read
to Henderson the proposals given me by the Fuehrer. I should
like to state here once more under oath that the Fuehrer had
expressly forbidden me to let these proposals out of my
hands. He told me that I might communicate only the
substance of them, if I thought it advisable, to the British
Ambassador. I did a little more than that; I read all the
proposals, from the beginning to the end, to the British
Ambassador. I did this because I still hoped that the
British Government wanted to exert its influence in Warsaw
and assist in a solution. But here too I must state frankly
that from my talk with the British Ambassador on the 30th of
August, from his whole attitude, which Ambassador Schmidt
also described to a certain extent yesterday, as well as
from the substance of the communication of the British
Government, I got the impression that England at this moment
was not quite prepared to live up to the situation and, let
us say, to do her utmost to bring about a peaceful solution.

Q. What did the German Government do after the contents of
the note were made known to Ambassador Henderson?

A. After my conversation with the British Ambassador I
reported to the Fuehrer. I told him it had been a serious
conversation. I told him also that in pursuance of his
instructions I had not handed the memorandum to Sir Neville
Henderson, despite the latter's request, but that I had the
impression that the situation was serious and was convinced
that the British guarantee to Poland was in force. That had
been my very definite impression from this conversation.
Then, in the course of the 31st, the Fuehrer waited the
whole day to see whether or not some sort of Polish
negotiator would come or whether a new communication would
come from the British Government. We have heard here about
Reich Marshal Goering's intervention, how he informed
Dahlerus of the contents of this note in every detail. There
can thus be no doubt that during the course of that night,
at the latest in the morning of the 31st, the precise
proposals of the Reich Government were in the hands of both
the London Government and the Warsaw Government. On the 31st
the Fuehrer waited the whole day and I am convinced - and I
want to state it very clearly here - that he hoped that
something would be done by England. Then in the course of
the 31st the Polish Ambassador came to see me. But it is
known that he had no authority to do anything, neither to
enter into negotiations nor even to receive proposals of any
sort. I do not know whether the Fuehrer would have
authorised me on the 31st to hand proposals of this sort to
him, though I think it is possible that he would. But the
Polish Ambassador was not authorised to receive them, as he
expressly told me. I might point out briefly that regarding
the attitude in Warsaw the witness Dahlerus has already
given additional testimony.

Q. It is correct that England did not forward the German
proposals to Warsaw until the evening of the 31st of August?

A. Please repeat the question.

Q. Is it correct that the German proposals which had been
submitted by you on the preceding evening of the 30th to
Ambassador Sir Neville Henderson were not forwarded
to Warsaw until the evening of the 31st of August?

A. You mean from London?

Q. From London.

A. I cannot tell you precisely, but this can undoubtedly be
verified from  official documents.

Q. What considerations then led to the final decision to
take military action against Poland?

                                                  [Page 187]

A. I cannot tell you the details of this. I know only that
the Fuehrer ... that the proposals which I had read to the
British Ambassador on the night of the 30th were broadcast,
as I believe, on the evening of the 31st. The reaction of
the Warsaw radio-I remember this reaction exactly - was
unfortunately such as to sound like a veritable battle-cry
in answer to the German proposals which, as I heard, had
been characterised by Henderson as reasonable. I believe
they were characterised by the Polish radio as a piece of
arrogance, and the Germans were spoken of as Huns or the
like. I still remember that. At any rate, shortly after the
announcement of these proposals a very sharp negative answer
came from Warsaw. I assume that it was that answer which
persuaded the Fuehrer, during the night of the 31st, to
issue the order to march. I, for my part, can say only that
I went to the Reich Chancellery, and the Fuehrer told me
that he had given the order and that nothing else could be
done now and that things were in motion. Thereupon I said to
the Fuehrer merely, "I wish you good luck."

I might also mention that the outbreak of these hostilities
was the end of years of efforts on the part of Adolf Hitler
to bring about friendship with England.

Q. Did Mussolini make another proposal of mediation, and how
did this proposal turn out?

A. Yes, that is true. On the 3rd of September, in the
morning, such a proposal of mediation arrived in Berlin,
stating that Mussolini was still in a position to bring the
Polish question in some way before a representative
conference, and that he would do so if the German Government
agreed rapidly. It was said at the same time that the French
Government had already approved this proposal. Germany also
immediately agreed. But a short time later - I can not now
state the time precisely - it was reported, I believe in a
speech by the British Foreign Minister Halifax in the House
of Commons or in some other British declaration, that this
proposal had been turned down by London.

Q. Do you know whether France also turned down this

A. I have already said that we received together with the
proposal - I believe through the Italian Government - the
information that the French Government either was in favour
of the suggestion or had already accepted it.

Q. After the conclusion of the Polish campaign, did you see
possibilities of peace and pursue them?

A. After the conclusion of the Polish campaign I had some
lengthy conversations with Adolf Hitler. The situation was
then that, beyond a doubt, a certain lack of enthusiasm for
this whole war on the part of the French was making itself
felt. During these weeks military people occasionally used
the expression "Potato war in the West." Hitler, as far as I
can judge from everything that he told me, was not
interested in bringing the war in the West to a decision,
and I believe this was true of all of us members of the
Government. I should like to remind you of the speech made
by the Reich Marshal Goering to this effect at that time.
Hitler then made a speech in Danzig, and I believe later
somewhere else, perhaps in the Reichstag - I believe in the
Reichstag - in which he twice told England and France in
unmistakable language that he still and at any time was
ready to open negotiations. We tried to find out also very
cautiously by listening to diplomatic circles what was the
mood in the foreign capitals. But the public replies to
Hitler's speeches clearly demonstrated that there could be
no thought of peace.

Q. What did you do from then on to prevent the war from
becoming more extended?

A. It was - I should like to say - my most ardent endeavour,
after the end of the Polish campaign, to attempt to localise
the war, that is, to prevent the war from spreading in
Europe. However, I was soon to find out that once a war has
broken out, politics are not always, or rather not at all,
the decisive factor and that in such cases the machinery of
general staffs begins to operate. Everybody wants to outdo
everybody else. Our diplomatic efforts were undoubtedly
everywhere, in Scandinavia as well as in the Balkans and
elsewhere, against an extension of the

                                                  [Page 188]

war. Nevertheless, the war did take that course. I should
like to state that according to my conversations with Adolf
Hitler - and I am also convinced that the German military
men were of the same opinion - Hitler wished in no way to
extend the war anywhere.

Q. Is it correct that you received information which pointed
to the intention of the Western Powers to invade the Ruhr?
A. Yes, that is true. There was quite a number of reports
coming all the time. Our intelligence service was such that
we had a great many channels doing intelligence work. All of
these channels led to the Fuehrer. The Foreign Office had
relatively little intelligence service, but relied rather on
official diplomatic channels. Nevertheless, we in the
Foreign Office also received reports implying that the
Western Powers had the intention of advancing into the Ruhr
area at the first appropriate opportunity. The situation in
the West was such that the West Wall was a very strong
military barrier against France and this naturally gave rise
to the idea that such an attack might come through neutral
territory, such as Belgium and Holland.

THE PRESIDENT: How much longer will you be, Dr. Horn?
DR. HORN: I believe an hour to an hour and a half, your
THE PRESIDENT: Well, the Tribunal has listened with great
patience to a very great deal of detail. All I can say is
that this exaggerated going into detail does not, in my
opinion, do the defendant's case any good. We will adjourn

(The Tribunal adjourned until 30th March, 1946, at 10.00 hours.)

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