The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 1999/12/20

Q. Just to put your point of view fairly - I do not want to
put anything more into it - you knew that military
preparations were being made, but you did not know the
details of what we know now as "Fall Grun."

A. No, I did not know any details; I never heard about them,
but I knew that during the last weeks and months of the
crisis ...

DR. HORN: Mr. President, I object to this question. I
believe I may, in order to save time, just point out that
the entire Sudeten German policy was sanctioned by the four
great powers, England, France, Italy and Germany, and by the
Munich Agreement which determined this policy. Therefore, I
do not see that in this respect there can be a violation of
International Law.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal thinks the question is perfectly


Now, at the time you knew enough to discuss the possible
course of the possible war with the foreign personalities.
Would you look on to Page 34 - that is, Page 40 of the
English book.

                                                  [Page 227]

These are the notes of a discussion with the Italian
ambassador. I do not know with which of your officials it
took place, but I want you to look at where it says in a
hand-written note "only for the Reichsminister."

  "Attolico further remarked that we had indeed revealed to
  the Italians our intentions against the Czechs
  unmistakably. Also, the date which had been mentioned
  made it clear that he might go on leave, maybe for two
  months, but certainly not later than ..."

If you look at the date you will see it is the 18th of July,
and two months from the 18th July would be the 18th of
September. Then if you will look, a month later there is a
note, I think signed by yourself, on the 27th of August:

  "Attolico paid me a visit. He had received another
  written instruction from Mussolini, asking that Germany
  communicate in time the probable date of action against
  Czechoslovakia. Mussolini asked for such notification, as
  Attolico assured me, in order to be able to take in due
  time the necessary measures on the French frontier.
  "Note: I replied to Ambassador Attolico just as on the
  occasion of his former demarche, that I could not impart
  any date to him; but that in any case Mussolini would be
  the first one to be informed of any decision."

So that it is quite clear, is it not, that you knew that the
general German
preparations for an attack
on Czechoslovakia were under way but the date had not been
fixed beyond the
general directive
of Hitler, that it was to be ready by the beginning of
October. That was
the position in July and
August, was it not?

A. In August, on 27th August, there was, of course, already
a sort of crisis between Germany and Czechoslovakia about
that problem; and it is quite clear that during that time
there was some alarm as to the final outcome. And
apparently, according to this document, I told the Italian
ambassador that, in case this crisis developed into a
military action, Mussolini would, of course, be notified in

Q. And Mussolini would be ready to make a demonstration on
the French frontier in order to help forward your military
plans; is that right?

A. That is in this document, but I do not know anything
about it. Perhaps Attolico said that; if it says so here he
must have said it.

Q. Now, just turn over to about the same time, Pages 36 to
38, Pages 41 to 43 of the English book. I do not want to
take up time in reading it all, but that is the account of
the meeting which you had with the Hungarian Ministers
Imredy and Kanja. I should be very glad if, in the interest
of time, you would try and answer the general question.

Were you not trying, in your discussions with Imredy and
Kanja, to get the Hungarians to be prepared to attack
Czechoslovakia should war eventuate?

A. I am not very familiar with the contents of this
document. May I read it first, please?

Q. I will just read you -

A. I may perhaps be able to answer it from recollection. I
do not know exactly what the document says, but my
recollection is, that at that time a crisis was impending.
It is quite natural, if an armed conflict about the Sudeten
German problem was within the realm of possibility, that
Germany should then establish some sort of contact with
neighbouring States. That is a matter of course, but I
believe -

Q. But you went a little beyond contacting them, did you
not? The document says, at the end of the sixth paragraph
"Von Ribbentrop repeated that whoever desires revision must
exploit the good opportunity and participate."

That is a bit beyond contacting people. What you are saying
to the Hungarians is: "If you want the revision of your
boundaries, you have to come into the war with us." It is
quite clear, is it not, witness, that that is what you were
saying, that is what you were trying to do?

                                                  [Page 228]

A. That is exactly in line with what I just said. I do not
know if that expression was used, but, at any rate, it is
clear that at that time, I remember, I told these gentlemen
that the possibility of a conflict was present and that in
such a case it would be advisable if we reached an agreement
regarding our interests.

I would like to mention that Hungary, during all the
preceding years, considered it one of the hardest conditions
of the Peace Treaty that these territories in the North had
been separated from her, and naturally she was very
interested in the agreement.

Q. You were very much interested in offering them revision.
Just look at the last two paragraphs, headed "The 29th." It
should be Page 38 of your document book. It begins - the
very end of this statement: "Concerning Hungary's military
preparedness in case of a German-Czech conflict, von Kanja
mentioned several days ago that his country would need a
period of one or two years in order to develop adequately
the armed strength of Hungary. During today's conversation,
von Kanja corrected this remark and said that Hungary's
military Situation was much better; his country would be
ready, as far as armaments were concerned, to take part in
the conflict by October 1st of this year."

You see that? What I am putting to you, witness, is this:
That your position was perfectly clear. First of all, you
get the Sudeten Germans under your control. Then you learned
from Hitler that there were military preparations. Then you
get the Italians in line. Then you get the Hungarians in
line. You are getting everyone ready for aggression against
Czechoslovakia. That is what I am putting to you. I want you
to be quite clear about it, to be under no misapprehension.
Now, look, what -

A. May I answer to that?

Q. Yes, certainly, if you like.

A. I said once before that the Sudeten German Party was
unfortunately not under my control. Moreover, it is and was
my view that it was the fundamental right of the Sudeten
Germans, according to the law of the sovereign rights of
peoples which had been proclaimed in 1919, to decide
themselves where they wanted to belong.

When Adolf Hitler came, this pressure to join the Reich
became very strong. Adolf Hitler was determined to solve
this problem, either by diplomatic means or, if it had to
be, by other means. That was obvious to me, and became more
obvious. At any rate, I personally did everything to try to
solve the problem diplomatically. On the other hand, I
naturally tried my utmost to surround Germany with friends
in order to make our position as strong as possible in face
of such a problem.

Q. You knew perfectly well, did you not, that the "Fall
Grun" and Hitler's military plans envisaged the conquest of
the whole of Czechoslovakia? You knew that, did you not?

A. No, I did not know that. As far as the Sudeten-German
problem is concerned, the British Government itself
concluded the agreement at Munich by which the entire
problem was solved in the way I always strove to achieve it,
by German diplomacy.

Q. Witness, I am not going to argue politics with you on any
point. I only remind you of this: That the "Fall Grun" and
Hitler's plans on this matter had only been known to His
Majesty's Government since the end of the war, when it came
into our possession as a captured document. What I asked you
was - you say that as the Foreign Minister of the Reich, you
did not know of these military plans, which envisaged the
conquest of the whole of Czechoslovakia. You say that? You
want the Tribunal to believe that?

A. I repeat again that I read about "Fall Grun" and its
conception here for the first time, in the documents. I did
not know that term before nor was I interested. That the
Fuehrer envisaged a more far-reaching solution became, of

                                                  [Page 229]

course, clear to me later in the course of the subsequent
developments, and by the establishment of the Protectorate
of Bohemia and Moravia.

Q. Just a moment. We will get to that in a moment. I just
want you to look at the final act of preparation which I
suggest you were making for this clear aggression; if you
will look at Page 45 in the book in front of you, you will
see a note from the Foreign Office to the embassy in Prague.

  "Please inform Deputy Kundt, at Konrad Henlein's request,
  to get into touch with the Slovaks at once and induce
  them to start their demands for autonomy tomorrow."

That was your office's further act, was it not, in order to
make things difficult for the Government in Prague? You were
getting your friends to induce - to use your own word - the
Slovaks to start an advance for autonomy, is that right? Is
that what your office was doing?

A. This is, beyond doubt, a telegram from the Foreign
Office. I can no longer recall the details, but according to
the contents, Henlein apparently approached us to send a
telegram, because he was apparently of the opinion, at that
time, that he should put the demands for autonomy to the
Prague Government. How that came about, I could not say in
detail today. I would like to emphasise again that Konrad
Henlein's activity was, unfortunately, as I said before, far
beyond my control. I only saw Henlein once or twice during
that entire time.

Q. I am not going to take you through all the details. You
understand what I am suggesting to you, that your office was
now taking one of its last steps, because this was in the
middle of the crisis, on the 19th of September, trying to
weaken the Czech Government by inducing demands of autonomy
from the Slovaks. You said that you were only passing on
Henlein's wishes. If you like to leave it at that, I shall
not trouble you further. Besides, you suggested - I come on
to what took place in the spring and ask you one or two
questions about that. In the spring Hitler was out, and you
acquiesced in his wishes, to obtain the adherence of Bohemia
and Moravia to the Reich and to make Slovakia separate from
Bohemia and Moravia. Now, just look at Page 65 of the book
in front of you. That is a telegram in secret code from the
Foreign Office, from yourself, in fact, to the Embassy in

  "With reference to telephone instructions given by code
  today, in case you should get any written communications
  from President Hacha, please do not make any written or
  verbal comments or take any other action but pass them on
  here by ciphered telegrams. Moreover, I must ask you and
  the other members of the Embassy to make a point of not
  being available if the Czech Government wants to
  communicate with you during the next few days."

Why were you so anxious that your ambassador should not
carry out these ordinary functions and form a channel of
communication with the Czech Government?

A. What happened was this. I remember very well. These were
the reasons. The Foreign Minister of Czechoslovakia,
Chvalkovski, on one of these days, it must have been the
same day, approached the ambassador in Prague, saying that
President Hacha wished to speak to the Fuehrer, I had
reported that to the Fuehrer, and he had agreed to receive
the Czechoslovak president. He said, at the same time, that
he wished to conduct these negotiations himself, and that he
did not wish anybody else, even the embassy, to interfere in
any way. That, according to my recollection, was the reason
for the telegram. No one was to undertake anything in
Prague; whatever was done would be done by the Fuehrer

I wish to point out that at the same time signs of an
impending crisis between Prague and ourselves became
apparent. The visit of President Hacha, or his desire to see
the Fuehrer, can be explained as being the result of this
situation in general.

                                                  [Page 230]

Q. Well, now, I would like to remind you what you and the
Fuehrer were doing on that day. You will find that, if you
look at Page 66, which is 71 of the English book. You were
having a conference, you and the Fuehrer, with Meissner and
the defendant Keitel, and Dietrich and Keppler, and you were
having the conference with the Slovaks, with M. Tiso. Do you
remember that conference?

A. Yes, I remember that conference very well.

Q. Well, then, I will ask you a general question and perhaps
without putting the details to you. What Hitler and you were
doing at that conference was saying this to the Slovaks:

  "If you do not declare your independence of Prague, we
  shall leave you to the tender mercies of Hungary."

Is not that, in a sentence, a fair summary of what Hitler
and you were saying at that conference?

A. That is correct to a certain degree. But I would like to
add a further statement to that. The situation at the time
was as follows, and one has to look at it from a political
point of view: The Hungarians were highly dissatisfied and
they wanted to regain the territories which they had lost by
the Peace Treaty and which today form a part of
Czechoslovakia, that is the Slovak part of Czechoslovakia.
There were, therefore, constantly great differences between
Pressburg (Bratislava) and Budapest and, chiefly, also
between Prague and Budapest. The outbreak of an armed
conflict could be expected at any time; at least half a
dozen times we were given to understand by the Hungarian
Government that this could not go on for ever; that they
must have their revision in one way or the other. The
situation was such that for quite a long time very strong
movements for independence existed among the Slovaks. We
were approached on this matter frequently, at first by Tuka
and later by Tiso. In this conference described here, the
situation was that the Fuehrer, who had known for weeks of
the endeavours of the Slovaks to become independent, finally
received Tiso, later president of the State, and told him
that now, of course, he - I believe he told him during this
conversation that he was not interested in the question for
its own sake. But if anything should happen at all, then the
Slovaks must proclaim their independence as quickly as

There is no doubt that at the time we expected an action by
Hungary. It is, however, correct ...

Q. You can see how very anxious the Slovaks seemed to be for
independence and what action Hitler and yourself were taking
to secure it, if you try to find it, it will probably be at
Page 67; it is at the end of a paragraph beginning:

"Now he has permitted Minister Tiso to come here ..."

And just below the middle of that paragraph Hitler is
reported as saying that he would not tolerate that internal
instability and he had for that reason permitted Tiso to
come in order to hear his decision. It was a question not of
days, but of hours. He stated at that time that, if Slovakia
wished to make herself independent, he would support this
endeavour and even guarantee it; he would stand by his words
so long as Slovakia would make it clear that she wished for
independence. If she hesitated or did not wish to dissolve
the connection with Prague he would leave the destiny of
Slovakia to the mercy of the events for which he was no
longer responsible.

Then, in the next paragraph, he asks you if you had anything
to say, and you are reported as saying:

  "The Reich Foreign Minister also emphasised for his part
  the view that in this case a decision was a question of
  hours and not of days. He showed Hitler a message he had
  received, which reported Hungarian troop movements on the
  Slovak frontier. The Fuehrer read this report and
  mentioned it to Tiso."

                                                  [Page 231]

Are you denying, witness, that Hitler and yourself were
putting the strongest possible pressure you could on the
Slovaks to dissolve connections with Prague and so leave the
Czechs standing alone to meet your pressure on Hacha which
was coming in a couple of days?

A. No, that is not correct. Very strong pressure was not
used. There is no doubt that my remark refers to the
possibility of war-like developments with the Hungarians,
but wishes for independence had, for a long time, been
conveyed to us again and again by the Slovaks. It is
possible that, at the time, as the document shows, Tiso was
hesitating because after all it was an important step. But
in view of his wish, which must have been obvious by then,
to solve the question of Bohemia and Moravia in one way or
another, it was in the Fuehrer's own interest to do his part
to bring about the independence of Slovakia.

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