The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. It is signed by yourself on the 2nd of January, 1938. It
is your own report to the Fuehrer.

A. Yes, that is quite correct as such; that is the
conclusive statement: Only thus can we, some day, come to an
agreement or to a conflict with England. The situation at
that time was clearly this, that England was resisting the
German wishes for revisions which the Fuehrer had declared
vital and, that only through a strong diplomatic coalition
did it seem possible to induce England, by diplomatic rather
than bellicose means, to yield to these German aspirations.
That without doubt, was the situation.

Q. I want to know, witness, why you told the Tribunal five
minutes ago that you had not advised Hitler in the sense in
which I put it to you?

A. Which advice do you mean?

Q. Outwardly an understanding with England, but formation
under great secrecy of a coalition against her. I put that
to you twice and you denied it, I want to know why you did
deny it.

A. I said quite clearly that England was resisting the
German requests and that therefore, if Germany wanted to
realise these aspirations, she could do nothing but find
friends and bring England with the help of those friends to
the conference table so that England would yield to these
aspirations by diplomatic means. That was my task at that

Q. Now, I want you to direct your attention to the relations
with Poland. I will give you the opportunity of answering a
question generally, and I hope in that way we may save time.

Will you agree that up to the Munich Agreement, the speeches
of all German statesmen were full of the most profound,
affection and respect for Poland? Do you agree with that?

A. Yes.

Q. What was the purpose of what is shown in the Foreign
Office memorandum

                                                  [Page 236]

of 26th August, 1938? I will give you the page number. Page
107 of your Document book. I want you to look at it, I think
it is the fourth paragraph, beginning, "This method of
approach towards Czechoslovakia -," and you may take it from
me that the method of approach was putting forward the idea
that you and Hitler wanted the return of all Germans to the
Reich. I put it quite fairly and objectively. That is what
precedes it. I want you to look at that paragraph.

A. Which paragraph do you mean? I did not hear.

Q. The fourth, "This method of approach towards
Czechoslovakia" it begins. The fourth on my copy.

A. I have not found it yet. Paragraph Five. Yes, I have it.

  Q. "This method of approach toward Czechoslovakia is to
  be recommended because of our relationship with Poland.
  Germany's change of interest in the boundary questions of
  the South-east to those of the East and Northeast must
  inevitably make the Poles sit up. After the liquidation
  of the Czechoslovakian question, it will be generally
  assumed that Poland will be the next in turn, but the
  later this assumption becomes a factor in international
  politics the better."

Does that correctly set out the desires of German foreign
policy at that time?

A. Undoubtedly no, for first of all, I do not know what kind
of a document it is. It has apparently been prepared by some
branch in the Foreign Office where sometimes those
theoretical treatises were prepared and may come to me -from
some reporter or other - through the State Secretary.
However, I do not remember having read it. Whether it
reached me, I cannot tell you at the moment; but it is
possible that such thoughts prevailed among some of our
officials. That is quite possible.

Q. I see. Now, if you do not agree, would you look at Page
110, on which you will find extracts from Hitler's Reichstag
speech on 26th September, 1938. I am sorry. I said
Reichstag; I meant Sportpalast.

A. Sportpalast, yes.

Q. At the end of this extract, the Fuehrer is quoted as
saying with regard to Poland, after a tribute to Marshal

  "We are all convinced that this agreement will bring
  lasting pacification. We realise that here are two
  peoples which must live together and neither of which can
  do away with the other. A people of 33 million will
  always strive for an outlet to the sea. A way to
  understanding, then, had to be found. It has been found,
  and it will be continually extended further. Certainly,
  things were difficult for this area. The nationalities
  and small groups frequently quarrelled among themselves,
  but the main fact is that the two governments and all
  reasonable and clear-sighted persons among the two
  peoples and in the two countries possess the firm will
  and determination to improve their relations. This is a
  real work of peace, more valuable than all of the
  chattering at the League of Nations Palace in Geneva."

Do you think that is an honest statement of opinion?

A. Yes, I believe that that was definitely the Fuehrer's
view at the time.

Q. And so at that time all the questions of the treatment 6f
minorities in Poland were a very unimportant matter; is that

A. No, they were not an unimportant matter. They were a
latent and even difficult problem between Poland and
ourselves, and the purpose of that particular kind of
statement by the Fuehrer was to overcome this problem. I am
so familiar with the problem of the minorities in Poland
because I watched it, for personal reasons, for many years.
From the time we took over the Foreign Ministry, there were
again and again the greatest difficulties which, however,
were always settled on our part in the most generous way.

Q. At any rate, you have agreed with me that the speeches at
that time - and

                                                  [Page 237]

you say quite honestly - were full of praise and affection
for the Poles; is that right?

A. Yes, we were hoping that thereby we could bring the
German minority problem in particular to a satisfactory and
sensible conclusion. That had been our policy since 1934.

Q. Well, now, immediately after Munich, you first raised the
question of Danzig with M. Lipski, I think, in October,
around 21st October?

A. Right, the 28th October.

Q. 28th October. The Poles had replied on the 31st. That
reply may have reached you a day later through M. Lipski,
and it suggested the making of a bilateral agreement between
Germany and Poland, but said that the return of Danzig to
the Reich would lead to a conflict.

I put it quite generally. I just wanted to remind you of the
tenor of the reply. Do you remember?

A. According to my recollection it was not quite like that.
The Fuehrer had ordered me - it was on 28th October, to be
exact - to request Ambassador Lipski to come to
Berchtesgaden. His order was given because the Fuehrer -
perhaps as a sequel to the speech in the Sportpalast, but
that I do not remember - particularly wanted to bring about
a clarification of the relations with his neighbours. He
wanted that now especially in the case of Poland. He
instructed me, therefore, to discuss with Ambassador Lipski
the question of Danzig and of a connection between the Reich
and East Prussia.

I asked Ambassador Lipski to come and see me, and stated
these wishes. The atmosphere was very friendly. Ambassador
Lipski was very reserved; he stated that, after all, Danzig
was not a simple problem, but that he would discuss the
question with his government. I asked him to do so soon and
inform me of the outcome. That was the beginning of the
negotiations with Poland.

Q. Well, now, if you will turn - I do not want to stop you,
but I want to get on quickly over this matter. If you will
turn to Page 114, you will find the minutes of M. Beck's
conversation with Hitler on 5th January. I just want to draw
your attention to the last paragraph, where after M. Beck
had said that the Danzig question was a very difficult
problem, "In answer to this, the Chancellor stated that to
solve this problem it would be necessary to try to find
something quite new, some new formula, for which he used the
term 'Korperschaft,' which, on the one hand, would safeguard
the interest of the German population and on the other hand,
the Polish interest. In addition, the Chancellor declared
that the Minister could be quite at ease; there would be no
fait accompli in Danzig and nothing would be done to render
difficult the situation of the Polish government."

Do you see that, before I ask you the question?

A. Yes, I have read that.

Q. Just look at the summary of your own conversation with M.
Beck on the next day. It is Page 115, at the beginning of
the paragraph, the second paragraph. You will see that after
M. Beck had mentioned the Danzig question. You said:

  "In answer, Herr von Ribbentrop once more emphasised that
  Germany was not seeking any violent solution."

That was almost word for word what Hitler had said the day
before, do you see that?

A. Yes.

Q. Now, turn back to Page 113. These are the defendant
Keitel's orders with regard to - or rather, to put it
exactly, the defendant Keitel's transmission of the
Fuehrer's order with regard to Danzig. The date is 24th
November. That was some six weeks before, and it is
supplementary to an order of 21st October, and you see what
it says:

  "Apart from the three contingencies mentioned in the
  instructions of 21st October, preparations are also to be
  made to enable the Free State of Danzig to be occupied by
  German troops by surprise.

                                                  [Page 238]

  "Occupation of Danzig: The preparations will be made on
  the following basis. The condition is a quasi-
  revolutionary occupation of Danzig, exploiting a
  politically favourable situation, not a war against

Did you know of these instructions?

A. No, I did not know that. This is the first time that I
have seen that order or whatever it might be. May I add

Q. Not for the moment. Hitler must have known of the order,
must he not? It is an order of the Fuehrer?

A. Yes, of course, and therefore I assume - that is what I
wanted to add - that the British prosecution is aware that
political matters and military matters are in this case two
completely different conceptions. There is no doubt that the
Fuehrer, in view of the permanent difficulties in Danzig and
the Corridor, had given military orders of some kind - just
in case, and I can well imagine that it is one of these
orders. I see it to-day for the first time.

Q. Supposing that you had known of the orders, witness,
would you still have said on 5th of January that Germany was
not seeking a fait accompli or a violent solution? If you
had known of that order would you still have said it?

A. If I had known this order, and had considered it, as I
must have, an order of the General Staff for possible cases,
then I would still have the same opinion. I think it is part
of the General Staff's duty to take into consideration all
possibilities and prepare for them in principle. That his
nothing to do with politics, after all.

Q. Nothing to do with politics to have a cut-and-dried plan
how the Free State of Danzig is to be occupied by German
troops by surprise when you are telling the Poles that you
will not have a fait accompli? That is your idea of how
matters should be carried on? If it is I will leave it.

A. No, but I have to add - I know that - that the Fuehrer
was alarmed for a long time, during 1939 in particular, lest
a sudden Polish attack take place against Danzig; so that to
me, who am not a military man, it appears quite natural to
make some part of preparations for all such problems and
possibilities. But, of course, I cannot judge the details of
these orders.

Q. Now, when did you learn that Hitler was determined to
attack Poland?

A. That Hitler contemplated a military action against
Poland, I learned, according to my recollection, for the
first time during August 1939. That, of course, he had made
certain military preparations in advance of any eventuality
becomes clear from this order with respect to Danzig. But I
definitely did not learn about this order and I do not
recollect now in detail whether I received at that time any
military communication. I do remember that I knew virtually
nothing about it.

Q. Are you telling the Tribunal that you did not know in May
that Hitler's real view was that Danzig was not the subject
of the dispute at all, but that his real object was the
acquisition of Lebensraum in the East?

A. No, I did not know it in that sense. The Fuehrer talked
sometimes about living space, that is right, but I did not
know that he had the intention of attacking Poland.

Q. Well now, just look at Page 117 - or it may be 118 of
your document - on Page 117 You will find the minutes of the
conference on the 23rd May, 1939, at the new Reich

A. Did you say 117?

Q. 117. I want you to look at - it may be on Page 118, and
it begins:

  "Danzig is not the subject of the dispute at all, it is a
  question of expanding our living space in the East, and
  of securing our food supplies, and of the settlement of
  the Baltic problem. Food supplies can only be expected
  from thinly populated areas over and above the natural
  fertility following German exploitation, which will
  enormously increase the surplus. There is no other
  possibility for Europe."

                                                  [Page 239]

Are you telling the Tribunal that Hitler never explained
that view to you?

A. It may be strange to say so, but I should like to say,
first, that it looks as if I was not present during this
conference. That was a military conference, and Hitler used
to hold these military conferences quite separately from the
political conferences. He did now and then mention that we
had to have Lebensraum (living space), but I knew nothing,
and he never told me anything at that time - that is in May
1939 - of an intention to attack Poland. Yes, I think this
was kept apart deliberately as had been done in other cases,
because he always wanted his diplomats to work
wholeheartedly for a diplomatic solution.

Q. You mean to say that Hitler was deliberately keeping you
in the dark as to his real aims; that Danzig was not the
subject of dispute and what he really wanted was Lebensraum;
is that your story?

A. Yes, I assume that he did that deliberately because -

Q. Well now, just look at the very short paragraph a little
further on where he says: "There is no question of sparing
Poland, and we are left with no alternative but to attack
her at the first suitable opportunity. We cannot expect a
repetition of the Czech affair. There will be war. Our task
is to isolate Poland."

Do you tell the Tribunal that he never said that to his
Foreign Minister?

A. I did not quite understand that question.

Q. It is a perfectly simple one. Do you tell the Tribunal
that Hitler never mentioned what I have just read from his
speech, that there is to be no question of sparing Poland;
that you had to attack Poland at the first opportunity, and
your task was to isolate Poland? Are you telling the
Tribunal that Hitler never mentioned that to his Foreign
Minister, who would have the practical conduct of foreign

A. No, he did not mention it at that time, but, according to
my recollection, only much later - in the summer of 1939 to
be exact. At that time he did say that he was resolved to
solve the problem one way or another.

Q. And do you say that you did not know in May that Hitler
wanted war?

A. Did he want what?

Q. You did not know in May that Hitler wanted war?

A. No, I was not convinced of that at all.

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