The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Then we come to the bribe. "The Fuehrer declares the German-
Polish problem must be solved and will be solved. He is,
however, prepared and determined, after the solution of this
problem, to approach England once more with a large,
comprehensive offer. He is a man of great decisions, and in
this case also, he will be capable of being great in his
action" - and then, magnanimously - "he accepts the British
Empire and is ready to pledge himself personally for its
continued existence, and to place the power of the German
Reich at its disposal, on condition that his colonial
demands, which are limited, shall be negotiated by peaceful
means." His obligations to Italy remain untouched.

Again he stresses irrevocable determination never to enter
into war with Russia. I quote the last two paragraphs:

   "If the British Government would consider these ideas a
   blessing for Germany - "

THE PRESIDENT: Why do you not read the first few lines of
paragraph three?

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL GRIFFITH-JONES: Yes, I did summarise it,
paragraph three. "He also desired to express the irrevocable
determination of Germany never again to enter into conflict
with Russia."

THE PRESIDENT: Yes.

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL GRIFFITH-JONES: I quote the last two
paragraphs.

   "If the British Government would consider these ideas a
   blessing for Germany, and also for the British Empire,
   peace might result. If it rejects these ideas, there
   will be war. In no case will Great Britain emerge
   stronger; the last war proved it.  The Fuehrer repeats
   that he himself is a man of ad infinitum decisions by
   which he is bound, and that this is his last offer."

(A recess was taken.)

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL GRIFFITH-JONES: I had just finished
reading the offer from Hitler to the British Government,
which was TC-72, Number 68, and which becomes Exhibit GB 65.

The British Government were not, of course, aware of the
real object that lay behind that message, and, taking it at
its face value, they wrote back, on the 28th August, saying
that they were prepared to enter into discussions. They
agreed with Hitler that the differences must be settled, and
I quote from Paragraph 4:

   "In the opinion of His Majesty's Government, a
   reasonable solution of the differences between Germany
   and Poland could and should be effected by agreement
   between the two countries, on lines which would
   
                                                  [Page 169]

   include the safeguarding of Poland's essential
   interests, and they recall that in his speech of 28th
   April, the German Chancellor recognised the importance
   of these interests to Poland.
   
   But, as was stated by the Prime Minister in his letter
   to the German Chancellor of 22nd August, His Majesty's
   Government consider it essential for the success of the
   discussions, which would precede the agreement, that it
   should be understood beforehand that any settlement
   arrived at would be guaranteed by other powers. His
   Majesty's Government would be ready, if desired, to make
   their contribution to the effective operation of such a
   guarantee."

I go to the last paragraph on that page, Paragraph 6:-

   "His Majesty's Government have said enough to make their
   own attitude plain in the particular matters at issue
   between Germany and Poland. They trust that the German
   Chancellor will not think that, because His Majesty's
   Government are scrupulous concerning their obligations
   to Poland, they are not anxious to use all their
   influence to assist the achievement of a solution which
   may commend itself both to Germany and to Poland."

That, of course, knocked the German hopes on the head. They
had failed by their tricks and their bribes to dissuade
England from observing her obligations to Poland, and it was
now only a matter of getting out of their embarrassment, as
quickly as possible, and saving their face, as much as
possible. The last document becomes Exhibit GB 66. And I put
in also Sir Neville Henderson's account of that interview,
TC-75, which becomes Exhibit GB 67.

As to that interview, its only importance is that Sir
Neville Henderson again emphasised the British attitude, and
that they were determined in any event to meet their
obligations to Poland. One paragraph I would quote, which is
interesting in view of the letters that were to follow.
Paragraph 10:

   "In the end I asked him two straight questions: 'Was he
   willing to negotiate direct with the Poles?' and; 'Was
   he ready to discuss the question of an exchange of
   population?' He replied in the affirmative as regards
   the latter, although I have no doubt that he was
   thinking at the same time of a rectification of
   frontiers. As regards the first, he said he could not
   give me an answer until after he had given the reply of
   His Majesty's Government the careful consideration which
   such a document deserved. In this connection he turned
   to Ribbentrop and said, 'We must summon Field Marshal
   Goering to discuss it with him.'"

Then in the next paragraph, Sir Neville Henderson finally
repeated again to him very solemnly the main note of the
whole conversation, so far as he was concerned.

I pass to the next document, which is TC-72, Number 78,
which becomes Exhibit GB 68.

The German reply, as I outlined before, was handed to Sir
Neville Henderson at 7.15 p.m. on 29th August. The reply
sets out the suggestion submitted by the British Government
in their previous note, and it goes on to say that the
German Government are prepared to enter into discussion on
the basis that the whole of the Corridor, as well as Danzig,
are returned to the Reich. I quote particularly the next to
the last paragraph on the first page of that document:-

                                                  [Page 170]

   "The demands of the German Government are in conformity
   with the revision of the Versailles Treaty in regard to
   this territory, which has always been recognised as
   being necessary; viz., the return of Danzig and the
   Corridor to Germany, and the safeguarding of the
   existence of the German national group in the
   territories remaining to Poland."

It is only just now, as I emphasised before, that that right
has been recognised for so long. On 28th April, his demands
consisted only of Danzig, of an autobahn, and of the
railway.

The Tribunal will remember the position which he is trying
to get out of now. He is trying to manufacture justification
by putting forth proposals which under no circumstances
could either Poland or Great Britain accept. But, as I said
before, he wanted to make doubly certain.

I go to the second page, and start with the third paragraph:-

   "The British Government attach importance to two
   considerations: (1) that the existing danger of an
   imminent explosion should be eliminated, as quickly as
   possible, by direct negotiation, and (2) that the
   existence of the Polish State, in the form in which it
   would then continue to exist, should be adequately
   safeguarded in the economic and political sphere, by
   means of international guarantees."

On this subject, the German Government makes the following
declaration:

   "Though sceptical as to the prospects of a successful
   outcome, they are, nevertheless, prepared to accept the
   English proposal and to enter into direct discussion.
   They would do so, as has already been emphasised, solely
   as the result of the impression made upon them by the
   written statement received from the British Government
   that they too, desire a pact of friendship, in
   accordance with the general lines indicated to the
   British Ambassador."

And then, to the last but one paragraph:-

   "For the rest, in making these proposals, the German
   Government have never had any intention of touching
   Poland's vital interests or of questioning the existence
   of an independent Polish State." - these letters rather
   sound like the letters of some common swindler and not
   the letters of a great nation - "The German Government,
   accordingly, in these circumstances agree to accept the
   British Government's offer of their good offices in
   securing the dispatch to Berlin of a Polish Emissary
   with full powers. They count on the arrival of this
   Emissary on Wednesday, 30th August, 1939.
   
   The German Government will immediately draw up proposals
   for a solution acceptable to themselves and will, if
   possible, place these at the disposal of the British
   Government, before the arrival of the Polish
   negotiators."

That was at 7.15 in the evening of 29th August, and, as I
have explained, it allowed little time in order to get the
Polish Emissary there, by midnight, the following night.
That document, TC-72, Number 78, was Exhibit GB 68.

The next document, Sir Neville Henderson's account of the
interval, summarises what had taken place, and I quote
particularly Paragraph 4:

   "I remarked that this phrase" - that is the paragraph
   about the Polish Emissary being there by midnight, the
   following night - "sounded like an ultimatum, but after
   some heated remarks both

                                                  [Page 171]
   
   Herr Hitler and Herr von Ribbentrop assured me that it
   was only intended to stress the urgency of the moment -
   when the two fully mobilised armies were standing face
   to face."

That was the interview on the evening of 29th August. That
last Document, TC-72, Number 79, becomes Exhibit GB 69.

Again the British Government replied, and Sir Neville
Henderson handed this reply to Ribbentrop at the famous
meeting on midnight of 30th August, at the time the Polish
Emissary had been expected. I need not read at length. The
British Government reciprocate the desire for improved
relations. They stress again that they cannot sacrifice the
interest of other friends in order to obtain an improvement
in the present situation. They understand, they say, that
the German Government accepts the condition that the
settlement should be subject to international guarantee.
They make a reservation as to the demands that the Germans
put forward in their last letter and they are informing the
Polish Government immediately; and lastly, they understand
that the German Government are drawing up the proposals.
That Document TC-72, Number 89 will be Exhibit GB 70. For
the account of the interview, we go to the next document in
the Tribunal's book, TC-72, Number 92, which becomes GB 71.
It is not a very long document. It is perhaps worth reading
in full:

   "I told Herr Ribbentrop this evening that His Majesty's
   Government found it difficult to advise the Polish
   Government to accept the procedure adumbrated in the
   German reply, and suggested that he should adopt the
   normal contact, i.e., when German proposals were ready,
   to invite the Polish Ambassador to call, and to hand him
   proposals for transmission to his Government, with a
   view to immediate opening of negotiations. I added that
   if this basis afforded prospect of settlement,  His
   Majesty's Government could be counted upon to do their
   best in Warsaw to temporise negotiations.
   
   Ribbentrop's reply was to produce a lengthy document
   which he read aloud in German, at top speed. Imagining
   that he would eventually hand it to me, I did not
   attempt to follow too closely the sixteen or more
   articles which it contained. Though I cannot, therefore,
   guarantee accuracy, the main points were:" - and I need
   not read out the main points. I go to Paragraph 3.
   
   "When I asked Ribbentrop for the text of these proposals
   in accordance with the undertaking in the German reply
   of yesterday, he asserted that it was now too late, as
   the Polish representative had not arrived in Berlin by
   midnight.
   
   I observed that to treat the matter in this way meant
   that the request for the Polish representative to arrive
   in Berlin on 30th August, constituted in fact an
   ultimatum, in spite of what he and Herr Hitler had
   assured me yesterday. This he denied, saying that the
   idea of an ultimatum was a figment of my imagination.
   Why then, I asked, could he not adopt normal procedure
   and give me a copy of the proposals, and ask the Polish
   Ambassador to call on him, just as Hitler had summoned
   me a few days ago, and hand them to him for
   communication to the Polish Government?
   
   In the most violent terms Ribbentrop said that he would
   never ask the Ambassador to visit him. He hinted that if
   the Polish Ambassador asked him for an interview it
   might be different. I said that I would,
   
                                                  [Page 172]
   
   naturally, inform my Government so, at once. Whereupon
   he said that while those were his personal views, he
   would bring all that I had said to Hitler's notice. It
   was
   for the Chancellor to decide.
   
   We parted on that note, but I must tell you that von
   Ribbentrop's demeanour during an unpleasant interview
   was aping Hitler at his worst. He inveighed incidentally
   against the Polish mobilisation, but I retorted that it
   was hardly surprising since Germany had also mobilised,
   as Herr Hitler himself had admitted to me yesterday."

Nevertheless, Sir Neville Henderson did not know at that
time that Germany had also already given the orders to
attack Poland, some days before. The following day, 31st
August, at 6.30 in the evening, M. Lipski, the Polish
Ambassador, had an interview with Ribbentrop. This document,
the next Document TC-73, Number 112, becomes Exhibit GB 72,
and is a short account in a report to M. Beck:

   "I carried out my instructions. Ribbentrop asked if I
   had special plenipotentiary powers to undertake
   negotiations. I said I had not. He then asked whether I
   had been informed that on London's suggestion the German
   Government had expressed their readiness to negotiate
   directly with a delegate of the Polish Government,
   furnished with the requisite full powers, who was to
   have arrived on the preceding day, 30th August. I
   replied that I had no direct information on the subject.
   In conclusion, Ribbentrop repeated that he had thought I
   would be empowered to negotiate. He would communicate my
   demarche to the Chancellor."

As I have indicated already, it was too late. The orders had
already been given, on that day, to the German Army to
invade.

I turn to C-126. It is already in as Exhibit GB 45. Other
portions of it were put in, and I refer now to the letter on
the second page, for the order "Most Secret Order." It is
signed by Hitler and is described as his "Directive No. 1
for the conduct of the war," dated 31st August, 1939.
Paragraph 1:

   "1. Now that all the political possibilities of
   disposing by peaceful means of a situation on the
   Eastern Frontier which is intolerable for Germany are
   exhausted, I have determined on a solution by force.
   
   2. The attack on Poland is to be carried out in
   accordance with the preparations made for 'Fall Weiss,'
   with the alterations which result, where the Army is
   concerned, from the fact that it has in the meantime,
   almost completed its dispositions.
   
      Allotment of tasks and the operational target remain
      unchanged.
      
      The date of attack - 1st September, 1939.
      
      Time of attack - 0445 (inserted in red pencil).
      
      This time also applies to the operation at Gdynia,
      Bay of Danzig and the Dirschau Bridge.
   
   3.In the West it is important that the responsibility
   for the opening of hostilities should rest unequivocally
   with England and France. At first, purely local action
   should be taken against insignificant frontier
   violations."

Then it sets out the details of the order which, for the
purpose of this Court, it is unnecessary to read. That
evening, at 9 o'clock, the German radio broadcast the terms
of the German proposals about which they were so willing to
enter into discussions with the Polish Government. It set
out the proposals at length. It will be remembered that by
this time, neither Sir Neville Henderson, nor the Polish
Government, nor their Ambassador

                                                  [Page 173]

had yet been given their written copy of them, and it is
indeed a document which is interesting to read, or to read
extracts of it, simply as an exhibition or an example of
pure hypocrisy. I refer to the second paragraph. " Further,
the German Government pointed out that they felt able to
make the basic points, regarding the offer of an
understanding, available to the British Government by the
time the Polish negotiator arrived in Berlin."

Now, we have heard the manner in which they did that. They
then say that "instead of the arrival of an authorised
Polish personage, the first answer the Government of the
Reich received to their readiness for an understanding was
the news of the Polish mobilisation, and only toward 12
o'clock on the night of 30th August, 1939, did they receive
a somewhat general assurance of British readiness to help
towards the commencement of negotiations. Although the fact
that the Polish negotiator expected by the Government of the
Reich did not arrive, removed the necessary conditions for
informing His Majesty's Government of the views of the
German Government as regards the possible basis for
negotiation - since His Majesty's Government themselves had
pleaded for direct negotiations between Germany and Poland -
the German Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ribbentrop, gave
the British Ambassador on the occasion of the presentation
of the last British note, precise information as to the text
of the German proposals which would be regarded as a basis
for negotiation, in the event of the arrival of the Polish
Plenipotentiary." And, thereafter, they go on to set out the
story, or rather their version of the story of the
negotiations over the last few days.

I pass to the next but one document in the Tribunal's book,
TC-54, which becomes Exhibit GB 73. On 1st September, when
his armies were already crossing the frontier and the whole
of the frontier, Hitler issued this proclamation to his
Armed Forces:-

   "The Polish Government, unwilling to establish good
   neighbourly relations as aimed at by me, wants to force
   the issue by way of arms.
   
   The Germans in Poland are being persecuted with bloody
   terror and driven from their homes. Several acts of
   frontier violation, which cannot be tolerated by a great
   power, show that Poland is no longer prepared to respect
   the Reich's frontiers. To put an end to these mad acts,
   I can see no other way but from now onwards to meet
   force with force.
   
   The German Armed Forces will with firm determination
   take up the struggle for the honour and the vital rights
   of the German people.
   
   I expect every soldier to be conscious of the high
   tradition of the eternal German soldierly qualities and
   to do his duty to the last.
   
   Remember always and in any circumstances that you are
   the representatives of National Socialist Greater
   Germany.
   
   Long live our people and the Reich."


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