The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. When was the Reich Cabinet in session last?

A. As far as I remember, the last meeting of the Reich
Cabinet was in 1937, and, as far as I can remember, I
presided over the last meetings, because the Fuehrer had
left shortly after the beginning. He did not think much of
Cabinet meetings; it was too large a circle for him, and
perhaps there was too much discussion of his plans, and he
wanted that changed.

                                                  [Page 100]

From that time on there were only individual conferences -
conferences with single Ministers or with groups of
Ministers from the Ministries concerned. But since the
Ministers found, very rightly, that this made their work
difficult, a solution was adopted whereby I, under the
heading "Four-Year Plan," called the Ministers together more
frequently, in order to discuss general matters with them.
But at no time in the Cabinet or the Ministerial Council was
any political decision of importance mentioned or discussed,
as, for instance, those decisions - the annexation of
Austria, the Sudetenland, and Czechoslovakia which finally
led to war. I know how much importance the Fuehrer attached
to, the fact that in all these matters only those Ministers
who absolutely had to be informed because of the nature of
their work should be informed, and then only at the very
last minute. Here, too, I can say under oath that quite a
number of Ministers were not informed about the beginning of
the war or the march into Czechoslovakia, the Sudetenland or
Austria until the next morning, when they learned about it
by radio or through the Press, just as any other German
citizen.

Q. What part did you have in making the Munich Pact of
September, 1938?

A. The annexation of the Sudeten Germans or, better said,
the solution of the Sudeten German problem, I had always
emphasised as something necessary. I also told the Fuehrer
after the annexation of Austria that I should regret it if
his statements were misunderstood to mean that with the
annexation of Austria, this question had been settled.

In November, 1937, I stated to Lord Halifax that the
annexation of Austria, the solution of the Sudeten German
question in the sense of a return of the Sudeten Germans,
and the solution of the problem of Danzig and the Corridor
were integral parts of German policy; whether they were
tackled by Hitler one day or by me or somebody else the next
day, they would remain political aims. which under all
circumstances would have to be attained sometime. However,
both of us agreed that all efforts should be made to avoid a
resort to war.

Furthermore, in my conversations with M. Benes, I had always
taken the very same position. I told every other person,
publicly and personally, that the above-mentioned three
points had to be taken care of and that the settlement of
the one would not make the others unimportant.

I also want to stress that if, in reference to this and also
in reference to other things, the prosecution accuses us
that we have not kept this or that particular promise that
Germany had made in the past, including the Germany that
existed just before the seizure of power, I should like to
refer to the many speeches in which both the Fuehrer - this
I no longer remember so well - and I, as I know very well,
stated that we were warning foreign countries not to build
any plans for the future on the basis of any promises of the
present Government, that we would not recognise these
promises when we acquired power. Thus there was absolute
clarity in respect to this.

When the Sudeten question approached a crisis and a solution
was determined by the Fuehrer, I, as a soldier and Commander-
in-Chief of the Air Force, as, was my duty, took preparatory
measures, as ordered, for any eventuality. As a politician I
was extremely happy at the attempts which were made to find,
a peaceful solution. I acknowledge that at that time I was
very happy when I saw that the British Prime Minister made
all sorts of efforts. Nevertheless, the situation on the day
before the Munich Agreement had again become very critical.

It was about 6.30 or 7 o'clock in the morning when the
Italian Ambassador, Attolico, called me up and said that he
had to see me immediately on orders from Mussolini, that it
was about the solution of the Sudeten problem. I told him he
should go and see the Foreign Minister. He said he had a
special order from Mussolini to see me alone first. I met
him, as far as I can remember, at 9 o'clock in the morning,
and he told me that Mussolini was prepared to

                                                  [Page 101]
mediate, and suggested that a meeting should be called as
soon as possible between Germany: Adolf Hitler; England:
Prime Minister Chamberlain; France: Prime Minister Daladier;
and Italy: Mussolini, in order to settle the question
peacefully. He, Mussolini, saw a possibility of that, and
was prepared to take all necessary steps, and asked me
personally to use all my influence in this direction. I took
the Ambassador and, also, Herr von Neurath, although he was
not Foreign Minister at that time, at once to the Reich
Chancellery and reported everything to the Fuehrer. I tried
to persuade him, explained to him the advantages of such a
step and said that this could be the basis for a general
easing of tension. Whether the other current political and
diplomatic attempts would be successful one could not yet
say, but if the four leading statesmen of the four large
Western European Powers were to meet, then much would be
gained.

Herr von Neurath supported my argument, and the Fuehrer
agreed and said we should call the Duce by telephone.
Attolico, who waited outside, did that immediately,
whereupon Mussolini spoke to the Fuehrer officially, and it
was agreed that the meeting should take place at Munich.

Late in the afternoon I was informed by the Italian Embassy
that both the British Prime Minister and the French Prime
Minister had agreed to arrive at Munich the next day.

I asked the Fuehrer, or rather I told him, that under all
circumstances I would attend the meeting. He agreed. Then I
suggested that I should also take Herr von Neurath with me
in my train. He agreed to that also.

I took part in some of the discussions and, when necessary,
contributed to the settlement of many arguments and, above
all, did my best to create a friendly atmosphere on all
sides. I had personal conversations with M. Daladier and Mr.
Chamberlain, and I was sincerely happy afterwards that
everything had gone well.

Q. Before that the annexation of Austria to Germany had
taken place. What reasons did Hitler have for this decision,
and to what extent did you play a part in these measures?

A. I told the Tribunal yesterday when I gave a brief outline
of my life that I personally felt a great affinity for
Austria, that I spent the greatest part of my youth in an
Austrian castle, that my father, even at the time of the old
empire, often spoke of a close bond between the future of
the German country Austria and the Reich, since he was
convinced that the Austrian Empire would not hold together
much longer.

In 1918, while in Austria for two days, having come by
plane, I experienced the revolution and the collapse of the
Hapsburg Empire. Those countries with a predominantly German
population, including Sudeten Germany, convened at that time
in Vienna, declared themselves free of the dissolved
Hapsburg State, and stated that they, as well as
representatives of the Sudeten German part of Austria, were
a part of the German Reich. This happened, as far as I know,
under the Social Democratic Chancellor Renner. This
statement by the representatives of the Austrian German
people, that they wanted to be in the future a part of
Germany, was changed by the Peace Treaty of St. Germain, and
prohibited by the dictate of the victorious nations. Neither
for myself nor for any other German was that of importance.

It was a matter of course that the time and the conditions
had to be created for the union of the two brother nations
of purely German blood and origin. When we came to power, as
I have said before, this was, of course, an integral part of
German policy.

The assurances which Hitler gave at that time regarding the
sovereignty of Austria were no deception; they were meant
seriously. At first he probably did not see any other
possibility. I myself was much more radical in this
direction and I asked him repeatedly not to make any
definite commitments

                                                  [Page 102]

regarding the Austrian question. He believed, however, that
he had first of all to take Italy into consideration.

It was evident that, especially after the National Socialist
Party in Germany had come to power, the National Socialist
Party in Austria was also growing more and more. This Party,
however, had existed in Austria even before the coming to
power in Germany, just as the origin of the National
Socialist Workers' Party goes back to Sudeten Germany. The
Party in Austria was therefore not a Fifth Column for the
Anschluss, because the Austrian people themselves had always
wanted the annexation. If, therefore, the idea of the
Anschluss did not exist so clearly and strongly in the
Austrian Government of that time, then it was not because it
did not want to be joined to Germany but because the form of
government of National Socialism was incompatible with the
form of government then in existence in Austria.

Thus there resulted that tension, first in Austria itself,
which has repeatedly been mentioned by the prosecution in
its charges. This tension was inevitable because the
National Socialists took the thought of annexation with
Germany more seriously than did the Government. This
resulted in political strife between the two. That we were
on the side of the National Socialists as far as our
sympathies were concerned is obvious, particularly since the
Party in Austria was severely persecuted. Many were put into
camps, which were just like the concentration camps but had
different names.

The leader of the Austrian Party at a certain time was a man
by the name of Habicht from Wiesbaden. I did not know him
before; I saw him only once there. He falsely led the
Fuehrer to believe that the Austrian Armed Forces were
prepared to undertake something on their own in order either
to force the Government into accepting the Anschluss or else
to overthrow it. If this were the case, that the Party in
Austria was to support whatever the Armed Forces undertook
along these lines, then, so the Fuehrer thought, it should
have the political support of the Party in Germany in
respect to this matter. But the whole thing was actually a
deception, since it was not the Austrian Army which intended
to proceed against the Austrian Government but rather a so-
called "Wehrmacht Standarte," a unit which consisted of
former members and released or discharged members of the
Austrian Army who had gone over to the Party or joined it.

With this deceptive manoeuvre Habicht then undertook this
action in Vienna. I was then in Bayreuth with the Fuehrer.
He called Habicht at once and reproached him most severely
and said that he had given him false information, tricked
him and deceived him.

He regretted the death of Dollfuss very much because
politically that meant a very serious situation as far as
the National Socialists were concerned, and particularly in
regard to Italy. Italy mobilised five divisions at that time
and sent them to the Brenner Pass. The Fuehrer desired an
appeasement which would be quick and as sweeping in its
effect as possible. That was the reason why he asked Herr
von Papen to go as Ambassador Extraordinary to Vienna and to
try to ease the atmosphere as quickly as possible.

We must not forget the somewhat absurd situation which has
already developed in the course of years, namely, that a
purely German country such as Austria was not influenced in
governmental matters most strongly by the German Reich but
by the Italian Government. I remember a statement of Mr.
Churchill's - that Austria was practically a branch of
Italy.

After the action against Dollfuss, Italy assumed a very
definitely aloof attitude toward Germany and made it clear
that Italy would be the country which would do everything to
prevent the annexation. Therefore, besides the internal
clearing up of Germany's relations to Austria by Herr von
Papen, the Fuehrer had also to try to bring about a change
in Mussolini's attitude to

                                                  [Page 103]
                                                            
this question. For this reason he went to Vienna shortly
afterwards - maybe it was before - at any rate, he tried to
bring about a different attitude.

But I was of the opinion that, in spite of everything we may
have had in common, let us say in a philosophic sense -
Fascism and National Socialism - the annexation of our
brother people was much more important to me than this
coming to an agreement. And if it were not possible to do it
with Mussolini, we should have to do it against him. Then
came the Italian-Ethiopian war. In regard to the sanctions
against Italy, Germany was given to understand, not openly
but "under the counter," that it would be to her advantage,
as far as the Austrian question was concerned, to take part
in these sanctions.

That was a difficult decision for the Fuehrer to make.
Either to declare himself out and out against Italy, and to
achieve the Anschluss by these means, or to bind himself by
obligation to Italy through a pro-Italian, correct attitude
and thus to exclude Italy's opposition to the Anschluss. I
suggested to him at that time, in view of the somewhat vague
offer regarding Austria made by English-French circles, to
try to find out who was behind this offer, and whether both
those Governments were willing to come to an agreement in
regard to this point, and to give assurances to the effect
that this would be considered an internal German affair, and
that the offer did not merely represent vague assurances of
general co-operation, etc.

My suspicions proved right; we could not get any clear
assurances; and under these circumstances it was more
opportune to prevent Italy's being the main opponent to the
Anschluss by not joining in any sanctions against her.

I was still of the opinion that the great national interest
in the union of these German peoples stood above all
considerations regarding differences between the two present
Governments, and that this could not be achieved by the
Government of the great German Reich stepping into the
background and perhaps joining Germany to Austria; rather
the Anschluss would have to be executed sooner or later.

Then came the Berchtesgaden agreement. I was not present at
this. I did not even agree to it because I was opposed to
any definite statement which lengthened this period of
indecision; for me the complete union of all Germans was the
only conceivable solution.

Shortly after Berchtesgaden there was the plebiscite which
the then Chancellor Schuschnigg had called. This plebiscite
was of itself an impossibility, a breach of the
Berchtesgaden agreement. This I shall pass over. But the way
in which this plebiscite was supposed to take place was
unique in history. One could vote only by "yes," every
person could vote as often as he wanted, five times, six
times, seven times. If he tore up the slip of paper, that
was counted as "yes," and so on. It is of no further
interest. In this way it could be seen from the very
beginning that if only a few followers of the Schuschnigg
system utilised these opportunities sufficiently the result
could be only a positive majority for Herr Schuschnigg. The
whole thing was a farce.

We opposed that; first of all a member of the Austrian
Government who was at that moment in Germany, General von
Glaise-Horstenau, was flown to Vienna in order to make clear
to Schuschnigg or Seyss-Inquart, who, since Berchtesgaden,
was in Schuschnigg's Cabinet, that Germany would never
tolerate this provocation. At the same time troops which
were stationed near the Austrian border were alerted. That
was on Friday, I believe, the 11th. On that day I was in the
Reich Chancellery with the Fuehrer. I heard by telephone the
news that Glaise-Horstenau had arrived and made our demands
known clearly and unmistakably, and that these things were
now being discussed. Then, as far as I remember, the answer
came that the plebiscite had been called off and that
Schuschnigg agreed to it. At this moment I had the
instinctive feeling that the situation had become mobile and
that now, finally, that possibility which we had long and
ardently awaited was there - the possibility of

                                                  [Page 104]

bringing about a total solution. From this moment on I must
take one hundred per cent. responsibility for all further
happenings, because it was not the Fuehrer so much as I
myself who set the pace and, even overruling the Fuehrer's
misgivings, brought everything to its final development.

My telephone conversations have been read here. I demanded
spontaneously, without actually having first spoken to the
Fuehrer about it, the immediate retirement of Chancellor
Schuschnigg. When this was granted, I put my next demand -
now that everything was ripe for it - and that was the
Anschluss. And that took place, as is known.

The only thing - and I do not say this because it is
important as far as my responsibility is concerned - which I
did not bring about personally, since I did not know the
persons involved, but which has been brought forward by the
prosecution in the last few days, was the following: I sent
through a list of Ministers, that is to say, I named those
persons who would be considered by us as desirable as
members of an Austrian Government for the time being. I knew
Seyss-Inquart, and it was clear to me from the very
beginning that he should get the Chancellorship. Then I
named Kaltenbrunner for security. I did not know
Kaltenbrunner, and that is one of the two instances where
the Fuehrer took a hand by giving me a few names. Also, by
the way, I gave the name of Fischbock for the Ministry of
Economy, without knowing him. The only one whom I personally
brought into this Cabinet was my brother-in-law, Dr. Huber,
as Minister of Justice, not because he was my brother-in-
law, but because he had already been Austrian Minister of
Justice in the Cabinet of Prelate Seipel. He was not a
member of the Party at that time, but he came from the ranks
of the Home Guards (Heimwehr) and it was important to me to
have someone from this group too - with whom we had
initially worked together, but had since opposed -
represented in the Cabinet, and I wanted to be sure of my
influence on this person, so that everything would now
actually develop toward a total Anschluss. For already plans
had again appeared whereby the Fuehrer only, because he was
the head of the German Reich, should also be the head of
German Austria, and there would otherwise be a separation.
That I considered intolerable. The hour had come and we
should make the best use of it.

In the conversation which I had with Foreign Minister von
Ribbentrop, who was in London at that time, I stressed that
the ultimatum had not been put by us but by Seyss-Inquart.
That was absolutely true de jure; de facto, of course, I put
it. But this telephone conversation was being listened to by
the English, and I had to conduct a diplomatic conversation,
and I have never heard yet that diplomats in such cases say
how it was de facto; rather they always stress how it was de
jure; and why should I make an exception here? In this
telephone conversation I demanded of Herr von Ribbentrop
that he ask the British Government to name British persons
in whom they had the fullest confidence. We would make all
arrangements so that these persons could travel all over
Austria, in order to see for themselves that the Austrian
people, in an overwhelming majority, wanted this Anschluss
and greeted it with enthusiasm. Here, during the discussion
of the Austrian question, no mention was made of the fact
that already - this conversation took place on Friday - the
Sunday before, in Styria, one of the most important lands
with predominantly German population, an internal partial
Anschluss had practically taken place, that the population
there had already declared itself in favour of the Anschluss
and had more or less severed its ties with the Viennese
Government.


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