The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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When it decided on 7th March, 1936, to denounce the Treaty
of Locarno and to reoccupy at once the demilitarised
Rhineland area, thereby violating Articles 42 and 43 of the
Treaty of Versailles, the German Government alleged that in
so doing it was replying to the pact concluded and signed on
2nd May, 1935, between France and the U.S.S.R., and ratified
on 27th February, 1936, by the French Chamber of Deputies.
It alleged that this pact was contrary to the Treaty of
Locarno. This was a mere pretext which was taken seriously
by nobody. The Nazi leaders wanted to start building the
Siegfried Line as soon as possible in the demilitarised
Rhineland area, in order to thwart a military intervention
which France might attempt so as to assist her Eastern
allies. The decision of 7th March, 1936, was the prelude to
the aggressions directed against Austria, Czechoslovakia and
Poland.

Internally, rearmament was achieved; thanks to a plan of
economic and financial measures which affected every aspect
of national life. The entire economic system was directed
towards the preparation for war. The members of the
Government proclaimed priority of armaments manufacture over
all other branches of production. Policy took precedence
before economics. The Fuehrer declared: "The people must be
resigned for some time to having its butter, fats and meat
rationed, in order that rearmament may proceed at the
desired rate." The German people did not protest against
this order. The State intervened to increase the production
of substitute goods which would help to relieve the
insufficiency of raw materials and would enable the Reich,
in the event of war, to maintain the level of production
necessary for the Army and Air Force, even if imports were
to become difficult or impossible. The defendant Goering, in
September, 1936, inspired the drawing up and directed the
application of the Four Year Plan which put Germany's
economic system on a war footing. The expenses entailed by
this rearmament were assured, thanks to the new system of
work treaties. The defendant Schacht, during the three and a
half years he was at the head of the Reich Ministry of
Economics, brought into being this financial machinery, and
thereby played an outstanding role in military preparations,
as he himself recalled, after he left the Ministry, in a
speech that he made in November, 1938, at the Economic
Council of the German Academy.

                                                  [Page 348]

Germany thus succeeded in three years' time in re-creating a
great Army and in forming on the technical plane an
organisation entirely devoted to future war. On the 5th
November, 1937, when expounding his plan for home policy to
his collaborators, Hitler was able to state that rearmament
was almost completed.

(A recess was taken.)

M. FRANCOIS DE MENTHON: While Hitler's Government was giving
to the Reich the economic and financial means for a war of
aggression he was carrying on simultaneously the diplomatic
preparation of that war by attempting to reassure the
threatened nations during the period which was indispensable
to him for rearmament, and by trying also to keep his
eventual adversaries apart from one another.

In a speech on 17th May, 1933, Hitler, while asking for a
revision of the Treaty of Versailles, declared that he had
no intention of obtaining it by force. He stated that he
admitted "the legitimate exigencies of all peoples" and he
asserted that he did not want to "Germanise those who are
not Germans." He wished to "respect the rights of other
nationalities."

The German-Polish Non-Aggression Pact, concluded on 26th
January, 1934, which was to reassure for a time the Warsaw
Government and to lull it into a state of false security,
was principally intended to bar French policy from any
action. In a work published in 1939 entitled "Deutschlands
Aussenpolitik 1933-39," an official writer, Professor Von
Freytag-Loringhoven, wrote that the essential purpose of
this pact was to paralyse the action of the Franco-Polish
alliance and to "overthrow the entire French system."

On 26th May, 1935, ten days after denouncing the military
clauses of the Treaty of Versailles, Germany started
negotiations with Great Britain which were to result in the
Naval Agreement of 18th June, 1935, negotiations which were
intended to reassure British public opinion by showing, it
that, while the Reich was desirous of becoming once more a
great military Power, it was not thinking of reconstituting
a powerful fleet.

Immediately following the plebiscite of 13th January, 1935,
which decided the return of the Saar territory to the Reich,
Hitler formally declared "that he would make no further
territorial demands whatsoever on France."

He was to use the same tactics towards France until the end
of 1938. On 6th December, 1938, Ribbentrop came to Paris to
sign the Franco-German Declaration which agreed "the
frontiers as definite" between the two countries and which
stated that the two Governments were resolved, "under
reservation of their particular relations with third Powers,
to engage in mutual consultation in the event of questions
of common interests which might show a risk of leading to
international difficulties"; he was then still hoping, to
quote the French Ambassador in Berlin, to "stabilise peace
in the West in order to have a free hand in the East."

Did not Hitler make the same promises to Austria and
Czechoslovakia? He signed on 11th July, 1936, an agreement
with the Viennese Government, recognising the independence
of Austria, an independence which he was to destroy 20
months later. By means of the Munich Agreement on 29th
September, 1938, he promised subsequently to guarantee the
integrity of the Czech territory - which territory he
invaded less than six months later!

Nevertheless, as early as 5th November, 1937, in a secret
conference held at the Reich Chancellery, Hitler had made
known to his collaborators that the hour had struck for
resolving by force the problem of the living-space required
by Germany. The diplomatic situation was favourable to
Germany. She had acquired a superiority of armaments which
ran the risk of being only a temporary one. Action should be
taken without further delay.

                                                  [Page 349]

Thereupon started the series of aggressions which have
already been detailed before this Court. It has also been
shown to you that these various aggressions have been made
in violation of international treaties and of the principles
of International Law. As a matter of fact, German propaganda
did not challenge this at the time. It merely stated that
those treaties and those principles "had lost any reality
whatever with the passage of time." In other words, it
simply denied the value of the word once pledged, and
asserted that the principles which formed the basis of
International Law had become obsolete. This is a reasoning
which is in line with the National Socialist doctrines
which, as we have seen, do not recognise any International
Law, and state that any means is justifiable if it is of a
nature to serve the interests of the German race.

However, it is worth while examining the various arguments
which German propaganda made use of to justify the long-
planned aggression.

Germany set forth, first of all, her vital interests. Could
she not be excused for neglecting the rules of the rights of
people when she was engaged in a struggle for the existence
of her people? She needed economic expansion. She had the
right and the duty to protect the German minorities abroad.
She was obliged to ward off the encirclement which the
Western Powers were directing against the Reich.

Economic expansion was one of the reasons which Hitler put
forward, even to his direct associates, in the secret
conferences he held in 1937 and 1939 in the Reich
Chancellery. "Economic needs," he said, "are the basis of
the policy of expansion of Italy and of Japan. They also
guide Germany."

But would not Hitler's Germany have been able to seek
satisfaction of these needs by peaceful means,? Did she
think of obtaining new possibilities for her foreign
commerce through commercial negotiations? Hitler did not
stop at such solutions. To solve the German economic
problems, he saw only one way - the acquisition of
agricultural territories - undoubtedly because he was
incapable of conceiving these problems under any other form
than that of "war economy." If he affirmed the necessity of
obtaining this "agricultural space" - to use his own phrase
- it was because he saw therein the means of obtaining for
the German population the food resources which would protect
it against the consequences of a blockade.

The duty of protecting "the German minorities abroad" was
the favourite theme which Germany's diplomacy made use of
from 1937 to 1939. Obviously it could not serve as an excuse
for the destruction of the Czechoslovakian State or for the
establishment of the "German Protectorate of Bohemia-
Moravia." The fate of the "Sudeten Germans," that of the
"Danzig Germans" was the Leitmotiv of the German Press, of
the Fuehrer's speeches and of the publications of
Ribbentrop's propaganda. Now, is it necessary to recall that
in the secret conference of 5th November, 1937, in which
Hitler draws up for his associates the plan of action to be
carried out against the Czechoslovakian State, he does not
say one word about the "Sudeten Germans," and to recall that
in the conference of 23rd May, 1939, he declares that Danzig
is not the "principal point" of the German-Polish
controversy? The "right of nationalities" was, therefore, in
his mind only a propaganda method intended to mask the real
design, which was the conquest of "living space."

The encirclement directed by the Western Powers against the
Reich is the argument which Hitler used when, on 28th April,
1939, he denounced the Naval Agreement which he had
concluded in 1935 with Great Britain. This thesis of
encirclement occupied a great deal of space in the German
White Book of 1939, relative to the origins of the war; but
is it possible to speak of encirclement when Germany had, in
May, 1939, obtained the alliance with Italy and when, on
23rd August, 1939, she concluded the German-Russian Pact,
and can we forget that the diplomatic efforts of France and
of Great Britain in respect to

                                                  [Page 350]

Greece, Roumania, Turkey, and Poland are subsequent both to
the destruction of the Czechoslovakian State and to the,
beginning of the German-Polish diplomatic conflict? Had not
the British Prime Minister declared on 23rd March, 1939,
before the House of Commons that British policy had only two
aims: to prevent Germany from dominating Europe and "to
oppose a method which, by the threat of force, obliged the
weak States to renounce their independence"? What Hitler
Germany called "encirclement" was simply a fence, belatedly
built in an attempt to check measureless ambitions.

But German propaganda did not limit itself to this. Did we
not see one of its spokesmen point to the contrast between
the passivity of France and Great Britain in September,
1938, and the resistance which they showed in 1939 to the
Hitler policy, wherefrom it was concluded that the peace
would have been maintained if the Western Powers had
exercised pressure on Poland to bring it to accept the
German demands, as they had exercised pressure the previous
year on Czechoslovakia? A strange argument, which is
equivalent to saying that Germany would have been willing
not to make war if all the Powers had yielded to her will.
Is it an excuse for the perpetrators of these violations
that France and Great Britain had, for a long time, opposed
the violations of the rights of peoples by Germany merely by
platonic protests?

Public opinion in France and Great Britain, deceived by
Hitler's declarations, may have believed that the designs of
National Socialism contemplated only the settlement of the
fate of German minorities; it may have hoped that there was
a limit to German ambitions; for, ignorant as they were of
the secret plans of which we have proof to-day, France and
Great Britain allowed Germany to rearm and reoccupy the
Rhineland at the very moment when, according to the
testimony of Ribbentrop, a military reaction on their part
would, in March, 1936, have placed the Reich in a critical
situation. They permitted the aggression of March and
September, 1938, and it required the destruction of the
Czechoslovakian State to make the scope of the German plans
clear to the Allies. How can one be astonished that their
attitude then changed, and they decided to resist the German
plans? How could one still claim that the peace could have
been "bought" in August, 1939, by concessions, since the
German secret documents prove that Hitler was determined to
attack Poland as early as May, 1939, and that he would have
been "deeply disappointed" if she had yielded, and that he
wished a general war?

In reality the war was implied by the coming to power of the
National Socialists. Their doctrine inevitably led to it.

As Sir Hartley Shawcross forcefully brought out before your
High Tribunal, a war of aggression is self-evidently a
violation of International Law and, more particularly, a
violation of the General Treaty for the Renouncement of War
of 27th August, 1928, under the name of the Paris Pact, or
the Briand-Kellogg Pact, of which Germany is one of the
signatories. This Pact continues to constitute a part of
International Law.

May I reread Article I of this Treaty?

   "The High Contracting Parties solemnly declare, in the
   name of their respective peoples, that they condemn
   recourse to war for the solution of international
   controversies and renounce it as an instrument of
   national policy in their reciprocal relations."

Wars of aggression thus ceased, in 1928, to be lawful.

Sir Hartley Shawcross told you, with eloquence, that the
Paris Pact, a new law of civilised nations, was the
foundation of a better European order. The Paris Pact, which
remains the fundamental charter of the law of war, indeed
marks an essential step in the evolution of the relations
between States. The Hague Convention had regulated the "law
of the conduct of war." It had instituted the obligation of
recourse to arbitration as a preliminary to any conflict. It
had, essentially, established a distinction between acts, of
war

                                                  [Page 351]

to which International Law and custom allow recourse and
those which it prohibits. The Hague Convention did not even
touch upon the principle of war which remained outside the
legal sphere. This is, in fact, what is brought into being
by the Paris Pact, which regulates "the right of declaration
of war."

Since 1928 International Law of war has emerged from its
framework of regulations. It has gone beyond the empiricism
of The Hague Convention to qualify the legal foundation or
recourse to force. Every war of aggression is illegal, and
the men who bear the responsibility for bringing it about
place themselves by their own will beyond the law.

What does this mean, if not that all acts, committed as a
consequence of this aggression, for the carrying on of the
struggle thus undertaken, will cease to have the juridical
character of acts of war?

May I quote this well-known passage from Pascal?

   "Why do you kill me? Do you not live on the other side
   of the water? My friend, if you lived on this side, I
   would be an assassin, and it would be unjust to kill you
   as I am doing, but since you live on the other side, I
   am an honourable man, and this is just."

Acts committed in the execution of a war are assaults on
persons and goods which are themselves prohibited, but are
sanctioned in all legislations. The state of war could make
them legitimate only if the war itself was legitimate.
Inasmuch as this is no longer the case, since the Briand-
Kellogg Pact, these acts become purely and simply common law
crimes. As Mr. Justice Jackson has already argued before you
with irrefutable logic, any recourse to war is a recourse to
means which are in themselves
criminal.

This is the whole spirit of the Briand-Kellogg Pact. It was
intended to deprive the States which accepted it of the
right of having recourse, in their national interests, to a
series of acts directed against the physical persons or
against the properties of nationals of a foreign Power.
Given this formal commitment, those who have ignored it have
given the order to commit acts prohibited by the common law
of civilised States, and here is involved no special rule of
International Law like that which existed previously and
which left the said acts of war untouched by any criminal
qualifications.

A war perpetuated in violation of International Law no
longer really possesses the juridical character of a war. It
is truly an act of gangsterism, a systematically criminal
undertaking.

This war, or this would-be war, is in itself not only a
violation of International Law, but, indeed, a crime, since
it signifies the outbreak of this systematically criminal
enterprise.

Inasmuch as they could not legally have recourse to force,
those who dictated it, and who were the very organs of the
State bound by treaties, must be considered as the very
source of the numerous assaults upon life and property that
are severely punished by all penal law.

One cannot, of course, deduce, from the preceding, the
individual responsibility of all the perpetrators of acts of
violence. It is obvious that, in an organised modern State,
responsibility is limited to those who act directly for the
State, they alone being in a position to estimate the
lawfulness of the orders given. They alone can be prosecuted
and they must be prosecuted. International Law is so
powerful that the prestige of the sovereignty of States
cannot reduce it to impotence. It is not possible to
maintain that crimes against International Law must escape
repressive action because, on the one hand, the State is an
entity to which one cannot impute criminal intention and
upon which one cannot inflict punishment and, on the other,
no individual can be held responsible for the acts of the
State.

On the other hand, it cannot be objected that, despite the
illegality of the principle of recourse to force by Germany,
other States have admitted that war existed, and speak of
the application of International Law in time of war. It

                                                  [Page 352]

must, in fact, be noted that, even in the case of civil war,
the parties have often invoked these rules which, to a
certain extent, canalise the use of force. This in no wise
implies acquiescence in the principle of its use. Moreover,
when Great Britain and France communicated to the League of
Nations the fact that a state of war existed between them
and Germany as on 3rd September, 1939, they also declared
that, in committing an act of aggression against Poland,
Germany had violated its obligations, assumed not only with
regard to Poland but also with regard to the other
signatories of the Paris Pact. From that moment on, Great
Britain and France took cognisance, in some way, of the
launching of an illegal war by Germany.


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