The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Volume I Chapter IX
Opening Address for the United Kingdom
(Part 2 of 17)

So first let this be said. Whilst it may be true that there is no body of international rules amounting to law in the Austinian sense of a rule imposed by a sovereign upon a subject obliged to obey it under some definite sanction, yet for fifty years or more the people of the world, striving perhaps after that ideal of which the poet speaks:

When the War Drums throb no longer
And the Battle Flags are furled,
In the Parliament of Man,
The Federation of the World

have sought to create an operative system of rules based on the consent of nations to stabilize international relations, to avoid war taking place at all and to mitigate the results of such wars as took place. The first such treaty was of course the Hague Convention of 1899 for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes. This was, indeed, of little more than predatory effect and we attach no weight to it for the purpose of this case, but it did establish agreement that in the event of serious disputes arising between the signatory powers, they would so far as possible submit to mediation. That Convention was followed in 1907 by another Convention reaffirming and slightly strengthening what had previously been agreed. These early conventions fell indeed very far short of outlawing war or of creating any binding obligation to arbitrate. I shall certainly not ask you to say any crime was committed by disregarding them. But at least they established that the contracting powers accepted the general principle that if at all possible war should be resorted to only if mediation failed.

Although these Conventions are mentioned in the Indictment I do not rely on them save to show the historical development of the law. It is unnecessary, therefore, to argue about their effect,

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for their place has been taken by more effective instruments. They were the first steps.

There were, of course, other individual agreements between particular States which sought to preserve the neutrality of individual countries as, for instance, that of Belgium, but those agreements were, in the absence of any real will to comply with them, entirely inadequate to prevent the first World War in 1914.

Shocked by the occurrence of that catastrophe the Nations of Europe, not excluding Germany, and of other parts of the World came to the conclusion that in the interests of all alike a permanent organization of the Nations should be established to maintain the peace. And so the Treaty of Versailles was prefaced by the Covenant of the League of Nations.

I say nothing at this moment of the general merits of the various provisions of the Treaty of Versailles. They have been criticized, some of them perhaps justly, and they were made the subject of much warlike propaganda in Germany. But it is unnecessary to enquire into the merits of the matter, for however unjust one might for this purpose assume the Treaty to be, it contained no kind of excuse for the waging of war to secure an alteration in its terms. For not only was it a settlement by agreement of all the difficult territorial questions which had been left outstanding by the war itself but it established the League of Nations which, if it had been loyally supported, could so well have resolved those international differences which might otherwise have led, as they did lead, to war. It set up in the Council of the League, in the Assembly and in the Permanent Court of International Justice, a machine not only for the peaceful settlement of international disputes but also for the ventilation of all international questions frank and open discussion. At the time the hopes of the world stood high. Millions of men in all countries -- perhaps even in Germany -- had laid down their lives in what they believed and hoped to be a war to end war. Germany herself entered the League and was given a permanent seat on the Council, on which, as in the Assembly, German Governments which preceded that of the Defendant Von Papen in 1932 played their full part. In the years from 1919 to 1932 despite some minor incidents in the heated atmosphere which followed the end of the war, the peaceful operation of the League continued. Nor was it only the operation of the League which gave good ground for hope that at long last the rule of-law would replace that of anarchy in the international field.

The Statesmen of the world deliberately set out to make wars of aggression an international Crime. These are no new terms,

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invented by the Victors to embody in this Charter. They have figured prominently in numerous treaties, in governmental pronouncements and in declarations of Statesmen in the period preceding the Second World War. In treaties concluded between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and other States -- such as Persia (1 October 1927), France (2 May 1935), China (21 August 1937) the Contracting Parties undertook to refrain from any act of aggression whatsoever against the other Party. In 1933 the Soviet Union became a party to a large number of treaties containing a detailed definition of aggression.

"The same definition appeared in the same year in the authoritative Report of the Committee on Questions of Security set up in connection with the Conference for the Reduction and the Limitation of Armaments. But States went beyond commitments to refrain from wars of aggression and to assist States victims of aggression. They condemned wars of aggression. Thus in the AntiWar Treaty of Non-Aggression and Conciliation of 10 October 1933, a number of American States subsequently joined by practically all the States of the American Continent and a number of European countries -- the Contracting Parties solemnly declared that "they condemned wars of aggression in their mutual relations or in those of other States." That Treaty was fully incorporated into the Buenos Aires Convention of December 1936 signed and ratified by a large number of American countries, including the United States of America. Previously, in February 1928, the Sixth Pan-American Conference adopted a Resolution declaring that as "war of aggression- constitutes a crime against the human species *** all aggression is illicit and as such is declared prohibited." In September 1927 the Assembly of the League of Nations adopted a resolution affirming the conviction that "a war of aggression can never serve as a means of settling international disputes and is, in consequence, an international crime" and declaring that "all wars of aggression are, and shall always be, prohibited." The first Article of the Draft Treaty for Mutual Assistance of 1923 reads: "The High Contracting Parties, affirming that aggressive war is an international crime, undertake the solemn engagement not to make themselves guilty of this crime against any other nation." In the Preamble to the Geneva Protocol of 1924 it was stated that "offensive warfare constitutes an infraction of solidarity and an international crime." These instruments remained unratified, for various reasons, but they are not without significance or instruction.

These repeated condemnations of wars of aggression testified to the fact that, with the establishment of the League of Nations

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and with the legal developments which followed it, the place of war in International Law had undergone a profound change. War was ceasing to be the unrestricted prerogative of sovereign States. The Covenant of the League did not totally abolish the right of war. It left certain gaps which probably were larger in theory than in practice. In effect it surrounded the right of war by procedural and substantive checks and delays which, if the Covenant had been observed, would have amounted to an elimination of war not only between Members of the League, but also, by virtue of certain provisions of the Covenant, in the relations of non- Members. Thus the Covenant restored the position as it existed at the dawn of International Law, at the time when Grotius was laying the foundations of the modern law of nations and established the distinction, accompanied by profound legal consequences in the sphere of neutrality, between just and unjust wars.

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