The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Volume I Chapter IX
Opening Address for the United Kingdom
(Part 6 of 17)

There remains the question, with which it will not be necessary to detain the Tribunal for long, whether these wars launched by Germany and her leaders in violation of treaties, agreements or assurances, were also wars of aggression. A war of aggression is one which is resorted to in violation of the international obligation not to have recourse to war or, in cases in which war is not totally renounced, when it is resorted to in disregard of the duty to utilize the procedure of pacific settlement which a State has bound itself to observe. There was indeed, in the period between the two World Wars, a divergence of view among jurists

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and statesmen whether it was preferable to attempt in advance a legal definition of aggression or to leave to the States concerned and to the collective organs of the international community freedom of appreciation of the facts in any particular situation that might arise. Those holding the latter view urged that a rigid definition might be abused by an unscrupulous State to fit in with aggressive design; they feared, and the British Government vas for a time among those who thought so, that an automatic definition of aggression might become "a trap for the innocent and sign-post for the guilty". Others held that in the interest of certainly and security a definition of aggression, like a definition any crime in municipal law, was proper and useful; they urged at the competent international organs, political and judicial, could be trusted to avoid any particular case a definition of aggression which might lead to obstruction or to an absurdity. In May 1933 the Committee on Security Questions of the Disarmament Conference proposed a definition of aggression on the following lines:

"The aggressor in an international conflict shall, subject to the agreements in force between the parties to the dispute, be considered to be that State which is the first to commit any of the following actions:

"(1) declaration of war upon another state;

"(2) invasion by its armed forces, with or without a declaration of war, of the territory of another State;

"(3) attack by its land, naval, or air forces, with or without a declaration of war, on the territory, vessels, or aircraft of another State;

"(4) naval blockade of the coasts or ports of another State;

"(5) provision of support to armed bands formed in its territory which have invaded the territory of another State, or refusal, notwithstanding the request of the invaded State, to take in its own territory all the measures in its power to deprive those bands of all assistance or protection."

The various treaties concluded in 1933 by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and other States followed closely that definition. So did the Draft Convention submitted in 1933 by His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom to the Disarmament Conference.

However, it is unprofitable to elaborate here the details of the problem or of the definition of aggression. This Tribunal will not allow itself to be deflected from its purpose by attempts to ventilate in this Court what is an academic and, in the circumstances, an utterly unreal controversy as to what is a war of

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aggression. There is no definition of aggression, general or particular, which does not cover abundantly and irresistibly and in every material detail the premeditated onslaught by Germany upon the territorial integrity and the political independence of so many States.

This then being the law -- that the peoples of the world by the Pact of Paris had finally outlawed war and made it criminal let us turn to the facts and see how these Defendants under their Leader and with their associates destroyed the high hopes of mankind and sought to revert to international anarchy. And first in general terms let this be said, for it will be established beyond doubt by the documents. From the moment Hitler became Chancellor in 1933, with the Defendant Von Papen as Vice Chancellor, and with the Defendant Von Neurath as his Foreign Minister, the whole atmosphere of the world darkened. The hopes of the people began to recede. Treaties seemed no longer matters of solemn obligation, but were entered into with complete cynicism as a means for deceiving other States of Germany's warlike intentions. International Conferences were no longer to be used as a means for securing pacific settlements but as occasions for obtaining by blackmail demands which were eventually to be enlarged by war. The World came to know the War of Nerves, the diplomacy of the fait accompli, of blackmail and bullying.

In October 1933 Hitler told his Cabinet that as the proposed Disarmament Convention did not concede full equality to Germany, "It would be necessary to torpedo the Disarmament Conference. It was out of the question to negotiate: Germany would leave the Conference and the League". And on October 21 1933 she did so, and by so doing struck a deadly blow at the fabric of security which had been built up on the basis of the League Covenant. From that time on the record of their foreign policy became one of complete disregard of all international obligations and certainly not least of those solemnly concluded by themselves. As Hitler had expressly avowed, "Agreements are kept only so long as they serve a certain purpose" (789-PS). He might have added that often the purpose was only to lull an intended victim into a false sense of security. So patent, indeed, did this eventually become that to be invited by the Defendant Ribbentrop to enter into a non-aggression pact with Germany was almost a sign that Germany intended to attack the state concerned. Nor was it only the formal treaty which they used and violated as circumstances made expedient. These Defendants are charged, too, with breaches of the less formal assurance which, in accordance with diplomatic usage Germany gave to

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neighboring states. To-day with the advance of science the world been afforded means of communication and intercourse hitherto unknown, and as Hitler himself expressly recognized, International relations no longer depend upon treaties alone. The methods of diplomacy change. The Leader of one Nation can speak to the Government and peoples of another. But though the methods change the principles of good faith and honesty, established as the fundamentals of civilized society, both in the national and the International spheres, remain. It is a long time since it was said that we are part, one of another. And if to-day different states are more closely connected and thus form part of a World Society more than ever before, so also more than ever before is there that need of good faith between them.

Let us see further how these Defendants, Ministers and High Officers of the Nazi Government individually and collectively comported themselves in these matters.


In the early hours of 1 September 1939 under manufactured and, in any event, inadequate, pretexts, the armed Forces of the German Reich invaded Poland along the whole length of her frontiers and thus launched upon the world the war which to bring down so many of the pillars of our civilization. was a breach of the Hague Conventions (TC-2). It was a breach of the Treaty of Versailles which had established the Frontiers between Germany and Poland. And however much Germany disliked that Treaty -- although Hitler had stated that he would respect its territorial provisions -- she was certainly not free to break it by unilateral action. It was a breach of the Arbitration Treaty between Germany and Poland concluded at Locarno on 16 October 1925 (TC-15). By that Treaty, Germany and Poland expressly agreed to refer any matters of dispute not capable of settlement by ordinary diplomatic machinery to the decision of an Arbitral Tribunal or of the Permanent Court of International Justice. But that is not all. It was also a breach of a more recent and, in view of the repeated emphasis laid on it by Hitler himself, a more important engagement into which Nazi Germany had entered. On 26 January 1934 the German and Polish Governments had signed a ten year Pact of Nonaggression (TC- 21). It was, as the signatories stated, to introduce "a new era in the political relations between Poland and Germany". It was stated in the text of the Pact itself that "the maintenance and guarantee of lasting Peace between the two

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countries is an essential prerequisite for the general peace of Europe". The two Governments therefore agreed to base their mutual relations on the principles laid down in the Pact of Paris of 1928. They declared that

"In no circumstances *** will they proceed to the application of force for the purpose of reaching a decision in such disputes". (TC-21)

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