The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Volume I Chapter IX
Opening Address for the United Kingdom
(Part 7 of 17)

That declaration and agreement was to remain in force for at least ten years and thereafter would remain valid unless it was denounced by either Government six months before the expiration of the ten years, or subsequently a denunciation, with six months notice took place.

Both at the time of its signature and during the following four years Hitler spoke of the German-Polish Agreement publicly as though it were a corner-stone of his foreign policy. By entering into it he persuaded many people that his intentions were genuinely pacific, for the re-emergence of an independent Poland had cost Germany much territory and had separated East Prussia from the Reich. That Hitler should of his own accord enter into friendly relations with Poland; that in his speeches on foreign policy he should proclaim his recognition of Poland's right to an exit to the sea, and the necessity for Germans and Poles to live side by side in amity -- these facts seemed to the world convincing proof that Hitler had no "revisionist" aims which would threaten the peace of Europe, and that he was even genuinely anxious to put an end to the age-old hostility between the Teuton and the Slav. If his professions were genuine his policy excluded a renewal of the Drang nach Osten and thereby would contribute to the stability of Europe. We shall have occasion enough to see how little truth these pacific professions contained. The history of the fateful years from 1934 to 1939 shows quite clearly that the Germans used this Treaty, as they used other treaties, merely as an instrument of policy for furthering their aggressive aims. It is clear from the documents now presented to the Tribunal that these five years fall into two distinct phases in the realization of aggressive aims which always underlay the Nazi policy. There was first the period from the Nazi assumption of power in 1933 until the autumn of 1937. That was the preparatory period. During that time there occurred the breaches of the Versailles and Locarno Treaties, the feverish rearmament of Germany, the reintroduction of conscription, the reoccupation and remilitarization of the Rhineland, and all the other necessary preparatory measures for future aggression with which my United States colleagues have already so admirably dealt. During

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that time they lulled Poland into a false sense of security. Not only Hitler, but also the Defendant Goering and the Defendant Ribbentrop made statements approbating the Pact. In 1935 Goering was saying that "the pact was not planned for a period ten years but forever: there need not be the slightest fear that it would not be continued." Even though Germany was steadily building up the greatest war machine that Europe had ever known, and although, by January 1937, the German military position was so secure that Hitler could refer openly to his strong Army, he took pains also to say at the time that "by a series of agreements we have eliminated existing tensions and thereby contributed considerably to an improvement in the European atmosphere. I merely recall the agreement with Poland which has worked out to the advantage of both sides. ***" (2868-PS). And so it went on -- abroad protestations of pacific intentions -- at home "guns before butter"

In 1937, however, this preparatory period drew to a close and Nazi policy moved from general preparation for future aggression to specific planning for the attainment of certain specific aggressive aims. Two documents in particular mark this change. The first of these was an important "Directive for unified preparation for War" issued on 29 June 1937, by the Reich-Minister for War (von Blomberg) and C-in-C of the Armed Forces (C-175). This document is important, not only for its military directions, but for the appreciation it contained of the European situation and for the revelation it provides of the Nazi attitude towards it.

"The general political position", von Blomberg stated, "justifies the supposition that Germany need not consider an attack from any side. Grounds for this are, in addition to the lack of desire for war in almost all Nations, particularly the Western Powers, the deficiencies in the preparedness for war of a number of States, and of Russia in particular". (C-175)

He added, it is true, "The intention of unleashing an European War is held just as little by Germany". And it may be that that phrase was carefully chosen, for Germany hoped to conquer the world in detail: to fight on one front at a time, not to unleash a general European conflict. But, he went on, "the politically fluid world situation, which does not preclude surprising incidents, demands a continuous preparedness for war of the German Armed forces (a) to counter attack at any time (yet he had just said at there was no fear of any attack) and (b) to enable the military exploitation of politically favorable opportunities should they occur". That phrase is no more than a euphemistic description

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of aggressive war. It reveals the continued adherence of the German military leaders to the doctrine that military might, and if necessary war, should be an instrument of policy -- the doctrine explicitly condemned by the Kellogg Pact, to which Germany had adhered. The document goes on to set out the general preparations necessary for a possible war in the mobilization period 1937/1938. The document is evidence at least for this -- that the leaders of the German Armed Forces had it in mind to use the military strength which they were building up for aggressive purposes. "No reason" - - they say -- "to anticipate attack from any side *** there is a lack of desire for war". Yet they prepare to "exploit militarily favorable opportunities".

Still more important as evidence of the transition to planned aggression is the record of the important conference which Hitler held at the Reichs Chancellery on November 1937, at which von Blomberg, Reich Minister for War, von Fritsch, C-in-C of the Army, Goering, C-in-C of the Luftwaffe, Raeder, C-in-C of the Navy and von Neurath, then the Reich Minister for Foreign Affairs, were present. The minutes of that conference have already been put in evidence (386-PS). I refer to them now to emphasize those passages which make apparent the ultimate intention to wage an aggressive war. As will be remembered, the burden of Hitler's argument at that conference was that Germany required more territory in Europe. Austria and Czechoslovakia were specifically envisaged. But Hitler realized that the process of conquering these two countries might well bring into operation the treaty obligations of Great Britain and France. He was prepared to take the risk.

"The history of all times: Roman Empire, British Empire, has proved that every space expansion can only be effected by breaking resistance and taking risks. Even setbacks are unavoidable: neither formerly nor today has space been found without an owner. The attacker always comes up against the proprietor. The question for Germany is where the great possible conquest can be made at the lowest possible cost". (386-PS)

In the course of his address to that Conference Hitler had foreseen and discussed the likelihood that Poland would be involved if the aggressive expansionist aims which he put forward brought about a general European war in the course of their realization by Germany. When, therefore, on that very day Hitler assured the Polish Ambassador of the value of the 1934 Pact it can only be concluded that its real value in Hitler's eyes was that of keeping Poland quiet until Germany had acquired such a territorial and

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strategic position that Poland would no longer be a danger to her. That view is confirmed by the events which followed. At the beginning of February 1938 the change from Nazi preparation for aggression to active aggression itself took place. It was marked by the substitution of Ribbentrop for Neurath as Foreign Minister, and of Keitel for Blomberg as head of OKW. Its first fruits were the bullying of Schuschnigg at Berchtesgaden on 12 February 1938, and the forcible absorption of Austria in March. Thereafter the Green Plan (Fall Gruen) for the destruction of Czechoslovakia was steadily developed -- the plan partially foiled, or of which the final consummation was at least delayed, by the Munich Agreement.

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