The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Individual Responsibility Of Defendants
Joachim von Ribbentrop
(Part 3 of 10)


[Page 496]

The extent to which Ribbentrop had adopted this attitude of mind of Hitler at this time is shown in the introduction to- Count Ciano's Diary (2987-PS):

"In the Summer of 1939 Germany advanced her claim against Poland, naturally without our knowledge; indeed, Ribbentrop had several times denied to our Ambassador that Germany had any intentions of carrying the controversy to extremes. Despite these denials I remained in doubt; I wanted to make sure for myself, and on August 11th I went to Salzburg. It was in his residence at Fuschl that Ribbentrop informed me, while we were waiting to sit down at the table, of the decision to start the fireworks, just as he might have told me about the most unimportant and commonplace administrative matter. 'Well, Ribbentrop,' I asked him, while we were walking in the garden, 'What do you want ? The Corridor, or Danzig ?' 'Not any more', and he stared at me through those cold Musee Grevin eyes, 'We want war.' " (2987-PS).

That extraordinary declaration closely corroborates Hitler's statement at his Chancellery conference on 23 May -- that it was no longer a question of Danzig or the Corridor, but a question of war to achieve lebensraum in the East (L-79).

It should be recalled in this connection that "Fall Weiss" the plan for operations against Poland, is dated 3 and 11 April 1939, thus showing that preparations were already in hand (C-120). Another entry in Count Ciano's Diary during the summer of 1939 makes this point quite clear:

"I have collected in the conference records verbal transcripts

[Page 497]

of my conversations with Ribbentrop and Hitler. I shall only note some impressions of a general nature. Ribbentrop is evasive every time I ask him for particulars-of the forthcoming German action. He has a guilty conscience. He has lied too many times about German intentions toward Poland not to feel embarrassment now over what he must tell me and what he is preparing to do.

"The will to fight is unalterable. He rejects any solution which might satisfy Germany and prevent the struggle. I am certain that even if the Germans were given everything they demanded, they would attack just the same, because 'they are possessed by the demon of destruction."

"Our conversation sometimes takes a dramatic turn. I do not hesitate to speak my mind in the most brutal manner. But this doesn't shake him in the least. I realize how little weight this view carries in German opinion.

"The atmosphere is icy. And the cold feeling between us is reflected in our followers. During dinner we do not exchange a word. We distrust each other. But I at least have a clear conscience. He has not." (2987-PS)

The next stage in the German plan consisted of sharp pressure over the claim for Danzig, commencing immediately after Czechoslovakia had been formally dealt with on 15 March 1939. The first sharp raising of the claim was on 21 March (TC-73, No. 61)

An interesting sidelight during the last days before the war concerns the return of Herr von Dirksen, the German Ambassador to the Court of St. James, to Berlin on 18 August 1939. When interrogated (after capture) regarding the significance of this event Ribbentrop expressed a complete absence of recollection ever having seen the German Ambassador to England after his return. Ribbentrop thought he would have remembered him if he had seen him, and therefore he accepted the probability that he did not see him (D-490). Thus when it was well known that war with Poland would involve England and France, either Ribbentrop was not sufficiently interested in opinion in London to take the trouble to see his ambassador, or else, as he rather suggests, he had appointed so weak and ordinary a career diplomat to London that his opinion was not taken into account, either by himself or by Hitler. In either case, Ribbentrop was completely uninterested in anything which his Ambassador might have to tell him as to opinion in London or the possibility of war. It is putting the matter with great moderation to say that in the last days

[Page 498]

before 1 September 1939, Ribbentrop did whatever he could to avoid peace with Poland and to avoid anything which might hinder the encouraging of the war which he and the Nazis wanted. He did that, well knowing that war with Poland would involve Great Britain and France. (See also Section 8 of Chapter IX on Aggression Against Poland.)

M. Lipski, the Polish Ambassador at Berlin, summarized all these events leading up to the war in his report of 10 October 1939 (TC-73, No. 147).


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