The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
December 3 to December 14, 1945

Fourteenth Day: Thursday, 6th December, 1945
(Part 1 of 9)

[Page 136]

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal has received an urgent request from the defendants' Counsel that the trial should be adjourned at Christmas for a period of three weeks. The Tribunal is aware of the many interests which must be considered in a trial of this complexity and magnitude, and, as the trial must inevitably last for a considerable time, the Tribunal considers that it is not only in the interest of the defendants and their counsel but of every one concerned in the trial that there should be a recess. On the whole it seems best to take that recess at Christmas rather than at a later date when the prosecution's case has been completed. The Tribunal will therefore rise for the Christmas week and over the 1st January. It will not sit after the session on Thursday, 20th December, and will sit again on Wednesday, 2nd January.

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: I should like, in justice to my staff, to note the American objection to the adjournment for the benefit of the defendants.

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL GRIFFITH-JONES: May it please the Tribunal, the Tribunal will return to Part 3 of that document book, in which I included the documents relating to the earlier discussions between the German and Polish Government on the question of Danzig. Those discussions, the Tribunal will remember, started almost immediately after the Munich crisis in September, 1938, and started, in the first place, as cautious and friendly discussions until the remainder of Czechoslovakia had finally been seized in March of the following year.

I would refer the Tribunal to the first document in that part, TC-73, No. 44. That is a document, taken from the Official Polish White Book, which I put in as Exhibit GB 27(a). It gives an account of a luncheon which took place at the Grand Hotel, Berchtesgaden, on the 2Sth October, where Ribbentrop saw M. Lipski, the Polish Ambassador to Germany:

"In a conversation of the 24th October, over a luncheon at the Grand Hotel, Berchtesgaden, at which M. Hewel was present, von Ribbentrop put forward a proposal for a general settlement of issues (Gesamtlosung) between Poland and Germany. This included the reunion of Danzig with the Reich, while Poland would be assured the retention of railway and economic facilities there. Poland would agree to the building of an extra- territorial motor road and a railway line across Pomorze. In exchange, von Ribbentrop mentioned the possibility of an extension of the Polish-German Agreement by twenty-five years, and a guarantee of Polish-German frontiers."
I do not think I need read the following lines. I go to the last but one paragraph:
"Finally, I said to M. Lipski that I wished to warn von Ribbentrop that I could see no possibility of an agreement involving the reunion

[Page 137]

of the Free City with the Reich. I concluded by promising to communicate the substance of this conversation to you."
I would emphasise the submission of the prosecution as to this part of the case, and that is that the whole question of Danzig was indeed, as Hitler himself said, no question at all. Danzig was raised simply as an excuse, a so-called justification, not for the seizure of Danzig, but for the invasion and seizure of the whole of Poland, and we see it starting now. As we progress with the story it will become ever more apparent that that is what the Nazi Government were really aiming at, only providing themselves with some kind of crisis which would produce some kind of justification for walking into the rest of Poland.

I turn to the next document. It is again a document taken from the Polish White Book, TC-73, No. 45, which will be Exhibit GB 27(b). TC-73 will be the Polish White Book, which I shall put in later. That document sets out the instructions that M. Beck, the Polish Foreign Minister, gave to M. Lipski to hand to the German Government, in reply to the suggestion put forward by Ribbentrop at Berchtesgaden on the 24th October. I need not read the first page. The history of Polish-German relationship is set out, and the needs of Poland in respect of Danzig are emphasised. I turn to the second page of that exhibit, to Paragraph 6:

"In the circumstances, in the understanding of the Polish Government, the Danzig question is governed by two factors: the right of the German population of the city and the surrounding villages to freedom of life and development; and the fact that in all matters appertaining to the Free City as a port it is connected with Poland. Apart from the national character of the majority of the population, everything in Danzig is definitely bound up with Poland."
It then sets out the guarantees to Poland under the existing statute, and I pass to Paragraph 7:
"Taking all the foregoing factors into consideration, and desiring to achieve the stabilisation of relations by way of a friendly understanding with the Government of the German Reich, the Polish Government proposes the replacement of the League of Nations guarantee, and its prerogatives, by a bilateral Polish-German Agreement. This Agreement should guarantee the existence of the Free City of Danzig so as to assure freedom of national and cultural life to its German majority, and also should guarantee all Polish rights. Notwithstanding the complications involved in such a system, the Polish Government must state that any other solution, and in particular any attempt to incorporate the Free City into the Reich, must inevitably lead to a conflict. This would not only take the form of local difficulties, but also would suspend all possibility of Polish-German understanding in all its aspects."
And then finally in Paragraph 8:
"In face of the weight and cogency of these questions, I am ready to have final conversations personally with the governing circles of the Reich. I deem it necessary, however, that you should first present the principles to which we adhere, so that my eventual contact should not end in a breakdown, which would be dangerous for the future."
The first stage in those negotiations had been entirely successful from the German point of view. They had put forward a proposal, the return of the City of Danzig to the Reich, which they might well have known would have

[Page 138]

been unacceptable. It was unacceptable, and the Polish Government had warned the Nazi Government that it would be. They had offered to enter into negotiations, but they had not agreed, which is exactly what the German Government had hoped. They had not agreed to the return of Danzig to the Reich. The first stage in producing the crisis had been accomplished.

Shortly afterwards, within a week or so of that taking place, after the Polish Government had offered to enter into discussions with the German Government, we find another top secret order, issued by the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces, signed by the defendant Keitel. It goes to the O.K.H., O.K.M., and O.K.W. and it is headed "The First Supplement to the Instruction dated the 21st October, 1938":-

"The Fuehrer has ordered:

Apart from the three contingencies mentioned in the instructions of 21st October, 1938, preparations are also to be made to enable the Free State of Danzig to be occupied by German troops by surprise.

The preparations will be made on the following basis:

Condition is a quasi-revolutionary occupation of Danzig, exploiting a politically favourable situation, not a war against Poland."

We remember, of course, that at that moment the remainder of Czechoslovakia had not been seized and therefore they were not ready to go to war with Poland. That document does show how the German Government answered the proposal to enter into discussions. That is C-137 and will become GB 33

On the 5th January, 1939, M. Beck had a conversation with Hitler. It is unnecessary to read the first part of that document, which is the next in the Tribunal's book, TC73, No- 48, which will become Exhibit GB 34. In the first part of that conversation, of which that document is an account, Hitler offers to answer any questions. He says he has always followed the policy laid down by the 1934 agreement. He discusses the Danzig question and emphasises that, in the German view, it must sooner or later return to Germany. I quote the last but one paragraph of that page:

"M. Beck replied that the Danzig question was a very difficult problem. He added that in the Chancellor's suggestion he did not see any equivalent for Poland, and that the whole Polish opinion, and not only people thinking politically, but the widest spheres of Polish society, were particularly sensitive on this matter.

In answer to this the Chancellor stated that to solve this problem it would be necessary to try to find something quite new, some new form, for which he used the term 'Korperschaft', which on the one hand would safeguard the interests of the German population, and on the other the Polish interests. In addition, the Chancellor declared that the Minister could be quite at ease, there would be no faits accomplis in Danzig, and nothing would be done to render difficult the situation of the Polish Government."

The Tribunal will remember that in the very last document we looked at, on the 24th November, orders had already been received, or issued, for preparations to be made for the occupation of Danzig by surprise; yet here he is assuring the Polish Minister that there is to be no fait accompli and he can be quite at his ease.

[Page 139]

I turn to the next step, Document TC-73, No. 49, which will become Exhibit GB 35, a conversation between M. Beck and Ribbentrop, on the day after the one to which I have just referred between Beck and Hitler.
"M. Beck asked Ribbentrop -"
THE PRESIDENT: Did you draw attention to the fact that the last conversation took place in the presence of the defendant Ribbentrop?

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL GRIFFITH-JONES: I am very obliged to you. No, I did not. As I say, it was on the next day, the 6th January. The date in actual fact does not appear on the copy I have got in my book. It does appear in the White Book itself.

"M. Beck asked Ribbentrop to inform the Chancellor that whereas previously, after all his conversations and contacts with German statesmen, he had been feeling optimistic, today, for the first time, he was in a pessimistic mood. Particularly in regard to the Danzig question, as it had been raised by the Chancellor, he saw no possibility whatever of agreement."
I emphasise this last paragraph:
"In answer Ribbentrop once more emphasised that Germany was not seeking any violent solution. The basis of their policy towards Poland was still a desire for the further building up of friendly relations. It was necessary to seek such a method of clearing away the difficulties as would respect the rights and interests of the two parties concerned."
The defendant Ribbentrop apparently was not satisfied with that one expression of good faith. On the 25th of the same month, January, 1939, some fortnight or three weeks later, he was in Warsaw and made another speech, of which an extract is set out in Document 2530-PS, which will become Exhibit GB 36:
"In accordance with the resolute will of the German National Leader, the continual progress and consolidation of friendly relations between Germany and Poland, based upon the existing agreement between us, constitute an essential element in German foreign policy. The political foresight, and the principles worthy of true statesmanship, which induced both sides to take the momentous decision of 1934, provide a guarantee that all other problems arising in the course of the future evolution of events will also be solved in the same spirit, with due regard to the respect and understanding of the rightful interests of both sides. Thus Poland and Germany can look forward to the future with full confidence in the solid basis of their mutual relations."
And even so, the Nazi Government must have been still anxious that the Poles were beginning to sit up-your Lordship will remember the expression " sit up " used in the note to the Fuehrer-and to assume they would be the next in turn, because on the 30th January, Hitler again spoke in the Reichstag, and gave further assurances of their good faith.

That document, that extract, was read by the Attorney General in his address, and therefore I only put it in now as an exhibit. That is Document TC-73, No- 57, which will become Exhibit GB 37.

That, then, brings us up to the March, 1939, seizure of the remainder of Czechoslovakia and the setting up of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.

If the Tribunal will now pass to the next part, Part IV, of that document book, I had intended to refer to three documents where Hitler and Jodl

[Page 140]

were setting out the advantages gained through the seizure of the remainder of Czechoslovakia. But the Tribunal will remember that Mr. Alderman, in his closing remarks yesterday morning, dealt very fully with that matter, showing what advantages they did gain by that seizure and showing on the chart that he had on the wall, the immense strengthening of the German position against Poland. Therefore, I leave that matter. The documents are already in evidence, and if the Tribunal should wish to refer to them, they are to be found in their correct order in the story in that document book.

As soon as that occupation had been completed, within a week of marching into the rest of Czechoslovakia, the heat was beginning to be turned on against Poland.

If the Tribunal would pass to Document TC-73, which is about half-way through that document book - it follows after Jodl's lecture, which is a long document - TC-73, Number 61. It is headed "Official documents concerning Polish-German Relations."

THE PRESIDENT: Does it come after TC-72?


THE PRESIDENT: Page 1397, I am told it is.

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL GRIFFITH-JONES: Yes, that is correct. It does not actually show the page number, but that is at the bottom of the page. I am sorry, these are not numbered.

THE PRESIDENT: I have got it now.


On the 21st March, M. Beck again saw Ribbentrop, and the nature of the conversation was generally very much sharper than the one that had been held a little time back at the Grand Hotel, Berchtesgaden.

"I saw Ribbentrop today. He began by saying he had asked me to call in order to discuss Polish-German relations in their entirety.

He complained about our Press, and the Warsaw student's demonstrations during Count Ciano's visit." - I think I can go straight on to the larger paragraph, which commences with "Further".

"Further, Ribbentrop referred to the conversation at Berchtesgaden between you and the Chancellor, in which Hitler put forward the idea of guaranteeing Poland's frontiers in exchange for a motor road and the incorporation of Danzig into the Reich. He said that there had been further conversations between you and him in Warsaw" - that is, of course, between him and M. Beck.

"He said that there had been further conversations between you and him in Warsaw on the subject, and that you had pointed out the great difficulties in the way of accepting these suggestions. He gave me to understand that all this had made an unfavourable impression on the Chancellor, since so far he had received no positive reaction whatever on our part to his suggestions. Ribbentrop had had a talk with the Chancellor, only yesterday. He stated that the Chancellor was still in favour of good relations with Poland, and had expressed a desire to have a thorough conversation with you on the subject of our mutual relations. Ribbentrop indicated that he was under the impression that difficulties arising between us were also due to some misunderstanding

[Page 141]

of the Reich's real aims. The problem needed to be considered on a higher plane. In his opinion, our two States were dependent on each other."
I think it unnecessary that I should read the next page. Briefly, Ribbentrop emphasises the German argument as to why Danzig should return to the Reich; and I turn to the first paragraph on the following page.
"I stated" - that is M. Lipski - "I stated that now, during the settlement of the Czechoslovakian question, there was no understanding whatever between us. The Czech issue was already hard enough for the Polish public to swallow, for, despite our disputes over the Czechs -
THE PRESIDENT: "With the Czechs."


"-with the Czechs, they were after all a Slav people. But in regard to Slovakia, the position was far worse. I emphasised our community of race, language and religion, and mentioned the help we had given in their achievement of independence. I pointed out our long frontier with Slovakia. I indicated that the Polish man in the street could not understand why the Reich had assumed the protection of Slovakia, that protection being directed against Poland. I said emphatically that this question was a serious blow to our relations.

Ribbentrop reflected for a moment, and then answered that this could be discussed.

I promised to refer to you the suggestion of a conversation between you and the Chancellor. Ribbentrop remarked that I might go to Warsaw during the next few days to talk the matter over. He advised that the talk should not be delayed, lest the Chancellor should come to the conclusion that Poland was rejecting all his offers.

Finally, I asked whether he could tell me anything about his conversation with the Foreign Minister of Lithuania.

Ribbentrop answered vaguely that he had seen Mr. Urbszys on the latter's return from Rome, and that they had discussed the Memel question, which called for a solution."

That conversation took place on the 21st March. It was not very long before the world knew what the solution to Memel was. On the next day German Armed Forces marched in.

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