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 3 of 9)

[Page 146]

THE PRESIDENT: Would you remind me of the date of it?


[Page 147]

Your Lordship will remember that Goering, Raeder and Keitel, amongst many others, were present. It has three particular lines that I want to remind the Tribunal of, where he said:
"If there were an alliance of France, England and Russia against Germany, Italy and Japan, I would be constrained to attack England and France with a few annihilating blows. The Fuehrer doubts the possibility of a peaceful settlement with England."
So that, not only has the decision been taken definitely to attack Poland, but almost equally definitely to attack England and France too.

I pass to the next period, which I have described as the final preparations taken from June up to the beginning of the war, at the beginning of September, Part V of the Tribunal Document Book. If the Tribunal will glance at the index to the document book, they will find I have, for convenience, divided the evidence into four subheadings: Final Preparations of the Armed Forces; Economic Preparation; the Famous Obersalzburg Speeches, and the Political or Diplomatic Preparations urging on the Crisis, and the justification for the Invasion of Poland.

I refer the Tribunal to the first document in that book, dealing with the Final Preparations of the Armed Forces. It again is an exhibit containing various documents, and I refer particularly to the second document, dated 22nd June, 1939. This is Document C-126, which will become Exhibit GB 45.

It will be remembered that a precise timetable had been called for. Now, here it is.

"The Supreme Command of the Armed Forces has submitted to the Fuehrer and Supreme Commander, a 'preliminary timetable' for 'Fall Weiss,' based on the particulars so far available from the Navy, Army and Air Force. Details concerning the days preceding the attack and the start of the attack were not included in this timetable.

The Fuehrer and Supreme Commander is, in the main, in agreement with the intentions of the Navy, Army and Air Force and made the following comments on individual points:

I. In order not to disquiet the population by calling up reserves on a larger scale than usual, for the manoeuvres scheduled for 1939, as is intended; civilian establishments, employers or other private persons who make inquiries should be told that men are being called up for the autumn manoeuvres and for the exercise units it is intended to form for these manoeuvres.

It is requested that directions to this effect be issued to subordinate establishments."

All this became relevant, particularly relevant, later, when we find the German Government making allegations of mobilisation on the part of the Poles. Here we have it in May, or rather June, it is the Germans who are mobilising, only doing so secretly.
"For reasons of security, the clearing of hospitals, which the Supreme Command of the Army proposed should take place from the middle of July in the frontier area, must not be carried out."
If the Tribunal will turn to the top of the following page, it will be seen that that order is signed by the defendant Keitel. I think it is unnecessary to read any further from that document. There is - and this, perhaps, will save turning back, if I might take it rather out of date now - the first document

[Page 148]

on that front page of that exhibit, a short letter dated 2nd August. It is only an extract, I am afraid, as it appears in the translation.
"Attached are Operational Directions for the employment of U-Boats which are to be sent out to the Atlantic, by way of precaution, in the event of the intention to carry out 'Fall Weiss' remaining unchanged. F.O. U-Boats is handing in his Operation Orders by 12th August."
One must assume that the defendant Donitz knew that his U- Boats were to go out into the Atlantic "by way of precaution in the event of the intention to carry out 'Fall Weiss' remaining unchanged."

I turn to the next document in the Tribunal's book, C-30, which becomes Exhibit GB 46. That is a letter dated the 27th July. It contains orders for the Air and Sea Forces for the occupation of the German Free City of Danzig.

"The Fuehrer and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces has ordered the reunion of the German Free State of Danzig with the Greater German Reich. The Armed Forces must occupy Danzig Free State immediately, in order to protect the German population. There will be no hostile intention on the part of Poland so long as the occupation takes place without the force of arms."
It then sets out how the occupation is to be effected. All this again becomes more relevant when we discuss the diplomatic action of the last few days before the war, when Germany was purporting to make specious offers for the settlement of the question by peaceful means. I would like to offer this as evidence that the decision had been taken and nothing was going to move him from that decision. That document, as set out, says that "There will be no hostile intention on the part of Poland so long as the occupation takes place without the force of arms." Nevertheless, that was not the only condition upon which the occupation was to take place, and we find that during July, right up to the time of the war, steps were being taken to arm the population of Danzig and to prepare them to take part in the coming occupation.

I refer the Tribunal to the next Document, TC-71, which becomes Exhibit GB 47, where there are set out a few only of the reports which were coming back almost daily during this period from Mr. Shepherd, the Consul-General in Danzig, to the British Foreign Minister. The sum total of those reports can be found in the British Blue Book. I now would refer to only two of them, as examples of the kind of thing that was happening.

I refer to the first that appears on that exhibit, date 1st July, 1939.

"Yesterday morning four German army officers in mufti arrived here by night express from Berlin to organise Danzig Heimwehr.

All approaches to hills and dismantled forts, which constitute a popular public promenade on the western fringe of the city, have been closed with barbed wire and 'verboten' notices.

The walls surrounding the shipyards bear placards: 'Comrades keep your mouths shut lest you regret consequence.'

Master of British steamer 'High Commissioner Wood', whilst he was roving Konigsberg from 28th June to 3oth June, observed considerable military activity, including extensive shipment of camouflaged covered lorries and similar material, by small coasting vessels. On 28th June, four medium-sized steamers, loaded with troops, lorries, field kitchens, etc., left Konigsberg, ostensibly returning to Hamburg after manoeuvres, but actually proceeding to Stettin. Names of Steamers", and so forth.

[Page 149]

And again, as another example, the report numbered 11, on the next page of the exhibit, dated 10th July, states:-
"The same informant, whom I believe to be reliable, advises me that on 8th July, he personally saw about thirty military lorries with East Prussian licence numbers on the Bischofsberg, where numerous field kitchens had been placed along the hedges. There were also eight large anti-aircraft guns in position, which he estimated as being of over 3-in. calibre, and three six-barrelled light anti-aircraft machine guns. There were about 500 men, drilling with rifles, and the whole place was extensively fortified with barbed wire'."
I do not think it is necessary to occupy the Tribunal's time in reading more.

Those, as I say, are two reports only, of a number of others that can be found in the British Blue Book, which sets out the arming and preparation of the free city of Danzig.

On 12th August and 13th August, when preparations were practically complete - and it will be remembered that they had to be complete for an invasion of Poland on 1st September - we find Hitler and the defendant Ribbentrop at last disclosing their intentions to their allies, the Italians.

In one of the passages in Hitler's speech of the 23rd May, it will be remembered - I will not quote it now because the document has been read before - however, in a passage in that speech Hitler, in regard to his proposed attack on Poland, had said, "Our object must be kept secret even from the Italians and the Japanese."

Now, when his preparations are complete, he discloses his intentions to his Italian comrades, and does so in hope that they will join him.

The minutes of that meeting are long, and it is not proposed to read more than a few passages. The meeting can be summarised generally by saying, as I have, that Hitler is trying to persuade the Italians to come into the war with him. The Italians, or Ciano, rather, is most surprised. He had no idea, as he says, of the urgency of the matter, and they are not prepared. He, therefore, is trying to dissuade Hitler from starting off until the Duce can have had a little more time to prepare himself.

The value - perhaps the greatest value - of the minutes of that meeting is that they show quite clearly the German intention to attack England and France ultimately, anyway, if not at the same time as Poland.

I refer the Tribunal to the second page of the exhibit. Hitler is trying to show the strength of Germany, the certainty of winning the war, and, therefore, he hopes to persuade the Italians to come in.

"At sea, England had for the moment no immediate reinforcements in prospect."
I quote from the top of the second page.
"Some time would elapse before any of the ships now under construction could be taken into service. As far as the land army was concerned, after the introduction of conscription 60,000 men had been called to the colours."
I quote this passage particularly to show the intention to attack England. We have been concentrating rather on Poland, but here his thoughts are turned entirely towards England.
"If England kept the necessary troops in her own country she could send to France, at the most, two infantry divisions and one armoured division. For the rest, she could supply a few bomber squadrons, but,

[Page 150]

hardly any fighters since, at the outbreak of war, the German Air Force would at once attack England and the English fighters would be urgently needed for the defence of their own country. With regard to the position of France, the Fuehrer said that in the event of a general war, after the destruction of Poland - which would not take long - Germany would be in a position to assemble hundreds of divisions along the West Wall, and France would then be compelled to concentrate all her available forces from the Colonies, from the Italian frontier and elsewhere, on her own Maginot Line, for the life and death struggle which would then ensue. The Fuehrer also thought that the French would find it no easier to overrun the Italian fortifications than to overrun the West Wall. Here Count Ciano showed signs of extreme doubt"
- doubt which, perhaps, in view of the subsequent performances, was well justified.
"The Polish Army was most uneven in quality. Together with a few parade divisions, there were large numbers of troops of less value. Poland was very weak in anti-tank and anti-aircraft defences and at the moment neither France nor England could help her in this respect."
What this Tribunal will appreciate, of course, is that Poland formed a threat to Germany on Germany's Eastern Frontier.
"If, however, Poland were given assistance by the Western Powers, over a longer period, she could obtain these weapons and German superiority would thereby be diminished. In contrast to the fanatics of Warsaw and Cracow, the population of their areas is different. Furthermore, it was necessary to consider the position of the Polish State. Out Of 34 million inhabitants, one and one-half million were German, about four million were Jews, and nine million Ukrainians, so that genuine Poles were much less in number than the total population, and as already said, their striking power was not to be valued highly. In these circumstances Poland could be struck to the ground by Germany in the shortest time.

Since the Poles, through their whole attitude, had made it clear that in any case, in the event of a conflict, they would stand on the side of the enemies of Germany and Italy, a quick liquidation at the present moment could only be of advantage for the unavoidable conflict with the Western Democracies. If a hostile Poland remained on Germany's Eastern frontier, not only would the eleven East Prussian divisions be tied down, but also further contingents would have to be kept in Pomerania and Silesia. This would not be necessary in the event of a previous liquidation."

The argument continues on those lines.

I pass on to the next page, at the top of the page:-

"Coming back to the Danzig question, the Fuehrer said that it was impossible for him now to go back. He had made an agreement with Italy for the withdrawal of the Germans from South Tyrol, but for this reason he must take the greatest care to avoid giving the impression that this Tyrolese withdrawal could be taken as a precedent for other areas. Furthermore, he had justified the withdrawal by pointing to a general Easterly and North-easterly direction of a German policy. The East and North-east, that is to say the Baltic countries, had been Germany's undisputed sphere of influence since time immemorial, as

[Page 151]

the Mediterranean had been the appropriate sphere for Italy. For economic reasons also, Germany needed the foodstuffs and timber from these Eastern regions."

Now we get the truth of this matter. It is not the persecution of German minorities on the Polish frontiers, but the economic reasons, the need for foodstuffs and timber from Poland.

"In the case of Danzig, German interests were not only material, although the city had the greatest harbour in the Baltic. Danzig was a Nuremberg of the North, an ancient German city awaking sentimental feelings for every German, and the Fuehrer was bound to take account of this psychological element in public opinion. To make a comparison with Italy, Count Ciano should imagine that Trieste was in Yugoslav hands and that a large Italian minority was being treated brutally on Yugoslav soil. It would be difficult to assume that Italy would long remain quiet over anything of this kind.

Count Ciano, in replying to the Fuehrer's statement, first expressed the great surprise on the Italian side over the completely unexpected seriousness of the position. Neither in the conversations in Milan nor in those which took place during his Berlin visit had there been any sign, from the German side, that the position with regard to Poland was so serious. On the contrary, Ribbentrop had said that in his opinion the Danzig question would be settled in the course of time. On these grounds, the Duce, in view of his conviction that a conflict with the Western Powers was unavoidable, had assumed that he should make his preparations for this event; he had made plans for a period of two or three years. If immediate conflict was unavoidable, the Duce, as he had told Ciano, would certainly stand on the German side, but for various reasons he would welcome the postponement of a general conflict until a later time."

No question of welcoming the cancellation of a general conflict; the only concern of anybody is as to time.

"Ciano then showed, with the aid of a map, the position of Italy in the event of a general war. Italy believed that a conflict with Poland would not be limited to that country but would develop into a general European war."

Thereafter, during the meeting, Ciano goes on to try to dissuade Hitter from any immediate action. I quote two lines from the argument at the top of Page 5 of the exhibit:

"For these reasons the Duce insisted that the Axis Powers should make a gesture which would reassure people of the peaceful intentions of Italy and Germany."

Then we get the Fuehrer's answer to those arguments, half- way down Page 5:-

"The Fuehrer answered that for a solution of the Polish problem no time should be lost; the nearer to the autumn one waited, the more difficult would military operations in Eastern Europe become. From the middle of September, weather conditions made air operations hardly possible in these areas, while the conditions of the roads, which were quickly turned into a morass by the autumn rains, would be such as to make them impossible for motorised forces. From September to May, Poland was a great marsh and entirely unsuited for any kind of military

[Page 152]

operations. Poland could, however, occupy Danzig in September, and Germany would not be able to do anything about it since they obviously could not bombard or destroy the place."

[ Previous | Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.