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 5 of 9)


And yet, again, we have further corroboration of General Lahousen's evidence in a memorandum, which has been captured, of a conversation between the writer and Keitel. It is PS-795, and it becomes Exhibit GB 54. That conversation with Keitel took place on 17th August, and from the memorandum I quote the first paragraph:

"I reported my conference with Jodl to Keitel. He said that he would not pay any attention to this action, as the Fuehrer had not informed him, and had only let him know that we were to furnish Heydrich with Polish uniforms. He agrees that I instruct the General Staff. He says he does not think much of actions of this kind. However, there is nothing else to be done if they have been ordered by the Fuehrer; that he could not ask the Fuehrer how he had planned the execution of this special action. In regard to Dirschau, he has decided that this action would be executed only by the Army."

That then, my Lord, was the position at the end of the first week in August - I mean at the end of the third week in August. On 22nd August, the Russian-German Non-Aggression Pact was signed in Moscow, and we have heard in Hitler's speech of that date to his Commanders-in-Chief how it had shocked the rest of the world. In fact, the orders to invade Poland were given immediately after the signing of that Treaty, and the H-hour was actually to be in the early morning Of 25th August. Orders were given to invade Poland in the early hours of 25th August, and that I shall prove in a moment.

On the same day, 22nd August, that the German-Russian agreement was signed in Moscow, news reached England that it was being signed, and, of course, the significance of it from a military point of view as to Germany, particularly in the present circumstances, was obvious; and the British Government immediately made their position clear in one last hope - and that one last hope was that, if they did so, the German Government might possibly think better of it, and I refer to Document TC-72, Number 56; it is the first document in the next to the last part of the Tribunal document book, in which the Prime Minister wrote to Hitler. That document becomes Exhibit GB 55:

"Your Excellency.

Your Excellency will have already heard of certain

measures taken by His Majesty's Government, and announced in the Press and on the wireless this evening.

These steps have, in the opinion of His Majesty's Government, been rendered necessary by the military movements which have been reported from Germany, and by the fact that apparently the announcement of a German- Soviet Agreement is taken in some quarters in Berlin to indicate that intervention by Great Britain on behalf of Poland is no longer a contingency that need be reckoned with. No greater mistake could be made. Whatever may prove to be the nature of the German-Soviet Agreement, it cannot alter Great Britain's obligation to Poland, which His Majesty's Government have stated in public repeatedly and plainly, and which they are determined to fulfil.

[Page 158]

It has been alleged that, if His Majesty's Government had made their position more clear in 1914, the great catastrophe would have been avoided.

Whether or not there is any force in that allegation, His Majesty's Government are resolved that on this occasion there shall be no such tragic misunderstanding.

If the need should arise, they are resolved and prepared to employ foresee the end of hostilities once engaged. It would be a dangerous delusion to think that, if war once starts, it will come to an early end, even if a success on any one of the several fronts on which it will be engaged should have been secured."

Thereafter, the Prime Minister urged the German Government to try and resolve the difficulty without recourse to the use of force, and they suggested that a truce should be declared while direct discussions between the two governments, the Polish and German Governments, might take place. I quote, in Prime Minister Chamberlain's language:-

"At this moment I confess I can see no other way to avoid a catastrophe that will involve Europe in war. In view of the grave consequences to humanity, which may follow from the action of their rulers, I trust that Your Excellency will weigh with the utmost deliberation the considerations which I have put before you."

On the following day, 23rd August, Hitler replied to Prime Minister Chamberlain, and that document is TC-72, Number 60, and it becomes Exhibit GB 56. He starts off by saying that Germany has always wanted England's friendship, and has always done everything to get it; on the other hand, she has some essential interests which it is impossible for Germany to renounce. I quote the third paragraph:-

"Germany was prepared to settle the questions of Danzig, and of the Corridor by the method of negotiation on the basis of a proposal of truly unparalleled magnanimity. The allegation which is disseminated by England regarding a German mobilisation against Poland" - we see here the complete dishonesty of the whole business - "the assertion of aggressive designs towards Roumania, Hungary, etc., as well as the so-called guarantee declarations, which were subsequently given, had, however, dispelled Polish inclination to negotiate on a basis of this kind which would have been tolerable for Germany also.

The unconditional assurance given by England to Poland that she would render assistance to that country in all circumstances regardless of the causes from which a conflict might spring, could only be interpreted in that country as an encouragement thenceforward to unloosen, under cover of such a charter, a wave of appalling terrorism against the one and half million German inhabitants living in Poland."

Again, I cannot help remembering the report by the British Ambassador, to which I just referred:-

"The atrocities which since then have been taking place in that country are terrible for the victims, but intolerable for a Great Power such as the German Reich, which is expected to remain a passive onlooker during these happenings. Poland has been guilty of numerous breaches

[Page 159]

of her obligations towards the Free City of Danzig, has made demands in the character of ultimata, and has initiated a process of economic strangulation."

It goes on to say that "Germany will not tolerate a continuance of the persecution" and the fact that there is a British guarantee to Poland makes no difference to its determination to end this state of affairs. I quote from Paragraph 7:-

"The German Reich Government has received information to the effect that the British Government has the intention to carry out measures of mobilisation which, according to the statements contained in your own letter, are clearly directed against Germany alone. This is said to be true of France as well. Since Germany has never had the intention of taking military measures other than those of a defensive character against England and France, and, as has already been emphasised, has never intended, and does not in the future intend to attack England, or France, it follows that this announcement, as confirmed by you, Mr. Prime Minister, in your own letter, can only refer to a contemplated act of menace directed against the Reich. I, therefore, inform your Excellency that in the event of these military announcements being carried into effect, I shall order immediate mobilisation of the German forces."

If the intention of the German Government had been peaceful, if they really wanted peace and not war, what was the purpose of these lies; these lies saying that they had never intended to attack England or France, and had carried out no mobilisation, statements which, in view of what we now have, we know to be lies? What can have been their object if their intention had always been a peaceful settlement of the Danzig question only? Then I quote again, from the last paragraph:-

"The question of the treatment of European problems on a peaceful basis is not a decision which rests on Germany, but primarily on those who since the crime committed by the Versailles dictate have stubbornly and consistently opposed any peaceful revision. Only after a change of spirit on the part of the responsible powers can there be any real change in the relationship between England and Germany. I have all my life fought for Anglo-German friendship; the attitude adopted by British diplomacy - at any rate up to the present - has, however, convinced me of the futility of such an attempt. Should there be any change in this respect in the future, nobody could be happier than I."

On 25th August, the formal Anglo-Polish Agreement of mutual assistance was signed in London. It is unnecessary to read the document. The Tribunal will be well aware of its contents, where both Governments undertake to give assistance to the other in the event of aggression against either by any third power. I point to Document TC-73, it is Number 91 and it becomes Exhibit GB 57. I shall refer to the fact of its signing again in a moment, but perhaps it is convenient, while we are dealing with a letter between the British Prime Minister and Hitler, to refer also to a similar correspondence which took place a few days later between the French Prime Minister, M. Daladier and Hitler. I emphasise this because it is desired to show how deliberately the German Government was set about their pattern of aggression. "The French Ambassador in Berlin has informed me of your personal communication," - written on the 26th August.

[Page 160]

"In the hours in which you speak of the greatest responsibility which two heads of the Governments can possibly take upon themselves, namely, that of shedding the blood of two great nations, who long only for peace and work, I feel I owe it to you personally, and to both our peoples, to say that the fate of peace still rests in your hands.

You can doubt whether my own feelings towards Germany, nor France's peaceful feelings" - I think that must be a mistake. It should be, "You cannot doubt".

THE PRESIDENT: "You cannot doubt what are my own feelings."

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL GRIFFITH-JONES: Yes, I am obliged to you, sir.

"You cannot doubt what are my own feelings towards Germany, nor France's peaceful feelings towards your nation. No Frenchman has done more than myself to strengthen between our two Nations not only peace, but also sincere co-operation in their own interests, as well, as in those of Europe and of the whole world. Unless you credit the French people with a lower sense of honour than I credit the German Nation with, you cannot doubt that France loyally fulfils her obligations towards other powers, such as Poland, who, as I am fully convinced, wants to live in peace with Germany.

These two convictions are fully compatible.

Till now there has been nothing to prevent a peaceful solution of the international crisis, with all honour and dignity for all nations, if the same will for peace exists on all sides.

Together with the good will of France I proclaim that of all her allies. I take it upon myself to guarantee Poland's readiness, which she has always shown, to submit to the mutual application of a method of open settlement, as it can be imagined between the governments of two sovereign nations. With the clearest conscience I can assure you that among the differences which have arisen between Germany and Poland over the question of Danzig, there is not one which could not be submitted to such a method, with a purpose of reaching a peaceful and just solution.

Moreover, I can declare on my honour that there is nothing in France's clear and loyal solidarity with Poland and her allies, which could in any way prejudice the peaceful attitude of my country. This solidarity has never prevented us, and does not prevent us today, from keeping Poland in the same friendly state of mind.

In so serious an hour, I sincerely believe that no high- minded human being could understand it, if a war of destruction were started without a last attempt being made to reach a peaceful settlement between Germany and Poland. Your desire for peace could in all certainty work for this aim, without any prejudice to German honour. I, who desire good harmony between the French and the German people, and who am, on the other hand, bound to Poland by bonds of friendship, and by a promise, am prepared, as head of the French Government, to do everything an upright man can do to bring this attempt to a successful conclusion.

[Page 161]

You and I were in the trenches in the last war. You know, as I do, what horror and condemnation the devastations of that war have left in the conscience of the people, without any regard to its outcome. The picture I can see in my mind's eye of your outstanding role as the leader of the German people on the road of peace, towards the fulfilment of its task in the common work of civilisation, leads me to ask for a reply to this suggestion.

If French and German blood should be shed again, as it was shed 25 years ago, in a still longer and more murderous war, then each of the two nations will fight believing in its own victory. But the most certain victors will be - destruction and barbarity."

THE PRESIDENT: I think we will adjourn now until 2 o'clock.

(A recess was taken until 1400 hours.)

COLONEL STOREY: If it please the Tribunal, with the consent of Lieutenant-Colonel Griffith-Jones, may I make an announcement to the defence counsel.

At 7.30, in the Court room, this evening, the remainder of the motion pictures which the United States will offer in evidence will be shown for the defence counsel. We urge that all of them come at 7.30.

DR. DIX (Counsel for defendant Schacht): I believe I should explain in the name of the defence, that in regard to films it does not seem necessary to ask that the films be shown twice. We fully and with gratitude appreciate the courtesy and readiness to facilitate our work; but our evenings are very much taken up by the preparation of the defence and in talking to our clients.

In regard to films, they are an entirely different matter to documents. Documents one likes to read in advance, or simultaneously, or later, but since we are expected to take note of and take action on testimonies of witnesses only during the main proceedings, we are of course in a by far greater measure in a position and prepared to become acquainted with the films only during these proceedings. We believe the prosecution need not go to the trouble of showing the films twice, including once on an evening, in advance. We hope this will not be construed as, how shall I say, a sort of a demonstration along one line or another, but the reason really is that our time is so fully taken up with the work just referred to, that superfluous work might well be saved to the prosecution as well as to us. I repeat and emphasise that we fully appreciate the readiness in principle to facilitate our work - of which this announcement is taken to be an expression - and I ask that my words be understood in this light.

THE PRESIDENT: Do I understand that you think it will be unnecessary for the defendants' counsel to have a preview of the films, to see them before they are produced in evidence? Is that what you are saying?

DR. DIX: That is what I said, yes.

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Storey, I am not sure that you were here when Dr. Dix began his observation, but I understand that what he says is that in view of the amount of preparation which the defendants' counsel have to undertake, they do not consider it necessary to have a view of these films before they are produced in evidence, but at the same time he wishes to express his gratification at the co- operation of the counsel for the prosecution.

[Page 162]

COLONEL STOREY: I am quite agreeable. It will suit us very well; we were only going to do it for their benefit.


LIEUTENANT-COLONEL GRIFFITH-JONES: When. the Tribunal rose for the adjournment, I had just read the letter of 26th August, from M, Daladier to Hitler. On 27th August, Hitler replied to that letter, and I think it unnecessary to read the reply. The sense of it was very much the same as that which he wrote to the British Prime Minister, in answer to the letter that he had received earlier in the week.

Those two letters are taken from the German White Book, which I put in evidence as Exhibit GB 58, so, perhaps, the Tribunal would treat both those letters as the same number. After that, nobody could say that the German Government could be in any doubt as to the position that was to be taken up by both the British and French Governments in the event of a German aggression against Poland.

But the pleas for peace did not end there. On 24th August, President Roosevelt wrote to both Hitler and to the President of the Polish Republic. I quote only the first few paragraphs of his letter:

"In the message which I sent you on 14th April, I stated that it appeared to be that the leaders of great nations had it in their power to liberate their peoples from the disaster that impended, but that, unless the effort were immediately made, with good will on all sides, to find a peaceful and constructive solution to existing controversies, the crisis which the world was confronting must end in catastrophe. Today that catastrophe appears to be very near at hand indeed.

To the message which I sent you last April I have received no reply, but because my confident belief that the cause of world peace-which is the cause of humanity itself - rises above all other considerations, I am again addressing myself to you, with the hope that the war which impends, and the consequent disaster to all peoples, may yet be averted.

1 therefore urge with all earnestness - and I am likewise urging the President of the Republic of Poland - that the Governments of Germany and Poland agree by common accord to refrain from any positive act of hostility for a reasonable, stipulated period; and that they agree, likewise by common accord, to solve the controversies which have arisen between them by one of the three following methods:-

First, by direct negotiation;

Second, by the submission of these controversies to an impartial arbitration in which they can both have confidence; or

Third, that they agree to the solution of these controversies through the procedure of conciliation."

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