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 8 of 9)


And so we see that, at last, Hitler had kept his word to his generals. He had afforded them their propagandistic justification, and at that time, anyway, it did not matter what people said about it afterwards. "The view shall not appear, asked later on, whether we told the truth or not." Might is what counts - or victory is what counts and not right.

On that day, 1st September, when news came of this violation of Polish ground, the British Government, in accordance with their Treaty obligations, sent an ultimatum to the German Government, in which they stated - I quote from the last paragraph:-

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"I am accordingly to inform your Excellency that unless the German Government are prepared to give His Majesty's Government satisfactory assurances that the German Government have suspended all aggressive action against Poland and are prepared promptly to withdraw their forces from Polish territory, His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom will without hesitation fulfil their obligations to Poland."

By 3rd September no withdrawal had taken place, and so at 9 o'clock the document I have just referred to, TC-72, Number 110, will be Exhibit GB 74 - at 9 o'clock, on 3rd September, a final ultimatum was handed to the German Minister of Foreign Affairs. I quote from the third paragraph:-

"Although this communication was made more than twenty- four hours ago, no reply has been received, but German attacks upon Poland have been continued and intensified. I have accordingly the honour to inform you that, unless not later than 11 o'clock, British Summer Time, today the 3rd September, satisfactory assurances to the above effect have been given by the German Government, and have reached His Majesty's Government in London, a state of war will exist between the two countries as from that hour."

And so it was that at 11 o'clock, on 3rd September, a state of war existed between Germany and England and between Germany and France. All the appeals to peace, all the appeals to reason, we now see completely stillborn, stillborn when they were made. Plans, preparations, intentions, determination to carry out this assault upon Poland, had been going on for months, for years before. It mattered not what anybody but the German Government had in mind, or whatever rights anybody else but the German nation thought they had, and if there is any doubt left at all, after what we have seen, I would ask you to look at two more documents.

If you would look at the last document, first of all, in your document book, PS-1831, which becomes Exhibit GB 75. Even now, on 3rd September, Mussolini offers some chance of peace.

We have here a telegram. It is timed 6.30 hours, and I am afraid I am unable to say whether that is 6.30 in the morning or the evening, but it is dated the 3rd September, and I quote:

"The Italian Ambassador handed to the State Secretary, at the Duce's order, the following copy for the Fuehrer and Reich Chancellor, and for the Reich Minister for Foreign Affairs:

Italy sends the information, leaving, of course, every decision to the Fuehrer, that it still has a chance to call a conference with France, England and Poland on the following basis: 1. An Armistice which would leave the Army Corps where they are at present" - and it will be remembered that on 3rd September, they had advanced a considerable way over the frontier. - "2. Calling a conference within two or three days. 3. Solution of the Polish-German controversy would be certainly favourable for Germany as matters stand today."

This idea, which originated from the Duce, had its foremost exponent in France.

"Danzig is already German, and Germany is already holding securities which guarantee most of her demands. Besides, Germany has already had her 'moral satisfaction.' If she would accept the plan for a conference, she will achieve all her aims and at the same time prevent a war which already has the aspect of becoming universal and of extremely long duration."

[Page 175]

But, my Lord, perhaps even Mussolini did not appreciate what all Germany's aims were and, of course, the offer was turned down in the illuminating letter which Hitler was to write in reply. I refer you back to the document before that. It is still part of the same Exhibit GB 75


I first want to thank you for your last attempt at a mediation."

THE PRESIDENT: As I understand it, the "GB" references you give are not on the documents at all; they are the exhibit numbers themselves, which are to be put on the document after they have been put in.

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL GRIFFITH-JONES: Yes. That is correct. They will be put in by the Court, of course.

THE PRESIDENT: Will you try to make clear the reference which is on the document so that the Tribunal could find the document itself ?

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL GRIFFITH-JONES: Yes. The last document was PS-1831, and it is the very last one in the document book. That is the one I have just referred to - the telegram from Mussolini. The document to which I am about to refer, is the last but one in the Tribunal's book but it has the same number on it as the last because it forms part of the same exhibit.

THE PRESIDENT: I think if you would just explain the system in which the exhibits are numbered, it would help us.

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL GRIFFITH-JONES: The documents are numbered at the present moment before they are put in evidence, with a variety of serial numbers, such as "PS", "TC", "L" and other letters. There is no significance attached to that at all. It depends on whom they have been found by and what files they have come from. When the documents are put in as exhibits, they are marked by the Court with a Court number. The exhibits put in by the United States representatives were all prefixed with the letters "USA". The exhibits which have been put in by the British Prosecutors have all been prefixed with the letters "GB". If it would be of any assistance to members of the Tribunal, I will have their document books marked up this evening with the new Court numbers that have been put upon them by the Court officials, during the course of the day.

THE PRESIDENT: We will talk about that later.

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL GRIFFITH-JONES: If there is any document missing from any of these books I have a copy.

THE PRESIDENT: You are going to read PS-1831?



I first want to thank you for your last attempt at a mediation. I would have been ready to accept, but only on the condition that there would be a possibility of giving me certain guarantees that the conference would be successful. Because, for the last two days, the German troops have been engaged in an extraordinarily rapid advance in Poland, it would have been impossible to devaluate the bloody sacrifices made thereby by diplomatic intrigues. Nevertheless, I believe that a way could have been found, if England had not been determined to wage war under all circumstances. I have not given in to the English, because, Duce, I do not believe that peace could have been maintained for more than one-half

[Page 176]

a year or a year. Under these circumstances, I thought that, in spite of everything, the present moment was better for resistance. At present, the superiority of the German Armed Forces in Poland is so overwhelming in all the fields that the Polish Army will collapse in a very short time. I doubt whether such rapid success could have been achieved one or two years later. England and France would have armed their allies to such an extent that the crushing technical superiority of the German Armed Forces could not have been so apparent any more. I am aware, Duce, that the fight which I enter, is one for life and death. My own fate does not play any role in it at all. But I am also aware that one cannot avoid such a struggle permanently and that one has to choose, after cold deliberation, the moment for resistance in such a way that the probability of success is guaranteed, and I believe in this success, Duce, with the firmness of a rock. Recently you have given me the kind assurance that you think you will be able to help me in a few fields. I acknowledge this in advance, with sincere thanks. But I believe also - even if we march now over different roads - that fate will finally join us. If the National Socialistic Germany were destroyed by the Western Democracies, the Fascist Italy would also have to face a grave future. I was personally always aware of this community of the future of our two governments and I know that you, Duce, think the same way. On the situation in Poland, I would like to make the brief remark that we lay aside, of course, all unimportant things, that we do not waste any man on unimportant tasks, but direct all on acts in the light of great operational considerations. The Northern Polish Army, which is in the Corridor, has already been completely encircled by our action. It will be either wiped out or will surrender. Otherwise, all operations proceed according to plan. The daily achievements of the troops are far beyond all expectations. The superiority of our air force is complete, although scarcely one- third of it is in Poland. In the West, I will be on the defensive. France can here sacrifice its blood first. Then the moment will come when we can confront the enemy also there with the full power of the nation. Accept my thanks, Duce, for all your assistance which you have given to me in the past, and I ask you not to deny it to me in the future."

That completes the evidence which I propose to offer upon this part of the case in respect of the war of aggression against Poland, England and France, which is charged in Count 2.

MAJOR ELWYN JONES: May it please the Tribunal, in the early hours of the morning of 9th April, 1940, Nazi Germany invaded Norway and Denmark. It is my duty to present to the Tribunal the prosecution's evidence, which has been prepared in collaboration with my American colleague, Major Hinely, with regard to these brutal wars of aggression, which were also wars in violation of international treaties, agreements and assurances. With the Court's permission I would like, first of all, to deal with the treaties and agreements and assurances that were in fact violated by these two invasions of Norway and Denmark.

The invasions were, of course, in the first instance, violations of The Hague Convention and of the Kellogg-Briand Pact. My learned friend, Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, has already dealt with those matters in the course of his presentation of the evidence. In addition to these general treaties, there were

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specific agreements between Germany and Norway and Denmark. In the first instance, there was the Treaty of Arbitration and Conciliation between Germany and Denmark, which was signed at Berlin on 2nd June, 1926. The Court will find that Treaty, TC-17, on the first page of British document book No. 3, and to that exhibit it may be convenient to give the number GB 76. I am proposing to read only the first Article of that Treaty, which is in these terms:

"The Contracting Parties undertake to submit to the procedure of arbitration or conciliation, in conformity with the present Treaty, all disputes of any nature whatsoever which may arise between Germany and Denmark, and which it has not been possible to settle, within a reasonable period, by diplomacy, or to bring with the consent of both Parties before the Permanent Court of International justice.

Disputes, for the solution of which a special procedure has been laid down in other Conventions in force between the Contracting Parties, shall be settled in accordance with the provisions of such Conventions."

Then there follows, in the remaining Articles, the establishment of the machinery for arbitration.

I would next refer to the Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and Denmark, which was signed by the defendant Ribbentrop on 31st May, 1939, which, as the Tribunal will recollect, was ten weeks after the Nazi seizure of Czechoslovakia. The Court will find that as Document TC-24 in the document book and it will now bear the Exhibit Number GB 77.

THE PRESIDENT: Does that follow the last treaty?

MAJOR ELWYN JONES: That follows the last treaty, my Lord.

With the Court's permission, in view of the identity of the signatory of that Treaty, I would like to read the preamble and Articles I and 2:-

"His Majesty, the King of Denmark and Iceland, and the Chancellor of the German Reich,

Being firmly resolved to maintain peace between Denmark and Germany in all circumstances, have agreed to confirm this resolve by means of a treaty and have appointed as their Plenipotentiaries: His Majesty, the King of Denmark and Iceland, and the Chancellor of the German Reich."

Article 1 reads as follows:-

"The Kingdom of Denmark and the German Reich shall in no case resort to war or to any other use of force, one against the other.

Should action of the kind referred to in Paragraph I be taken by a third Power against one of the Contracting Parties, the other Contracting Party shall not support such action in any way."

Then Article 2 deals with the ratification of the Treaty, and the second paragraph states:

"The Treaty shall come into force on the exchange of the instruments of ratification and shall remain in force for a period of 10 years from that date."

As the Tribunal will observe, the Treaty is dated 31st, May, 1939. At the bottom of the page there appears the signature of the defendant Ribbentrop. The Tribunal will shortly see that less than a year after the signature of this Treaty, the invasion of Denmark by the Nazi forces was to show the utter worthlessness of treaties to which the defendant Ribbentrop put his signature.

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With regard to Norway, the defendant Ribbentrop and the Nazi conspirators were party to a similar perfidy. In the first instance, I would refer to Document TC-30, which is the next document in the British document book 3, and which will bear the Exhibit Number GB 78. The Tribunal will observe that this is an assurance given to Denmark, Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands on 28th April, 1939. That, of course, was after the annexation of Czechoslovakia had shaken the confidence of the world, and this was presumably an attempt, now submitted by the prosecution to be a dishonest attempt, to try to reassure the Scandinavian States. The assurance is in a speech by Hitler and reads:

"I have given binding declarations to a large number of States. None of these States can complain that even a trace of a demand contrary thereto has ever been made to them by Germany, None of the Scandinavian statesmen, for example, can contend that a request has ever been put to them by the German Government, or by German public opinion, which was incompatible with the sovereignty and integrity of their State.

I was pleased that a number of European States availed themselves of these declarations by the German Government to express and emphasise their desire too for absolute neutrality. This applies to Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, etcetera."

A further assurance was given by the Nazi Government on 2nd September, 1939, which, as the Tribunal will recollect, was the day after the Nazi invasion of Poland. The Court will observe the next document in British document book 3, is the Document TC-31, which will be Exhibit GB 79. That is an aide- memoire that was handed to the Norwegian Foreign Minister by the German Minister in Oslo on 2nd September, 1939. It reads:

"The German Reich Government is determined, in view of the friendly relations which exist between Norway and Germany, under no circumstances to prejudice the inviolability and integrity of Norway, and to respect the territory of the Norwegian State. In making this declaration, the Reich Government naturally expects, on its side, that Norway will observe an unimpeachable neutrality towards the Reich and will not tolerate any breaches of Norwegian neutrality by any third party which might occur. Should the attitude of the Royal Norwegian Government differ from this so that any such breach of neutrality by a third party occurs, the Reich Government would then obviously be compelled to safeguard the interest of the Reich in such a way as the resulting situation might dictate."

There follows, finally the further German assurance to Norway, which appears as the next document in the book, TC- 32, which will be Exhibit GB 80. That is a speech by Hitler on 6th October, 1939, and if the Court will observe Paragraph 2, at the top of the page, the extract from the speech reads as follows:-

"Germany has never had any conflicts of interest, or even points of controversy, with the Northern States; neither has she any today, Sweden and Norway have both been offered non-aggression pacts by Germany and have both refused them, solely because they do not feel themselves threatened in any way."

Those were clear and positive assurances which Germany gave. The Court will see that violation of those assurances is charged in Paragraph 22

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of Appendix C of the Indictment, at Page 43. The Court will notice that there is a minor typographical error in the date of the first assurance, which is alleged in the Indictment to have been given on 3rd September, 1939. The Court will see from Document TC-31, which is Exhibit GB 79, that the assurance was in fact given on 2nd September, 1939.

Now, those treaties and assurances were the diplomatic background to the brutal Nazi aggression on Norway and Denmark, and the evidence which the prosecution will now place before the Court, will in my submission, establish beyond reasonable doubt that these assurances were simply given to lull suspicion and cause the intended victims of Nazi aggression to be unprepared to meet the Nazi attack. For we now know that as early as October, 1939, these conspirators and their confederates were plotting the invasion of Norway, and the evidence will indicate that the most active conspirators in that plot were the defendants Raeder and Rosenberg.

The Norwegian invasion is, in one respect, not a typical Nazi aggression, in that Hitler has to be persuaded to embark upon it. The chief instruments of persuasion were Raeder and Rosenberg; Raeder, because he thought Norway strategically important and because he coveted glory for his Navy; Rosenberg, because of his political connections in Norway which he sought to develop.

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