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

Fifteenth Day: Friday, 7th December, 1945
(Part 4 of 9)

[MR. G.D. ROBERTS, K.C., continues]

[Page 200]

So, on 30th January, 1937, perhaps because Hitler realised the position of Belgium and of the Netherlands, in the next document in the bundle (TC-33 and 35, which I hand in and will be Exhibit GB 99) he gave the solemn assurance - he used the word "solemn". That has already been read by the Attorney General, and so I do not want to read it again. But the Tribunal will see that it is a full guarantee. In April, 1937, in a document which is not before the Court, France and England released Belgium from her obligations under the Locarno Pact. It is a matter of history and it does occur in an exhibit, but it has not been copied. Belgium, of course, gave guarantees of strict independence and neutrality, and France and England gave guarantees of assistance should Belgium be attacked. And it was because of that that Germany, on 13th October, 1937, in the next document, gave a very clear and unconditional guarantee to Belgium-Document TC-34, which I offer in evidence as Exhibit GB 100 - the German declaration of 13th October, 1937, which shows the minutes:
"I have the honour on behalf of the German Government to make the following communication to Your Excellency: The German Government has taken cognisance with particular interest of the public declaration in which the Belgian Government defines the international position of Belgium. For its part, the German Government has repeatedly given expression, especially through the declaration of the Chancellor of the German Reich in his speech of 30th January, 1937, to its own point of view. The German Government has also taken cognisance of the declaration made by the British and French Governments on 24th April, 1937" - that is a document to which I have previously referred - "since the conclusion of a treaty - "
THE PRESIDENT: When you are reading a document to which you attach importance, would you go a little bit slower?

[Page 201]

MR. ROBERTS: I certainly will. A little bit slower or faster?

THE PRESIDENT: Slower in the documents to which you attach great importance.


"Since the conclusion of a treaty to replace the Treaty of Locarno may still take some time, and being desirous of strengthening the peaceful aspirations of the two countries, the German Government regards it as appropriate to define now its own attitude towards Belgium. To this end, it makes the following declaration: First, the German Government has taken note of the views which the Belgian Government has thought fit to express. That is to say, (a) of the policy of independence which it intends to exercise in full sovereignty; (b) of its determination to defend the frontiers of Belgium with all its forces against any aggression or invasion, and to prevent Belgian territory from being used for purposes of aggression against another State as a passage or as a base of operation by land, by sea, or by air, and to organise the defence of Belgium in an efficient manner for this purpose. Secondly: The German Government considers that the inviolability and integrity of Belgium are common interests of the Western Powers. It confirms its determination that in no circumstances will it impair this inviolability and integrity, and that it will at all times respect Belgian territory except, of course, in the event of Belgium's taking part in a military action directed against Germany in an armed conflict in which Germany is involved. The German Government, like the British and French Governments, is prepared to assist Belgium should she be subjected to an attack or to invasion."
Then, on the following page:
"The Belgian Government has taken note with great satisfaction of the declaration communicated to it this day by the German Government. It thanks the German Government warmly for this communication."
My Lord, may I pause there to emphasise that document. There, in October, 1937, is Germany giving a solemn guarantee to this small nation of its peaceful aspiration towards her, and its assertion that the integrity of the Belgian frontier was a common interest between it and Belgium and the other Western Powers.

You have before you to try, the leaders of the German Government and the leaders of the German Armed Forces. One does not have to prove, does one, that everyone of those accused must have known perfectly well of that solemn undertaking given by his government? Every one of these accused, in their various spheres of activity - some more actively than the others - was a party to the shameless breaking of that treaty two and a-half years afterwards, and I submit that, on the ordinary laws of inference and justice, all those men must be fixed as active participators, in that disgraceful breach of faith which brought misery and death to so many millions.

Presumably it will be contended on the part, for instance, of Keitel and Jodl that they were merely honourable soldiers carrying out their duty. This Tribunal, no doubt, will inquire what code of honour they observe which permits them to violate the pledged word of their country.

That this declaration of October, 1937, meant very little to the leaders, and to the High Command of Germany can be seen by the next document.

[Page 202]

which is Document PS-375 in the bundle. It is Exhibit USA 84, and has already been referred to many times. May I just refer or remind the Tribunal of one sentence or two. The document comes into existence on 24th August, 1938, at the time when the Czechoslovakian drama was unfolding, and it was uncertain at that time whether there would be war with the Western Powers. It is top secret, addressed to the General Staff of the 5th section of the German Air Force. The subject: "Extended Case Green - Estimate of the Situation." Probably the more correct word would be "Appreciation of the Situation with Special Consideration of the Enemy." Apparently some staff officer had been asked to prepare this appreciation. In view of the fact that it has been read before, I think I need only read the last paragraph, which is Paragraph H, and it comes at the bottom of Page 6, the last page but one of the document:-
"Requests to Armed Forces Supreme Command, Army and Navy."
This, you see, was an appreciation addressed by an Air Force staff officer. So these are requests to the Army and Navy. And then, if one turns over the page, No. 4: "Belgium and the Netherlands would, in German hands, represent an extraordinary advantage in the prosecution of the air war against Great Britain as well as against France. Therefore it is held to be essential to obtain the opinion of the Army as to the conditions under which an occupation of this area could be carried out and how long it would take. And in this case it would be necessary to reassess the commitment against Great Britain." The point that the prosecution desires to make on that document is that it is apparently assumed by the staff officer who prepared this, and assumed quite rightly, that the leaders of the German nation and the High Command, would not pay the smallest attention to the fact that Germany had given her word not to invade Holland or Belgium. They are recommending it as a militarily advantageous thing to do, strong in the knowledge that, if the Commanders and the Fuehrer agree with that view, treaties are to be completely ignored. Such, I repeat, was the honour of the German Government and of its leaders.

Now, in March, 1939, as has been proved, the remainder of Czechoslovakia was peacefully annexed, and then came the time for further guarantees; in the next documents TC-35 and 39, the assurances, which were given to Belgium and the Netherlands on 28th April, 1939.

These have been read by my learned friend, Major Elwyn Jones. They are Exhibit GB 78. I need not read them again.

There is also a guarantee to Luxembourg, which is on the next page, TC-42A. That was given in the same speech by Hitler in the Reichstag, and this 42A was where Hitler was dealing with a communication from Mr. Roosevelt, who was feeling a little uneasy on the other side of the Atlantic as to Hitler's intentions, and may I, before I read this document, say that I believe the Tribunal will be seeing a film of the delivery by Hitler of this part of this speech, and you will have the privilege of seeing Hitler in one of his jocular moods, because this was greeted and was delivered in a jocular vein, and you will see in the film that the defendant Goering, who sits above Hitler in the Reichstag, appreciates very much the joke, the joke being this -

[Page 203]

that it is an absurd suggestion to make that Germany could possibly go to war with any of her neighbours - and that was the point of the joke that everybody appears to have appreciated very much.

Now, if I may read this document:

"Finally, Mr. Roosevelt demands the readiness to give him an assurance that the German fighting forces will not attack the territory or possessions of the following independent nations and, above all, that they will not march into them. And he goes on to name the following as the countries in question: Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Esthonia, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Great Britain, Ireland, France, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Poland, Hungary, Roumania, Yugoslavia, Russia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iraq, Arabia, Syria, Palestine, Egypt and Iran.

A. I started off by taking the trouble to find out in the case of the countries listed, firstly, whether they feel themselves threatened, and secondly and particularly, whether this question Mr. Roosevelt has asked us was put as the result of a demarche by them or at least with their consent.

The answer was a general negative, which in some cases took the form of a blunt rejection. Actually this counter- question of mine could not be conveyed to some of the States and nations listed, since they are not at present in possession of their liberty (as for instance Syria), but are occupied by the military forces of democratic States, and therefore, deprived of all their rights.

Thirdly, apart from that, all the States bordering on Germany have received much more binding assurances and, above all, much more binding proposals than Mr. Roosevelt asked of me in his peculiar telegram."

You will see that, although that is sneering at Mr. Roosevelt, it is suggesting in the presence, certainly, of the accused Goering as being quite absurd that Germany should nurture any warlike feeling against its neighbours. But the hollow falsity of that and the preceding guarantee is shown by the next document. May I put this Document, TC- 42A, in as Exhibit GB 101.

The next document, which is Hitler's conference of 23rd May, has been referred to many times and is Exhibit USA 27. Therefore, I need only very shortly remind the Tribunal of two passages. First of all, on the first page, it is interesting to see who was present: The Fuehrer, Goering, Admiral Raeder, Brauchitsch, Colonel General Keitel, and various others who are not accused. Colonel Warlimont was there. He, I understand, was Jodl's deputy.

Well, now, the purpose of the conference was an analysis of the situation. Then, may I refer to the third page, down at the bottom. The stencil number is 819:

"What will this struggle be like?"
And then these words:
"The Dutch and Belgian air bases must be occupied by armed force. Declarations of neutrality must be ignored."

[Page 204]

Then, at the bottom:-
"Therefore, if England intends to intervene in the Polish war, we must occupy Holland with lightning speed. We must aim at securing a new defence line on Dutch soil up to the Zuider Zee."
There is this decision made: "Declarations of neutrality must be ignored," and there is the Grand Admiral present, and there is the Air Minister and Chief of the German Air Force, and there is General Keitel present. They all appear, and all their subsequent actions show that they acquiesced in that: "Give your word and then break it." That is their code of honour, and you will see that at the end of the meeting, the very last page - the stencil number is 823 - Field Marshal Goering asked one or two questions.

There was the decision of 23rd May. Is it overstating the matter to submit that any syllable of guarantee, any assurance given after that, is just purely hypocrisy, is just the action - apart from the multiplicity of the crimes here - of the common criminal?

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Roberts, I think we would like you, so far as possible, to confine yourself to the document.

MR. ROBERTS: Yes, my Lord. Then we go to 22nd August, 798- PS. That has already been put in and is Exhibit USA 29. My Lord, that was Hitler's speech Of 22nd August. It has been read and re-read. I only, my Lord, refer to one passage, and that is at the bottom of the second page:-

"Attack from the West from the Maginot Line: I consider this impossible.

Another possibility is the violation of Dutch, Belgian and Swiss neutrality. I have no doubt that all these States as well as Scandinavia will defend their neutrality by all available means."

My Lord, I desire to emphasise the next sentence:-
"England and France will not violate the neutrality of these countries."
Then I desire to comment, I ask your Lordship to bear that sentence in mind, that correct prophecy, when remembering the excuses given for the subsequent invasion of Belgium and the Netherlands.

My Lord, the next documents are TC-36, 40 and 42. Those are three assurances. TC-36 is by the Ambassador of Germany to the Belgium Government.

"In view of the gravity of the international situation, I am expressly instructed by the Head of the German Reich to transmit to Your Majesty the following communication:-

Though the German Government is at present doing everything in its power to arrive at a peaceful solution of the questions at issue between the Reich and Poland, it nevertheless desires to define clearly, here and now, the attitude which it proposes to adopt towards Belgium should a conflict in Europe become inevitable.

The German Government is firmly determined to abide by the terms of the declaration contained in the German Note of 13th October, 1937. This provides in effect that Germany will, in no circumstances, impair the inviolability and integrity of Belgium, and will at all times respect Belgian territory. The German Government renews this undertaking

[Page 205]

however, in the expectation that the Belgian Government, for its part, will observe an attitude of strict neutrality and that Belgium will tolerate no violations on the part of a third power, but that, on the contrary, she will oppose it with all the forces at her disposal. It goes without saying that, if the Belgian Government were to adopt a different attitude, the German Government would naturally be compelled to defend its interests in conformity with the new situation thus created."
My Lord, may I make one short comment on the last part of that document? I submit it is clear that the decision having been made to violate the neutrality as we know, those last words were put in to afford some excuse in the future.

That document will be Exhibit GB 102.

My Lord, the next document is a similar document, communicated to Her Majesty, the Queen of the Netherlands, on the same day, 26th August, 1939. Subject to the Tribunal's direction, I do not think I need read it. It is a public document in the German document book, and it has exactly the same features.

That will be Exhibit GB 103

Then, my Lord, TC-42, the next document (Exhibit GB 104), is a similar document in relation to Luxembourg. That is dated 26th August, the same day. I am not certain; it has two dates. I think it is 26th August. My Lord, that is, in the same terms, a complete guarantee with the sting in the tail as in the other two documents. Perhaps I need not read it.

My Lord, as the Tribunal knows, Poland was occupied by means of the lightning victory, and in October German Armed Forces were free for other tasks. The first step that was taken, so far as the Netherlands and Belgium are concerned, is shown by the next document, which is, I think, in as GB 80, but the true, essential portions refer to Belgium and the Netherlands. It is the next document in your Lordships' bundle, No. 4


MR. ROBERTS: Yes. It begins with TC-32, and then if you go to the next one, my Lords will see TC-37 on the same page - and then TC-41; both 37 and 41 refer to this matter. Now, this is a German assurance on the 6th October, 1939:-


Immediately after I had taken over the affairs of the State I tried to create friendly relations with Belgium. I renounced any revision or any desire for revision. The Reich has not made any demands which would in any way be likely to be considered in Belgium as a threat."

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