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 6 of 9)


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

[Page 211]

Immediately after the English-French action in Scandinavia miscarried, England and France took up their policy of war expansion in another direction. In this respect, while the retreat from Norway was still going on, the English Prime Minister announced that, as a result of the altered situation in Scandinavia, England was once more in a position to go ahead with the transfer of the full weight of her Navy to the Mediterranean, and that English and French units were already on the way to Alexandria. The Mediterranean now became the centre of English-French war propaganda. This was partly to gloss over the Scandinavian defeat and the big loss of prestige before their own people and before the world, and partly to make it appear that the Balkans had been chosen for the next theatre of war against Germany.

In reality, however, this apparent shifting to the Mediterranean of English-French war policy had quite another purpose. It was nothing but a diversion manoeuvre in grand style, to deceive Germany as to the direction of the next English-French attack. For, as the Reich Government has long been aware, the true aim of England and France is the carefully prepared and now immediately imminent attack on Germany in the West, so as to advance through Belgium and Holland to the region of the Ruhr.

Germany had recognised and respected the inviolability of Belgium and Holland, it being, of course, understood that these two countries, in the event of a war of Germany against England and France, would maintain the strictest neutrality.

Belgium and the Netherlands have not fulfilled this condition."

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Roberts, do you think it is necessary to read this in full?

MR. ROBERTS: No, I do not. I was going to summarise these charges. If your Lordship would be good enough to look at the bottom of the first page, you will see the so-called ultimatum complaining of the hostile expressions in the Belgian and Netherlands Press; and then, my Lord, in the second paragraph, over the page, there is an allegation of the attempts of the British Intelligence to bring a revolution into Germany with the assistance of Belgium and the Netherlands.

Then, my Lord, in Paragraph 3, reference is made to military preparation by the two countries; and in Paragraph 4 it is pointed out that Belgium has fortified the Belgian-German frontier.

A complaint is made in regard to Holland in Paragraph 5, that British aircraft have flown over the Netherlands country.

There are, my Lord, other charges made against the neutrality of these two countries, although no instances are given. I do not think I need refer to anything on Page 3 of the document.

Page 4, my Lord, I would like, if I might, to read the middle paragraph:-

"In this struggle for existence forced upon the German people by England and France the Reich Government is not disposed to await submissively the attack by England and France and to allow them to carry the war over Belgium and the Netherlands into German territory."

[Page 212]

My Lord, I just emphasise the following sentence, and then I read no further:-
"It has therefore now issued the command to German troops to ensure the neutrality of these countries by all the military means at the disposal of the Reich."
My Lord, it is unnecessary, in my submission, to emphasise the falsity of that statement. The world now knows that for months preparations had been made to violate the neutrality of these three countries. This document is saying "The orders to do so have now been issued."

My Lord, a similar document, similar in terms altogether, was handed to the representatives of the Netherlands Government; This is TC-60, and will be Exhibit GB 113, which is the last document but one in the bundle. My Lord, that is a memorandum to the Luxembourg Government, which enclosed with it a copy of the document handed to the Governments of Belgium and the Netherlands.

My Lord, I only desire to emphasise the second paragraph of TC-60.

"In defence against the imminent attack, the German troops have now received the order to safeguard the neutrality of these two countries."
My Lord, the last document, TC-59, which I formerly put in, that is Exhibit GB 111.

My Lord, that is the dignified protest of the Belgian Government against the crime which was committed against her. My Lord, those are the facts supporting the charges of the violation of treaties and assurances against these three countries and supporting the allegation of the making of an aggressive war against them. My Lord, in the respectful submission of the prosecution here, the story is a very plain, a very simple one, a story of perfidy, dishonour, and shame.

COLONEL PHILLIMORE: May it please the Tribunal, it is my task to present the evidence on the wars of aggression and wars in breach of treaties against Greece and Yugoslavia. The evidence which I shall put in to the Tribunal has been prepared in collaboration with my American colleague, Lieutenant-Colonel Krucker.

The invasions of Greece and Yugoslavia by the Germans, which took place in the early hours of the morning of 6th April, 1941, constituted direct breaches of The Hague Convention of 1899 on the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes and of the Kellogg-Briand Pact Of 1928. Those breaches are charged, respectively, at Paragraphs 1 and 13 of Appendix C of the Indictment. Both have already been put in by my learned friend, Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, who also explained the obligation of the German Government to the Governments of Yugoslavia and Greece under those Pacts.

In the case of Yugoslavia the invasion further constituted a breach of an express assurance by the Nazis, which is charged at Paragraph 26 of Appendix C. This assurance was originally given in a German Foreign Office release, made in Berlin on 28th April, 1938, but was subsequently repeated by Hitler himself on 6th October, 1939, in a speech he made in the Reichstag, and it is in respect of this last occasion that the assurance is specifically pleaded in the Indictment.

[Page 213]

May I ask the Tribunal to turn now to the first document in the document book, which is Book No. 5. The first document is PS-2719, which is part of the document which has already been put in as Exhibit GB 58. This is the text of the German Foreign Office release, on 28th April, 1938, and I would read the beginning and then the last paragraph but one on the page:-
"Berlin, 28th April, 1938. The State Secretary of the German Foreign Office to the German Diplomatic Representatives.

As a consequence of the re-union of Austria with the Reich, we have now new frontiers with Italy, Yugoslavia, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Hungary. These frontiers are regarded by us as final and inviolable. On this point the following special declarations have been made ."

And then to the last paragraph:-
"3. Yugoslavia.

The Yugoslav Government have been informed by authoritative German quarters that German policy has no aims beyond Austria, and that the Yugoslav frontier would, in any case, remain untouched. In his speech made at Graz on 3rd April, the Fuehrer and Chancellor stated that, in regard to the re-union of Austria, Yugoslavia and Hungary had adopted the same attitude as Italy. We were happy to have frontiers there which relieved us of all anxiety about providing military protection for them."

Then, if I may, I will pass to the second document in the book, TC-92, and offer that as Exhibit GB 114. This is an extract from a speech made by Hitler on the occasion of the dinner in honour of the Prince Regent of Yugoslavia on 1st June, 1939. I will read the extract in full:
"The German friendship for the Yugoslav nation is not only a spontaneous one. It gained depth and durability in the midst of the tragic confusion of the world war. The German soldier then learned to appreciate and respect his extremely brave opponent. I believe that this feeling was reciprocated. This mutual respect finds confirmation in common political, cultural and economic interests. We therefore look upon your Royal Highness's present visit as a living proof of the accuracy of our view, and, at the same time, on that account we derive from it the hope that German-Yugoslav friendship may continue further to develop in the future and to grow ever closer.

In the presence of your Royal Highness, however, we also perceive a happy opportunity for a frank and friendly exchange of views which, and of this I am convinced, in this sense can only be fruitful to our two peoples and States. I believe this all the more because a firmly established reliable relationship of Germany and Yugoslavia now that, owing to historical events, we have become neighbours with common boundaries fixed for all time, will not only guarantee lasting peace between our two peoples and countries, but can also represent an element of calm to our nerve-wracked continent. This peace is the goal of all who are disposed to perform really constructive work."

As we now know, this speech was made at the time when Hitler had already decided upon the European war. I think I am right in saying it was a week after the Reich Chancellery conference, known as the Schmundt note, to which the Tribunal has been referred more than once. The reference to "nerve-wracked continent" might perhaps be attributed to the war of nerves which Hitler had himself been conducting for many months.

[Page 214]

Now I pass to a document which is specifically pleaded at Paragraph 26 as the Assurance breached; it is the next document in the bundle, TC-43 - German Assurance to Yugoslavia of 6th October, 1939, It is part of the document which has already been put in as Exhibit GB 8o. This is an extract from the "Dokumente der Deutschen Politik":
"Immediately after the completion of the Anschluss I informed Yugoslavia that, from now on, the frontier with this country would also be an unalterable one, and that we only desired to live in peace and friendship with her."
Despite the obligations of Germany under the Convention of 1899, and the Kellogg-Briand Pact, and under the assurances which I have read, the fate of both Greece and Yugoslavia had, as we now know, been sealed ever since the meeting between Hitler and the defendant Ribbentrop, and Ciano at Obersalzberg on 12th and 13th August, 1939.

We will pass to the next document in the bundle, which is TC- 77. That document has already been put in as Exhibit GB 48, and the passages to which I would draw your Lordship's attention have been already quoted, I think, by my learned friend, the Attorney General; those passages are on Page 2 in the last paragraph: From "Generally speaking" until "neutral of this kind", and then again on Pages 7 and 8, the part quoted by the Attorney General, and emphasised particularly by Lieutenant-Colonel Griffith-Jones. At the foot of Page 7, on the second day of the meeting, the words beginning "In general, however, success by one of the Axis partners -" to "their backs free for work against the West."

THE PRESIDENT: Is that quoted?

COLONEL PHILLIMORE: Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: Was not Page 7 quoted before?

COLONEL PHILLIMORF: Both of those passages have been quoted before; and if I might sum up the effect of the meeting as revealed by the document as a whole, it shows Hitler and the defendant Ribbentrop, only two months after the dinner to the Prince Regent, seeking to persuade the Italians to make war on Yugoslavia at the same time that Germany commences hostilities against Poland, as Hitler had decided to do in the very near future. Ciano, whilst evidently in entire agreement with Hitler and Ribbentrop as to the desirability of liquidating Yugoslavia, and himself anxious to secure Salonika, stated that Italy was not yet ready for a general European war. Despite all the persuasion which Hitler and the defendant Ribbentrop exerted at the meeting, it became necessary for the Nazi conspirators to reassure their intended victim, Yugoslavia, since in fact Italy did maintain its position and did not enter the war when Germany invaded Poland, whilst the Germans themselves were not yet ready to strike in the Balkans. It was just for this reason that on 6th October, through Hitler's speech, they repeated the assurance they had given in April, 1938. It is, of course, a matter of history that, after the defeat of the Allied Armies in May and June, 1940, the Italian Government declared war on France, and that subsequently at 3 o'clock in the morning on 28th October, 1940, the Italian Minister at Athens presented the Greek Government with a 3 hours' ultimatum, upon the expiry of which Italian troops were already invading the soil of Greece.

[Page 215]

If I may quote to the Tribunal the words in which His Majesty's Minister reported that event:
"The President of the Council has assured himself an outstanding -"
THE PRESIDENT: You have referred to a document?

COLONEL PHILLIMORE: It is not in any of my documents. It is merely carrying the story to the next document:

"The President of the Council has assured himself an outstanding place in Greek history, and, whatever the future may bring, his foresight in quietly preparing his country for war, and his courage in rejecting without demur the Italian ultimatum when delivered in the small hours of that October morning will surely obtain an honourable mention in the story of European statecraft. He means to fight until Italy is completely defeated, and this reflects the purpose of the whole Greek nation."
I turn now to the next document in the bundle, that is, PS- 2762, a letter from Hitler to Mussolini, which I put in as Exhibit GB 115. Although not dated, I think it is clear from the contents that it was written shortly after the Italian invasion of Greece. It has been quoted in full by the Attorney General, but I think it would assist the Tribunal if I read just the last two paragraphs of the extract:-
"Yugoslavia must become disinterested. If possible however, from our point of view, interested in co- operating in the liquidation of the Greek question. Without assurances from Yugoslavia, it is useless to risk any successful operation in the Balkans.

Unfortunately I must stress the fact that waging a war in the Balkans before March is impossible. Therefore any threatening move towards Yugoslavia would be useless since the impossibility of a materialisation of such threats before March is well known to the Serbian General Staff. Therefore Yugoslavia must, if at all possible, be won over by other means and other ways."

You may think the reference in the first two lines to his thoughts having been with Mussolini for the last 14 days probably indicates that it was written in about the middle of November, shortly after the Italian attack.

THE PRESIDENT: Could you give us the date of the Italian attack?

COLONEL PHILLIMORE: 28th October, 1940.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.

COLONEL PHILLIMORE: As the Tribunal will see from the succeeding document, it was at this time that Hitler was making his plans for the offensive in the spring of 1941, which included the invasion of Greece from the North. This letter shows that it was an integral part of those plans that Yugoslavia should be induced to co-operate in them or at least to maintain a disinterested attitude towards the liquidation of the other Balkan States.

I pass now to the next document in the bundle, PS-444, which becomes Exhibit GB 116. It is a "Top Secret Directive" issued from the Fuehrer's Headquarters, signed by Hitler, initialled by the defendant Jodl, and dated i2th November, 1940. I will read the first two lines and then pass to Paragraph 4 on the third page:-

[Page 216]

"Directive No. 18.

The preparatory measures of Supreme H.Q. for the prosecution of the war in the near future are to be made along the following lines."

Omitting the section which deals with operations against Gibraltar and an offensive against Egypt, I will read Paragraph 4 on the third page:-
"Balkans.

The Commander-in-Chief of the Army will make preparations for occupying the Greek mainland North of the Aegean Sea, in case of need entering through Bulgaria, and thus make possible the use of German Air Force units against targets in the Eastern Mediterranean, in particular against those English air bases which are threatening the Roumanian oil area.

In order to be able to face all eventualities and to keep Turkey in check, the use of an army group of an approximate strength of ten divisions is to be the basis for the planning and the calculations of deployment. It will not be possible to count on the railway leading through Yugoslavia for moving these forces into position.

So as to shorten the time needed for the deployment, preparations will be made for an early increase in the German Army mission in Roumania, the extent of which must be submitted to me.

The Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force will make preparations for the use of German Air Force units in the South-east Balkans and for aerial reconnaissance on the Southern border of Bulgaria, in accordance with the intended ground. operations."


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