The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
December 17, 1945 to January 4, 1946

Twenty-Seventh Day: Friday, 4th January, 1946
(Part 9 of 9)


As to the Low Countries, neither Hitler nor the military leaders were disturbed about treaty considerations. The Tribunal will remember that at a conference between Hitler and the principal military leaders in May, 1939, as shown in Document L-79, Exhibit USA-27, already in the record, when the intention to attack Poland was announced, Hitler in discussing the possibility of war with England said that the Dutch and Belgian air bases must be occupied by armed forces. "Declarations of neutrality will be ignored." And later in his speech to the Oberbefehlshaber, in November, 1939, Hitler said that they must first invade the Low Countries and "no one will question that when we have won."

Accordingly, one can well imagine that the winter of 1939 and 1940 and the early spring of 1940 was a period of very intensive planning in German military circles. The major attack in the West through the Low Countries

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had to be planned and the attack on Norway and Denmark had to be planned. The defendant Jodl's diary for the period 1st February to 26th May, 1940, Document 1809-PS, Exhibit GB-88, contains many entries reflecting the course of this planning. Some of the entries have been read into the record and others are now of interest.

The Tribunal will see from these entries which have already been read, that during February and early March there was considerable doubt in German military circles as to whether the attack on Norway and Denmark should precede or follow the attack on the Low Countries, and that at some points there even was doubt as to whether all these attacks were necessary from a military standpoint. But the Tribunal will not find a single entry which reflects any hesitancy from a moral angle, on the part of Jodl or any of the people he mentions, to over-run these countries.

I will make some references now to Document 1809-PS and some of the entries in it. I do not find a direct quotation in any one of them. The Court will note that on 1st February, 1940, General Jeschonnek, the Chief of the Air Staff and a member of the Group as defined in the Indictment, visited Jodl and made a suggestion that it might be wise to attack only Holland, on the ground that Holland alone would offer a tremendous improvement for Germany's aerial warfare.

On 6th February, Jodl conferred with Jeschonnek, Warlimont, and Colonel von Waldau, and what Jodl calls a "new idea" was proposed at this meeting: that the Germans should only carry out Action H (Holland) and the Weser Exercise (Norway and Denmark) and should guarantee Belgium's neutrality for the duration of the war.

I suppose the German Air Force may have felt that the occupation of Holland alone would give them sufficient scope for air bases for attacks on England, and that if Belgium's neutrality were preserved the German bases in Holland would be immune from attack by the French and British armies in France. If, to meet this situation, the French and British should attack through Holland and Belgium, the violation of neutrality would be on the other foot. But whether or not this new idea made sense from a military angle, it appears to be a most extraordinary notion from a diplomatic angle. It was a proposal to violate without any excuse the neutrality of three neighbouring small countries and simultaneously to guarantee the neutrality of a fourth. What value the Belgians might have attributed to a guarantee of neutrality offered under such circumstances it is difficult to imagine, and in fact, the "new idea" projected at this meeting seems a most extraordinary combination of cynicism and naivete.

In the meantime, as Jodl's diary shows, on 5th February, 1940, the "special staff" for the Norway invasion met for the first time and got its instructions from Keitel. On 21st February, Hitler put General von Falkenhorst in command of the Norway undertaking; and Jodl's diary records that "Falkenhorst accepts gladly."

On 26th February Hitler was still in doubt whether to go first to Norway or the Low Countries, but on 3rd March he decided to deal with Norway first and the Low Countries a short time thereafter. This decision proved final. Norway and Denmark were invaded on 9th April, and the success of the adventure was certain by 1st May. The invasion of the Low Countries took place ten days later.

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So, France and the Low countries fell, Italy joined the war on the side of Germany, and the African campaign began. In October, 1940, Italy attacked Greece. The Italo-Greek stalemate and the uncertain attitude of Jugoslavia became embarrassing to Germany, particularly because the attack on the Soviet Union was being planned and Germany felt she could not risk an uncertain situation at her rear in the Balkans.

Accordingly, it was decided to end the Greek situation by coming to Italy's aid, and the Jugoslavian coup Xetat Of 26th March, 1941, brought about the final German decision to crush Jugoslavia also. The documents have already been introduced by Colonel Phillimore, and there is little that I need to add for my present purpose. The decisions were made; the Armed Forces drew up the necessary plans and executed the attacks. The onslaught was particularly unmerciful and ruthless against Jugoslavia for the special purpose of frightening Turkey and Greece. The final deployment instructions were issued by Brauchitsch and appear in a document R-95, Exhibit GB-127 which has not been read before. Two extracts from this are of interest. These extracts are very short:

"The political situation in the Balkans having changed by reason of the Jugoslav military revolt, Jugoslavia has to be considered an enemy even should it make declarations of loyalty at first.

"The Fuehrer and Supreme Commander has decided therefore to destroy Jugoslavia as quickly as possible."

And turning to paragraph No. 5, the "Time-table for the Operations":
"On 5th April, as soon as sufficient numbers of the Air Force are available and weather permitting, the Air Force should attack continuously by day and night the Jugoslav ground organisation and Belgrade."
The German attack on the Soviet Union I have little more to say about. The documents showing the aggressive nature of the attack have been put in by Mr. Alderman. I suppose it is quite possible that some members of the General Staff and High Command Group opposed "Barbarossa" as unnecessary and unwise from a military standpoint. The defendant Raeder so indicated in a memorandum he wrote on 10th January, 1944, Document C-66, Exhibit GB-81. C-66 is the translation, the only document I propose to read on this subject, from which a few extracts are of interest. The quotation starts at the very outset of the Document C-66:
"At this time the Fuehrer had made known his 'unalterable decision' to conduct the Eastern campaign in spite of all remonstrances. After that, further warnings, as no new situation had arisen, were found to be completely useless. As Chief of Naval War Staff I was never convinced of the 'compelling necessity' for Barbarossa."
And passing to the third paragraph:
"The Fuehrer very early had the idea of one day settling accounts with Russia; doubtless his general ideological attitude played an essential part in this. In 1937-38 he once stated that he intended to eliminate the Russians as a Baltic power; they would then have to be diverted in the direction of the Persian Gulf. The advance of the Russians against Finland and the Baltic States in 1939-40 probably further strengthened him in this idea."
And passing to the very end of the document, paragraph 7, page 4:
"As no other course is possible, I have submitted to compulsion. If thereby a difference of opinion arises between 1 S.K.L. and myself "

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that, if I may interpolate, is a division or tne Naval War Staff having. to do with operations - "it is perhaps because the arguments the Fuehrer used on such occasions (dinner speech in the middle of July to the Officers in Command) to justify a step he had planned, usually had a greater effect on people not belonging to the 'inner circle' than on those who often heard this type of reasoning. Many remarks and plans indicate that the Fuehrer calculated on the final ending of the Eastern campaign in the autumn of 1941, whereas the Supreme Command of the Army (General Staff) was very sceptical."
That, to be sure, indicates division of opinion as to the military chances of a rapid success, but the part last quoted indicates that other members of the group favoured "Barbarossa," and Raeder's memorandum actually says and substantiates what Blomberg's affidavit says, that some of the generals lost confidence in the power of Hitler's judgment, but that the generals failed as a group to take any definite stand against him although a few tried and suffered thereby. Certainly the High Command took no stand against Hitler on "Barbarossa" and the events of 1941 and 1942 do not suggest, that the High Command embarked on the Soviet War tentatively or with reservations, but rather with ruthless determination backed by careful planning. The plans themselves have all been read and cited to the Court previously.

That concludes the evidence on the criminal activities of the Group under Counts One and Two. The documents written by the military leaders are not the writings of men who were reluctant to plan and execute these manifold wars.

I want to make clear again the nature of the accusations against this Group under Counts One and Two. They are not accused on the ground that they are soldiers. They are not accused merely for doing the usual things a soldier is expected to do, such as making military plans and commanding troops. It is, I suppose, among the normal duties of a diplomat to engage in negotiations and conferences, to write notes and aide-memoires, to entertain at dinner parties and cultivate good will toward the government he represents. The defendant Ribbentrop is not indicted for doing these things. It is the usual function of a politician to draft regulations and decrees, to make speeches. The defendants Hess and Frick are not indicted for doing those things.

It is an innocent and respectable business to be a locksmith, but it is none the less a crime if the locksmith turns his talents to picking the locks of neighbours and looting their homes. And that is the nature of the charge under Counts One and Two against the defendants and the General Staff and High Command Group. The charge is that, in performing the functions of diplomats, politicians, soldiers, sailors, or whatever they happened to be, they conspired, and did plan, prepare, initiate and wage illegal wars and thereby committed crimes under Article 6 (a) of the Charter.

It is no defence for those who committed such crimes to plead that they practised a particular profession. It is perfectly legal for military men to prepare military plans to meet national contingencies, and such plans may legally be drawn, whether they are offensive or defensive in a military sense. It is perfectly legal for military leaders to carry out such plans and engage in war, if in doing so they do not plan and launch and wage wars which are illegal because they are aggressive and in contravention of the Charter.

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group, where drawing the line between legal and illegal behaviour might involve some difficulties. That is not an uncommon situation in the legal field. But I do not believe that there is any doubt or difficulty here, before this Tribunal, as to the criminality of the General Staff and High Command Group as a Group under Counts One and Two, or as to the guilt of the five defendants who are members of the group.

In the case of the defendants Goering, Keitel and Jodl the evidence is voluminous and their participation in aggressive plans and wars is more or less constant. The same is true of defendant Raeder, and his individual responsibility for the aggressive and savage attack on Norway and Denmark is especially clear. The evidence so far offered against Donitz is less voluminous for the reason that he was younger and not one of the top group until later in the war.

But numerous other members of the General Staff and High Command Group, including its other leaders, are shown to have participated knowingly and wilfully in these illegal plans and wars: Brauchitsch, the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, and his Chief of Staff Halder; Warlimont, the deputy of Jodl. In the nature of things these men knew.all that was going on and participated fully, as the documents show. Reichenau and Sperrle helped to bully von Schuschnigg; Reichenau and von Schobert, together with Goering, were immediately sent for by Hitler when von Schuschnigg ordered the plebiscite.

At a later date we have seen Blaskowitz as an Oberbefehlshaber in the field, knowingly preparing for the attack on Poland; Field Marshal List educating the Bulgarians for their role during the attacks on Jugoslavia and Greece; von Falkenhorst "gladly accepting" the assignment to command the invasion of Norway and Denmark.

On the air side, Jeschonnek has been recorded proposing that Germany attack Norway, Denmark and Holland and simultaneously assuring Belgium that there is nothing to fear.

On the naval side, Admiral Karls, member of the Group, forsees at an early date that German policy is leading to a general European war, and at a later date the attack on Norway and Denmark is his brain- child; Krancke, later one of the group, is one of the chief planners of this attack; Schniewindt is in the inner circle for the attack on Poland; Fricke certifies the final orders for Weseruebung and a few months later proposes that Germany annex Belgium and Northern France and reduce the Netherlands and Scandinavia to vassalage.

Most of the nineteen officers I have mentioned were at that time members of the Group, as defined, and the few who were not subsequently became members. At the final conference for Barbarossa seventeen additional members were present, and at the two meetings with Hitler, at which the aggressive plans and the contempt for treaties were fully disclosed, the entire group was present.

The military defendants will perhaps argue that they are pure technicians. This amounts to saying that military men are a race apart from and different from the ordinary run of human beings -- men above and beyond the moral and legal requirements that apply to others, incapable of exercising moral judgment on their own behalf.

What we are discussing here is the crime of planning and waging aggressive war. It stands to reason that that crime is committed most consciously

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and culpably by a nation's leaders - the leaders in all the major fields of activity which are necessary to and closely involved in the waging of war. It is committed by propagandists and publicists. It is committed by political leaders, by diplomats, by the chief ministers, by the principal industrial and financial leaders. It is no less committed by the military leaders.

In the nature of things, planning and executing aggressive war is accomplished by agreement and consultation among all these types of leaders. And if the leaders in any notably important field of activity stand aside or resist or fail to co- operate, then the programme will at the very least beseriously obstructed. That is why the principal leaders in all these fields of activity share responsibility for the crime, and the military leaders no less than the others. Leadership in the military field, as well as in other fields, calls for moral wisdom as well as technical astuteness.

I do not think that the responsible military leaders of any nation will be heard to say that their role is that of a mere janitor or custodian or pilot of the war machine which is under their command, and that they bear no responsibility whatsoever for the use to which that machine is put.

The prevalence of such a view would be particularly unfortunate to-day, when the military leaders control forces infinitely more powerful and destructive than ever before. Should the military leaders be declared exempt from the declaration in the Charter that planning and waging aggrehsive war is a crime, it would be a crippling, if not fatal, blow to the efficacy of that declaration.

Such is certainly not the view of the United States. The prosecution here representing the United States believes that the profession of arms is a distinguished profession. We believe that the practice of that profession by its leaders calls for the highest degree of integrity and moral wisdom, no less than for technical skill. We believe that in consulting and planning with the leaders in other fields of national activities the military leaders must act in accordance with International Law and the dictates of the public conscience. Otherwise the military resources of the nations will be used not in accordance with the laws of modern society but in accordance with the law of the jungle. The military leaders share responsibility with other leaders.

I use the word " share " advisedly. Obviously the military leaders are not the final and exclusive arbiters, and the German military leaders do not bear exclusive responsibility for the criminal holocaust which was committed. But the German military leaders conspired with others to undermine and destroy the conscience of the German nation. The German military leaders wanted to aggrandise Germany and, if necessary, to resort to war for that purpose.

As the Chief Prosecutor for the United States said in his opening statement, The German military leaders are here before you because they, along with others, mastered Germany and drove it to war."

Your Lordship, that concludes the evidence under Counts One and Two, and if this would be a convenient stopping point -

THE PRESIDENT: You have another branch of the argument?

COLONEL TAYLOR: Counts Three and Four, your Honour, which will take considerable time.

THE PRESIDENT: Very well, we will adjourn now.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 1000 hours on 7 January, 1946)

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