The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
14th February to 26th February, 1946

Sixty-Seventh Day: Monday, 25nd February, 1946
(Part 3 of 8)

[Page 280]

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: This gentleman is stated to have been a partner in the defendant's former business. According to the application, it is really desired that he should give his views on the defendant's general attitude and state of mind. Again, the prosecution fail to see to what issue he is relevant, but it may be that it would please the defendant to have affidavits from an old business partner

[Page 281]

to give his views on him. If that is desired, the prosecution would be prepared to consider such an affidavit, but they really must take up the consistent attitude that a witness of this kind is irrelevant, a witness who is going to say "I have known this defendant for twenty years; I have been in business with him and I have always had high opinion of him." That, in the submission of the prosecution, does not touch the issues before this Tribunal, and therefore is irrelevant. But, as I say, if my friend cares to produce an affidavit, the prosecution will consider it with the, greatest sympathy,

DR. HORN: I would be satisfied, in the case of the witness Michel, with an affidavit.

Mr. President, I would like to come back to the witness listed under No. 5, Legation Counsellor Gottfriedsen.

THE PRESIDENT: One moment. Are you not going to deal with No. 38? You didn't deal with 37. You are passing that over, are you?

DR. HORN: I believe that the same objections would be raised against him as were raised with reference to the other witnesses. Since I assume that the Tribunal is going to decide in principle about the question whether or not all the facts referred to should be submitted here, I have left out this witness and ask the Tribunal for a decision.

THE PRESIDENT: I see. Now you want to go back to No. 5?

DR. HORN: I would like to go back to No. 5, Legation Counsellor Gottfriedsen. This gentleman managed all the official and private financial affairs of the defendant von Ribbentrop for many years.

Ribbentrop has been accused by various members of the prosecution of enriching himself with art treasures and similar things. About this point Legation Counsellor Gottfriedsen can give conclusive evidence which will refute these charges. I therefore ask for approval of this witness.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: My Lord, I have just asked Dr. Horn on this point whether he would prefer Herr Gottfriedsen to Herr von Sonnleitner. I think Dr. Horn says that, if there was a question of choice, he would.

The prosecution do not want to be unreasonable. I made my general statement that this group of witnesses, of seven foreign office witnesses, ought to be restricted to three. If my friend thinks that Herr Gottfriedsen will be more helpful, especially on this point, I have no objection to the substitution, so long as some limitation is made in this particular group of witnesses.

THE PRESIDENT: Would it be satisfactory if interrogatories were administered?

DR. HORN: Yes, Mr. President. In this case I ask for the witness Gottfriedsen.


DR. HORN: My statement on the subject of summoning witnesses is thereby concluded.

DR. STAHMER (Counsel for defendant Goering): I have not named some witnesses because other defendants' counsel had asked for them. Among, these is the interpreter, Dr. Schmidt. I, too, have the greatest interest in the questioning of this witness. Schmidt was Goering's interpreter and was present at almost all foreign political negotiations with statesmen. Therefore I, too, ask for the summoning of this witness and to that extent support the application made by Dr. Horn.

THE PRESIDENT: We will consider that, Dr. Stahmer. We will adjourn now for ten minutes.

(A recess was taken.)

DR. HORN: Mr. President, may I please bring up one other point having to do with the calling of witnesses?I have also named a number of the witnesses because I must ascertain when the conspiracy in general began and when my client could have joined this conspiracy. The prosecution made things relatively easy for itself as regards setting

[Page 282]

the time at which the conspiracy began, by stating in the general Indictment "some time before 8th May, 1945."

Now, if I can call no witnesses with regard to the years 1933 to 1938, then I must assume that the prosecution admits that the defendant Ribbentrop could not have been a party to the conspiracy at least before 1939.

I should like this point of view to be taken into consideration in the granting of witnesses.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: It might be helpful, if I indicated quite generally what Dr. Horn has to meet.

The Tribunal will remember that on the 8th and 9th of January I presented the individual case against this defendant. The first point is the time of Hitler's accession to power in 1933. It is the case for the prosecution that this defendant assisted in various ways in that accession. After that, he held various positions in close touch with Hitler.

If Dr. Horn will refer to the transcript of my presentation, he will find that there is detailed, with a note of all the supporting documents, the part which his client played in the aggression against Austria, Czechoslovakia, Lithuania, Poland, England, France, Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Soviet Union, and finally, the United States. All these matters are set out with the supporting documents, and a reference to them will show exactly what is alleged against the defendant on that point.

Apart from that, there are four matters under Counts 3 and 4 which are specially raised.

First of all, the defendants pressed that measures contrary to International Law and the Conventions should be taken against Allied airmen. Again, the supporting documents are in evidence.

Second, there is General Lahousen's evidence as to what the defendant said with regard to the treatment of the population of Poland.

Third, there is the defendant's responsibility for putting the various protectors of Bohemia and Moravia in office with unrestricted powers, which resulted in the crimes against the populations of these areas.

Then there is a similar position with regard to the Netherlands.

The third main category is the treatment of the Jews. Again, there is an American official document, the report of Ambassador Kennedy; there is a long Foreign Office statement on the policy towards the Jews; and there is a document showing the preparation for an Anti-Semitic Congress, of which this defendant was to be an honorary member.

Finally, there is the question of plunder, the evidence given by my Soviet colleague on the Ribbentrop battalion for the collection of plunder, which was given the other day.I do not think that if Dr. Horn will consider these various points, which are practically all collected in the transcript for 8th and 9th of January, except the last point, he will find that there is any difficulty in deciding the commencement of the acts imputed to his client or their detailed and concrete elements.

THE PRESIDENT: Sir David, the Tribunal would like to know whether the prosecution allege any particular date at which the conspiracy started; and second, they would like to know whether you contend that defendants joining the conspiracy after it started are responsible for the conspiracy.

What the Tribunal would like to know is whether a person who joins the conspiracy after it started would be responsible for acts committed by the conspirators before he joined.

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: If I might deal with the questions in order, the position of the prosecution on the question of time is as set out in Count 1 of the Indictment. The prosecution say that the Nazi Party was the core of the conspiracy, and that it was an essential part of the conspiracy that the Nazi Party should obtain political and economic control of Germany in order that they

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might carry out the aims set out in Articles 1 and 2 of the Nazi Party programme. That part of the conspiracy started with the emergence of the Nazi Party as a force in German politics, and was fully developed in January, 1933. At that time it was the aim of the Nazi Party to secure the breaches of the Treaty of Versailles and the other matters set out in these articles, if necessary by force.

But, as is stated in the statement of offence under Count 1 of the Indictment, the conspiracy was not static; it was dynamic. And, in 1934, after Germany left the League of Nations and the Disarmament Conference, the aggressive war aspect of the conspiracy increased in momentum.

It is the case for the prosecution that, from 1935, when conscription was introduced and the Air Force came into being, and through 1936 when the Rhineland was re-occupied, the securing of Germany's objectives - the objectives of the Nazi Party - if necessary by aggressive war, became a stronger, clearer and more binding aim.

The position is crystallised by the meeting on 5th November, 1937, when Hitler declared that Austria and Czechoslovakia would be conquered at the earliest opportunity. That was succeeded by the acquisition of Austria in March, 1938, and the "Fall Grun" against Czechoslovakia, which originated in May, 1938, to be carried out before October.

From that time the prosecution say that the plan of aggressive war followed the well-known and clear technique of attacking one country or taking aggressive measures against one country, and giving assurances to the country that was next on the list to be attacked.

From that time the succession and procession of aggressive wars takes a clear course, which I have just mentioned in outlining the accusation of aggression against the defendant Ribbentrop. I may summarise it by saying that the prosecution submit that the Nazi Party was always engaged in this agreement and concerted action to get control of Germany and carry out its aims, but that the aggression crystallised and became clear from 1934 and the beginning of 1935 onwards.

THE TRIBUNAL (Mr. Biddle): Sir David, I would like to ask you a few questions in connection with this.

First of all, you must know either the date when the conspiracy began, or you must not be able to give us that date. Now, is it the contention that the prosecution do not know when the conspiracy began? If you do know, would you tell us?

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: The conspiracy began with the formation of the Nazi Party.

MR. BIDDLE: And what was that date?


MR. BIDDLE: 1921? Now, was the conspiracy to wage aggressive war begun on that date?

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: Yes, it was begun in this way that Hitler had said, "I have certain objects, one of them being to break the Treaty of Versailles - which means also breaking the Treaty of Friendship with the United States which has the same clauses - and I shall attain these objects, if necessary by using force". That was always one of the beliefs and aims of the Party.

Now, if people agree to commit an illegal act, or a legal act by illegal methods, that is, ipso facto, the committing of the offence of conspiracy. Conspiracy is constituted by the agreement, not by the acts carrying out the agreement. Therefore, in that way the conspiracy starts in 1921. But, as Mr. Justice Jackson made clear in his opening, and as I have repeated this morning, the aims, and more particularly the methods by which the conspirators sought to achieve these aims, grew and acquired particular forms as the years went on. They appear to have acquired their special form when a decision was reached on the method of breaking the Treaty of Versailles in 1934, and bringing that to fruition in 1935.

I am not seeking to avoid answering the question of the learned American Judge, but I am putting, in summary form, exactly what is stated in both the statement of

[Page 284]

offence and the particulars of offence under Count 1, and I hope that I will not be thought to be avoiding the question. I am not doing that. I am trying to put it in the clearest and most accurate language.

MR. BIDDLE: Well, I would not ask you, were I clear about the matter in my own mind, Sir David. Let me ask you a few more questions.The conspiracy to commit Crimes Against Humanity - was that begun in 1921?

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: To the extent that a general readiness was adopted to use all methods, irrespective of the rights, safety, and happiness of other people, it was begun with the start of the Nazi Party. Ruthlessness, and disregard for the rights and safety and happiness of others was a badge of the Nazi Party programme, in so far as the rights and happiness of others might interfere with their aims, from the very start.

Again, the translation of that into practical methods developed as the years went on, and in a period well before the war - Mr. Biddle will not hold it against me that I should remember exact documents in an answer straight off the reel to his question, but well before the war - there will be found again and again in the speeches of Hitler to his associates that utter ruthlessness and disregard for non- German populations should be employed. That is the foundation of the War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity, and it was initiated and grew in the method which I have stated.

MR. BIDDLE: Did you answer the President with respect to the question of whether the conspirators joining later became responsible? If that were true, then this defendant would be responsible for acts running back to 1921.

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