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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
23rd March to 3rd April, 1946

Ninety-First Day: Tuesday, 26th March, 1946
(Part 7 of 7)

[DR. HORN continues his direct examination of ADOLF VON STEENGRACHT]

[Page 82]

Q. Did you make peace suggestions of a foreign political nature to von Ribbentrop after the French campaign?

A. Yes. I had at that time, to be sure, no official position. But I nevertheless felt the need, and I believe it was a heartfelt wish of many, if not all, Germans, to see peaceful conditions again in the world as soon as possible. On the day of the capitulation of the King of Belgium, I suggested, firstly, the creation of a United States of Europe on a democratic basis. This would have meant independence of Holland, Belgium, Poland, and so on. Secondly, if this could not be brought about with Hitler, at any rate to have as few encroachments on the autonomy of the countries as possible.

Q. Did Ribbentrop speak to Hitler on this matter?

A. So far as I know, yes. But at that time Hitler considered such plans as premature.

Q. Did you speak to Ribbentrop again in the winter of 1942- 1943 on the same subject?

A. Yes. Ribbentrop at that time also worked out very concrete proposals.

[Page 83]

They provided for the sovereignty and independence of all conquered countries, including Poland, and, in addition a far-reaching economic collaboration.

Q. How did Hitler react then to these proposals?

A. Hitler turned down these proposals giving as reason the fact that the time was not suited, the military, situation not favourable enough, and that this would be interpreted as a sign of weakness.

Q. Now to another question. Before the outbreak of the Russian campaign, did Ribbentrop mention to Hitler Bismarck's statement about the danger of preventive wars?

A. Ribbentrop told me several times that he was very concerned about the pact with Russia. In regard to preventive war, he had stated to Hitler: "The good God does not let anyone look at His cards." I know, too, that Ribbentrop made efforts to bring our experts on Russia to Hitler in order to explain to him the situation there and to advise him against a war. Hitler did not see these people, so far as I know. Only Ambassador Graf Schulenburg was granted a short audience. He, who considered such a war ill- advised, and sharply rejected the idea, could not, however, advance his views on Russia and the reasons which made a war undesirable, for Hitler, after delivering a speech of his own on this subject, in about twenty minutes dismissed him abruptly without letting him speak a word.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Horn, the order of the Tribunal was that witnesses might refresh their memory by notes, but this witness appears to the Tribunal to have read practically every word he has said. That is not refreshing your memory with notes. That is making a speech which you have written out beforehand, and if that sort of thing goes on the Tribunal will have to consider whether it is necessary to alter its rule and adhere to the ordinary rule, which is that no witness is allowed to refer to any notes at all except those made at the time.

DR. HORN: Mr. President, to be sure, I discussed the questions with the witness but his notes, if they have been made, were made by the witness independently and without my knowledge of the exact contents. I shall now ask the witness to answer my questions without making use of any means with which I am unfamiliar. I do not - that I want to emphasise once again - know these answers.


Q. Witness, is it known to you that von Ribbentrop tried to use his influence with Hitler to stop the damaging tendencies against the Church and the Jews?

A. Yes. I know that Ribbentrop spoke frequently with Hitler on this policy. I was absolutely in despair about the policy toward the Church and the Jews, and for this reason had occasion to speak to him about it often, as I have said. But he explained to me again and again when he returned from Hitler that Hitler could not be spoken to on this point, that Hitler said that these problems had to be solved before he died.

Q. Did von Ribbentrop and the Foreign Office have any knowledge of the military planning?

A. Ribbentrop frequently told me that he was completely in the dark in military affairs. So far as the Foreign Office was concerned, this Foreign Office had no influence on strategic planning.

Q. What were the relations between Ribbentrop, Himmler, Goebbels and Bormann?

A. The relations between Ribbentrop and those afore-named gentlemen were as bad as can be imagined. There was a perpetual fight between them. In my opinion Ribbentrop would have been Himmler's first victim if anything had happened to Hitler. A constant struggle and feud, I should like to state, went on between these men with an unprecedentedly sharp exchange of letters.

Q. What was the relationship in general in the highest Party and Reich positions?

A. The relationship in the individual departments naturally varied according to the character of the department chiefs. But one can say that the relationship was by no means good, and, above all, that reciprocal orientation, so urgently

[Page 84]

necessary for national affairs, practically never developed. It was almost more difficult for one minister to discuss a question with another minister by telephone, than to have had the Angel Gabriel himself come from heaven and speak with one of us. Even in the most important and essential matters a factual discussion could not take place. There was, in other words, practically no connection between these departments. Moreover, they were very different, both in their characters and in their ideas.

Q. Is anything known to you about objections on the part of the Vatican, above all regarding the Polish clergy?

A. I heard about that later, and there must have been two protests concerning the Catholic Polish clergy. These two notes were submitted by the Nuncio to the Secretary of State of that time. The then Secretary of State turned these over to Ribbentrop according to regulation, and Ribbentrop in his turn presented them to Hitler. Since the Vatican had not recognized the Government General, and accordingly, since the Nuncio was not responsible in these regions, Hitler declared when these notes were presented to him, "They are just one long lie. Give these notes back to the Nuncio through his Secretary of State with a reproof, and tell him that you will never again deal with such a matter."

Q. Were these notes then worked on by the Foreign Office?

A. Sharp and precise instructions were issued that all cases in which representatives of countries brought up matters, for which they were not authorised, whether in conversations, or notes, transcripts of conversations, memoranda, or other documents - these were not to be accepted, and verbal protests must be turned down sharply.

Q. It is known to you that von Ribbentrop prevented the shooting of about 10,000 prisoners of war after the frightful air attack on Dresden?

A. Yes, I know the following: von Ribbentrop's liaison officer with Hitler called me up one day in great excitement. He informed me that on a suggestion by Goebbels, the Fuehrer intended, as reprisal for the holocaust of Dresden, to have English and American prisoners of war, I believe mostly airmen, shot. I went immediately to Ribbentrop and informed him of this. Ribbentrop became very excited; he turned pale; he was in fact almost stunned and thought it was impossible, picked up the phone and called up this liaison officer in person in order to verify this report. The liaison officer corroborated it. Then Ribbentrop got up immediately and went to Hitler, came back, I think after a half hour, and told me that he had succeeded in having Hitler withdraw this order. That is all I known about this matter.

Q. Do you know anything about the meeting of an anti-Jewish congress?

A. Regarding the meeting of an anti-Jewish congress I know something, namely, I believe this same liaison officer with Hitler informed us that, on a suggestion of Bormann, Hitler had ordered the calling of an anti-Jewish congress through Rosenberg's office. Ribbentrop did not want to believe this; but nevertheless had to accept this too as true once he had spoken with our liaison officer. Then, since on the basis of this decision we could do nothing more officially to prevent the thing, we nevertheless worked our way into it, and we made efforts by a policy of hesitation, delay and obstruction to render the execution of it impossible. And although the order was given in the spring of 1944 and the war did not end until April, 1945, this congress never actually took place.

Q. Could you observe whether von Ribbentrop often adopted astern manner with his staff, for reasons of State, although he sometimes thought entirely differently?

A. This would be passing a judgement. But I believe that I must affirm this. Thinking that he was being loyal to Hitler, Ribbentrop, it seems to me, in those cases when he went to Hitler with a preconceived opinion and returned with a totally different view, tried afterwards to explain to us Hitler's view. This he always did with special vehemence. I assumed then that this was contrary to his own personal and original ideas.

[Page 85]

Q. Did Ribbentrop during the course of the war ask that Rome and Florence be spared?

A. So far as I know he did speak with Hitler on these subjects.

Q. Are you acquainted with an article by Goebbels in the "Reich" or perhaps the "Volkischer Beobachter," an article dealing with lynch justice?

A. Yes. Once by accident I came to Ribbentrop when he was reading a paper and was again very excited. He asked me if I had read yet the article, this shocking article by Goebbels. It was an article on lynch justice.Q. Did Ribbentrop lodge a protest with Goebbels about this article?A. As far as I know, he charged our Press chief who had the liaison with Goebbels to enter a protest against this article. But to his surprise he was forced to see that this protest was useless since the article had not only been inspired but, I believe, ordered by Hitler, and thus there was nothing more to be done.

Q. What attitude did the Foreign Office take on the opinions expressed in this article?A. The Foreign Office repudiated the article vehemently, because it comprised an offence against International Law and thus removed us one step further from International Law. Moreover, it appealed to the lower instincts of man, and both in internal and external policy did great damage.

Further, such an article, that has been read by several hundred thousand or by millions, does irreparable damage. We therefore insisted that in no circumstances should such things appear in the Press again. I must regretfully state, however, that we had a very great difficulty in this matter, especially since low-flying enemy aircraft often shot at peasants in the fields and pedestrians in the streets, that is to say, purely civilian people. And our arguments that on our part we wanted to observe International Law under all circumstances were not taken into account at all either by the German people, or above all by Hitler personally. On the contrary, in this case too we were regarded again as formal jurists only. But we did try, as much as we could, with the help of military offices, to prevent the carrying out of this order.Q. Do you know of a Battalion Guensberg?A. I do not know of a Battalion Guensberg. I know of course, of a former Legation Councillor von Guensberg in the Foreign Office. This Legation Councillor von Guensberg, received, so far as I recall - I did not at that time do any work at all connected with these matters - received from Ribbentrop the assignment of following with a few people from the Foreign Office, and a few drivers, the fighting troops, and seeing to it that, firstly, the foreign missions, for instance, in Brussels and Paris, and so forth, that stood under the protection of the protective powers, should not be entered by our troops. And at the same time, Guensberg was charged with protecting the files in the foreign ministries that were of foreign political interest.

After the conclusion of the French campaign, Guensberg, so far as I recall, was no longer in the active service of the Foreign Office, but continued with the Secret Field Police, from whom he had received a uniform, because as a civilian he could not enter these countries.Q. How and when did Guensberg's job end?A. Ribbentrop lost interest, after these events, in Guensberg, and the original assignment. Then after the beginning of the Russian campaign, Guensberg, so far as I remember, reported again for duty and said that he intended to do the same thing in the East, and Ribbentrop told him, "Very well, you may go with a few people to the Army Groups and see whether anything of interest for us is happening there and also see to it that when we approach Moscow, the foreign embassies, etc., are not entered, and that the documents are preserved." But he did not consider himself any longer as belonging to the Foreign Office and openly received orders from other offices. Then, as I later heard, he had a large number of men under him and had many automobiles which he could not have received from the Foreign

[Page 86]

Office any more than he could have received a military uniform from the Foreign Office - which indicated that he was openly working for other offices.

Q. He no longer belonged to the Foreign Office, at any rate not in a military capacity?

A. No. And in addition when Ribbentrop heard that he had undertaken such a big job, he charged me personally to inform immediately the S. S. and say that he, Ribbentrop, did not want to have Guensberg any longer, and at that time I told Obergruppenfuehrer Wolff that I should like to point out that we wanted nothing more to do with Guensberg: "See to it that you keep him with the Waffen S. S. along with all his subordinates." That is all I know about the matter of Guensberg.

DR. HORN: Would the President like to interrupt the examination or should I continue to put further questions?

THE PRESIDENT: Unless you are going to conclude almost immediately, we had better adjourn. Will you be some time longer with this witness?

DR. HORN: I have a number of further question.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 27th March, 1946, at 10.00 hours.)

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