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-Third Day: Thursday, 28th March, 1946
(Part 5 of 7)

[SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE continues his cross examination of Ambassador Paul Schmidt]

[Page 144]

Q. That is the one - where Ciano visited. That is the one I was indicating to you. I think I am right that it previously belonged to Count Czernin.

Tell me, was there a fixed salary for Reich Ministers?

A. I did not understand the question.

Q. Let me put it quite clearly. Was a salary - that is, a fixed annual remuneration - given to Reich Ministers?

A. Yes, that is quite right.

Q. How much was that?

A. That I cannot say.

Q. That was kept secret?

A. That is not the reason that I cannot give you any information. I was not at all interested in how large a salary the Reich Minister received.

Q. You do not know?

A. No.

Q. If you say that you do not know, that is good enough for me. I think, perhaps, you can answer this question. Had any previous Reich Foreign Minister been able to run six country houses and estates of various sizes on his salary, anyone that you had worked with?

A. Whether he could have done it - I cannot say, but he did not do it.

Q. He did not. We will leave it there for a moment.

Now, I want you to apply your mind to May, 1939. That is about four months before the war, when the Polish question was just coming up. I mean, it was getting to be quite a serious question. Do you remember what I think they call in the German Foreign Office a "conduit de langage" that was issued by Ribbentrop about that time and put out by Baron von Weizsaecker?

A. No, I do not know that, or at any rate, I should say that I cannot remember it.

Q. Let me try to remind you, to see if this draws it to your recollection:

"The Polish problem will be solved by Hitler in 48 hours; the Western Powers will be unable to give any assistance to Poland; the British Empire is doomed within the next ten years; France will bleed to death if she tries to intervene."
Do you remember a "conduit de langage" to that effect issued by the Foreign Minister?

A. I cannot remember a conduit de langage of that kind. It appears to me rather to resemble a conduit de langage for propaganda purposes.

[Page 145]

Q. Do you not remember that von Ribbentrop issued instructions that no official of the Foreign Office was to issue any different views?

A. That is right, that one was to adhere to those rules regarding speeches.

Q. And do you remember what he told Baron von Weizsaecker to say would happen to any one who expressed different views?

A. No, I do not recollect that, but I can imagine that severe penalties would have been threatened to a person like that. However, I do not remember the actual case.

Q. Do you not remember that he said they would be shot by him personally?

A. That such a statement may have been made by him on some occasion when he was furious, I consider perfectly possible, but I do not believe that it was meant seriously.

Q. What I thought you might remember - I just suggest it to you - was the distress and difficulty that Baron von Weizsaecker had in deciding how he was to say it at the official conference at the Foreign Office. Do you not remember that?

A. At that time I had not yet been admitted to the morning conferences. I was not present at that time so I cannot tell you anything about it, but I can imagine that the State Secretary may have had quite some trouble in translating that statement into official language.

Q. Well, now, I want to deal quite shortly with the points that have been put to you about August, 1939, I only want to get the facts quite clear.

Do you remember that you were with Hitler at the time that he was expecting the reactions of the Western Powers to the Soviet Treaty?

A. No, I was attached to the delegation in Moscow and therefore not with Hitler.

Q. Did you come back with the defendant Ribbentrop on the 24th?

A. Yes, but I remained in Berlin and did not go to Berchtesgaden.

Q. I see, well, now, on the 25th, you remember that Hitler saw Sir Nevile Henderson at 1.30 and gave him what has been called a "note verbale"? Do you remember that?

A. I think that I was not present at that conference because just at that time I was in Moscow. It must be possible to establish the date. I was not present at a conference between Hitler and the British Ambassador, which took place on the Obersalzberg during the time of our Moscow journey. I think that is the conference you are referring to.

Q. This is the day after the defendant came back from Moscow.

A. No, I remained in Berlin. I was not up there.

Q. I just want to remind you of the day. If you were not present, I will pass from it, but were you present when Signor Attolico, the Italian Ambassador, produced a communication from Mussolini?

A. Yes.

Q. You were there?

A. Yes.

Q. That is the day I am asking you about. Do you remember that a communication came from Signor Attolico that afternoon that the Italian Army and Air Force were not in a condition to go to war?

A. Yes, indeed.

Q. I want you to try to help me because it is rather important as to the time. Was that not about three o'clock in the afternoon?

A. That could be so, but with the many conferences which took place at the time, the question of hours and dates is naturally a bit confused.

Q. And do you remember the news coming through about four o'clock, that the Anglo-Polish Treaty would be signed that evening?

A. Yes, I remember that.

Q. And do you remember about four o'clock M. Coulondre, the French Ambassador, having an interview with Hitler?

[Page 146]

A. Yes, I remember that.

Q. Now, were you aware that on that day the orders for an attack on Poland the next morning were countermanded?

A. I remember that military orders had been withdrawn, but just what orders these were I naturally never learned.

Q. I would not ask you about that, Herr Schmidt, but you knew that orders had been countermanded. I wondered if you could help me on this point: Was not the countermanding of the orders at 6.5 - 1815 hours - after the interview with the French Ambassador, M. Coulondre, was not that the time when they were countermanded?

A. I cannot recall, if that was the time.

Q. And equally could you help the Tribunal on this point: Were they not issued about two o'clock - 1400 hours - after the interview with Sir Nevile Henderson? Do you know that?

A. No.

Q. I see. You cannot help us on that point.

Well, now. I am not going to take time about the interview on the night of the 30th-31st August between Sir Nevile Henderson and the defendant Ribbentrop, except to ask you this: You have told us that the defendant Ribbentrop was very excited. When he read these terms over, did he raise his voice at times, shouting?

A. No.

Q. How did he show his nervousness, then?

A. It manifested itself during some incidents which had occurred previously, of which I have spoken before, during those incidents the nervousness became apparent but not during the reading of the document.

Q. I see, but you remember and were very much astounded at the time at the refusal to hand over the vital document to the British Ambassador?

A. Yes, certainly.

Q. Well, I want to see if you can help us with one or two other incidents. It has been suggested by a witness, whom we heard yesterday, that the defendant Ribbentrop knew very little about concentration camps. I want to make it clear that this was suggested. I think perhaps you can help us with regard to one or two inhabitants of concentration camps that he knew about. Do you remember a man called Martin Luther? Not the religious gentleman?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you remember that the defendant Ribbentrop brought him into his office, the Bureau Ribbentrop, in 1936?

A. I am not sure about the year, but I do know that he got his job through the office.

Q. Yes. I think it was not received with great joy by the older members of the German Foreign Office?

A. No, certainly not.

Q. There had been some trouble about a small matter of 4,000 Reichsmark that Luther had had to deal with in the past?

A. Yes.

Q. He was taken into the Foreign Office and received rapid promotion to Councillor, Minister and Under-Secretary of State, did he not?

A. Yes.

Q. And then, do you remember that in 1943 he had a quarrel with the defendant Ribbentrop?

A. Yes.

Q. And he sent a message to Himmler - I think he did it through Lieutenant Buntner - suggesting that Ribbentrop's state of mind was not such that he ought to continue as Foreign Secretary, and suggesting that Werner Best, I believe it was, should be appointed. Do your remember that?

[Page 147]

A. Yes, I remember that; but I did not know that he suggested Best as successor.

Q. At any rate, he suggested that Ribbentrop should go. I think he was quite blunt about it. I believe he suggested that his mental powers were no longer up to the work.

A. I did not see the report. I only heard rumours about it.

Q. In consequence of that, of course, after an interview with Ribbentrop, Ribbentrop had Luther put in a concentration camp, had he not?

A. I do not know whether Ribbentrop's initiative was responsible for that, or whether it came from some other source, but it was said in our department that Luther had landed in a concentration camp.

Q. Yes. Well, the sequence of events was that Luther had this disagreement with Ribbentrop, and shortly afterwards he appeared in a concentration camp. And not only did he go into a concentration camp, but is it not correct that even the S.S. asked that he should come out of the concentration camp, and Ribbentrop would not agree to it?

A. I cannot say, because the whole matter was, of course, treated rather confidentially in the office by von Ribbentrop, and the members of the Foreign Office, of which I was one, did not have his confidence to such an extent that they were informed of all such details. In other words, I only heard about the whole Luther affair, through special channels - actually through prohibited channels - so that I cannot therefore give you any authentic information, but can only repeat what I have heard unofficially.

Q. I am sure you desire to be absolutely frank with the Tribunal, and the point I am putting to you is that everyone in the Foreign Office knew that Luther had landed in a concentration camp and, quite clearly, the defendant Ribbentrop knew that he had landed in a concentration camp. That is right, is it not?

A. Yes, certainly.

Q. Well, now, let us just take one other incident relating to this, if I may comment as to his extraordinary innocence about concentration camps.

You remember two unfortunate people called Herr and Frau von Raemitz, to whom the Schloss Fuschl used to belong? I think the name is either Raemitz or Raenitz. Do you remember?

A. Yes.

Q. Well, the Schloss Fuschl - would you tell me how it is pronounced?

A. Well, regarding these matters I am so little -

Q. No, I want you to tell me how it is pronounced.

A. Fuschl.

Q. Thank you.

The Schloss Fuschl used to belong to the people that I have just mentioned. Frau von Raemitz was a sister of August Thyssen, was she not?

A. I cannot say anything about that, since all these questions refer to the private household of Herr von Ribbentrop and I had nothing to do with that. My connections with him were purely official and limited at that to routine matters and the important political interpretation affairs in the Foreign Office. I only heard about the other matters, but naturally not in such a way that I could make authentic statements about them.

Q. Well, I will only ask you one question. After the Schloss had become the property, or at any rate had come to the use of the Foreign Minister, did not Herr von Raemitz spend several years in a concentration camp, where he ultimately died? You knew that, did you not?

A. I knew it as a rumour: I was told that it had happened in that way.

Q. And did not you hear of other stories, stronger than these, that came out of concentration camps?

A. I do not believe that any authentic reports were made there regarding conditions because naturally, particularly where the Foreign Office was concerned, it

[Page 148]

was treated as taboo by these people who were responsible for concentration camps. Since we were in any case, regarded as not quite reliable and as not quite belonging to them, such matters were of course, diligently, covered up and concealed from us. Therefore, any concrete details never became known to us at all.

Q. But you knew, did you not, even in the Foreign Office, that there were a large number of concentration camps in which a vast number of people were shut up?

A. We knew that, but our source of information was mostly the foreign Press, which we read, of course; and the foreign radio reports which appeared on our table, translated, every morning.

Q. So that if you knew it from the foreign Press and the foreign radio, whoever else in that dock did not know about concentration camps, the defendant Ribbentrop, as Foreign Minister, did know. Is not that right?

A. I would like to put it this way. Of course, he had access to that foreign news material. Just how he evaluated it, whether he considered it true or completely false, or exaggerated, naturally I cannot say. Of course he also received the reports as such, but under the heading of foreign reports, and, during the war as reports from hostile countries.

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