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-Fourth Day: Friday, 29th March, 1946
(Part 2 of 7)

[DR. HORN continues his direct examination of JOACHIM VON RIBBENTROP]

[Page 161]

Q. In what way was your ambassadorial activity hampered in England?

A. I should like to say first that I was repeatedly in England in the 1930's, mainly from 1935 to 1936, and, acting on instructions from the Fuehrer, I sounded out the opinions there on the subject of a German-British pact. The basis of this pact is known. It was to make the naval ratio of 100 to 35 permanent. Secondly, the integrity of the so-called Low Countries, Belgium and Holland and also France was to be guaranteed by the two countries for ever and-this was the Fuehrer's idea - Germany should recognise the British Empire and should be ready

[Page 162]

to stand up, if necessary even with the help of her own power, for the preservation and maintenance of the British Empire; and England, in return, should recognise Germany as a strong power in Europe.

It has already been said, and I should like to repeat this, that these efforts in the 1930's unfortunately did not lead to any results. It was one of the Fuehrer's deepest disappointments - and I must mention that here, for it is very important for the further course of events that this pact, upon which he had placed such very great hopes and which he had regarded as the corner-stone of his foreign policy, did not materialise in these years. What the forces were which prevented its materialisation I cannot say, because I do not know. In any case we got no further.

I came back to this question several times while I was Ambassador in London and discussed it with circles who were friendly to Germany, and I must say that there also were many Englishmen who had a very positive attitude towards this idea.

Q. Did you also meet with any attitude that was negative?

A. There was naturally a strong element in England which did not look favourably upon this pact or this idea of close relations with Germany, because of considerations of principle and perhaps because of traditional considerations of British policy. I should like to mention here briefly, even though this goes back to the year 1936, that during the Olympic Games in the year 1936 I tried to win the very influential, British politician, the present Lord Vansittart to this idea. I had at that time a very long discussion of several hours' duration with him in Berlin. Adolf Hitler also received him and likewise spoke with him about the same thing. Lord Vansittart, even though our personal relations were good, showed a certain reserve.

In the year 1937, when I was in London, I saw that gradually two clearly different trends were forming in England; one very much in favour of promoting good relations with Germany, the other against such relations.

There were - I believe that I do not need to mention names, for they are well know - those gentlemen who did not wish such close relations with Germany, Mr. Winston Churchill, who was later Prime Minister, and others.

I then made strenuous efforts in London in order to promote this idea but other events occurred which made my activity there more difficult. There was first of all, the Spanish policy. It is well known that civil war raged in Spain at that time and that in London the so-called Non-Intervention Commission was meeting.

As Ambassador to the Court of St. James's I had a difficult task. On the one hand, with all means at my disposal, I wished to further German-English friendship and to bring about the German-English pact, but on the other hand, I had to carry out the instructions of my government in regard to the Non-Intervention Commission and Spain. These instructions, however, were often in direct opposition to certain aims of British Policy. Therefore it came about that this sort of League of Nations which the Non-Intervention Commission represented at that time, and of which I was the authorised German member, prejudiced the chief aim with which Adolf Hitler had sent me to London.

But I have to say here - if I may and am supposed to describe that period openly in the interest of the case - that it was not only the policy regarding Spain, but that in these years - 1937 till the beginning of 1938 - that trend which did not want a pact formed with Germany, definitely became ever more evident in England; and that, to-day, is a historical fact. Why? The answer is very simple, very clear. These circles regarded a Germany strengthened by National Socialism as a factor which might disturb the traditional British balance-of-power theory and policy on the Continent.

I am convinced that Adolf Hitler at that time had no intention at all of undertaking on his part anything against England, but that he had sent me to London

[Page 163]

with the most ardent wish for really reaching an understanding with that country. From London I reported to the Fuehrer about the situation, and before this Tribunal now I wish to clarify one point, a point which has been brought up very frequently and which is relevant to my own defence. It has often been asserted that I reported to the Fuehrer from England that England was degenerate and would perhaps not fight. I may and must establish the fact here, and from the beginning I reported exactly the opposite to the Fuehrer. I told him that; in my opinion, the English ruling class and the English people had a definitely heroic attitude and that this nation was ready at any time to fight to the utmost for the existence of its Empire. Later, in the course of the war and after a conference with the Fuehrer, I once discussed this subject in public, in a speech made in 1941.

Summarising the situation in London in the years 1937 and 1938, while I was ambassador, I can at least say that I was fully cognizant of the fact that it would be very difficult to conclude a pact with England. But even so - and this I always reported - all efforts would have to be made to come by means of a peaceful settlement to an understanding with England as a decisive factor in German policy, that is, to create such a relation between the development of German power and the British basic tendencies and views on foreign policy that these two factors would not conflict.

Q. During the time you were ambassador you concluded the so- called Anti-Comintern Pact with Japan. How was it that just you, the ambassador, concluded that pact?

A. I should like to make the preliminary remark that in 1938 I was appointed Foreign Minister on the 4th of February. On the 4th of February I was in Berlin. The Fuehrer called me and informed me that he had appointed me Foreign Minister. After that ... I am not sure, are you talking of the Three- Power Pact?

Q. No, you have misunderstood me. During your activity as ambassador you concluded the Anti-Comintern Pact in 1936 which in 1937 was joined by Italy and later on by Spain, as well as other countries. How was it that you, as ambassador, concluded this pact?

[JOACHIM VON RIBBENTROP] A. Adolf Hitler at that time considered the ideological difference between Germany, that is, National Socialism, and Communism, actually one of the decisive factors of his policy. Therefore, the question arose as to how a way could be found at all to win over additional countries for the opposition to Communist tendencies. The problem, therefore, was an ideological one. In the year 1933, I believe, Hitler discussed with me for the first time the question of whether a closer contact with Japan could be established in some form or other. I replied that I personally had certain connections with Japanese persons and would establish contact. When I did so it came to light that Japan had the same anti-Comintern attitude as Germany. Out of these conversations of the years 1933, 1934, 1935, I believe, the idea gradually crystallised that one might make these common attitudes the subject of a pact. I believe it was one of my aides who had the idea of concluding an Anti-Comintern Pact. I presented this idea to the Fuehrer and he approved of it. However, since it was, so to speak, an ideological question, he did not wish at that time that it should be done through the official channels of German politics, and therefore he instructed me to prepare this pact, which then was concluded in my office in Berlin, as I believe, in the course of the year 1936.

Q. If I understand you correctly, this pact was concluded by you because you were the head of the Department Ribbentrop (Dienststalle Ribbentrop)?

A. That is correct. The Department Ribbentrop consisted chiefly of me and just a few aides. But it is correct to say that the Fuehrer wished that I conclude this pact because he did not wish to emphasise it publicly.

Q. Did this pact have aims of practical policy or only ideological aims?

A. It is certain that this pact - as a basic principle, I should say - had an ideological aim. It was meant to oppose the work of the Comintern in the various countries

[Page 164]

at that time. But naturally it also contained a political element. This political element was anti-Russian at the time, since Moscow was the centre of the Comintern idea. Therefore, it occurred to the Fuehrer and me that through this pact a certain balance or counterbalance against the Russian efforts or against Russia would be created in a political sense as well, because Russia was in opposition to Germany in respect to ideology and also, of course, to politics.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Horn, do you and the defendant really think it is necessary to take as long as the defendant has taken to tell us why he, as an ambassador in London, was called upon to sign the Anti-Comintern Pact?

DR. HORN: It is very difficult for me to hear your Honour.

THE PRESIDENT: What I asked you was whether you and the defendant think it necessary for the defendant to make such a long speech in answer to your question, as to why he, as ambassador in London, was employed to sign the Anti- Comintern Pact. He has spoken for at least five minutes about it.


Q. On the 4th of February, 1938, you were made Foreign Minister. What were the reasons for this appointment?

A. I have already said that on the 4th of February, 1938, I was in Berlin. The Fuehrer called me and informed me that, because of a shift in various higher positions, he was going to appoint a new Foreign Minister and that he had appointed the then Foreign Minister von Neurath to be President of the Secret Cabinet Council. I replied to the Fuehrer that I, of course, would be glad to accept that appointment.

Q. On this occasion you also received a high rank in the S.S.? The prosecution has asserted that this rank was not purely honorary. Is that true?

A. I must correct that. I had received a rank in the S.S. prior to this time, and I do not recall whether it was on the occasion of this appointment or later on that I became S.S.-Gruppenfuehrer. The Fuehrer bestowed on me the rank and the uniform of an S.S.-Gruppenfuehrer. That was a position which formerly in the army used to be known as a "rank a la suite." It happened that I agreed definitely with the S.S. idea at that time and relations with Himmler were also quite good. I considered the S.S. idea a possible basis for producing and creating an idealistic class of leaders, somewhat like that existing in England, and such as emerged symbolically through the heroism of our Waffen S.S. during the war. Later on, it is true, my attitude towards Himmler changed. But the Fuehrer bestowed this rank on me because he wished that, at Party rallies and meetings, I should wear the Party uniform and have a Party rank.

May I at this time state briefly my attitude toward the Party. Yesterday or the day before yesterday, I believe, the question was raised as to whether I was a true National Socialist. I do not claim to be competent to judge this question. It is a fact that it was only in later years that I joined Adolf Hitler. I did not pay very much attention to the National Socialist doctrines and programme nor to the racial theories, with which I was not very familiar. I was not anti-Semitic, nor did I fully understand the church question, although I had left the church a long time ago. I had my own inner reasons for doing so, reasons connected with the early 20's and the development of the church in Germany in those years. However, I believe that I have always been a good Christian. What drew me to the Party was the fact that the Party wanted a strong, flourishing, and socialistic Germany. That was what I wanted too. For that reason, in the year 1932, I did, after thorough deliberation, become a member of the National Socialist German Workers Party.

Q. Had you put your services at the disposal of the Party before that date, as the prosecution asserts, namely, from 1930 on?

A. It was in 1930 that, in the general election, National Socialism obtained more than 100 seats in the German Reichstag. I set forth yesterday, and perhaps do not need to describe in detail any more, what conditions in Germany were at that time. However, during the years 1930, 1931 and 1932 I gradually came

[Page 165]

nearer to the Party. Then from 1932 on - I believe I entered the Party in August 1932 - from that moment on until the end of this war I devoted my entire strength to National Socialist Germany and exhausted it in so doing. I wish to profess frankly before this Tribunal and before the world that I have always endeavoured to be a good National Socialist, and that I was proud of the fact that I belonged to a little band of men, idealists, who did not want anything else but to re-establish Germany's prestige in the world.

Q. What foreign political problems did Hitler describe to you as requiring solution, when you took office? What directives did he give you for the conduct of foreign policy?

A. When I took office, the Fuehrer said relatively little to me. He said only that Germany had now assumed a new position, that Germany had once more joined the circle of nations having equal rights and that it was clear that in the future certain other problems would also have to be solved. In particular, I recall that he pointed out three, no, four problems which, sooner or later, would have to be solved. He emphasised that such problems could be solved only with a strong Wehrmacht, not by using it, but through its mere existence, because a country which was not strongly armed could practice no foreign policy whatsoever, as we had experienced during the past years, but rather such a country operated, so to speak, in a vacuum. He said we would have to achieve clear-cut relations with our neighbours. The four problems he enumerated were, first of all, Austria then he mentioned a solution of the Sudeten questions, of the question of the tiny Memel district and of the Danzig and the Corridor question, all of them problems which would have to be solved in one way or another. It would be my duty, he said, to assist him diplomatically in this task. From this moment on I did my best to assist the Fuehrer to prepare some solution of these problems in a way beneficial to Germany.

Q. Shortly after your appointment you . . .

THE PRESIDENT: I believe this would be a good time to break off.

(A recess was taken.)

Q. What course did German foreign policy pursue after you were appointed foreign minister?

A. First I tried to get an over-all picture of the current affairs of the Foreign Office and of the situation. German foreign policy, as I said before, had reached a certain stage, that is, Germany had regained prestige in the eyes of the world, and the future task would be to solve in some way or other the important and vital problems created in Europe by the Versailles Treaty. This was all the more necessary since, by way of example, ethnic questions always were an incendiary subject, that is, contained germs of conflict dangerous to a peaceful development in Europe.

During the period following I familiarised myself with the affairs of the ministry. That was at first not easy, as I was dealing with altogether new men. I should like to mention here that Hitler's attitude toward the Foreign Office was not always positive and in continuing the efforts of Minister von Neurath, my predecessor, I considered it my most important task to bring the Foreign Office closer to Hitler and to build a bridge between the two spheres of ideas.

It was clear to me from the very beginning, after I took over the ministry, that I would be working, so-to-speak, in the shadow of a vital personality and that I would have to impose on myself certain limitations - that is to say, that I would not be in a position, one might almost say, to conduct the foreign policy in such a way as it is done by other foreign ministers, who are responsible to a parliamentary system or a parliament. The commanding personality of the Fuehrer naturally dominated the foreign policy as well. He occupied himself with all its details. It went like this more or less: I reported to him and forwarded to him important foreign policy reports through a special courier, and Hitler in turn gave

[Page 166]

me definite orders as to what views I should take in regard to problems of foreign policy, etc.

In the course of these conversations the problem of Austria crystallised as the first, and most important problem which had to be brought to some solution or other. Austria had always been a matter very close to the Fuehrer's heart, because he was a native of Austria himself, and naturally, with Germany's power growing, the efforts already long in existence for bringing Germany and Austria more closely together became even more pronounced. At that time I did not yet know very much about this problem, since Hitler himself handled it for the most part.

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