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 3 of 7)

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

[Page 166]

Q. When you took over your office, or later, did you get to know the minutes of a conference of 5th November, 1937, which has become known here under the name "Hoszbach" document?

A. I did not know this document, which has been mentioned here in various connections. I saw it here for the first time.

Q. Did Hitler ever say anything to you which conforms to the contents of this document?

A. I do not recall all the details of the contents of this document, but it was the Fuehrer's practice to speak very little at all about his aims and intentions and his attitude in matters of principle. At any rate, this was his practice in dealing with me. He did say that Germany had to solve certain problems in Europe - as I said before - and that for this reason it was necessary to be strong. He also mentioned the possibility that this might lead to disagreements, but he said to me nothing more specific about this. On the contrary, he always emphasised to me, that it was his desire to solve by diplomatic means these problems in Europe which had to be solved and that, once he had solved these problems, he had the intention of creating an ideal Socialistic State of the people ("Volksstaat") and that the Germany he would then create would be a model modern Socialistic State - with all the new edifices to which he attached special value. In other words, to me he did casually admit the possibility of an armed conflict, but he always said that it was his unalterable aim, and that it was and had always been his intention, to achieve this solution of the "impossibility of Versailles," as he sometimes called it, in a peaceful way.

Q. Shortly after your appointment as foreign minister you were called by Hitler to Berchtesgaden to the conference with Schuschnigg. What was discussed there and what was your role in these conferences?

A. Hitler informed me - I recall this was on 12th February, 1938 - that he was going to meet Federal Chancellor Schuschnigg at the Obersalzberg. I do not remember the details. I see from my notes that this was on the 12th of February. One thing I know is that he told me that the solution to be achieved was that in some form or other the German National Socialists in Austria must be given assistance. Difficulties of all sorts had arisen there, the details of which I no longer recall. At any rate, I believe, there were a great many National Socialists in jail, and, as a consequence of the natural efforts of these Austrian people to, bring about a closer contact with the Reich, this Austrian problem threatened to become a really serious problem between Germany and Austria.

Adolf Hitler told me at the time that I should be present in the Berghof. Later it was said, and I have heard it said here, that Adolf Hitler once declared that he intended to fight for autonomy for these six million Germans under all circumstances during the year 1938. I do not recall that he said so but it is quite possible that he did. On the occasion of Schuschnigg's reception I was at the Obersalzberg. Hitler received Schuschnigg alone and had a long conversation with him. The details of this conversation are not known to me because I was not present. I recall that Schuschnigg saw me after this conversation and that I in turn had a long conversation with him.

Q. Did you at that time put Schuschnigg under political pressure, as the prosecution asserts?

[Page 167]

A. No, that is not true. I remember very clearly my conversation with Schuschnigg, whereas the other details of what was going on at the Obersalzberg are not so clear in my memory, since I was not present at either the first or the second meeting between Schuschnigg and Hitler. My discussion with Schuschnigg proceeded in a very amicable fashion. I felt that Schuschnigg obviously was very greatly impressed by the Fuehrer and the Fuehrer's personality. I wish to say first that I do not know exactly the details of what Hitler wanted to achieve or discuss with Schuschnigg, so that on this subject matter I could say to him very little, or rather nothing. Our discussion therefore was confined to more general subjects. I told Schuschnigg that, in my opinion, Germany and Austria must come into closer contact and that perhaps it was his historical task to assist in this and to co-operate. I told him that it was undeniable that both nations were German, and that two such German nations could not forever be separated by artificial barriers.

Q. Was it at this conference that a rescission of the German- Austrian Treaty of 1936 was discussed?

A. I did not discuss this point with Schuschnigg, and I believe that the Fuehrer did not do so either in any way, because, according to what Schuschnigg told me, the Fuehrer had told him that certain measures would have to be carried out in Austria in order to eliminate the reasons for conflict between the two countries. That is what, without remembering any details, I understood him to say. As I said, my discussion with him was very amicable, and I might mention that, when I suggested to Schuschnigg that the two countries would have to get into closer contact, Schuschnigg showed an altogether positive attitude towards this idea so that, to a certain extent, I was even surprised by that attitude. There can be no talk of any pressure exerted on Schuschnigg during our discussion. However, the Fuehrer's discussion with him, I believe, was conducted in very clear language, because the Fuehrer wanted to reach some improvement in relations in order to solve the problems between the two countries, and to achieve this it was necessary for the two statesmen to reveal their thoughts openly. I have heard here - and I think this is from an entry in General Jodl's diary - that heavy political and military pressure was exerted. I believe I can testify here that I knew nothing of any military or strong political pressure at this meeting between Schuschnigg and Hitler. I may reiterate that I am sure that the Fuehrer used clear and frank language with Schuschnigg, but I certainly did not notice any pressure of a military or a political kind, or anything in the nature of an ultimatum. Also I assume that General Jodl's remark - I do not believe he was present - is a diary entry based on hearsay. I should like to add that at that time - and I have also stated this to several persons who were with me, and also to the Fuehrer - I had an altogether positive and pleasant impression of Schuschnigg's personality. Schuschnigg even said that the two countries - and I remember these words exactly - were bound together by fate and that he would have to assist in some way in bringing these two countries closer together. There was no mention in this discussion of an "Anschluss" or any such thing. Whether the Fuehrer mentioned that I do not know, but I do not believe so.

Q. At that time, or shortly after, did the Fuehrer mention to you that he wished to deviate from the German-Austrian Treaty of 1936 and find some other solution?

A. Hitler did not discuss this matter with me. I spoke very little with him about the Austrian problems, if at all. This may sound surprising, but it can be understood from the fact that it was only on the 4th of February that I took over the Foreign Office, and that I first had to get familiar with all the problems. The Austrian problem was, anyway, as I already said, a problem which was always dealt with by Hitler himself and which, consequently, was, so to speak, merely taken note of in the Foreign Ministry. I remember that the then ambassador von Papen also had the right to report directly to Hitler and that the Foreign Office received copies of these reports. These reports were, I believe, presented directly

[Page 168]

to Hitler by the Reich Chancellery, so that the problem was anchored rather in the Reich Chancellery than in the Foreign Office.

Q. You then went back to London in order to give up your post as ambassador. What did you hear in London regarding the development of the Austrian question?

[JOACHIM VON RIBBENTROP] A. First, let me say as follows: I myself had always the idea that the Austrian problem should be solved through a treaty, a customs and currency union between the two countries, since I personally believed that this was the most natural and the easiest way to bring about a close connection between them. I might perhaps remind you at this point, that this idea of a customs union, or at least a currency union, was nothing new, and had already been pursued by the governments before Hitler; it did not materialise at that time, I believe, because of the veto of the allied powers, but it was a long-cherished wish of both countries. I must now answer your question concerning London. According to my notes, I went to London on the 8th of March. As I have already mentioned, I happened to be in Berlin for the celebration of the seizure of power on the 30th of January, I believe, and then was appointed Foreign Minister on the 4th of February. Because of this appointment I did not have the opportunity to take official leave in London. On the 8th of March, 1938, I went to London. Before resigning my post I had a short conversation with Hitler, primarily about English matters. I remember that he remarked on this occasion that the Austrian problem beyond a doubt was progressing very nicely in line with the arrangements agreed upon with Schuschnigg at Berchtesgaden. I wish to add that I did not know all the details of the agreements, and I still remember a small detail about which we sent an inquiry to the Reich Chancellery only a few weeks later for the information of our specialist on the Austrian question. After I arrived in London, I believe it was in the afternoon, I happened to hear over the radio in the embassy building a speech made by the then Federal Chancellor Schuschnigg in Innsbruck or in Graz, I think. I must say that this speech took me very much by surprise. To go into details would take too long, nor do I remember them all. I do know, however, that the entire manner, and, as it seemed to me, the entire tone of this speech, was such that I immediately got the impression that the Fuehrer would not tolerate this, and that the whole speech, without any doubt, contradicted at least the spirit of the agreements made with the Fuehrer at the Obersalzberg. As I said, I was convinced that Adolf Hitler would do something about it; and I should like to say quite openly before this Tribunal that it appeared quite In order to me that the question be solved in some way or other, I mean, that one would have to speak to Schuschnigg very frankly, in order that the matter should not develop into a catastrophe, perhaps even a European catastrophe. Then, on the next morning, I had a long discussion with Lord Halifax. Lord Halifax had also received reports from Austria, and I tried, without knowing the situation fully, to explain to him that it was better to solve this problem now in one form or another, and that this would be definitely in the interests of the German-English efforts toward friendly relations; and that, in the long run, the assumption that the friendship between Germany and England, as striven for by both countries, could be broken up by such a problem, would be proved false. Lord Halifax was not alarmed by the situation and told me, as far as I remember, that I should still have an opportunity to discuss these matters with the British Prime Minister Chamberlain at the breakfast which was to follow. After this I had breakfast with the then Prime Minister Chamberlain; and during or after this breakfast I had a long conversation with him. During this conversation he again emphasised his desire to reach an understanding with Germany. I was extremely happy to hear this and told him that I was firmly convinced that this was also the Fuehrer's attitude. He gave me a special message for the Fuehrer, that this was his desire and that he would do everything he could in this direction. Shortly after this conversation telegrams arrived from Austria, from Vienna, I believe from the ambassador or the British consul. Mr. Chamberlain and Lord Halifax asked me to come to their. office. I believe the breakfast took place in

[Page 169]

10 Downing Street and I went then to their office in order to discuss these telegrams. I told them that of course, I had no precise reports; then the news of an ultimatum came, and later of the entrance of German troops. We arranged that I should try to contact my government and that Lord Halifax would come to see me in the German Embassy in the afternoon to discuss these things further. I wish to emphasise that Mr. Chamberlain on this occasion also took a very composed and, it seemed to me, very sensible attitude towards the Austrian question. In the afternoon Lord Halifax visited me and we had a long talk. In the meantime, the entrance of German troops had become known. I should like to emphasize the fact that this talk with Lord Halifax was very amicable and that at the end of it I invited the English Foreign Minister to pay Germany another visit. He accepted, adding that he would be glad to come, and perhaps another exhibition of hunting trophies could be arranged.

Q. On the next morning you had a telephone conversation with the defendant Goering. This telephone conversation had been put in evidence by the prosecution, with the assertion that it is a proof of your double-crossing policy. What about that?

A. That is not true. Reichsmarschall Goering has already testified that this was a diplomatic conversation, and diplomatic conversations are carried on all over the world in the same way. But I might say that through this telephone conversation I learned for the first time of the details of the events in Austria. Without going into details I heard, above all, that this vote without doubt was not in accordance with the true will of the Austrian people, and I learned a number of other things, which Goering asked me to mention in my conversations with the British Ministers. But I should like to say that actually such conversations never took place, because I had already taken leave of the official English circles. In fact, I did not have any further talks after my conversation with Goering; just a few hours later I left London and went to Berlin and later to Vienna.

I might add that first I went to Karinhall to visit Goering, and found him very happy about the "Anschluss" - i.e., not about the Anschluss but about the whole Austrian development. He was just as happy as I. We all were happy. Then I flew, I believe, on the same day, to Vienna and arrived there at about the same time as Adolf Hitler. In the meantime I heard about the "Anschluss" and it was in Vienna that I learned that the idea of the "Anschluss" had definitely not occurred to Hitler until his drive through Austria. I believe it was prompted by a demonstration in Linz and then he decided very quickly, I think, to accomplish the "Anschluss."

Q. What problem did Hitler mention to you as the next one which you should solve, following the Anschluss?

A. The next problem which Hitler had outlined to me on the 4th of February was the problem of the Sudeten Germans. This problem, however, was not a problem posed by Hitler or the Foreign Office or any office - it was a de facto problem that existed of itself. I believe it was the American Prosecutor who said here that with the dissolution of Czechoslovakia a chapter ended which was one of the saddest in the history of nations, namely, the oppression and destruction of the small Czechoslovak nation. I should like to state the following from my own knowledge of these matters.

One may speak in this sense of a Czechoslovak State but not of a Czechoslovak nation, because it was a State of different nationalities, a State which comprised the most varied national groups. I need only mention, besides Czechs, Germans, Hungarians, Poles, Ruthenians, Carpatho-Ukrainians, Slovaks, etc. This shows that quite heterogeneous elements had been welded together in 1919 to form the State. It is certain, and probably a historical fact, that the efforts of the different nationalities within the artificially welded State were divergent to a certain extent and that the Czechs, following their own tendencies, tried to surround these nationalities with a strong ring, I should like to say, with an iron ring. This

[Page 170]

pressure created counter-pressure - counter-pressure from the various nationalities; of this State, and it is evident that a strong Germany, a Germany of National Socialism, at that time exerted a strong power of attraction on all the national segments in Europe; or, at any rate, on those living close to the German border and to some extent, I might say, on the others as well. It thus happened that the German minorities in the Sudetenland, who, since 1919 had been constantly exposed to considerable pressure from Prague, were now subjected to still greater pressure. I do not believe I need go into details, but I can say from my own knowledge, and even from my own discussions while I was ambassador in London, that the question of the Sudetenland was very clearly understood by the British Foreign Office and that England herself very often before 1938 had supported certain interests of the Sudeten Germans, in co- operation with Conrad Henlein.

After the seizure of power by Adolf Hitler the suppression of these German minorities undoubtedly increased. I should also like to point out - and I know this from having read the files of the Foreign Office at the time - that the League of Nations' Committee for Minorities had a tremendous amount of documents on the Sudeten Germans and the great impediments encountered by the Germans in practising and living their own cultural life.

I do not believe it is too much to say that the manner in which the Sudetenland was treated by Prague was, even in the opinion of the League of Nations' competent and unprejudiced authorities, in no way in accord with the provisions of the League of Nations regarding minorities. I myself thought it was absolutely necessary to reach some solution in order that this problem might not become a germ of conflict, whereby again, as in the case of Austria, all Europe would be stirred up. I should like to emphasise that the Foreign Office and I always endeavoured, from the very beginning, to solve the Sudeten German problem by way of diplomatic negotiations with the main signatory powers of Versailles. I might add that it was my personal conviction, which I also expressed to Hitler, that given sufficient time and appropriate action, the Germany that we had in 1938 could solve this problem in a diplomatic, i.e., peaceful way.

The prosecution has charged me with having stirred up unrest and discord in Czechoslovakia by illegal means, and with thus having consciously helped to bring about the culmination of this crisis. I do not deny in any way that between the Sudeten German Party and the National Socialist German Workers Party there had been connections for a long time which aimed at taking care of the Sudeten-German interests. Nor do I wish to deny, for example, what was mentioned here, that the Sudeten German Party was supported with certain funds from the Reich. I might even say, and I believe the Czechoslovak Government will confirm this, that that was an open secret which was well-known in Prague. However, it is not correct to say that anything was done on the part of the Foreign Office and by me to so direct these efforts that a really serious problem might arise. I do not want to go into further detail, but I should like to mention one more point. Documents have been mentioned about arrests of Czech nationals in Germany as reprisals for Czech treatment of Sudeten Germans. To that I can say merely that these were measures which can only be understood and explained in view of the situation at that time, but which were not brought about by us in the Foreign Office in order to make the situation more critical. On the contrary, in the further course of events, I attempted through the Embassy in Prague as well as through efforts of my officers, to restrain the activities of the Sudeten German Party. I believe that this has to some extent been proved clearly by the documents which have been made known here. I have not these documents before me, so I cannot deal with them in greater detail; but I believe that perhaps the defence can make these matters clear in detail.

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