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-Fifth Day: Saturday, 30th March, 1946
(Part 1 of 5)

[Page 189]

THE MARSHAL: May it please the Tribunal, the defendant Donitz is absent from Court this morning.




Q. On 16th February, 1923, at a conference of ambassadors, Lithuania was granted sovereignty over the territory of Memel, which had already been annexed in 1923 by a surprise attack by Lithuanian troops. What caused Hitler to give you directives for the reintegration of Memel territory in 1939?

A. The territory of Memel is very small, and, as the land mentioned in our National anthem, was always very dear to the hearts of the entire German people. The facts from a military point of view are well known. It was placed under the control of the Allied Powers after the first World War and was later seized and occupied by Lithuanian soldiers. The country itself is ancient German territory, and it was natural that it should wish to become a part of Germany once more. As early as 1938, the Fuehrer referred to this problem in my presence as one which would have to be solved sooner or later. In the spring of 1939 negotiations were begun with the Lithuanian Government. These negotiations resulted in a meeting between Urbisk, the Lithuanian Foreign Minister, and myself, and an agreement was signed, by means of which Memel territory was once more to become part of the Reich. That was in March, 1939- I do not need to describe the sufferings which this region has had to endure in the past few years. It was quite in accordance with the principle of the self- determination of peoples, that the will of the people of Memel should be taken into account; and all that the agreement did was to restore a perfectly natural state of affairs and one which would have had, in any case, to be established sooner or later.

Q. It was followed six months later by the war with Poland. What, in your opinion, were the decisive causes which brought about this war?

A. I gave evidence on this matter yesterday. The deciding factor was the English guarantee extended to Poland. I do not need to elaborate this point. This guarantee, combined with the attitude adopted by Poland, made it impossible for us to negotiate with the Poles or to come to an understanding with them. As for the actual outbreak of war, the following reasons for it can be given:

1. There is no doubt ...
MR. DODD: If your Honour please, I generalised yesterday morning, and I repeat my assertion of yesterday that I am most reluctant to interfere here with this examination. But as the witness has said himself, we did go all through this yesterday - we have heard this whole story already on the occasion of yesterday afternoon's session. My point is that the witness himself, before going into his answer, stated that he had already given the causes for the war yesterday afternoon, and I quite agree. I think it is entirely unnecessary for him to go over it again today. I might add parenthetically that we had some great doubt about the relevancy or the materiality of it even on yesterday's occasion, but surely we do not have to hear him again.

[Page 190]

THE PRESIDENT: What do you say to that, Dr. Horn?

DR. HORN: I Would like to reply that the former German Minister for Foreign Affairs, who is accused of being co- responsible for a war of aggression, might perhaps say a few words about the decisive causes, which according to him led to this war. The defendant, of course, should not repeat what he said yesterday, I only want him to give some details on points to which he only referred in a general way yesterday, and I will not take up any more time than is necessary.

THE PRESIDENT: Very well, Dr. Horn, provided, of course, that he does not go over the identical ground that he went over yesterday.


Q. Please tell us these facts very briefly.

A. There are just a few brief facts that I would like to mention; and they concern only the events of the last two days. First of all, there is no doubt that on 30th and 31st August England was well aware of the extreme tension of the situation. Hitler received a letter informing him of this; and he said that the decision must be made and a way of solving the problem found with all possible speed. This was Chamberlain's letter to Hitler.

Second: England knew that the proposals made by Germany were reasonable, for we know that England was in possession of these proposals on the night of 30th to 31st August. Ambassador Henderson himself declared that these proposals were reasonable.

Third: It would have been possible, therefore, on 30th or 31st August, to give a hint to Warsaw and tell the Poles to begin some sort of negotiations with us. This could have been done in three different ways - a Polish negotiator could have flown to Berlin, which would have been, as the Fuehrer said, a matter of an hour to an hour and a half; or, a meeting could have been arranged between the Foreign Ministers or the rulers of the States to take place on the frontiers; or Ambassador Lipski could simply have been instructed at least to reconsider the German proposals. If these instructions had been given the crisis would have been averted and diplomatic negotiations could have been initiated. England herself, had she wished to do so, could have sent her ambassador to represent her at the negotiations, which action, after what had gone before, would undoubtedly have been regarded favourably by Germany.

This, however, did not take place, and, as I gather from documents which I saw for the first time during my internment here, nothing was done, during this period, to alleviate this very tense situation. Chauvinism is natural to the Poles; and we know from Ambassador Henderson's own words and from the testimony of M. Dahlerus that Ambassador Lipski used very strong language illustrative of Polish mentality. Because Poland was very well aware that she would, in all circumstances, have the assistance of England and France, she assumed an attitude which made war to all intents and purposes inevitable. I believe that these facts are necessary for a complete survey of the situation.

I would like to add that I personally regretted this turn of events. All the work of 25 years was destroyed by this war; and up to the last minute I made every possible effort to avert war. I believe that even Ambassador Henderson's documents prove that I did my utmost in this direction. I told Hitler that it was Chamberlain's ardent desire to have good relations with Germany and to reach an agreement with her; and I even sent a special messenger to the British Ambassador, Sir Neville Henderson, to tell him how earnestly the Fuehrer desired this; and to do everything in his power to make this desire of Hitler's clear to his government.

Q. Denmark and Norway were occupied in April, 1940. You had concluded a non-aggression pact with Denmark on 31st May, 1939, and on the basis of those facts you are accused by the prosecution of perfidious diplomacy. When and in what way did you have knowledge of the imminent occupation of Denmark and Norway?

[Page 191]

A. It had always been the Fuehrer's wish, and mine, to keep Scandinavia neutral. In accordance with Hitler's policy, I did my best to prevent the war from spreading.

In April, 1940, Hitler summoned me to the Chancellery. He told me that he had received reports stating that the British were on the point of occupying Norway, or, at least, of landing troops there. He had therefore decided to occupy Norway and Denmark in two days' time. That was the first I heard of it. I was amazed; and the Fuehrer then showed me the documentary evidence which he had received through his intelligence service. He ordered me to prepare notes at once, informing Norway and Denmark that German troops were about to march in. I reminded the Fuehrer that we had a non- aggression pact with Denmark and that Norway was a neutral country, and told him that reports received from our Ambassador at Oslo did not indicate that any landing was planned. When the documents were shown to me, however, I realised how grave the situation was and that the reports had to be taken seriously.

The next day, together with my assistants, I prepared diplomatic notes to be sent by plane to Oslo and Copenhagen on 8th April. We worked the whole day in order to finish these notes. The Fuehrer had given orders that these notes were to arrive shortly before the German occupation. The order was executed.

The occupation of Denmark was completed without friction, as far as I know. I believe that hardly a shot was fired. As soon as we had occupied the country, we negotiated with the Danish Government, under Stauning, and made an agreement that everything should go on without disturbances, and as far as possible in a friendly manner. Denmark's integrity was guaranteed, and matters went on, even in the later stages, in a comparatively quiet and orderly way.

The situation was rather different in Norway. They resisted. We tried to keep the King of Norway in the country and to induce him to stay there. We negotiated with him but we had no success. He went, I believe, to Narvik; and so there was no longer any possibility of negotiating with Norway. Norway was occupied, as you know, and a civil administration established. After this date, Norway was no longer any concern of the Foreign Office; but I should like to add that the Fuehrer told me repeatedly that the measures he had taken were absolutely necessary, and documents found after the British landing in Norway, and published at a later date, showed that the occupation of these countries and the British landing in Norway had been planned well in advance.

Frequent allusions have been made in the course of this trial to the great sufferings of the Norwegian and Danish peoples. I personally am of the opinion that whatever one may think of the German occupation, it prevented Scandinavia from becoming a theatre of war, and I believe that in that way the Norwegian and Danish people were spared untold suffering. If war had broken out between Germany and the Scandinavian countries, these people would have been exposed to much greater suffering and privation.

Q. Did you have anything to do with Quisling before the occupation of Norway?

A. I must explain that the name of Quisling only became known at a much later date. Before the occupation of Norway his name meant nothing to me. It is true that Herr Rosenberg contacted me with a view to assisting pro-German Scandinavians within the scope of the former Nordic Movement (Nordische Bewegung); and that was a perfectly natural thing to do. At that period, we also provided funds for newspapers, for propaganda and for political activities in Norway.

At these discussions - I remember this distinctly - no mention was ever made of any kind of political putsch to be achieved through certain circles in Norway, or of military operations.

Q. What influence did the Foreign Office have in Denmark after the occupation of the country?

A. After the occupation of Denmark the Foreign Office was represented by an ambassador at the Danish Court. Later, because of certain events which I believe it would take too long to enumerate, the Danish Government resigned and

[Page 192]

a Reich Plenipotentiary was appointed. There was also a military commander in Denmark and later on a Higher S.S. and Police Fuehrer.

The activities of the ambassador to the Danish Court were those of an ordinary and very influential ambassador, who tried to straighten out all the difficulties which might naturally arise during an occupation; and the function of the Reich Plenipotentiary, as stated in my instructions, was to treat Denmark, not as an enemy of Germany, but as a friend. This was our guiding principle in Denmark and even at a much later period, when more serious difficulties arose as a result of the intensified warfare, there was really complete quiet and calm in Denmark throughout long years of war, and we were very well satisfied with conditions there.

Later, because of hostile enemy agents, we had, as I said, to take sterner measures; the Reich Plenipotentiary always had instructions from me not to increase the difficulties but to do everything in his power to straighten them out and to maintain good relations between the Danes and the Germans. His task was not always an easy one; but on the whole he did his work satisfactorily.

Q. When and how did you receive reports about the intention of the Franco-British General Staff to include Belgium and Holland in its sphere of operations?

A. Great importance has obviously been attached to this question during the proceedings here. The situation was as follows: In 1937, Germany declared that she had made an agreement with Belgium in which Germany undertook to respect Belgium's strict neutrality on condition that Belgium on her part would maintain her neutrality.

After the Polish campaign the Fuehrer told me on several occasions that, according to intelligence reports, the enemy intended to cross Dutch and Belgian territory to attack the Ruhr. We also sometimes received reports of this kind, though these were of less concrete nature.

In any event, Adolf Hitler believed that an attack on the Ruhr, which was an area of vital importance to Germany, was a possibility that had to be reckoned with at all times. I had a good many discussions with the Fuehrer about that time regarding the importance of Belgian neutrality for the world in general; but I knew, too, that we were involved in a hard struggle where completely different standards would have to be applied.

In the course of events, in the spring of 1940, our intelligence reports about an attack of this kind became more and more concrete, and documents belonging to the French General Staff, which were later found and published by the German Foreign Office, proved conclusively that the reports which Germany had received were absolutely true, and that an attack on the Ruhr area had actually been planned by the then enemies of Germany - i.e. by those who were her enemies at the time.

In this connection I would like to call attention to a document concerning a meeting between Chamberlain and Daladier in Paris, at which Chamberlain suggested an attack on the vitally important industrial areas of the Ruhr through the so-called "chimneys" of Holland and Belgium. I believe this document is here and has been granted to the defence.

The situation before the offensive in the West on which the Fuehrer had decided was therefore such that an attack by the enemy through these great areas might be expected at any time. For this reason he decided to attack across this area - across these two neutral areas - and I believe that after the attack - the military authorities will confirm this - further documents were found and facts established, which as far as I remember, showed that the closest co-operation had existed between the Belgian and, I believe, Dutch General Staff and the British and French General Staffs.

Of course it is always a grave matter in such a war to violate the neutrality of any country, and you must not think that we dismissed it, so to speak, with a wave of the hand. It cost me many a sleepless night and I would like to remind

[Page 193]

you that the same questions arose on the other side and other statesmen also discussed them. I remember a statement to the effect that: "one got tired of thinking of the rights of neutrals"; and this assertion was made by the eminent British statesman, Winston Churchill.

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