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 3 of 5)

[Page 197]

DR. HORN: No. I wanted to show only that Germany made efforts to prevent the conflict with Russia.

THE PRESIDENT: There was no question of a conflict with Russia in any of these negotiations.

DR. HORN: No. It is evident from all the efforts made by Germany - and from Ribbentrop's testimony - that they wanted to eliminate as far as possible any differences which might lead to a conflict between Germany and Russia. The prosecution asserts that the pact with Russia was made with the intention of violating it and attacking Russia - that they had intended to attack Russia all along. I want to prove that that was not the case.

THE PRESIDENT: It seems to me to be very remote, indeed. It only goes to show that Ribbentrop entered into certain negotiations with Russia which had no result. That is all. You may go on, Dr. Horn.


Q. In one of your previous answers you spoke of troop concentrations on the East Prussian border, mentioning twenty German divisions. I assume that that was just a lapsus linguae on your part.

A. I meant to say twenty, Russian divisions. The Fuehrer, I know, mentioned this many times. He said, I believe that we had only one division in the whole of East Prussia.

Q. Was not the Russian occupation of territory in the Balkans and also in the Baltic States the reason for inviting Molotov to Berlin?

A. In the Balkans - no; for there were Russian occupation zones there. But it did apply to Bessarabia, which is not a Balkan country in the strictest sense of the term. It was the occupation of Bessarabia, which took place with surprising speed, and that of Northern Bukovina, which had not been declared to fall within the Russian sphere of influence in the discussions at Moscow - and which was, as the Fuehrer said at the time, really old Austrian crown land - and the occupation of the Baltic territories. It is true that this caused the Fuehrer a certain amount of anxiety.

Q. Is it correct that in the summer of 1940 you and Hitler were informed that a Franco-British military mission was in Moscow?

A. Yes. What was the date, please?

Q. The summer of 1940; that is, after June, 1940?

A. Yes, that is correct. Such reports came in continually, but I cannot say now exactly what part of the summer of 1940. When I arrived in Moscow in 1939, I found French and English military missions there, with instructions from the British and French governments to conclude a military alliance between Russia, England and France. This was part of the policy which the Fuehrer described as "British encirclement policy" in his speech to the Reichstag on - I think - 28th May and which Mr. Churchill's message in 1936 had made quite evident to me.

[Page 198]

Q. Is it correct that at these conferences between ...

SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE: My Lord, I am trying very hard to follow this. I wonder if I could be helped? Did the witness refer to 1940? I wanted to get it clear whether it was 1940 or 1939. It makes a big difference.

THE PRESIDENT: Do you mean about an English mission? 1940, I believe.

A. I was going to reply to that. I have already said that I am quite sure about 1940; I only said that these reports existed. I know, however, that this mission was there in 1939.

Q. During Molotov's visit to Berlin in the year 1940, was any allusion made to the fact that Russia was not satisfied with the last Russo-Finnish peace treaty and that she intended to annex the whole of Finland?

A. It was nothing as definite as that, but it was clear from her attitude that Russia considered Finland as within her sphere of influence. What measures Russia intended to take there, it is not in my power to say.

Q. On 5th April, 1941, a Russian-Yugoslav non-aggression and friendship pact was concluded. How did Germany react to this?

A. This seemed to the Fuehrer to confirm the fact that Russia had deviated from the 1939 policy. He considered it an affront - to use his own words - for he said that he had concluded a pact with Russia, and only a short time afterwards, Russia had concluded a pact with a government which was definitely hostile to Germany.

Q. Is it true that Hitler thereupon forbade you to take any further diplomatic steps in connection with Russia?

A. That is correct. I told the Fuehrer at the time that we must now make even more determined efforts to come to an understanding about Russia's attitude. He said that would be useless and he did not think it would change it.

Q. What were the causes which precipitated the conflict with Russia?

A. In the winter of 1940-41 the Fuehrer was confronted with the following situation. I think it is most important to make this clear.

England was not prepared to make peace. The respective attitudes of the United States of America and of Russia were therefore of decisive importance to the Fuehrer. He told me the following (I had a very lengthy discussion with him on the subject and asked him to give me clearly defined diplomatic directives).

He said, "Japan's attitude is not absolutely in favour of Germany. Although we have concluded the Tripartite Pact, there are strong elements at work against us in Japan and we do not know what position she will take up. Italy proved to be a very weak ally in the Greek campaign. Germany might, therefore, have to stand entirely alone."

After that, he spoke of the American attitude. He said that he had always wanted to have good relations with the U.S.A., but that in spite of extreme caution the U.S.A. had grown steadily more hostile to Germany. The Tripartite Pact had been concluded with a view to keeping the U.S.A. out of the war, as it was our wish and our belief that in this way those circles in the U.S.A. which were working for peace and for good relations with Germany could be strengthened. We were not successful in this, however, as the attitude of the U.S.A. was not favourable to Germany after the conclusion of the Tripartite Pact. The Fuehrer's main idea - and mine - namely, that if the U.S.A. did enter the war, she would have to reckon with a war on two fronts and therefore would prefer not to intervene, was not realised. Now the further question of Russia's attitude came up and in this connection the Fuehrer made the following statement: "We have a friendship pact with Russia. Russia has assumed the attitude which we have just been discussing and which causes me a certain amount of concern. We do not know, therefore, what to expect from that side."

More and more troop movements were reported; he had himself taken military counter-measures, the exact nature of which was - and still is - unknown to me. However, his great anxiety was that Russia on the one hand and the U.S.A. and

[Page 199]

Britain on the other might proceed against Germany. On the one hand, therefore, he had to reckon with an attack by Russia and on the other hand with a joint attack by the U.S.A. and England - that is to say - with large-scale landings in the West. These considerations caused the Fuehrer to take preventive measures by starting a preventive war against Russia of his own accord.

Q. What political reasons were there for the Tripartite Pact?

A. The Tripartite Pact was concluded, I believe, in September 1940. The situation was as I have just described it, that is to say, the Fuehrer was alarmed that the U.S.A. might sooner or later enter the war. For this reason I wanted to do all I could, through diplomatic channels, to strengthen Germany's position. I thought we had Italy as an ally, but Italy showed herself to be a weak ally.

As we could not win France over to our side, the only friend we could count on outside the Balkans was Japan.

In the summer of 1940 we tried to achieve closer ties with Japan. Japan was trying to do the same with us, and that led to the signing of the pact. The aim, or substance, of this pact was a political, military and economic alliance. There is no doubt, however, that it was intended as a defensive alliance; and we considered it as such from the start. By that I mean that it was intended in the first place to keep the U.S.A. out of the war; and I hoped that a combination of this kind might enable us to make peace with England after all.

The pact itself was not based on any plan for aggression or world domination, as has often been said. That is not true, our purpose was, as I have just said, to form a combination which would enable Germany to introduce a new order in Europe which would also allow Japan to reach a solution acceptable to her in East Asia - especially in regard to the Chinese problem.

That was what I had in mind when I negotiated and signed the pact. The situation was not unfavourable. The pact might keep U.S.A. neutral, and isolate England so that she would have to compromise on peace terms, a possibility of which we never lost sight during the whole course of the war, and for which we worked steadily.

Q. What effect, according to the reports which reached you, did the Anschluss of Austria and the Munich Agreement have on the United States?

A. There is no doubt that the occupation of Austria and the Munich Pact produced a much more unfavourable feeling towards Germany on the part of the U.S.A.

Q. In November, 1938, the American Ambassador at Berlin was recalled to Washington to report to his Government, and the normal diplomatic relations with Germany were broken off. According to your own observations, what were the reasons for this measure?

A. We never really found out the details, and we very much regretted it, as it forced us to recall our own Ambassador in Washington, at least, to call him back to make a report.

It is, however, evident that this measure was determined by the whole attitude of the U.S.A. Many incidents took place about this time which gradually convinced the Fuehrer that sooner or later the U.S.A. would enter the war against us.

Permit me to mention a few examples. President Roosevelt's attitude was defined for the first time in the Quarantine speech which he made in 1937. The Press then started an energetic campaign.

When the Ambassador was recalled the situation grew more critical and the effect began to make itself felt in every sphere of German-American relations.

I believe that many documents dealing with the subject have been published in the meantime, and that a number of these have been submitted by the defence, dealing, for instance, with the attitude adopted by certain U.S.A. diplomats at the time of the Polish crisis; the cash-and-carry plan, which could only benefit Germany's enemies; the cession of destroyers to England; the so-called "Lend-Lease" Bill later on; and in other fields the further advance of the U.S.A. towards

[Page 200]

Europe: the occupation of Greenland, Iceland, Africa, etc., the aid given to Soviet Russia after the outbreak of war. All these measures strengthened the Fuehrer's conviction that sooner or later he would have to reckon with a war with America. There is no doubt that the Fuehrer did not in the first instance want such a war; and I may say that I myself - as I think you will see from many of the documents submitted by the prosecution - did everything I could, through diplomatic channels, to keep the U.S.A. out of the war.

Q. In the summer of 1941 President Roosevelt gave his so- called "firing order" to the American fleet in order to protect transports carrying armaments to England.

How did Hitler and German diplomacy generally react to this order?

A. It was a very regrettable event for us. I am not competent to deal with technical details but I remember that Hitler was greatly excited about this order, I believe it was in a speech at some meeting - probably at Munich, but I do not remember exactly - that he replied to this speech and issued a warning in answer to the announcement. I happen to remember the form which his reply took, because at the time I thought it rather odd. He said, "America has given the order to fire on German ships. I gave no order to fire but I ordered that the fire be returned." I believe that is the way he expressed it.

Documentary evidence of these events reached us in the diplomatic service, but the Navy is better informed on the subject than I am. After that, I believe, there were protests and publications about the measure which made the German attitude plain; I cannot give you the exact nature of these protests without referring to the documents themselves.

Q. Did Japan notify Germany in advance of her attack on Pearl Harbour?

A. No, she did not. At the time I tried to induce Japan to attack Singapore, because it was impossible to make peace with England and I did not know what military measures we could take to achieve this end. In any case, the Fuehrer directed me to do everything I could through diplomatic channels to weaken England's position and thus achieve peace. We believed that this could best be done through an attack by Japan on England's strong position in East Asia. For that reason I tried to induce Japan to attack Singapore.

After the outbreak of the Russo-German war, I also tried to make Japan attack Russia, for I thought that in this way the war could be ended more quickly. Japan, however, did not do that. She did neither of the things we wanted her to do, but instead, she did a third. She attacked the United States at Pearl Harbour. This attack came as a complete surprise to us. We had considered the possibility of Japan attacking Singapore - that is England - or perhaps Hong Kong, but we never considered an attack on the United States as being to our advantage. We knew that in the case of an attack on England, there was a possibility that the U.S.A. might intervene; that was a question which, naturally, we had often considered. We hoped very much, however, that this would not happen and that America Would not intervene. The first news I received of the attack on Pearl Harbour was through the Berlin Press, and then from the Japanese Ambassador Oshima. I should like to say under oath that all other reports, versions or documentary evidence are entirely false. I would like to go even further to state that the attack came as a surprise even to the Japanese Ambassador - or so he told me, at least.

DR. HORN: Do your Honours wish for a recess now?

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Horn, how much longer are you going to take?

DR. HORN: Not much more, your Honour. I should say 15 or 20 minutes.

THE PRESIDENT: Very well, we will recess for ten minutes.

(A recess was taken.)

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