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-Sixth Day: Monday, 1st April, 1946
(Part 9 of 12)

[SIR DAVID MAXWELL FYFE continues his cross examination of JOACHIM VON RIBBENTROP]

[Page 243]

Q. Now, you were not present at the meeting of the Fuehrer and his Generals on the 22nd of August, but you must have heard many times the account of it read out since this trial started. You remember the Fuehrer is reported, according to minutes, to have said:
"I shall give up propagandistic reasons for starting the war; never mind whether it be plausible or not. The victor shall not be asked later on

[Page 244]

whether he told the truth or not. In starting and making a war, not the right is what matters but victory."
That is what was said at Obersalzberg. Had Hitler ever said anything like that to you?

A. Did you say 27th?

Q. On the 22nd. What I am asking you is, had Hitler said anything similar to that to you?

A. No, at the meeting on the 22nd, I was not present, I think I was on my way to Moscow.

Q. I said you were not present. That is why I put it in that way. Had he ever said anything similar to you? You say no. Well, now, I want you to come to the 29th.

A. May I say something about that?

Q. No; if you say that he had never said anything similar to you, I am not going to pursue it, because we must not waste too much time on each of these details. I want you to come to the 29th of August, when you saw Sir Neville Henderson, and while accepting, with some reservation, the idea of direct negotiation with Poland you said that it must be a condition of that negotiation that the Poles should send a plenipotentiary by the next day, by the 30th. You remember that?

A. Yes, well, it was like this -

Q. (Interposing) I really do not want to stop you, but I do want to keep it short on this point.

A. In that case I must say no. May I make a statement?

Q. I am sorry, because this is only preliminary. I thought it was common ground that you saw Sir Neville on the 29th, and that you put a number of terms. One of the terms was that a Polish plenipotentiary should be present by the 30th. If you do not agree with that, please tell me if I am wrong, because t is my recollection of all documents.

A. Yes, that is correct.

Q. Now, on the 30th you have told us that your reason for not giving a copy of the terms to Sir Neville was, first, because Hitler had ordered you not to give a copy. I think your reason given at the time was that the Polish plenipotentiary had not arrived, and therefore it was no good giving a copy of the terms. That is right, is it not?

A. Yes, that is correct.

Q. Now these terms that were given, that were read out by you, were not ready on the 29th, because, in your communication demanding a plenipotentiary you said if he came on the 30th you would have the terms ready by that time. So may I take it that these terms were drawn up by Hitler with the help of the Foreign Office between the 29th and the 30th?

A. He dictated them personally. I think there were 16 points, if I remember rightly.

Q. Now, did you really expect after the treatment of von Schuschnigg, of Tiso, of Hacha, that the Poles would be willing to send a fly into the spider's parlour?

A. We certainly counted on it and hoped for it. I think that a hint from the British government would have sufficed to bring that Ambassador to Berlin.

Q. And what you hoped was to put the Poles in this dilemma, that either these terms would stand as a - to use Hitler's phrase - propagandistic cause for the war, or else you would be able, by putting pressure on the Polish plenipotentiary, to do exactly what you had done before with Schuschnigg and Tiso and Hacha, and get a surrender from the Poles. Was not that what was in your mind?

A. No, the situation was different. I must say, that on the 29th the Fuehrer told the British Ambassador that he would draft these conditions or this agreement, and by the time of the arrival of the Polish plenipotentiary, would make them also available to the British Government - "Provided it is possible"; I think

[Page 245]

those were his orders. Sir Neville Henderson took note of that, and I must repeat that the Fuehrer, after the British reply had been received on the 28th, once more, in spite of the extremely tense situation between Poland and Germany, agreed to negotiate. The decisive thing in these crucial days of the 30th and 31st is, therefore, the following: the Fuehrer had drafted these conditions. England knew that the possibility of arriving at a solution existed. All during the 30th of August we heard nothing from Britain, at least nothing definite. Only at midnight, I think, did the British Ambassador report for this discussion. In the meantime, I must mention that, at 7.00 o'clock in the evening the news of the general mobilisation in Poland had been received, which excited the Fuehrer extremely. Through that, the situation had become extraordinarily acute. I still remember exactly the situation at the Chancellery, where almost hourly reports were received about incidents, streams of refugees and so forth. It was an atmosphere heavily charged with electricity. The Fuehrer waited all through the 30th; no definite answer had arrived. Then, at midnight the 30th, that conversation took place. What took place at this meeting has already been described by me here and also by a witness, the interpreter Schmidt.

I did more at that time than I was allowed to do, in that I read the entire contents to Sir Neville Henderson. I was hoping that England perhaps might do something yet. The Fuehrer had told Sir Neville Henderson that a Polish plenipotentiary would be treated on equal terms. Therefore, there was the possibility of meeting somewhere at an appointed place or of someone coming to Berlin, or of the Polish Ambassador Lipski being given the necessary authorities. Those were the possibilities. I would even like to go further.

All that was necessary, during the 30th or the 31st, until late that night or the next morning when the march began, was that the Polish Ambassador Lipski should have authority at least to receive in his hands the German proposals. Had this been done, the diplomatic negotiations would in any case have been under way, and thus the crisis would have been averted, at least, for the time being.

I also believe - and I have said so already - that there would have been no objections. I believe the Fuehrer would have welcomed it, if the British Ambassador had participated. The basis for the negotiations, I have mentioned this also already here, was called reasonable by Sir Neville Henderson personally. One hint from the British government during the 30th or 31st and negotiations could have been assumed on the basis of these proposals of the Fuehrer, accepted even by the British as reasonable. It would have caused no embarrassment to the Poles, and, I believe, that on the basis of these reasonable proposals, which were absolutely in accord with the charter of the League of Nations, which provided for a plebiscite in the Corridor area, a solution, perfectly acceptable for Poland, would have been possible.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn now for ten minutes.

(A recess was taken.)

THE PRESIDENT: Defendant, the Tribunal desires me to say that they think that your answers and your explanations are too long, too argumentative, and too repetitive and they are upon matters which have been gone over and over again before the Tribunal, so they would therefore ask you to try and keep your answers as short as possible.



Did I understand you correctly, witness, on Friday, that you did not know about the connection between Quisling and the defendant Rosenberg in the spring and summer of 1939. It was well before the war - spring and summer, before June of 1939?

A. Yes, it is correct, I knew that Rosenberg had friends in Norway and that the name of Quisling was mentioned, but this name meant nothing to me at that

[Page 246]

time. On the request of the Fuehrer, I gave Rosenberg certain amounts of monies for his friends in Norway; for newspapers, propaganda and similar purposes.

Q. You did not know, as I understand your testimony, that some of Quisling's men had been in a training school in Germany in August of 1939, before the war?

A. No, I do not remember that. I learned of it here through a document. But I do not recall having known anything about it. At any rate, if I had known anything about it, I should not have known what it really meant.

Q. Did you know that the Germans living in Norway had been used to enlarge and extend the staff of the various German official agencies, the legation and the consulates, soon after the beginning of the war?

A. No, I do not remember that at the moment at all. At that time, I probably never did get to know the truth about it, if such was the case.

Q. It is the quotation from the year book of the N.S.D.A.P. All I want to know at the moment is whether or not you knew about that. If you say you did not -

A. No, I do not know and cannot say a thing about it. I am sorry.

Q. Did you know at the time in December, 1939, that Quisling had two interviews with Hitler on the 16th and 18th December?

A. No, I did not know that either. What was the date, may I ask?

Q. 16th and 18th December, 1939 - through the defendant Raeder -

A. No, I knew nothing of these interviews, according to my recollection.

Q. So that practically, the first matter that you knew about in regard to Norway was when you got the letter from Raeder, dated the 3rd April?

A. No, I believe that was a letter from Keitel. I believe that is a misunderstanding.

Q. I beg your pardon. It is a mistake of mine. I am sorry. Do you remember a letter from Keitel, where he says "The Military Occupation of Denmark and Norway had, by order of the Fuehrer been long prepared by the High Command of the Wehrmacht - the High Command of the Wehrmacht had therefore ample time to occupy itself with all the questions connected with the carrying out of this operation." So really, witness - I may perhaps be able to shorten the matter - you are really not a very good person to ask about the earlier preparations with regard to Norway, because you were not au fait with these earlier discussions with Quisling and With Raeder and Hitler. Is that right? If so, I will leave the subject.

A. No, I was not au fait with these discussions. But I should like to make clear - that I received this letter - why, I do not know - only some days later. The first intimation of the intentions of the occupation of Norway, due to the anticipated landing of the British, I received about 36 hours ahead of time, from the Fuehrer. The letter was probably longer under way than it should have been. I saw it only afterwards.

Q. Then I shall not occupy time because there is a good deal to cover, and I will take you straight to the question of the Low Countries. You have heard me read, and probably other people read, more than once, the statement of Hitler's on the 22nd of August, 1939. "Another possibility is the violation of Dutch, Belgian and Swiss neutrality. I have no doubt that all these States, as well as Scandinavia, will defend their neutrality by all available means. England and France will not violate the neutrality of these countries." That is what Hitler said on the 22nd of August. You were not there, and I ask you again if he expressed the same opinion to you?

A. No, he did not do that.

Q. Did you know that from a very early date, on the 7th of October, 1939, that an Army Group order was given that Army Group B is to make all preparations, according to special orders, for immediate invasion of Dutch and Belgian territory if the political situation so demands. Did you know of that order on the 7th of October?

A. No, I believe I have seen it here; I did not know of it before.

[Page 247]

Q. Did you know that on the 9th of October, Hitler issued a directive: "A long waiting period results not only in the ending of the advantage over the Western Powers, of Belgian, and perhaps also of Dutch neutrality, but also strengthens the military power of our enemies to an increasing degree, causes confidence of the neutrals in final German victory to wane. Preparations should be made for offensive action on the Northern flank of the Western Front, crossing the area of Luxembourg, Belgium, and Holland. This attack must be carried out as soon as and as forcibly as possible." Did you know that Hitler issued that directive on the 9th of October?

A. No, I did not know that.

Q. So that as far as you were concerned - you are telling the Tribunal that Hitler gave his assurance, the many assurances, in August and October, without telling his Foreign Minister that on the 7th and 9th of October, he had given the directive for the attack on the Low Countries - that he did not tell you as to his order or his directive for his attack on the Low Countries? Are you sure of that?

A. I am pretty sure of that, otherwise I should recall it. I know one thing, that such thoughts, as to whether or not an offensive should be assumed in the West, after the Polish Campaign, had occasionally been discussed, but I never heard about any orders.

Q. I see. If you say that is the state of your knowledge, we will pass on to something about which you know a little bit more. Do you remember the meeting of Hitler and yourself with Ciano at Obersalzberg on the 12th of August, 1939?

A. Yes, I saw the document - the minutes - about it, here.

Q. Well, then, I want you to just look at that document, and it is Page 181. I want you to follow while I read one passage, which should be about Page 182. It is on my second page and it is a paragraph which begins, "As Poland makes it clear by her whole attitude that in case of conflict ..."

A. I have not found it yet.

Q. Well, if you look for that "As Poland makes it clear by her whole attitude ..."

A. Is that the beginning of the paragraph?

Q. Yes. "As Poland makes it clear ... " It is two paragraphs on from a single line that says at that point "Count Ciano showed signs of ... "

A. I have found it, yes.

Q. Would you look at the next sentence, "Generally speaking ..." This is the next sentence but one:

"Generally speaking, it would be best to liquidate the pseudo-neutrals one after the other. This is fairly easily done if one Axis partner protects the rear of the other who is just finishing off one of the uncertain neutrals, and vice versa. Italy may consider Yugoslavia such a pseudo-neutral.

At the visit of Prince Regent Paul, he, Hitler suggested, particularly in consideration of Italy, that Prince Paul should clarify his political attitude towards the Axis by a gesture. He had thought of a closer connection with the Axis, and Yugoslavia's leaving the League of Nations. Prince Paul agreed to the latter. Recently the Prince Regent was in London and sought reassurance of the Western Powers. The same thing was repeated that happened in the case of Gafencu, who was also very reasonable during his visit to Germany and who denied any interest in the aims of the Western democracies."

Now, that was Hitler's formulation of his policy, and may I take it that that was the policy which you were assisting to carry out, to liquidate the pseudo-neutrals one after the other, and include, among these pseudo-neutrals, Yugoslavia?

A. No, that is not to be understood in that way. I must state the following in this connection. The situation was this: Hitler wanted under all circumstances to keep Italy on our side. Italy was always a very unreliable partner. For that

[Page 248]

reason, the Fuehrer spoke at that time in a way calculated to tell Italy that, if it came to difficulties with Yugoslavia, Germany would support her. It can only be understood from the situation which was this: Germany, with Italy's assistance, had already peacefully carried out some revisions in Europe, except for Danzig and the Corridor, during which Mussolini supported Hitler. I remember the situation -

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