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 10 of 12)

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

[Page 248]

Q. That is quite a long explanation. But it is not an explanation of the words I put to you, which is the important thing. "It would be best to liquidate the pseudo- neutrals one after the other." Are you denying that that was your policy, to liquidate the pseudo-neutrals?

A. No, it was not that. That must not be taken so literally, for in diplomatic discussions - and I do not think it is different in other countries - many things are said sometimes -

Q. (Interposing): I want to -

A. (Interposing): This was a question of Yugoslavia.

Q. It had always been Mussolini's view, had it not, that the Balkans should be attacked at the earliest possible opportunity?

A. That I do not know.

Q. Well, would you look at Document 2818-PS. My Lord, this will be Exhibit GB 292. Remember that this is the secret additional protocol to the friendship alliance pact between Germany and Italy made on the 22nd of May, 1939, and appended to it there are some comments by Mussolini on the 30th of May, 1939. Do you see?

A. What page?

Q. Well, I just wanted you to look at two passages. Do you see where the comments by Mussolini begin? Under the Pact itself, do you see the comment by Mussolini?

A. Yes, here it is.

Well now, No. 1 says:

"The war between the plutocratic and, therefore, selfishly conservative nations and the densely populated and poor nations is inevitable. One must prepare in the light of this situation."
Now, if you will turn to, paragraph 7, you see Mussolini is hoping that the war will be postponed, and he is saying what should happen if the war comes; he says that:
"The war which the great democracies are preparing is a war of exhaustion. One must therefore start with the worst assumption which contains 100 per cent. probability. The Axis will get nothing more from the rest of the world. This assumption is hard, but the strategic positions reached by the Axis diminish considerably, the vicissitude and the danger of a war of exhaustion. For this purpose one must take the whole Danube and Balkan area immediately after the very first hours of the war. One cannot be satisfied with declarations of neutrality, but must occupy the territories and use them for the procurement of the necessary food and industrial war supplies."
Do you see that?

A. Yes, I have it.

Q. Do you not agree that it was Mussolini's view that the Balkans should be attacked at the earliest possible moment?

A. They are utterances of Mussolini which I see here for the first time. I did not know them.

Q. Now, I want you to come to the remarks of Hitler which you have seen considerably more than once. You remember, after the Simovic coup d'etat on the 26th of March, there was a meeting, a conference with Hitler, where he announced his policy:

[Page 249]

"The Fuehrer is determined, without waiting for possible loyalty declarations of the new government, to make all preparations in order to destroy Yugoslavia militarily and as a national unit. No diplomatic inquiries will be made nor ultimatums presented. Assurances of the Yugoslav Government, which cannot be trusted anyhow in the future, will not be taken note of. The attack will start as soon as the means and troops available for it are ready."
Do you remember Hitler saying that on the 27th of March?

A. I do not remember that. Could I perhaps see the document?

Q. Do you not remember it? It has been read many times in this court, Hitler's statement.

A. Yes, I remember it: not the individual words, but in general.

Q. Do you remember that was the sense of it, and I read his words. Now, that was the policy -

A. (Interposing): I do not know what you mean by "the sense of it."

Q. Well, I will put it to you now. What I mean is this, that it was your policy to attack Yugoslavia without asking her for assurances, without any diplomatic action of any kind. You decided to attack Yugoslavia and to bomb Belgrade. Is not that right?

A. No, it was entirely different, and I ask to be permitted to explain the actual state of the case.

Q. I want your explanation of these points which I have specifically read and mentioned to you. "No diplomatic inquiries will be made." Why did you decide, or why did Hitler decide, and you help, to attack Yugoslavia without making any diplomatic inquiries, without giving the new government any chance to give you assurances? Why did you do it?

A. Because the new government had been formed mainly by England, as one of the British interrogation officers himself, in the course of the preliminary hearings, admitted to me. Therefore it was perfectly clear to the Fuehrer, when the Simovic Putsch was carried out, that the enemies of Germany at that time stood behind Simovic's government and that it mobilised this army - this information had been received - in order to attack the Italian army from the rear. It was not my policy, for I was called into this conference of which you are speaking, only later I believe, and at that time Hitler definitely announced his position without being opposed by anyone. I ask you to question the military men about that. I was present, and had a serious encounter with the Fuehrer.

Q. Did you think it right to attack this country without any diplomatic measures being taken at all, to cause - to use Hitler's words "with unmerciful harshness" - military destruction, and to destroy the capital of Belgrade by waves of bomber attacks? Did you think that was right? I ask you a simple question: Did you think it was right?

A. I cannot answer this question either with yes or no, as you want it, without giving an explanation.

Q. Then you need not answer it. If you cannot answer that question yes or no, you need not answer it at all. And I come on to the next point, which is the question of Russia.

Now, as far as I could understand your statement, you said that Hitler had decided to attack the Soviet Union after M. Molotov's visit to Berlin on, I think, the 12th of November of 1940.

A. I did not say that because I did not know it.

Q. Well, as I understood it, one of the reasons which you were giving as a justification for the attack on the Soviet Union was what was said by M. Molotov during his visit of November 1940. Is not that what you said?

A. That was one of the reasons that caused the Fuehrer concern. I did not know anything about an attack at that time.

Q. You know that the defendant Jodl says that even during the Western campaign - that is, May and June, 1940 - Hitler had told him that he had made a

[Page 250]

fundamental decision to take steps against this danger, that is, the Soviet Union, "the moment our military position made it at all possible." Did you know that?

A. I learned that only now here in Nuremberg.

Q. That is L 172, US 34, Jodl's lecture.

Did you know that on 14th August, 1940, General Thoma was informed, during a conference with Goering, that the Fuehrer desired punctual delivery to the Russians only until the spring of 1941; that "later on we would have no further interest in completely satisfying the Russian demands."

Did you know that?

A. No, I did not.

Q. And did you know that in November of 1940 General Thoma. and State Secretaries Koerner, Neumann, Becker, and General von Hanneken were informed by Goering of the action planned in the East?

Did you know that?

A. No, I did not know that either.

Q. You know now, do you not, that a long time before any of the matters raised in M. Molotov's visit came up for discussion, Hitler had determined to attack the Soviet Union?

A. No, I did not know that at all. I knew that Hitler had doubts, but I knew nothing about an attack. I have not been informed about military preparations, because that was out of my province, these matters were dealt with separately.

Q. Even on the 18th of December, when Hitler issued the directive No. 21 on "Barbarossa," he told you nothing about it?

A. No, because just in December, as I happen to remember, I had again a long talk with the Fuehrer in order to obtain his consent to win the Soviet Union as a partner to the three-power pact, and to make it a four-power pact. Hitler was not altogether enthusiastic about this idea, I noticed, but he told me, "We have already made this pact, perhaps we will succeed with that, too." These were his words, it was in December. I believe there is also an affidavit available from a witness, which the defence is going to present.

Q. Do you understand what you are saying? This is after the defendant Goering had announced it to General Thoma and these under secretaries, after the directive had actually gone out for Barbarossa, and you are saying that Hitler let you suggest that you should try and get the Soviet Union to join the three-power pact, without ever telling you that he had his orders out for the attack of the Soviet Union. Do you really expect anyone to believe that?

A. I did not quite understand the question.

Q. The question was, do you really expect anyone to believe that after it had been announced time and again that the Reich was going to attack the Soviet Union, and after the actual directive has gone out for the attack, that Hitler let you tell him that you were thinking of asking them to join the three-power pact? Is that your evidence?

A. Yes, that is exactly the way it was. I suggested this to Hitler again in December, and received his consent for further negotiations. I knew nothing in December of an aggressive war against the Soviet Union.

Q. It was quite clear that, as far as your department was concerned, you were getting the most favourable reports about the Soviet Union and about the unlikeliness of the Soviet Union making any incursion into political affairs inimical to Germany? Is that right, so far as your reports from your own Ambassador and your own people in Russia were concerned?

A. Reports of this sort came from the Embassy in Moscow. I submitted them repeatedly, or rather always, to the Fuehrer, but his answer was that the diplomats and military attaches in Moscow were the worst informed men in the world. That was his answer.

Q. But that was your honest view, based on your own information, that there

[Page 251]

was no danger from Russia, that Russia was keeping honestly to the agreement that she had made with you. That was your honest view, was it not?

A. No, I did not say that. I said those were the reports from the diplomats, which we received from Moscow.

Q. Did you not believe them? Did you not believe your own staff?

A. I was very sceptical myself as to whether these reports were reliable, because the Fuehrer had received reports of an altogether different nature, and the political attitude also pointed in a different direction.

Q. At any rate, in the spring of 1941, your office joined in the preparations for the attack on the Soviet Union, did it not?

A. I do not know precisely when, but some time in the spring things came to a head, and there must have been conferences that dealt with the possibility of a conflict with the Soviet Union. However, I do not recall details about that now.

Q. I see. Again, I do not want to occupy too much time over it, but it is right, is it not, that in April of 1941 you were co-operating with Rosenberg's office in preparing for the taking over of Eastern Territories, and, on the 18th of May, you issued a memorandum with regard to the preparation of the naval campaign?

A. So far as the preparations with Rosenberg are concerned, that is an error. I spoke, according to my recollection, about this matter to Rosenberg only after the outbreak of war. So far as that navy memorandum is concerned, I saw that document here; I had not known of it previously. I believe it is an opinion on International Law about matters which might arise in connection with a war in the Baltic Sea.

Q. It says: "The Foreign Office has prepared, for use in Barbarossa, the attached draft of a declaration of operational zones." Do you not remember anything about that?

A. No, that, I believe, did not reach me at all at that time. It was acted upon by another office. Of course, I am responsible for everything that happened in my ministry.

Q. Was not Ambassador Ritter the liaison Officer between your office and the Wehrmacht?

A. Yes, that is right.

Q. Now, again, I want you to help me about one or two other matters. You have told us that you negotiated the Anti- Comintern Pact back in 1936, and, of course, at that time the Anti-Comintern Pact - and I think you said so yourself - was directed against the Soviet Union. That is so, is it not?

A. Yes, it was more an ideological pact, which, of course, had certain political implications.

Q. And that was extended by the Tripartite Pact of the 27th of September, 1940? That was an extension of the first pact, was it not?

A. It had in itself nothing to do with the first pact, because this one was a purely political, economic and military pact.

Q. Well now, the fact is - and I think I can take this quite shortly - that you were urging Japan to enter the war quite early in March of 1941, were you not?

A. That could be; at that time for an attack on England.

Q. Yes. I am taking it shortly, because you have given your explanation. You say you were at war with England, and therefore you were entitled to see an ally in the Japanese. That is your point, is it not?

A. I do not believe I did anything which other diplomats would not do, for instance, those of Britain and America; and Russia tried to do so but failed.

Q. I am not going to put any points to you on that actual fact, but it did occur to you quite early, did it not, that if Japan came into the war, then it was a possibility that the United States might be brought in shortly after? And you agreed, in April of 1941, that if the coming in of Japan produced the fact that Japan would be involved with the United States, you would be prepared to fight the United. States, too. That is right, is it not?

[Page 252]

A. No, that is not correct. I believe I did everything I could, until the day of Pearl Harbour, to keep America out of the war. I believe also that that is proved by many documents that I have seen here for the first time.

Q. Well now, since you said that, I would like you to look at document N-352 of your book, at Page 204 of the English Document Book.

A. Yes, I know this document; I have already read it here.

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