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 11 of 12)

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

[Page 252]

Q. Well, that was a week before Pearl Harbour, on the 29th of November, and according to the Japanese Ambassador, you are saying this to him - if you look at paragraph 1:
"Ribbentrop: It is essential that Japan effect the New Order in East Asia without losing this opportunity. There has never been, and probably never will be, a time when closer co-operation under the Tripartite Pact is so important. If Japan hesitates at this time and Germany goes ahead and establishes her New Order in Europe, all the military might of Britain and the United States will be concentrated against Japan. As the Fuehrer said today: 'there are fundamental differences in the very right to exist between Germany and Japan and the United States.'

We have received advice to the effect that there is practically no hope of the Japanese-United States negotiations being concluded successfully, because of the fact the United States is putting up a stiff front. If this is indeed the fact of the case, and if Japan reaches a decision to fight Britain and the United States, I am confident that that will not only be to the interests of Germany and Japan jointly, but would bring about favourable results for Japan herself."

Do you still say, in view of that document and that statement that you made to the Japanese Ambassador, that you were trying to prevent war with the United States? I suggest to you that you were doing everything to encourage Japan to go to war with the United States.

A. I must contradict you there, Mr. Prosecutor; that is not true. I do not know this document, nor do I know where it comes from; nevertheless, under no circumstances did I express it that way, and I regret that all the other documents which prove that I tried again and again to keep the United States out of the war, have not yet been read here.

I have seen the document here and I have been reflecting here all the time as to how this passage could have got into it. All the other documents - I believe a dozen or a dozen and a half - which have been presented here prove very clearly my wish to keep America out of the war. I can say that for years I had made efforts in all fields, despite the intransigent attitude of the United States, to keep America out of the war. I can only explain this as follows: The Japanese Ambassador earnestly desired that his country should take some action and I know he sent many telegrams to Tokyo in order to get Japan to participate in the war, particularly against Singapore. I can only presume that this is perhaps, if I may say so, an incorrect interpretation of this conference. I ask you to give the defence an opportunity to submit all the other documents up to this date, which will prove the exact opposite of what is laid down in this one paragraph.

Q. Well, this is the official report to the Government of the Japanese Ambassador. You say that he is wrong when he says that you told him - he gives your exact words - that you were confident that it would not only be in the interest of Germany and Japan jointly, but would bring about favourable results for Japan herself.

Well, just look at the next document, if you deny that one, on Page 356. This is another report of the Japanese Ambassador, and he said:

"The day after Pearl Harbour, at one o'clock, I called on Foreign Minister Ribbentrop and told him our wish was to have Germany and Italy issue formal declarations of war on America at once. Ribbentrop replied that Hitler was then in the midst of a conference at general headquarters, discussing how the formalities of declaring war could be carried out, so as to make a good impression on the

[Page 253]

German people, and that he would transmit your wish to him at once and do whatever he was able to have it carried out properly."
Now, look at the last three lines
"At that time Ribbentrop told me that on the morning of the 8th, Hitler issued orders to the entire German Navy to attack American ships whenever and wherever they might meet them."
That was three days before the declaration of war. You say that that report of the Japanese ambassador is also wrong?

A. I believe that it is an error.

Q. What is wrong about it?

A. I believe it is an error. That was after the attack on Pearl Harbour?

Q. Exactly, the day after Pearl Harbour.

A. That was an order of Adolf Hitler to attack American ships which, as everyone knows, had been attacking German ships for months. This is an altogether different situation.

Q. When you say "attacking German ships," do you mean defending themselves against German submarines?

A. No, so far as I know, some months earlier, I cannot tell you the exact date, but it was a long time before Pearl Harbour, we had delivered an official protest to the United States, in which we pointed out, in the case of the two ships "Greer" and "Kerne," that these two had pursued German submarines and had thrown depth charges at them. I believe the Secretary of the Navy Knox admitted this openly in a Press conference. I mentioned yesterday that Hitler said in his speech in Munich that he did not give the order to shoot or to attack American vessels, but that he had given the order to fire back if they fired first.

Q. What I want to know from you is this:

Did you approve of the policy of ordering the entire German Navy to attack American ships whenever and wherever they might meet them three days before war was declared? Did you approve of that?

A. I cannot say anything about that now because I do not remember it and do not even know the document.

Q. Now, I want to ask you about another point. Do you remember that the -

A. It would have been understandable, I must add that.

Q. You have given your answer. Do you remember in June, 1944, that there was a conference, about which we have heard evidence, regarding the shooting of what is known as "terror flyers"?

Now, just listen to this question and try to answer it directly, if you would. Is it correct, as is stated in the report, that you wished to include among terror flyers every type of terror attack on the German civilian population, that is, including bombing attacks on cities? Is it right that you wished to include the airmen engaged in attacks on German cities as terror flyers?

A. No, it is not true.

Q. Well, look at Page 391. This is a report signed by General Warlimont on the conference on the 6th of June, and in the fourth line - well, let me read it. It says:

"Obergruppenfuehrer Kaltenbrunner informed the deputy chief of staff in Klessheim on the afternoon of the 6th that a conference on this question had been held shortly before between Goering, Ribbentrop, and Himmler. Contrary to the original suggestion made by Ribbentrop, who wished to include every type of terror attack on the German civilian population, that is, also bombing attacks on cities, it was agreed at the above conference that merely the other attacks carried out with aircraft armament should be included."
Do you say that Kaltenbrunner was wrong when he said that you wished to include every type of attack?

[Page 254]

A. I do not know whether I should refer to this point once again. Yesterday I answered this question at length. I dealt with this point, I think, very exhaustively. If you wish, I can repeat it now.

Q. Well, I do not want you to repeat it. I want you to answer my question. Do you say that Kaltenbrunner was wrong when he said at this conference that you wished to include those who were engaged in the bombing of cities?

A. It is not true. First of all, so far as I remember, this conference never took place; and, secondly, I stated my attitude perfectly clearly yesterday as to how I wished to treat terror flyers.

Q. Well, answer my question.

A. No, that is not true as you have stated it.

Q. I see. Then answer this question. Did you approve that the treatment of those that you called "terror flyers" should be that they should be left to be lynched by the population or else that they should be handed over to the S.S.?

A. No, that was not my attitude.

Q. Well now, would you look on to Page 393, Page 24 of the English. This, as you know, is a memorandum from the Foreign Office, and it is stated on Page 393 that General Warlimont states that "Ambassador Ritter has advised us by telephone that the Minister for Foreign Affairs has approved this draft." The draft deals with the two actions in paragraph 1, that of lynching, and the draft says, "The German authorities are not directly responsible, since death occurred before a German official intervened."

Do you agree with that view? Is that your view of the lynching of flyers?

A. No, that is not my view. I explained that yesterday quite exhaustively and stated what my attitude was to this document. This document is an opinion of the Foreign Office, which was submitted to me. I do not know how it originated, whether upon my order or upon a statement of the military authorities. I did not approve this opinion as it is submitted to me here, but I did send it to the Fuehrer and asked him to decide about it. The Fuehrer then called this document "nonsense," I believe, and therewith this opinion of the Foreign Office was rejected and did not come into effect.

Q. So that, with regard to this, you say that when Warlimont says that Ambassador Ritter advised the Wehrmacht by telephone on 29th June that you approved the draft, that either Warlimont is not speaking the truth or Ritter is not speaking the truth?

A. At any rate, it is not true, because it can be seen from another document which I have also seen here that this document was sent to the Fuehrer and that I said there that the Fuehrer must approve it. I see no other document regarding it. That is my recollection of the matter.

Q. Well, then, if you referred to the Fuehrer's view, let us just have a look at what that was. Have a look at Document 3780-PS, which will be Exhibit GB 293, which is an account of a meeting that you and Hitler had with Oshima on the 27th of May, 1944. It is on Page 11, lines 9 to 12. Do you remember in your presence Hitler advising Oshima that the Japanese should hang, not shoot, every American terror pilot; so that the Americans will think twice before making such attacks? Did you agree with that view?

A. No, I do not agree with that view. If that is in this document, that is not my meaning, not my opinion.

Q. I see. Well, now -

A. I do not even know where what you said here is in the document.

Q. You will find it on Page 11, lines 9 to 12.

A. No, I do not remember that, but I can only say that this entire attitude of Hitler as it appears in this document was brought about by the terrible results of the air attacks at that time.

Q. I heard all that before. I asked you whether you agreed or not; you said "no." I want you now to deal with another point.

[Page 255]

A. I want to say something further, however, regarding this point because it is of decisive importance.

Q. You will say that to Learned Counsel after you have answered my question on this. I want you now to direct your attention to Stalag Luft 3. You may have heard me asking a number of witnesses a certain number of questions about it. This concerns the fifty British airmen who were murdered by the S.S. after they escaped. Do you know that? Do you know what I am talking about?

A. Yes, I do.

Q. You remember that my colleague, Mr. Eden, made a strong statement in the House of Commons, saying that these men had been murdered and that Great Britain would exact justice upon the murderers? Do you remember that, in June of 1944?

A. I heard of this through the speech made by Mr. Eden in the House of Commons, yes.

Q. And do you remember that the Reich Government issued a statement saying that, in a communication by the Reich Government conveyed to the British via Switzerland, this unqualifiable charge of the British Foreign Minister had been sharply refuted, that being issued in July, 1944? Do you remember that being issued?

A. No, I do not remember it. I only remember the following: that at that time we received proof of what had happened and that it was communicated to us in a note from the protecting powers. That is all I know about it.

Q. That is what I wanted to ask you: Did you know at the time that this statement was issued - did you know that these officers had been murdered in cold blood?

A. No, I did not. I heard that these men had been shot while trying to escape. At that time, to be sure, we did have the impression that everything was not in order. I know that. I remember that.

Q. Let me take it in two stages. Who told you the lie that these men had been shot trying to escape? Who informed you of that lie?

A. I do not remember in detail. At that time we received the proofs from the competent authorities and a memorandum was forwarded to the Swiss Government.

Q. From whom did you get your documentation which contained that lie? Did you get it from Himmler or Goering? -

A. I cannot remember.

Q. Then you told us, I think, that you had a good idea that things were not all right?

A. Yes.

Q. Thank you. Now, I want you to tell us a word about your connection with the S.S. You are not suggesting, are you, at this stage of time that you were merely an honorary member of the S.S.? It has been suggested by your counsel, and I am sure it must have been on some misunderstanding of information that you were merely an honorary member of the S. S. That is not the case, is it?

A. That is no misunderstanding. That is exactly the situation. I received the S.S. uniform from Adolf Hitler. I served no office in the S.S., but as Ambassador and later as Foreign Minister it saw customary to have a rank of some sort and I had the rank of S.S.-Fuehrer.

Q. I put it to you that that is entirely untrue, that you joined the S.S. by application before you became Ambassador- at-Large in May, 1933, is not that right?

A. I know that. I certainly always belonged to the S.S.

Q. You said just now it was honorary, because Hitler wanted you to have a uniform. I am putting it to you; you applied to join the S.S. in May, 1933, in the ordinary way. Did you?

A. Of course, one had to make an application, but the fact was this, that I occasionally went around in a grey great coat and thereupon Hitler said I must

[Page 256]

wear a uniform. I do not know when that was. It must have been 1933. As Ambassador I received a higher rank, as Foreign Minister I received a still higher one.

Q. And May 1933, after you made application, you joined the S.S. in the not too high rank of Standartenfuehrer, did you not?

A. Yes, that could be.

Q. And you only became an Oberfuehrer on the 20th of April, 1935, a Brigadefuehrer on 14th June, 1935 and Gruppenfuehrer on the 13th of September, 1936 - that was after you became an Ambassador - and Obergruppenfuehrer on the 20th of April, 1940. Before you were made an Ambassador you had been in the S.S. for three years and you had received promotion in the ordinary way, when you did your work with the S.S., is that not so?

A. Without ever taking any steps or doing anything myself in the S.S., yes, that is correct.

Q. Just look. Document D-744-A (Exhibit GB 294). The correspondence is 744-B. You may take it; you need not go through it in detail. That is your application, with all the particulars. I just want to ask you one or two things about it. You asked to join, did you not, the "Totenkopf" the Death Head Division of the S.S.?

A. No, that cannot be true.

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