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-Seventh Day: Tuesday, 2nd April, 1946
(Part 3 of 11)

[M. FAURE continues his cross examination of JOACHIM VON RIBBENTROP]

[Page 269]

Q. You said, did you not, that all Jews were to be deported to the Eastern reservations? Is that correct? Please reply "yes" or "no."

A. Whether I was in favour of it?

Q. Germany deported all the Jews from German territory and territories occupied by her to Eastern reservations. That is true, is it not?

A. I do not know the contents of the document in detail. I do not know what I myself said in detail. But at any rate I knew that here - that the Fuehrer had ordered that the Jews of the occupied territories in Europe were to be transported to reservations in the East and resettled there. That I did know. The carrying out of these measures, however, was not my task as Minister for Foreign Affairs, nor was it the task of the Foreign Office, but I did know that it was the Fuehrer's wish. In this connection, I remember that I received an order from him to discuss the matter with the Italian Government so that they, too, would introduce corresponding measures regarding the Jewish problem. That applied to other countries as well, where we had to send telegrams quite frequently, so that these countries should solve the Jewish question.

THE PRESIDENT: M. Faure, did you read to the witness the second paragraph beginning "Further, the Reich Foreign Minister dealt with the Jewish question"?

M. FAURE: Yes, Mr. President, the second paragraph. That is the paragraph which I have just been reading.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you read the third one, but I did not know you read the second one, too. You read the second one, too, did you? Very well.

M. FAURE: Yes, I read it as well, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: The document is a new document, is it not?

M. FAURE: Yes, Mr. President, it is a document which I would like to submit as Exhibit RF 1501, It belongs to the D- series; it is D-734 of the British Document Books.

THE PRESIDENT: Has the defendant said whether he admits that it is a substantially accurate account of the conversation?

THE WITNESS: I can no longer say for certain, Mr. President; what I did say at the time, I only know and gather, from this document, from these words, that the Jews were spreading British and American intelligence. I can remember that. at that time a large espionage and sabotage organisation was in existence, and that this organisation was causing a great deal of trouble in France, and that the Fuehrer ordered me to discuss the matter with Mussolini, since the Italians were opposing certain measures we had introduced in France. I spoke to Mussolini and told him that the Fuehrer was of the opinion that, where this question was concerned, we should have to come to a definite understanding.

THE PRESIDENT: I think, defendant, you have already told us that. The question that I asked was whether you agreed that it was a substantially accurate account of the conversation.

THE WITNESS: I consider that in certain points the report is incorrect, but fundamentally the position was as I have just explained it.

[Page 270]


Q. Now, you also spoke about this question with Horthy, did you not?

A. Yes. I had to confer several times with the Hungarian Government so as to persuade it to do something about the Jewish problem. The Fuehrer was extremely insistent on this point. I therefore discussed the question repeatedly with the Hungarian Ambassador and the question was primarily to centralise the Jews somehow or other in some part of Budapest, I think it was slightly outside Budapest or in - as a matter of fact, I do not know Budapest very well - in any case, it was somewhere in Budapest itself. That was the first point. And the second point dealt with the removal of the Jews from influential Government posts, since it had been proved that Jewish influence, in these departments, was sufficiently authoritative to bring Hungary to a separate peace.

Q. The document relating to your conversation or one of the conversations which you had with Horthy has already been produced. It was that of the 17th of April, 1943. It is Document D-736, which was submitted as Exhibit GB 283. During the interrogation of your witness Schmidt, the British prosecutor asked this witness if he admitted having compiled this account, and this was confirmed by Schmidt. This note bears the following remark at the bottom of the first paragraph:

"The Foreign Minister, declared that the Jews were either to be exterminated or sent to concentration camps. There was no other solution."
You did say that, did you not?

A. I definitely did not say it in those words. But I would like to reply as follows:

It was, apparently, an account prepared by Ambassador Schmidt, as was his habit, some days after a long discussion between the Fuehrer and Horthy. I have already said that the Fuehrer had repeatedly charged me to talk to Horthy, to the Hungarian Government, to the Ambassador, in order to reach a solution of the Jewish question. At the time when Horthy visited the Fuehrer, the Fuehrer emphasised the question to him in a very irritable manner, and I remember perfectly that subsequent to this discussion I talked the matter over with Ambassador Schmidt, saying that I, strictly speaking, had not quite understood the Fuehrer.

The remark mentioned was definitely not made in this way. Horthy had apparently said that he could not, after all, beat the Jews to death. It is possible, since there would have been no question of that in any case, that in this connection I did endeavour to persuade Horthy to do something or other at once about the Jewish question in Budapest, namely, that he should undertake the centralisation which the Fuehrer had already wished to carry out for a very long time. My objection or my interpolation may have referred to this question.

I must add that the situation, at that time, was as follows: we had been receiving repeated indications from Himmler, to the effect that Himmler wished to handle the Jewish situation in Hungary himself. I did not want this, since, one way or another, it would probably have created political difficulties abroad.

Consequently, acting on the wish of the Fuehrer, who was extremely obstinate on this subject, I - as is known - repeatedly attempted to smooth matters over and, at the same time, pin the Hungarians down to do something about it in any case. Therefore, if - from a long conversation - some remark has been extracted and summarised in brief, and contains some such statement, it certainly does not mean that I wished all the Jews to be beaten to. death. It was one hundred per cent. contrary to my personal convictions.

Q. I do not understand whether you answered my question or not. I will have to ask you again. Is the report correct, or is it not correct?

A. No, in this form it cannot be correct. These are minutes. I, personally, have never seen these minutes before, otherwise I should have said at once that

[Page 271]

this is nonsense and liable to misconstruction. I did not see these minutes before I saw them for the first time in Nuremberg.

I can only say one thing which may possibly have occurred. I might have said ... well yes, "The Jews cannot be beaten to death, so, please do something in order that the Fuehrer may be satisfied at long last, and centralise the Jews."

That was our aim, at that time at any rate. We did not want to render the situation more acute, we were trying to do something in Hungary so that no other department could take the matter in hand, thereby creating political difficulties abroad for the Foreign Office.

Q. You knew at that time that many Jews had been deported. That may be gathered from your explanations.

THE PRESIDENT: Just one moment, please. Are you passing from this document?

M. FAURE: I was continuing to speak of it in more general terms.

THE PRESIDENT: You are passing from it, did you say?

M. FAURE: Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, defendant, the Tribunal would like to know whether you did say to the Regent Horthy that Jews ought to be taken to concentration camps.

THE WITNESS: I consider it possible that such may have been the case, for we had, at that time, received an order that a concentration camp was to be installed near Budapest or else that the Jews should be centralised there, and the Fuehrer had instructed me a long time before to discuss with the Hungarians a possible solution of the Jewish question. This solution should consist of two points: one was the removal of the Jews from important Government positions and the other - since there were so many Jews in Budapest already - to centralise the Jews in certain quarters of Budapest.

THE PRESIDENT: I understand your suggestion to be that this document is inaccurate.

THE WITNESS: Yes, it is not accurate. The way I should like to put it, Mr. President, is that when reading the document, it would appear - from this document - that I considered it possible or desirable to beat the Jews to death. That is perfectly untrue, but what I did say here, and what I emphasised later on, could only be understood to mean what I wished to be done in Hungary to solve the Jewish problem, so that other departments should not interfere in the matter. For the Fuehrer often spoke to me about it, very seriously indeed, too, saying that the Jewish problem in Hungary must be solved ...

THE PRESIDENT (Interposing): You have told us that, I think, already. What I wanted to ask you was this: Are you suggesting that Schmidt, who drew up this memorandum, invented the last few sentences, beginning with the words:

"If the Jews there did not want to work they were shot. If they could not work they had to succumb. They had to be treated like tuberculosis bacilli with which a healthy body may become infected. This was not cruel if one remembered that innocent creatures of nature, such as hares or deers, have to be killed so that no harm is caused by them. Why should the beasts who wanted to bring us Bolshevism be spared more? Nations which did not rid themselves of Jews perished. One of the most famous examples of this was the downfall of a people who once were so proud, the Persians, who now lead a pitiful existence as Armenians."
Are you suggesting that Schmidt invented those sentences or imagined them?

THE WITNESS: Mr. President, I should like to add that I myself was very grieved by these words of the Fuehrer, and I did not quite understand them. But perhaps this attitude can only be understood if we remember that the Fuehrer believed that the Jews had caused this war, and that he had gradually developed a very fanatical hatred for them. I remember, too, that later on, after this conference, I discussed with the

[Page 272]

interpreter, Schmidt, and the two gentlemen the fact that this was the first time the Fuehrer had used expressions in connection with the Jewish problem which I could no longer understand. These words were certainly not invented by Schmidt. The Fuehrer did express himself in some such way at that time. That is true.



It appears from this document that you thought there were concentration camps in Hungary and yet you said yesterday that you did not know there were any in Germany. Is that not so?

A. I did not know that there were any concentration camps in Hungary, but I did say that the Fuehrer had instructed me to ask Horthy, to ask the Hungarian Government to concentrate the Jews in Budapest, in certain parts of the city of Budapest. As to concentration camps in Germany, I already spoke yesterday about my knowledge of that subject.

Q. You admitted that you knew Hitler's policy to deport all Jews and you admitted that insofar as you were competent as Minister for Foreign Affairs, you assisted this policy, did you not? That is right, is it not?

A. As his faithful follower I adhered to the Fuehrer's orders even in this field, but I always did my utmost to alleviate the situation as far as possible. This can be stated and proved by many witnesses. Even in 1943 I submitted a comprehensive memorandum to the Fuehrer in which I urged him to alter the Jewish policy completely. I could also quote many other examples.

Q. If I understand your testimony rightly, you were morally opposed to this persecution of Jews, but you did help to carry them out, is that not so?

A. I repeatedly said at the very beginning of my examination that in that sense I have never been anti-Semitic. But I was a faithful follower of Adolf Hitler.

Q. Apart from the Jewish question, you dealt with arrests of French people, did you not?

A. The arrests of Frenchmen ...

Q. Yes. Did you or did you not give orders to arrest Frenchmen?

A. It is quite possible that this was so. Quite possible.

Q. Can you be more precise on that subject? A. No, I cannot, for the moment, remember any details. In any case I know that Frenchmen were arrested. just how far this depended on us, at that time, I do not know. It was, I think, in 1944, shortly before the invasion, that the Fuehrer issued an order to the effect that a large number of important French members of the Resistance Movement were to be arrested, on the spot, and I believe that we were advised accordingly. It is also possible that we co-operated in this action to a certain extent, but I cannot remember any details.

It was a question of arresting those elements who would kindle the flame of the Resistance Movement in the event of an invasion, and would attack the German armies in the rear. But I cannot give you any more particulars now.

Q. I ask that you be shown a document which will be submitted as Exhibit RF-1506. It is an affidavit by Dr. Knocken. I shall read some passages from this document.

"At the end of 1943 - it must have been in December - there was a conference at the Foreign Office on the measures to be taken in France. As I was in Berlin I was also summoned to it. Present at this conference were:

The Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop,
the Secretary of State von Steengracht,
Ambassador Abetz,
another member of the Foreign Office, whose name I do not know,
the chief of the Sipo and the S.D., Dr. Kaltenbrunner,
the Higher S.S.- and Police Fuehrer in France, Oberg,

[Page 273]

and representing the Military Commander in chief was his Chief of Staff,

Colonel Kossmann,

if my memory serves me right.

The Minister stated the following:

The Fuehrer expects in future that in France more attention shall be paid than hitherto. The enemy forces must not be allowed to increase. All German service establishments will have to carry out their duties more meticulously."

I omit the next paragraph. Then we read the following:
"He sees arising a danger, in event of invasion, of those prominent Frenchmen who do not wish to collaborate with Germany, but who are secretly active against her. They might constitute a danger to the forces. These dangerous elements should be sought out in business circles, University centres, in certain military and political circles and all classes of society connected with them. He believes that it will be necessary to strike an immediate blow against these people. He suggests that they number easily 2,000 people or more. At a moment when it is necessary to defend Europe against her enemy, there is no reason why we should shrink from taking preventive measures of this kind in France. As to the practical means of putting this into effect, Ambassador Abetz will have to take up this matter immediately and draw up a list, in collaboration with the German service establishments, in order to take account of all the questions that arise out of this matter."
I end the quotation here. Do you admit the accuracy of this document?

A. Yes, I distinctly remember that discussion. This was a Fuehrer Order to the effect that immediate action be taken - I have just spoken about this - in view of the pending invasion, to arrest all potentially dangerous elements who could fan the flame of resistance in the rear of the German armies. I consider this a perfectly comprehensible measure which any Government, with the welfare of the troops at heart, would have made.

I then held this conference. I expected that there would be a far greater wave of arrests, but, as a matter of fact, and to the best of my belief, we arrested only a comparatively small number.

Subsequently we had comparatively little to do with the actual arrests; they were carried out by the Police.

But it is perfectly clear that this conference did take place at the time indicated, and that we did what had to be done at the moment, as proposed, namely - the arrest of elements who might have been dangerous in case of an invasion. That is quite true.

M. FAURE: I have no further questions.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal will adjourn.

(A recess was taken.)

[ Previous | Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.