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 8 of 11)

[GENERAL RUDENKO continues his cross examination of JOACHIM VON RIBBENTROP]

[Page 289]

Q. What is it? Is it one of your efforts to localise the war?

A. I did not understand that last question?

Q. I say, is this one of your efforts to localise the war?

A. The war against Russia had started, and I tried at the time - the Fuehrer held the same view - to get Japan into the war against Russia in order to end the war with Russia as soon as possible. That was the meaning of that telegram.

Q. This was not only the policy of the Fuehrer, it was also your policy as the then Minister for Foreign Affairs?

A. Yes, yes.

Q. I have a few more questions to ask. You state that you never heard a thing about the cruelties perpetrated in the concentration camps?

A. Yes, that is correct.

Q. During the war you, as Minister for Foreign Affairs, studied the foreign Press and the foreign newspapers. Did you know what the foreign Press was saying?

A. No, that is only true up to a point. I had so much to read and so much work to do every day that on principle I only received the foreign political news selected for me from the foreign Press. Thus, during the whole of the war I never had any news from abroad about the concentration camps, until one day your armies - that is, the Soviet Russian armies - captured the camp at Maidanek in Poland.

On that occasion news came from our Embassy and I asked for Press news, etc., to be submitted to me. How I took these news releases to the Fuehrer has already been discussed here. Before that I knew nothing about any atrocities or any measures taken in the concentration camps.

Q. Did you know about the Notes of the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union, Molotov, concerning the atrocities committed by the German fascists in the temporarily occupied territories of the Soviet Union, the deportation into slavery of the people of the Soviet, the pillaging?

A. I think that Notes reached me somehow through diplomatic channels. I am not quite sure how; it may have come through news agencies. However, I do remember that at the time - I believe there were several Notes - at any rate, I remember one of these Notes which I submitted to the Fuehrer. But since the beginning of the Russo-German war, we could not carry out any action in those territories, and we had no influence there. Therefore, I am not informed about details.

Q. I was primarily interested in one fundamental fact, namely - that you were aware of the Notes from the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union.

Tell me, please, do you know that millions of citizens were driven into slavery to Germany?

A. No, I do not know that.

[Page 290]

Q. You do not know. And that those citizens were used as slaves in Germany - you were not aware of that?

A. No. According to what I heard, all these foreign workers are supposed to have been well treated in Germany. I think it is possible, of course, that other things might have happened, too, but, on the whole, I believe that a good deal was done to treat these workers well. I know that on occasion departments of the Foreign Office co-operated in these matters with a view to preventing those things. Generally speaking, however, we had no influence in that sphere, as we were excluded from Eastern questions.

Q. Why were you informed that foreign labourers were treated well, and why were you not informed that they were being treated as slaves?

A. I do not think that this is correct. We in the Foreign Office - in the case of the French, for instance, and any amount of other foreign workers-co-operated by getting musicians, etc., from France for them. We advised on questions concerning their welfare. And I know that the German Labour Front did everything in its power - at least with regard to the sector which we covered to some extent - to treat the workers well, to preserve their willingness to work and to make their leisure pleasant. I know, at least, that those of their efforts in which we co-operated were on those lines.

Q. I now present a penultimate group of questions in connection with the activities of the "Ribbentrop Battalion." I must now request you to read the testimony of S.S. Obersturmbannfuehrer Norman Paul Foerster. This document is submitted as Exhibit USSR 445. Please pay particular attention to Page 3 of Foerster's testimony (it is underlined). It is stated there:

"When in that same month, August 1941, I reported to the address given me in Berlin I learned that I had been transferred to Special Command S.S. of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. An assistant of the Foreign Ministry, Baron von Kuehnsberg, was at the head of the S.S. Special Command. In this command there were about 80 to 100 men altogether, and 300 or 400 men were added later. The Special Command was later re-christened the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Battalion Z.B.V. for special employment.

I was received by Baron von Kuehnsberg in a building belonging to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where the Special Command was quartered. He explained to me that the Special Command was created on instructions from the Reich Minister of Foreign Affairs von Ribbentrop. According to von Ribbentrop's instructions, our Sonderkommander was to move forward with the front line troops in occupied territory in order to protect the cultural treasures - (museums, scientific institutions, art galleries, and so forth) - from ruin and destruction by the German soldiers, to confiscate them and transport them to Germany."

Here I omit a few lines and then:
"On the evening of 5th August, 1941, in the presence of Nietsch, Paulsen, Krallat, Ramersen, Lieben, and others, von Kuehnsberg informed us of Ribbentrop's verbal order according to which all scientific institutions, libraries, palaces, etc., in Russia were to be thoroughly ransacked and everything of any definite value was to be carried off."
Did you find that passage in the document?

A. Yes. Shall I answer?

Q. I should like you first of all to reply to my question, reading as follows. You know that such a Battalion of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs existed, and that in accordance with your directives, it was especially occupied - as is stated in this document - in the preservation of cultural treasures? Please reply to this question.

A. It is quite incorrect, as it appears in this document. I cannot acknowledge it in any way and I must object to it. The following is correct:

[Page 291]

This von Kuehnsberg is a man who was appointed, with a few assistants, long before the Russian campaign, with the idea even at that time of collecting in France documents which might be of importance to us. Any order which ... at the same time, I may say that he had orders to see to it that there should be no unnecessary destruction of art treasures, etc. In no circumstances did he receive from me orders to transport these things to Germany, or to steal any of them. I do not know how this statement came to be made; but in this form it is certainly not correct.

Q. You are against a great many of the documents here. That does not mean that they are incorrect. I am not going to quote from this testimony any further. I shall now refer to a document - it is a letter from the defendant Goering addressed to the defendant Rosenberg. It has already been submitted to the Tribunal as Document 1985 PS. I shall here quote paragraph 2 of the document. It has already been submitted, so I shall read this letter addressed by Goering to Rosenberg into the record. He writes:

"After all the fuss and bother I very much welcomed the fact that an office was finally set up to collect these things, although I must point out that still other authorities had been set up by direction of the Fuehrer - above all, the Reich Minister for Foreign Affairs, who sent a circular to all the organisations several months ago, stating amongst other things, that he had authority in the occupied territories and that he had been made responsible for the preservation of cultural treasures."
We can assume that the defendant Goering is better acquainted with the circumstances anent the preservation of art treasures, Do you not remember this letter?

A. I do not know how this letter from Reich Marshal Goering came to be written. I do not know, but if there is any mention in it of authorities or anything of that kind, that could only refer to the fact that these art treasures were secured in these territories. I have already stated here that during the war neither I myself nor the Foreign Office confiscated or claimed any art treasures whatsoever, whether for my personal use or for our use. It is possible that these art treasures were temporarily placed in safe custody. Certainly none of them passed into our possession. Therefore, it might be a misunderstanding in this letter, because I remember clearly that at that time we were dealing with the safe custody of art treasures. In France, for instance, at that time robberies were beginning to be committed in private houses and art galleries, etc., and I still remember asking the Wehrmacht , to provide guards to keep a watch on these art treasures, etc. At any rate, we in the Foreign Office never saw any of these works of art ourselves.

Q. I think we had better not go too deeply into details. I should like to ask another question in this connection. Do you not think that the term "Preservation of Art Treasures" actually concealed the looting of art treasures of the occupied territories?

A. We certainly never intended that, and I have never given anyone an order to that effect. I should like to state that here emphatically. Perhaps I may add that when I heard that Kuehnsberg had suddenly assembled such a large staff, I immediately ordered him to dissolve his entire battalion - it was not a battalion; that was badly expressed - at any rate, to dissolve it at once - and I think I even remember dismissing him from the Foreign Office, because he did not do what I wanted. I think he was removed from his office.

Q. Very well. I am closing my interrogation. You were Minister for Foreign Affairs as from the 4th February, 1938. Your appointment to this post coincided with the initial period, when Hitler had launched on a series of acts involving a foreign policy which, at long last, led to the world war. The question arises, why did Hitler appoint you his Minister for Foreign Affairs just before embarking on a wide programme of aggression? Do you not consider that he thought you

[Page 292]

were the most suitable man for the purpose, a man with whom he could never have any differences of opinion?

A. I cannot tell you anything about Adolf Hitler's thoughts. He did not tell me about them. He knew that I was his faithful assistant, that I shared his view that we must have a strong Germany, and that I had to get these things done through diplomatic and peaceful channels. I cannot say more. What ideas he may have had, I do not know.

Q. Here is my last question. How can you explain the fact that even now, when the entire panorama of the bloody crimes of the Hitler regime has unfolded before your eyes, when you fully realise the complete crash of that Hitlerite policy which has brought you to the dock - how can you explain that you are still defending this regime, and, furthermore, that you are still praising Hitler and that you are still declaring that the leading criminal clique consisted of a group of idealists? How can you explain that?

THE PRESIDENT: That seems to be a number of questions in one, and I do not think it is a proper question to put to the witness.

GENERAL RUDENKO: I thought that this was only one question which summarises everything.


Q. Will you answer please, defendant Ribbentrop?

THE PRESIDENT: I told you, General Rudenko, that the Tribunal does not think it a proper question to put.

GENERAL RUDENKO: I have no further questions.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Horn, do you want to re-examine?

DR. HORN: I have no further questions to put to the witness, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Then the defendant can return to his seat.

THE PRESIDENT: Now, Dr. Horn, I understand that you are going to deal with your documents now, are you not?

DR. HORN: Yes.

THE PRESIDENT: I see the time; we might perhaps adjourn for ten minutes now.

(A recess was taken.)

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal wishes me to announce that the Tribunal will not sit on Good Friday nor the Saturday afterwards nor on Easter Monday.

MR. BARRINGTON: May it please the Tribunal, I am speaking for all the four prosecutors, to put the prosecution's comments on the document books which the defendant Ribbentrop has put in. I am speaking for all the four prosecutors, with one exception, the French Chief Prosecutor who wishes to speak on two particular groups of documents which are of special interest to the French Delegation. I think, if it is convenient to the Tribunal, I might put the whole of the prosecution's position before Dr. Horn puts his answer if that is agreeable to him.

THE PRESIDENT: Do you agree, Dr. Horn, that he might put his view first? Is it agreeable to you that Mr. Barrington should put his position first?

DR. HORN: Yes.

MR. BARRINGTON: There are in all nine books in the English version and the last two have only been received today, so, as they contain perhaps about 350 documents, I regret that I have not been able to agree in the list with Dr. Horn himself, although I have acquainted him with the comments that the prosecution proposes to make.

The first two books, comprising documents 1 to 44, have already been read in open court on the 27th of March by Dr. Horn, and I take it that your Lordship does not want them gone into again.


MR. BARRINGTON: So that leaves simply books 3 to 9, and I have made out a working note of which I have copies. I do not know whether the members of the Tribunal have them.

[Page 293]


MR. BARRINGTON: Your Lordship will see that on the left column are the documents which the prosecution would object to, and in the middle column are those that they would allow, and there are remarks on the right hand side.

Although this does not show it, I have, for convenience, divided these documents up into nine groups and so I think I need not go through all the documents in detail unless there is any particular question on any one of them.

Before saying what the groups are, perhaps I might make two general remarks, that the prosecution takes the position that the German White Books which figure very largely in this list, White Books issued by the Government of the Nazi conspirators, cannot be regarded as evidence of facts stated therein: and secondly, that there are among these documents a considerable number which are only discussions of subjects in a very vague and tentative stage and a great many of them, in the prosecution's view, are cumulative.

Now, of the first of the nine groups, I have broken them down to: Czechoslovakia and if you will look at the note that I have handed up, that consists of the first few documents down to 45 - I beg your Lordship's pardon. That is wrong. From after 45,there are six PS documents which are already exhibits and there are 46 and 47 and over the page there are 7 more on Czechoslovakia, and the prosecution's position on those is that the six PS documents are allowed and 46 and 47, but over the page 66, 67 and 69 are objected to purely on the ground that they are cumulative - cumulative, I think, of No. 68.

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