The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
16th July to 27th July 1946

One Hundred and Seventy-Ninth Day: Tuesday, 16th July, 1946
(Part 11 of 11)

[DR. SIEMERS continues.]

[Page 47]

This completed my general treatment of the key documents and I now ask the Tribunal's permission to add a few points on each individual document, since the prosecution again and again stressed these documents as the basis for the charge of conspiracy.

Discussion of 5th November, 1937, in the Reich Chancellery:

The crucial passages of this document are obvious, and the prosecution has cited them often enough. But in dealing with this document it should be taken into consideration that both Goering and Raeder stated here that Hitler announced in advance his intention of following a certain trend or purpose in his speech. Hitler was dissatisfied with the measures taken by Field-Marshal von Blomberg, and especially by Generaloberst von Fritsch, the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, and felt that progress in the rearmament of the Army was too slow. Hitler therefore intentionally exaggerated, and since this was known only to Goering and Raeder, it is natural that the impression which the speech made on Neurath, who had no idea of this intention, was entirely different and considerably alarming.

It is interesting to note that apparently Hitler did not fully get what he wanted, because the last two paragraphs of the document indicate that to some extent Blomberg and Fritsch saw through Hitler's scheming, and that his exaggerations did not deceive them. Though Hitler did not permit discussion on such occasions, Blomberg and Fritsch intervened in this case and pointed to the need for preventing England and France from lining up as Germany's adversaries. Blomberg explained the reasons for his protest, and in the penultimate paragraph of the document Fritsch showed unmistakably that he was sceptical of Hitler's words, by remarking that under such circumstances he would not be able to take his planned vacation abroad, scheduled to begin on 10th November.

It is also significant that Hitler thereupon came round and, in contrast to his earlier statements, said that he was convinced of England's non-participation, and that, consequently, he also did not believe in any military action against Germany un the part of France.

That Hitler's ideas in this document are not tenable is also evident from the fact that as a starting-point for his statements he voiced a truly fantastic view, namely an Italian-French-English war or - equally fantastic - a civil war in France. In contradictory terms Hitler spoke in his speech on the one hand of an application of force, on the other of an attack by Poland against East Prussia - which could only refer to German defensive measures - and in regard to Czechoslovakia he said that in all probability England and France had already quietly written that country off. This reference is an indication that Hitler was prepared to negotiate, which also corresponds to the actual historic developments. He said that Austria and Czechoslovakia would be brought to their knees but, nevertheless, in the following year, in March and September, 1938, he carried on negotiations and settled both questions without war. This fact in particular seems significant, because it proved to Raeder, in the course of later events that he was right in not ascribing undue importance to Hitler's sharp words of 5th November, 1937, for in spite of these words Hitler, in reality, carried on negotiations at a later date.

During his interrogation Raeder also rightly pointed out that the second extensive Naval Pact had been concluded with England only just a few months earlier and that as a result he could not seriously expect Hitler to abandon a line of policy which he himself was pursuing.

[Page 48]

And finally, there is this point: the whole document deals with political questions on the one hand, and with possible land operations on the other. Raeder had nothing to do with political questions because he is no politician, while Neurath as Foreign Minister, naturally had reason to consider Hitler's political attitude more important. It is also significant that Neurath testified here that, as a result of this speech, he too asked Hitler for his personal attitude, and that he refused to remain Foreign Minister because Hitler told him that those were his actual intentions. To me it seems typical of Hitler to tell one person, namely Neurath, that perhaps he would go to war, and to tell another, namely Raeder, that he would under no circumstances wage war. This difference in explaining his position was obviously caused by the fact that at that time he no longer appreciated Neurath as Foreign Minister, because he realised that in the foreign policy which he proposed to follow, Neurath would not be as submissive as the successor whom he had in view, Ribbentrop. On the other hand, at that time he still wanted to retain Raeder as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy at all costs. This is another instance of how Hitler's actions were determined by a certain ultimate purpose, and how he always and without any compunction followed the principle that the end justifies the means.

Hitler's speech of 23rd May, 1939, the so-called "Little Schmundt", US-27. Here again Hitler expressed himself in the most dubious fashion imaginable; he speaks of a programme of aggression, of the preparation of a planned attack and of the decision to attack Poland. I fail in no way to recognize that there is good reason for the prosecution to consider this document as particularly good evidence. I believe, however, that taking into account the numerous aspects which I pointed out, the value of this document as evidence in the case of Raeder is very much smaller than the prosecution maintains and very much smaller than a first glance at the wording of the Schmundt version might warrant. Schmundt obviously made an endeavour to formulate Hitler's contradictory, fantastic and incongruous statements more clearly in line with his exact military ways of thinking. This gives the document a clarity which does not correspond to Hitler's speech. We do not know when Schmundt prepared the document, and he failed to show the record he had made to the other participants.

During his examination and cross-examination the witness Admiral Schulte-Monting pointed to the contradictions of this document in particular, which I need not repeat here. Of even greater and decisive importance is the contradiction between these words and the words which Hitler at the same time again and again used in conversation with Raeder, and which always followed the same line, namely that he did not intend to wage war and that he would not make excessive demands.

Raeder was shocked by this speech, and was only calmed by the private conversation which he had with Hitler directly after the speech, when Hitler assured him that he would under all circumstances settle the case of Poland also in a peaceful manner. Raeder believed him, and had every right to assume that Hitler was telling him the truth in answer to his very precise question. I draw attention to the very exact statements made on this document during the examination of Raeder and the examination of the witness Schulte-Monting. I especially refer to the statement of Schulte-Monting that Hitler used the comparison that nobody would go to court if he had received 99 Pfennigs but wanted one Mark, and added that in the same way he had received what he had asked for politically, and that consequently there could be no war on account of this last political question, namely the question of the Polish Corridor. That Raeder himself was absolutely opposed to a war of aggression and that he relied in this respect on Hitler's assurances, is proven by the statements of all witnesses and not least by the deposition by Donitz that on the occasion of the U- boat manoeuvres in the Baltic Sea in July, 1939, Raeder expressed his firm conviction that there would be no war. Raeder, furthermore, knew that the Navy was absolutely unfit for a war at sea against England; he had explained that to Hitler again and again. But he was confident

[Page 49]

that in the Polish question also, Hitler, as he had said, would again negotiate; the testimony of the witness Dahlerus shows that negotiations did in fact take place, and they were even successful at the beginning. The reason why nevertheless the attempt finally failed and the Second World War began, was explained in detail by the witness Dahlerus who illustrated the terrible tragedy of this event.

It seems to me important that up to August, 1939, not only the witness Dahlerus but also Chamberlain still believed in Hitler's good will. It must be said again therefore that one cannot expect Raeder as a soldier to have been more far- seeing and to have recognized Hitler's dangerous ideas, if men like Chamberlain, Halifax and Dahlerus did not even at that time see through Hitler.

I myself have referred to the seriousness and the incriminating character of this document, but I ask the Tribunal to take into consideration that the incriminating material in this document just as in the document of 5th November, 1937, is of political nature. As defence counsel for the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, I have to judge the facts not from a political but from a military point of view. From a military point of view, however, it is absolutely impossible to follow the arguments of the prosecution, because the military leaders are not authorized to take part in decisions about war and peace, but are merely obliged to make such military preparations as the political leaders consider necessary. In no country of the world does an admiral have to give his opinion on whether the possible war, for which he must make plans, is a war of aggression or a defensive war. In no country of the world does the decision of the question whether war will be waged rest with the military, but on the contrary it is always left to the political leaders, or to the legislative bodies.

Accordingly, Article 45 of the German Constitution stipulates that the Reich President represents the Reich in international relations and stipulates further:

"The declaration of war and the conclusion of peace are decreed by a law of the State."
Therefore, the question whether a war was to be waged against Poland rested with the Reichstag and not with the military leaders. Professor Jahrreiss has already explained that in view of the constitutional development of the National Socialist State this decision rested in the last analysis exclusively with Hitler. For the case of Raeder it is of no consequence whether Hitler could be regarded as constitutionally authorized to start a war on his own decision, as he actually did in the autumn of 1939. The decisive factor is only that at all events the military leaders were not authorized, either in practice or constitutionally, to participate in this decision. The prosecution cannot possibly maintain that every act of military planning on the part of Germany was a crime; for the military leaders, who merely receive the order to work out a certain plan, are neither authorized nor obliged to decide whether the execution of their plans will later on lead to an aggressive or a defensive war. It is well known that the allied military leaders rightly hold the same view. No admiral or general of the Allied armed forces would understand it, if a charge were brought against him on the basis of the military plans which were made on the Allied side too a long time before the war. I do not have to elaborate this point, I believe it will suffice if I refer to Ribbentrop Document No. 221. This is a secret document, which, according to the title, deals with the "Second Phase of the Anglo-French General Staff Conferences". This document shows that exact plans, regarding the Allied forces, were worked out for a war embracing many countries; plans which according to this document include a war in Europe and a war in the Far East. The document expressly says that the French and British Commanders-in-Chief in the Far East-I quote-"worked out a joint plan of operations", and it expressly speaks about the importance of possessing Belgian and Dutch territories as a starting-point for the offensive against Germany. The decisive point about this parallel military case seems to me to be the fact that this document bears a date in the same month as Hitler's

[Page 50]

speech to the Commanders-in-Chief, which has already been discussed, namely, May, 1939. The document has the inscription: "London, 5th May, 1939".

I now come to the address of Hitler to the Commanders-in- Chief on 22nd August, 1939, at the Obersalzberg.

Regarding the evidential value of Documents 1014-PS and 798- PS submitted by the prosecution, I should like first of all for the sake of brevity to refer to the statements which I made to this Tribunal in connection with the formal application to reject Document 1014-PS. Although the Tribunal denied this application, I still maintain that the evidential value attached to these documents, and particularly to Document 1014-PS, is very small. The American prosecution, in presenting these documents, pointed out at the time that the Tribunal should take into consideration any more accurate version of this speech which the defence might be able to submit. I therefore submitted Raeder Exhibit No. 77, the version of the witness Admiral Boehm, and I believe that when I submitted it, I showed convincingly that it is in fact a more accurate version than the versions contained in the prosecution documents. Sir David Maxwell Fyfe then handed in two documents in which Boehm's version is very scrupulously compared with the versions 1014-PS and 798-PS; in this way he considerably facilitated the comparison of these documents for all of us. So as on my part to assist the Tribunal and the prosecution in making this comparison, I requested Admiral Boehm in the meantime to compare these versions himself and in doing so to use the compilation of the British prosecution which I mentioned just now. The result is contained in Boehm's affidavit.

When surveying all this material, it is clear that Document 1014-PS is extremely incomplete and inaccurate, all the more so as, apart from its formal deficiencies, it is only one and a half pages long, and for this reason alone cannot be an adequate reproduction of a two-and-a-half-hours speech.

Document 798-PS is no doubt more satisfactory, but it also contains numerous errors as Boehm's affidavit shows. Not every sentence is of importance, but the point is that some of the most important passages from which a charge against the Commanders-in-Chief might more easily be deduced were actually, according to Boehm's sworn statement, never spoken at all. According to Boehm's affidavit it is not true that Hitler said he had decided as early as spring, 1939, to attack the West first and the East later. Nor did he use the words: "I only fear that at the last moment some swine will come to me with an offer of mediation; we shall continue in the pursuit of our political aims." And, most important of all, these words were never used, either: "Annihilation of Poland in the foreground, the aim is the liquidation of the living forces and not the reaching of a certain line"; Hitler only spoke of the breaking up of the military forces.

These differences in individual words and phrases are very important, because they concern the sharp phrases to which the prosecution has frequently drawn attention, and from which the intention of a war violating International Law, or even the intention to murder civilians, can be deduced. If these phrases had been spoken, one could justly accuse the Commanders-in-Chief who were present of having waged the war and of having carried out Hitler's orders, in spite of the criminal end in view. If, however, these sentences were not used, but, as Boehm testified under oath, other sentences referring merely to military aims, then the prosecution cannot reproach any of the Commanders-in-Chief present for having remained at their posts. No one can in earnest demand of an admiral that he should resign his post a few days before the outbreak of a war, and thus shake the military power of his own country. I am quite convinced that the most serious reproaches can, at any rate, be brought against Hitler's attitude from after the time of the Munich Agreement until the outbreak of the war in Poland, not - and this is decisive for the Raeder case - not against the Military Command, but exclusively against the Political Leader. We know that Hitler himself recognized this, and for that reason evaded all responsibility by his suicide, without, either during or at the

[Page 51]

end of the war, showing the slightest regard for the life and the well-being of the German people.

I come now to Hitler's speech to the Commanders-in-Chief on 23rd November, 1939. I shall deal with it quite briefly, and if you will permit me, Mr. President, I should like to do this now before the Tribunal adjourns, because the subject which follows is rather longer.


DR. SIEMERS: I think I can be relatively brief with regard to this last key document, which again lacks the date on which the record was made and the signature; we, therefore, do not know the author of this document. It is not an official transcript; and it again pursues a special trend. Early in November, 1939, a serious difference had arisen between Hitler and the Generals because Hitler wanted to start the offensive in the West immediately, whereas the Generals were of a different opinion, and apparently hoped that the outbreak of a real world war might still be avoided. Hitler's dissatisfaction and annoyance with his Generals are clearly evident. In consequence, by repeating, as usual, his past deeds, he strives to show what he has accomplished, and also to show that he has always been in the right. It is an absolutely typical Hitler speech, corresponding to his public speeches in which he also loved to boast and to glorify himself as a genius. Hitler, after all, belonged to those people who always believe themselves in the right, and avail themselves of every opportunity to prove it. He also took the opportunity of using threats, to nip in the bud the resistance in high military circles, which had become known to him, and in this way strengthening his dictatorship. It is absolutely typical when he says in this document literally: "I shall not shrink from anything and I shall destroy everyone who is against me." This was also recognized by foreign military leaders. I draw attention for example to General Marshall's official report, which speaks about the "lack of far-reaching military planning" and about the fact that the German High Command did not have an all-embracing strategic plan, and points out in this connection that "Hitler's prestige reached the stage at which one no longer dared to oppose his views".

Finally it remains to be mentioned that these last key documents date from a time when the war was already in progress, and that the military leaders cannot he blamed if in all their plannings during a war they strive to attain victory. The allies too were planning at the same time. I refer to documents Ribbentrop Exhibit No. 222 and Raeder Exhibit No. 34; the former dates from 1st September, 1939, and is a secret letter from General Gamelin to Daladier containing the basic idea that it is necessary to invade Belgium in order to wage the war outside the French frontier. The other document also deals with military plans; it is a secret letter from General Gamelin to General Lelong, military attache of the French Embassy in London, dated 13th November, 1939, and also concerns the operation which the Allies had planned in Holland and Belgium.

(The Tribunal adjourned until 17th July, 1946, at 1000 hours.)

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