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 Eighty-Second Day: Friday, 19th July, 1946
(Part 2 of 12)

[DR. EXNER continues.]

[Page 129]

It is here a question of plans which were not carried out because the peaceful occupation of the Sudetenland based on international agreement was not an aggressive war, and the occupation of the rest of the country, which incidentally was also accomplished without resistance and without war, no longer had any connection with Jodl's plans.

This occupation of the rest of the Czechoslovak territory in March, 1939, need not be discussed in greater detail here; for Jodl was at the time in Vienna and did not take part in this action. Neither did he have anything to do with its planning, for it has no connection whatsoever with Jodl's work in the General Staff at that time. Since then the military situation had changed completely; the Sudetenland with its frontier fortifications was now in German hands. The unopposed entry which then took place therefore followed totally different plans, if such plans existed at all. Jodl did not take part in this occupation.

Point 7 of the Trial Brief regarding war plans against Poland: the essential things have already been said on this subject: At the moment when Jodl left Berlin, no deployment plan against Poland existed. When he returned on 23rd August, 1939, the intention existed to enter Poland on the 25th. The plan for this was naturally ready; Jodl did not have a share in it.

The prosecution stresses further that Jodl was present in Poland in the Fuehrer's train on 3rd September and that this was a proof that he took part in the war. Is this, too, a reproach against a soldier?

Point 8 of the Trial Brief concerns attacks on the seven countries from Norway to Greece. The Trial Brief gathers these seven wars together into one point and quite rightly too. They form one unit, because all of them resulted from military necessity and with logical consequences from the Polish war and from England's

[Page 130]

intervention. It is for this very reason that the fact that Jodl had nothing to do with the unleashing of the war against Poland is so important when judging him.

The historians will have to do a lot more research work before it is known how everything really came about. The only criterion for the judgement of Jodl's behaviour is how he saw the situation at its various stages, whether, according to what he saw and knew, he considered Hitler's various decisions to wage war justified and to what extent he influenced developments. That is all that we are concerned with here.

(a) Norway and Denmark.

In this connection, may, it please the Tribunal, I should like to refer to the statements made by Dr. Siemers the day before yesterday, and therefore I shall omit what comes next, but I should like to insert a statement at this point, namely, a statement regarding International Law which is not contained in my manuscript.

With reference to the statements made by Dr. Siemers in this regard the day before yesterday, in order to avoid any misunderstanding I should like to add the following:

1. There is not the slightest doubt that the merchant ships of a State at war may cross the neutral coastal waters. If its enemy, in order to prevent any traffic of that sort, mines the coastal waters, this fact is a clear breach of neutrality. Even warships have the right of passing through, providing they adhere to the rules which have been stipulated and do not participate in any combat action in the coastal waters. And if this applies even to warships, it applies all the more to ships which are transporting prisoners of war.

2. The fact that a war is a war of aggression does not in any way influence the validity and application of the normal war and neutrality rights. A contrary opinion would lead to absurd results and would serve only to become a gravedigger for all the laws of war. There would be no neutral States, and the relations between the belligerents would be dominated by the principle of brute force and its application. This war, in any event, was not conducted along such principles by either side, and even the prosecution does not uphold the point of view.

THE PRESIDENT: One moment, Dr. Exner. (The Tribunal conferred.)

Go on.

DR. EXNER: Nor does the prosecution maintain this point of view, otherwise they would not have charged the defendant with certain deeds as being crimes against the laws of war and the rights of neutrals. The entire charge under Point three would not be understandable. And apart from that, Prof. Jahrreiss dealt with this question on Pages 32 to 35 of his final argument.

Now I shall continue on Page 30, the last paragraph of my manuscript.

Jodl heard for the first time in November, 1939 - and this from Hitler himself - about the fears of the Navy that England intended to go to Norway. He then received information which left no doubt that these fears were basically right. Furthermore, he had regular reports according to which the Norwegian coastal waters were coming more and more into the English sphere of domination, so that Norway was no longer actually neutral.

Jodl was firmly convinced - and still is today - that the German troops prevented the English landing at the last minute. No matter how Hitler's decision may be judged legally, Jodl did not influence it; he considered the decision justified and was bound to consider it as such. So, even if one wished to regard Hitler's decision as a breach of neutrality, Jodl did not give criminal help by his work on the General Staff.

(b) Belgium-Holland-Luxemburg.

[Page 131]

Like every military expert, Jodl knew that if Germany was to fight the war in the West to its conclusion, there was no other course but a military offensive. In view of the inadequacy of the German equipment at the time and the strength of the Maginot Line, there was, however, from a military point of view, no other possibility for an offensive than through Belgium.

So Hitler was, for purely military reasons, faced by the necessity of operating through Belgium. But Jodl also fully knew, as did every German who experienced August, 1914, how difficult a political decision was faced thereby, as long as Belgium was neutral, and was prepared and in a position to keep out of the war.

The reports which Jodl received, and against the accuracy of which no justified doubts could arise now, showed that the Belgian Government was already co-operating, in breach of its neutrality, with the General Staffs of Germany's enemies. This, however, can be dropped here in the defence of Jodl. It suffices to know - and this is indisputable - that part of Belgium's territory, i.e., the air over it, was being continuously used by Germany's Western enemies for their military purposes.

And this applies perhaps even more strongly to the Netherlands. Since the very first days of the war, British planes flew over Dutch and Belgian territory as and when they pleased. Only in some of the numerous cases did the Reich Government protest, and there were 127 such cases.

THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Exner, will you refer the Tribunal to the evidence which you have for that statement?

DR. EXNER: Please?

THE PRESIDENT: Will you refer me to the evidence that you have for that statement?

DR. EXNER: What statement, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT: That protests were made in 127 cases.

DR. EXNER: I am referring to the statements made by the witness von Ribbentrop. He was the one who said that 127 protests were made.


DR. EXNER: The prosecution does not put the legal question correctly. Before air warfare gained its present important position, conditions were such that a State which wished to remain neutral could withhold its territory from continual military use at will by one of the belligerents, or else its neutrality was clearly terminated. Since air warfare became possible, a State can hand over or may have to hand over to one of the belligerents the air rights over its territory and yet remain outwardly and diplomatically neutral. But, by the very nature of the idea, the defence of its neutrality can be claimed only by a State whose whole territory lies, de facto, outside of the theatre of war.

The Netherlands and Belgium were, long before 10th May, 1940, no longer de facto neutral, for the air over them was, in practice, with or against their will, freely at the disposal of Germany's enemies. What contribution they thus made towards England's military strength, i.e., towards the strength of one of the belligerents, is known to everybody. It is necessary only to think of Germany's Achilles' heel: the Ruhr.

Our adversaries clearly maintained the point of view that, when the barrier constituted by Holland and Belgium protected our industrial areas against air attacks, their neutrality was to be violated; but when it protected France and England, its violation was a crime.

Jodl naturally realised the situation. His opinion on the legal question was, of course, a matter of complete indifference to Hitler. Here, too, his activity remained the normal activity of a General Staff officer.

[Page 132]

THE PRESIDENT: One moment, please.

Dr. Exner, is it your contention that it is in accordance with International Law that if the air over a particular neutral State is made use of by one of the warring nations, the other warring nation can invade that neutral State without giving any warning to that State?

DR. EXNER: In this connection I should like to say that this continuous use of the air space of a neutral State - that is, for the purpose of attacking (these planes flew over this territory in order to attack Germany) - was a breach of neutrality. This breach of neutrality justified Germany no longer regarding Belgium as a neutral country. Therefore, from the standpoint of the Kellogg Pact, or any previous assurance given with regard to neutrality, there cannot be any charge made against Germany in this respect. Whether one can reproach Germany for the fact that she did not declare war in advance, that is something I leave open to discussion.

Besides, it may be presumed that the flights made by the British planes were not announced in advance either.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, then, you are not prepared to answer the question I put to you?

DR. EXNER: Yes. The question was to this effect, Mr. President, whether a prior declaration was necessary. That was the question, Mr. President, was it not?

THE PRESIDENT: Whether you can attack a neutral State without giving any prior warning; that is, whether, in accordance with International Law, you can attack a neutral State in such circumstances without giving any prior warning. That is the question.

DR. EXNER: The assertion is to the effect that it was no longer a neutral State, Mr. President. When it was attacked it was no longer a neutral State.

THE PRESIDENT: Then your answer is in the affirmative; you say that you can attack without giving any warnings, is that right?

DR. EXNER: There is an agreement in International Law that war is always to be declared in advance. In that respect, Germany would have been bound to declare war beforehand. However, above and beyond that, because of the fact that this was not a neutral State, I do not believe that there is an obligation. I cannot see just why there should have been an obligation to this State because it had been neutral at one time.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, then, you say that there is a general obligation to declare war before you actually invade. You do not say, do you, that the fact that Holland was a neutral State prevented that obligation attaching?

DR. EXNER: That I do not wish to assume. A general obligation, yes; but I do not believe there was a special obligation because of the former neutrality of Holland and Belgium. I would not know what justification could be given for that.


DR. EXNER: Now I shall turn to point (c), Greece.

Hitler wanted to keep the Balkans out of the war, but Italy had attacked Greece against his will at the beginning of October, 1940. When the Italians got into trouble, a request was made for German help. Jodl advised against it, since English intervention in the Balkans would then have to be reckoned with and every hope of localising the Italo-Greek conflict would thus be lost. Hitler then ordered everything to be prepared for the necessity which might perhaps nevertheless arise, if the need for German help to Italy against Greece became unavoidable (orders of 12th November and 13th December, 1940).

[Page 133]

If the attempt to localise the Greek-Italian conflict did not succeed, it was clear that Greece would be involved in the great German-English struggle. The question was now whether Greece would lie within the war zone controlled by the British or the Germans. And as in the case of Norway, Belgium, and Holland, part of the territory of these countries was already at England's disposal before the beginning of open hostilities, and they were, therefore, objectively at least, no longer neutral - and perhaps could no longer be neutral - so it was also with Greece now. The Indictment referring to Greece established that British troops were landed on the Greek mainland on 3rd March, 1941, after Crete had, already some time before that, come within the area controlled by the British. Hitler did not give permission for aerial warfare at Crete until 24th March, 1941, and began the land attacks only on 6th April.

Here, too, Jodl had no influence on Hitler's decisions. He could have no doubt that Hitler's decision was inevitable in view of the way in which the war between the world powers was now developing. There was no choice; ever-increasing parts of Greek territory would have been drawn into the sphere of English power and would have become the jumping- off points for bombing squadrons against the Roumanian oil- fields had Germany not stopped this process. Moreover, the experiences of the First World War were disquieting; the coup de grace was then made from Salonica.

(d) Yugoslavia.

Hitler wanted to keep Yugoslavia out of the war too. The German troops in the Balkans had the strictest orders to respect her neutrality rigorously. Hitler even rejected the proposal by the Chief of the Army General Staff to ask the Yugoslav Government for permission to let sealed trains with German supplies through their territory.

The Simovic putsch in Belgrade on the night after Yugoslavia Joined the Tripartite Pact was considered by Hitler as a malicious betrayal. He was of the opinion that the change of government at Belgrade, which considerably altered the course of its foreign policy, was only possible if England or the Soviet Union or both had provided cover from the rear. He was now certain that the Balkans would be fully drawn into the war tangle. He was certain that the German troops in Bulgaria were severely threatened and also the German lines of communication which ran close to the Yugoslav frontiers.

Under these conditions, Hitler took the decision for war on the morning following the Belgrade putsch, any preparation for which was absolutely lacking. Jodl's suggestions, and later Ribbentrop's, too, to make things unambiguous by means of an ultimatum, were not considered at all. He wanted to make sure that Yugoslavia and Greece should not come into the sphere of influence of England but into that of Germany. The next day's news concerning Moscow's telegram of friendship to the Belgrade Putsch Government and about the Yugoslav deployment then already in progress, as confirmed by the statement of the witness Greiffenberg (Doc. Book III A.J. I2), and lastly the Russo-Yugoslav Friendship Pact, were for Jodl irrefutable signs that Hitler had seen the connection of events correctly.

The decision to fight was taken by Hitler, and by Hitler alone.

Point 9 concerns the war against the Soviet Union.

What each of the two Governments, that of Berlin and that of Moscow, wished to achieve by the agreement of 23rd August, 1939, is today not certain. One thing, however, is certain, and that is that these partners, who were till then enemies, had not entered into an agreement because of their love for each other. And the Soviet Union was for the German partner a completely unknown quantity. And it remained so. Anyone who does not consider this fact can in no way judge Hitler's decision to make a military attack on the Soviet Union, and above all the question of guilt.

If anywhere, it was in the Russian question that Hitler came to a decision without listening to the slightest advice from anyone, to say nothing of taking it.

[ 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.