The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Hitler and Poland

Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume One

Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume One
United States Government Printing Office
Washington, 1946, pp. 390-400

Formulation and Execution of the Plan to Invade Poland

The next phase of the aggression was the formulation and execution of the plan to attack Poland, resulting in the initiation of aggressive war in September 1939. Here again the careful and meticulous record keeping of Hitler's adjutant, Schmundt, has provided a document in his own handwriting which throws down the mask (L-79). The document consists of minutes of a conference held on 23 May 1939. The place of the conference was the Fuehrer's Study in the New Reich Chancellery. Goering, Raeder and Keitel were present. The subject of the meeting was, "Indoctrination on the political situation and future aims."

The authenticity and accuracy of Schmundt's record of the meeting of 23 May 1939 has been admitted by Keitel in a pretrial interrogation. The minutes read as follows:

"Top Secret "To be transmitted by officer only "Minutes of a Conference on 23 May 1939"

"Place: The Fuehrer's Study, New Reich Chancellery.
"Adjutant on duty: Lt-Col. (G.S.) Schmundt.

"Present: The Fuehrer, Field-Marshal Goering, Grand- Admiral Raeder, Col-Gen. von Brauchitsch, Col-Gen. Keitel, Col-Gen. Milch, Gen. (of Artillery) Halder, Gen. Bodenschatz, Rear-Adml. Schniewindt, Col. ( G.S. ) Jeschonnek, Col. (G.S.) Warlimont, Lt-Col. (G.S.) Schmundt, Capt. Engel (Army), Lieut-Commd. Albrecht, Capt. v. Below (Army). "Subject: Indoctrination on the political situation and future aims.

"The Fuehrer defined as the purpose of the conference:

"1. Analysis of the situation.
"2. Definition of the tasks for the Armed Forces arising from the situation.
"3. Exposition of the consequences of those tasks.
"4. Ensuring the secrecy of all decisions and work resulting from these consequences.

"Secrecy is the first essential for success.

"The Fuehrer's observations are given in systematized form below.

"Our present situation must be considered from two points of view:

"1. The actual development of events between 1933 and 1939;
"2. The permanent and unchanging situation in which Germany lies.

"In the period 1933-1939, progress was made in all fields. Our military situation improved enormously.

"Our situation with regard to the rest of the world has remained the same.

"Germany had dropped from the circle of Great Powers. The balance of power had been effected without the participation of Germany.

"This equilibrium is disturbed when Germany's demands for the necessities of life make themselves felt, and Germany re-emerges as a Great Power. All demands are regarded as 'Encroachments'. The English are more afraid of dangers in the economic sphere than of the simple threat of force.

"A mass of 80 million people has solved the ideological problems. So, too, must the economic problems be solved. No German can evade the creation of the necessary economic conditions for this. The solution of the problems demands courage. The principle, by which one evades solving the problem by adapting oneself to circumstances, is inadmissible. Circumstances must rather be adapted to aims. This is impossible without invasion of foreign states or attacks upon foreign property.

"Living space, in proportion to the magnitude of the state, is the basis of all power. One may refuse for a time to face the problem, but finally it is solved one way or the other. The choice is between advancement or decline. In 15 or 20 years' time we shall be compelled to find a solution. No German statesman can evade the question longer than that.

"We are at present in a state of patriotic fervor, which is shared by two other nations: Italy and Japan.

"The period which lies behind us has indeed been put to good use. All measures have been taken in the correct sequence and in harmony with our aims.

"After 6 years, the situation is today as follows:

"The national-political unity of the Germans has been achieved, apart from minor exceptions. Further successes cannot be attained without the shedding of blood.

"The demarkation of frontiers is of military importance.

"The Pole is no 'supplementary enemy'. Poland will always be on the side of our adversaries. In spite of treaties of friendship, Poland has always had the secret intention of exploiting every opportunity to do us harm.

"Danzig is not the subject of the dispute at all. It is a question of expanding our living space in the East and of securing our food supplies, of the settlement of the Baltic problem. Food supplies can be expected only from thinly populated areas. Over and above the natural fertility, thorough- going German exploitation will enormously increase the surplus.

"There is no other possibility for Europe.

"Colonies: Beware of gifts of colonial territory. This does not solve the food problem. Remember - blockade.

"If fate brings us into conflict with the West, the possession of extensive areas in the East will be advantageous. Upon record harvests we shall be able to rely even less in time of war than in peace.

"The population of non-German areas will perform no military service, and will be available as a source of labour.

"The Polish problem is inseparable from conflict with the West.

"Poland's internal power of resistance to Bolshevism is doubtful. Thus Poland is of doubtful value as a barrier against Russia.

"It is questionable whether military success in the West can be achieved by a quick decision, questionable too is the attitude of Poland.

"The Polish government will not resist pressure from Russia. Poland sees danger in a German victory in the West, and will attempt to rob us of the victory.

"There is therefore no question of sparing Poland, and we are left with the decision:

"To attack Poland at the first suitable opportunity. [This sentence is underscored in the original German text.]

"We cannot expect a repetition of the Czech affair. There will be war. Our task is to isolate Poland. The success of the isolation will be decisive,

"Therefore, the Fuehrer must reserve the right to give the final order to attack. There must be no simultaneous conflict with the Western. Powers [France and England].

"If it is not certain that a German-Polish conflict will not lead to war in the West, then the fight must be primarily against England and France.

"Fundamentally therefore: Conflict with Poland -- beginning with an attack on Poland -- will only be successful if the Western Powers keep out of it. If this is impossible, then it will be better to attack in the West and to settle Poland at the same time.

"The isolation of Poland is a matter of skillful politics.

"Japan is a weighty problem. Even if at first for various reasons her collaboration with us appears to be somewhat cool and restricted, it is nevertheless in Japan's own interest to take the initiative in attacking Russia in good time.

"Economic relations with Russia are possible only if political relations have improved. A cautious trend is apparent in Press comment. It is not impossible that Russia will show herself to be disinterested in the destruction of Poland. Should Russia take steps to oppose us, our relations with Japan may become closer.

"If there were an alliance of France, England and Russia against Germany, Italy and Japan, I would be constrained to attack England and France with a few annihilating blows. The Fuehrer doubts the possibility of a peaceful settlement with England. We must prepare ourselves for the conflict. England sees in our development the foundation of a hegemony which would weaken England. England is therefore our enemy, and the conflict with England will be a life-and death struggle.

"What will this struggle be like [This sentence is underscored in the German original.]

"England cannot deal with Germany and subjugate us with a few powerful blows. It is imperative for England that the war should be brought as near to the Ruhr basin as possible. French blood will not be spared (West Wall). The possession of the Ruhr basin will determine the duration of our resistance.

"The Dutch and Belgium air bases will be occupied by armed forces. Declarations of neutrality must be ignored. If England and France intend the war between Germany and Poland to lead to a conflict, they will support Holland and Belgium in their neutrality and make them build fortifications in order finally to force them into cooperation.

"Albeit under protest, Belgium and Holland will yield to pressure.

"Therefore, if England intends to intervene in the Polish war, we must occupy Holland with lightning speed. We must aim at securing a new defense line on Dutch soil up to the Zuider Zee.

"The war with England and France will be a life-and- death struggle.

"The idea that we can get of cheaply is dangerous; there is no such possibility. We must burn our boats, and it is no longer a question of justice or injustice, but of life or death for 80 million human beings.

"Question: Short or long war

"Every country's armed forces or government must aim at a short war. The government, however, must also be prepared for a war of 10-15 years' duration.

"History has always shown that the people have believed that wars would be short. In 1914, the opinion still prevailed that it was impossible to finance a long war. Even today this idea still persists in many minds. But on the contrary, every state will hold out as long as possible, unless it immediately suffers some grave weakening (e.g. Ruhr basin). England has similar weaknesses.

"England knows that to lose a war will mean the end of her world power.

"England is the driving force against Germany.

"Her strength lies in the following:

"1. The British themselves are proud, courageous, tenacious, firm in resistance and gifted as organizers. They know how to exploit every new development. They have the love of adventure and bravery of the Nordic race. Quality is lowered by dispersal. The German average is higher.

"2. World power in itself. It has been constant for 300 years. Extended by the acquisition of allies, this power is not merely something concrete, but must also be considered as a psychological force embracing the entire world. Add to this immeasurable wealth, with consequential financial credit.

"3. Geopolitical safety and protection by strong sea power and a courageous air force.

"England's weakness:

"If in the World War I we had had two battleships and two cruisers more, and if the battle of Jutland had begun in the morning, the British fleet would have been defeated and England brought to her knees. It would have meant the end of this war. It was formerly not sufficient to defeat the fleet. Landings had to be made in order to defeat England. England could provide her own food supplies. Today that is no longer possible.

"The moment England's food supply routes are cut, she is forced to capitulate. The import of food and fuel depends on the fleet's protection.

"If the German Air Force attacks English territory, England will not be forced to capitulate in one day. But if the fleet is destroyed immediate capitulation will be the result.

"There is no doubt that a surprise attack can lead to a quick decision. It would be criminal, however, for the government to rely entirely on the element of surprise.

"Experience has shown that surprise may be nullified by

"1. Disclosure outside the limit of the military circles concerned.
"2. Mere chance, which may cause the collapse of the whole enterprise.
"3. Human failings.
"4. Weather conditions.

"The final date for striking must be fixed well in advance. Beyond that time, the tension cannot be endured for long. It must be borne in mind that weather conditions can render any surprise intervention by Navy and Air Force impossible.

"This must be regarded as a most unfavorable basis of action.

"1. An effort must be made to deal the enemy a significant or the final decisive blow right at the start. Consideration of right and wrong or treaties do not enter into the matter. This will only be possible if we are not involved in a war with England on account of Poland.

"2. In addition to the surprise attack, preparation for a long war must be made, while opportunities on the Continent for England are eliminated.

"The Army will have to hold positions essential to the Navy and Air Force. If Holland and Belgium are successfully occupied and held, and if France is also defeated, the fundamental conditions for a successful war against England will have been secured.

"England can then be blockaded from Western France at close quarters by the Air Force, while the Navy with its submarines extend the range of the blockade.


"England will not be able to fight on the Continent:

"Daily attacks by the Air Force and Navy will cut all her life-lines:

"Germany will not bleed to death on land.

"Such strategy has been shown to be necessary by World War I and subsequent military operations. World War I is responsible for the following strategic considerations which are imperative

"1. With a more powerful Navy at the outbreak of the War, or a wheeling movement by the Army towards the Channel ports, the end would have been different.

"2. A country cannot be brought to defeat by an air force. It is impossible to attack all objectives simultaneously, and the lapse of time of a few minutes would evoke defense counter-measures.

"3 The unrestricted use of all resources is essential.

"4 Once the Army, in cooperation with the Air Force and Navy, has taken the most important positions, industrial production will cease in flow in to the bottomless pit of the Army's battles, and can be diverted to benefit the Air Force and Navy.

"The Army must, therefore, be capable of taking these positions. Systematic preparation must be made for the attack.

"Study to this end is of the utmost importance.

"The aim will always be to force England to her knees.

"A weapon will only be of decisive importance in winning battles, so long as the enemy does not possess it.

"This applies to gas, submarines and the Air Force. It would be true of the latter, for instance, as long as the English Fleet had no available countermeasures; it will no longer be the case in 1940 and 1941. Against Poland, for example, tanks will be effective, as the Polish Army possesses no counter-measures.

"Where straightforward pressure is no longer considered to be decisive, its place must be taken by the elements of surprise and by masterly handling.*******"


"1. Study of the entire problem.
"2. Study of the events.
"3. Study of the means needed.
"4. Study of the necessary training.

"Men with great powers of imagination and high technical training must belong to the staff, as well as officers with sober sceptic powers of understanding.

"Working principles:

"1. No one is to take part in this who does not have to know of it.
"2. No one can find out more than he must know.
"3. When must the person in question know it at the very latest? No one may know anything before it is necessary that he know it.

"On Goering's question, the Fuehrer decided that:

"a. The armed forces determine what shall be built.
"b. In the shipbuilding program, nothing is to be changed.
"c. The armament programs are to be modeled on the years 1943 or 1944.

[Schmundt certified this text.]" (L-79)

These minutes demonstrate that the Nazi conspirators were proceeding in accordance with a plan. They demonstrate the cold-blooded premeditation of the assault on Poland. They demonstrate that the questions concerning Danzig, which the Nazis had agitated with Poland as a political pretext, were not true questions, but were false issues, issues agitated to conceal their motive of aggressive, expansion for food, and Lebensraum.

Just one week prior to the launching of the attack on Poland, Hitler made an address to his chief military commanders, at Obersalzberg, on 22 August 1939. [Three reports of this meeting are available: (L-3; 798-PS; and 1014-PS). The first of the three documents (L-3) was obtained through an American newspaperman, and purported to be original minutes of the Obersalzberg meeting, transmitted to the newspaperman by some other 'person. There was no proof of actual delivery to the intermediary by the person who took the notes. That document (L-3) therefore, merely served as an incentive to search for something better The result was that two other documents (798-PS) and (1014-PS) were discovered in the OKW files at Flensberg. These two documents indicate that Hitler on that day made two speeches, one apparently in the morning and one in the afternoon. Comparison of those two documents with the first document (L-3) led to the conclusion that the first document was a lightly garbled merger of the two speeches, and therefore was not relied upon.]

On this day of 22 August 1939, Hitler addressed the supreme commanders of the-three branches of the armed forces, as well as the commanding generals, (Oberbefehlshabers) as follows:

"I have called you together to give you a picture of the political situation, in order that you may have insight into the individual element on which I base my decision to act, and in order to strengthen your confidence. After this, we will discuss military details.

"It was clear to me that a conflict with Poland had to come sooner or later. I had already made this decision in Spring. [Apparently this referred to (L-79).] But I thought I would first turn against the West in a few years, and only afterwards against the East. But the sequence cannot be fixed. One cannot close one's eyes even before a threatening situation. I wanted to establish an acceptable relationship with Poland, in order to fight first against the West, but this plan which was agreeable to me could not be executed, since essential points have changed.

"It became clear to me that Poland would attack us, in case of a conflict in the West.

"Poland wants access to the sea.

"The further development became obvious after the occupation of the Memel region, and it became clear to me that under the circumstances a conflict with Poland could arise at an unopportune moment.

"I enumerate as reasons for this reflection, first of all, two personal constitutions, my own personality, and that of Mussolini. Essentially, it depends on me, my existence, because of my political activity.

"Furthermore, the fact that probably no one will ever again have the confidence of the whole German people as I do. There will probably never again be a man in the future with more authority. My existence is, therefore, a factor of great value. But I can be eliminated at any time by a criminal or an idiot.

"The second personal factor is Il Duce. His existence is also decisive. If something happens to him, Italy's loyalty to the alliance will no longer be certain. The basic attitude of the Italian Court is against the Duce. Above all, the Court sees in the expansion of the empire a burden. The Duce is the man with the strongest nerves in Italy.

"The third factor, favorable for us is Franco. We can only ask benevolent neutrality from Spain, but this depends on Franco's personality. He guarantees a certain uniformity and steadiness of the present system in Spain. We must take into account the fact that Spain does not as yet have a Fascist Party of our internal unity.

"On the other side, a negative picture, as far as decisive personalities are concerned. There is no outstanding personality in England or France.

"For us it is easy to make decisions. We have nothing to lose: we can only gain. Our economic situation is such, because of our restrictions, that we cannot hold out more than a few years. Goering can confirm this. We have no other choice; we must act. Our opponents risk much and gain only little. England's stake in a war is unimaginably great. Our enemies have men who are below average. No personalities, no masters, no men of action.

"Besides the personal factor, the political situation is favorable for us; in the Mediterranean rivalry among Italy, France, and England; in the Orient tension, which leads to the alarming of the Mohammedan world.

"The English empire did not emerge from the last war strengthened. From a maritime point of view, nothing was achieved: Conflict between England and Ireland, the south African Union became more independent, concessions had to be made to India, England is in great danger, unhealthy industries. A British statesman can look into the future only with concern.

"France's position has also deteriorated, particularly in the Mediterranean.

"Further favorable factors for us are these:

"Since Albania, there is an equilibrium of power in the Balkans. Yugoslavia carries the germ of collapse because of her internal situation.

"Rumania did not grow stronger. She is liable to attack and vulnerable. She is threatened by Hungary and Bulgaria. Since Kemal's death, Turkey has been ruled by small minds, unsteady weak men.

"All these fortunate circumstances will no longer prevail in two to three years. No one knows how long I shall live. Therefore conflict better now.

"The creation of Greater Germany was a great achievement politically but militarily it was questionable, since it was achieved through a bluff of the political leaders. It is necessary to test the military, if at all possible, not by general settlement, but by solving individual tasks.

"The relation to Poland has become unbearable. My Polish policy hitherto was in contrast to the ideas of the people. My propositions to Poland, the Danzig corridor, were disturbed by England's intervention. Poland changed her tune towards us. The initiative cannot be allowed to pass to others. This moment is more favorable than in two to three years. An attempt on my life or Mussolini's could only change the situation to our disadvantage. One cannot eternally stand opposite one another with cocked rifle. A suggested compromise would have demanded that we change our convictions and make agreeable gestures. They talked to us again in the language of Versailles. There was danger of losing prestige. Now the probability is still great that the West will not interfere. We must accept the risk with reckless resolution. A politician must accept a risk as much as a military leader. We are facing the alternative to strike or to be destroyed with certainty sooner or later."


"Now it is also a great risk. Iron nerves, iron resolution."


"We need not be afraid of a blockade. The East will supply us with grain, cattle, coal, lead and zinc. It is a big arm, which demands great efforts. I am only afraid that at the last minute some Schweinhund will make a proposal for mediation."

"Goering answers with thanks to the Fuehrer and the assurance that the armed forces will do their duty." (798-PS)

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