From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: The attack on Poland
was rendered inevitable by the attitude of the other powers. It might have
been possible to find a peaceful solution to the German demands, and I think
the Führer would have trodden this path of peace, had the other powers
taken this path with him. As matters stood, the situation had become so
tense that Germany could no longer accept it as it was, and as a great power
Germany could not tolerate Polish provocations any further. That is how this
war arose. I am convinced that primarily the Führer was never interested in
conquering Poland. ....
Beyond the precincts of this Tribunal, history will prove the truth of my words and show how I always endeavored to localize the war and prevent it from spreading. That, I believe, will also be established. Therefore, in conclusion I should like to say once more that the outbreak of war was caused by circumstances which, at long last, were no longer in Hitler's hands. He could act only in the way he did, and when the war spread ever further all his decisions were principally prompted by considerations of a military nature, and he acted solely in the highest interests of his people.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: On 3 September, in the morning, such a proposal of mediation arrived in Berlin stating that Mussolini was still in a position to bring the Polish question in some way before the forum of a conference, and that he would do so if the German Government agreed rapidly. It was said at the same time that the French Government had already approved this proposal. Germany also immediately agreed. But a few days later—I cannot now state the time precisely—it was reported that, in a speech I believe, by the British Foreign Minister Halifax in the House of Commons or in some other British declaration, this proposal had been turned down by London.
From the IMT testimony of Adolf von Steengracht (former
State Secretary in Ribbentrop's Foreign Office): From the beginning of the
war, the Foreign Minister had his office in the neighborhood of Hitler's
headquarters; that is to say in most instances several hundred kilometers
distant from Berlin. There he carried on business with a restricted staff.
The Foreign Office in Berlin had duties of a routine and administrative
nature. But above all, its duty was also the execution of the regular
intercourse with foreign diplomats. ....
The foreign policy, not only on its basic lines, but also usually down to the most minute details, was determined by Hitler himself. Ribbentrop frequently stated that the Fuehrer needed no Foreign Minister, he simply wanted a foreign political secretary. Ribbentrop, in my opinion, would have been satisfied with such a position because then at least, backed by Hitler's authority, he could have eliminated partly the destructive and indirect foreign political influences and their sway on Hitler. Perhaps he might then have had a chance of influencing Hitler's speeches, which the latter was accustomed to formulate without Ribbentrop, even in the foreign political field. ...there was practically no office in the Party or its organizations that, after 1933, had no foreign political ambitions. Every one of these offices had a sort of foreign bureau through which it took up connections with foreign countries in the attempt to gain its own foreign political channels.
I should judge the number of these to be approximately thirty. For example, the Hitler Jugend, the SA, the German Labor Front, the SS, the Rosenberg office with its Foreign Political office, the Propaganda Ministry, the office Waldeck, the Ribbentrop office, the Nordic Society; further, the VDA, the German Academy, the Reich Railways (Reichsbahn) and others. Besides these offices, the immediate entourage of Hitler and personalities like Himmler, Goebbels, and Bormann had an influence in the shaping of foreign policy. Goering, too, as I see it, had perhaps a certain influence, but only until 1938—at any rate, in matters of foreign politics, scarcely later than that.
Almost every one of those persons, who had never before lived in foreign countries and who, as an occasional traveling salesman for the Third Reich, in peacetime, or after the occupation of a foreign country, had eaten well in the capital of this or that foreign country, considered himself an unrivaled expert on this country. They all had a predilection for bringing their enlightenment and discernment to Hitler. Unfortunately the further they were removed from actual conditions, the more they were in contradiction to the political requirements and necessities, and especially, unfortunately, the more so-called strength was shown and the more they stood in contradiction to the elementary feelings of humanity, the more they pleased Hitler. For Hitler regarded such statements and representations as sound judgment, and they had sometimes an irreparable effect, and formed in Hitler's mind, together with his so-called intuition, the start of some fundamental idea.
To the possible objection that it should have been easy for an expert to criticize such an opinion or view, I should like to point out the following: As long as the future German Ambassador in Paris was still a teacher of painting, Hitler read his reports with interest; but when he became the official representative of the Reich, his reports were mostly thrown unread into the wastepaper basket. Himmler's reports, the slanted opinions of Goebbels, and Bormann's influence played, on the other hand, a decisive role, as did reports from agents which could not be checked and which carried more weight than the opinions of experts on the countries. .... With Hitler's methods of work, these so-called counter-influences simply could not be eliminated. Against this "organized disorganization" Ribbentrop waged an unmitigated, bitter war, and that against almost all German offices. I should like to state further that at least 60 percent of his time was devoted to these things alone.
From the IMT testimony of Dr. Paul Otto Schmidt: On the
morning of the 3rd, at about 2 or 3 o'clock, the British Embassy telephoned
the Reich Chancellery, where I was still present with the Foreign Minister
in order to be available for possible conferences, to give the information
that the British Ambassador had received instructions from his government,
according to which, at exactly 9 o'clock, he was to make an important
announcement on behalf of the British Government to the Foreign Minister. He
therefore asked to be received by Herr Von Ribbentrop at that time. He was
given the reply that Ribbentrop himself would not be available but that a
member of the Foreign Office, namely I, would be authorized to receive the
British Government's announcement from the British Ambassador on his behalf.
Thus it happened that at 9 o'clock in the morning I received the British
Ambassador in Ribbentrop's office. When I asked him to be seated Henderson
refused and while still standing he read to me the well-known ultimatum of
the British Government to the German Government, according to which, unless
certain conditions were fulfilled by Germany, the British Government would
consider themselves at war with Germany at 11 o'clock that morning.
After we had exchanged a few words of farewell, I took the document to the Reich Chancellery. In the Reich Chancellery I gave it to Hitler, that is to say, I found Hitler in his office in conference with the Foreign Minister and I translated the document into German for him. When I had completed my translation, there was at first silence. And when I had completed my translation, both gentlemen were absolutely silent for about a minute. I could clearly see that this development did not suit them at all. For a while Hitler sat in his chair deep in thought and stared somewhat worriedly into space. Then he broke the silence with a rather abrupt question to the Foreign Minister, saying, "What shall we do now?" Thereupon they began to discuss the next diplomatic steps to be taken, whether this or that ambassador should be called, et cetera.
I, of course, left the room since I had nothing more to do. When I entered the anteroom, I found assembled there—or rather I had already seen on my way in—some Cabinet members and higher officials, to whose questioning looks—they knew I had seen the British Ambassador—I had said only that there would be no second Munich. When I came out again, I saw by their anxious faces that my remark had been correctly interpreted. When I then told them that I had just handed a British ultimatum to Hitler, a heavy silence fell on the room. The faces suddenly grew rather serious. I still remember that Goering, for instance, who was standing in front of me, turned round to me and said, "If we lose this war, then God help us." Goebbels was standing in a comer by himself and had a very serious, not to say depressed, expression. This depressing atmosphere prevailed over all those present, and it naturally lives in my memory as something most remarkable for the frame of mind prevailing in the anteroom of the Reich Chancellery on the first day of the war.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: The decisive factor
(that started the war) was the English guarantee extended to Poland. I do
not need to elaborate this point. This guarantee, combined with the Polish
mentality, made it impossible for us to negotiate with the Poles or to come
to an understanding with them. As for the actual outbreak of war, the
following reasons for it can be given:
First of all, there is no doubt that on 30 and 31 August, England was well aware of the extreme tension of the situation. This fact was communicated to Hitler in a letter, and Hitler said that the decision must be made and a way of solving the problem found, with all possible speed. This was Chamberlain's letter to Hitler.
Secondly: England knew that the proposals made by Germany were reasonable, for we know that England was in possession of these proposals in the night of 30 to 31 August. Ambassador Henderson himself declared that these proposals were reasonable.
Thirdly: It would have been possible, therefore, on 30 or 31 August, to give a hint to Warsaw and tell the Poles to begin some sort of negotiations with us. This could have been done in three different ways: Polish negotiator could have flown to Berlin, which would have been, as the Führer said, a matter of an hour to an hour and a half; or, a meeting could have been arranged between the foreign ministers or the heads of the states to take place on the frontiers; or else, Ambassador Lipski could simply have been instructed at least to receive the German proposals. If these instructions had been given, the crisis would have been averted and diplomatic negotiations could have been initiated.
England herself, had she wished to do so, could have sent her ambassador to represent her at the negotiations, which action, after what had gone before, would undoubtedly have been regarded very favorably by Germany. This, however, did not take place, and, as I gather from documents which I saw for the first time here, nothing was done during this period to alleviate this very-tense situation. Chauvinism is natural to the Poles; and we know from Ambassador Henderson's own words and from the testimony of Mr. Dahlerus that Ambassador Lipski used very strong language illustrative of Polish mentality. Because Poland was very well aware that she would, in all circumstances, have the assistance of England and France, she assumed an attitude which made war inevitable to all intents and purposes.
I believe that these facts really are of some importance for the historical view of that entire period. I would like to add that I personally regretted this turn of events. All my work of 25 years was destroyed by this war; and up to the last minute I made every possible effort to avert this war. I believe that even Ambassador Henderson's documents prove that I did make these attempts. I told Adolf Hitler that it was Chamberlain's most ardent desire to have good relations with Germany and to reach an agreement with her; and I even sqnt a special messenger to the Embassy to see Henderson, to tell him how earnestly the Fuehrer desired this, and to do everything in his power to make this desire of Adolf Hitler's clear to his government.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: We received numerous reports all the time (that the Western Powers were preparing to invade the Ruhr). Our intelligence service was such that we had a great many channels doing intelligence work. All of these channels led to the Führer. The Foreign Office had relatively little intelligence service, but relied rather an official diplomatic channels. But we too received reports and news at that time which undoubtedly allowed inferences to be drawn. We in the Foreign Office also received reports implying that the Western Powers had the intention of advancing into the Ruhr area at the first appropriate opportunity. The situation in the West was such that the West Wall was a very strong military barrier against France and this naturally gave rise to the idea that such an attack might come through neutral territory, such as Belgium and Holland.September 7, 1939: Grand Admiral Raeder declares that all U-boats have been contacted and none was responsible for the sinking of the Athenia. Meanwhile, Reich Propaganda Minister Goebbels proclaims that the Athenia was sunk by none other than Winston Churchill himself, in an effort to repeat history with a Lusitania-like provocation. (Read)
From the IMT testimony of Erwin Lahousen (a member of
the Abwehr, whose chief was Admiral Canaris): Canaris and I took part in
discussions not in the Führer's headquarters, but in the Führer's special
train, shortly before the fall of Warsaw. .... According to the notes and
documents at my disposal it was on September 12, 1939. .... Present,
regardless of location and time, were the following: Foreign Minister Von
Ribbentrop; Keitel, the Chief of the OKW; Jodl, head of the Wehrmacht
Operations Staff; Canaris; And myself. ....
First of all, Canaris had a short talk with Ribbentrop, in which the latter explained the general political aims with regard to Poland and in connection with the Ukrainian question. The Chief of the OKW took up the Ukrainian question in subsequent discussions which took place in his private carriage. These are recorded in the files which I immediately prepared on Canaris' order. While we were still in the carriage of the Chief of the OKW, Canaris expressed his serious misgivings regarding the proposed bombardment of Warsaw, of which he knew. Canaris stressed the devastating repercussions which this bombardment would have in the foreign political field. The Chief of the OKW, Keitel, replied that these measures had been agreed upon directly by the Führer and Goering, and that he, Keitel, had had no influence on these decisions. I quote Keitel's own words here-naturally only after re-reading my notes. Keitel said: "The Führer and Goering are in frequent telephone communication; sometimes I also hear something of what was said, but not always."
Secondly, Canaris very urgently warned against the measures which had come to his knowledge, namely the proposed shootings and extermination measures directed particularly against the Polish intelligentsia, the nobility, the clergy, and in fact all elements which could be regarded as leaders of a national resistance. Canaris said at that time—I am quoting his approximate words: "One day the world will also hold the Wehrmacht, under whose eyes these events occurred, responsible for such methods."
The Chief of the OKW replied—and this is also based on my notes, which I re-read a few days ago—that these things had been decided upon by the Führer, and that the Führer, the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, had let it be known that, should the Armed Forces be unwilling to carry through these measures, or should they not agree with then, they would have to accept the presence at their side of the SS, the SIPO and similar units who would carry them through. A civilian official would then be appointed to function with each military commander. This, in outlines, was our discussion on the proposed shooting and extermination measures in Poland...the Chief of the OKW used an expression which was certainly derived from Hitler and which characterized these measures as "political housecleaning". I recall this expression very clearly, even without the aid of my notes. ....
According to the Chief of the OKW, the bombardment of Warsaw and the shooting of the categories of people which I mentioned before had been agreed upon already... Mainly the Polish intelligentsia, the nobility, the clergy, and, of course, the Jews. .... Canaris was ordered by the Chief of the OKW, who stated that he was transmitting a directive which he had apparently received from Ribbentrop since he spoke of it in connection with the political plans of the Foreign Minister, to instigate in the Galician Ukraine an uprising aimed at the extermination of Jews and Poles. ....
Hitler and Jodl entered either after the discussions I have just described or towards the conclusion of the whole discussion of this subject, when Canaris had already begun his report on the situation in the West; that is, on the news which had meanwhile come in on the reaction of the French Army at the West Wall. ....
After this discussion in the private carriage of the Chief of the OKW, Canaris left the coach and had another short talk with Ribbentrop, who, returning to the subject of the Ukraine, told him once more that the uprising should be so staged that all farms and dwellings of the Poles should go up in flames, and all Jews be killed... The Foreign Minister of that time, Ribbentrop, said that to Canaris. I was standing next to him...I remember with particular clarity the somewhat new phrasing that "all farms and dwellings should go up in flames." Previously there had only been talk of "liquidation" and "elimination." ....
This order or directive which Ribbentrop issued and which Keitel transmitted to Canaris, Ribbentrop also giving it to Canaris during a brief discussion, was in reference to the organizations of National Ukrainians with which Amt Abwehr cooperated along military lines, and which were to bring about an uprising in Poland, an uprising which aimed to exterminate the Poles and the Jews; that is to say, above all, such elements as were always being discussed in these conferences. When Poles are mentioned, the intelligentsia especially are meant, and all those persons who embodied the national will of resistance. This was the order given to Canaris in the connection I have already described and as it has already been noted in the memorandum. The idea was not to kill Ukrainians but, on the contrary, to carry out this task of a purely political and terrorist nature together with the Ukrainians. The cooperation between Amt Ausland Abwehr and these people who numbered only about 500 or 1000, and what actually occurred can be clearly seen from the diary This was simply a preparation for military sabotage.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: I remember that in the
course of the Polish campaign Admiral Canaris, who was at the time Chief of
the Wehrmacht Counterintelligence Service, came to see me, as he sometimes
did when he was making a short personal visit. I was in my compartment on
the Führer's train at the time. I do not remember that the witness Lahousen
was present; I had the impression when I saw Herr Lahousen here that I had
never seen him before. Canaris came to me from time to time to tell me about
his activities in the Intelligence and other fields. He did so on this
occasion; and I believe it was he who told me that he had set all his agents
to fomenting a revolt among the Ukrainian and other minorities in the rear
of the Polish Army, He certainly received no instructions or directives from
me, as was alleged here—and cannot have received any, for these two reasons:
1. The German Foreign Minister was never in a position to give any
directives to a military authority.
2. At the beginning of the Polish campaign, the German Foreign Office was not at all concerned with the question of the Ukraine, and similar questions—or at any rate I myself was not. I was not even sufficiently well acquainted with the details to be able to give directives. ....
The witness Lahousen has alleged that I said that houses were to be burned down or villages were to be burned down and the Jews were to be killed. I would like to state categorically that I never said such a thing. Canaris was with me in my car at that time, and it is possible, although I do not remember it exactly, that I may have seen him going out later on. Apparently he received instructions which originated with the Führer as to the attitude he was to take in Poland with regard to the Ukrainian and other questions. There is no sense in the statement. ascribed to me, because especially in the Ukraine—the Ukrainian villages—those were Ukrainians living in them, and they were not our enemies but our friends; it would have been completely senseless for me to say that these villages should be burned down.
Secondly, as regards killing the Jews, I can only say that this would have been entirely contrary to my inner conviction and that the killing of the Jews never entered the mind of anybody at that time. I may say, in short, that all this is absolutely untrue. I have never given instructions of this kind, nor could I have done so, nor even a general indication on those lines. May I add that I remember that Herr Lahousen himself was not quite convinced that I had made this statement; at least, that was my impression.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: I should like to emphasize that there was not the slightest doubt in either Stalin's or Hitler's mind that, if the negotiations with Poland came to naught, the territories that had been taken from the two great powers by force of arms could also be retaken by force of arms. In keeping with this understanding, the eastern territories were occupied by Soviet troops and the western territories by German troops after victory. There is no doubt that Stalin can never accuse Germany of an aggression or of an aggressive war for her action in Poland. If it is considered an aggression, then both sides are guilty of it.September 27, 1939: Warsaw finally capitulates to Germany after a month of bloody resistance.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: After the conclusion of
the Polish campaign I had some lengthy conversations with Adolf Hitler. The
situation was then such that beyond a doubt there was a certain lack of
enthusiasm for this whole war on the part of the French. During these weeks
military people occasionally used the expression "potato war in the West."
Hitler, as far as I can judge from everything that he told me, was not
interested in bringing the war in the West to a decision, and I believe this
was true of all of us members of the Government. I should like to remind you
of the speech made by Reich Marshal Göring to this effect at that time.
Hitler then made a speech in Danzig, and I believe later somewhere else,
perhaps in the Reichstag, I believe in the Reichstag, in which he twice told
England and France in unmistakable language that he was still ready to open
negotiations at any time. We tried to find out also very cautiously by
listening to diplomatic circles what the mood was in the enemy capitals. But
the public replies to Adolf Hitler's speeches clearly demonstrated that
there could be no thought of peace. ....
It was, I should like to say, my most ardent endeavor; after the end of the Polish campaign to attempt to localize the war, that is, to prevent the war from spreading in Europe. However, I soon was to find out that once a war has broken out, politics are not always the only or rather not at all, the decisive factor in such matters, and that in such cases the so-called timetables of general staffs start to function. Everybody wants to outdo everybody else. Our diplomatic efforts were undoubtedly everywhere, in Scandinavia as well as in the Balkans and elsewhere, against an extension of the war. Nevertheless, the war did take that course. I should like to state that according to my conversations with Adolf Hitler, and I am also convinced that the German military men were of the same opinion, Hitler wished in no way to extend the war anywhere.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: A long time before Pearl Harbor, we had delivered an official protest to the United States, in which we pointed out, in the case of the two ships Greer and Kerne, that these two boats had pursued German submarines and had thrown depth charges at them. I believe the Secretary of the Navy Knox admitted this openly in a press conference. I mentioned yesterday that Hitler said in his speech in Munich that he did not give the order to shoot or to attack American vessels but he had given the order to fire back if they fired first.September 29, 1939: The USSR and Germany divide Poland between them.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: My second visit to
Moscow was made necessary by the ending of the Polish campaign. I flew to
Moscow toward the end of September, and this time I received an especially
cordial reception. The situation then was such that we had to create clear
conditions in the Polish territory. Soviet troops had occupied the eastern
regions of Poland, and we had occupied the western parts up to the line of
demarcation previously agreed upon. Now we had to fix a definite line of
demarcation. We were also anxious to strengthen our ties with the Soviet
Union and to establish cordial relations with them. An agreement was reached
in Moscow, fixing a definite line in Poland, and an economic treaty to put
economic relations on an entirely new basis was envisaged. A comprehensive
treaty regulating the exchange of raw materials was envisaged and later on
concluded. At the same time this pact was politically amplified into a
treaty of friendship, as is well known.
One question remained, about the territory of Lithuania. For the sake of establishing particularly trustful relations between Moscow and Berlin, the Fuehrer renounced influence over Lithuania, and gave Russia predominance in Lithuania by this second treaty, so that there was now a clear understanding between Germany and Soviet Russia with respect to territorial claims as well... The line of demarcation was roughly drawn on a map. It ran along the Rivers Rysia, Bug, Narew, and San. These rivers I remember. That was the line of demarcation that was to be adhered to in case of an armed conflict with Poland...the agreement was that the territories east of these rivers were to go to Soviet Russia and the territories west of these rivers were to be occupied by German troops, while the organization of this territory as intended by Germany was still an open question and had not yet been discussed by Hitler and myself. Then, later the Government General was formed when the regions lost by Germany after World War I were incorporated into Germany.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: Various things made the
Führer a little skeptical about the Russian attitude. One was the occupation
of the Baltic States. .... Another was the occupation of Bessarabia and
North Bukovina after the French campaign and of which we were simply
informed without any previous consultation. The King of Romania asked us for
advice at that time. The Führer, out of loyalty to the Soviet pact, advised
the King of Romania to accept the Russian demands and to evacuate
Bessarabia. In addition, the war with Finland in 1940 caused a certain
uneasiness in Germany, among the German people who had strong sympathies for
the Finns. The Führer felt himself bound to take this into account to some
There were two other points to consider. One was that the Führer received a report on certain communist propaganda in German factories which alleged that the Russian trade delegation was the center of this propaganda. Above all, we heard of military preparations being made by Russia. I know after the French campaign he spoke to me about this matter on several occasions and said that approximately 20 German divisions had been concentrated near the East Prussian border; and that very large forces—I happen to remember the number, I think about 30 army corps—were said to be concentrated in Bessarabia. The Führer was perturbed by these reports and asked me to watch the situation closely. He even said that in all probability the 1939 Pact had been concluded for the sole purpose of being able to dictate economic and political conditions to us. In any case, he now proposed to take countermeasures. I pointed out the danger of preventive wars to the Führer, but the Führer said that German-Italian interests must come first in all circumstances, if necessary. I said I hoped that matters would not go so far and that, at all events, we should make every effort through diplomatic channels to avoid this.
From Ten Days to Destiny by John Costello: The
reception that Welles and Moffat received from the Nazi leadership when they
reached Berlin on 1 March 1940 quickly killed any hopes the Americans might
have had for meaningful peace talks. Ribbentrop, who received them
"glacially, and without a semblance of a smile or a word of greeting,"
launched into a two-hour harangue laying out Germany's claim to a "Monroe
Doctrine of Europe." Welles found him "very stupid" and "saturated with hate
for England." The next morning Hitler greeted the envoys "very pleasantly,
but with great formality." With a "decidedly gemuetlich (gemuetlich: warm
and congenial; pleasant or friendly.) look," he delivered "exactly the same
historical survey" of Germany's position and willingness to negotiate peace
The German people today are united as one man, and I have the support of every German," Hitler declared. "I can see no hope for the establishment of any lasting peace until the will of England and France to destroy Germany is itself destroyed." The same bombastic message was delivered next day by Rudolf Hess. He read from a typewritten text, giving Welles the "unmistakable appearance of being devoid of all but a very low order of intelligence.
Hess was so obviously parroting Ribbentrop that Welles did not waste any time with the party chief. He set off on the hour and a half drive to Karinhall, where Goering received the, in his bulging white uniform dripping with decorations, and with jewel-encrusted hands "shaped like the digging-paws of a badger." Goering nonetheless "spoke with great frankness" about Hitler's reluctance to begin a war that might destroy the British Empire. When Roosevelt's envoy's left Berlin for Paris on 4 March they had already come to the conclusion that Hitler could not be overthrown and that he commanded the military and public support to make good his threat to sacrifice two million men if Britain and France did not agree to his terms. Nothing they learned from the French officials during their brief stop-over in Paris changed Welles's opinion that both sides had dug in too deeply to make any concessions.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: One day in April 1940 Hitler summoned me to the Chancellery. He told me that he had received reports stating that the British were on the point of occupying Norway, or of landing troops there. He had therefore decided to occupy Norway and Denmark on the morning of the day after next. That was the first I heard of it. I was amazed; and the Führer then showed me the documentary evidence which he had received through his intelligence service. He ordered me to prepare notes at once, informing the Norwegian and the Danish governments that German troops were about to march in. I reminded the Führer that we had a non-aggression pact with Denmark and that Norway was a neutral country, and told him that reports received from our Legation at Oslo did not indicate any landing. When the documents were shown to me, however, I realized how grave the situation was and that these reports had to be taken seriously. The next day along with my assistants, I prepared diplomatic notes to be sent by plane to Oslo and Copenhagen on 8 April. On: that day we worked day and night in order to finish these notes. The Fuehrer had given orders that these notes were to arrive shortly before the German occupation. The order was executed.
From the IMT testimony of Adolf von Steengracht: In
point of fact, the Foreign Office lost its competency toward the country
concerned at the moment when the German bayonet crossed the border. The
exclusive right to maintain direct relations with foreign governments was
eliminated in all occupied territories; in most instances even the right to
have a representative of the Foreign Office whose post was for observation
only and without competency. This is particularly true for the Eastern
Territories and for Norway.
Where Ribbentrop made the effort to maintain, in spite of the occupation, a certain degree of independence of a country, as, for example, in Norway, this activity of our diplomats was termed weak, traitorous, stupid, and those responsible had to stop their work at once, on Hitler's orders, and disappeared from the Foreign Office.
In general the changed position of the Foreign Office during the war is best characterized by Hitler's statement: "The Foreign Office shall, as far as possible, disappear from the picture until the end of the war." Hitler wanted to limit the Foreign Office to about 20 to 40 people, and it was even partially forbidden to form or to maintain any connection with the Foreign Office.
The Foreign Office, as such, and its officials were detested by Hitler. He considered them objective jurists, defeatists, and cosmopolitans, to whom a matter can be given only if it is not to be carried out. ....
Hitler had in effect made the statement: "Diplomacy is defrauding the people. Treaties are childish; they are respected only as long as they seem useful to the respective partners." That was Hitler's opinion of all diplomats in the world.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: The occupation of
Denmark was completed without trouble, as far as I know. I believe that
hardly a shot was fired. As soon as we had occupied the country, we
negotiated with the Danish Government, under Stauning, and made agreements
so that everything should go on without disturbances and as far as possible
in a friendly atmosphere. Denmark's integrity was fully guaranteed, and
matters went on, even in the later stages, in a comparatively quiet and
The situation was rather different in Norway. Resistance had developed. We tried to keep the King of Norway in the country and to induce him to stay there. We negotiated with him but we had no success. He went north, I believe, to Narvik; and so there was no longer any possibility of negotiating with Norway. Norway was occupied, as you know, and a civil administration established. After this date, Norway was no longer any concern of the Foreign Office; but one thing I should like to add: that the Führer told me repeatedly that the measures he had taken were extremely necessary, and that documents found after the landing of British troops in Norway, and published at a later date, showed that the occupation of these countries and the landing in Norway had doubtlessly been planned for a long time by England.
Frequent allusions have been made in the course of this Trial to the great sufferings of the Norwegian and Danish peoples. I personally am of the opinion that whatever one may think of the German occupation, for all intents and purposes it prevented Scandinavia from becoming a theater of war, and I believe, that in that way the Norwegian and Danish peoples were spared untold suffering. If war had broken out between Germany and the Scandinavian countries, these people would have been exposed to much greater suffering and privation. ....
I must explain that the name of Quisling became known only at a much later date. Before the occupation of Norway his name meant nothing to me. It is true that Herr Rosenberg contacted me with a view to assisting pro-German Scandinavians within the frame of the former Nordic Movement (Nordische Bewegung) and that was a perfectly natural thing to do. At that period, we also provided funds for newspapers, propaganda, and also for political activities in Norway. At these discussions, I remember this distinctly, no mention was ever made of any seizing of political power through certain circles in Norway, or of military operations.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: The "invasion" of Denmark, as it is called, was, according to the Führer's words and explanation, a purely preventive measure adopted against imminent landings of British fighting forces. How authentic our information was is proved by the fact that only a few days later English and German troops were engaged in battle in Norway. That means that it was proved that these English troops had been ready for a long time for fighting in Norway, and it came out from the documents discovered later on and published at the time, and from orders issued, that the English landing in Scandinavia had been prepared down to the smallest detail. The Führer therefore thought that by seizing Scandinavia, he would prevent it from becoming another theater of war. I do not therefore think that the invasion of Denmark can be considered as an act of aggression.April 10, 1940: Denmark's King Christian orders a cease fire, to start at 7.20am April 11.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: After the occupation of
Denmark the Foreign Office was represented by a minister at the Danish
Court. Later, because of certain events—I believe it would take too long to
enumerate them—the Danish Government resigned and a Reich Plenipotentiary
was appointed. There was also a Military Commander in Denmark and later on a
Higher SS and Police Leader. The activities of the minister of the Danish
Court were those of an ordinary and very influential minister, who tried to
straighten out all the difficulties which might naturally arise during an
occupation; and later on the function of the Reich Plenipotentiary,
according to my instructions, was to treat Denmark, not as an enemy of
Germany, but as a friend.
This was always guiding principle in Denmark and even at a much later period, when more serious difficulties arose as a result of the intensified warfare, there was really complete quiet and calm in Denmark throughout the long years of war and we were very well satisfied with conditions there. Later, because of the activities of enemy agents against our measures, et cetera, things took a more rigorous turn; the Reich Plenipotentiary always had instructions from me not to aggravate things but to straighten them out and to work on the continuation of good relations between the Danes and the Germans. His task was not always an easy one; but on the whole, I believe, he did his work satisfactorily.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: After the Polish campaign military considerations proved to be the decisive factors. The Führer did not wish the war to spread. As for Holland, Belgium, and France, it was France who declared war on Germany and not we who declared war on France. We therefore had to prepare for an attack from this direction as well. The Führer told me at the time that such an attack on the Ruhr area was to be expected, and documents discovered at a later date have proved to the world at large beyond a shadow of doubt that this information was perfectly authentic. The Führer therefore decided to adopt preventive measures in this case as well and not to wait for an attack on the heart of Germany, but to attack first. And so the timetable of the German General Staff was put into practice.May 10, 1940: Luxembourg is quickly over-run.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: Luxembourg was in much the same situation as Belgium and Holland. It is a very small country, and obviously in a war on the scale of this one the armies cannot suddenly bypass one particular country. But I would like to point out just one thing in connection with Luxembourg: The summer before, that is during the summer of 1939, we had started negotiations with France and Luxembourg with a view to making perfectly definite pacts of neutrality to be established by treaties. At first, the negotiations seemed to be going very well; but they were suddenly broken off by both France and Luxembourg. At the time we did not understand the reason for this, but I know that when I reported it to the Führer, it made him a little distrustful as to the motives that may have been of importance on the other side. We never knew the exact reason.May 24, 1940 Das Schornstein-Fegen: By this date the Germans are able to isolate French, British, and Belgium troops in the north, forcing them into a vulnerable, and near collapsing, triangle.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: In 1937, Germany
declared that she had made an agreement with Belgium in which Germany
undertook to respect Belgium's strict neutrality on condition that Belgium
on her part would maintain her neutrality. After the Polish campaign the
Führer told me on several occasions that, according to his intelligence
reports, the enemy intended to cross Dutch and Belgian territory to attack
the Ruhr. We also sometimes received reports of this kind; these were of a
less concrete nature. In any event, Adolf Hitler believed that an attack on
the Ruhr district, which was Germany's most vital area, was a possibility
that had to be reckoned with at all times. I had a good many discussions
with the Führer about that time, regarding the importance of Belgian
neutrality for the world in general; but I knew, too, that we were involved
in a struggle, a hard struggle of larger dimensions where completely
different standards would have to be applied.
In the course of events, in the spring of 1940, our intelligence reports about an attack of this kind became more and more concrete, and I may mention that documents belonging to the French General Staff, et cetera, which were found later and published by the German Foreign Office, proved conclusively that the reports which Germany had received were absolutely true and that an attack on the Ruhr area had actually been repeatedly considered by the enemies of Germany, that is, by those who were her enemies at the time. In this connection I would like to call attention to a document concerning a meeting between Prime Minister Chamberlain and M. Daladier in Paris, at which Mr. Chamberlain suggested an attack for the destruction of the vitally important industrial areas of the Ruhr through the so-called "chimneys" of Holland and Belgium. I believe this document is here and has been granted to the Defense.
The situation before the offensive in the West on which the Führer had decided was therefore such that an attack by the enemy through these great areas had to be expected at any time. For this reason he decided to attack across this area, across these two neutral territories, and I believe that after the attack—the military authorities will confirm this—further documents were found and facts established, which as far as I remember, showed that the closest co-operation had existed between the Belgian and I believe also the Dutch General Staffs, and the British and French General Staffs. Of course it is always a very grave matter in such a war to violate the neutrality of a country, and you must not think that we dismissed it, so to speak, with a wave of the hand. It cost me many a sleepless night and I would like to remind you that the same questions arose on the other side and other statesmen also discussed them at the time. I remind you of a statement to the effect that "one got tired of thinking of the rights of neutrals;" and this assertion was made by the eminent British statesman, Winston Churchill.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: After the occupation or
partial occupation of France, although we were not yet at peace with France
and there was therefore really no reason to resume diplomatic relations, as
only an armistice had been declared, the Führer, at my request, appointed an
ambassador to the Vichy Government. I was especially anxious for this to be
done because it had always been my aim to come to a closer co-operation with
France. I would like to emphasize the fact that I resumed my efforts in this
direction immediately after the victory and the armistice. I have—the
Führer readily agreed to this and also initiated the so-called Montoire
policy at my request, by meeting Marshal Petain at Montoire after a meeting
with General Franco.
I was present at this meeting. I believe I may say in the interests of historical truth that Adolf Hitler's treatment of the head of the defeated French nation is probably unexampled and must be described as chivalrous. There cannot be many parallel cases in history. Adolf Hitler immediately made proposals to Marshal Petain for a closer collaboration between Germany and France, but Marshal Petain, even at the very first meeting, adopted an attitude of marked reserve towards the victor, so that, to my great personal regret this first meeting came to an end somewhat more quickly than I had really hoped it would. In spite of this, we continued to try to carry out a systematic policy of conciliation and even of close collaboration with France. Our lack of success was probably due to the natural attitude of France and the will of influential circles. Germany did not fail to make every effort.
From the IMT testimony of Adolf von Steengracht: Guilt
for all these occurrences rests only on a relatively small group, to be
appraised at a few thousand people. It was these who carried out this
unparalleled terror against the German people. But those who thought
differently and who remained are chiefly to be thanked for the fact that,
for example, the Geneva Convention was not renounced, that tens or even
hundreds of thousands of English or American airmen and prisoners were not
shot, that the unfortunate prisoners, those seriously wounded, were returned
during the war to their families in their home countries; Greece in her dire
need received food; exchange was stabilized as far as possible, as in
Belgium and France, and militarily pointless destruction ordered in foreign
countries and in the home country could be in part prevented or at least
lessened; indeed that the principles of human justice, in some places at
least, remained alive. These circles were discouraged in their attitude
earlier by the fact that no foreign power had used the conditions in Germany
as a reason for breaking off diplomatic relations, but that almost all,
until the outbreak of war negotiated with National Socialism, concluded
treaties and even had their diplomatic representatives at the National
Socialist Party Days at Nuremberg. It was particularly noted that National
Socialist Germany, outwardly at any rate, received much more consideration,
understanding, and respect from foreign countries than ever had the Weimar
Republic despite all its fidelity to treaties or its integrity.
Then the war came, and with it special duties for civil servants, officers, and every individual German. Should, and if so when and how could these people who still felt themselves to be the servants of the nation, leave their posts under these circumstances? Would they, above all, by taking such a step be useful to their country and to humanity? Would they have frightened Hitler or even warned him? ....
I had at that time (after the French campaign), to be sure, no official position. But I nevertheless felt the need, and I believe it was a heartfelt wish of many, if not all, Germans, to see peaceful conditions again in the world as soon as possible. On the day of the capitulation of the King of the Belgians, I suggested: Firstly, the creation of a United States of Europe on a democratic basis. This would have meant independence of Holland, Belgium, Poland, and so on.
Secondly, if this could not be brought about with Hitler, at any rate to have as few encroachments on the autonomy of the countries as possible... But at that time Hitler considered such plans as premature. ....
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: After the conclusion of
the campaign in the West, I discussed future developments with the Fuehrer
at his headquarters. I asked him what his further intentions were with
regard to England. The Führer and I proposed at the time, whether we had
not better make another attempt with England. The Führer seemed to have had
the same idea and was delighted with my proposal for making a fresh peace
offer or attempting to make peace with England. I asked the Führer whether I
should draft such a treaty for this case. The Führer spontaneously replied:
'No, that will not be necessary, I will do that myself, that is, there is no
need to do it at all."
He said, word for word: "If England is ready for peace, there are only four points to be settled. Above all, after Dunkirk, I do not want England in any circumstances to suffer a loss of prestige, so under no circumstances do I want a peace which would involve that." With regard to the contents of such a treaty, he enumerated four points: 1. Germany is ready to recognize in all respects the existence of the British Empire. 2. England must, therefore, acknowledge Germany to be the greatest continental power, if only because of the size of her population. 3. He said, "I want England to return the German colonies. I would be satisfied with one or two of them, because of the raw materials." 4. He said that he wanted a permanent alliance with England for life and death.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: It is quite clear that the basic anti-Semitic tendency and policy of the German Government spread over all the departments and naturally, in any sphere—I mean, every Government office somehow or other came into contact with these matters. Our task in the Foreign Office—which could be proved in thousands of cases if the documents would be submitted was to act as an intermediary in this sphere. I might say, we often had to do things in accordance with this anti-Semitic policy, but we always endeavored to prevent these measures and to reach some kind of conciliatory settlement. In fact, the German Embassy was not responsible for any anti-Semitic measures of any description in France.September 25, 1940: Ribbentrop to Molotov:
From the IMT testimony of Margarete Blank: The Tripartite Pact was to be a pact for the limitation of war (and) was signed with this end in view.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: The Tripartite Pact was
concluded, I believe, in September 1940. The situation was as I have just
described it, that is to say, the Führer was alarmed that the United States
might sooner or later enter the war. For this reason I wanted to do all I
could, in the field of diplomacy, to strengthen Germany's position. I
thought we had Italy as an ally, but Italy showed herself to be a weak ally.
As we could not win France over to our side, the only friend apart from the
Balkan States was Japan. In the summer of 1940 we therefore tried to achieve
closer collaboration with Japan. Japan was trying to do the same with us and
that led to the signing of the pact. The aim, or substance, of this pact was
a political, military, and economic alliance.
There is no doubt, however, that it was intended as a defensive alliance; and we considered it as such from the start. By that I mean that it was intended in the first place to keep the United States out of the war; and I hoped that a combination of this kind might enable us to make peace with England after all. The pact itself was not based on any plan for aggression or world domination, as has often been asserted. That is not true; its purpose was, as I have just said, to arrive at a combination which would enable Germany to introduce a new order in Europe and would also allow Japan to reach a solution acceptable to her in East Asia, especially in regard to the Chinese problem. That was what I had in mind when I negotiated and signed the pact. The situation was not unfavorable; the pact might possibly keep the United States neutral and isolate England so that we might all the same arrive at a compromise peace, a possibility of which we never lost sight during the whole course of the war, and for which we worked steadily.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: I consider that the
measures adopted in Yugoslavia and the measures taken by Greece in granting
bases, et cetera, to the enemies of Germany justified the intervention of
Adolf Hitler, so that here too one cannot speak of aggressive action in this
sense. It was quite clear that British troops were about to land in Greece,
since they had already landed in Crete and the Peloponnesos, and that the
uprising in Yugoslavia by the enemies of Germany, in agreement with the
enemies of Germany, as I mentioned yesterday, had been encouraged with the
intent of launching an attack against Germany from that country. The
documents of the French General Staff discovered later in France showed only
too clearly that a landing in Salonika had been planned. ....
The concept of "aggression" is a very complicated concept, which even today the world at large cannot readily define. That is a point I should like to emphasize first. We are here dealing, undeniably, with a preventive intervention, with a war of prevention. That is quite certain, for attack we did. There is no denying it. I had hoped that matters with the Soviet Union could have been settled differently, diplomatically, and I did everything I could in this direction. But the information received and all the political acts of the Soviet Union in 1940 and 1941 until the outbreak of war, persuaded the Führer, as he repeatedly told me, that sooner or later the so-called East-West pincers would be applied to Germany, that is, that in the East, Russia with her immense war potential, and in the West, England and the United States, were pushing steadily towards Europe with the purpose of making a large-scale landing. It was the Führer's great worry that this would happen.
Moreover, the Führer informed me that close collaboration existed between the General Staffs of London and Moscow. This I do not know; I personally received no such news. But the reports and information which I received from the Führer were of an extremely concrete nature. At any rate, he feared that, one day, Germany, faced with this political situation, would be threatened with catastrophe and he wished to prevent the collapse of Germany and the destruction of the balance of power in Europe.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: The conferences with
Molotov at Berlin concerned the following subjects: I might interpolate that
when we were trying to effect a settlement with Russia through diplomatic
channels, I wrote a letter to Marshal Stalin, with the Führer's permission,
in the late autumn of 1940 and invited Mr. Molotov to come to Berlin. This
invitation was accepted, and Russo-German relations were discussed in their
entirety during a conversation between the Führer and Mr. Molotov. I was
present at this discussion. Mr. Molotov first discussed with the Führer
Russo-German relations in general and then went on to mention Finland and
the Balkans. He said that Russia had vital interests in Finland. He said
that when the delimitation of zones of influence had been settled, it had
been agreed that Finland should be included in the Russian sphere of
The Führer replied that Germany also had extensive interests in Finland, especially with regard to nickel, and furthermore, it should not be forgotten that the entire German people sympathized with the Finns. He would therefore ask Mr. Molotov to compromise on this question. This topic was brought up on several occasions. With regard to the Balkans, Mr. Molotov said that he wanted a non-aggression pact with Bulgaria, and generally closer ties with Bulgaria. He also thought of establishing bases there. The Führer replied, or rather asked, whether Bulgaria had approached Molotov in the matter, but that apparently was not the case.
The Führer then said that he could not express any opinion on this question until he had discussed it with Mussolini, who was his ally and who was naturally interested in the Balkans too. Various other points were also discussed, but no final settlement was reached at this discussion. The discussion rather proceeded on lines which seemed to me not those best calculated to lead to a bridging of all contrasts. As soon as the meeting was over, I requested the Fuehrer to authorize me to take up again the discussions with Mr. Molotov and asked him if he would consent to my discussing with Mr. Molotov the possibility of Russia's joining the Tripartite Pact. That was one of our aims at the time. The Führer agreed to this and I had another long discussion with the Russian Foreign Commissar. In this conversation the same topics were discussed. Mr. Molotov alluded to Russia's vital interest in Finland; he also referred to Russia's deep interest in Bulgaria, the kinship between the Russian and the Bulgarian people, and her interest in other Balkan countries.
It was finally agreed that on his return to Moscow he should speak to Stalin and try to arrive at some solution of the question. I proposed that they join the Tripartite Pact and further proposed that I should discuss with the Führer the various points which had been raised. Perhaps we could still find a way out. The general result of this conversation was that Molotov went back to Moscow with the intention of clearing up through the embassies the differences still existing between us.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: I should perhaps say
first that I had agreed with M. Molotov in Berlin to conduct further
negotiations through diplomatic channels. I wanted to influence the Fuehrer
regarding the demands already made by Molotov in Berlin in order that some
sort of an agreement or compromise might be arrived at. Then Schulenburg
sent us a report from Moscow with the Russian demands. In this report was,
first of all, the renewed demand for Finland. To this the Führer, as is well
known, told Molotov that he did not wish that after the winter campaign of
1940 another war should break out in the North.
Now the demand for Finland was raised again, and we assumed that it would mean the occupation of Finland. It was difficult since it was a demand which the Führer had already turned down. Another demand of the Russians was that of the Balkans and Bulgaria. Russia, as is well known, wanted bases there and wished to enter into close relations with Bulgaria. The Bulgarian Government, with whom we got in touch, did not want this. Moreover, this Russian penetration of the Balkans was for both the Führer and Mussolini a difficult question because of our economic interests there: grain, oil, and so on. But above all it was the will of the Bulgarian Government themselves, which was against this penetration.
Then, thirdly, there was the demand of the Russians for outlets to the sea and military bases on the Dardanelles; and then the request which Molotov had already expressed to me in Berlin, to secure somehow at least an interest in the outlets of the Baltic Sea. M. Molotov himself told me at that time that Russia naturally was also very much interested in the Skagerrak and Kattegat. At that time I discussed these demands and requests fully with the Führer. The Fuehrer said we would have to get in touch with Mussolini, who was very much interested in some of these demands. This took place, but neither the demands for the Balkans nor the demands for the Dardanelles met with the approval from Mussolini.
As far as Bulgaria is concerned I have already stated that she did not want it either; and with regard to Finland, neither Finland nor the Führer wanted to accede to the demands of the Soviet Union. Negotiations were then carried on for many months. I recall that upon receipt of a telegram from Moscow in December 1940 I had another long conversation with the Führer. I had an idea that, if we could bring about a compromise between the Russian demands and the wishes of the various parties concerned, a coalition could be formed which would be so strong that it would eventually induce England to remain at peace.
From the IMT testimony of Adolf von Steengracht: Ribbentrop told me several times that he was very concerned about the pact with Russia. In regard to preventive war, he had stated to Hitler: "The good God does not let anyone look at His cards." I know too that Ribbentrop made efforts to bring our experts on Russia to Hitler in order to explain to him the situation there and to advise him against a war. Hitler did not permit these people to see him, so far as I know. Only Ambassador Count Schulenburg was granted a short audience. He, who considered such a war ill-advised and emphatically rejected the idea, could not, however, advance his views on Russia and the reasons against a war; for Hitler, having delivered a speech of his own on this subject, after about 20 minutes dismissed him abruptly without letting him speak a word.December 18, 1940: Hitler gives orders for the military preparations against the USSR.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: I must say this here:
In the winter of 1940-41 the Führer was confronted with the following
situation. I think it is most important to make this clear. England was not
prepared to make peace. The attitude of the United States of America and of
Russia was therefore of decisive importance to the Führer. He told me the
following about this—I had a very lengthy discussion with him on the subject
and asked him to give me clearly defined diplomatic directives. He said that
Japan's attitude was not absolutely secure for Germany; although we had
concluded the Tripartite Pact, there were very strong opposition elements at
work in Japan and we could not know what position Japan would take; Italy
had proved to be a very weak ally in the Greek campaign. Germany might,
therefore, have to stand entirely alone. After that, he spoke of the
American attitude. He said that he had always wanted to have good relations
with the United States, but that in spite of extreme reserve, the United
States had grown steadily more hostile to Germany.
The Tripartite Pact had been concluded with a view to keeping the United States out of the war, as it was our wish and our belief that in that way those circles in the United States which were working for peace and for good relations with Germany could be strengthened. We were not successful in this, however, as the attitude of the United States was not favorable to Germany after the conclusion of the Tripartite Pact. The Führer's basic idea, and mine, namely, that if the United States did enter the war in Europe, they would have to reckon with a war on two fronts and therefore would prefer not to intervene, was not realized. Now the further question of Russia's attitude came up and in this connection the Führer made the following statement: We have a friendship pact with Russia.
But Russia has assumed the attitude which we have just been discussing and which causes me a certain amount of concern. We do not know, therefore, what to expect from that side. More and more troop movements were reported; he had himself taken military countermeasures, the exact nature of which was, and still is, unknown to me. However, his great anxiety was that Russia on the one hand and the United States and Britain on the other, might proceed against Germany. On the one hand, therefore, he had to reckon with an attack by Russia and on the other hand with a joint attack by the United States and England, that is to say with large-scale landings in the West. All these considerations finally caused the Fuehrer to take preventive measures, to start a preventive war against Russia on his own initiative. ....
Adolf Hitler once said to me—he expressed himself thus—and this was when he became worried about what was taking place in Russia in the way of preparations against Germany: "We do not know of course what is concealed behind this gate, if some day we should really be forced to kick it open." From this and other statements which the Führer made at this time I concluded that, on the basis of reports about Russia, he suffered great anxiety about the strength and the possible display of might by the Soviet Union.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: The Defendant Keitel was with me at the time at Fuschl, and on that occasion he told me that the Führer had certain misgivings regarding Russia and could not leave the possibility of an armed conflict out of his calculations. He said that, for his part, he had prepared a memorandum which he proposed to discuss with the Führer. He had doubts as to the wisdom of any conflict of that kind in the East, and he asked me at the time if I would also use my influence with the Führer in that direction. I agreed to do so. But an attack or plans for an attack were not discussed; I might say that all this was a discussion more from a General Staff point of view. He made no mention to me of anything more concrete.January 30, 1941: Hitler speaks in Berlin:
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: It came within the
scope of the Führer's policy for preventing the war from spreading, as
entrusted to me, that I should keep a sharp watch on these things and, of
course, especially on the Balkans; Adolf Hitler wished in all circumstances
to keep the Balkans out of the war. As for Greece the situation was as
follows: Greece had accepted a British guarantee. Also, there were close
links between Yugoslavia and England and, especially, France. Through the
Führer's intelligence service and through military channels we repeatedly
heard about staff conferences between Athens, Belgrade, London and Paris,
which were supposed to be taking place. About that time I summoned the Greek
Minister on several occasions and drew his attention to these things. I
asked him to be very careful, and told him that Germany had no intention of
taking any steps against the Greek people, who had always been very much
liked in Germany. However, further intelligence reports came in to the
effect that Britain had been given permission to establish naval bases in
Greece. I believe—and all this led up to the intervention of Italy, which we
did not desire at all. ....
It was impossible to prevent this intervention, for when we arrived in Florence—I was with Adolf Hitler at the time—for his conference with Mussolini, it was too late and Mussolini said: "We are on the march." The Führer was very much upset and depressed when he heard this news. We then had to do everything in our power so that the war between Greece and Italy might at least be prevented from spreading. Yugoslav policy was naturally the decisive factor here. I tried in every possible way to establish closer links with Yugoslavia and to win her over to the Tripartite Pact which had already been concluded then. It was difficult at first, but with the help of the Regent Prince Paul and the Zvetkovitch Government, we finally succeeded in inducing Yugoslavia to join the Tripartite Pact. We knew very well, however, that there was strong opposition in Belgrade to the adhesion of Yugoslavia to the Tripartite Pact and to any kind of closer connection with Germany.
In Vienna at the time the Führer said that the signing of the Tripartite Pact seemed like a funeral to him. All the same, we were very much surprised when—I think it was 2 or 3 days after the conclusion of this pact—the government was overthrown by General Simovic's coup and a new government was set up which certainly could not be described as friendly to Germany. Reports came from Belgrade concerning close collaboration with the British General Staff. I believe American observers in this field are informed on the point, and during the last few months I have heard from English sources that British elements had played a part in this coup. That was quite natural, for we were at war.
All these events caused the Führer to intervene in the Balkans, first of all, to help Italy, whom the courageous resistance of the Greeks had forced into a very difficult position in Albania; and secondly, to prevent a possible attack from the north on the part of Yugoslavia, which might have made the Italian situation still more serious or even brought about a crushing defeat for our Italian ally. Those were the military and strategic factors which induced the Führer to intervene and to conduct the campaign against Greece and Yugoslavia.
From the IMT testimony of Margarete Blank: His (Ribbentrop's) intentions regarding Russia were shown by the Non-aggression Pact of August 1939, and the Trade Agreement of September 1939...there was an additional secret agreement. Owing to illness, I could not accompany Von Ribbentrop on his two trips to Russia. I was also absent when the preparatory work for the agreements was being done. I learned of the existence of this secret agreement through a special sealed envelope which, according to instructions, was filed separately and bore an inscription something like "German-Russian secret or additional agreement." .... Having signed the German-Russian pacts, von Ribbentrop was, of course, interested in their being kept. Moreover, he realized fully the great danger a German-Russian war would mean for Germany; accordingly he informed and warned the Führer. For this very purpose, as far as I recall, Embassy Counselor Hilger from Moscow and Ambassador Schnurre were called to Berchtesgaden to report. Also, in the spring of 1941 Ambassador Count von der Schulenburg was again ordered to report, to back up and to corroborate and reinforce Herr Von Ribbentrop's—warnings to the Fuehrer.April 29, 1941: From a letter by Joachim von Ribbentrop to Staatssekretaer Weizsaecker:
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: The war against Russia had started, and I tried at the time—the Führer 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.July 31, 1941: From a letter from Goering to Heydrich:
From the IMT testimony of Adolf von Steengracht: I know
that Ribbentrop spoke frequently with Hitler on this theme (the Church and
the Jews). I was absolutely in despair about the policy toward the Church
and the Jews, and for this reason had occasion to speak to him about it
often, as I have said. But he explained to me again and again when he
returned from Hitler: "Hitler cannot be spoken to on this point. Hitler says
that these problems have to be solved before he dies." ....
The relations between Ribbentrop and the forenamed gentlemen (Himmler, Goebbels, and Bormann) were as bad as can be imagined. There was a perpetual fight between them. In my opinion Ribbentrop would have been Himmler's first victim if anything had happened to Hitler. A constant struggle and feud, I should like to state, went on between these men with an exceptionally sharp exchange of letters. ....
The relationship in the individual departments naturally varied according to the character and the origin of the department chiefs. But one can say that the relationship was bad throughout, and, especially, that reciprocal information, so urgently necessary for state business, practically never developed. It was almost more difficult for one minister to discuss a question with another minister by telephone than to have had the Angel Gabriel himself come from heaven and speak with one of us. Even on the most important and essential matters, a factual discussion could not take place. There was, in other words, practically no connection between these departments. Moreover, they were very different, both in their character and in their ideas. ....
There must have been two protests concerning the Catholic Polish clergy. These two notes were submitted by the Nuncio to the State Secretary of that time. The then State Secretary turned these over to Ribbentrop according to regulation, and Ribbentrop in his turn presented them to Hitler. Since the Vatican had not recognized the Government General, and accordingly the Nuncio was not competent for these regions, Hitler declared when these notes were presented to him:
They are just one blunt lie. Give these notes back to the Nuncio through the State Secretary in a sharp form, and tell him that you will never again accept such a matter. Sharp and precise instructions were then issued that in all cases in which representatives of countries brought up matters which were not within their authority, whether in conversations, or notes, note verbale, memoranda, or other documents, these were not to be accepted, and verbal protests were to be turned down sharply.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: I have always said that
my relations with Himmler were good during the first few years, but I regret
to say that in the latter years I was not on good terms with him. I
naturally—it was not very noticeable to the outside world—but I do not
wish to discuss this matter in detail. Many things have already been said
about it and there were serious and violent divergences, due to many
The first divergences between Himmler and myself arose, I believe, in 1941, over Romania and difficulties in Romania. These divergences were smoothed over, and naturally to all outward appearances we had to work together as before, and we often exchanged letters on our respective birthdays and on other occasions. But later on relations were not very good. The final break came in 1941. Formerly I had been on good terms with him and also shared his opinion for the creation of a leadership class, at which he was aiming. ....
As for our 50 meetings, I do not know, we may have met frequently, despite everything, but I cannot remember 50 meetings. Possibly five or ten, I do not know. I do not believe it to be of vital importance since it is not a decisive factor. Of course we had to work together in various fields and this collaboration was mostly very difficult.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: It was a very regrettable event for us. I am not competent to deal with technical details but I remember exactly that Hitler was greatly excited about this order. I believe it was in a speech at some meeting—probably at Munich, but I do not remember exactly—that he replied to this speech and issued a warning in answer to the announcement. I happen to remember the form which his reply took, because at the time I thought it rather odd. He said that America had given the order to fire on German ships. "I gave no order to fire but I ordered that the fire be returned"; I believe that is the way he expressed it. Documentary evidence of these events reached us in the diplomatic service, but the Navy is better informed on the subject than I am. After that, I believe, there were protests and publications about the measures which made the German attitude plain; I cannot give you exact details of these protests without referring to the documents themselves.August 16, 1941: Joseph Stalin, acting as People's Commissar of Defense, releases Order No. 270, prohibiting any Soviet soldier from surrendering: "There are no Russian prisoners of war, only traitors." The order demands anyone deserting or surrendering to be killed on the spot, and subjects their families to arrest and their wives to be sent to labor camps.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: I do not know this
document, nor do I know where it comes from. At any rate, under no
circumstances did I express it that way; and I regret that all the other
documents which prove that I tried again and again to keep the United States
out of the war, have not yet been read here. I have seen this document here
and I have been pondering all the time as to how this passage would have
gotten into the document. All the other documents, I believe a dozen or a
dozen and a half, which have been presented here prove clearly my wish to
keep America out of the war.
I can prove that for years I had made efforts in all fields, despite the intransigent attitude of the United States, not to undertake anything against America. I can explain this only as follows: The Japanese Ambassador earnestly desired that his country should take some action and I know he sent many telegrams to Tokyo in order to get Japan to participate in the war, particularly against Singapore. I can only presume that this is perhaps, if I may say so, an incorrect interpretation of this conference. I ask you to give the Defense an opportunity to submit all the other documents up to this date, which will prove the exact opposite of what is laid down in this one paragraph.
From the IMT testimony of Dr. Paul Otto Schmidt: I had no direct opportunity (to observe Ribbentrop's reactions first-hand), but in the Foreign Office it was generally known that the news of Pearl Harbor took the Foreign Minister, as indeed the whole Foreign Office, completely by surprise. This impression was confirmed by what a member of the Press Department told me. The Press Department had a listening station for radio news and the official on duty had instructions to inform the Foreign Minister personally of important news at once. When the first news of Pearl Harbor was received by the listening station of the Press Department, the official on duty considered it of sufficient importance to report it to his chief, that is to say, the head of the Press Department, who in turn was to pass it on to the Foreign Minister. He was, however—so I was told— rather harshly rebuffed by the Foreign Minister who said it must be an invention of the press or a canard, and he did not wish our Press Department to disturb him with such stories. After that, a second and third message about Pearl Harbor was received, I think a Reuters report had also been received by the listening station; and the head of the Press Department then again plucked up courage and, in spite of the order not to disturb the Foreign Minister, he once more gave him this news.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: At the time I tried to
induce Japan to attack Singapore, because it was impossible to make peace
with England and I did not know what military measures we could take to
achieve this end. In any case, the Führer directed me to do everything I
could in the diplomatic field to weaken England's position and thus achieve
peace. We believed that this could best be done through an attack by Japan
on England's strong position in East Asia. For that reason I tried to induce
Japan, at that time, to attack Singapore.
After the outbreak of the Russo-German war, I also tried to make Japan attack Russia, for I thought that in this way the war could be ended most speedily. Japan, however, did not do that. She did the—she did neither of the things we wanted her to do, but instead, she did a third. She attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor. This attack came as a complete surprise to us. We had considered the possibility of Japan's attacking Singapore, that is England, or perhaps Hong Kong, but we never considered an attack on the United States as being to our advantage.
We knew that in the case of an attack on England, there was a possibility that the United States might intervene; that was a question which, naturally, we had often considered. We hoped very much, however, that this would not happen and that America would not intervene. The first news I received of the attack on Pearl Harbor was through the Berlin press, and then from the Japanese Ambassador Oshima. I should like to say under oath that all other reports, versions, or documentary evidence are entirely false. I would like to go even further to state that the attack came as a surprise even to the Japanese Ambassador—at least he told me that.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: When the news of Pearl
Harbor came, the Führer had to make a decision. The text of the Tripartite
Pact bound us to assist Japan only in case of an attack against Japan
herself. I went to see the Führer, explained the legal aspect of the
situation and told him that, although we welcomed a new ally against
England, it meant we had a new opponent to deal with as well, or would have
one to deal with if we declared war on the United States. The Führer then
decided that the United States had already fired upon our ships and thereby
had practically created a state of war; that it was therefore only a
question of form, or, at least, that this official state of war might
supervene at any moment, as a result of an incident; and that in the long
run it was impossible that this state of affairs in the Atlantic continue
without a German-American war. He then instructed me to draft a note—which
he subsequently altered—and to hand the American Ambassador his papers.
We naturally had close co-operation with Italy. By that I mean that in the further course of war, we were forced to all intents and purposes to take charge of all military operations there ourselves, or, at least, to take joint charge of them. Co-operation with Japan was very difficult, for the simple reason that we could communicate with the Japanese Government only by air. We had contact with them from time to time through U-boats, but there was no coordinated military or political plan of campaign. I believe that on this point General Marshall's view is correct, namely, that there was no close strategic co-operation or planning of any kind; and, really, there was not any.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: It was the Führer's
plan, at the time, to deport the Jews from Europe to North Africa, and
Madagascar was also mentioned in this connection. He ordered me to approach
various governments with a view to encouraging the emigration of the Jews,
if possible, and to remove all Jews from important government posts. I
issued instructions to the Foreign Office accordingly, and, if I remember
rightly, certain governments were approached several times to that effect.
It was the question of the Jewish emigration to certain parts of North
Africa; that is true. ....
Dr. Best once discussed the Jewish question with me, and he said that as far as Denmark was concerned, the question was of no particular importance, since there were not many Jews left there. I explained to him that he would have to let matters take their own course there. That is the truth. ....
I did not know Luther's document. It is, however, true that the Fuehrer gave me instructions to tell the Foreign Office to approach certain foreign governments with a view to solving the Jewish problem by removing the Jews from government positions and, wherever possible, to favor Jewish emigration.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: A certain atmosphere of
confidence between the Soviet Government and ourselves had been created at
Moscow, between Stalin, Molotov and myself, and also extending to the
Führer. For instance, the Führer told me that he had confidence in Stalin,
whom he considered one of the really great men of history, and whose
creation of the Red Army he thought a tremendous achievement; but that one
could never tell what might happen. The power of the Soviets had grown and
developed enormously. It was very difficult to know how to deal with Russia
and make an agreement with her again. I myself always tried, through
diplomatic and other channels, to maintain contact to a certain extent,
because I still believed and hoped that some sort of peace could be made
which would relieve Germany in the East and allow her to concentrate her
forces in the West and even lead, perhaps, to a general peace.
With this in view, I proposed to the Führer, for the first time, in the winter of 1942, it was before Stalingrad, that an agreement should be reached with Russia. I did that after the Anglo-American landing in Africa which caused me great misgivings. Adolf Hitler—I met him in the train at Bamberg—most emphatically rejected the idea of any such peace or peace feelers, because he thought that if it became known, it would be liable to create a spirit of defeatism, et cetera. I had suggested to him at the time that we should negotiate peace with Russia on a very moderate basis.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: 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 possible
things. Generally speaking, however, we had no influence in that sphere, as
we were excluded from Eastern questions. ....
We in the Foreign Office—in the case of the French, for instance, and quite a number of other foreign workers—co-operated in getting musicians, et cetera, from France for them. We advised on questions concerning their welfare. And I know that the German Labor Front did everything in its power, at least with regard to the sector which we could view 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 its efforts in which we co-operated were on these lines.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: If I did say that at any time, it must have been under great excitement. In any case, it does not correspond to my opinion which I have proved by my other acts during the war. I cannot say anything else at the moment.February 25, 1943: From an account of a conference between the Ribbentrop and Mussolini in the Palazzo Venezia in the presence of Ambassadors von Mackensen and Alfieri and the State Secretary Bastianini:
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: This document refers to the fact that a large-scale espionage system had been discovered, I believe, in France. The Fuehrer sent me while I was on was on a journey to Italy and told me to speak to Mussolini and see to it that in cases of Jews involved in these acts of sabotage and espionage, the Italian Government or the Italian Army did not intervene to prevent this measure. Also I should like to state definitely that I knew, and it was also the Fuehrer's plan, that the European Jews were to be resettled on a large scale either in Madagascar, North Africa, or in reservations in the East. This was generally known in Germany. That is all that we are concerned with here, and I also knew that some very unpleasant things had occurred at that time and that the Führer was convinced that all of them could be attributed to Jewish organizations in the south of France, I believe. I now recollect very well that at the time I discussed the matter with Mussolini and begged him to adopt suitable measures since these Jews were furnishing all the information to the English and American Intelligence Services. At least that was the information which the Führer was constantly receiving.March 6, 1943: Notes of conference found in the German Foreign Office archives between Ribbentrop and Ambassador Oshima:
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: ...at that time, on the
commission of the Führer, I had to keep the Italians' noses to the
grindstone, since there was complete chaos in some of the areas and the
Italians always attempted to cause complete confusion in the rear areas of
the German Army by some of the measures they took there. That is why I
occasionally had to speak very harshly with the Italians. I recall that very
distinctly. At that time the Italians were fighting together with the
Chetniks partly against German troops; it was complete chaos there and for
this reason I often used rather earnest and harsh language with the
diplomats—perhaps an exaggerated language. But things actually looked quite
different afterwards. ....
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 the Führer 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 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.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: I had to confer several
times with the Hungarian Government so as to persuade them to do something
about the Jewish problem. The Führer was extremely insistent on this point.
I therefore discussed the question repeatedly with the Hungarian Ambassador
and the question was primarily to centralize 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 ... the
Führer had repeatedly charged me to talk to Horthy, to the Hungarian
Government, to the Ambassador, in order to reach a solution of the Jewish
At the time when Horthy visited the Führer, the Führer emphasized the question to him in a very irritable manner, and I remember perfectly that subsequent to this discussion I talked the matter over with "Minister" Schmidt, saying that I, strictly speaking, had not quite understood the Führer. The remark mentioned was definitely not made in this way. M. 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 endeavor to persuade Horthy to do something or other at once about the Jewish question in Budapest, namely, that he should undertake now the centralization which the Fuehrer had already wished to carry out for a 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 summarized in brief, and contains some such statement, it certainly does not mean that I wished the Jews to be beaten to death. It was 100 percent contrary to my personal convictions. ....
I might have said ... well yes, "the Jews cannot be exterminated or beaten to death, so, please do something in order that the Fuehrer will be satisfied at long last, and centralize the Jews." That was our aim, at that time at any rate. We did not want to render the situation more acute, but 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 ... 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 centralized 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 two, since there were so many Jews in Budapest, to centralize the Jews in certain quarters of Budapest.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: I again advised the
Führer in a lengthy, written exposition, to seek such a peace. I think it
was after the collapse of Italy. The Führer was at that time open to
consider such a peace; and he drafted a possible mutual line of demarcation
which might be adopted, and said that he would let me know definitely on the
following day. Next day, however, I did not receive any authorization or
directive from him. I think that the Führer probably felt that it was
impossible to heal the breach between National Socialism and communism and
that such a peace would be no more than an armistice. I made one or two
further attempts but the Fuehrer held the view that a decisive military
success must be achieved first, and only after that could we start
negotiations, otherwise the negotiations would be useless.
If I were asked to express an opinion as to whether such negotiations would have been likely to succeed, I would say that I think it very doubtful. I believe that, considering the strong stand taken by our opponents, especially England, even since the beginning of the war, there was never any real chance of Germany's attaining peace; and that holds good for both the East and the West. And I am convinced that with the formulation at Casablanca of the demand for unconditional surrender, the possibility ceased entirely to exist. I base my opinion not on purely abstract considerations, but on continuous feelers, made through indirect channels, often unidentifiable as such, by the other side, and which expressed the opinion of important personalities with a guiding influence on policy in those countries. They were determined to fight it out to the bitter end. I think the Führer was right when he said that such negotiations would serve no purpose.
From the IMT testimony of Adolf von Steengracht: It is
true that many people remained in their positions although at heart they
disapproved of Hitler's methods of government and, indeed, were inimical to
those methods. There are various reasons for this. First, it must be said
that the NSDAP had come into power according to the rules of parliamentary
procedure as being the strongest Party in the Reichstag. The officials
employed had no reason at all to retire from service on account of the
change of government. In consequence of the change to dictatorial government
and the completely different concept of the State which the change of
government involved, the individual suddenly found that he was no longer
allowed to take a position of his own concerning this regime. The notorious
reign of terror began. Everywhere, in the ministries and chancelleries, in
private dwellings, and in restaurants there hovered spies who, out of
fanaticism or for pay, were willing to report everything they heard.
Nevertheless, many would deliberately have risked the gravest consequences, if their withdrawal could have in any way improved anything. But it became obvious that such persons merely sacrificed themselves and especially their families unavailingly, because cases of the kind were painstakingly withheld from publicity and therefore had no effect. Worst of all was the fact that the appointment vacated was filled by an especially radical man. Many people realized this and remained at their posts in order to prevent the development that I have just described. The great number of atrocities committed or ordered by Hitler or Himmler have led many foreigners to the conclusion that the German people as a whole shared the guilt for these crimes, or at least had knowledge of them. This is not the case. The majority of people even in high government positions did not learn details of these matters—or the extent to which they were carried on—until the war was over. Perhaps the key to this is found in the speech which Himmler delivered in Posen on 3 October 1943 to his Gruppenführer, and which I learned of for the first time here. This speech directed that his special assignments—that means the actions against the Jews and the concentration camps—were to be kept just as secret as had been the events of 30 June 1934, of which the German people have only now learned the authentic story.
From the IMT testimony of Dr. Paul Otto Schmidt: During this conference there had been a certain difficulty, when Hitler insisted that Horthy should proceed more energetically in the Jewish question, and Horthy answered with some heat, "But what am I supposed to do? Shall I perhaps beat the Jews to death?" Whereupon there was rather a lull, and the Foreign Minister then turned to Horthy and said, "Yes, there are only two possibilities—either that, or to intern the Jews." Afterwards he said to me—and this was rather exceptional—that Hitler's demands in this connection might have gone a bit too far.June 6, 1944: D-Day.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: First of all, so far as I remember, this conference never took place... This document is an expert opinion of the Foreign Office, which was submitted to me. I do not know how it originated, upon my order or upon a statement of the military authorities. I did not approve this expert opinion as it is submitted to me here, but I did send it to the Fuehrer and asked him to decide about it. The Fuehrer then called this document "nonsense," I believe, and therewith this expert opinion of the Foreign Office was rejected and did not come into effect.July 14, 1944 Churchill to Foreign Secretary Eden:
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: I had so much to read and so much work to do every day that, on principle, I received only 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 Majdanek in Poland. On that occasion news came from our embassies and I asked for press news, et cetera, to be submitted to me. How I took these news releases to the Fuehrer and what resulted from that has already been discussed here. Before that I knew nothing about any atrocities or any measures taken in the concentration camps.August 2, 1944: Turkey breaks off relations with Germany.
From the IMT testimony of Adolf von Steengracht: Once by
chance I came to Ribbentrop when he was reading a paper and was again very
excited. He asked me if I had read the article yet, this shocking article by
Goebbels. It was an article on lynch justice... As far as I know, he charged
our press chief who had the liaison with Goebbels to lodge a protest against
this article. But to his surprise he was forced to see that this protest was
useless since the article had not only been inspired but, I believe, ordered
by Hitler, and thus there was nothing more to be done. .... The Foreign
Office repudiated the article vehemently, because it comprised an offense
against international law and thus made us depart from international law in
another field. Moreover, it appealed to the lower instincts of man, and both
in internal and external policy did great damage.
Besides, such an article, that has been read by several hundred thousands or by millions, does irreparable damage anyway. We therefore insisted that under no circumstances should such things appear in the press again. I must regretfully state, however, that we had a very difficult stand in this matter, especially since low-flying enemy craft often shot peasants in the fields and pedestrians in the streets, that is to say, purely civilian people, with their murder weapons. And our arguments that in our field we wanted to observe international law under all circumstances, were not taken into account at all either by most German offices, or above all by Hitler personally. On the contrary, in this case too we were regarded again only as formal jurists. But later we did try, as much as we could, with the help of military offices, to prevent the carrying out of this order.
From the IMT testimony of Adolf von Steengracht: Von
Ribbentrop's liaison man with Hitler called me up one day (after the air
attack on Dresden) in great excitement. He informed me that on a suggestion
by Goebbels, the Führer intended, as reprisal for the holocaust of Dresden,
to have English and American prisoners of war—I believe mostly airmen—shot.
I went immediately to Ribbentrop and informed him of this. Ribbentrop became
very excited; he turned pale as death; he was in fact almost stunned and
thought it was impossible; picked up the phone and called up this liaison
man in person in order to verify this report. The liaison man corroborated
it. Then Ribbentrop got up immediately and went to Hitler, came back, I
think after half an hour, and told me that he had succeeded in having Hitler
withdraw this order. That is all I know about this matter. ....
Regarding the convocation of an anti-Jewish congress I know something; I believe our liaison man with Hitler informed us that, on a suggestion of Bormann, Hitler had ordered the calling of an anti-Jewish congress through the Rosenberg office. Ribbentrop did not want to believe this; but nevertheless had to accept this too as true, once he had spoken with our liaison man. Then, since on the basis of this decision we could do nothing more officially to prevent the thing, we nevertheless worked our way into it, and we made efforts by a policy of hesitation, delay, and obstruction to render the convocation impossible. And although the order was given in the spring of 1944 and the war did not end until April 1945, this congress never actually took place. ....
Thinking that he was being loyal to Hitler, Ribbentrop—it seems to me—in those cases when he went to Hitler with a preconceived opinion and returned with a totally different view, tried afterwards to explain to us Hitler's view. This he always did with special vehemence. I would assume then that this was contrary to his own most personal original ideas.
From Ribbentrop's IMT Testimony: I believe, and many
people will and could confirm it, that from the beginning of the war the
Foreign Office and I have always supported the Geneva Convention in every
way. I should like to add that the military authorities always showed much
understanding for these things—at least, for the affairs I had to deal
with. If, later on, this no longer held good in every respect, it was due to
the rigors of war, and possibly to the harshness of the Führer. As to the
terror-fliers, I must state that in 1943 and 1944 the English and American
air raids gradually became a terrible threat to Germany. I saw this for the
first time in Hamburg, and I remember this event because I was with the
Führer at the time and I described to him the terrifying impression I had
received. I do not believe that anyone who has not experienced such a raid
and its results can imagine what it means.
It is evident that we Germans, and especially Adolf Hitler, continually sought means to master this menace. I must also mention the terrible attack on Dresden, and I would like to ask the Tribunal's permission to name a witness, the former Danish Minister Richard, who was there during the attack and described it to me 2 days later. It was, therefore, self-evident that the problem of terror-fliers had to be solved somehow by the Führer. This was in contrast to our view insofar as we wanted to find a solution which would not infringe upon the Geneva Convention, or at least a solution which could be publicly proclaimed to our enemies. My department was not directly concerned with the question, for we had nothing to do with defense problems which were taken care of by the military authorities, the police and those responsible for home policy. But we were indirectly concerned where the matter was affected by the Geneva Convention, and my point of view, which I frequently expressed, was that if any steps were taken an official proclamation should be published, giving a definition of a terror-flier, and stating that these terror-fliers convicted or airmen suspected of an attack upon the civilian population would be tried by courts-martial.
Geneva would then be officially notified of this measure or preparatory measure and then the enemy would be informed through the protecting powers. Fliers found guilty of deliberate terrorist raids by the courts-martial would be sentenced; if not, they would revert to the normal status of prisoners of war. But this was never carried out in practice. It was not a suggestion by me but an idea which I expressed to Hitler in the course of conversations on one or two occasions and which was not put into practice because, in practice, it was impossible to find a definition for these raids. I believe some mention was also made of a conference supposed to have taken place in Klessheim during which I was said to have proposed or supported farther-reaching measures. I remember quite clearly that this conference did not take place.
I do not believe, or at least, I do not remember, that I ever discussed this question at that time with Himmler, with whom I was not at that time on good terms, or Göring, whom I did not see very often. I believe that it is possible that the subject was brought up in a conversation during an official visit to Klessheim, as often happened, with the Führer, but that I do not know any more, I do know one thing that if allusion is made to a more thorough-going proposal emanating from me it can refer only to the following: At the time we were anxious to arrive at a clear definition of these attacks by terror-fliers and in the course of discussion various suggestions were made for the definition of certain categories of attacks, such as machine-gunning from the air, as terror attacks. It is possible that this note, or whatever it was, came into being in this way: That the person in question knew my views, that is, the person trying to find a practical solution—if one was arrived at—to agree officially with the Geneva Convention or could, at least, have been officially discussed with Geneva.
Another document has also been submitted in this connection. I believe it was a suggestion for an expert opinion on this question by the Foreign Office. I do not remember exactly how this expert opinion came to be given, whether it was done on my orders or whether it was the result of a discussion with the Wehrmacht authorities concerned, who wanted to know the opinion of the Foreign Office. All I know is that the Wehrmacht always attached great importance to an exact knowledge of our opinion with regard to the Geneva Convention. I remember that expert opinion, however, and that I have seen it. I am now said to have approved it. It would take too long to go into details, but that is not correct. I remember that I submitted that expert opinion to the Führer as being a very important matter which I could not deal with alone.
I think that the Führer—or I remember rather exactly, that the Führer dismissed it as nonsense at the time, so this expert opinion was not well received by the Führer. In the further course of events all we heard, because we were only concerned indirectly, was that no order of any sort was issued by the Führer or any Wehrmacht authority, because the Wehrmacht shared our very views on this subject. Admittedly, I do not know that in detail; but I can say with absolute certainty that since this question of defense against terror-fliers was under consideration, and afterwards, not a single case of lynching came to my ears. I did not hear that this had happened until I was here.
From the IMT testimony of Adolf von Steengracht:
Ribbentrop was, in his whole attitude, no typical exponent of National
Socialism. He knew extraordinarily little of the dogma and doctrines of
National Socialism. He felt himself only personally bound to Hitler, whom he
followed with soldierly obedience, and he stood under a certain hypnotic
dependence on Hitler. However, I cannot characterize him as a typical
exponent of National Socialism. ....
In the first years after 1933 he (Hitler) is said still to have been (accessible to suggestions and objections); but during the course of years he shut himself off more and more from expert objections and suggestions. From the time that I became State Secretary, I saw him only twice on official occasions. I can thus speak only on the success or lack of success of our work. In the course of my activities, covering almost 2 years, I can now recall almost no case in which he agreed to one of our suggestions. On the contrary, it was always to be feared that by some suggestion of a personal nature he would be led to take violent action in an opposite direction.
The basic trait of his character was probably lack of confidence, and this bore unprecedented fruit. Thus, experts and decent people who tried to influence Hitler to their way of thinking were engaged, in my opinion, in an altogether vain task. On the other hand, irresponsible creatures who incited him to take violent measures, or who voiced their suspicions, unfortunately found him extremely accessible. These men were then termed strong, whereas the behavior of anyone who was even half-way normal was condemned as weak or defeatist; through a reasonable opinion voiced only once, the influence of that man could be forever destroyed. ....
First of all the reaction depended very much, in my opinion, on the mood of the Dictator at the time. It was also a matter of importance as to who contradicted and how much strength or weakness he had already shown or seemed to have shown. But what the atmosphere was can perhaps be demonstrated by the following case, shortly after the death of President Roosevelt, as told by Ribbentrop's liaison agent with Hitler, a man named Hewel. He said:
Today I almost met my doom. Goebbels came from the Führer, and reported on Germany's prospects, as far as the Fuehrer saw them affected by Roosevelt's death, and he drew up a very hopeful picture of the future. I, Hewel, was of the opinion that such a view was not justified and remarked as much cautiously to Goebbels. Goebbels fell into a rage, called me a spirit who demoralized everyone, who trampled on the happy moods and hopes of every decent person. I was forced," Hewel reports, "to make a special trip to see Goebbels. and to ask him to keep the matter to himself. For if he had informed the Fuehrer of my attitude, Hitler would have merely pressed a button, and called Rattenhuber, the Chief of his Security Service, and had me taken away and shot.
From the IMT testimony of Margarete Blank: One of his
(Ribbentrop's) moves (to end the war by diplomatic methods) was to send
Minister Professor Berber to Switzerland in the winter of 1943-1944. Later
on these moves were intensified by sending Herr von Schmieden to Bern and
Dr. Hesse to Stockholm. As the Führer had not given official authority to
initiate negotiations, it was possible only to try to find out on what
conditions discussions might be opened between Germany and the Allies.
Similar missions were entrusted to the German Charge d'Affaires in Madrid,
Minister Von Bibra, Consul General Mollhausen in Lisbon, and the Ambassador
to the Vatican, Von Weizsacker. A former member of the Office Ribbentrop
living in Madrid was instructed to make a similar attempt with the British
Government. On 20 April Von Ribbentrop dictated to me a detailed memorandum
for the Fuehrer in which he asked for official authorization to initiate
negotiations. I do not know the outcome of this request because I left
From what I heard from men of his entourage I know that the Führer did not expect much of it, or that he would have been in favor of initiating negotiations only at a time of military successes. If and when, however, there were military successes, he was likewise against diplomatic initiative. As to the mission of Dr. Hesse—after its failure, he, it was disclosed by an indiscretion, remarked that he had not expected much of it anyway.
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