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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
December 3 to December 14, 1945

Twelfth Day: Tuesday, 4th December, 1945
(Part 5 of 8)

[Page 67]

SIR HARTLEY SHAWCROSS: May it please the Tribunal, when broke off I had been saying that the Nazi Government was intent upon aggression, and all that had been taking place in regard to Danzig, the negotiations, the demands that were being made, was really no more than a cover, a pretext and excuse for further domination.

As far back as September, 1938, plans for aggressive war against Poland, England and France were well in hand. While Hitler, at Munich, was telling the world that the German people wanted peace and that, having solved the Czechoslovakian problem, Germany had no more territorial problems in Europe, the staffs of his Armed Forces were already preparing their plans. On the 26th September, 1938, he had stated:

"We have given guarantees to the States in the West. We have assured all our immediate neighbours of the integrity of their territory as far as Germany is concerned. That is no mere phrase. It is our sacred will. We have no interest whatever in a breach of the peace. We want nothing from these peoples."
And the world was entitled to rely on those assurances. International co-operation is utterly impossible unless one can assume good faith in the leaders of the various States and honesty in the public utterances that they make. But, in fact, within two months of that solemn and considered undertaking, Hitler and his confederates were preparing for the seizure of Danzig. To recognise those assurances, those pledges, those diplomatic moves as the empty frauds that they were, one must go back to inquire what was happening within the inner councils of the Reich from the time of the Munich Agreement.

Written some time in September, 1938, is an extract from a file on the Reconstruction of the German Navy. Under the heading "Opinion on the Draft Study of Naval Warfare against England", this is stated:

"1. If, according to the Fuehrer's decision Germany is to acquire a position as a world power, she needs not only sufficient colonial possessions but also secure naval communications and secure access to the ocean.

2. Both requirements can only be fulfilled in opposition to Anglo-French interests and would limit their position as world powers. It is unlikely that they can be achieved by peaceful means. The decision to make Germany a world power, therefore, forces upon us the necessity of making the corresponding preparations for war.

[Page 68]

3. War against England means at the same time war against the Empire, against France, probably against Russia as well, and a large number of countries overseas, in fact, against half to one-third of the world.

It can only be justified and have a chance of success."

- and it was not moral justification which was being looked for in this document -
"It can only be justified and have a chance of success if it is prepared economically as well as politically and militarily, and waged with the aim of conquering for Germany an outlet to the ocean."
THE PRESIDENT: I think the Tribunal would like to know at what stage you propose to put the documents, which you are citing, in evidence.

SIR HARTLEY SHAWCROSS: Well, sir, my colleagues, my American and my British colleagues, were proposing to follow up my own address by putting these documents in. The first series of documents, which will be put in by my noted colleague, Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, will be the Treaties.

THE PRESIDENT: I suppose that what you quote will have to be read again.

SIR HARTLEY SHAWCROSS: Well, I am limiting my quotations as far as I possibly can. I apprehend that technically you may wish it to be quoted again, so as to get it on the record when the document is actually put into evidence. But I think it will appear, when the documents themselves are produced, that there will be a good deal more in most of them than I am actually citing now.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Very well.

SIR HARTLEY SHAWCROSS: This document on naval warfare against England is something which is both significant and new. Until this date the documents in our possession disclose preparations for war against Poland, England and France, purporting on the face of them at least to be defensive measures to ward off attacks which might result from the intervention of those States in the preparatory German aggressions in Central Europe. Hitherto aggressive war against Poland, England and France has been contemplated only as a distant objective. Now, in this document for the first time we find a war of conquest by Germany against France and England openly recognised as the future aim, at least of the German Navy.

On 24th November, 1938, an appendix was issued by Keitel to a previous order of the Fuehrer. In that appendix were set out the future tasks for the Armed Forces and the preparation for the conduct of the war which would result from those tasks:

"The Fuehrer has ordered" - I quote - "that besides the three eventualities mentioned in the previous directive preparations are also to be made for the surprise occupation by German troops of the Free State of Danzig.

For the preparation the following principles are to be borne in mind: The primary assumption is the lightning seizure of Danzig by exploiting a favourable political situation, and not war with Poland. Troops which are going to be used for this purpose must not be held at the same time for the seizure of Memelland, so that both operations can take place simultaneously should such necessity arise."

Thereafter, as the evidence which is already before the Tribunal has shown, final preparations for the invasion of Poland were taking place. On 3rd April, 1939, three days before the issue of the Anglo-Polish communique, the

[Page 69]

defendant Keitel issued to the High Command of the Armed Forces a directive in which it was stated that the directive for the uniform preparation of war by the Armed Forces in 1939-1940 was being re-issued and that part relating to Danzig would be issued in April. The basic principles were to remain the same as in the previous directive. Attached to this document were the orders "Fall Weiss", the code name for the proposed invasion of Poland. Preparations for that invasion were to be made, it was stated, so that the operation could be carried out at any time from 1st September, 1939, onwards.

On 11th April Hitler issued his directive for the uniform preparation of the war by the Armed Forces, 1939-1940, and in it he said:

"I shall lay down in a later directive future tasks of the Armed Forces and the preparations to be made in accordance with these for the conduct of war. Until that directive comes into force the Armed Forces must be prepared for the following eventualities
1. Safeguarding the frontiers.

2. 'Fall Weiss.'

3. The annexation of Danzig."

Then, in an annex to that document, which bore the heading "Political Hypotheses and Aims" it was stated that quarrels with Poland should be avoided. But, should Poland change her policy and adopt a threatening attitude towards Germany, a final settlement would be necessary, notwithstanding the Polish Pact. The Free City of Danzig was to be incorporated in the Reich at the outbreak of the conflict at the latest. The policy aimed at limiting the war to Poland, and this was considered possible at that time with the internal crisis in France and resulting British restraint.

The wording of that document - and the Tribunal will study the wording of it - does not directly involve the intention of immediate aggression. It is a plan of attack "if Poland changes her policy and adopts a threatening attitude". But the picture of Poland, with her wholly inadequate armaments threatening Germany, now armed to the teeth, is ludicrous enough, and the real aim of the document emerges in the sentence - and I quote: "The aim is, then, to destroy Polish military strength and to create, in the East, a situation which satisfies the requirements of defence" - a sufficiently vague phrase to cover designs of any magnitude. But even at that stage the evidence does not suffice to prove that the actual decision to attack Poland on any given date had yet been taken. All the preparations were being set in train. All the necessary action was being proceeded with in case that decision should be reached.

It was within three weeks of the issue of that last document that Hitler addressed the Reichstag on the 28th April, 1939. In that speech he repeated the demands which had already been made upon Poland, and proceeded to denounce the German- Polish Agreement Of 1934. Leaving aside, for the moment, the warlike preparations for aggression, which Hitler had set in motion behind the scenes, I will ask the Tribunal to consider the nature of this denunciation of an agreement to which, in the past, Hitler had professed to attach such importance.

In the first place, of course, Hitler's denunciation was per se ineffectual. The text of the agreement made no provision for its denunciation by either party until a period of ten years had come to an end. No denunciation could be legally effective until June or July of 1943, and Hitler was speaking in April of 1939, rather more than four years too soon.

[Page 70]

In the second place, Hitler's actual attack upon Poland, when it came on 1st September was made before the expiration of the 6 months' period after denunciation required by the agreement before any denunciation could be operative. And in the third place, the grounds for the denunciation stated by Hitler in his speech to the Reichstag were entirely specious. However one reads its terms, it is impossible to take the view that the Anglo-Polish guarantee of mutual assistance against aggression could render the German-Polish Pact null and void, as Hitler sought to suggest. If that had been the effect of the Anglo-Polish assurances, then certainly the pacts which had already been entered into by Hitler himself with Italy and with Japan had invalidated the treaty with Poland. Hitler might have spared his breath. The truth is, of course, that the text of the English-Polish communique, the text of the assurances, contains nothing whatever to support the contention that the German-Polish Pact was in any way interfered with.

One asks: Why then did Hitler make this trebly invalid attempt to denounce his own pet diplomatic child? Is there any possible answer but this-that, the Agreement having served its purpose, the grounds which he chose for its denunciation were chosen merely in an effort to provide Germany with some kind of justification, at least for the German people, for the aggression on which the German leaders were intent.

For Hitler sorely needed some kind of justification, some apparently decent excuse, since nothing had happened, and nothing seemed likely to happen, from the Polish side, to provide him with any kind of pretext for invading Poland. So far he had made demands upon his treaty-partner which Poland, as a sovereign State, had every right to refuse. If dissatisfied with that refusal, Hitler was bound, under the terms of the agreement itself, "to seek a settlement" - I will read the words in the pact, "To seek a settlement through other peaceful means, without prejudice to the possibility of applying those methods of procedure, in case of necessity, which are provided for such a case in the other agreements between them that are in force." And that presumably was a reference to the German-Polish Arbitration Treaty, signed at Locarno in 1925.

The very fact, therefore, that as soon as the Nazi leaders could not get what they wanted, but were not entitled to, from Poland by merely asking for it, and that, on their side, they made no further attempt to settle the dispute "by peaceful means" in accordance with the terms of the Agreement and of the Kellogg Pact, to which the Agreement pledged both parties, in itself created a strong presumption of aggressive intentions on the part of Hitler and his associates. That presumption becomes a certainty when the documents to which I am about to call the attention of the Tribunal are studied.

On the 10th May, Hitler issued an order for the capture of economic installations in Poland. On the 16th May the defendant Raeder, as Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, issued a memorandum setting out the Fuehrer's instructions to prepare for the operation "Fall Weiss" at any time from the 1st September, 1939.

But the decisive document is the record of the Conference held by Hitler on 23rd May, 1939, with many high-ranking officers, including the defendants Goering, Raeder and Keitel. The details of the whole document will have to be read to the Tribunal later and I am merely summarising the substantial effect of this part of it now. Hitler stated that the solution

[Page 71]

of the economic problems with which Germany was beset at first, could not be found without invasion of foreign states and attacks on foreign property. "Danzig" - and I am quoting:
"Danzig is not the subject of the dispute at all. It is a question of expanding our living space in the East. There is, therefore, no question of sparing Poland, and we are left with the decision: to attack Poland at the earliest opportunity. We cannot expect a repetition of the Czech affair. There will be war. Our task is to isolate Poland. The success of this isolation will be decisive. The isolation of Poland is a matter of skilful politics."
So he explained to his confederates. He anticipated the possibility that war with England and France might result, but a two-front war was to be avoided if possible. Yet England was recognised - and I say it with pride - as the most dangerous enemy which Germany had. "England", he said, I quote, "England is the driving force against Germany ... the aim will always be to force England to her knees." More than once he repeated that the war with England and France would be a life and death struggle. "But all the same," he concluded, "Germany will not be forced into war but she would not be able to avoid it."

On the 14th June, 1939, General Blaskowitz, then Commander- in-Chief of the 3rd Army Group, issued a detailed battle plan for the "Fall Weiss." The following day von Brauchitsch issued a memorandum in which it was stated-that the object of the impending operation was to destroy the Polish Armed Forces. "High policy demands," he said, "High policy demands that the war should be begun by heavy surprise blows in order to achieve quick results." The preparations proceeded apace. On the 22nd June, Keitel submitted a preliminary timetable for the operation, which Hitler seems to have approved, and suggested that the scheduled manoeuvre must be camouflaged - must be camouflaged, "in order not to disquiet the population." On the 3rd July, Brauchitsch wrote to Raeder urging that certain preliminary naval moves should be abandoned, in order not to prejudice the surprise of the attack. On the 12th and 13th August, Hitler and Ribbentrop had a conference with Ciano, the Italian Foreign Minister.

It was a conference to which the Tribunal will have to be referred from several points of view. I summarise now the Polish aspect of the matter. At the beginning of the conversation, Hitler emphasised the strength of the German position, of the German Western and Eastern fortifications, and of the strategic and other advantages they held in comparison with those of England, France and Poland. Now I quote from the captured document itself. Hitler said this:

"Since the Poles through their whole attitude had made it clear that, in any case, in the event of a conflict, they would stand on the side of the enemies of Germany and Italy, a quick liquidation at the present moment could only be of advantage for the unavoidable conflict with the Western democracies. If a hostile Poland remained on Germany's Eastern frontier, not only would the eleven East Prussian divisions be tied down, but also further contingents would be kept in Pomerania and Silesia. This would not be necessary in the event of a previous liquidation."
Ciano was for postponing the operation. Italy was not ready. She believed that a conflict with Poland would develop into a general European war.

[Page 72]

Mussolini was convinced that conflict with the Western democracies was inevitable, but he was making plans for a period two or three years ahead. But the Fuehrer said that the Danzig question must be disposed of, one way or the other, by the end of August. I quote, "He had, therefore, decided to use the occasion of the next Polish provocation in the form of an ultimatum."

On the 22nd August, Hitler called his Supreme Commanders together at Obersalzburg, and gave the order for the attack: In the course of what he said, he made it clear that the decision to attack had, in fact, been made not later than the previous spring. He would give a spurious cause for starting the war. At that time the attack was timed to take place in the early hours of the 26th August. On the day before, on 25th August, the British Government, in the hope that Hitler might still be reluctant to plunge the world into war, and in the belief that a formal treaty would impress him more than the informal assurances which had been given previously, entered into, an agreement, an expressed and written agreement, for mutual assistance with Poland, embodying the previous assurances that had been given earlier in the year. It was known to Hitler that France was bound by the Franco-Polish Treaty Of 1921, and by the Guarantee Pact signed at Locarno in 1925 to intervene in Poland's favour in case of aggression, and for a moment Hitler hesitated. The defendants Goering and Ribbentrop, in the interrogations which you will see later, have agreed that it was the Anglo-Polish Treaty which led them to call off, or rather postpone, the attack which was. timed for the 26th. Perhaps he hoped that after all there was still some chance of repeating what he had called the Czech affair. If so, his hopes were short-lived. On the 27th August, Hitler accepted Mussolini's decision not at once to come into the war, but asked for propaganda support and for a display of military activities on the part of Italy, so as to create uncertainty in the minds of the Allies. Ribbentrop on the same day said that the armies were marching.

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