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 6 of 8)


[Page 72]

In the meantime, of course, and particularly during the last month, desperate attempts were being made by the Western Powers to avert war. You will have details of them in evidence. Of the intervention of the Pope. Of President Roosevelt's message. Of the offer by the British Prime Minister, Mr. Chamberlain, to do our utmost to create the conditions in which all matters in issue could be the subject of free negotiations, and to guarantee the resultant decisions. But this and all the other efforts of honest men to avoid the horror of a European conflict were predestined to failure. The Germans were determined that the day for war had come. On the 31st August, Hitler issued a top secret order for the attack to commence in the early hours of the 1st September.

The necessary frontier incidents duly occurred. Was it, perhaps, for these that Keitel had been instructed by Hitler to supply Heydrich with Polish uniforms? And thus without a declaration of war, without even giving the Polish Government an opportunity of seeing Germany's final demands - and you will hear the evidence of the extraordinary diplomatic negotiations, if one can call them such, that took place in Berlin - without giving the Poles any opportunity at all of negotiating or arbitrating demands which Nazi Germany was making, the Nazi troops invaded Poland.

On the 3rd September, Hitler sent a telegram to Mussolini thanking, him for his intervention but pointing out that the war was inevitable and that the most promising moment had to be picked after cold deliberation. And

[Page 73]

so Hitler, and his confederates now before this Tribunal, began the first of their wars of aggression for which they had prepared so long and so thoroughly. They waged it so fiercely that within a few weeks Poland was overrun.

On the 23rd November, 1939, Hitler reviewed the situation to his military Commanders and in the course of what he said he made this observation:

"One year later Austria came; this step was also considered doubtful. It brought about a tremendous reinforcement of the Reich. The next step was Bohemia, Moravia and Poland. This step also it was not possible to accomplish in one campaign. First of all the Western fortifications had to be finished. Then followed the creation of the Protectorate, and with that the basis of action against Poland was laid. But I was not quite clear at the time whether I should start first against the East, and then in the West, or vice versa. The decision came to fight with Poland first. One might accuse me of wanting to fight again and again. In struggle, I see the fate of all human beings."
He was not sure when to attack first. But that, sooner or later, he would attack-whether it was in the East, or whether it was in the West-was never in doubt, and he had been warned not only by the British and French Prime Ministers, but even by his confederate Mussolini that an attack on Poland would bring England and France into the war. He chose what he thought was the opportune moment, and he struck.

Under the circumstances, the intent to wage war against England and France, and to precipitate it by an attack on Poland, is not to be denied. Here was defiance of the most solemn treaty obligations. Here was neglect of the most pacific assurances. Here was aggression, naked and unashamed, which was indeed to arouse the horrified and heroic resistance of all civilised peoples, but which, before it was finished, was to tear down many of the pillars of our civilisation.

Once started upon the active achievement of their plan to secure the domination of Europe, if not of the world, the Nazi Government proceeded to attack other countries, as occasion offered. The first actually to be attacked, actually to be invaded, after the attack upon Poland were Denmark and Norway.

On the 9th April, 1940, the German Armed Forces invaded Norway and Denmark without any warning, without any declaration of war. It was a breach of the Hague Convention of 1907. It was a breach of the Convention of Arbitration and Conciliation signed between Germany and Denmark dated 2nd June, 1926. It was, of course, a breach of the Briand- Kellogg Pact of 1928. It was a violation of the Non- Aggression Treaty between Germany and Denmark made the 31st May, 1939. And it was a breach of the most explicit assurances which had been given. After his annexation of Czechoslovakia had shaken the confidence of the world, Hitler had attempted to reassure the Scandinavian States. On the 28th April, 1939, he affirmed that he had never made any request to any of them which was incompatible with their sovereignty and independence. On the 31st May, 1939, he signed a non-aggression pact with Denmark.

On the 2nd September, 1939, the day after he had invaded Poland and seized Danzig, he again expressed his determination, so he said, to observe the inviolability and integrity of Norway in an aide-memoire which was handed to the Norwegian. Foreign Minister by the German Minister in Oslo, on that day.

[Page 74]

A month later, in a public speech on the 6th October, 1939, he said:
"Germany has never had any conflicts of interest or even points of controversy with the Northern States, neither has she any today. Sweden and Norway have both been offered non-aggression pacts by Germany, and have both refused, solely because they do not feel themselves threatened in any way."
When the invasion of Denmark and Norway was already begun in the early morning of 9th April, 1940, a German memorandum was handed to the Governments of those countries attempting to justify the German action. Various allegations against the Governments of the invaded countries were made. It was said that Norway had been guilty of breaches of neutrality. It was said that she had allowed and tolerated the use of her territorial waters by Great Britain. It was said that Britain and France themselves were making plans to invade and occupy Norway and that the Government of that country was prepared to acquiesce in such an event.

I do not propose to argue the question whether or not these allegations were true or false. That question is irrelevant to the issues before this Court. Even if the allegations were true-and they were patently false-they would afford no conceivable justification for the action of invading without warning, without declaration of war, without any attempt at mediation or conciliation. Aggressive war is none the less aggressive war because the State which wages it believes - rightly or wrongly - that other States might, in the future, take similar action. The rape of a nation is not justified because it is thought she may be raped by another. Nor even in self-defence are warlike measures justified except after all means of mediation have been tried and failed, and force is actually being exercised against the State concerned.

But the matter is irrelevant because, in actual fact, with the evidence which we now possess, it is abundantly clear that the invasion of these two countries was undertaken for quite different purposes. It had been planned long before any question of breach of neutrality or occupation of Norway by England could ever have occurred, and it is equally clear that the assurances repeated again and again throughout 1939 were made for no other purpose than to lull suspicion in these countries, and to prevent them taking steps to resist the attack against them which was all along in active preparation.

For some years the defendant Rosenberg, in his capacity as Chief of the Foreign Affairs Bureau - A.P.A. - of the N.S.D.A.P., had interested himself in the promotion of fifth column activities in Norway and he had established close relationship with the "Nasjonal Samling," a political group headed by the now notorious traitor, Vidkun Quisling. During the winter of 1938-1939, A.P.A. was in contact with Quisling, and later Quisling conferred with Hitler and with the defendants Raeder and Rosenberg. In August, 1939, a special 14-day course was held at the school of the Office of Foreign Relations in Berlin for 25 followers whom Quisling had selected to attend it. The plan was to send a number of selected and "reliable" men to Germany for a brief military training in an isolated camp. These "reliable" men were to be area and language specialists to German special troops who were taken to Oslo on coal barges to undertake political action in Norway. The object was a coup in which Quisling would seize his leading opponents in Norway, including the King, and prevent all military resistance from the beginning.

Simultaneously with those fifth column activities Germany was making her military preparations. On the 2nd September, 1939, as I said, Hitler

[Page 75]

had assured Norway of his intention to respect her neutrality. On 6th October he said that the Scandinavian States were not menaced in any way. Yet on the 3rd October the defendant Raeder was pointing out that the occupation of bases, if necessary by force, would greatly improve the German strategic position. On the 9th October Donitz was recommending Trondheim as the main base, with Narvik as an alternative base for fuel supplies. The defendant Rosenberg was reporting shortly afterwards on the possibility of a coup d'etat by Quisling, immediately supported by German military and naval forces. On the 12th September, 1939, the defendant Raeder advised Hitler, in the presence of the defendants Keitel and Jodl, that if Hitler were favourably impressed by Quisling, the O.K.W. should prepare for the occupation of Norway, if possible with Quisling's assistance, but if necessary entirely by force. Hitler agreed, but there was a doubt whether action should be taken against the Low Countries or against Scandinavia first. Weather conditions delayed the march on the Low Countries. In January, 1940, instructions were given to the German Navy for the attack on Norway. On 1st March a directive for the occupation was issued by Hitler. The general object was not said to be to prevent occupation by English forces but, in vague and general terms, to prevent British encroachment in Scandinavia and the Baltic and " to guarantee our ore bases in Sweden and to give our Navy and Air Force a wider start line against Britain." But the directive went on:
" . ..on principle we will do our utmost to make the operation appear as a peaceful occupation, the object of which is the military protection of the Scandinavian States. It is important that the Scandinavian States as well as the Western opponents should be taken by surprise by our measures.... In case the preparations for embarkation can no longer be kept secret, the leaders and the troops will be deceived with fictitious objectives."
The form and success of the invasion are well known. In the early hours of the 9th April, seven cruisers and fourteen destroyers and a number of torpedo boats and other small craft carried advance elements of six divisions, totalling about 10,000 men, forced an entry and landed troops in the outer Oslo Fjord, Kristiansand, Stavanger, Bergen, Trondheim and Narvik. A small force of troops was also landed at Arendal and Egersund on the southern coast. In addition, airborne troops and aircraft were landed near Oslo and Stavanger. The German attack came as a complete surprise. All the invaded towns along the coast were captured according to plan and with only slight losses. Only the plan to capture the King and Parliament failed. But brave as was the resistance which was hurriedly organised throughout the country, nothing could be done in the face of the long- planned surprise attack, and on the 10th June military resistance ceased. So another act of aggression was brought to completion.

Almost exactly a month after the attack on Norway, on the 10th May, 1940, the German Armed Forces, repeating what had been done 25 years before, streamed into Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg according to plan - a plan, that is, of invading without warning and without any declaration of war.

What was done was, of course, a breach of the Hague Convention, and is so charged. It was a violation of the Locarno Agreement of 1925, which the Nazi Government affirmed in 1935, only illegally to repudiate it a couple of years later. By that agreement all questions incapable of settlement by

[Page 76]

ordinary diplomatic means were to be settled by arbitration. You will see the comprehensive terms of those treaties. It was a breach of the Treaty of Arbitration and Conciliation signed between Germany and the Netherlands on 20th May, 1926. It was a breach of a similar treaty with Luxembourg on 11th September, 1929. It was a breach of the Briand-Kellogg Pact. But those treaties had not perhaps derived in the minds of the Nazi rulers of Germany any added sanctity from the fact that they had been solemnly concluded by the governments of pre-Nazi Germany. Let us then, consider the specific assurances and undertakings which the Nazi rulers themselves gave to these States which lay in the way of their plans against France and England and which they had always intended to attack. Not once, not twice, but eleven times the clearest possible assurances were given to Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. On those assurances, solemnly given and formally expressed, these countries were entitled to rely and did rely. In respect of their breach these defendants are charged. On the 30th January, 1937, Hitler said:
"As for the rest, I have more than once expressed the desire and the hope of entering into similar good and cordial relations with our neighbours. Germany has, and here I repeat this solemnly, given the assurance time and time again, that, for instance, between her and France there cannot be any humanly conceivable points of controversy. The German Government has further given the assurance to Belgium and Holland that it is prepared to recognise and to guarantee the inviolability and neutrality of these territories."
After Hitler had remilitarised the Rhineland and had repudiated the Locarno Pact, England and France sought to re- establish the position of security for Belgium which Hitler's action had threatened. They, therefore, gave to Belgium on the 24th April, 1937, a specific guarantee that they would maintain in respect of Belgium, the undertakings of assistance which they had entered into with her both under the Locarno Pact and the Covenant of the League of Nations. On the 13th October, 1938, the German Government also made a declaration assuring Belgium of its intention to recognise the inviolability and integrity of that country.

It is, perhaps, convenient to deal with the remaining assurances as we review the evidence which is available as to the preparations and intentions of the German Government prior to their actual invasion of Belgium on the 10th May, 1940

As in the case of Poland, as in the case of Norway and Denmark, so also here the dates speak for themselves.

As early as August, 1938, steps were being made to utilise the Low Countries as bases for decisive action in the West in the event of France and England opposing Germany in the aggressive plan which was on foot at that time against Czechoslovakia.

In an Air Force letter dated 25th August, 1938, which deals with the action to be taken if England and France should interfere in the operation against Czechoslovakia, it is stated:

"It is not expected for the moment that other States will intervene against Germany. The Dutch and the Belgian area assumes in this connection much more importance for the prevention of the war in Western Europe than during the world war. This is to be mainly an advance base for the air war."

[Page 77]

In the last paragraph of that order it is stated:
"Belgium add the Netherlands, when in German hands, represent an extraordinary advantage in the prosecution of the air war against Great Britain as well as against France."
That was in August, 1938. Eight months later (on the 28th April, 1939), Hitler is declaring again,
"I was pleased that a number of European States availed themselves of this declaration by the German Government to express and emphasise their desire to have absolute neutrality."
A month later, on the 23rd May, 1939, Hitler held the conference in the Reich Chancellery, to which we already referred. The Minutes of that meeting report Hitler as saying,
"The Dutch and Belgian air bases must be occupied by armed force. Declarations of neutrality must be ignored. If England and France enter the war between Germany and Poland they will support Holland and Belgium in their neutrality .... Therefore, if England intends to intervene in the Polish war, we must occupy Holland with lightning speed, We must aim at securing new defence lines on Dutch soil up to the Zeider Zee."
Even after that, he was to give his solemn declarations that he would observe the neutrality of these countries. On the 26th August, 1939, when the crisis in regard to Danzig and Poland was reaching its climax, on the very day he had picked for the invasion of Poland, declarations assuring the Governments concerned of the intention to respect their neutrality were handed by the German Ambassadors to the King of the Belgians, the Queen of the Netherlands and to the Government of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, in the most solemn form. But to the Army, Hitler was saying:
"If Holland and Belgium are successfully occupied and held, a successful war against England will be secured."
On the 1st September, Poland was invaded, and two days later England and France came into the war against Germany, in pursuance of the Treaty obligations already referred to. On the 6th October, Hitler renewed his assurances of friendship to Belgium and Holland, but on the 9th October, before any kind of accusation had been made by the German Government of breaches of neutrality, Hitler issued a directive for the conduct of the war. And he said this:
"(1) If it becomes evident in the near future that England, and France acting under her leadership, are not disposed to end the war, I am determined to take firm and offensive action without letting much time elapse.

(2) A long waiting period not only results in the ending of the advantage of Belgian and perhaps also of Dutch neutrality, but also strengthens the military power of our enemies to an increasing degree, causes confidence of the neutrals in final German victory to wane, and does not help to bring Italy to our aid as brothers-in-arms.

(3) I therefore issue the following orders for the further conduct of military operations :

(a) Preparations should be made for offensive action on the Northern flank of the Western front crossing the area of Luxembourg, Belgium and Holland. This attack must be carried out as soon and as forcefully as possible.

[Page 78]

(b) The object of this attack is to defeat as many strong sections, of the French Fighting Army as possible, and her ally and partner in the fighting, and at the same time to acquire as great an area of Holland, Belgium and Northern France as possible, for use as a base offering good prospects for waging aerial and sea warfare against England and to provide ample coverage for the vital district of the Ruhr."
Nothing could state more clearly or more definitely the object behind the invasion of these three countries than that document.

[ Previous | Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.