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

Thirteenth Day: Wednesday, 5th December, 1945
(Part 1 of 8)

[Page 92]

MR. ALDERMAN: May it please the Tribunal: When the Tribunal rose yesterday afternoon, I had just offered in evidence Document 2826-PS, Exhibit USA 111. This was an article by S.S. Group Leader Karl Hermann Frank, published in Bohmen und Mahren, or Bohemia and Moravia, the official periodical of the Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, the issue of March, 1941, at Page 79. It is an article which reveals with considerable frankness the functions which the F. S. and the S. S. had, and shows the pride which the Nazi conspirators took in the activities of these organisations. I read from that article, under the heading "The S.S. on 15th March, 1939":
"A modern people and a modern State are today unthinkable without political troops. To these are allotted the special task of being the advance guard of the political will and the guarantor of its unity. This is especially true of the German folk-groups, which have their home in some other people's State. Accordingly the Sudeten German Party had formerly also organised its political troop, the "Voluntary Vigilantes" or, in German, "Freiwilliger Selbstschutz " called F.S. for short. This troop was trained especially in accordance with the principles of the S.S., so far as these could be used in this region at that time. The troop was likewise assigned here the special task of protecting the homeland actively, if necessary. It stood up well in its first test in this connection, whenever, in the autumn crisis of 1938, it had to assist in the protection of the homeland, arms in hand.

After the annexation of the Sudeten Gau, the tasks of the F.S. were transferred essentially to the German student organisations as compact troop formations in Prague and Brunn, apart from the isolated German communities which remained in the Second Republic. This was also natural because many students from the Sudeten Gau were already active members of the S.S. The student organisations then had to endure this test, in common with other Germans, during the crisis of March, 1939.

In the early morning hours of 15th March, after the announcement of the planned entry of German troops into various localities, German men had to act in some localities in order to assure a quiet course of events, either by assumption of the police authority, as for instance in Brunn, or by corresponding instruction of the police president. In some Czech offices, men had likewise, in the early hours of the morning, begun to burn valuable archives and the material of political files. It was also necessary to take measures here in order to prevent foolish destruction. How significant the many-sided and comprehensive measures were considered by the competent German agencies, follows from the fact that many of the men either on 15th March itself or on the

[Page 93]

following days were admitted into the S.S. with fitting acknowledgement, in part even through the Reich leader of the S.S. himself or through S.S. Group Leader Heydrich. The activities and deeds of these men were thereby designated as accomplished in the interest of the S.S.

Immediately after the corresponding divisions of the S.S. had marched in with the first columns of the German Army and had assumed responsibility in the appropriate sectors, the men here placed themselves at once at their further disposition, and became valuable auxiliaries and collaborators."

I now ask the Court to take judicial notice, under Article 21 of the Charter, of three official documents. These are identified by us as Documents D-571, D-572 and 2943-PS. I offer them in evidence, respectively, D-571 Exhibit USA 112; D-572 as Exhibit USA 113; and 2943-PS which is the French Official Yellow Book, at Pages 66 and 67, as Exhibit USA 114.

THE PRESIDENT: Have you cited 572?

MR. ALDERMAN: D-572 was Exhibit USA 113. The first two documents are British diplomatic dispatches, properly certified to by the British Government, which give the background of intrigue in Slovakia - German intrigue in Slovakia. The third Document, 2943-PS or Exhibit USA 114, consists of excerpts from the French Yellow Book, principally excerpts from dispatches signed by M. Coulondre, the French Ambassador in Berlin, to the French Foreign Office, between 13th and 18th March, 1939. I expect to draw on these three dispatches rather freely in the further course of my presentation, since the Tribunal will take judicial notice of each of these documents, I think; and, therefore, it may not be necessary to read them at length into the transcript. In Slovakia the long-anticipated crisis came on 10th March. On that day the Czechoslovakian Government dismissed those members of the Slovak cabinet who refused to continue negotiations with Prague, among them Foreign Minister Tiso and Durcansky. Within twenty-four hours the Nazis seized upon this act of the Czechoslovak Government as an excuse for intervention. On the following day, 11th March, a strange scene was enacted in Bratislava, the Slovak capital. I quote from Document D-571, which is Exhibit USA 112. That is the report of the British Minister in Prague to the British Government.

"Herr Burckel, Herr Seyss-Inquart, and five German generals came at about 10 p.m. in the evening of Saturday, the 11th March, into a cabinet meeting in progress in Bratislava, and told the Slovak Government that they should proclaim the independence of Slovakia. When M. Sidor, the Prime Minister, showed hesitation, Herr Burckel took him on one side and explained that Herr Hitler had decided to settle the question of Czechoslovakia definitely. Slovakia ought, therefore, to proclaim her independence, because Herr Hitler would otherwise disinterest himself in her fate. M. Sidor thanked Herr Burckel for this information, but said that he must discuss the situation with the Government at Prague"
- a very strange situation that he should have to discuss such a matter with his own Government before obeying instructions of Herr Hitler delivered by five German generals and Herr Burckel and Herr Seyss-Inquart.

Events went on moving rapidly, but Durcansky, one of the dismissed ministers, escaped with Nazi assistance to Vienna, where the facilities of the

[Page 94]

German broadcasting station were placed at his disposal. Arms and ammunition were brought from German offices in Engerau across the Danube into Slovakia, where they were used by the F.S. and the Hlinka Guards to create incidents and disorder of the type required by the Nazis as an excuse for military action. The German Press and radio launched a violent campaign against the Czechoslovak Government; and, significantly, an invitation from Berlin was delivered in Bratislava. Tiso, the dismissed Prime Minister, was summoned by Hitler to an audience in the German capital. A plane was awaiting him in Vienna.

At this point, in the second week of March, 1939, preparations for what the Nazi leaders liked to call the liquidation of Czechoslovakia were progressing with what to them must have been very satisfying smoothness. The military, diplomatic and propaganda machinery of the Nazi conspirators was moving in close co-ordination. As during the process of the Fall Grun, or Case Green, of the preceding summer, the Nazi conspirators had invited Hungary to participate in this new attack. Admiral Horthy, the Hungarian Regent, was again greatly flattered by this invitation.

I offer in evidence Document 2816-PS, as Exhibit USA 115. This is a letter which the distinguished Admiral of Hungary - a country which, incidentally, had no navy - wrote to Hitler on 13th March, 1939, and which we captured in the German Foreign Office files.

"Your Excellency,

My sincere thanks,

I can hardly tell you how happy I am because this Head Water Region - I dislike using big words - is of vital importance to the life of Hungary" - I suppose he needed some head waters for the non-existent navy of which he was admiral.

"In spite of the fact that our recruits have been serving for only five weeks we are going into this affair with eager enthusiasm. The dispositions have already been made. On Thursday, the 16th of this month, a frontier incident will take place which will be followed by the big blow on Saturday "- He does not like to use big words. "Big Blow" is sufficient.

"I shall never forget this proof of friendship, and your Excellency may rely on my unshakeable gratitude at all times.

Your devoted friend,


From this cynical and callous letter from the distinguished Admiral --

THE PRESIDENT: Was that letter addressed to the Hungarian Ambassador at Berlin ?

MR. ALDERMAN: I thought it was addressed to Hitler, if the President please.

THE PRESIDENT: There are some words at the top which look like a Hungarian name.

MR. ALDERMAN: That is the letter heading. As I understand it, the letter was addressed to Adolf Hitler.


MR. ALDERMAN: And I should have said it was - it ended with the -

THE PRESIDENT: Is there anything on the letter which indicates that?

[Page 95]

MR. ALDERMAN: Only the fact that it was found in the Berlin Foreign Office, and the wording of the letter and the address, "Your Excellency" we may be drawing a conclusion as to whom it was addressed; but it was found in the Berlin Foreign Office.

From that cynical and callous letter it may be inferred that the Nazi conspirators had already informed the Hungarian Government of their plans for further military action against Czechoslovakia. As it turned out the timetable was advanced somewhat. I would draw the inference that His Excellency, Adolf Hitler, informed his devoted friend Horthy of this change in good time.

On the diplomatic level the defendant Ribbentrop was quite active. On 13th March, the same day on which Horthy wrote his letter, Ribbentrop sent a cautionary telegram to the German minister in Prague outlining the course of conduct he should pursue during the coming diplomatic pressure. I offer in evidence Document 2815-PS as Exhibit USA 116. This is the telegram sent by Ribbentrop to the German Legation in Prague on 13th March.

"Berlin, 13th March, 1939. Prague. Telegram in secret code.

With reference to telephone instructions given by Kordt today, in case you should get any written communication from President Hacha, please do not make any written or verbal comments or take any other action on them, but pass them on here by cipher telegram. Moreover, I must ask you and the other members of the Embassy to make a point of not being available if the Czech Government wants to communicate with you during the next few days.
Signed Ribbentrop."

On the afternoon of 13th March, Tiso, accompanied by Durcansky and Herr Meissner, the local Nazi leader, arrived in Berlin in response to the summons from Hitler to which I have heretofore referred. Late that afternoon Tiso was received by Hitler in his study in the Reich Chancellery and presented with an ultimatum. Two alternatives were given him: either declare the independence of Slovakia or be left without German assistance; or, what were referred to as the mergers of Poland and Hungary. This decision, Hitler said, was not a question of days, but of hours. I now offer in evidence Document 2802-PS as Exhibit USA 117, again a document captured in the German Foreign Office; German Foreign Office minutes of the meeting between Hitler and Tiso on 13th March. I read the bottom paragraph on Page 2 and the top paragraph on Page 3 of the English translation. The first paragraph I shall read is a summary of Hitler's remark. You will note that in the inducements he held out to the Slovaks, Hitler displayed his customary disregard for the truth. I quote:
"Now he had permitted Minister Tiso to come here in order to make this question clear in a very short time. Germany had no interest East of the Carpathian mountains. It was indifferent to him what happened there. The question was whether Slovakia wished to conduct her own affairs or not. He did not wish for anything from Slovakia. He would not pledge his people or even a single soldier to something which was not in any way desired by the Slovak people. He would like to secure final confirmation as to what Slovakia really wished. He did not wish that reproaches should come from Hungary that he was preserving something which did not wish to be preserved at all. He took a liberal view of unrest and demonstration in general, but in this connection unrest was

[Page 96]

only an outward indication of interior instability. He would not tolerate it and he had for that reason permitted Tiso to come in order to hear his decision. It was not a question of days, but of hours. He bad stated at that time that if Slovakia wished to make herself independent he would support this endeavour and even guarantee it. He would stand by his word so long as Slovakia would make it clear that she wished for independence. If she hesitated or did not wish to dissolve the connection with Prague, he would leave the destiny of Slovakia to the mercy of events, for which he would be no longer responsible. In that case he would only intercede for German interests, and those did not lie East of the Carpathians. Germany had nothing to do with Slovakia. She had never belonged to Germany.

The Fuehrer asked the Reich Foreign Minister (the defendant Ribbentrop) if he had any remarks to add. The Reich Foreign Minister also emphasised for his part the conception that in this case a decision was a question of hours not of days. He showed the Fuehrer a message he had just received which reported Hungarian troop movements on the Slovak frontiers. The Fuehrer read this report, mentioned it to Tiso, and expressed the hope that Slovakia would soon decide clearly for herself."

A most extraordinary interview. Germany had no interest in Slovakia; Slovakia had never belonged to Germany; Tiso was invited there; and this is what happened: those present at that meeting included the defendant Ribbentrop, the defendant Keitel, State Secretary Dietrich, State Secretary Keppler, the German Minister of State Meissner. I invite the attention of the Tribunal to the presence of the defendant Keitel on this occasion as on so many other occasions where purely political measures in furtherance of Nazi aggression were under discussion, and where apparently there was no need for technical military advice.

While in Berlin the Slovaks also conferred separately with the defendant Ribbentrop and with other high Nazi officials. Ribbentrop very solicitously handed Tiso a copy already drafted in Slovak language of the law proclaiming the independence of Slovakia. On the night of the 13th a German plane was conveniently placed at Tiso's disposal to carry him home. On 14th March, pursuant to the wishes of the Nazi conspirators, the diet of Bratislava proclaimed the independence of Slovakia. With Slovak extremists acting at the Nazi bidding in open revolt against the Czechoslovak Government, the Nazi leaders were now in a position to move against Prague. On the evening of the 14th, at the suggestion of the German Legation in Prague, M. Hacha, the President of the Czechoslovak Republic and M. Chvalkowsky, his Foreign Minister, arrived in Berlin. The atmosphere in which they found themselves might be described as somewhat hostile. Since the preceding week-end, the Nazi Press had accused the Czechs of using violence against the Slovaks, and specially against the members of the German minority and citizens of the Reich. Both Press and radio proclaimed that the lives of Germans were in danger. Such a situation was intolerable. It was necessary to smother as quickly as possible the focus of trouble, which Prague had become, in the heart of Europe - these peacemakers.

After midnight on the 15th at 1.15 in the morning, Hacha and Chvalkowsky were ushered into the Reich Chancellery. They found there Adolf Hitler, the defendants Ribbentrop, Goering, and Keitel and other high Nazi officials.

[Page 97]

I now offer in evidence Document 2798-PS as Exhibit USA 118. This document is the captured German Foreign Office account of this infamous meeting. It is a long document. Parts of it are so revealing and give so clear a picture of Nazi behaviour and tactics that I should like to read them in full.

It must be remembered that this account of the fateful conference on the night of March 14th-15th comes from German sources, and of course it must be read as an account biased by its source, or as counsel for the defendants said last week "a tendentious account." Nevertheless, even without too much discounting of the report on account of its source, it constitutes a complete condemnation of the Nazis, who by pure and simple international banditry forced the dissolution of Czechoslovakia. And I interpolate to suggest that international banditry has been a crime against International Law for centuries.

I will first read the headings to the minutes. In the English mimeographed version in the document books the time given is an incorrect translation of the original. It should read 0115 to 0215. Conversation between the Fuehrer and Reich Chancellor and the President of Czechoslovakia, Hacha, in the presence of the Reich Foreign Minister, von Ribbentrop, and of the Czechoslovakian Foreign Minister, Chvalkowsky, in the Reich Chancellery on 15th March, 1939, 0115 to 0215 hours. Others present were General Field Marshal Goering, General Keitel, Secretary of the State, von Weizsaecker, Minister of the State, Meissner, Secretary of the State, Dietrich, Counsellor of the Legation, Hewel. Hacha opened the conference. He was conciliatory - even humble, though the President of a sovereign State. He thanked Hitler for receiving him and he said he knew that the fate of Czechoslovakia rested in the Fuehrer's hands. Hitler replied that he regretted that he had been forced to ask Hacha to come to Berlin, particularly because of the great age of the President. Hacha was then, I believe, in his seventies. But this journey, Hitler told the President, could be of great advantage to his country because, and I quote "It was only a matter of hours before Germany would intervene." I quote now from the top of page three of the English translation. You will bear in mind that what I am reading are rough notes or minutes of what Adolf Hitler said - "Czechoslovakia was a matter of indifference to him."

"If Czechoslovakia had kept closer to Germany it would have been an obligation to Germany, but he was glad that he did not have this obligation now. He had no interests whatsoever in the territory East of the little Carpathian Mountains. He did not want to draw the final consequences in the autumn - "
THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Alderman, do you not think you ought to read the last sentence on page two ?

MR. ALDERMAN: Perhaps so; yes. The last sentence from the preceding page was:

"For the other countries Czechoslovakia was nothing but a means to an end. London and Paris were not in a position really to stand up for Czechoslovakia. Czechoslovakia was a matter of indifference to him."
Then I had read down to -
"But even at that time and also later in his conversations with Chvalkowsky he made it clear that they would ruthlessly smash this State if Benes's tendencies were not completely

[Page 98]

revised. Chvalkowsky understood this and asked the Fuehrer to have patience. (He often bragged of his patience.) The Fuehrer saw this point of view, but the months went by without any change. The new regime did not succeed in eliminating the old one psychologically. He observed this from the Press, mouth-to-mouth propaganda, dismissals of Germans, and many other things which, to him, were a symbol of the total position.

At first he had not understood this but when it became clear to him he drew his conclusions because, had the development continued in this way, the relations with Czechoslovakia would in a few years have become the same as six months ago. Why did Czechoslovakia not immediately reduce its army to a reasonable size? Such an army was a tremendous burden for such a State because it only makes sense if it supports the foreign political mission of the State. Since Czechoslovakia no longer has a foreign political mission such an army is meaningless. He enumerates several examples which proved to him that the spirit in the army had not changed. This symptom convinced him that the army also would be a source of a severe political burden in the future. Added to this were the inevitable development of economic necessities, and, further, the protests of national groups which could no longer endure life as it was."

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