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 2 of 8)

[MR. ALDERMAN continues]

[Page 98]

I now interpolate, if the Tribunal please, to note the significance of that language of Adolf Hitler to the President of a supposed sovereign State and its Prime Minister, having in his presence General Field Marshal Goering, the Commander of the Air Force, and General Keitel. Continuing the quotation -
"Thus it is that the die was cast on the past Sunday. I sent for the Hungarian Ambassador and told him that I was withdrawing my hands from this country. We were now confronted with this fact. He had given the order to the German troops to march into Czechoslovakia and to incorporate Czechoslovakia into the German Reich. He wanted to give Czechoslovakia fullest autonomy and a life of her own to a larger extent than she ever had enjoyed during Austrian rule. Germany's attitude towards Czechoslovakia would be determined tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and depended on the attitude of the Czechoslovakian people and the Czechoslovakian military towards the German troops. He no longer trusts the government. He believed in the honesty and straightforwardness of Hacha and Chvalkowsky, but doubted that the Government would be able to assert itself in the entire nation. The German Army had already started out today, and at one barracks where resistance was offered, it was ruthlessly broken; another barracks had given in at the deployment of heavy artillery.

At six o'clock in the morning the German Army would invade Czechoslovakia from all sides and the German Air Force would occupy the Czech airfields. There existed two possibilities. The first one was that the invasion of the German troops would lead to a battle. In this case the resistance would be broken by all means with physical force. The other possibility was that the invasion of the German troops would be tolerated. In that case it would be easy for the Fuehrer to give Czechoslovakia, in the new organisation of Czech life, a generous life of her own autonomy, and a certain national liberty.

[Page 99]

We were witnessing at the moment a great historical turning-point. He would not like to torture and de- nationalise the Czechs. He also did not do all that because of hatred but in order to protect Germany. If Czechoslovakia in the fall of last year would not have yielded" - I suppose that is a bad translation for "had not yielded" -"the Czech people would have been exterminated. Nobody could have prevented him from doing- that. It was his will that the Czech people should live a full national life and he believed firmly that a way could be found which would make far-reaching concessions to the Czech desires. If fighting should break out tomorrow, the pressure would result in counter-pressure. One would annihilate another and it would then not be possible any more for him to give the promised alleviations. Within two days the Czech Army would not exist any more. Of course, Germans would also be killed and this would result in a hatred which would force him" - that is, Hitler - "because of his instinct of self- preservation, not to grant autonomy any more. The world would not move a muscle. He felt pity for the Czech people when he was reading the foreign Press. It would leave the impression on him which could be summarised in a German proverb: 'The Moor has done his duty, the Moor may go'.

That was the state of affairs. There existed two trends in Germany, a harder one which did not want any concessions and wished in memory to the past that Czechoslovakia would be conquered with blood, and another one, the attitude of which corresponded with the suggestions which he had just mentioned.

That was the reason why he had asked Hacha to come there. This invitation was the last good deed which he could do for the Czech people. If it should come to a fight, the bloodshed would also force us to hate. But the visit of Hacha could perhaps prevent the extreme. Perhaps it would contribute to finding a form of construction which would be more far-reaching for Czechoslovakia than she could ever have hoped for in the old Austria. His aim was only to create the necessary security for the German people.

The hours went past. At 6 o'clock the troops would march in. He was almost ashamed to say that there was one German division to each Czech battalion. The military action was no small one, but planned with all generosity. He would advise him" - that is, Adolf Hitler would advise Paul Hacha - "now to retire with Chvalkowsky in order to discuss what should be done."

In his reply to this long harangue, Hacha, according to the German minutes, said that he agreed that resistance would be useless. He expressed doubt that he would be able to issue the necessary orders to the Czech Army in the four hours left to him, before the German Army crossed the Czech border. He asked if the object of the invasion was to disarm the Czech Army. If so, he indicated that might possibly be arranged. Hitler replied that his decision was final; that it was well known what a decision of the Fuehrer meant. He turned to the circle of Nazi conspirators surrounding him, for their support, and you will remember that the defendants Goering, Ribbentrop and Keitel were all present. The only possibility of disarming the Czech Army, Hitler said, was by the intervention of the German Army.

I read now one paragraph from Page 4 of the English version of the

[Page 100]

German minutes of this infamous meeting. It is the next to the last paragraph on Page 4.
"The Fuehrer states that his decision was irrevocable. It was well known what a decision of the Fuehrer meant. He did not see any other possibility for disarmament and asked the other gentlemen" - that is, including Goering, Ribbentrop, and Keitel - "whether they shared his opinion, a question which was answered in the affirmative. The only possibility of disarming the Czech Army was by the German Army".
At this sad point Hacha and Chvalkowsky retired from the room.

I now offer in evidence Document 2861-PS, an excerpt from the official British War Blue Book, at Page 24, and I offer it as Exhibit USA 119. This is an official document of the British Government, of which the Tribunal will take judicial notice under the provisions of Article 21 of the Charter. The part from which I read is a dispatch from the British Ambassador, Neville Henderson, describing a conversation with the defendant Goering, in which the events of this early morning meeting are set forth.

"From: Neville Henderson. To: Viscount Halifax. Berlin, 28th May, 1939. My Lord: I paid a short visit to Field Marshal Goering at Karinhall yesterday."
Then I skip two paragraphs and begin reading with paragraph four. I am sorry, I think I had better read all of those paragraphs.
"Field Marshal Goering, who had obviously just been talking to someone else on the subject, began by inveighing against the attitude which was being adopted in England towards everything German and particularly in respect of the gold held there on behalf of the National Bank of Czechoslovakia. Before, however, I had had time to reply, he was called to the telephone and on his return did not revert to this specific question. He complained, instead, of British hostility in general, of our political and economic encirclement of Germany, and the activities of what he described as the war party in England ...

I told the Field Marshal that before speaking of British hostility, he must understand why the undoubted change of feeling, in England towards Germany had taken place. As he knew quite well, the basis of all the discussions between Mr. Chamberlain and Herr Hitler last year had been to the effect that, once the Sudetens were allowed to enter the Reich, Germany would leave the Czechs alone and would do nothing to interfere with their independence. Herr Hitler had given a definite assurance to that effect in his letter to the Prime Minister of the 27th September. By yielding to the advice of his 'wild men' and deliberately annexing Bohemia and Moravia, Herr Hitler had not only broken his word to Mr. Chamberlain but had infringed the whole principle of self-determination on which the Munich agreement rested.

At this point, the Field Marshal interrupted me with a description of President Hacha's visit to Berlin. I told Field Marshal Goering that it was not possible to talk of free will when I understood that he himself had threatened to bombard Prague with his aeroplanes, if Doctor Hacha refused to sign. The Field Marshal did not deny the fact but explained how the point had arisen. According to him, Doctor Hacha had from the first been prepared to sign everything but had said that constitutionally he could not do so without reference first to Prague. After considerable difficulty, telephonic communication with Prague was

[Page 101]

obtained and the Czech Government had agreed, while adding that they could not guarantee that one Czech battalion at least would not fire on German troops. It was, he said, only at that stage that he had warned Doctor Hacha that, if German lives were lost, he would bombard Prague. The Field Marshal also repeated, in reply to some comment of mine, the story that the advance occupation of Vitkovice had been effected solely in order to forestall the Poles who, he said, were known to have the intention of seizing this valuable area at the first opportunity."
I also invite the attention of the Tribunal and the judicial notice of the Tribunal, to dispatch No. 77, in the French Official Yellow Book, at Page 7 of the book, identified as our Document 2943-PS, appearing in the document book under that number, and I ask that it be given an identifying number Exhibit USA 114. This is a dispatch from M. Coulondre, the French Ambassador, and it gives another well- informed version of this same midnight meeting. The account, which I shall present to the Court, of the remainder of this meeting is drawn from these two sources, the British Blue Book and the French Yellow Book. I think the Court may be interested to read somewhat further at large in those two books, which furnish a great deal of the background of all of these matters.

When President Hacha left the conference room in the Reich Chancellery, he was in such a state of exhaustion that he needed medical attention from a physician who was conveniently on hand for that purpose, a German physician. When the two Czechs returned to the room, the Nazi conspirators again told them of the power and invincibility of the Wehrmacht. They reminded them that in three hours, at six in the morning --

THE PRESIDENT: You are not reading?

MR. ALDERMAN: I am not reading, I am summarising.


MR. ALDERMAN: They reminded him that in three hours - at six in the morning - the German Army would cross the border. The defendant Goering boasted of what the Wehrmacht would do if the Czech forces dared to resist the invading Germans.

If German lives were lost, defendant Goering said, his Luftwaffe would blast half of Prague into ruins in two hours and that, he said, would be only the beginning.

Under this threat of imminent and merciless attack by land and air, the aged President of Czechoslovakia, at four- thirty in the morning, signed the document with which the Nazi conspirators confronted him and which they had already had prepared. This Document is TC-49, the declaration of 15th March, 1939, one of the series of documents which will be presented by the British Prosecutor, and from it I quote this, on the assumption that it will subsequently be introduced:

"The President of the Czechoslovakian State entrusts with entire confidence the destiny of the Czech people and the Czech country to the hands of the Fuehrer of the German Reich" - really a rendezvous with destiny.
While the Nazi officials were threatening and intimidating the representatives of the Czech Government, the Wehrmacht had in some areas already crossed the Czech border.

[Page 102]

I offer in evidence Document 2860-PS, another excerpt from the British Blue Book, of which I ask the Court to take judicial notice. This is a speech by Lord Halifax, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, from which I quote one passage. This is Document 2860-PS, which I have already offered and had identified:
"It is to be observed" - and the fact is surely not without significance - "that the towns of Maehrisch- Ostrau and Vitkovice were actually, occupied by German S.S. detachments on the evening of the 14th March, while the President and the Foreign Minister of Czechoslovakia were still on their way to Berlin and before any discussion had taken place."
At dawn on March 15th, German troops poured into Czechoslovakia from all sides. Hitler issued an order of the day to the Armed Forces and a proclamation to the German people, which stated distinctly "Czechoslovakia has ceased to exist."

On the following day, in contravention of Article 81 of the Treaty of Versailles, Czechoslovakia was formally incorporated into the German Reich under the name of "The Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia." The decree is Document TC-51, another of the documents which the British delegation will present to the Tribunal later in this week. It was signed in Prague on 16th March, 1939, by Hitler, Lammers and the defendants Frick and von Ribbentrop.

I should like to quote the first sentence of this decree. "The Bohemian and Moravian countries belonged for a millennium to the Lebensraum 'living space' of the German people." The remainder of the decree sets forth in bleak detail the extent to which Czechoslovakia henceforth would be subjected to Germany. A German Protector was to be appointed by the German Fuehrer for the so-called "Protectorate," the defendant von Neurath. God deliver us from such protectors!! The German Government assumed charge of their foreign affairs and of their customs and of their excise. It was specified that German garrisons and military establishments would be maintained in the Protectorate. At the same time the extremist leaders in Slovakia who, at German Nazi insistence, had done so much to undermine the Czech State found that the independence of their week-old State was itself in effect qualified.

I offer in evidence Document 1439-PS as Exhibit USA - I need not offer that. I think it is a decree in the Reichsgesetzblatt, of which I ask the Tribunal to take judicial notice, and it is identified as our Document 1439- PS. It appears at Page 606, 1939, Reichsgesetzblatt, Part Il.

The covering declaration is signed by the defendant Ribbentrop, Minister of Foreign Affairs; and then there is a heading: "Treaty of Protection to be extended by the German Reich to the State of Slovakia."

"The German Government and the Slovakian Government have agreed, after the Slovakian State has placed itself under the protection of the German Reich, to regulate by treaty the consequences resulting from this fact. For this purpose, the undersigned representatives of the two Governments have agreed on the following provisions:

Article 1. The German Reich undertakes to protect the political independence of the State of Slovakia and the integrity of its territory.

Article 2. For the purpose of making effective the protection undertaken by the German Reich, the German Armed Forces shall have the right, at all times, to construct military installations and to keep them

[Page 103]

garrisoned in the strength they deem necessary, in an area delimited on its Western side by the frontiers of the State of Slovakia, and on its Eastern side by a line formed by the Eastern rims of the Lower Carpathians, the White Carpathians, and the Javernik Mountains."
Then I skip.
"The Government of Slovakia will organise its military forces in close agreement with the German Armed Forces."
I also offer in evidence Document 2793-PS.

THE PRESIDENT: Would not that be a convenient time to break off? I understand, too, that it would be for the convenience of the defence counsel if the Tribunal adjourn for an hour and a quarter rather than for an hour at midday, and accordingly, the Tribunal will retire at 12.45 and sit again at 2 o'clock.

(A recess was taken.)

MR. ALDERMAN: May it please the Tribunal, this secret protocol between Germany and Slovakia provided for close economic and financial collaboration between them. Mineral resources and sub-soil rights were placed at the disposal of the German Government.

I offer in evidence Document 2793-PS, Exhibit USA 120, and from it I read paragraph 3:

"Investigation, development and utilisation of the Slovak natural resources. In this respect the basic principle is that, in so far as they are not needed to meet Slovakia's own requirements, they should be placed in the first place at Germany's disposal. The entire soil research" - Bodenforschung is the German word - "will be placed under the Reich Agency for soil- research." That is the Reichsstelle fur Bodenforschung. "The Government of the Slovak State will soon start an investigation to determine whether the present owners of concessions and privileges have fulfilled the industrial obligations prescribed by law, and it will cancel concessions and privileges in cases where these duties have been neglected."
In their private conversations the Nazi conspirators gave abundant evidence that they considered Slovakia a mere puppet State - in effect a German possession.

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